Writing in the pub … living the dream!

In the past couple of weeks, a wee group of us have been trotting down to the local and setting up laptops for a writing session.

The boozer has comfortable booths that offer some seclusion from the hurly burly, such as it is on a weekday afternoon — the occasional zombie stumbling in from the pokies room, that blinking expression that suggests, Has anyone seen my life?; tradies catching a quick liquid lunch; suits huddled over their meal. So not too distracting. The pub also has a really neat ceiling of timber trusses and panelling, a bit like a cathedral, so it rewards that desperate heaven-wards stare for inspiration. And the staff don’t mind us hanging out there, occasionally feeding off their power and keeping the coffee machine burbling away.

Usually we’ll have a chat over lunch (the pub’s got a pretty keen menu) and a glass or two of red, and then it’s down to it. Though the last time, we got down to it first, and then finished off with dinner, because it was parma night. Regardless of the schedule, this is the beauty of the pub session. Our needs are catered for, no one has to wash up, and the loos are clean. And most importantly, there are no domestic distractions: no wifi to tempt a quick google check or email perusal, no sudden urge to go hang out washing or feed the cat; no, ahem, blog post to write instead. No escape from the blinking cursor and the blank page waiting for ideas to fill it. It’s the equivalent of walking up to a brick wall of creativity and bashing your head against it.

We are each other’s dictionary, thesaurus, sounding board. Sympathetic ear (‘yeah, it’s annoying when characters go bad’; whip (‘just right the damn thing!’).

It’s interesting that the three of us who meet regularly are all at different stages of our manuscript: one is editing those final scenes (yay!), another is pushing on past the first one-third mark, and me, I’m still trying to work out what the hell this story is about. Yup, actually doing some planning, trying to work both forward from the start that I’ve got on the page and backwards from the ending I’ve got in my mind.

And the pub session seems to be doing the trick for all of us. Especially now that we’ve figured out the line between greasing the machine and bogging it — somewhere between two and three glasses!

Ellen, one of my cohorts, shares her thoughts about the pub outings here.

Aurealis Awards finalists announced

The finalists for Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards have been announced. The Aurealis Awards recognise excellence by Australian writers and editors across the spectrum of fantastic fiction: science fiction, fantasy, horror and all points in between. The winners will be announced at a gala ceremony in Sydney on May 21. The judges had a bumper year to contend with — I judged for anthologies and collections, so I have an inkling of the array of quality shorts the other panels had to choose from — and the lists show some wonderful diversity, with newcomers rubbing shoulders with much-published authors, and a self-published fantasy novel making the final running, which is great to see. And of course, also great to see is Kirstyn’s Madigan Mine in the shortlist for horror novel, along with the most deserving Death Most Definite, by Trent Jamieson, and Jason Fischer’s After the World: Gravesend.

2010 Aurealis Awards – Finalists
CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through words)
Grimsdon, Deborah Abela, Random House
Ranger’s Apprentice #9: Halt’s Peril, John Flanagan, Random House
The Vulture of Sommerset, Stephen M Giles, Pan Macmillan
The Keepers, Lian Tanner, Allen & Unwin
Haggis MacGregor and the Night of the Skull, Jen Storer & Gug Gordon, Aussie Nibbles (Penguin)

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through pictures)
Night School, Isobelle Carmody (writer) & Anne Spudvilas (illustrator), Penguin Viking
Magpie, Luke Davies (writer) & Inari Kiuru (illustrator), ABC Books (HarperCollins)
The Boy and the Toy, Sonya Hartnett (writer) & Lucia Masciullo (illustrator), Penguin Viking
Precious Little, Julie Hunt & Sue Moss (writers) & Gaye Chapman (illustrator), Allen & Unwin
The Cloudchasers, David Richardson (writer) & Steven Hunt (illustrator), ABC Books (HarperCollins)

Inksucker, Aidan Doyle, Worlds Next Door, Fablecroft Publishing
One Story, No Refunds, Dirk Flinthart, Shiny #6, Twelfth Planet Press
A Thousand Flowers, Margo Lanagan, Zombies Vs Unicorns, Allen & Unwin
Nine Times, Kaia Landelius & Tansy Rayner Roberts, Worlds Next Door, Fablecroft Publishing
An Ordinary Boy, Jen White, The Tangled Bank, Tangled Bank Press

Merrow, Ananda Braxton-Smith, black dog books
Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey, Allen & Unwin
The Midnight Zoo, Sonya Hartnett, Penguin
The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher, Doug MacLeod, Penguin
Behemoth (Leviathan Trilogy Book Two), Scott Westerfeld, Penguin

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Nicki Greenberg, Allen & Unwin
EEEK!: Weird Australian Tales of Suspense, Jason Paulos et al, Black House Comics
Changing Ways Book 1, Justin Randall, Gestalt Publishing
Five Wounds: An Illustrated Novel, Jonathan Walker & Dan Hallett, Allen & Unwin
Horrors: Great Stories of Fear and Their Creators, Rocky Wood & Glenn Chadbourne, McFarlane & Co.

The Library of Forgotten Books, Rjurik Davidson, PS Publishing
Under Stones, Bob Franklin, Affirm Press
Sourdough and Other Stories, Angela Slatter, Tartarus Press
The Girl With No Hands, Angela Slatter, Ticonderoga Publications
Dead Sea Fruit, Kaaron Warren, Ticonderoga Publications

Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears, edited by Angela Challis & Dr Marty Young, Brimstone Press
Sprawl, edited by Alisa Krasnostein, Twelfth Planet Press
Scenes from the Second Storey, edited by Amanda Pillar & Pete Kempshall, Morrigan Books
Godlike Machines, edited by Jonathan Strahan, SF Book Club
Wings of Fire, edited by Jonathan Strahan & Marianne S. Jablon, Night Shade Books

HORROR Short Story
Take the Free Tour, Bob Franklin, Under Stones, Affirm Press
Her Gallant Needs, Paul Haines, Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press
The Fear, Richard Harland, Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears, Brimstone Press
Wasting Matilda, Robert Hood, Zombie Apocalypse!, Constable & Robinson Ltd
Lollo, Martin Livings, Close Encounters of the Urban Kind, Apex Publishing

After the World: Gravesend, Jason Fischer, Black House Comics
Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson, Orbit (Hachette)
Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott, Pan Macmillan

FANTASY Short Story
The Duke of Vertumn’s Fingerling, Elizabeth Carroll, Strange Horizons
Yowie, Thoraiya Dyer, Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press
The February Dragon, LL Hannett & Angela Slatter, Scary Kisses, Ticonderoga Publications
All the Clowns in Clowntown, Andrew McKiernan, Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears, Brimstone Press
Sister, Sister, Angela Slatter, Strange Tales III, Tartarus Press

The Silence of Medair, Andrea K Höst, self-published
Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson, Orbit (Hachette)
Stormlord Rising, Glenda Larke, HarperVoyager (HarperCollins)
Heart’s Blood, Juliet Marillier, Pan Macmillan
Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts, HarperVoyager (HarperCollins)

The Heart of a Mouse, K.J. Bishop, Subterranean Online (Winter 2010)
The Angaelian Apocalypse, Matthew Chrulew, The Company Articles Of Edward Teach/The Angaelian Apocalypse, Twelfth Planet Press
Border Crossing, Penelope Love, Belong, Ticonderoga Publications
Interloper, Ian McHugh, Asimovs (Jan 2011)
Relentless Adaptations, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press

Song of Scarabaeous, Sara Creasy, EOS Books
Mirror Space, Marianne de Pierres, Orbit (Hachette)
Transformation Space, Marianne de Pierres, Orbit (Hachette)

Tasty reviews for Ticonderoga’s fangtastic anthologies

more scary kisses paranormal romance anthology

dead red heart Australian vampire anthology

Publishers Weekly has posted reviews of two forthcoming Ticonderoga Publications anthologies — Dead Red Heart (“solid”) and More Scary Kisses (“beguiling”) — and that’d be a thumbs up for both — yay! Both anthologies are due out around Easter. And yup, I’m chuffed to say that I’ve got stories in both of them.

Some speculation about the Miles Franklin award aka ‘this is Australia’

good daughter by honey brown

The longlist for this year’s Miles Franklin award has been announced, and there’s Honey Brown on the list. Brown won the Aurealis Award for best horror novel a couple of years back with Red Queen, and last year, Miles Franklin winner Andrew McGahan took the gong for best science fiction novel. I wonder how many others have managed to likewise span the annoying, unnecessary genre gulf?

Last year’s Miles Franklin caused some forelock tugging when it went to a crime novel, Peter Temple’s Truth. This year, it seems, the forelocks will be safe. Here’s the longlist, with an annotated description based on the blurbs:

  • Rocks in the Belly (Jon Bauer, Scribe): a family power play told from the POV of both a child and the man he becomes.
  • The Good Daughter (Honey Brown, Penguin): a mysterious disappearance in small country town, Australia.
  • The Mary Smokes Boys (Patrick Holland, Transit Lounge Publishing): small country town threatened by progress as a young man worries about his sister’s future.
  • The Piper’s Son (Melina Marchetta, Penguin): a sequel to Saving Francesca, all about family and friends and disappointment.
  • When Colts Ran (Roger McDonald, Random House): slice of life among the blokes of a, ahem, small country town.
  • Time’s Long Ruin (Stephen Orr, Wakefield Press): based loosely on the disappearance of the Beaumont children from Glenelg beach.
  • That Deadman Dance (Kim Scott, Pan Macmillan): culture clash in colonial WA.
  • The Legacy (Kirsten Tranter, HarperCollins): a woman disappears in the dust cloud of New York City’s 9/11, causing secrets to be uncovered.
  • Bereft (Chris Womersley, Scribe): family secrets and strife in smalltown NSW in the aftermath of the Great War.

    The shortlist will be announced on April 19, with the winner announced on June 22.

  • things to do in Melbourne #4 — dinner and a show, with added penguins!

    No smoking sign

    Melbourne’s a great town for dining out — it prides itself on its culinary culture, in fact. Which makes the reason for it to cling to the foul tradition of smoking in al fresco dining areas rather puzzling. Just recently the Monash City Council caved to business pressure and gave up a proposed ban; the businesses were more concerned about losing their smoker market — who would continue to eat out anyway — than attracting the much bigger non-smoker market. A curious piece of business intelligence, but there you go. Old habits — and old smokers, for that matter — die hard. And it looks as if the council will continue to chip away, so good on ’em. But that’s not the point of this here rumination

    Rather, it’s to direct your attention to the rather groovy Butterfly Club in South Melbourne. We went there a couple of Sundays ago, not so much for the show, but the decor. How very hipster of us! But seriously, it’s such a lovely venue, long and narrow in an old shop/residence, with a bar downstairs and another up, both with lounging rooms attached, and the most wonderfully squeaky wooden stairs to the loo with a view of who’s waiting in line, and in the front room, the performance space with its fold-down theatre chairs and the most rudimentary of lighting. It’s like having a cabaret in your own lounge room. And everywhere, there is kitsch: old books and here a Robocop action figure and there some island masks, vintage lamps and bits of boats … wonderful stuff.

    We chanced upon Christine Moffat, performing Really Nice Day, with able support from a male pianist who had his role to play, and even the audience was dragged into the conceit. It was a lovely kidnap tale with a healthy dose of psycho, interspersed with musical numbers that helped move the narrative along. I’ll never listen to ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ in quite the same way again!

    Anyhoo, after the show we had dinner around the corner at the Groove Train (with Butterfly Club discount, no less), which probably isn’t up there on the city’s fine dining guide but ain’t to be sneezed at (billowing clouds of nicotine notwithstanding) for a filling well-priced meal, and then — penguins!

    One benefit of daylight saving is you can have your 6pm show and a meal and still get to St Kilda by twilight. Twas a chill little breeze plucking at our coats and the sea was a metallic cobalt colour when we got there, kind of grateful we hadn’t tried to squeeze into the crowded beachside eateries — especially the one with Eddie Maguire bellowing at people to come eat their entrees over the PA. Yikes!

    No, much better the slow walk along the jetty and out to the rock wall, where some intrepid little penguins (formerly known as fairy penguins) had braved the city side of the protective mesh fence. There’s a rookery out there, amazing given the proximity to smelly old humanity with its dogs and lower order specimens who have, in the past, delighted in destroying little penguins (hence the fence).

    How amazing is it to be able to wander a manmade structure in a busy bay, and be able to spy wobbling penguins climbing the rocky ramparts, extending their fragile little community into foreign territory? And even more amazing is it to be able to snaffle a soft-serve ice cream — with nuts — on the walk back?

    Listening to music while the world slowly bleeds

    This is Lucia Micarelli, whose violin is a favourite attraction of the HBO television series Treme (available on DVD any minute now…). There’s a lot of soul in that playing, isn’t there? That violin appears on a couple of tunes on the Treme soundtrack, which has been on high rotation here while outside the house the world continues to find its own little slices of hell: floods, fires, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis — and that’s just in our little corner of the globe.

    treme soundtrackIt’s a grand soundtrack, lifted from the first series, with an eye focused on post-Katrina New Orleans, one blink blame, one long stare at recovery and pride, and plenty of winks at simply enjoying life, whatever may come. The album’s resonance reaches further than Louisiana, right across the Pacific to rubble and mud and houses and lives thrown asunder. There’s comfort in the fact that American’s inability to care for their own (cf Steve Zahn’s ‘Shame Shame Shame‘) isn’t replicated on the grander scale; that citizens and nations rally in support of those in need. Japan and the Pacific: it’s your turn now, and how sorry are we that you need it?

    I realise that tectonic plates are one thing and global warming is another, but honestly, would it really hurt us to take a little better care of Spaceship Earth, even if — egads — its passengers might have to tolerate a little inconvenience? There’s nothing quite like a natural disaster to remind you just how delicate an ecosystem is, especially when it’s the one you rely on to keep you breathing.

    Also playing…

    Inspired by The Runaways movie, I finally added some serious Joan Jett to the CD collection and haven’t been disappointed — great rock ‘n’ roll to bop away at the keyboard to. Hard to go past ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me (Yeah)’!

    Also making noise is the latest from Theatres des Vampires, Mephisto Waltz. The Italian outfit don’t quite scale the same symphonic heights as Nightwish, but their tunes are lush and grand; Sonya Scarlet’s voice offers distinctive warmth and wide range, a real femme fatale feel, with her accent to the fore. Buzzing guitars, thumping drums, strings and piano: all the bases are covered in a theatrical but not overblown presentation.

    Rounding out the play deck is an oldie but a goodie from Velvet Acid Christ, lust for blood. This synth-driven industrial/EBM album is perfect accompaniment for editing and, turned up, urban action scenes of the spooky noir variety, but damn me if the door bell sound on one track isn’t STILL fooling me every time…

    Here’s ‘Carmilla’, from Theatre des Vampires: probably not what Sheridan Le Fanu had in mind, but I’m not going to disapprove.

    Aurealis Award ceremony tickets now on sale

    The Aurealis Awards for Australian speculative fiction will be awarded at a gala ceremony in Sydney on May 21. Tickets are now on sale, with earlybird discounts on offer. The venue looks fab!

    Shortlists are due out soon. This will be the first year the awards will be presented in Sydney, following a stint in Brisbane which really saw the awards rise to being a calendar event.

    Librarians take HarperCollins to task

    Here’s a video from a library in the US, suggesting that HarperCollins’ plan to limit e-book loans to 26 times (ie approximately a year’s worth of lending, based on a fortnight’s turnaround) before libraries have to re-buy the title is more than a little misguided. It’s interesting that libraries are reinventing themselves as not just providers of reading matter, but social hubs; publishers are struggling to reimagine their profit models in an e-age, so this won’t be the last bullet through the foot thanks to a trigger-happy beancounter.

    With the ‘shelf life’ of e-books a factor, could libraries end up functioning like video libraries, where e-books are rented rather than loaned? Or should publishers simply forsake the income from backlist replacement copies, and be happy that their authors are getting exposure through the public lending system and hope that borrowings translate to purchasing? I wonder what types of inducements we’ll see added to e-books to encourage upgrading — deleted scenes? commentaries? maybe some discount coupons for the gorgeously bound hardcover collector’s edition?

    Pseudo Echo love an adventure at the zoo

    lion at melbourne zooThe lions enjoyed Pseudo Echo. At least, that’s how I interpreted the wonderful roars and coughs coming from the nearby enclosure while the veteran synth pop band sang the night down at Melbourne Zoo.

    The zoo’s Twilight concert series proved the perfect accompaniment to a cloudless evening as we sprawled on the grass and munched on fair-priced and tasty Asian meals with pinot noir and cheese platter chasers.

    Children gambolled in the dark as the crowd sang along to a parade of hits: ‘Listening’, ‘Love an Adventure’, ‘Funky Town’, ‘Living in a Dream’ and more. No sign of the ’80s hairdos, but the music was as vibrant and fun as ever, with a short-haired, bearded Brian Canham out front on vocals and guitar, and some wonderful drum work.

    pseudo echo

    Pseudo Echo at Melbourne Zoo

    Before support The Hiding signalled it was time to hit the turf, unroll the picnic blanket and pop the cork, we had an hour and a half to wander a large portion of the zoo, taking in the giraffes, seals and aformentioned lions. It’s always a bittersweet visit, zoos: cats prowling their petty slice of turf, living the easy life but seeming to simply not belong behind the wire. The zoo is beautifully landscaped but, especially having seen many of the animals in the wild, I couldn’t help but feel a touch of sadness. It’s the price of conservation and, in some cases, preservation, I expect.

    Regardless, it was great to Pseudo in the wild. Let’s hope they continue to prowl!