Catching up on the tunes…

Some ‘on hold’ music while I’m otherwise engaged …

Warpaint: ‘Elephant’ is a cruisy Sunday afternoon.

The Horrors: stop us if you’ve heard these synths before!

Sietta: Aussie beats and fetching vocals … interesting.

Call me shallow, but if you put a cow skull and a bra on the album cover, yeah, I’ll have a listen… and well worth it too, with the ripping eponymous tune from Abbe May’s album, Design Desire.

Sarah Calderwood’s debut album is due out in November. Thoroughly exciting!

Felinedown: new EP, awesome live show, tunes to throw you around the room (on tour in October)

Writerly round-up, including the Big Sleep I’ve just had and the one I’m about to…

the big sleep by raymond chandlerI recently read The Big Sleep. Unfortunately, I’d recently watched the movie, too, so my head is filled with Bogie doing his thing. Unlikeable hero, much? I enjoyed the book, some laugh-out-loud sass, lovely attention to detail, awesome metaphors. Sadly, despite these and other inspirational viewings, I still don’t have more than one scene for the paranormal noir short story I’m trying to write — I do wish the hero would just decide what they want to be and roll with it. Maybe if I try harder to talk like Bogart. OR Bacall… I just dunno.

I’ve also recently read Glenda Larke’s The Stormlord’s Exile — the Aussie cover is by Vincent Chong, who cleaned up at the recent (controversial) British Fantasy Awards. It was an enjoyable end to the series, adding new scenery to the already beautifully sketched world of the Quartern. Respect one another and respect the planet might be the dual themes.

Elsewhere, I’ve been drawing sustenance from Ian Irvine’s blog — I can’t recommend enough his one-page guide to storytelling; it’s a handy little checklist to keep by that nagging chapter rundown spreadsheet. Ian has also updated — or rather, is in the process of updating — his virtually seminal discussion of the Truth About Publishing — it’s worth catching up with.

Louise Cusack has been making the most of a storm to really get into the zone with her characters. This again makes me think of Glenda’s book and how important the weather is, and how much of an old Goth I am, throwing thunderstorms around for dramatic effect — and then using the contrast of a blue, bright day to do the same. Seriously, UV IS bad for you. (LOL)

The zone also came to the fore when I read this piece from Dmetri Kakmi, in particular this line:

“When the individual returns to the mundane, he sees reality as ‘repellent’.”

He’s talking about Nietzsche and Hamlet, but it sounds like a writer coming out of long spell “in the zone” to me!

I’ve had to live vicariously through Narrelle M Harris’s account of SheKilda — that’s a great pun, I can’t believe only now as I typed it that I fully got it; damn, I must be tired. I ditto what she says about finding inspiration at conventions.

amanda palmer san diego concert posterWhich is my segue for the rest I’m about to have. Sure, the paying job seems determined to bite at my heels for part of the journey, but for the most part, it’s downtime in some of my favourite places in the world with, as luck would have it, a couple of my favourite in the world. Life is good. And there will be convention goodness, thanks to World Fantasy in San Diego. It’s a bit of Gaiman Con this year, we’re told, with added Amanda Palmer — all good — and it’ll be ace to soak up the vibe and maybe make a pal or two. I’m taking a big bag, so I can finally break the moratorium on fun stuff when I hit the dealers’ room. I wonder if I can read Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book before I get there? Will it put me over my weight allowance? Is this another reason to buy an e-reader, and if so, which one?

But first, there’ll be sleeping. It’s been a long couple of weeks, but that burr in the saddle that pays the bills notwithstanding, the to do list is looking pretty clean right about now. One of the things I love about being on the road is being the hell away from the interwebs. This compulsion to be plugged in and engaged can be damn tiring, damn distracting. It’ll be nice to have a rest, even if there’s always a persistent niggle that the world has taken a step to the left without me knowing. Anyhoo, it’s R&R time. Wake me up when we get there, and let me know what I’ve missed.

(It’s worth waiting for the guitar solo!)

Collide’s Counting to Zero really does add up

American duo Collide remind me a little of Massive Attack, but the midnight version. I’ve got a promo copy of their latest and seventh studio album, Counting to Zero (Noiseplus), on high rotation, and their electro cruise is so smooth – find a place under the lasers in the fog and let your slo-mo bat-catching go wild. Suggested track: ‘Lucky 13’, suitably slinky beats with singer kaRIN hitting some sultry notes down low.

It doesn’t pay to get too complacent, though. They like a little mid-song pause, a little change of tempo, just to keep you on your toes. See ‘In the Frequency’ for a fine example: fuzz guitars making highlights, and a gradual fade to grey, setting up the heavier bass attack of ‘Clearer’.

kaRIN and programming partner Statik perpetuate their distinctive sound – her fetching pipes remain the lead instrument as the layers of music builds and fades in step – while pushing their studio savvy out all the speakers. There are shards of Vangelis, Goldfrapp, John Foxx, Portishead … some Middle Eastern notes, too. The album is both perfect mood music for a chill-out as well as a funky stereo-sound experience.

counting to zero by collide

The tone is set from the opener, the slow-building ‘Bending and Floating’, a doorway into a rich electronic landscape the name of which kind of says it all, really. Across the 11 tracks, the vocals do float above the electronic current, and there’s some bending going on, too: keyboard and strings on the exemplary title track with gorgeous guitar courtesy of Scott Landes, a quietly catchy lead track in ‘Mind Games’, a fractured electro snatch and grab in ‘Tears Like Rain’.

‘Human’ is a slow burn, kaRIN exercising some range to bring added emotion – “who’s going to fix you when you’re broken?” – to an outfit who can come across as sonically icy rather than fiery.

‘Further from Anything’, with Secret Meeting collaborator Dean Garcia (of delicious, departed Curve) on bass, changes gears nicely for a last-half jolt before the slide to the end, concluding with the poppy (and suitably named) closer, ‘Letting Go’.

With more than half the songs clocking in at more than five minutes, the album takes almost a full hour to unwind, and it can lull. kaRIN’s default vocal setting is a lullaby croon and it will take you away – to a good place.

Calling out for best of 2011, and launching Anywhere But Earth

Ticonderoga Publications have opened for submissions to their next year’s best of Australian and New Zealand fantasy and horror. Stories published this year are eligible; deadline to sub is January 20.

Anywhere But Earth, Coeur de Lion’s science fiction anthology in which I’ve gone all godbothering vampire conquistador, is launching at a spec fic fest in Sydney in November — sad to miss that. The day includes an opportunity to pitch to ‘an industry professional’.

And there’s more about the e-format for Aurealis at the Aurealis website. Looks as if my Aussie werewolf yarn will be available in the Feb or March issue, which is, I believe, still going to be free to download.

Oh, oh: Louise Cusack is returning to the world of MS assessments — briefly. Catch her while you can; she gives great feedback.

Surviving the End

surviving the end anthologyDark Prints Press has released the table of contents for its Surviving the End anthology, to be launched at the Swancon “Doom Con” in Perth at Easter next year — lovely thematic resonance, there! (Marianne de Pierres is a good choice of guest of honour, given her dystopian outings.) The antho sounds nice and tight, with extra interest thanks to the inclusion of Craig’s between-story interludes and the novella.

As well as my yarn, ‘The Last Boat to Eden’, there is:

  • Unwanted, by Martin Livings
  • The Long Ago, by Amanda J Spedding
  • Hiatus, by Michael Bailey
  • The Stuff of Stories, by Kathryn Hore
  • Harvest, by Ashlee Scheuerman
  • the novella, The Failing Flesh, by Joseph D’Lacey
  • and narrative interludes by the ‘Story Collector’, Craig Bezant
  • The end is in sight — bring it on!

    Aurealis goes digital … and free for the moment

    aurealis 45 first digital edition cover

    It’s not just official … it’s available now: the first section of Aurealis #45 is available at Smashwords as a free download. This is a big shift for the venerable Aussie spec fic mag, which is using the digital arena to go monthly, incorporating AurealisXpress. It’s starting with #45, the last issue compiled by Stuart Mayne as editor, and is breaking it up over four months under the stewardship of Aurealis co-founder Dirk Strasser (21 years ago!) and Carissa Thorp. Somewhere in the queue is a story of mine of which I’m quite proud. Yay!

    I’ve been told that the #45 yarns will be collected into a print ‘best of’ edition in 2012, which is good news, because I do love my artifacts!

    Sean the Bookonaut has already given the new-look e-edition a shot and his review is quite favourable.

    Having just had a squiz at the pdf, and it’s come up well, internal artwork included, and it’s cool to see hyperlinks.

    Winds of Change is launched

    winds of change anthology

    Hurrah! The anthology Winds of Change, published by CSFG in Canberra, was launched at the weekend at Conflux. Sadly, I couldn’t be there to join in the drinking celebration, but Alan Baxter was, and his report is here. Sounds like a fab launch, and a fab con. My story, ‘Wraiths’, is in the anthology, rubbing shoulders with old pals and new. I’m looking forward to reading it.*

    Meanwhile, Conflux has opened memberships for 2013. Yes, it’s a ways off, but that’s because it will be the National Convention in that year, just after Anzac Day. Nalo Hopkinson, whose writing I adore and need to get more of, is one of the guest of honours, among others whose writing I also admire. Conflux always puts on a great con, so I’ve already bought my membership. At $140, they’re as cheap as they’re gonna be this month. Check it out.

    *I am a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This comment is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

    A day in McLaren Vale: fine wine but mind the cyclists

    Way back in autumn, when the leaves were a gorgeous motley of earth and fire, our friends took us for a day trip through McLaren Vale, the famous wine district an hour out of Adelaide. It’s a fairly compact region, hilly and twisty and bedevilled with lycra-clad cyclists, but if you’ve got the patience and the reflexes, it’s definitely worth a trundle.

    Naturally, the key ports of call are the wineries, and each of the ones we visited managed to offer its own individual appeal. I found that the shiraz by-and-large didn’t have quite the kick of the Barossa wineries, farther north, but still managed to give the luggage restrictions a test on the flight home. I’m sure the security dudes are used to the clanking of bottles in carry-on.

    wirra wirra winery

    Wirra Wirra

    Wirra Wirra is a big’un — so big it has its own trebuchet and a handy look-out over the nearby grape vines. Its landmarks include a bush sculpture of giant cricket stumps, and a massive rough-hewn redgum fence known as Woodhenge marking the property’s entrance. It is the home of one of my favourite tipples, Church Block. Pilgrimage is too strong a word when the drop is available from every bottle-o, but we took our communion anyway.

    chapel hill winery

    Chapel Hill

    The religious theme continued at Chapel Hill, where the cellar door occupies a former church that also houses an art gallery. Pews are available for those wanting to sit while taking in the works. The building is gorgeous, an ironstone church dating to 1865: it preaches shiraz and chardonnay with outreach to pinot grigio and sangiovese, amongst others, and has a truly tempting The Devil tawny port.

    Serafino winery


    Serafino was a bit of a disappointment, actually; the staffer was busy doing the books or her nails or something, and the wine just didn’t grab us. Love the stained glass door, though, and, outside, there was a gorgeous lake and oodles of galahs and water birds, including hungry geese and ducks: more than enough to hassle the few picnickers making the most of the spring sunshine.

    Coriole winery


    Coriole’s cellar door is based around stone farmhouses dating to the 1860s, is surrounded by flower beds and terraced gardens and affords a fine view across vine-covered hills. When we dropped in, it had a wee fridge of olive oil, vinegar and cheese. It describes itself as a fattoria: “A vineyard and winery where other food products may be grown and produced.”

    fox creek winery

    Fox Creek

    This is the historically inaccurate Red Baron wine-barrel Fokker at Fox Creek, probably our favourite stop on the road trip. It operates from a stone cottage best described as intimate and offers some of the best shiraz we tasted. The smallish rooms are set up for lounging while enjoying art exhibitions, and the staff were amongst the friendliest and most welcoming we encountered. The grounds are littered with sculptures. The pictured Fokker gives its Red Baron name to one drop; Vixen, an easy-drinking red, is among the vineyard’s most popular offerings, while Shadow’s Run is named after the owners’ late dog and is a perfect summer quaffer. The Short Row shiraz shows that Fox Creek has depth past the barbecue; we have a bottle earmarked for a special occasion next year.

    Natalie Potts


    This is our unofficial wine guide and good friend, Natalie Potts. She not only knows her way around McLaren Vale, armed with a trusty map marked with helpful red crosses and underlined SHIRAZ in full caps by her parents, but she writes stories, too. If you click on the picture, you can read more about her yarns, some of which are available on Smashwords. If you click on the other pictures, you’ll find more pictures of McLaren Vale at my Flickr site.

    It’s worth noting that Adelaide Writers Week is on next year, in March. I did mention that McLaren Vale is only an hour’s drive from Adelaide, didn’t I? Good-o.