Time is a Limited Resource

I don’t write a lot about writing because, well, I talk about it enough already. But I’ve been thinking about time: the obvious sort of stuff that you forget about until you’re discussing death or illness with a friend.

And it is obvious, you only have a finite amount of time in your life to write. And it will be less than you think. And, most of it won’t be when you are at your best, because most of the time we are not at our best – and that’s not just because of illness.

You only have a limited amount of time in your life.

Life is a limit, life is like some sort of asymmetrical sonnet – its laws constrain everything we do. And in that rough poem with its beginning, middle and end, you only have a certain amount of time to be a good child, parent, lover, partner, worker, member of society. You only have a certain amount of hours to sleep.

And I am all for planning and goals, and outcomes, and timelines. But all of these things need to be made in the shadow of failure, and with the knowledge that a life isn’t a list of successes and failures or goals made and met, it’s a series of moments made out of that all too limited time.

We set goals, but forget that we aren’t clocks, but that we are bound up in a clock the size of the universe. We forget that in that time we will meet challenges and pain that we cannot overcome, and that we will be far less than the best we can be (and often, just OK, which is, just OK). We forget that we will fall in love and fall out of it (probably many times). We forget that we will struggle or suffer chronic pain, or colds or flu. We forget that those we love will become sick.

Most importantly, we forget that our limited time doesn’t run flush with those around us, that their time might be more limited, that their lives might be truncated well before ours, and if we neglect that shared time we won’t get it back. Our time is so terribly and painfully brief, and it doesn’t understand goals.

I believe that pain shapes us as much as love. The pain we cause ourselves, and others, the pain the world brings to bear against us. Maybe the best work comes out of pain. Maybe the darkest stuff is what we need illuminate.

I don’t know.

But I hope that when I am done, I will look back* on my writing with a bit of pride (and a bit of embarrassment – I’m far from perfect). But I don’t want to have neglected those other things. I don’t want to be defined by my work, because, lets face it, I `ain’t Austen or Shakespeare.

We’ve only a finite amount of time in this world. And you never know when that will be done. We don’t get time back, and one day it will be gone**.


*What a foolish thing to say, I might just drop dead without a moment’s reflection, or suffer some sort of brain damage and spend the last years of my life barely able to think.

**All this is null and void if time ever reverses itself, just putting it out there.


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I am one of those writers, those annoying sort of writers (well, I annoy me) who starts a book with the ending. Actually, I thrash around a lot until either on a walk, or in the shower or on the loo, I realise what the ending is, and then I can get started on actually writing the book.

I have two good endings for two books at the moment. I like both, they both possess a sort of poetry, and neither of them are too neat. More importantly, I’m more than happy to spend the next year or so working towards those endings. In fact, both excite me. And, I know that while I’ll have other projects that will distract me (and that I’m looking forward to doing)  these endings are vivid enough, and vital enough to keep me going. They’re my True North of narrative.

I’ve said it many times here before, but I don’t write a story in a linear fashion. I jump all over the place, and fill in the gaps. It’s the way my mind works, and I need those endings to guide me.

That said, the last book I finished was about as linear a thing (in its process) as anything I’ve ever written. But it was an episodic book, and I pretty much wrote a chapter a day, so I was moving on to a different episode (not scene) and usually a different tone with each writing day. Part of me wanted to see if I could write something that didn’t possess a racing sort of deadliney plot, because most of my books have been like that, while almost none of my short stories have. I think that book taught me how to – which isn’t to say that’s without event, plenty of shit happens.

It’ll be interesting to see how it effects my process on the new books.

We’ll see.

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So This is the Place After a While, and now I am Returned to Blow Away the Dust, or Something.


I’ve been gone a while. I think after the Bell’s Palsy (and after finishing a new book – which is currently with publishers and is the best thing I’ve ever written, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll find a home, so I’ll not mention it much – and a Death Works novella (DITTO)) I fell into a bit of a hole. Actually, more of a deep chasm.

I’m not a big producer.

I don’t write every day (well, I do, but it’s not always on a single project, and sometimes it’s just a few words and for my own amusement or for an audience of one – you know who you are.). And when I finish a book, and certainly one as emotionally draining as the book I finished, I tend to fall into a big hole.

I’m a bit of a sensitive bloke. And I think getting Bell’s and then just getting back into work at Avid, and teaching, while mumbling along with a half-paralyzed face, and finishing off a book that had been at the back of my mind for nearly six years (Not to mention a few behind the scenes things that I won’t mention here – I’m not the only person I know who has been sick lately, and some of those people are very close to me, indeed), well, it just scraped the feelings out of me.

Like most people, I can function on autopilot for a bit, but I can’t write on autopilot. And I can’t keep this place running on autopilot. When I fall into a post-book hole, I draw myself into myself, and the first place to go is here. It just becomes too much. I don’t believe in content for content’s sake and there’s enough great stuff out there already, and this is my place, and I’ll let it get dusty for fuck’s sake if I want

But I have missed old Trentonomicon.

And I think it is time to come back.

Oh, and I’ve started on new books (well, returned to new books) because I’ve remembered just how much I love this writing lark, and novel-writing in particular.

Hopefully there’ll be some good news on the books’ front – because I really want to talk about them, but let’s leave that until there’s more than a glimmer of a chance that they’ll find homes.

One thing I do have coming up is a location-specific Choose Your Own Adventure. It will be released during the Brisbane Writer’s Festival, and yes it is a Death Works story, and yes, it is set after the last book, and before the novella. You’ll be able to walk around the city and let it unfold before you. The story will contain art and music, and should be a lot of fun.

There’s a couple of other non-Death Works stories as part of the series, I’ve read both of them and they’re excellent. Follow the link for more information, and thanks to the Brisbane City Council, and Emily Craven for organising us all.

So, there you have it. I’m back, I guess.

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Avid Reader

My second home is Avid Reader Bookshop in West End. I work there a few days, and it helps keep me sane. But more than that it is a really wonderful bookshop, and today it was declared the Qld Indie Bookstore of the Year. I am so proud of everyone that works there, and the environment that Fiona Stager has made.

Avid isn’t just a bookstore – though that would be magical enough in itself – it’s a piece of the heart of the community that is West End, and Brisbane. There is no place like it (and I’ve worked in a few bookstores). And you don’t get to be like that without a hell of a lot of work, and love. The book trade can be tough, but it’s an important one, and I am very pleased to be part of it.

So, congratulations my darling shop!

Oh, and on the writing front (hmm, I nearly wrote writhing there) lots of things are bubbling away – still a bit secretively, but bubbling they are.

This year may actually turn out all right.

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This has been a very peculiar year, but then all years are peculiar. Being 40 (which is nothing but one of those thinky sort of milestones) and all, having had Bell’s Palsy (which I forget about until my eye starts hurting, or I see a photograph of me – my Uni ID photo looks awful lopsided this year), and feeling a little down about the whole thing has made me even quieter here.

But it doesn’t mean that I have stopped writing, in fact I have finished two drafts of things in the last month, one a book that has haunted me for nearly five years (actually six, which is rather alarming, but there you go), and the other a Death Works novella (which I am polishing now, more on that later, but it has been a wonderful thing to write, and it’s turned out a little longer than I was expecting – let’s just say that people’s lives – and deaths – didn’t get any less complicated after the Business of Death).

There’s been some teaching as well – my poor students having to put up with my slurry voice – and more writing.

I don’t think I’m the most prolific writer.

I’m not a churner, even if it occasionally looks like I am. But I sit down as often as I can, and I try and write, because even when it’s bad it’s good. Writing is the constant in my life, and has been since I could write a story (or try to write a story). And it’s a goad and a comfort, and it’s interesting, and it’s sunk into my bones and my marrow, and when I take that away I feel kind of hollow.

I might clump and clunk, but it’s still me. And I always hope to get better, and even when I don’t, there’s always room for more hope.

That is all, except you can now get this which is a really rather grand anthology and my story The Lighterman’s Tale is in it. As are some truly wonderful stories by some of Australia’s most wonderful SF writers. Worth a buy.


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New Story at The Review of Australian Fiction

I’ve a new story out it’s called Door Thread City. And I’m rather fond of it, a very big thanks to Kate Eltham for pulling this story out of me, and letting me have my head.

It’s a sort of mosaic story and it’s also a key to a lot of my fiction – and it’s about love, and time, and dreams, and a narrative drug called Thread (what is it about me and weird drugs in my stories?). There is a city of the edge of the universe, there are storms and weird quests and a break down of how many times a planet turns out to be earth.

It also has graphics like this:


I’m really happy with how it turned out. And you can check it out here.

The Sue Isle story is wonderful, too, her work always is. So you can jump over my weirdness, and get straight to hers (I’ll never know).

















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Eight Weeks of Bells

Eight weeks in and recovery is remarkably slow – but I was told to expect this. I reckon I have another couple of months at least until I’m recovered enough that it doesn’t annoy me.  But my eye no longer hurts, and my tear duct has started working again, and there’s nothing more delightful than an eye that isn’t sore, and being able to walk around in the daylight even when you forget your sunglasses!

Still, in that time I’ve finished a draft of a book – more on that in the next few months, I guess – and am nearly finished a new Death Works story (more on that when it finds a home).

Other books are starting to take shape and vie for attention so I think this is going to be a productive year. One can hope anyway.

This is my favourite time of the year. The light’s changing, the morning’s are gorgeous, and I always seem to get so much more done. Winter’s coming which means camping and coats, more writing, and time curled up beneath blankets reading. Things don’t get much better than that.


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Short Story Clinic

Angela Slatter, fabulous writer, and one of the finest short story writers I know has given me a reminder (and much appreciated kick up the bum).

I’m running a short story clinic with the QWC over the next six months (starting March).

The Dates are:

If you like my short fiction (or my novels) you’ll know I’m very genre friendly – I tend to come at this stuff from a spec fic perspective – but I don’t stop there. Cate Kennedy is one of my favourite short story writers, as is Maile Meloy (check them out).

What you’ll get in these clinics is talk, some writing exercises (I didn’t do this the last time I ran a clinic, and I think it suffered for it, I love writing exercises and these will be fun and instructive), and critiquing – which if you’ve not experienced it before can be a great introduction to editorial-like feedback, and it can be a great way of finding a person who reads your work with sensitivity, and who you trust – a lot of friendships come out of these clinics.

You’ll also get me. Six months of being able to hurl stories at me (well, at least a few), and get critiques, and some of that experience (six books, around seventy short stories, and my years of living a Hemingwayesque lifestyle – drink lots of water, and learn how to swear, or something).

So six clinics, six months of hanging with a group of writers, six months of deadlines and time devoted to writing (and time is precious), and me as your fearless leader (well, slightly fearful, I don’t like heights, much, not at all, really).

Think about it. You can book here where you will see a rather young-looking picture of me (without a beard, it was a phase I was going through).





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Four and a bit weeks of the Palsy

Four and a bit weeks in and I’m starting to recover. Very slowly, of course, this thing never moves as fast as you’d like, but there’s definite signs, best of all my eye is starting to blink, which has relieved a lot of the dryness – oh, and my wrinkles are creeping across my brow.

It hasn’t stopped me writing, I’m nearly finished a new book (obviously by finished I mean, a draft of new book which will then require a stack of rewriting) and it’s one I’m very happy with. More details when it’s done and finds a home.

I’ve also been working on republishing some of my short fiction. I’m aiming on getting the whole lot out in the next few months (there’s quite a bit of it). A lot of this stuff has been published only once or twice (though Carousel has been translated into several languages), and for some of the flaws in the writing I’m really very proud of these stories. You’ll see all my usual themes in them – Death, Love, Clocks (less the clocks, but the ticking of them) – and even encounter a few characters half-formed from the novels. If you like the novels you might like these (or you might not).

Anyway, here’s the first round. Click on the links if you fancy buying one, I mean, an author needs beer money, right?

A Point of Wager – this is an oldie, vampires, a city imperiled, and a world coming to an end. But is it really? Hmm, Trent, that doesn’t sound like you at all.



This one’s a first contact story about a man losing his wife. The first contact is kind of peripheral. I wanted to slip two world shattering events together the personal and the historical. Does it work? Well, it’s been translated into Serbian and Greek, so people seem to like it.



This is one of my oldest stories, but I have such a fondness for it. It’s about a girl and a song she sings. If I was ever going to write an epic fantasy (as opposed to say Sword and Sorcery) novel it would be set in this world. But, sometimes a short story is enough, it hints at the greater story beyond.



This is the best value of the lot in regards to wordage. It has a contemplation on death and magic, and me playing around with long sentences, hunting for a kind of languor. There’s also a story called Tumble which is about a man grown addicted to a city, and the terrible tasks it sets him to. Oh and Persuasion, a love story that ends the mini-collection it’s a bit Austeny and I wrote it once on a holiday where I caught the flu – this story got me through it, somehow.






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Tate, Hope, The Unliked, and Cicatrix City

So, while I’m buried deep in a new book (and still partially facially paralyzed). I thought I’d revisit the last books. I don’t know if I had a lot of time for reflection while writing them. So here are some notes and thoughts on bits of the Night Bound Land and Death Works books. If they’re a bit mixed up, I’m sorry. I’ll be splitting them up and putting them on their respective book pages some time down the track.

The City of Tate.

Tate was always a city that loomed. In my mind, and hopefully on the page.

I kind of imagined it as that first real classic cinematic fantasy city The Emerald City* in The Wizard of OZ, but a darker version of it.

Tate was less a part of the landscape than something forced on it, visually, politically, environmentally. In the time of the Night Bound Land the city not only loomed it fumed with a dark and terrible energy and heat. – despite its frozen walls and roads.

I originally described it as a looking like a wedding cake. But then I picked up Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines. And there was his description of his city looking like a great big old wedding cake. So scratch that. (But it still does, dammit.).

Tate is ultimately a city at war with its landscape. A war that it cannot hope to win.

People often draw similarities between this and William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land and the Last Redoubt. I was aware of the book, I even have a copy somewhere, but I haven’t read it -well, I tried, but let’s say that I didn’t get very far. That said, the sense of creeping horror, of a force monstrous, relentless, and slowly winning is very much part of the SF DNA.

I got to destroy a lot of cities in the Night Bound Land, but Tate’s destruction was the most fun. Tate was the Metropolis most prepared, and the most set up for failure. It set the tone of the books.


Tate – she looms and fumes.

I also have the beginnings of a novella set in Tate from a Sweepers perspective. I’ll get to it soon, I promise.

*Metropolis is there, too. But Metropolis is far more like Mirrlees-on-Weep. It’s also part of the SF DNA.


All of my books are hopeful. I’m really not that much of a pessimist. I don’t see any of these books as being absent of hope. But I do like to undercut humour with tragedy and vice versa. The one thing I hope I never do is write books that are pompous. My books are about frailty.


Characters being not particularly likeable.


I like to write about people that I don’t necessarily like. Steven, for example, contains a lot of the elements of my personality that I dislike. He starts off as a somewhat selfish slacker who thinks he’s funnier, brighter, more rebellious and a better worker than he actually is. He is terribly flawed, and as the books progress he shifts from folly to understanding his flaws, to actually doing something about them – even if those actions are directed through the prism of his flawed characteristics. He’s not exactly a hero, or an anti-hero (he’s never quite cool enough for that, there’s too much of the klutz in him) just a flawed individual who steps up and tries to do their best.

Hell, we’re all fragile and prickly. We’re all a bit broken, a bit annoying, a bit foolish. It’s those elements that make characters fun to write about – and read.

You could say the same about David, I guess. All David wants is peace and quiet. And he never really gets it. David, Margaret, Medicine Paul, Mayor Stade, Mother Graine and Kara Jade, all of them live in a world toppling into destruction. They’re doing the best they can in the face of impulses of despair, hedonism and doubt. The world of Shale itself is somewhat punch drunk. I wanted the first book to shudder, to feel almost uncertain of its own narrative, the second book was about action in the face on uncertainty. Of course, Roil being one of my first books I don’t quite think I managed to pull it off, but then again, I wouldn’t change it. You’re meant to feel as if the world is shaky that it’s crumbling, and that your guides aren’t quite what they should be. I kept snipping back the beginning of the book (and the backstory) because one, I wanted to start in the action of the story, and two I wanted it to feel as if there was a chasm of knowledge behind the reader. The histories in each chapter opening were deliberately contradictory. They were supposed to obfuscate as much as illuminate.

This by the way is no defence of the books, just an observation of my intent (which is constantly mutable during the writing of a book). The reader’s just as entitled to the throw the book against the wall and yell – that totally sucks shit. Are there things I would change about the books? Yeah, but not much.

Shale is as real to me as the Brisbane in the Death Works books. These characters still stomp around in my brain. I really do adore them.



Cicatrix City

This is the ultimate urban space of the Pomp. The blood of a Pomp will send a Stirrer back to their city in the Underworld. It’s the lock on the door that a dead body presents to the undead. Cicatrix City is the lines on the palm of a Pomp, the scars that produce a map of their pomping career.  Scars are a mark of the living, of a life lived. Look  at your own flesh and you and you will see this. Every scar is a story.

Look at a Pomp’s hand and you will see this.


You won’t see that on Google Maps.

So, my Urban Fantasy, is contained in a hand which has seen the sketch marks of a Pomp’s blade.

I’m working my way through other elements of the books, so there’ll be plenty more of these over the next few weeks – with added lame drawings.

And, yes, there are plans for new stories in both of these worlds.


Finally you can buy my books from Avid Reader here

Amazon here (while you’re at it, why not write a review. Night’s Engines could do with a few – hey that rhymes)

and Angry Robot for DRM free versions of the Night Bound Land here

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