The Next Big Thing

Angela Slatter tagged me in this Next Big Thing writerly chain thing, in which we answer the questions below before sending the same queries off to five of our pals. Blood and Dust is my next ‘big’ thing, to be released soonish in digital format by Sydney publisher Xoum. Let’s get started.

blood and dust by jason nahrung1) What is the working title of your next book?
Blood and Dust.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
The story began more than 10 years ago in a role playing game I was running while living in Rockhampton. Add in my dissatisfaction with the watering down of vampire as monster and metaphor, plus my love of Australian stories, and this yarn finally emerged. It originally moved from the outback to the big smoke, back to the outback, so I’ve cut the yarn into two standalone novels. Blood and Dust happens mostly in rural, regional Queensland; The Big Smoke — still a work in progress, and uncontracted — happens primarily in Brisbane.

3) What genre does your book fall under?
Let’s call it a supernatural thriller in which bad things happen. Does that qualify as horror?

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I’ve not thought that far ahead, but it would be exciting to see so many opportunities for Aboriginal Aussie actors to go crazy! It’d be a multinational cast, too: Eastern Europeans, English, Asian-Australians, yobbos. The sequel brings in serious Western European and US action. Get me the casting agent, stat!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Bad things happen when an outback mechanic gets caught in the crossfire of an outlaw vampire motorcycle gang and a big city vampire gang.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Blood and Dust was sold to Xoum by my agent, Selwa Anthony.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The first draft took probably more than a year to pull together. That was in the late 90s.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Based on hearsay, because I still haven’t read the sucker, maybe 13 Bullets or, in terms of nastiness and based on the disappointing movie version, 30 Days of Night.

I like to think of it as Anne Rice meets Mad Max.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This is a little like Q2, but let’s run with it and say Bram Stoker. He’s the chap who crystallised my love of supernatural, Gothic literature with Dracula. You’ll find references to it, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and a few others besides, in Blood and Dust: little homages to the greats of vampire lit. How would vampires survive in the Sunshine State? This story is one answer.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
If this were a DVD, it’d have warnings on the cover for coarse language, violence, adult themes, drug references, sex. But, y’know, it’s got a big heart, too.


That’s it from me. I direct you to my five victims to find out about their Next Big Things!

  • Cheryse Durrant
  • Chris McMahon
  • Charlotte Nash
  • Patrick O’Duffy
  • Scott Robinson
  • American Horror Story, all boxed up

    American Horror Story season 1

    Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott and Taissa Farmiga arrive at the ‘murder house’.

    Has it been a year already? Ghosts of Christmas past or what?

    Last year we scoffed down American Horror Story, an incredibly thoughtful and homage-laden haunted house story with some exceptional ghost work. Well, season three has just been commissioned, and the first season has recently been released on DVD.

    I got sent a review copy of the DVD package, and it’s handsome.

    Do not watch the extras if you haven’t watched the show. Half the fun is trying to work out the back stories of the characters and, indeed, work out who’s a ghost and who isn’t, and who will become one and who won’t. So an extra profiling the who and the how of the spooks is great to recapture or put things in perspective, but will screw up the show.

    Film fans will enjoy the info about the title credits — great to see some Nine Inch Nails input there! — and the ‘making of’ likewise sheds some light while talking up the show.

    Strangely, for a show that worked hard to avoid cliche even while exploiting so many tropes, the ‘Murder House’ extra, dressed up as a ghost tour visit riffing from the show, added little that wasn’t covered elsewhere, and let the side down.

    The commentary from creator Ryan Murphy on the pilot isn’t overblown and provides some interesting tidbits and insights.

    Online, there’s a shallow doco site about crime scenes/haunted places, and it covers six in Australia. They’ve misspelt Boggo Road in Brisbane and bollocked up the text for Snowtown (awesome movie, by the way!). Sigh.

    Still, watching the pilot again reminded me of just how superb Jessica Lange is in this show — indeed, the performances are first rate across the board — and I reckon it will reward a second viewing to appreciate all the bits ‘n’ bobs the makers have used to set up the succinct 12-parter. I remember being a tad disappointed with the final episode’s touch of twee and apparent set up for season 2 (falsely, because 2: Asylum, is all new), so another viewing could indeed be illuminating.

    One for the Xmas pressie list, for sure.

    Well, Hello Kitty!

    midnight echo 8Midnight Echo is ramping up to the release of Issue 8 at the end of November — herewith, some dirt on my yarn in the magazine, ‘Hello Kitty’. It includes an extract, which makes me stress that the attitudes and opinions of characters therein are not necessarily those of the author …

    Other writers in the mag include Joe R Lonsdale, Felicity Dowker, Joanne Anderton, Jason Fischer and Andrew J McKiernan — and MORE!

    And Issue 9, with a theme of legends, is open to submissions.

    Blood and Dust on the digital horizon aka Kevin the vampire lives!

    blood and dust by jason nahrung

    This is the cover for Blood and Dust, my outback vampire novel coming soonish to digital shelves everywhere thanks to Aussie publisher Xoum. I quite like it! (Honestly, the art dept has fkn nailed it, yeah?)

    The cat has kind of slipped out of the bag on this one, but it’s nice to be able to share the horror joy. The story’s more than 10 years and four major iterations in the making, and for those who know — this is the story of Kevin, the vampire. And yes, the Monaro is still there …

    You might have also noticed recently another lurvly book cover hitting the interwebs:

    perfections by kirstyn mcdermott

    Why yes, I have read an unedited version of this novel by Kirstyn McDermott, and yes, it is very good. Coming soonish, too!

    Collide, bent but far from broken

    collide band

    Listening to electro duo Collide is a little like walking by the ocean; a quiet, calming ocean. But as with that aquatic environment, beneath the surface, there are currents to pull you in unexpected directions, rips to take you deeper. And that is what the mammoth remix double album Bent and Broken (Noiseplus), kindly downloaded to me by the band, has explored, tagging the essence and developing the core of the music to take it further. So not just those calming rhythms, but the crash and foam as well.

    Prime example is ‘Chaotic’, from the 2008 album Two Headed Monster, itself a rollicking, infectious tune. There are three versions on Bent and Broken — one mesmerising with strings, another yet more chaotic with electro pop and whizz, the third even further ramped up with the fuzz into a dancefloor firecracker.

    There are also three versions of ‘In the Frequency’, making it equal favourite for remixing, and two of four others. All up, there are 26 tracks split 15/11 on Bent and Broken, mostly reimagining Two Headed Monster and last year’s Counting to Zero (reviewed here): two hours of largely dreamy soundscape. There is also a sprinkling of new material: ‘Orgy’, a worthy cover of a The Glove song that makes the most of kaRIN’s understated snarl; straight-up Collide-style ‘Bent and Broken’, and a cinematic cover of Queen’s ‘She Makes Me’ featuring acoustic guitar.

    Matched with Statik’s musical chops — this album’s production rewards listening through headphones — kaRIN’s vocals are one of Collide’s assets: distinctive, seductive, malleable, swinging from seductive to ominous to pacific.

    So I probably could’ve done without the fast-forward/rewind whimsy of ‘kaRIN, You’re Not Yourself Today’, but it’s a single blip on an otherwise smooth journey.

    collide album bend and brokenA highlight is dreamy ‘Lucky 13 (Damaged mix)’, ramped up with industrial stylings that provide a darker, almost ironic cast. It doesn’t surprise it comes courtesy of Android Lust, whose next album is being Kickstarted towards completion.

    ‘Tears Like Rain (Cloudburst mix)’, such an awesome line from the movie Blade Runner, here drops the pace into maudlin territory, gentle keys creating the soft pitter patter of hopes and dreams slowly melting; the Psych-Nein mix transports ‘Tears Like Rain’ into a casbah discotechque.

    ‘Clearer (Serrated Edge mix)’ is smoother than the name suggests, but has one of the heavier beats and widest ranges, from an almost industrial attack to minimal electronic hand claps.

    And so on, with extra beats here, trip hop there; candlelight anthem here, dancefloor there.

    The album closes with a seven-and-a-half-minute meditation of ‘Utopia’. Ahh.

    Wild Surmise at the Malthouse: a stellar production

    wild surmise at the malthoueLove, death and astrophysics. And poetry, of course. That’s the bottom line of Wild Surmise, a two-person play now showing at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre, based on the verse novel by Dorothy Porter.

    It’s a wonderful show, a little over an hour long, sharp, affecting, endearing. Jane Montgomery Griffiths is Alex, sometimes narrating herself in the third person, sometimes the first, always on the ball. How effortlessly she changes accents!

    And balancing her is Humphrey Bower’s Daniel, Alex’s husband, disaffected university lecturer, lover of poetry, terminally ill, watching life and his wife’s love slip away and helpless to hold on to either. At least he has his poets for some slim comfort … and that lemon tree, that garden, that morning coffee.

    Alex is an astronomer with a passion for Europa and, more tragically, American counterpart Phoebe; trapped between the cold light of her lover and the dark days of her husband, she is forced to declare at one gripping point, ‘My life is fucked.’

    Powered by Porter’s stunning prose, replete with astronomical and oceanic metaphors, the play runs on the passion of the two leads, who deliver such honest, proficient performances, it’s hard not to get swept up in their drama. There is humour, sorrow, such longing …

    Once again, the Malthouse stage setting is to the fore, the two often separated by a glass wall successively stripped of pages of text to reveal the mirrored room beyond. There are four chairs and two coffee machines and the lighting is spot on.

    Amazing, isn’t it, how such a simple set, and such a simple set-up, can be so powerful in the hands of skilled artisans.

    Add in a splendid dinner served and eaten inside an hour at the Malthouse’s restaurant, and it was a very filling evening indeed.

    The play opened last night and runs until December 2.

    GenreCon — worth doing all over again

    genrecon logo

    So we’re back home, and now that the work has been caught up on — well, kind of — it’s worth reflecting on the good oil that came from GenreCon in Sydney this weekend.

    Twas an intimate gathering of writers from across the spectrum of crime, romance and spec fic — a melding of minds, techniques, loves and aspirations. And there were agents and publishers (Hachette, HarperVoyager, Momentum, Xoum, Clan Destine, Dark Prints … to name a few) with an interest in those genres. There were international guests Ginger Clark and Sarah Wendell and Joe Abercrombie:

    Ginger let us know about the tough times in publishing and how agents are stepping up to fill the gaps left by publishers, in terms of editing, marketing, production … the line is blurring, the publishers cash-strapped and unable to offer the full suite of resources that has, in the past, made them such a powerful cog in the publishing wheel.

    Sarah addressed author platform — the pros and cons of various social media, the importance of politeness — be a person, she said; converse, don’t declare.

    And Joe: he’s a damn funny, easy-going fantasy writer who seems just a touch bemused to be selling oodles, but highly appreciative, to be sure. It’s all about getting down and dirty with the characters for him; gritty realism over shiny heroics, though he admits there’s room for both, and more, in fantasy’s huge field.

    There was pitching for those with something to pitch — a 70 per cent hit rate for call backs shows some serious quality in the offing, and of the 30 per cent that dipped out, there was a praise for the pitch, even if the actual book didn’t hit that particular agent or publisher’s want list.

    The panels were compelling, ranging from industry to craft to workshop topics — Peter M Ball’s business model for writers gave me pause for thought.

    LA Larkin described plot as skeleton, characters as flesh and mood as blood: I like that, as you might expect.

    There was an awesome debate between planners and pantsers: there was a symbolic glass of water, and a smooch, some of the best insults since Monty Python …

    There was catching up and meeting social media pals, making some new friendships and reinforcing some existing ones. It was relaxed but draining. There was morning and afternoon tea and lunch as well, all of which enhanced the social aspect of the event.

    As usual with conventions, the hotel didn’t quite come to grips with the bar situation, but the staff were wonderful and, from this outsiders’ viewpoint, apart from the race day madness in the bar, all went to plan.

    Martin Livings launched his collection, Living with the Dead, as part of an Australian Horror Writers Association presentation, one of four by various genre groups.

    The opening night cocktail party was a hoot of an ice breaker, and it sounded as if we’d missed out by skipping the banquet and a presentation of romance titles, one featuring a platypus that created quite the stir.

    The good news: plans are afoot for GenreCon 2013, to be held in Brisbane. The calendar is richer for it.

  • In the aftermath of GenreCon, Conflux 9 — Canberra’s science fiction and fantasy convention, also the natcon for 2013 — has announced a pitching opportunity with Voyager’s Deonie Fiford. This is in addition to already announced opportunities with Angry Robot’s Marc Gascoigne. Noice. I’m really looking forward to getting back to Conflux, which has never failed to entertain.