Home again, home again, where is home again?

It has been a hell of a month, this October. So huge it spilled into November! Here’s why it’s been ages, well, more than a month, since I wrote on this blog:
We kicked off October on Bribie Island at our annual Edge Writers writing retreat, this year with Sean Williams and Alison Goodman as tutors. We were able to celebrate the news that our Paul Garrety has scored a two-book deal with HarperCollins, first one due out in 2011!

And brickbats to the Queensland Government for its plan to close the State-run complex, although there is hope whoever picks up the tender for the centre will continue to make it available to groups such as us. For the third year running, I had a manuscript staked out in the sun to burn after it failed the worldbuilding test. On the bright side, I did finish a very rough novella set — surprise — on an island. This is my backup story, the one I write only on the island after all else has failed.

court of two sisters

dinner at court of two sisters, new orleans

After Bribie, my beloved Kirstyn McDermott and I flew to New Orleans, where we had an awesome week. Highlights:

  • My old friend from Canada joining us for a long weekend of merriment
  • Lunch at the Green Goddess, where I’m very happy to report the ‘mezze of destruction‘ is still on the menu.
  • Dinner at Irene’s, where we were shouted a drink because of the length of our wait — the place is popular, and no wonder, given the excellent service and food.
  • A memorable dinner at my favourite restaurant, The Court of Two Sisters.
  • Hanging out over superb bloody marys at the Pirates Alley Cafe, where absinthe is a specialty.
  • Gospel brunch at the House of Blues.
  • Catching some sets with Big Al Carson at the Funky Pirate (and getting a shark attack from the Tropical Isle next door).
  • From New Orleans (more pictures here), we caught a Carnival cruise ship, the Fantasy, for a quick voyage to Progreso and Cozumel in Mexico. Out of Progreso we took a bus tour to Uxmal, a superb set of ruins I’d visited on a previous visit to Mexico. In Cozumel, where, very disappointingly a tour to Tulum wasn’t on offer (wonderful beachside ruins), we went snorkelling on three dive spots and saw lots of fish. Some pictures are here.

    I don’t mind cruising as a stress-free way of covering some miles and relaxing. It’s nice to be waited on once in a while, eh? Even though the focus on the casino and the bingo is a tad sad, and the buffets can be case studies of gluttony. I was impressed with the efficiency of embarkation — US domestic airlines could learn something there — and was happy to fork out for a behind-the-scenes tour of how the ship works, including tours of the galleys, bridge, engine control room and soforth.

    Back in New Orleans, we had time for a Lucky Dog and a bloody mary before heading to the airport and San Francisco.

    kirstyn and jason at golden gate bridge, san francisco

    at the golden gate bridge

    SF is a grand city, and while it doesn’t have the atmosphere of the French Quarter (where does?), it is a relaxed and pleasant city for visitors. We bought a week-long passport for the public transport system and hopped buses, cable cars and street cars all week, visiting Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, a Tutankhamun exhibit at deYoung and hitting the wharves. We also got out of town, hitching a bus to Muir Woods and arty Sausilito, and the Winchester Mystery House. The latter is well worth the effort, with its amazing staircases to nowhere, chimneys that don’t reach the roof, doors that open on to walls, and so on…

    We also saw a local musical about a zombie attack that used Ozzy Osbourne as a deus ex machina of sorts — brilliant — and saw the movie Zombieland (light, fun, flawed) and caught an awesomely fun gig by Emilie Autumn. Sadly, a trip to a bayside music venue resulted in an annoyingly smug performance by a semi-rockabilly dude (who did do a very fun, very fast version of Sweet Home Alabama that foxed those dancing to the Yankee classic) and a debilitating case of suspected food poisoning for Kirstyn.

    From San Francisco we caught the Caltrain, and what a sweet deal that is with its double-decker cabs, to San Jose, to attend the World Fantasy Convention. Aussie superstar Garth Nix, as far removed from acting like a superstar as you can get, was a guest of honour. I was chuffed to get to spread the good cheer that is Australian red wine amongst the guests at an Aussie party thrown by Garth and Sean Williams, with t-shirts designed by Cat Sparks. It was a fun bash, and I got to meet new faces and also renew some contacts made at last year’s WFC in Calgary.

    Other highlights of the con were seeing Jeff VanderMeer throw stuffed toys at his launch party, hear Garth and others read Poe’s The Raven, enjoy the wit of Tim Powers (whose Anubis Gates is right up there on the awesome reads list, and has landed some Pirates of the Caribbean action), and see Aussies Shaun Tan and Margo Lanagan score World Fantasy awards at the banquet where we enjoyed the company of our fellow Aussies. (Check out Deborah Biancotti’s take on it here, and see Cat’s pix here)

    flowers at bega cemetery

    flowers at bega cemetery

    Back in Australia, we picked up my car in Brisbane and drove highway 1 down the coast to Melbourne, taking five days including layovers with family. Driving highlights: Kiama’s foreshore, fish and chips at Bateman’s Bay, Lake’s Entrance, and the cemetery at Bega.

    And now we’re back in Melbourne — home becoming, for this recent arrival from interstate — where the weather is warm and the coffee very fine. There’s a pile of mail on the table, more holiday pictures hitting Flickr as the mood takes me, and a plan to get some words down, sometime soon.

    A quick w00t though: I got home to the news that the Federal Government has decided to retain the current copyright and import laws for books. Hurray!

    And editor extraordinaire Ellen Datlow included my short story, “Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn”, from Dreaming Again, in her highly commended list that includes a bunch of Aussie talent. Happy dance!

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    for the love of Aussie books

    In The Courier-Mail, Kathleen Noonan makes the case, with her usual passion,  for maintaining our existing territorial copyright.

    http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,25659282-5012506,00.html

    It’s depressing, reading that more than 18,000 Dymocks subscribers have signed their petition. Makes my decision to quit the Dymocks newsletter seem rather insignificant.

    You might also like to check out what Tim Winton, latest winner of the Miles Franklin award for Breath, has to say on the issue: http://www.penguin.com.au/breath/video.cfm

    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.

    parallel importation

    Ever so slowly, it seems, the threat facing Australia’s writers, and publishing industry, is creeping into the public domain eg Emily Rodda’s warning about the Americanisation of Australian English AND content. If only this was an issue involving sport! There’d be headlines for sure. But no, it’s just writers, those slackers and elitists who contribute so little to the economy and national character… right?

    Best I can figure, the Australian Government is considering a change to our copyright laws that currently offer a degree of protection ot the domestic publishing industry by requiring local content to be published here. A more accurate appraisal of the issue can be accessed through this Queensland Writers Centre blogpost.

    The upshot of the changes is, that instead of Australian stories being published in Australia, for Australians, they’ll be published overseas, altered for overseas readers, and dumped into our market place at cheap prices thanks to overseas economies of scale. This goes deeper than having your pal’s mom bake you some cookies, as opposed to having your mate’s mum bake you some Anzac bikkies. It means, worst case scenario, fledgling writers such as myself will have even less chance of getting a break in our own home market.

    The Australian Association of Authors has more information, as well as links to have your say, should you so be inclined.