A weekend of peace at Olvar Wood

Zoe, Veronica, Helen and myself at Olvar Wood

Zoe, Veronica, Helen and myself at Olvar Wood

It already seems like years ago, though it was only yesterday…

My Corpse writers, just the four of us, spent the weekend at Olvar Wood at Palmwoods on the Sunshine Coast. Olvar Wood is a gorgeous, secluded retreat set on 20 acres of native bush, reached by a narrow, fairytale path overshadowed by branches and trees. The building is eco-friendly, boasting four bedrooms, separate dining, living room, wrap-around veranda with a view of either treetops or the Blackall Range, a massive kitchen and separate office, even a laundry. An atrium-style tropical garden with water feature is a centrepiece with glass walls, and a gorgeous unpolished pole occupies the landing between the dining area with its Jimmy Possum table and the generous lounge with its wood-burning heater and leather lounge suite.

Very occasionally, the sound of birdsong and wind-whispers is broken by a vehicle on the invisible access road. It is idyllic for writers, with no televisions at all, just a CD player in the sumptuous timber living room with its floor-to-ceiling glass walls and doors opening onto the veranda. Each of the four bedrooms — one is detached with en suite, two small ones share a bathroom and toilet — has a desk and dictionary. I scored the Hemingway Room, with its amazing flower-petal fan, dark timber bed, shower and spa bath, separate toilet and walk-in robe, and a wall of louvres offering a view of nothing but trees and sky.

Only a short, secluded drive from the village of Palmwoods, Olvar is ideally placed at the foot of the Blackall Range. Palmwoods has a superb Asian restaurant and pretty darn fine pizza cafe, with a couple of other cafes and greasy spoons and a bakery with superb pepper steak pies if you can get there early enough. There’s a bottle shop and an IGA and a pub and a funky shop or two, a chemist, a servo: all you need, really. The adventurous can scoot up the range to the tourist villages of Montville and Maleny or hit the concrete apartments and shopping precincts of the coast, but that wasn’t what this trip was about.

desk at Olvar Wood

desk at Olvar Wood

I confess I slept a lot. It took a while to leave the drudgery of everyday life behind — time and a few glasses of red, anyway. And then the words and ideas dribbled forth. Nothing another week of such serenity wouldn’t have helped.

This description doesn’t do the property justice. The kitchen is amazing, the gully with its rocky waterfall, the attention to detail right down to the dragonfly motif running from floor mats to tea towels to vases, the pantry large enough to lock children in … the whistle of the red kettle on the gas stove announcing the water’s hot, come and get a coffee and have a chat; the organic food and the organic toiletries, the smell of wet earth and leather and wood smoke … it’s special, all right, and highly recommended for the writer on the run who needs a space to stop and take stock. And maybe even get some words down.

More pictures  of Olvar Wood

Booked in Bundaberg

From left, Stephanie Laurens, Sue Gammon, Jason Nahrung,Kirsty Brooks, Sandy Curtis at Booked in Bundaberg

From left, Stephanie Laurens, Sue Gammon, Jason Nahrung, Kirsty Brooks, Sandy Curtis at Booked in Bundaberg

There really is nothing like country hospitality. I had the good fortune to be a guest at Booked, the first such event hosted by the Bundaberg Library at the weekend. Also appearing were Stephanie Laurens, Kirsty Brooks and Kim Michelle Toft, and what a fascinating group they were. The day began after a coffee with all of us answering questions from our awesome library host Sue Gammon.

I was particularly interested to hear that all of us were inspired to write our initial books by self-interest: interested in telling the kind of story we each wanted to read, rather than as a marketing exercise or commercial venture. The theme of passion for writing and storytelling was one that ran strong through my own presentation later in the day. But that followed a superb presentation by Kim of her gorgeous silk painting of underwater scenes, some she uses in her children’s books, others she sells through her gallery in northern New South Wales. Then Stephanie blew us away with her work ethic and description of her amazing house in Victoria, tailor-made for a full-time writer. Then I was chuffed to field a bunch of questions about horror and vampires and writing in general, before Kirsty charmed the crowd (and it *was* a crowd, what a great turnout!) with her sheer enthusiasm and zaniness.

I have two goddaughters in Bundy, so being able to catch up with my dear friends there as well as rub shoulders with writers and readers really was a lot of fun. And then there was the generous barbecue held by Bundaberg writer Sandy Curtis

We forget, in the city, just how many stars there are. Even a country boy like me forgets from time to time. A walk on the beach away from the city lights can do wonders for our perspective. Life is a fleeting thing. Best to indulge those passions while we can, methinks.

Me, blabbing on. Pictures: Kirstyn McDermott

Me, blabbing on. Pictures: Kirstyn McDermott

Jeff Martin and Wayne Sheehy at the Troubadour

I’m trying to recall the last time I was consumed by the music. Probably Nine Inch Nails ripping up the Soundwave festival. And now tonight, with Jeff Martin and Wayne Sheehy unleashing an intensity of peformance that was simply staggering. Playing at the Troubadour, an intimate acoustic gig with the sound right up to keep the chatterers quiet, the pair came out firing, Jeff on guitar and vocals, Wayne on percussion. The Bazaar to open, followed by Requiem/Hurt. And I was gone for all money. It helped that the front ranks stayed seated on the floor, offering superb line of sight. That the sound was, mostly, crisp and at just the right volume to drown out the background rabble without being painful, helped. But it was the attack, the emotion, the obvious rapport between the two, and of course the music, drawing from Tea Party and Jeff’s solo album and the Armada — the pair’s band, in this instance with Jay Cortes on bass. His addition for the last three songs — The Kingdom, Black Snake Blues/Whole Lotta Love and encore Save Me (with Jeff’s voice close to straining out) — added yet another dimension. Good news: Jeff reported a sellout of the Armada album in Aussie stores, and also that the Armada are set to return to Australia in November, with Roy Harper as guest.

Ditmars announced

So the Ditmar nominations have been announced. How Alison Goodman’s Aurealis-winning Two Pearls of Wisdom failed to garner a best novel nomination is beyond me. Well, not really. Clearly, she needs more voting blocs in her corner.

Here’s the list posted by the committee (with, I hope, the original typos and misspellings corrected; apologies if I’ve missed any) that will be voted on by members of the natcon in Adelaide next month (with members of last year’s also eligible). I’ve got a bunch of pals on this list. I hope they do well.

Best Novel
Fivefold, Nathan Burrage
Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch, Simon Haynes
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
How to Ditch Your Fairy, Justine Larbalestier
Daughters of Moab, Kim Westwood
Earth Ascendant, Sean Williams

Best Novella
Soft Viscosity, David Conyers
Night Heron’s Curse, Thoraiya Dyer
Angel Rising, Dirk Flinthart
Creeping in Reptile Flesh, Robert Hood
Painlessness, Kirstyn McDermott

Best Short Story
Pale Dark Soldier, Deb Biancotti
This Is Not My Story, Dirk Flinthart
The Goosle, Margo Lanagan
Her Collection of Intimacy, Paul Haines
Moments of Dying, Rob Hood
Sammarynda Deep, Cat Sparks
Ass-Hat Magic Spider, Scott Westerfeld

Best Collected Work
Dreaming Again, edited Jack Dann
Canterbury 2100, edited Dirk Flinthart
2012, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne
Midnight Echo, edited by Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
Black: Australian Dark Culture Magazine, edited Angela Challis
Creeping In Reptile Flesh, Robert Hood
The Starry Rift, edited Jonathan Strahan

Best Artwork
Aurealis #40 cover, Adam Duncan
The Last Realm, Book 1 – Dragonscarpe, Michael Dutkiewics
gallery in Black Box, Andrew McKiernan
Creeping In Reptile Flesh cover, Cat Sparks
Cover of 2012, Cat Sparks
Tales from Outer Suburbia, Shaun Tan

Best Fan Writer
Craig Bezant for Horrorscope
Edwina Harvey for Australian Science Fiction Bullsheet
Rob Hood for Undead Backbrain
Chuck McKenzie for Horrorscope
Mark Smith-Briggs for Horrorscope
Brenton Tonlinson, Horrorscope

Best Fan Artist
Rachel Holkner, for Gumble Soft toy and other works
Nancy Lorenz for body of work
Andrew McKiernan for body of work
Tansy Rayner Roberts for Daleks are a girl’s best friend
David Schembri for body of work
Cat Sparks for Scary Food Cookbook
Anna Tambour, Box of Noses and other works

Best Fan Publication
Horrorscope, Brimstone Press
Scary Food Cookbook, edited by Cat Sparks
Asif! (Australian Speculative Fiction In Focus)
Australian SF Bullsheet

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
Dark Suspense: The End of the Line by Shane Jiraiya Cummings (in
Black: Australian Dark Culture Magazine #3)
George A. Romero: Master of the Living Dead by Robert Hood (in Black:
Australian Dark Culture Magazine #2)
Bad Film Diaries – Sometimes the Brand Burns: Tim Burton and the
Planet of the Apes, Grant Watson (in Borderlands #10)
“Popular genres and the Australian literary community: the case of
fantasy fiction,” Journal of Australian Studies, Kim Wilkins

Best Achievement
Angela Challis for Black: Australian Dark Culture Magazine and Brimstone Press.
Marty Young and the AHWA Committe for promoting horror through the
Australian Horror Writers Association
Talie Helene for her work as AHWA News Editor
Steve Clark for Tasmaniac Productions
Damien Broderick for fiction editing in Cosmos Magazine
James Doig for preserving colonial Australian horror fiction and his
anthologies Australian Gothic and Australian Nightmares.
The Gunny Project: A tribute to Ian Gunn 1959-1998, Jocko and K’Rin,
presented MSFC

Best New Talent
Peter M. Ball
Felicity Dowker
Jason Fischer
Gary Kemble
Amanda Pillar

parallel importation: aussie books under threat?

Australian writer Garth Nix, representing the forces of light, went shoulder-to-shoulder with Dymocks’ Don Grover, representing the forces of darkness. They started on Triple J’s The Hack and then went video on Lateline (the preamble to the panel can be found at the ABC’s IView if you don’t mind some downloading and wading, until May 20).
. Worth tuning into both to get an idea of the issues involved in proposed changes to Australia’s copyright/importation laws affecting the local publishing industry. The Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the laws is here; worth checking out the submissions to see what writers and publishers are saying about the proposals.

Star Trek (rebooted)

Quite enjoyed JJ Abrams’ revisiting of Star Trek, despite having been dubious about the idea of making a prequel to the original series.

Chris Pine, who plays the young James T Kirk, filled the role with aplomb. For that matter, the casting was superb, with particularly strong performances from Zachary Qunito (Spock) and Karl Urban (McCoy). And Simon Pegg, as Scotty, was less dour than the original but played a great comic foil. Eric Bana played a great bad guy, though I might have liked a slightly more heroic finale.

While there were some mannerisms and in-jokes to appeal to Trekkers, you don’t have to be a fan to enjoy this flick. It’s got the character depth and a mix of humour and drama to make it appealing. Though I would like to see a Trek movie that didn’t need a time travel plot.

Alice Cooper to tour Australia

Shock rock pioneer Alice Cooper is heading Down Under with a new show, Theatre of Death. I’ve caught the Coop a couple of times in concert and he has never failed to entertain, even without his trademark stage show featuring a guillotine, and a Britney doll just plump for the skewering. I was impressed when he played a Gold Coast stadium one Easter the night following a Kiss concert: there was hardly anyone there, more’s the pity, but it didn’t faze him. He played his heart out.

The latest album, 2008’s Along Came A Spider, was superb, mixing vintage rock and metal in characteristic Alice style as he unveils the life of a serial killer.

Here are the tour dates, with tickets on sale on May 4!
Tuesday 18th August – Win Entertainment Centre, Wollongong (Theatre Mode)
Wednesday 19th August – Gold Coast Convention Centre (Theatre Mode)
Friday 21st August – Newcastle Entertainment Centre (Theatre Mode)
Saturday 22nd August – Brisbane Convention Centre (Theatre Mode)
Monday 24th August – Sydney Entertainment Centre (Theatre Mode)
Wednesday 26th August – Royal Theatre, Canberra
Friday 28th August – Palais Theatre, Melbourne
Saturday 29th August – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Tuesday 1st September – Challenge Stadium, Perth (Theatre Mode)

Here’s more about Along Came A Spider and a 2005 pre-tour interview with Alice. And a triple-play from Spider: