Archive for the musings Category

Greetings from Ballaratia

Posted in music, musings, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2013 by jason nahrung

gargoyles at the front door

Five weeks or thereabouts since this blog troubled the interwebs. I guess moving home and waiting … and waiting … for the internet to be connected will do that.

So what’s happened since the boxes went into the truck and came out the other side, here in steamy Ballarat, in the shade of a hill I’ve christened Wendouree Tor?

Well, my pals The Isle have released a funky little ep, Moment, offering a nice mix of electro stylings. Bowie’s new album, The Next Day, ain’t half bad if the streaming’s anything to judge by. How to Destroy Angels have released their first album, Welcome Oblivion, and it’s a cruisy end to the world if ever there was one.

We saw Einstuerzende Neubauten mix-cartons, and it was a crack, seeing them producing all those sounds from what looked like an abandoned dairy farm on the Palace’s stage. I really dig their gentler stuff, but it’s quite amazing how they manage to make music out of all the rattling and banging. And singer Blixa has an amazing voice.

Tonight, we anticipate hearing new Tea Party material. Oh gosh!

Elsewhere, Aurealis magazine is releasing its duo series with publisher Dirk Strasser and the inimitable Jack Dann leading off. The Aurealis Awards date has been announced — May 18 — with a record field under consideration. Should be a hoot. And the Ditmars and Chronos awards are now open for nominations.

Very pleasing to see the Queensland Literary Awards hitting their stride, too, attracting serious financial support and — gasp! — the State Government funding charmingly parochial fellowships. This from the dudes who axed the awards as their first act in power. Interestingly, a Queensland writer was awarded a life achievement by the Australia Council late last year: Herb Wharton got his start by entering the David Unaipon Award, one of those cancelled by the government and saved by the new awards. Did the AC draw attention to this? You betcha. Because you can’t tell someone like Premier Campbell Newman they’ve acted like a twat enough.

But what about The (other) Rat? There are more stars here and far less buses than in the city. We’ve found the Bunnings and the supermarket and a half-decent chipper and have been very pleased indeed to be in the delivery zone of Pizza Capers (bourbon chicken FTW!). The Courier lands on the front lawn each morning and we scavenge restaurants and events and community groups and places of interest and stick them on the fridge. One day, their time will come.

But first, there’s the last of the boxes, the matter of central heating (winter, it is coming…), acclimatising to the commute and starting to think it might be time to resume the edit of the work in progress. And then there’s that overgrown back yard …

New year, new home, new books!

Posted in gothic, horror, musings, travel with tags , , , , , , on February 5, 2013 by jason nahrung

website clipping of ballarat

When I’ve told people we’re moving to Ballarat, there are two comments that usually follow: ‘Why?’ and, ‘It’s cold, y’know. Like, freezing.’

To the latter, the simple answer is, y’know, coats. But the former is a bit more long winded, to do with property prices in Melbourne, and how Ballarat is as close as we could get to spitting distance of the big smoke, and how it’s got a uni and a writers’ centre and a literature festival (hey, it’s Victoria: what town doesn’t have a literature festival? or a market…), and so on. I liken it to being on the Sunshine Coast and working in Brissie, without the coast. Or the ranges, for that matter. Okay, so it’s got a train and it’s got two lanes of divided road with a respectable stretch of 110kmh in between, and it takes about same amount of time, traffic (an hour and a bit) and rail gods (90 minutes and a bit) allowing.

Ballarat’s a tidy town, brimming with neat cottages and such, and history oozing out its mine shafts. No river to speak of, but lots of culverts, and a very fine lake with swans. I’m told it has a very good Irish pub, obviously that friend’s first memory of a previous visit, and a very fine bakery, too — my friends have broad tastes, clearly. Plus — OMG — an absinthe bar!

Kirstyn and I are looking forward to exploring the place, and the surrounds — for instance, the Pyrenees wine district, which I’m told does a very drinkable shiraz, which is what I want in a wine region. Oh yes. AND we’ve spotted a cafe with a view of the cemetery from the al freso dining area — w00t!

By the end of February, we’ll be Ballaratians. Some might pronounce the former Ballah-ratt-e-ans, but I’m thinking of going for Bal-ah-ray-shuns. I guess Rats could also come up. B-Rat is just far too street. I’m stopping now.

So, a new address, our own patch of suburban dirt with a line already dotted out for a future chook pen, I believe. Excitements!

To go with the new house, new books (though the books came first, to be honest), one apiece: my outback vampire road-trippin’ blood-lettin’ romp, Blood and Dust, and Kirstyn’s dark tale of family secrets, an amazing game of make believe and how what you wish for can be a tad detrimental, Perfections. Both are available now in digital formats (all of ‘em) thanks to the small but passionate team at Xoum.

There will be some kind of ceremony to mark the arrival of these two yarns into the wilds, but it’s been delayed by the move. One thing to be said for e-books — no packing!

house with Hills hoist

A Hills hoist of our own

 

Stormfall: Age of Sexism

Posted in musings with tags , , on December 20, 2012 by jason nahrung

I wonder who thought this was a good advertisement to run on Facebook? “For men only!” Really? StormFAIL!

stormfail

The First 30 and other poems

Posted in books, musings, writing with tags , , , , on October 17, 2012 by jason nahrung

the first 30 by graham nunnThe First 30 and other poems, by Brisbane’s Graham Nunn, arrived in the mail today. A wonderful collection of thoughtful, sparsely drawn, emotive poetry dedicated to the arrival of his first child in November last year. At the front there are love poems to other people and places — the opener, ‘A Brisbane Affair’, I could relate to well — and elsewhere there are other chords being strummed, too. But in this otherwise fairly pacific collection there’s this one poem, written for the unborn Thomas, that carries this line: Crows sing ill omen and the flame tree turns to blood. It’s freaking awesome, isn’t it?

Graham launches The First 30 and other poems on Sunday at Queensland Writers Centre at the State Library of Queensland.

Observations from Adelaide Writers Week

Posted in musings, travel, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2012 by jason nahrung

adelaide writers week

The Adelaide Writers Week, parcelled within the Adelaide Festival (and how the city’s hotels must have been gleeful), last week was much fun, mainly because it provided a wonderful opportunity to catch up with good friends from four states.

The festival set-up promoted conviviality. It was centred on two marquees in a park in a relatively quiet area of the city: jet flypasts for the Clipsal street race added some aerial interest and background noise occasionally during the opening weekend, and presumably the Fringe festival’s open-air gigs up the hill were the source of occasional summer beats laying down a groove in the background, but generally speaking, sirens notwithstanding, quiet.

With only two streams of programming, skiving off to see people didn’t require a great sacrifice of panels, and a book store tent close at hand and plenty of shady trees outside the (somewhat expensive — kranski sausage in a slice of bread, $8) refreshments tent made chilling out with those people quite easy. Plus the city’s cafes were only a short walk up the hill, so finding affordable lunches and snacks and after-festival dinners was very easy indeed.

Social pictures by Cat Sparks

The weather was kind, overcast and relatively cool in the main, only on the last two days really beaming down some sunshine to give a hint of how languorous and sweaty it might’ve been. With the greenery and the marquees and the heat, it reminded me a lot of early Brisbane Writers Festivals down on the river at South Bank, before it went corporate.

The panels at Adelaide were diverse but weighted towards the literary. US noir writer Megan Abbott was a find. Boori Monty Pryor was engaging and fun with a very real message. Garry Disher was sharp. Jenny Erpenbeck gave an East Berliner’s view of life in reunited Germany, as told through the medium of a summer house from her childhood. A chance meeting with Favel Parrett at the airport revealed she was also a Sisters of Mercy fan. Margo Lanagan and Kelly Link were delightful, flying the fantasy flag. There was also a touch of SF with Ian Mond and Rob Shearman providing a commentary to Rob’s episode of Dr Who, one of the few paid events at AWW and quite fun; we missed Garth Nix’s appearance on the last day, but an earlier encounter revealed a forthcoming (Australia: next month!) YA space opera title, A Confusion of Princes, that sounds truly awesome.

adelaide writers week megan abbott interview

Megan Abbot (centre) discussion with Susanna Moore, with Auslan interpreter in background.

One of the things that struck me was the impact to be had of reading out a section of one’s work. This isn’t something that necessarily fits well in the format of genre conventions, where panels address topics with the authors treated as learned sources. But at Adelaide, where the focus was very much on the authors and their latest work, reading a small passage to illuminate a point did fit, and more than once hearing the authors’ words from the page cast their work in a totally different, and more alluring, light. Case in point was the personable Michael Crummey, whose Galore hadn’t been given much of a talking up, really, until he read the opening pars, in which a man is pulled from the belly of a whale on a Newfoundland beach. We now have a copy sitting on the to-be-read pile.

Listening to Lanagan and Crummey talk to each other, without a moderator, was a highlight of the festival: two interested and interesting authors, who had read each other’s work, who had established a rapport before the panel, exploring the themes and methods each employed.

The welcome party on the Sunday night also revealed the emphasis carried by social media, with festival director Laura Kroetsch commenting that the event had been ‘trending’ on Twitter, and the hashtag being part of the housekeeping before every panel.

The panels ensured time for audience questions, but the use of a single, central microphone hampered accessibility for those unwilling to scramble across their fellow audience members.

AWW was largely free, totally relaxed and extremely welcoming, with a little bit of most things to cater to all tastes. With the right couple of drawcards on the guest list and the promise of good friends on the ground, AWW will be an attractive addition to our annual event list.

Up a tree, with vampires

Posted in books, gothic, horror, musings, writing with tags , , , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by jason nahrung

kathleen jennings illo of Jason Nahrung up a tree

A belated note to acknowledge that the wonderful Dr Brains have picked my grey matter for ruminations on things writerly and vampiric over at their Lair — if the wonderful Kathleen Jennings illo is anything to judge by, I’ve truly gone out on a limb! (Because the Brains, aka Angela Slatter and Lisa Hannett both host — a kind of left and right brain thing, perhaps — I’m linking to them both!)

For those who haven’t seen the blog that this illo riffs off, Goths Up Trees is not only photographically interesting but comes with the kind of endearing snark one would expect — great fun.

Vale Paul Haines

Posted in musings, writing with tags , on March 8, 2012 by jason nahrung

On Monday, I was sitting in the dappled shade of a park enjoying a lovely late-morning chat at Adelaide Writers Festival with some of my fellows. And then the phones beeped and vibrated, and the word arrived that Paul Haines had died.

Around us, the bon homie continued, and I found myself asking how it could. Where was the silence? The announcement? The respect?

How could the audience — an audience of writers and readers and publishers — not be shaken by this news? Not be struck mute and sombre as were we?

There was no such silence on the internet, which has been carrying tributes on Facebook and Twitter and on blogs, showing just how much impact Paul had in his too-short career. His too-short life.

I knew Paul as a writer of wonderful and daring and confronting fiction. Fearless in fiction, fearless in life. His documentation of his long and brutal fight with cancer, the hopes and the setbacks and the sorrows for the wife and daughter and family to be left behind, have touched hearts and minds well outside the speculative fiction community who proudly claimed him as one of ours. His writing career was just taking off, suggesting the delivery of the wonderful promise that anyone who’s read his short fiction would recognise.

I’m glad I got to know him, however briefly. I’ve drawn strength from his honest, challenging prose and warmth from his company, and I will miss him and lament the stories he might’ve given us. I feel terrible for his family, to have lost such a personality, such a person.

One of my favourite moments: reading his story ‘Doof Doof Doof’ at work and bursting out laughing, chuckling all the way through. I’ll always thank him for that.

The Thirteen O’Clock blog has posted a wonderfully detailed overview of Paul’s work. There is some small comfort in having that legacy. But there are times when this life and death thing seems far too cruel for words.

There’s a memorial service on Saturday and I expect it will be crowded. We will try to remember the good stuff, the Doof Doof Doof, and try not to rail too much at this wolf that is cancer, that has ripped yet another chunk out of our light.

Ready, steady, go … some Tuesday Therapy for the new year

Posted in musings, writing with tags , , , , , on January 3, 2012 by jason nahrung

The calendar is flipped, the clock is ticking. Welcome to 2012.

Back in the year just gone, Lisa Hannett was canvassing for inspirational sayings of a writerly bent for her Tuesday Therapy. I came up with a mere word, which Lisa has just published at her blog.

Here, gathered sweaty and very non-new yearly limp around the water cooler — not much vim and vigour in the high 30s, I’m afraid, new year or no — the word, perseverance, sparked a discussion about the subtle difference between it and persistence; a degree of resistance to be overcome in one, an inner spring of tenacity in the other. It probably comes down to how you approach your writing challenges. The main point being, that you keep going.

Of course, what I *could* and possibly *should* have sent Lisa was my favourite quote — I don’t know why it didn’t jump immediately to mind, it wasn’t even outrageously hot at the time; and yes, I am also shite at witty rejoinders. So here’s a bonus Tuesday Therapy and a rather timely one for this time of year, all those blank squares on the calendar, scribbled resolutions and what not:


sandman's death


It is Neil Gaiman’s Death and a wonderful saying that I’ve taken to heart, ever since I first saw the motif on a t-shirt. It speaks for itself.

Tick, tock.

Spot the Christmas gift idea…

Posted in art, fantasy, gothic, musings with tags , , , , , , , on November 20, 2011 by jason nahrung

macbeth tea towel

Cute Macbeth tea towel, for the writer, reader or theatre lover who has everything? From Readers’ Niche. They have the same pattern on erasers, too — *chortle*.

And while I’m throwing shopping suggestions around for the festive crowd, one of my happiest hunting grounds for pressies for my Significant Other is Poppet Planet. We fell in love with Lisa Snellings’ work at World Fantasy in San Jose a couple of years back: writer poppets, Halloween poppets, Dr Who poppets, cute and melancholy and downright adorable poppets… oooh. Awesome service, too.

lisa snellings poppet

Vale Sara Douglass

Posted in musings, writing with tags , , , on September 27, 2011 by jason nahrung

Australia lost an influential writer today, when the writer known as Sara Douglass died from ovarian cancer. Douglass, 54, was at the sharp end of the Australian industry, the first Australian signed to HarperCollins imprint Voyager, in 1995; her Battleaxe series has won her a legion of fans. Her most recent novel, The Devil’s Diadem, came out earlier this year; a collection of short stories is due out later this year through Ticonderoga Publications.

Douglass was open about her cancer, and her comments about it and the way our society deals with death made a strong impact on me when she first blogged them. I would highly recommend that post, The Silence of the Dying, to you, and further direct you to Alan Baxter’s response to the news of Douglass’s death, which mirrors my own feelings with simple eloquence.

Douglass leaves not only lives she has touched and an enviable written legacy, but a message that deserves to be heard.

An addition…

Karen Brooks, a long-time friend of Douglass who has recently been treated for cancer herself, posted this beautiful obituary at the Voyager blog that gives some insight into the person behind the name.

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