Archive for September, 2012

Rolling the bones, and otherly write bites

Posted in books, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2012 by jason nahrung

ad&d dungeon master's guideI’ve had a wee sabbatical, and there has been wordage, but now it’s back to the mines. Mordor, today; I do hope they’ve cleaned up the blood from the latest cull. At least we had a D&D session on Saturday: not too much bleeding for our side. There’s nothing quite like that communal escape into the fantastic, that combined storytelling, all tempered by a far more personable overlord and some random dice havoc.

Here’s a few of the more interesting articles to cross the desk lately, starting off with a nostalgiac reprint of Gary Gygax’s inspirational classic fantasy titles for role-players (ah, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser!), and an updated appendix to that appendix. You might notice Joe Abercrombie’s name on that latter list — he’s a guest at GenreCon in Sydney in November. Here’s a program teaser. It looks tasty. So, hands up who loved the Thieves World books? Who bumped dice with Jubal? Ah, good times …

Rolling on, and Angela Slatter offers advice for meeting agents — ‘hide the crazy’ — and suggests a key element is to have a good story. You don’t hear much about the value of a good story these days; it’s mostly about how to network and SEO your way to digital sales. Good art and good sales aren’t mutually exclusive, are they? So yay to Writer Unboxed, who reckons one of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is not understanding story. Ah, the learning, it just doesn’t end …

Which leads to Justine Larbalestier, who’s been blogging like a chipmunk on a wheel this month and making far more sense. Well worth stepping off your own wheel and checking out her posts, such as this one about the need for characters to keep learning and this one about them needing to have a life already!

I also enjoyed this introduction (typos and all) at Kirkus to the history of the vampire novel — close to my heart, given Salvage owes a debt to Le Fanu’s Carmilla.

  • midnight and moonshine by angela slatter and lisa hannettLooking forward to: seeing this book in print! Even if I wasn’t helping to launch it, I’d’ve been tempted to drive to Adelaide for Launch II. Lisa and Angela have provided two, well, three actually, of the most enjoyable collections of recent years: this combined effort may just be exponentially awesome.
  • Napoleon conquers at NGV

    Posted in art, things to do in melbourne, travel with tags , , , , , on September 11, 2012 by jason nahrung

    napoleon exhibit at ngv

    It took two-and-a-half hours to go through the Napoleon exhibition at NGV yesterday. It wasn’t particularly crowded, but there was oodles to see and read. Simply oodles. Busts, furniture, books, uniforms, paintings. Music.

    This line jumped out:

    The attention paid to the decorative arts in particular was part of a wider plan to revive the country’s economy…

    Whoa! Art as an important part of a nation’s economy as well as identity? Revolutionary stuff, at least Down Under.

    Napoleon’s savvy might not have made it down here just yet, but the little dictator was fascinated by Terra Australis, in particular Captain Cook’s voyages of discovery.

    A section of the exhibit is dedicated to giving the French their due in the mapping of the coastline and the cataloguing of its flora and fauna. Napoleon’s wife, Josephine, even had black swans, emus and kangaroos in the garden.

    The Australian connection runs close to home, too. I also wasn’t aware of the Napoleonic memorabilia to be found at Briars Park on the Mornington Peninsula, thanks to a family connection running to Napoleon’s incarceration on St Helena.

    napoleon on horsebackAnother section sets the scene for his rise to power, and then it’s a chronological introduction to his career and the way art changed with the times as classic imperial motifs rose to the fore.

    You can trace his evolution from thin-faced general to round-cheeked emperor; a video of his death mask completes the passage. One watercolour portrait on a small box shows eyes of avarice; another display contrasts his simple soldierly tastes with the pomp of state; elsewhere there is mention of manipulation of the media of the day with exaggerated reportage and widespread iconography of his greatness.

    As always in such a historical display, there’s the fascination at the thought of these items being used: the combs and travelling boxes, the chair with the lion-headed arms, the Psyche mirror …

    A familiarity with the French ruler’s history is advisable to help fill in the gaps, but what a champion display this is.

    Meals on wheels: Melbourne’s Colonial Tramcar Restaurant

    melbourne's colonial tramcar restaurantOn Sunday night we dined out in style for a friend’s 50th, indulging in five courses on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.

    The 1947 tram has been decked out with lamps, tables for four and for two, a chef and bar service, and for three hours it trundles amongst a convoy of three around Melbourne — St Kilda, Albert Park and Docklands slid past the tinted windows, while a various artists playlist of the Eagles, Prince and Sinead O’Connor played quietly in the background.

    The food was top notch: appetiser of dips, entree of grilled barramundi, main of eye fillet, cheese and then sticky date pudding for dessert, all washed down with sparkling and red wine, with port to finish. All included in the price. The staff were awesomely friendly, too.

    Rather than rush home from the tram, we made a night of it, crashing at Citigate, right opposite Flinders St Station, which meant we could walk everywhere we needed to go: ideal springtime lunch at Southbank, then to the tram, then to the gallery in the morning before the train home. The room was spacious enough for two people with only one carry-on bag between them, there was an iPod dock, the staff were wonderfully friendly, and this was the view from the twelfth floor:

    view from citigate hotel melbourneQuiet, too. All they need now are proper cave curtains to keep out the sunlight.

    AWWNYRC#10: Duet by Kimberley Freeman

    Posted in books, gothic, review with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2012 by jason nahrung

    This is the tenth book Iā€™m reading as part of my list of 10 for the Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge, which completes the exercise, though probably won’t be the last to fit the category this year*.

    Duet

    by Kimberley Freeman

    Hachette, 2007, ISBN: 978 0 7336 2177 2

    duet by kimberley freemanWhen the author of Duet — her first entry into the world of the depressingly named women’s literature field as a writer — announced the sale, she told me I’d hate this book. I bought it anyway, taking confidence in the fact Kim’s fantastical work was consummate and, besides, Hachette had whacked a ‘love this book or your money back’ sticker on the front.

    That offer has no doubt expired by now, but it doesn’t matter, because I didn’t hate Duet. It was, however, an eye-opener.

    This is the genre of the big tell, it seems, with motivations and feelings writ large — this is the genre of emotion, after all. And what a rollercoaster it is.

    Two women who look so very much alike — one English, one German — share a false identity that propels them both into the spotlight, where both discover that fame and even fortune don’t deliver on their promise.

    Angie, born poor and living rough, is discovered by music producer George who crafts her a pop career in the 1970s. It’s not so much sex, drugs and rock’n’roll as just the prescription pills, exacerbated by an abduction.

    As Angie goes into rehab, George has had the good luck to stumble across Ellie, Angie’s lookalike with a brilliant set of operatic pipes, who is more than happy to escape rural poverty for a shot at the bigtime as Angie’s doppelganger.

    The path to the charts has been anything but smooth for both women, but more setbacks are in store for all involved. There’s amnesia, marriage of convenience, thwarted love, all revolving around a slowly unveiled family secret that both destroys and resurrects.

    Watching the characters manoeuvred through the various stages of life to finally arrive at the climax is a pleasure, as each change of fortune sets them up for the next with all the assuredness of dominoes.

    There’s a little sparkle to enliven the text, too, thanks to phrases such as ‘the Seine dreaming of the ocean’, and some delightful springboards to end chapters as the mystery of the duo’s past unfolds.

    Set against exotic backdrops in Europe as well as an isolated Greek island and the Australian coast and outback, it’s a global tour of ambition, regret and desire. This is a romance, so of course true love will out, but it’s all about the how. I was a little disappointed at just how neatly the boxes were ticked off by the final page, even if there were casualties along the way, but I am a cynical non-breeder so that disappointment should be expected.

    While Duet is certainly outside my usual reading ground, I quite enjoyed this dip into the unfamiliar, thanks in large part to the twists and especially the Gothic influences to kept me interested.

    * The final 10 has turned out a little different to the plan. C’est la vie.

    Previous Challenge reviews:

    Voyager opens digital door — for a fortnight

    Posted in books, horror, news regurgitation, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2012 by jason nahrung

    HarperVoyager has invited submissions of 80,000ā€“120,000 words (preferred) using an online portal, 1ā€“14 October only. Details are on the website. The limited move follows a popular shift among legacy publishers to consider manuscripts sent in by email — there’s a list here. The program is for digital rights only and does consider reprints, as long as the author has the rights, naturally. It seems to be part of the push into the digital realm flagged by Publishers Weekly in July, involving HarperCollins’ ramping up output from its digital-only imprint, Impulse.

  • Romance icon Harlequin is also seeking digital content for its Escapes line, across all subsets of romance, and will consider self-published titles.

  • Submissions for Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror Vol.3 are now open, looking for work published in 2012. The second volume is now available.


  • Writing by the dock of the lake

    Posted in things to do in melbourne, travel, writing with tags , , , , , , on September 5, 2012 by jason nahrung

    writers soaking up the sun at Lake Mulwala

    Lake view at Mulwala

    The writing group to which I belong hit Lake Mulwala at the weekend for a three-night writing retreat. What a brilliant spot it was, with a dozen of us camped in a two-storey joint on the lakeside: a drowned forest, a plethora of birds — including cockatoos and a black swan who came a’visiting — and some amazing moon rises, including a blue moon!

    The town sits on the New South Wales side of the Victorian border, across from the rural town of Yarrawonga, and took about three-and-a-half hours of scenic driving to get to from Melbourne. We also popped into Euroa to stretch the legs and scarf down a very tasty lunch.

    wine by the case

    Winery supply run

    It was also fortuitous that the Rutherglen wine district is only a short drive away. After tasting and lunch ($20 with a drink, w00t!) at Rutherglen winery in town, we hit All Saints (with added cheese!), Stanton & Killeen and Campbells . We returned with the rattle of bottles; fortifieds mostly. The muscats hit the sweet spot.

    But the aim was writing, when we weren’t chowing down on our self-catered banquets. And writing we did, each in their own way. I managed to untangle a lot of the knots in a new novel, so slowly but surely that yarn is coming together. There was plotting. There was scribbling. Typing. Solitaire. Ahem.

    Mulwala lake retreat

    Wordsmiths at work


    It is such an advantage to be able to get away to somewhere quiet with like-minded souls and just butt up against the story. With only cockatoos and pretty sunsets to distract, it was a very productive and rewarding time indeed. Having a nearby walking track along the lake edge was an asset, too, because sometimes the brain just needs some downtime to process and come up with some subconscious solutions.

    The retreat has added impetus for a new Supernova website, which seeks to draw together the various news and views of the members as well as extol the simple virtue of having a constructive support network to keep you on track. Ellen has written about the retreat there to help get the ball rolling.


    Sunset over Lake Mulwala

  • More pictures
  • Salvage on the media tide

    Posted in books, gothic, horror, news regurgitation, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2012 by jason nahrung

    The Herald Sun‘s ‘Weekend’ section ran a review of Salvage on 25 August by Corinna Hente. Grand to see a novella published by a small press getting a run!

    salvage review in herald sun

    The lovely Sonja at Joy 94.9 FM‘s Sci-fi and Squeam invited Kirstyn and myself into the studio recently to discuss ‘horror’, Gothic and the language of writing. The longplay podcast is online.


    And Noosa Today has run a pic from my visit to the wonderfully supportive Noosa Library earlier this month, sharing the Salvage love and talking writing and publishing. Sorry to the guys who came in a little later and missed the surprise photo op! I love the kaffeeklatsch style of yarning with enthusiastic writers and readers.


    noosa clipping for salvage library visit

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