Haunting

I think for me, as a writer, what I’m really wanting is to haunt the reader. Sure, I want to entertain them at the very least. I want to capture and entrance, to chart the heart and the mind’s triumphs and failings. I want all of those things, or part there of.

But above all, I want to haunt.

I want to have a reader inhabit a book of mine and then find that it has somehow inhabited a part of them.

A good book never leaves you, even as its specificity fades. A good book looks at you from behind your eyes. A good book haunts you.

And that’s what I want my books to do*.

*(Doesn’t mean that I actually do that, but a fella’s gotta have an aim.)

March

How did it get to March already? Edits for Day Boy are soon to drop, there’s a release date – July.  I’ve seen the cover, and it’s glorious – six books in and that still hasn’t gotten old. (You’ll all see it soon enough.)

And I decided to tidy up this overly busy webpage.

If you see anything missing (except commas) let me know.

 

Clowns and Vampires and Carnivals and Trains

Christmas is upon us, and Death Moots, and Birthdays – I’m crashing through my forties at an insane rate (still a lot of them to go though).

Next year is going to be all about clowns and vampires and carnivals and trains. I’m just finishing up drafts of the next Death Works stuff, and I’ve a rough outline (as in something kind of clear in my head about the final Death Works story – which will be called the Triumph of Death, and which I should finish next year, and which should be a truly satisfying way to see out a series that has been in my head for over a decade).

This has been an odd year for me. Working on Day Boy, trying to get the next Death Works story done (Carnival of Death), and fitting it around longer hours at Avid – a boy needs to pay his bills. In some ways it’s felt like a step forwards and a step or two back.

But, I’m very happy with what I’m writing, and I work in one of the best bookstores in Australia, in the most wonderful city, with some of the lovelietst booksellers you could ever hope to work with. So, to be honest, I am feeling kind of blessed.

After a few fallow years, a few missteps, and a bit of a breakdown, things feel like they’re heading on the up again.

So, may 2015 be a wonderful year for us all.

Here’s the rough unedited beginning to the prequel story to the Carnival of Death – I’ve always wanted to do one of those X-files like openings. It’s called ICE. Just a teensy bit of a weird intro to an even weirder Death Works story, got some full on cosmic horror/comedy (hopefully) coming.

I.C.E.

 

Ray checked the clip of his pistol. Full round, special munitions, ready to go. He wasn’t feeling lucky today. He suspected he might have to use it.

“I don’t like guns up here,” the pilot said.

“I don’t like pilots with opinions.”

The pilot laughed.

They’d been in the air for hours. Ray had forgotten the pilot’s name. He didn’t really care.

“Putting the gun away,” he said.

“See if you can find your sense of humour when you do,” he said.

“I’ll look for yours while I’m at it.”

“Right now your life is in my hands,” the pilot said.

“You don’t think I know how to fly a plane?” Ray lied.

The pilot shrugged. “You Special Interest Guys, who the fuck knows what you know.”

Ray smiled.”Which is exactly how it should be.”

The pilot smiled right back; both of them smiling like loons. “We’ll be hitting approach in about three minutes.” He gestured at the gear. “So, unless you want to have the honour, I suggest you shut the fuck up.”

 

 

Krissy Kneen – Opening Credits

9781922079381I’m posting a few things from other people up here, while I sink into the insane retail busyness that is Christmas.

Basically, I’ve asked some friends to shoot me a small slice of something that they’re passionate about and that will be coming out in 2015 (because, well, 2014 is getting old, and I’m all about the shiny, and I have a book I’m VERY excited about coming out in 2015).

First up is Krissy Kneen, who is a workmate at Avid, a wonderful award winning writer and poet. She is also one of the hardest working writers I know, not just in the writing that she does, but in her tireless promotion and support of other writers. She’s bloody awesome.

She has two books out next year – one through Text  and the other through UQP –   and I can’t wait to read them.

 

Oh, and this poem by Krissy is rather brilliant.

 

Opening Credits
I cry in the cinema
Or not cry
So hard that my head aches with the holding back
Not in the film
When those beside me weep
Manipulated by the stranglehold of  act three turning point catharsis
Or at the mid point
When the protagonist learns
That he has been pursuing a false solution and must change his quest
Not at the deaths or at the terminally ill
Not I
Instead I cry
Before the opening credits
In the add for a telephone company
Or an airline
Or a tablet
When the child calls his father
Or runs into his arms
Family the copywriter throws at us
And I, resentfully shed tears
Reverting to my fatherless self
A child
Who never seemed to mind
Until
This celluloid manipulation
Ambushes me with canned sentiment
And a small child
Held up to a low angle close up
Of manufactured paternal love
Before the opening credits.

Keith Stevenson, Guest Blogging – Character Building: Meet the Crew

I’ve known Keith Stevenson for a long time, he’s a great editor (I’m biased, he’s published some of my best stories), and a fabulous writer.

Check out the cover of his novel below. It’s a damn fine thing. Now, over to Keith -

Horizon

 

I’d like to thank Trent for giving over some space on his blog for the Horizon Blog Tour.

 

Horizon is my debut science fiction novel published by HarperVoyager Impulse. It’s an SF thriller centred on a deep space exploration mission that goes very wrong, with repercussions for the future of all life on Earth.

 

A lot of the action in Horizon takes place inside the cramped confines of the Magellan explorer ship, so the interactions between the characters are intense. As part of the development process, I did a lot of thinking about what I wanted Horizon to be about. This was my first attempt at writing a science fiction novel, and I knew from the start that I wanted to explore a number of scientific concepts relating to space travel, planetary exploration and alien environments. But I also wanted to make sure my characters were as ‘real’ as possible. Here’s an extract from my original proposal:

 

While the plot will be the main driver, the characterisation will also play a major part in developing the themes of the story. The characters will not follow the stereotypic ‘space hero’ mould. As much as possible they will be real people with hopes, fears, strengths and weaknesses placed in an extraordinary situation. Specifically, their characterisation will be used to explore:

  • the reasons individuals may have for abandoning a life on Earth for an extremely dangerous mission from which they may never return
  • the feelings of loss etc. that they experience when they are faced with the reality of being fifty-five years out of step with the rest of humanity and the culture clash that this involves
  • the paranoia, mistrust and power struggles that can emerge very quickly even among the most well-balanced individuals, and
  • how the characters face the ethical dilemma of being asked to help a humanity that some of them no longer feel any connection with, and what they must do in order to live with their decision.

 

So let’s meet the crew.

 

Flight Commander Cait Dyson — Mission Leader / Astro Sciences (Pax Americana)

‘Earth, the Pax and the Compact are light years away now. There’s only us, and we need to depend on one another, because at any instant our lives can turn on what each individual does.’

 

When we first meet Cait, she’s choking to death and her ship is out of control. Yet she manages to deal with the immediate dangers and rouse the rest of the crew. She’s more than competent in a crisis, but she’s increasingly isolated as the mission unfolds and she doesn’t always trust her own judgement. Several times she wishes she could just give up, but she knows none of the other crew are up to the task: either because they lack the perspective a commander needs or because they just can’t be trusted. Before the flight began, some at Mission Control thought she was too indecisive, but Cait has her own way of dealing with problems. She prefers not to act until absolutely necessary, waiting and watching as issues play out so she can identify the most effective intervention at the right time. Despite what she might think of her own abilities, she is a great leader, willing to put her own personal interests and fears aside and look at problems from all possible perspectives. She believes in ‘win-win’ but others among the crew, and on Earth, don’t necessarily support her efforts to achieve it.

 

Mission Specialist Nadira Coomlah — Planetary Physics / Climatology (Compact of Asian Peoples)

‘It sickens me that people with so much can want so much more, while we had so little and shared what little we had.’

 

Nadira was a late addition to the Magellan crew, and not a popular one. History between the United Pacific States and the Compact has been complicated in the decades leading up to Magellan’s launch [see my post Futureshock: Charting the History of Tomorrow on Lee Battersby’s blog on 6 November], and during the initial outward leg of the trip before the crew went into deepsleep, the thin veneer of civility between the UPS crewmembers and Nadira rapidly broke down. The fact that Nadira is rightly proud of the Compact’s achievements and how it has raised the living standards of the poorest nations in the world, despite what she sees as UPS antagonism, does not endear her further to the crew. Cait alone does her best to build a common understanding with Nadira, particularly when the news they receive from Earth on waking brings a whole new, and potentially destructive, political dynamic to shipboard life. Despite the hostility directed at her, particularly from Mission Specialist Tom Harris, but also from Lex Daziel, Nadira is an effective member of the crew and works diligently on her mission goals, and it’s Nadira who first alerts the crew to the hypercane raging across the face of the planet Horizon, and the dangers that it poses to the viability of the world’s biosphere.

 

Mission Specialist Lex Dalziel — Life Sciences / Ship’s Medical Officer (European Union)

‘I didn’t travel all this way to put up with this sort of bullshit. I say we ignore the whole bloody broadcast. Earth’s too far away to bother about now.’

 

Although from an unspecified part of the European Union, in my mind, by name, and certainly by disposition, Lex is Scottish. A brilliant scientist, he could do a lot better in the social skills department, and he delights in setting up conflict among the crew just to see how it unfolds. But Lex also has some deeply held core principles which shape his actions. First and foremost he believes in the importance of the science he performs and the absolute necessity of ensuring the environment of Horizon is not contaminated as a result of the presence of Magellan. He also feels that — since Earth is a one hundred and ten year round trip away — the needs of Earth and whatever orders they may issue to the crew are a distant second to what he believes is right. When Earth re-establishes contact, and things don’t go the way he thinks they should, he challenges himself to show the courage of his convictions and for that he needs an ally. Cait and Lex were close on the initial outward journey until she understood his predilection for troublemaking. Now their relationship is difficult, and so he tries his best to enlist Mission Specialist Bren Thurgood, the bio-jack, to help him.

 

Mission Specialist Bren Thurgood — Computer Control / Remote Sensing (Pax Americana)

‘And now everyone needs me again. You, Cait, Earth . . . Where were all of you when I needed someone?’

 

Bren is a bio-jack, which means she has a chip in her head that lets her interact with and remotely control a range of ship’s systems. The transhumans of Earth’s future are often viewed with distrust and fear. Tom Harris is certainly no lover of bio-jacks and worries about Bren’s ability to ‘meddle’ with the systems he controls by more conventional methods. Bren was an unlikely addition to the crew, but Cait lobbied hard to have her included, firstly because she likes the younger woman, but also because they both had difficult upbringings in the desolate former USA. Bren feels like an orphan. Cut off from humanity because of the chip she carries, and cut off from other transhumans because of how far she’s travelled from Earth, she can only rely on herself.

 

Mission Specialist Tom Harris — Ship’s Drive / Life Support Systems (Pax Americana)

‘And as for the others . . . well, you know what I think about them, but I’ll keep my opinions to myself for the sake of shipboard harmony. As long as they do the same.’

 

Harris is a talented engineer. He understands technical systems a hell of a lot better than he understands people and he doesn’t have much time for the niceties of social interactions. He’s also an old-fashioned patriot and resents Nadira’s presence on board and Lex’s apparent disregard for the orders coming out of launch control. But for all his faults he’s a straight shooter and what you see is what you get. He recognises Cait is trying to do her best to follow mission requirements, and he respects the lengths she has to go to in order to bring the rest of the crew with her. He knows he couldn’t do what she does and so he does his best to support her, even though it’s hard to keep a lid on his own temper sometimes.

 

Phillips — Computer Interface Personality for Magellan

‘You have something that belongs to me, Thurgood. For everyone’s sake, I suggest you give it up.’

 

Modelled on Launch Director Dan Phillips of the Pax Air and Space Administration, Phillips is essential to Magellan’s operation, maintaining integrated control of all ship’s systems as well as balancing the drive and performing the billions of calculations required to create and control the pico-pulse thrust cascades that allow Magellan to travel at 0.6 lightspeed while ensuring the safety of the fragile humans on board. He’s also — when the crew wake from deepsleep — acting very strangely indeed.

 

And there you have it: five souls and one artificial intelligence as far away from the rest of humanity as you can imagine, with the fate of two planets hanging in the balance.

 

Follow the Horizon Blog Tour

 

3 November — Extract of Horizon — Voyager blog http://www.voyageronline.com.au/

4 November — Character Building: Meet the Crew — Trent Jamieson’s blog http://www.trentjamieson.com/

5 November — Welcome to Magellan: Inside the Ship — Darkmatter http://www.darkmatterzine.com/

6 November — Futureshock: Charting the History of Tomorrow — Lee Battersby’s blog http://battersblog.blogspot.com.au/

7 November — Engage: Tinkering With a Quantum Drive — Joanne Anderton’s blog http://joanneanderton.com/wordpress/

10 November — Stormy Weather: Facing Down Climate Change — Ben Peek’s blog http://benpeek.livejournal.com/

11 November — Time Travel: Relatively Speaking — Rjurik Davidson’s blog http://rjurik.com/

12 November — Consciousness Explorers: Inside a Transhuman — Alan Baxter’s blog http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/

13 November — From the Ground Up: Building a Planet — Sean Wright’s blog http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/

14 November — Life Persists: Finding the Extremophile — Greig Beck’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Greig-Beck-Author/101428386583764

17 November — Interview — Marianne De Pierres’ blog http://www.mariannedepierres.com/

 

Keith Stevenson is a science fiction author, editor, publisher and reviewer. His debut novel Horizon is available as an ebook via http://www.harpercollins.com.au/books/Horizon-Keith-Stevenson/?isbn=9781460704653

 

His blog is at http://keithstevensonwriter.blogspot.com.

The Business of Death

The Business of Death is finally available in its own e-volume – ie not as part of the omnibus. While the omnibus still works out as better value, it is a rather pretty thing. Here’s the cover. I love the colour and the comet.Business of DeathSo, only three and bit years after it was released you can now buy it as an e-book. I’d have loved to have seen this on the shelves, but then again, I was so lucky to see the omnibus edition – and a truly different take on the cover (which I adore).

And the next Death Works book is coming along nicely, it’s much bigger than 4, definitely a novel (though a short one), and it’ll swing us around to the end of the third sequence – which may also be rather novely too. Oh, and I’ll be writing a sort of prologuish story for this one, too, IN THIRD PERSON AND PAST TENSE NO LESS!

I can’t wait for you all to read this new one, I think it’s a lot cheerier than the last two, and it’s filled with added new characters – who I very much have enjoyed hanging with. This world has been a part of my life for over half a decade now, and I get the feeling it will be for a while yet.

The thing about Death and Mortmax, and Steve and Lissa and Wal and Tim and Mr D and James and Anthony and Bernice (yes, see, new characters) is that they give me a hell* of a lot of room to explore pretty much whatever I want to (wait until I finally get to the knotworkers). And I get to write about my home town. Makes writing a damn fun thing indeed.

Oh and you can buy this old/new edition here for kobo

and here for amazon.com and amazon.com.au

If you’ve already bought the omnibus edition that is plenty. If you’ve bought any edition and liked it, please put up a review on the retailer’s site of your choosing. Writer’s love reviews, they help sell books.

 

*no pun intended – OK, sort of intended.

 

 

A Short Taste of the Memory of Death

My new publishers, Momentum, have just released the first chapter of The Memory of Death over at their website. You can read it below, but I do warn you, there are spoilers.

This scene is almost as old as the last Death Works novel. I was planning to get into it straight away, but, as they say, there’s many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip (or shit happens).

This story finally resolves things, and, if everything goes to plan, the next arc of these character’s story will extend across a few interlinked novellas. What can you expect? Well, we get a bit more of Lissa’s point of view. You’ll get a broader sense of what is going on in the world beyond pomping (wait till I get to the knot workers – I’m planning on giving those folk their own stories at some stage). It’s all dark fun wrapped up in my sense of humour. I love this world, and I love playing in it. Hopefully I’ll get to play around in it for a long while yet.

Now, here it is…

 

The Memory of Death: Death Works 4 is a novella set in Trent Jamieson’s Death Works universe. It’s available for $3.99 from 11 February 2014 where all good ebooks are sold.  

One

My head strikes the ground, hard, and I bite my cheek; taste blood, get a lungful of water and I’m jerked backwards.

I cough. Roll over, and my knees click as I stand: bone scraping bone. There’s colour. Stabbing light, lending a hangovery intensity to my headache. And then there’s something that I realise is air. Its touch is such an unfamiliar sensation. So damn soft.

I try for breath, cough and try again. And this time my lungs billow. I can breathe. Ha!

A wave knocks me forward again onto my knees, and my fingers dig into the ground. Sand. Beach. A kid laughs somewhere, or screams (laughter and screaming, I know them both, laughter and screaming, screaming and laughter), and I cough up my guts, which amounts to not much more than a thin trickle of grey spit.

I squint, now on all fours, and try to take everything in. There’s too much.

Too much light. Motion. The world’s grown big again.

Gulls wheel in the sky. Beautiful, but the daylight burns. I drop my gaze from the sky to the shore.

One parent drags a curious child away from me, the kid’s heels leaving long trails in the sand. And then the kid spits at me. You’d think something monstrous had risen from the waves – and maybe it has. I snap my eyes shut. All I can smell is the sea. My lips sting, they have cracks the size of canyons; I could slide my tongue into them, if I could move my tongue properly. I taste salt, and bile. Water strikes my shoulders, pushes me forward yet again. Last time, it dragged me away, and there’s no guarantee that it won’t change its mind.

I have to keep moving or the sea will yank me back. And I don’t want that. Not with everything in front of me.

I heave myself to my feet, open my eyes again and shade them with my wrinkled hands. Half the beach watches me like I’m some sort of cautionary tale. No one offers to help.

Why would they?

My coat, the one that once belonged to my father, is heavy against my shoulders: stiff as lead. Dad had passed the coat on to me as a boy, and how I had yearned to grow into it. I was all grown up and working as a Pomp before it really fit, and even then it never fit me well. The last time I’d worn this coat I was so much more. I was the Orcus Entire: the Hungry Death incarnate. I’d wielded the stone scythe Mog. Something I’m sure my father would never have suspected (nor dared hope) I’d achieve. Yeah, I’d not really shown much desire for an executive position at Mortmax Industries; actually I’d barely shown a desire to put in more than the minimal amount of work there. Nor would he have even begun to imagine that I’d use Mog to sever the head of his best friend, Morrigan – a man who had become a god.

I’d been on a beach then too. And afterwards I’d leant on that scythe, weary from battle, and realised that I’d won. We’d won: my Pomps and me. We’d defeated our ancient enemy, the Stirrers, and their dark god. I’d felt pretty good about it all. Hey, I’d just averted a Global Apocalypse. But it didn’t last.

When you’re Death you know nothing lasts. But I never expected to lose everything so damn quickly. That was then.

Where the hell am I? Actually, I’m not in Hell at all, unless they’ve spruced the place up an awful lot. Hell’s all red skies, a giant Moreton Bay fig and the spirits of the dead glowing blue and forlorn.

This beach isn’t the beach of that last battle. No, that was on the Gold Coast. Different time, different light. And I’d been dragged from that victory to the deep dark Hell of the Death of the Water. We’d made a deal, to save the world, and he’d been unbending in his part of it. Mog, my powers, my life: all of it gone. And the world moved on.

Where’s Lissa?

Of course she’s not here.

She wouldn’t be. She thinks I’m dead. I thought I was dead. And yet I’m standing here. Get Out of Hell Free. Except no one gets out of hell free.

I’d learnt that the hard way when I’d performed an Orpheus Manoeuvre, with the help of Charon, and brought Lissa back from the dead. It was almost our first date. Lissa had returned the favour. I’m sure no one has done that to me this time. My memories were of death, but nothing after. And now, this too-bright beach, I focus on my boots, the leather as cracked as my lips, but at least they don’t sear my eyes.

I stumble towards the shore, a few more shuffles, and pause. I get the feeling if I take another step, I’ll cross some threshold. The world seems to stop. Holds its breath with me. The water’s white around my boots.

‘Mr de Selby?’

I look up. A guy in a cheap grey suit, lips a thin slash across his face. Nose broken more than once. He’s dry, a metre from the foamy dregs of the waves, holding a towel over one arm. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be dry, and clean, and not crusted in salt.

‘Yes, yes.’ The words come thickly from a mouth still remembering how to shape them.

‘If you could just take a couple of steps forward, sir. Out of the water. I can’t help you, unless you get out of the water. I’ve no jurisdiction there.’

I blink.

He frowns. ‘The water, Mr de Selby.’

He’s right. I can’t stay here forever, and I’m not going back.

I take a few unsteady steps towards him. The waves suck at my boots.

There are too many gaps in my mind. Holes you could drive a ute through, while it’s doing donuts, wheels throwing up stinking smoke and further obscuring everything.

Then I’m out of the water, onto wet sand. A wave hisses away behind me. I half imagine I hear it call my name.

‘Close enough,’ the man says, yanking the coat from me; it drops to the beach with a slap, and I feel about ten kilos lighter. He drapes the towel over my shoulders. The humanity of that movement, the touch of another hand, makes me cry: a single sob that threatens to build to a weeping.

Until he presses the gun into my spine.

Terror

This was a birthday gift, and performance piece, for a friend. Sums up a lot of the way I think about certain things, so, here it is.

 

TERROR

 

I don’t write horror stories. I can’t.

I’ve always wanted to scare people, but I don’t have it in me.

Terror is the purest emotion; the most honest. Terror is behind all those other feelings. Pushes them along like some shopping trolley with a wonky wheel down an endless supermarket aisle, the trolley wheel’s creaking, going faster and faster, and none of it counts for shit, because Terror is pushing, and the contents of that trolley in the flat fluorescent lighting of the great supermarket of the Universe look pretty cheap.

Love, Joy, Hope, and all the others rattle around behind the rusty bars of the trolley like lolly packets and cans of supermarket brand cola.

You know it’s true.

We all do.

 

It’s why Lovecraft is the greatest writer of the twentieth century. Even though he wasn’t that good, he knew what terror was. Terror is at the heart of it all. Everything else is just the shadow thrown by terror. And that’s the honest to god truth: if there is a god.

And if there is a god, it’s terror.

If there is a god, it’s the phone call in the middle of the night, the crushing weight of things that we can’t cope with: little, big, insignificant, vast. It’s the darkness, not even bothering to creep, because it doesn’t have to, because it’s already in you. Because you love it, because even when you’re fleeing from it, laughing in some sort of fucking chimpanzee fear response, snot running down your face, teeth clenched. You want it to catch you, because at least then, the worst is over.

But it doesn’t need to catch you. You’re already caught.

 

Terror is the door unopened.

 

Terror is the hallway before it is filled with monsters. The thing that creeps unseen. We never see it, we only see its echo and it is ALWAYS disappointing.

 

We breathe in terror, we only see folly.

 

Fucked if I can pull off terror

 

SOMETIMES

 

Sometimes I wake up in the almost quiet of the suburb in which I live, and I pull on my face. And I laugh.

 

Sometimes I get to work really early, and I wait in the dark.

 

Sometimes I walk alone in the woods near our place. Then I am not alone. Then I am alone again.

 

 

Sometimes I drive in circles; big, and then little circles. Until I find what I am looking for.

 

Sometimes all I can hear is the beating of my heart. I don’t hear your heart beating. I don’t know if it does.

 

EVERY TIME

 

Every time you breathe it’s practice for the last breath.

 

Every time you walk down a long hallway, you do it without irony. Irony is no protection. Irony is an illusion. Hallways are irony proof. Something’s waiting at the end of every one.

 

Every time it’s just the cat, you know that one time it won’t be.

 

Every time you open a door, it’s practice for the last door. And every door opened is a disappointment. There’s no terror there, until there is.

 

Every time you hear a sound it’s practice for the last sound.

 

What will that sound be?

 

 

 

 

 

A CAMPFIRE TALE

 

Look into a fire. Look at it, at the heart of all that flame, at the embers. Now turn around.

 

 

 

What do you see?

 

That’s why monsters like campfires.

Fire illuminates nothing but terror. They are nothing but an illusion, cooking your face while your back freezes.

But they help.

Illusion helps.

 

Get me a drink.

That helps, too.

 

Clearing the Slate, and Men of Letters – and a little bit about beautiful failures.

Last year was one of the hardest I’ve ever had, you get those sorts of years, and I’ve been lucky in the main. But in amongst some wonderful stuff there was some utter dire things too (yet again, you get that too).

But one of the highlights (other than selling a new Death Works story, and Day Boy) was getting to read at the Men of Letters. Men of Letters is the occasional off-shoot of Women of Letters run by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire. The letters are funny, heartfelt, raw, and always moving. Usually if you’re invited to read you get a month to prepare. I had three days.

But, like most writers, there’s always something you want to say. And I was privileged enough to get a chance to read this to a person who has been my life for nearly twenty years.

That’s kind of how I want to start 2014 and end 2013. So, please indulge me.

 

Diana, my life has been a constant letter to you since I was twenty-three, and fell in love.

I know precisely the moment I fell in love with you.

You’d come back to my place after work, to lend me the Weezer Blue album, and we’d messed around in the house that would become a brothel the year after I moved out. The house that had holes punched in the walls, and a rather unsettling satanic symbol drawn on a dirty old wall in the vestibule. The house that was built on stilts and that would shake when we fucked.

Not that we’d fucked just yet. This was still all dance, and quick feels copped, and kisses as sweet and frustrating as passion pop.

You’d said your goodbyes. I’d walked you to the front, past that satanic symbol, all weird angles and upside down crucifixes. I was about as pent up as you can be pent up, we’d kissed and all, but I was definitely going back inside to have a quick wank (I was twenty three, there was more cum to me than blood).

I was full of you, high on the curve of your legs, the soft space between your jaw and throat, the freckles that you hated, but I thought were so cute. My heart was beating a million miles an hour, and you smiled, got into your parent’s car, and reversed it into the telephone pole.

I loved you from that moment.

To be honest, I don’t remember if you actually hit the pole, but it was close, and your face was red, and you jerked the car into gear, and you got out of there, hoping I hadn’t noticed, but I’d noticed.

Perfection isn’t attractive. It’s the flaws and the ridges that are the draw, the clumsy moments that soften the heart. Success is wonderful, sure, but failure is beautiful. 

My flatmate was sitting on the porch, he was the dad of my other flatmate, his pants were a bit gapey, he was scratching himself, and I was seeing too much old man cock and pube.

He nodded at me, grinned, and said. “She’s a keeper.”

And he was right.

You were a keeper.

 

We wrote a lot.

A lot. Everyday, back and forth. It was the early nineties no-one had an email account.

Every letter was a seduction, a little argument that went: I’m hooked on you. I want to fuck you. I want you to love me. See how clever I am?

Words have bite; letters are the great cajolers, the excuse makers, the possibility machines. They’re love in the abstract.

Have you ever noticed how letters, meander, Diana? Well, mine do, because that’s the way I think. I run away, drift in this direction and that: over qualify and under-detail.  And you’ve always put up with my missteps and oversteps, even while it bemuses you, this jolting, juddering way I move on and off topic. You can be short tempered and impatient, but who wouldn’t be. You made me understand how my brain works.

You see it in the way I eat corn. It’s like this: there’s really only two ways people eat corn, vertically or horizontally, neat, sequential, row by row. Me I take bites everywhere. It’s how I write novels, out of order, all over the place, piecing them together at the end, it’s how I work, and it’s how I live, in uneven non-sequential bites. And you judge me for it, and it amuses you, and you see it as a strength.

You have the biggest scar I have ever seen. Dudes dig scars. It slashes your belly in two, it’s a great upside down T of a thing that erupted stitches for a decade after you received it. You had a transplant a year before we met. Scars are stories, and that scar says you survived. I love that you once told a kid who asked you about it, that it was a shark bite. You told another kid that a Salt Water Croc had had a go at you. I love that you’re a better storyteller than me.

I love that you can be so strong.

People that write and talk out of order don’t tell good stories. But you are orderly, your stories are effortless, your stories have teeth.

We stopped writing letters when we moved in together.

But I was always writing stories, in my weird eating corn way. And they were to you. So I didn’t stop, not really. You (well, it wasn’t you, but it was) were mostly sick in them and dying. I feared your death more than anything. My stories were filled with people chasing after the lost, clocks ticking down, illness undone, love that broke itself against the wall of death, and love that broke through.

But my fears changed over the years as depression took you.

See, I’m managing some order here. Telling this sort of in the right way. Some scars are internal and rise up out of you like those stitches. Transplants heal, but they can also fuck you up. I realised that there are worse things to fear than death, and that there really are other ways you can lose someone, in little strips of sanity, torn away. OCD, anxiety, pain.

And it happened so slowly that I didn’t notice at first, years of unseeing, until you wanted to kill yourself and you were gone from me, and we were admitting you into the Psych Ward at Royal Brisbane.

When they put you in the little bus, that would take you from Emergency, up the steep hill to the ward, and you looked back at me, and you were so broken and so sad, I was broken too.

But I didn’t stop loving you. I watched that bus drive out of sight, and then your sister (a woman as strong and kind as everyone in your family) drove me home, and I walked inside, shut the door behind me, and I dropped to my knees and I cried.

You’ve battled depression these past fifteen years. You’ve had courses of Electroconvulsive Therapy. You’ve had parts of your past stripped away: and rebuilt yourself. You’ve always been a fighter; you’ve always pulled through.

And you’ve always been the brave one. The one that’s pushed me when I am fearful, the one that makes me take risks, who kicks me when I’ve given up. You’ve taught me over and over that failure is beautiful, and failure comes from trying.

I’ve not always coped. But who does?

You always put up with my shit, except when you don’t. And who wants someone to always put up with their shit anyway? You’re the dreamer and the sensible one.

And this year, when I woke one morning, down in Lismore, (because we’d been visiting our folks) 14 days after I’d turned 40, and two days before we went to see Weezer perform their Blue Album and realised that half my face was paralysed, it was you that told me it was probably not a good idea to do pushups to check if it wasn’t stroke, and you held my hand when I was waiting for the Doctor, scared shitless because I couldn’t move half my face.

And it was you that kept me smiling, lopsidedly, when I discovered that I had Bells Palsy. And you never made me feel foolish, and you never even looked at me funny.

We look after each other. We always have.

And I’ve always written to you in my stories, and written to escape what you were going through. I wrote about dark clouds consuming a world, I wrote about a man who performs an Orpheus Maneuver, a boy who loves a girl that is snatched away by vampires.

I wrote about a man whose wife hunts down his memory, as I sat in the ward waiting for you to finish your tri weekly sessions of ECT, nearly ten years ago, and you would come out crying and asking me why we were here?

A course of ECT, it sounds like a meal of forgetting, and it is, but I’ve never forgotten. Those stories never let me forget. And I wouldn’t want to.

I’ve escaped by running at my fears and fictionalizing them, and I’ve written them to tell you that you will be all right. And that is a hard thing to tell the person in your life who is your bravery.

The last book I had published ended on the word hope. And there was a reason why. And it was just for you.

You’ve never lost hope, my love. And I know you never will.

I’ve loved you since that moment you backed your parents car into that pole out the front of the place on stilts that became a brothel on Keen St in Lismore, and that would shake when we fucked, and must shake a hell of a lot now.

I’ve loved you, Diana, for your glorious successes, and I’ve adored you for your beautiful failures, and you’ve changed my life a thousand times over. You’ve made me a better person.

I can only hope I’ve failed as beautifully for you.