Catching up with the cool kids: 12 for Christmas

Wow. December already. It’s been all hands on deck here at Chez Hectic, but outside the wheels have been turning. Some happenings of interest, 12 in fact, because that’s suitably Christmassy:

  • Ian Irvine talks oceanic pollution, climate change and his writing with Mary-Lou at ABC Sunshine Coast radio (and doesn’t Aunty need as many local word warriors as it can get). Mary-Lou has a trove of interviews for your listening pleasure, including Kimberley Freeman, Kate Morton, Gary Crew, Helene Young and many more.
  • So cool to see Traci Harding’s new Chinese-set series The Timekeepers heading towards the shelves. I interviewed her back in May last year and she was so excited about this series, sparked in part by a news item about a wristwatch found in an ancient Chinese tomb.
  • The Rabbit Hole, an intensive weekend of writing, has provided the content for an issue of Review of Australian Fiction — sadly, hosted on that most irritating of book platforms, Booki.sh. Of particular interest to this former Queenslander is Jodi Cleghorn’s novelette ‘Elyora’ — hitting the right tone of outback weirdness — and the touching, non-speculative ‘The Slow Death of Plastic Stars’ by fellow Brisbanite Kate Zahnleiter. It’s worth noting that Jodi’s publishing house, eMergent, has a Christmas collection out. More Rabbit Holes are scheduled for 2013, the first on January 11-13.
  • Writers Digest has listed its most popular posts about writing.
  • Robert Hood has unveiled a new book, Fragments of a Broken Land!
  • Have snaffled tix for Emilie Autumn’s tour in March. Can’t wait to see the new show, based on her sumptuous book of asylum life.
  • On Goodreads the Australian Speculative Fiction Authors Challenge has been announced, riffing off this year’s Australian Women Writers Challenge (which is set to happen again next year). Still haven’t decided whether to give it a go … hey, still haven’t joined Goodreads!
    Update 24/12: have signed up for AWW2013.
  • Poet a.rawlings, this year’s Queensland poet in residence, has unveiled Gibber, a project she conducted during her residency. Some gorgeous material here (so many birds!)!
  • Canberra’s Donna Maree Hanson has brought outer space to Harlequin’s Escape imprint with her Rayessa and the Space Pirates, due out in January.
  • Matt Rubinstein has an interesting essay at ABR about the digital book era including this quote:

    People who love books don’t steal books. But, you know, they might lend or borrow books, they might sample books and only pay for the ones they do love, they might torrent a book they have already bought in hard copy, they might pay what they think they can afford. They will do these things whether we like it or not. And it’s probably not in our interests to treat every illegal download as an act of aggression. As an empirical matter, it may turn out that that download has led to a handful of legitimate sales. Or it might not. We just don’t know. We can be pretty sure that insisting that book-lovers are our enemies will be self-fulfilling and soon self-defeating

  • Peter M Ball has, a while back now, offered sage advice for those considering indie publishing.
  • And I did mention my wife’s new book is now available as an ebook, didn’t I? And, ahem, so is mine.
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    Writing round-up

    Writing: it’s easy, right? Take a couple of weeks, knock out that yarn that’s been banging around in your noggin’ ever since you read that thriller on your Gold Coast holiday back in whenever and reckoned, hell yes, once I’ve done the important stuff in my life, I’ll write a book and that’ll be luvly.

    Here’s a Facebook post from Ian Irvine about his new yarn:

    I’ve done 10 hard drafts of Vengeance, plus written more than 80 background docs on story planning, character creation and analysis, world-building and story analysis documents. And spent something like 2,800 hours on it thus far.

    Ian also has a handy bunch of info on his website: the truth about publishing, writing tips, marketing tips … well worth a long, slow read, possibly with note-taking.

    Meanwhile, I’ve had a ‘yes indeedy’ with a solid chuckle thanks to Patrick O’Duffy’s post about, mostly, punctuation that riles him. E.g.,

    (The Oxford comma) bleeds energy from the sentence like a speedbump on a suburban street, and dribbles into the eye like birdshit

    After the rain

    And finally, but most definitely not least, a minor crow moment. As you might have gathered from Ian’s post, sometimes, the yarns take time. They take iterations. They take hair-pulling and wailing and gnashing of teeth. This one here (well, you can’t see it, but trust me, it’s here, the recalcitrant bugger) has been a burr under my saddle for more than a week now, little more than a page or six of incoherent, barely related scenes, ideas, descriptions, dialogue lines … Damn it, just write yourself, why don’t you? Who are you and what do you want? It’s still not telling me. But it’s all very worthwhile when you get a mention in dispatches such as at this review of After the Rain* over at ASiF (where I have been known to drop the occasional review, myself).

    Also pleasing is the mention of Robert Hoge’s ‘The Shadow on the City of My Sky’, a gorgeous story that I saw when we were critique buddies way back when, and am very pleased to see in print and being deservedly praised. Peter Ball’s ‘Visitors’ was another of my favourites from that anthology; I’m glad it got tapped here, too. Peter’s work is awesome: check it out.

    So, the lesson from today’s internet surfing/procrastination is this: work hard, mind the punctuation, do your best and hope someone appreciates the end result.

    * I’m judging collections and anthologies for the Aurealis Awards this year, but After the Rain is not up for consideration due to its publisher being involved in the awards. So I can say with a clear conscience that the antho, regardless of my story being in it, is very solid indeed.

    Books of 2009

    Thank goodness for December. After a tumultuous 2009, it’s nice to have a month to draw breath in, to hunker down and finally get that heart massage I’ve been yearning for.

    I owe Chuck McKenzie a favour for getting the ball rolling, passing around an email touting for stories. The anthology died shortly after conception, but it was the rare instance this year when, by the time I’d read the announcement, I had an idea for a story. Two, in fact. I took them both on long leads for a walk in the park, and by the time I was headed for home, had settled on the one I was going to write. I sat down at the keyboard and, naturally, wrote the other one. It’s still not quite finished, and needs a serious going over, and may never see the light of day. Thing is, it happened, it’s there. The wheels were in motion for the first time in far too long.

    They’ve kept turning, too. The result is a file featuring a hodge podge of scenes, all as rough as guts, some contradictory, most muddled, but there’s a narrative in there somewhere. It’s slowly emerging out of the mist.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the words have started to come as I’ve finally got back into reading. Writing’s a machine: you need words in to get words out. That’s my assessment, anyway.

    So what words? A few of us were yakking the other day about our best reads of the year, and I was struggling to recall what I’d read, particularly in the fractured, then limbo, period of the year. Mostly review books, I think. I guess there’s a reason I don’t remember them, but then, memory’s a tricky thing.

    I do remember enjoying Glenda Larke’s The Last Stormlord, an engaging fantasy set in a beautifully realised world of desert, drought and political intrigue. Peter M Ball’s novella Horn, an urban noir featuring a murderous unicorn on the sleazy side of town, whetted the appetite for a sequel. Angry Robot offerings Slights by Kaaron Warren and Moxyland by Lauren Beukes were head and shoulders above their packmates.

    rewired post-cyberpunk anthology

    And then there was the back-catalogue stuff. A copy of Rewired: The Post-cyberpunk anthology proved enjoyable and wide-ranging, from post-apocalyptic (How We Got In Town and Out Again) to post-human (The Wedding Album), obtusely technical (Lobsters) to poetically obtuse (Thirteen Views of a Cardboard City, possible a view or two too many), and two close to my heart thanks to their Mississippi River settings, Calorie Man and Two Dreams on Trains.

    A revisiting of Stephen King’s On Writing and Kim Wilkins’ The Infernal (every bit as good as I remember it; and due for a new release, I believe) preceded two visions of life after the apocalypse, sans zombies: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. I thoroughly enjoyed both of these science fiction novels, so beautifully told in both language and structure. I stumbled early on in The Road while I adapted to McCarthy’s degeneration of punctuation and assault with sentence fragments, helping to set his scene. The structure was very clever, a series of vignettes, Polaroids of memories, the order not always clear, his protagonists unnamed as they stumble their way through the blighted landscape, living off scavenged goods and in fear of cannibalistic gangs. A world where trust and compassion are casualties of the need for survival. The last scenes left me a little cold, but that might be my cynicism asserting itself. Atwood’s yarn, in which a race of gene-spliced humans have inherited the world, overseen by a wonderfully depicted, mundane narrator with the inside track on the apocalypse, proved compelling from go to whoa.

    Films and TV

    true blood dvd series

    Not a good year for the moving picture in Jason-land this year, due to a protracted absence from attending either the big or small screen. The few new release movies I’ve seen just haven’t impressed. From the sofa, I’ve been enjoying revisiting Battlestar Galactica, and catching up with True Blood, Dexter, Being Human and Dead Set. I hope the new Sherlock Holmes movie might give the year a kick in the tail.

    Gigs

    In no particular order, this lot rocked: Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan, Amanda Palmer, Jeff Martin, Emilie Autumn. At a local level, Sunas, Tycho Brahe, Felinedown, Bridget Handley, Dandelion Wine, Wendy Rule and The Wretched Villains made an impression on the synapses.

    Two albums released this year remain on rotation here in the office: The White LiesTo Lose My Life and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ It’s Blitz!. My retro buy of the year was Beautiful Day by defunct Brisbane duo Stringmansassy: just gorgeous.

    Aurealis Awards finalists announced

    The finalists for Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards, the Aurealis Awards, have been announced on the website.

    Great to see some new names in the mix as well as the stalwarts, and Brisbane’s Peter Ball running for the greatest over-achiever award with his swag of nominations.

    The winners will be announced in Brisbane on January 23, which will mark the end of Fantastic Queensland’s tenure as hosts of the awards. No word yet on who will be taking over the prestigious but invidious task.