Saturday, January 30, 2010


Yesterday, as the storm came in, I started work on a final scene linking the old draft with the new stuff. I’ve added Eight thousand words to the front end of the book. Oddly enough the story features storms, as did that scene, so it helped with some of the detail as dark clouds slid over Brisbane suburbia, and a few hundred birds, parrots in the main, found noisy refuge in the trees behind our place – it’s once an indignant and nervous sort of background noise, all those parrots suddenly in one place.

I’m now onto the structural edit proper, but those new words have put what is to come into perspective. I’m confident it’s going to be a much better book by the time I’m done

Trentonomicon has Moved

I've a shiny new site here. Check it out. I'll be cross-posting for a while. But the new site will have more information about the forthcoming books and whatnot.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

this blog still lives, though it's heart is beating very, very slowly. I've just finished and submitted book two of Death Works. Managing Death is a different creature to Death Most Definite. But every book is different, and characters change - it's what makes them interesting.

Now when I say "finished" I don't mean finished at all. Just one stage is done, there'll be several more before the book sees* print in December. But this is perhaps the most important one. It's me getting the book off, getting other eyes to look at it, and getting some distance. This is the joy of deadlines, if I didn't have one I think I could hold onto this book indefinitely.

But I did, and the book is gone. So hello, dear old Blog, and the rumblings of book Three, and all those other yearnings(and fears) that are stories in the making.

Deadlines are wonderful things, but it's great to have a little distance between yourself and the next one.

*unless it's really, really awful - which you always think it is at this stage, and at various other stages, whenever you get too close and lose sight of the whole thing - which is often. Let's hope it's not, eh.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Little on Process - Part Two

I know. I do go on about this quite a bit, but when you’re at the end of a second book with a lot (I mean a lot) of editing ahead, it does tend to rub your nose in it. And writing’s a kind of nasal gazing activity, and I’ll be teaching the year of the novel at QWC next year, so how I write novels has very much been on my mind.

You see, I don’t plan them- not one little bit*. I tend to start a novel with a scene that may be the beginning and may be the middle, and I tend to have an end point, but that’s about it. I write in an extremely non-linear fashion. And it seems to work for me. I write and I fill in scenes and jump around, until I’ve written a book length manuscript, and then I move those scenes around, cut and change things, and fill in the gaps.

I write like people shoot films, quite often without any idea of what goes where, just trusting that it does. And sometimes it doesn’t, but usually I’m heading in one direction, even if the scenes don’t appear to at first.

So that first draft is all about energy, about getting the stuff in my head down. The second is about filling in gaps and moving scenes around, and the third and subsequent drafts are all about logic and internal rhythm, and working out what the book is about. Which, as you’d imagine is the longest stage.

I’m at this last stage with Managing Death. The bulk of the manuscript is written, people have suffered, major characters have died (no spoilers there, the books are about Death). And, until today, I hadn’t read the manuscript from A-Z. But now I have, and it makes sense – sort of, which is always an incredible relief to me. My ms is covered with hand written notes and post-it notes, some as detailed as actual scenes and others as vague as “write more here”.

From here I will spend my free time filling in the plot holes, and tidying the writing, looking at the consistency of the voice – it’s a darker story than book one, but the character is the same character and it is his voice that tells the story – and generally working on the novel until it makes sense to me.

Then, some time early next year, I’ll get my structural edits, and that will be the real test. Whether it makes sense to someone else, whether it works, whether the pacing is right, whether it’s funny, or dark enough.

That’s when the next level , the real personally challenging work will begin, because this story won’t just be something spun out of the illogical recesses of my mind it will be a novel with readers, and the questions they ask. And, as a novel, it will work or fail depending on how well I honour that connection. Because the process up to then is all mine, but after that it is a shared thing between me and the editors and the readers of the books. And it goes from being abstract and fun to something solid and capable of failure.

That’s the scary challenge of writing and publishing as opposed to writing alone. And you face that no matter how you get the words down.

Which sounds a lot grimmer than it is, because hey, I love this writing thing, and I’m dying for people to read these books, but I just wanted to share the chaos out of which they come, and the work that goes into making them make sense.

*I’ve tried, but I never read my notes. I just find them months after the event and it’s always interesting (to me) to see how far I’ve actually diverged from those notes (usually a lot).

For the QWC Blog Tour

Where do your words come from?

My head, there’s a long tunnel at the back of it and the words tend to stumble out of there at odd times and with peculiar rhythms. They also tend to come from the past, from dreams and memories, which makes them pretty unreliable, and quick to fade. I’m not that good at catching them, but I get some which is all you can really hope for, I suppose.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in Gunnedah, until I was fifteen. It’s a smallish country town in North Western NSW. Then I moved to Lismore in Northern NSW for about six years. I live in Brisbane now, and have done for ten years. I love it here.

What’s the first sentence/line of your latest work?

When the day was longer than it is now in the three grand columns of the Lands Found, and all things reduced, Jackknife caught his first wife with a song.

I shouldnt actually be working on that story, but I was taking a break from this one:

There’s a knife cold and sharp, and pressed like a longing for extinction beneath my Adam’s apple.

Which is the first line of Managing Death, bk 2 of Death Works which is coming out at the end of 2010. Of course, it probably won't be once I've worked through the book again, and it's gone through the various editorial stages before publication. You can check in December 2010.

What piece of writing do you wish you had written?

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. They’re both transcendental works of fiction, every word is perfect. Oh, and Wuthering Heights, and The Man in the High Castle, and The Left Hand of Darkness, and To Kill a Mocking Bird. I could go on for pages and pages. Maybe though the one piece of writing I wish I had written is William Blake's The Sick Rose. It's just so evocative and deceptively simple.

O Rose, thou art sick!

The invisible worm

That flies in the night,

In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed

Of Crimson Joy

And his dark secret love

Does thy life destroy.

Hey, at least I get to type it.

What are you currently working towards?

Getting better, trying to work to deadlines without going crazy, and finishing a good dozen or so projects that have been bubbling away in the back of my skull and on my hard drive for far too long. Which doesn't sound like fun, but it really is. There's a terror and deep, deep pleasure to it all.

Complete this sentence… The future of the book is nothing like anyone expects it to be.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Loud Music

I’ve been furiously working on book two*, after finishing copy edits of book one**.

I’m finding that it’s music that is getting me through the sluggish parts of the day, which are many in a Brisbane Summer. And what is it that I’m listening to. For one a whole heap of stuff by Killswitch Engage – metal seems to keep my mind on target – and then I’ve just started playing a newish album by Lightning Dust there’s a glorious and elegant apocalyptic flavour to their work.

It's funny but through most of the process of writing book one it was Spoon, Okkervil River*** and Gotye until right at the end when I went all Emo. This time around it was mainly Okkervil River, the Editors, and the Decemberists - with a touch of Killswitch at the beginning. I thought this was going to be my Americana book but the pendulum has definitely swung to metal again.

That’s about it as I try to unsnare odd and contradictory plots, and smooth out timelines. Brain is well and truly frazzled.

Hoping to get my read-through edit of book two finished tomorrow. Wish me luck.

*book two being Managing Death.

**Book One being Death Most Definite.

***Still the best band ever and, hands down, my favourite live act.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Aurealis Awards

The Aurealis Awards shortlist has been released, and what a great list it is. Congratulations to everyone that's on it. I've so many friends and favourite stories on this list that I honestly couldn't pick a winner without changing my mind half an hour later. Though it's particularly exciting to see Peter M Ball up for so many awards, and Tansy for her excellent Siren Beat.

Not to mention Keith for his excellent job editing X6 - he deserves it - and Paul Haines for Wives. Hell, it's a great bunch this year so good luck to you all, I'll be coming along for what I reckon will be a fantastic party.

I've been working away furiously on copy-edits for Death Most Definite. Finished them on Friday (I hope, any problems that book possesses are no-one's fault but mine now, I've had some of the best editorial guidance of my life on Death Most - thank you, Hachette) and then had two Xmas parties to attend - with work at Avid in the middle - seriously hit the wall today. Got up to work on a draft of the Business of Death and found I was just too tired* to concentrate at all. So have spent the day recovering, even went off and finished my Christmas shopping.

Now, I'm going to finish reading Jeff Vandermeer's Finch, then play around on what will hopefully become my new website in 2010.

*Okay, I may also have been slightly hung-over.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

These next two weeks

are nose to the grindstone sort of weeks. I'm close to finishing book two, which has been a perilous and fun endeavour, and I reckon isn't a bad book at all, and may even be a good book in which bad things happen.

I spent the last two days in Sydney which was great fun. Firstly the launch of X6 of which Cat Sparks writes about here. I got to feel all authorly and hang out with some of my favourite people, all of whom I count myself lucky to call friends. Even if Terry Dowling makes me feel tongue-tied, I mean, Terry Dowling! I've been reading him since I was a teen - so of course I forgot to get my book signed. And then Margo, I was too busy bullshitting on with her and Steven, to get my book signed. So I've got a half signed copy of X6, maybe I should fly back down to Sydney, just so I can feel a real sense of closure with this book

Keith organised a wonderful launch (damn, another person whose signature I should have gotten, sorry Keith) and he and Nicola were excellent hosts, putting me and Mr Paul Haines up for the night.

I also went to Hachette's offices, home of Orbit Australia, and met the wonderful staff there, and had coffee with my publisher, the lovely Bernadette Foley, and talked about deadlines, and books, and I got to see my cover.

How cool is that!

It's not quite finished, but what I've seen of it is excellent, and it captures the mood of the book, and what the book is very well. The moment I can show it here I will.

Yep, the cover.

The cover that is going to be on my US, UK and AUS editions. Not bad for a Brisbane boy.

Of course, I still managed to get lost on the way to the X6 book launch*, and get caught in a very Brisbanesque** storm - black clouds, crackling lightning, and drenching rain that ran through the city in less than half an hour.

I `ain't that clever.

*Sydney is so much bigger than Brisbane.
**Note how Queenslander's always appropriate the weather. It's what we do - we also wrestle crocodiles, when we're not at Broncos matches.

Monday, November 09, 2009

I work at

Avid Reader, which may just be one of the best bookstores in the world.

I love it there, and it's about my only solid social interaction and break from writing book two (almost there by the way, I don't do word counts here much, because they're dull and that usually doesn't inspire me, but fill me instead with some sort of existential word countish dread, and I start dreaming that I'm being chased by numbers, and stories aren't really numbers, well not that often*). Sure I work Sundays and, sure I have to get up around six in the am to get to work (yes there is a 6am on a Sunday Morning, I used to believe Sundays had a default start of 10 am, but I was wrong) but it's the best place you could ever hope to work.

And it keeps me sane(ish).

Avid has a new website up, and it's worth checking out. There's some great video of various book launches and what not, and some fabulous readings. Follow the link and you'll come across a little of the reason - in cyber form - that I love working there.

*Q. what's your novel about?
A. 90,000 words.