Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Have yourself a wonderful New Year's Eve. May the books keep on getting better, the stories more outlandish, and the laughter louder - leavened with enough tears to keep you humble, but no more.*

I've got a good feeling about 07.

*Actually lets discard the tears altogether, we can make up for it in a decade or two**.
**but only if we have to.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Me and the World Getting On a Year*

I'm almost done with this 33 year old lark: never really stuck, sort of like an ill-fitting suit that you buy on sale, then realise it doesn't look so good, but you've spent a fair bit on it – even though it was on sale – so you wear it anyway.

So I'm shedding 33 – it's peeling off, going to need the vacuum in a minute – and trying 34 for size, I'll let you know how it goes this time next year.

Reading Vellum, loving it, perfect birthday present to self. Loving the weather today, wet and cold. It's Brisbane, it's December 27, and it's wet and cold, these sorts days you've got to take as bonus, because soon we'll be melting into our shoes, and the city will grow heat-strokey and sullen.


Have yourself a nice 28th of December, or, as I prefer to call it, Trent Day.

Trent never looked cooler than when he was rocking out in his Disneyland t-shirt



*depending on your calendar

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hope your xmas was swell

Hope you all had a great Christmas. Mine was fantastic, down in Lismore with both sets of family, lots of fine food and alcohol, and I even managed to finish a short story, pretty happy with it, too.

Today I spent the morning catching up with siblings, then had a dream drive home, Lismore to Brisbane in under two and a half hours.

Vellum is proving a wonderful read, the writing beautiful and rhythmical, the perfect way to end up the year I reckon, I do like my pretty words.

34 in two days time. I'm fitter and happier than I've been in a while, growing old doesn't always suck - except, perhaps, in a Michel Houellebecq novel.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Twilight Singers

One of the coolest bands in the official soundtrack to the grand history of my love affair with Diana - in which continents topple like vast baroque and teetering houses of cards, tears drown the heavens, and an army of rats conquers the moon in ships that are powered by the blood of angels and shaped like bunches of roses – are the Afghan Whigs. While we were falling in love we were listening to their album Gentleman it's moody and dark and dangerous and wonderful. It's always been a huge regret of mine that we never got to see them live.

Pretty much Diana's favourite solo artist, after Bowie, is Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees fame. We missed him the last time he was in town, and have regretted it deeply.

Well, lead singer of the Afghan Whigs, Greg Dulli is touring in Jan with his band the Twilight Singers, and one of the current members of the Twilight Singers is none other than Mark Lanegan, and I just bought tickets. (You just knew it was going to work out didn't you, as does the love affair, until it ends tragically at the sundering of the universe, which is a way off, thank goodness).

Ricky Gervais, and what do YOU find funny

Everyone has a different idea of what is funny, or who is funny for that matter. I think I'm hilarious, but some people disagree – the idiots.

Ricky Gervais, is just one of the funniest comedians around, and has certainly helped me through some of the tougher parts of this year. I loved the Office, adored the Extras, and his stand up is a joy.

Word to the comedians, I say. Without Ricky Gervais, Larry David, and the creators of Arrested Development and Scrubs, I very much doubt I would have made it through 2006 with most of my sanity intact.

What do you find funny? Is there anything I'm missing out on?

And if no-one responds to this post, well, you gotta laugh haven't ya.

For starters I find people who think they're funny, but aren't, hilarious - basically that covers my arse.

The Store Has Slammed into Christmas

The Store has slammed into Christmas, we tried to swing around it, but it came up on us too fast, which is why you should never drive a store at night and never into a storm. It's busy, busy, busy.

Started reading Vellum by Hal Duncan, thoroughly enjoying it, the book's a hot bath of words with the odd sharp and worrying thing scratching at you beneath the bubbles.

Well, better get ready for work. Lucky me, I've only got two more days of it left. Hope you're all feeling festive, preferably with bells on.

Word to the A.A.N.

Congratulations to all the Aurealis Nominees. I hope you're all excited, because, if you win, you're allowed into all the hottest nightclubs, and, say, if you want sit up the front of aeroplanes with the pilot, maybe flick a few switches, you're allowed. It's true. Dangerous but true.

I'm particularly excited to see Grace's book "The Silver Road" shortlisted for Fantasy, and Martin's novel "Carnies" in the shortlist for Horror. Fingers crossed, guys.

Short storywise though I'm suddenly struck by how little I've read this year. Seems like a solid line-up though, and a fine reading list for early January.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Favourite Things – Book Stuff


It's nearly midnight. And it's just a week before Christmas, in case you hadn't noticed, and I thought I'd mention a few of my favourite things from the year past. Just the top twos (which is about the number of people that read this blog, hey mum, hey travis).

Favourite Novels

Shriek: An Afterword – Jeff Vandermeer

This is a truly superlative piece of writing. It's dark, it's funny, it's a magnificent rumination on art and family and love, and the way things fall apart - because they do, and that's what art's about if you ask me. Buy this book, and you will be rewarded, at least until you fall apart.

The Silver Road - Grace Dugan

I know Grace Dugan and I know what a wonderful writer she is, but I still wasn't expecting this. I read a lot of fantasy, and hell, I've been known to jump on the bandwagon, but I still think this is one of the strongest debuts I've ever read. Grace is a writer to watch. If you haven't bought this book yet, you simply must.
I was absolutely bowled over to be asked to launch this book in Brisbane, and totally proud, for me it was like being asked to launch "The Wizard of Earthsea".

Favourite Shorts

I haven't read as much short fiction this year as I normally do, but these are my favourite two, though to be honest, I have at least another twenty that come pretty close, but it's my blog and I can be as arbitrary as I like.

When the World Was Flat – Geoffrey Maloney (from Agog! Ripping Reads)

Geoffrey is one of Australia's finest writers, period. And he's been writing some really remarkable stuff of late. He can do funny, he can do rage, and every year he seems to become more focussed. His control of his material is second to none. I'm an unabashed fan of Geoff's work, but every year he gets better, every year his work is more challenging.

Oddly enough my other favourite story was also set when the world was flat.

Penultima Thule – Chris Willrich (from Agog! Fantasy & Science Fiction)

A marvellous adventure tale, humorous and melancholy at once, this tickled the Fritz Leiber fan in me. Hunt it down if you can, I wouldn't be surprised to see it in a couple of next year's year's bests.

Shit, I can't leave it at two.

Jable Sharks – Neal Asher (from the Engineer Reconditioned)

This nautical tale of terror is a very fine piece of work indeed. I loved it. But, as I've discovered this year (having read pretty much everything he's written now) Neal Asher is one of the most consistently entertaining and energetic writers out there.

The Souls of Dead Soldiers are for Blackbirds, Not Little Boys – Ben Peek (from Agog! Ripping Reads)

Everything Ben has produced this year - that I have read, and there's still a few I have to hunt down, when I'm a little more flush - has been a corker (my, such eloquent literary criticism). He's had a great year, and deservedly so. I expect Ben to become a big time author next year, start smoking cigars and go on reading tours of the US, travelling from state to state in a big old steam train crewed by a team of vampiric, rockabilly dwarfs.

It's getting late, have to work tomorrow. Didn't get to albums, or tv, not to mention film. Maybe tomorrow.
Have yourselves a very merry week before Christmas, and buy lots of fiction.

Dragons and Not Dragons

I saw Eragon last week. I wouldn't recommend seeing it, the dragon is kind of cool, but a kind of cool dragon isn't enough to hold this grab bag of clich├ęs together. Still it did remind me of one of the most remarkable dreams I have ever had.

The day before I went on my first date with Diana I dreamt about dragons. There was no narrative structure to the dream, just me, lying on my back looking up at the sky. It was cloudy, dark, lightning-crammed clouds, and then the clouds parted, and there they were, huge and distant in the sky, dragons. At least five of them. They just flew there above me, circling and snapping playfully at each other. And I have never felt as at peace as I did in that dream.

It doesn't sound remarkable, but even now, eleven years later, I can close my eyes and see them.

AN UNRELATED REPTILLIAN ANECDOTE

Today I was cleaning up my study, chucking out long ago rewritten drafts of things, moving teetering piles of books, when I came across a tiny egg and two tiny desiccated lizard corpses. Geckos occasionally come into the house and one obviously decided to lay its eggs behind a pile of books on the topmost shelf of my bookcase. It wasn't a good idea.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

December. The One with All the Links

It's a cool night. Been a cool December so far, but we know it's all going to change. Brisbane will get stinking old foot-in-sock-hot soon, and then, on and on until at least March.

I was born on the 28th of December 1972 in the NSW town of Gunnedah. It was supposed to be early January, but it was a scorching summer, so my parents tell me, and I just wanted out so I could cry pretty much non-stop for a week. Being born at the end of the year adds a little more pathos to those end of year thoughts (well, let's pretend it does) and gets you thinking, because you really are going to be a year older.

Thought I would get in early.

It's been a quiet one for me, but, when I look back at it, a good one. Read some fine books, explored another country, and even managed to write a little. Writing wasn't such a priority this year, other things, which I refuse to blog about, came to the fore, but none-the-less I somehow managed to win an (to the point where for some this was the only solution), see two new stories to market**, and deliver my kids book to the ABC – it's part of the Lost Shimmaron, which is going to be a fun series, and, hopefully, I'll get to write a couple more.

I also have a story in this. The story is "Tumble" and it is one of my favourites, took me an awful long time to write, had a hell of a lot of false starts, but writing to me is often about false starts, short stories I have a terrible time approaching in a linear fashion, but that's half the fun. And they are fun. Maybe not so much fun to read, but hell, I love writing them. Sometimes a story just has to give the reader the bird, I reckon. Readers are rather pandered to, if you ask me***.
You can read a review of the anthology here.

I saw some excellent live acts. Okkervil River - who I actually saw for the first time pretty much a year ago on a much hotter more fraught December night than this one, and saw again in September - and the Dresden Dolls are stand outs, but the Shins were good too.

And there was always Brisbane. There was always the river, and there was always the moon.
I entered the year me, and, coming on to the end, with no real revelations at hand, will end it me – but different, of course, I can't tell you how, but I am, and so are you.


*No accounting for judges' tastes, eh. But there's nothing cooler than winning an award for the look on your beloved's face, and family members dig awards.

**One of which is set in a giant bottle floating through space, and called "Persuasion", and it's in my collection.

***Tumble isn't one of those stories, and part of it happens in an alternate-world Gunnedah, which is kind of cool, and I don't know how it got there.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ain't Blogging Boy.

Went for a walk today, late afternoon along old river, and river said, "So why you not blogging, boy?"

I shrugged and watched old spider sun spin Brisbane's skyline into precious metals, and sun said, "So why you not blogging, boy?"

Went for a walk today and cloud was purple and curious, cloud said, "So why you not blogging,
boy?"

Came back from a walk today, and old keyboard was laughing, he spat and chuckled. "You ain't blogging, boy"

Too hot. Too Christmas looming. The air smells too much of time, and things burning, and I ain't blogging boy.

Someone left their handbrake off a couple of houses down. Big Mistake. Seems if you leave your handbrake off, and your car goes rolling down a hill and knocks over a fence and ends up hanging off a ledge, that you need the police involved and these sorts of things aren't high priority. Poor person waited with two tow truck drivers for nearly four hours.

When I was a little kid, my dad used to tell me and my siblings stories about his alter ego, Blakey the boy of steel. His adventures involved delivering newspapers really quickly, saving crashed milktrucks, the sort of things that were plausible to kids in the 70s*.

I swear I used to believe that my dad really had superpowers.

This would have been the perfect job for him.

Instead they had to wait for four hours. Pity.



*yeah the 70s were crazy, dude.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Why I Hate Ben Peek

"My first thought was, he lied with every word,
That hoary cripple with malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie..."

Robert Browning - On Ben Peek

Let me start this post by saying that I don't hate many things*. Hate is such a strong word, and if I use it all it is generally in an archly ironic sense, or to indicate the opposite emotion. But not so with my hatred of Ben Peek. I hate Ben Peek, and if, through this brief post I can lead you to a place where hate him too then I will have achieved at least one positive thing with this blog, and I can finally give up writing altogether and begin to pursue my true and twin loves – namely accounting, and the collection of cartoons by cartoonists who are trying to be - but not quite making it - Gary Larson.

Ben Peek first came to my attention in 1973. I was barely out of the womb, he was already eighty-five, though he looked scarcely older than twenty-eight. Ben Peek was well known even then as a fabricator of lies, he produced them in a factory, out of the webs of spiders, the carpal bones of secretaries working for large and important law firms, and the eyes of babies.*

I was just a baby when I met him. So it was not surprising that he stole my eyes. Between blinks they were gone, snatched out of my head, and ground down in his machines and bound up in a lie. I was a wealthy baby, and a hot-headed one, and I demanded my eyes back. Instead he sold me the lie that I was not blind. Flawless, as all good lies are. My substitute eyes are nothing more than balls of dust. But so effective is the working of that lie that they appear to be brown orbs of exquisite sensitivity and depth. So effective is the working of that lie that I can actually see.

Another lie was born that day, in a factory of my own construction, out of the brains of puppies and the teeth of kittens and a dash of egg white. That lie being that I would never seek revenge.

I have pursued Ben Peek across the decades. We have warred and we have lied, and always he has been one step ahead. I ate his pet turtle, he ate the entire population of my home town, ground them down in his machines and produced them again as the lie that they were not dead, but I can still hear their screams. I torched his house, he set the very sky alight – I forgot to mention that before this battle there was no sun, so, yes, our battle created the sun, deal with it, move on.

I pierced his heart with a rusty nail, he ground all my organs into salt then fed them to his owl – yes, he owns an owl, it is wise and vicious, and fond of salt.

I released a book of short stories, he released a novel, and this. Read this, and you will surely understand why I hate Ben Peek.


*Well, actually I started it with a poem.
** He had also invented the telephone, and telemarketing, both reasons for blood-boiling hatred at the least.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ant Nests, Lemons and Peaches

Finished Scar Night yesterday. Looking forward to the next one - it's part one, don't you know. Alan Campbell pulled the whole book off, as far I'm concerned, even with the airships and angels, and he did something I totally respect, he gave the ant nest of his world a damn good kick. People have compared this novel with the work of Mervyn Peake, and you can see the influence, but I actually think it does the book a disservice*. Campbell's style is much more direct, he isn't as wordy and his characters not nearly as eccentric (and they're a little sweeter), which is good, these things serve the book he has written very well indeed. This is an adventure story and a very good one**; you all don't want to turn those folk who hate Peake off. Peake wouldn't have written this book, would have been incapable of writing this book, as say a lemon is incapable of becoming a peach; it just isn't his bag.

Things have been quiet on the old blog front, but that's good, when it's quiet, it usually means I'm writing, or thinking, deeply, usually about how nice peaches are, and lemon meringue pie, yeah, I sure love lemon meringue pie. But there's plenty of other fine grade bloggery to engage with – my two personal favourites are the blogs of Ben Peek and Tansy Rayner Roberts. Two writers that are not only excellent and thoughtful bloggers, but who've been writing some wonderful fiction of late – which isn't to say that they weren't before, but I find myself looking forward to reading their fiction, you know, actually putting time aside for it, maybe going out and getting a coffee and sitting down and reading their stuff.

I'm a slow writer, so when I actually find myself writing in blocks of hours rather than the usual bits on the train or bits after I've done the washing up, I don't like to trip it up. And I've also decided that I don't like talking about it much, the process, which really is rather dull. Writing's false starts, and chewing and re-chewing words, and bloggery is all optimism and doom, and I'm not that fond of the whole writer's journey kind of thing, it's more - for me at any rate - you jiggle your head, the words pop out, usually not fast enough and usually the wrong ones, and then you do it again, after discarding the previous words - because they weren't lemony enough.

Talking of doom. Go out and buy Scar Night and get your fill of a city suspended by huge chains over an abyss that may or may not contain a corpse hungry god. It ain't Peake, but, like I said, that's a good thing.

*And, the bookseller in me loves comparing author x to author y. Hell, I don't know why, maybe it's just from all those years of people asking me "so who are they like?"

**Even if there is one scene where the characters just run around a lot, and for a moment, I could feel the writer there thinking, now where the fuck do I go from here?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Debuts, all good, but no Penny-Farthings, not even one.



It's coming up to Christmas, the busiest time of the retail year, don't you know, so my reading time is going to start shrinking. I'm onto my last couple of books of the year. Alan Campbell's Scar Night is taking my fancy at the moment.

It's an assured debut, and a lot of fun. If you like gothic adventures with airships, and huge smoky urban spaces. This territory has been mined out of late - coming from someone who has a gothicy adventure with airships and smoky urban spaces in his hard drive this is a little hypocritical - but I think I'm over airships. In fact I might actually start avoiding books with airships on the covers. They're cool and all, but as sense of wonder artefacts they've kind of normalised, they're more sense of "oh, an airship, behold its immense floatiness". I reckon we need more Penny-farthings on the covers of books, or maybe more elephants, but only elephants playing brass instruments – okay, I'll accept a little woodwind, too.*

Which doesn't mean I'm dissing Alan's book, it's got it's hooks in me, oh, yes, even if they're hooks dangling off airships, or angels – yes, it has angels in it, and I really don't like angels, but they work here, like they worked in Stepan Chapman's the Troika, and they must really be working because I generally avoid books with the winged folk in them.

Which goes to show that you have to take these things on a case-by-case basis, because, yes it has angels, yes it has airships, but I'm digging it quite a lot. Definitely worth considering as your Summery read.

Looking over the books I've read this year quite a few of them have been first novels. Stand outs for me this year were Martin Living's Carnies and Grace Dugan's The Silver Road both were accomplished works, both played with my expectations, and both have me wondering what these writers are going to produce next.

I hope they manage an elephant or two on the cover, or at least a Penny Farthing.While I'm waiting to find out, you should go and buy their books, and buy a copy of Scar Night as well.




*Think of it this way, an alternate world where Penny Farthings are the main source of transport, cars were never invented nor were airships, and bicycles grew to ever larger sizes, people ride them on great silver bridges that circle the globe, listening on their radiogizmogs to genetically modified elephants playing a kind of jazz. Oh, and there'd be lots of references to mysterious crystals, known only as the crystals of mystery.

The tag would go : In world without Airships, the Penny-Farthing is king.**

**And I'd actually mocked up a cover, but blogger's giving me a hard time, so that will have to do.






Possum

Sitting out the back, staring at a possum, it's returning the stare.

I think it wants my wine, well the memory of it, the fruit it was, the bunches once sweet. Its gaze flicks from mine to the glass and back again. The tree droops with the possum's weight, not the least of which is that stare, geckos are making that deliquescent exclamation, that frustrated cartoon cry into the night.

There's always traffic, rumbling in the background, slipping from Coro Drive, seeking the Western Freeway. But it's just me, and that possum, and the geckos. Even old moon has opted out.

And I'm thinking about old men, and words, and failure.

Failure is the most interesting thing. It makes stories work, it's a kind of oil, and abyss – the sort that demands leapers. I sometimes wonder if failure not conflict is the true engine of tales.

I'm constantly disappointed and amazed, by the choices I've made, by the way the world works or doesn't, by the words I've chosen and the ones I didn't.

I choose to get up, and out of the dark. I choose to write this down.

The possum. I don't know where it goes, maybe to debate the possum scene. The traffic continues, it's going everywhere, and running down, softly into the night. The geckos continue. I can hear their frustration, and their hopes.

And I'm still thinking about old men, and words, and failure.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Short Fiction

I can't even pretend that I've read everything published this year, or even something approaching a broad spectrum of the short fiction published. But I have read some wonderful stuff. Most recently, in Asimov's SF, William Barton's "Down to the Earth Below" this is a marvellous, bittersweet, and joyous novella, think Stephen King's "The Body" mixed with the pulpy wonders of Burroughs (Edgar, not William).

William Barton is one of my favourite short story writers, and has been ever since I read "Down in the Dark" a grim, but ultimately hopeful tale of first contact in a solar system running down after earth has been struck by a comet. Check his stuff out, he's an author deserving of more attention, and one with, what I consider anyway, a particularly unique voice.

The other recent standout is "Jable Sharks" from Neal Asher's The Engineer Reconditioned – a particularly enjoyable collection. Possibly one of the best tales of nautical horror I've read in a long time, and one that makes me wonder what Neal's fantasy fiction might be like. I can tell you that William Hope Hodgson would have dug this one. It's grim and gory and ends on a suitably dark note. Neal Asher understands the horror of multitudes, and he shoves that horror in your face, bleeding and squirming and trying to bite you. Pretty cool.

Odd Blog

Well, never try posting late at night, or you'll end up double posting, losing the post then finding that they weren't posted at all, and are up on your blog, and then you'll be cursed with a cold.

Feeling very bleagh today, stumbled to work, stayed an hour and stumbled home and went to bed, just woke up and it's dark outside. Bleagh.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mountain October


This is Mt Ruapehu. Behind me was a snowfield packed with skiers, but here there was no-one, just me in the midst of one of the most amazing landscapes I had ever seen. I close my eyes and I am there, I don't even want to describe the place, because all that does is snatch away the images behind my mind and substitute them with nouns and verbs (which I love, but are mostly inadequate, which is what makes them at once fascinating and disappointing) .
October is an interesting month in my family.
This month I celebrated my seventh wedding anniversary, and the birth of a nephew, and my sisters birthday, and my parents - who were born in the same hospital, a day apart - both turned sixty, which makes me feel a little old. And I also stood on that mountain, and after this photo was taken, I stared at my wife, and the world just seemed a little more intense, and I was so glad that I was there with her, though once again, (on account of the problem - the most glaringly obvious problem, and the most worthwhile - with words*) I can't really tell you how glad.
I am writing about an Empire called the Empire December, because I like the word December, and my birthday is in December, but it's October that's most fascinating to me, because my birth, well was just a birth, but October is the birth of the things that made me, that continue to shape me. My parents and my marriage. See how inadequate words are? Let's leave it at that.
*which doesn't even begin to address the peculiarities of my sentence structure

Thursday, October 12, 2006

So tomorrow's Horror Day

Tomorrow's Horror Day. I'm off for after work drinks so I doubt I'll be doing much in the way of blogging tomorrow afternoon, so here are some of my thoughts on Horror.

I love horror fiction, not such a fan of horror movies, basically because I'm a coward, and our couch is up against the wall so I can't hide behind it.

The first horror story that really had an impact on me was HP Lovecraft's "The Colour from Space" I remember reading it on the couch and having to lift my feet up just so nothing could grab them - which actually had little to do with the book and everything to do with the creatures that lived under our couch, I am the oldest in my family basically because I managed to avoid being devoured, we don't speak about it much, but I sure miss my older siblings, and their screams will haunt me until the end of my days.

We burnt the couch on Friday the 13th november 1987. The moment the match hit that cheap, and highly flammable couch fabric, the couch began to scream. The screaming didn't stop until well after the greasy smoke had lifted, and we'd kicked the smouldering wood and springs into an ashy pile. The bodies we found beneath it, desiccated, eyes devoured, we buried in the backyard. Two years later they pulled themselves from the earth and began a killing spree the likes of which Gunnedah had never experienced – didn't matter to us, we'd already moved to Lismore. Yeah, so one day we'll go back and stop that undead, unspoken evil, but what's the hurry?

Here's a story I wrote a long time ago. Feel free to laugh. It may well be the only Cthulhu Mythos story set in Byron Bay, it may also be one of the worst things I've ever written, but it's horror, and occasionally you have to reveal your secret shame.

If Horror's your bag you might want to check this out.

****
On another note Neal Asher's "Prador Moon" was excellent, a lot of fun, and a fine distraction from the flight. What's more I bought a copy of "The Engineer Reconditioned", Asher's short story collection, over there, and it is a very fine collection indeed. Also noticed that my mate, and Redsine co-editor, the very talented Garry Nurrish did the cover design. It's a small world.

Well, I'm back

So I'm back from New Zealand, which is a truly beautiful country, there's snow capped mountains and everything. Here's me lost in Auckland.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Trentonomicon hits the ton, and becomes Trentontonicon

Well, this is the hundredth post. Who'd have thunk it, eh. It's my last one for for a while, heading off to NZ – and, no I haven't started Prador Moon, okay, maybe, but just the first page.

Big word to my mate, Leon, who is getting married while I'm away, which reminds me, I forgotten to get him a wedding present, bugger. Um, Leon, I'll get you a hobbit, they make good coffee tables. May you and Marie have a wonderful day.

So much to do, so little time. Why the hell am I blogging, and why do I suddenly feel like working on my novel?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Zealand & Prador Moon

I'm heading off to New Zealand for the next couple of weeks, while there's still some stuff to sort out, I did the most important thing today, bought a copy of Neal Asher's Prador Moon to read on the plane.

Still a couple of days to go, and it's going to be a real effort to keep from reading it until then. It's only a couple of hundred pages long, so I have to be careful to pace myself, but if anything's going to keep my mind off all that flying, racing metal, and its height from the ground, and the kind of impact it could make in the Pacific, then it's an Asher novel. I love my Space Opera, and Asher is one of the best practitioners of the art - and his new novel Polity Agent is out in October.

Prador Moon is also a lovely looking book, with an excellent Bob Eggleton painting on the cover. And just so you know it's all about me in this tiny slice of the Blogosphere, Bob Eggleton also did the cover for Daikaiju! which contains my story "Five Bells". Daikaiju! like all the agog! press books is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

All Manner of Goodness

Saw the Dresden Dolls last night.

They were great, crowd and band fed off each other marvellously. Better yet, Diana's reaction to the band. She is not at all a Dresden Doll's fan – something that surprised me because D loves her Cabaret - but they won her over. I actually think she enjoyed them more than me.

Best cover of War Pigs ever. Very, very cool.*

Talking of cool, check out Marianne de Pierres' new blog. One of Australia's finest SF exports I think her career is about to explode - and she's been doing alright so far, better than alright. Her books are magnificent.



*Okkervil River, the Dresden Dolls, I've been spoilt of late.

Terra Mortuus

They were all dead.

Everyone.

Steven was too shocked to mourn. He wondered when that might end. It had already been a week, since he had taken the boat to shore, its still cargo, just the beginning. He'd fought off the gulls, but they'd been too many, their hungers too fervent. They'd not been interested in him. Just the still flesh of the rest of the crew. He couldn't think about it too much. To do that. Well the pain washed over him, and there was no end to it. Just like the gulls. But this he could fight. If he kept moving, stopped thinking.

Everywhere.

Everyone.

Dead.

There were tourists, of course, and some of them had come to him; eyes wide, seeking something he couldn't provide, comfort that he couldn't even give himself. To be still was murder, mate. Fucking murder.

He had gotten in his car and driven. Away, west, as far as he could, syphoning diesel when he needed it.

As he drove he listened to the radio, picking up in scratchy bursts the fractured transmissions of a confused world. Australia was cordoned off, though no one had an understanding yet of what had happened. From what he had gathered, Australians all over the world had died. Qantas jets had plummeted from the skies. Carey had keeled over in New York. Australian Embassies were charnel houses. Clive James had been found dead in his apartment. He lost track of time, for the first few days the skies were dark with birds flying east. Once or twice planes had flown over, but they had been high and swift, as though nervous of infection.

He'd stopped at last.

Uluru.

But not as he had ever known it. The rock was black. Its surface hummed. It burnt his fingers when he touched it, but he'd been slow in pulling them back. It burnt his fingers, and there was momentary purity in the pain. There were feathers everywhere, black as the stone, sticky with blood, like birds had been birthed here and roughly.

Steven had set up camp in the shadow of the black rock. And waited.

Peter and Colin drove over the horizon the next morning, the first living Australians Steven had seen in a week.

Peter got out of the car. He nodded at Steven then regarded the coal darkness of Uluru.

"Shit. Now that’s…shit."

He walked to the stone, just as Steven had done.

"It's hot mate. You'll burn yourself."

Regardless, that's what he did. Colin didn't, he didn't look like he needed to.

"Tell me I'm dreaming," Steven said.

"No. Sorry…shit … but they're all dead." Peter's voice was raw, like he'd been talking for days, though he had barely said a word around Steven.

Colin couldn't stop shaking his head. "The tourist's have cleared out, just corpses now, and the birds. You wouldn't believe the birds. The moment they died, the birds started coming."

Peter's hands clenched to fists. "Won't be much left soon but bones."

"So what do we do?" Steven asked; he had ideas of his own, but there were three of them now, and Colin looked tired.

Peter shrugged. "What do you reckon?"

"Mate, we drive north. Far as we can. This country's done for, and what's coming, none of us are going to like."

"Why us?" Peter asked. "Why were we spared?"

"I don't know, mate. I don't know, but when they find us, well..."

"I don't think they should find us," Colin said. "Well, I don't want to be found."

"This country's dead."

They turned their back on the boiling rock, got into their cars, and drove.



Sunday, September 10, 2006

Battlestar 2.0

Just finished watching Battlestar Galactica Season 2.0, and, well, wow.

This has been my favourite genre programme of 2006.

If you're at all interested in good quality SF television then give this show a try. Not only is it entertaining sf adventure but it hasn't shied away from dealing with, and reasonably even-handedly, with issues of faith and fanaticism, politics and war. It has also, throughout this season in particular, explored the implications of character's choices with rigour and little sentimentality.

The characters are flawed, they bicker, they take sides, they change their minds, they doubt their motives. There hasn't been anything this good inside a spaceship since Firefly, and to think it was born of what was a rather average SF series from the seventies and early eighties – which I loved back then, but hey I was a nerdy pre-teen who loved seeing things explode in space.

It also makes another recently revisioned SF series - that I also loved as child - look decidely pale in comparison.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Celebrities exist to…

And the early obits say he was a good man – you can't argue with that. Not today you can't. Not now you can't.

Okkervil River – The President's Dead



Not the best week to be an Australian Icon. All of them are eyeing each other nervously and downplaying their cultural significance. Because they know something you don't. Celebrities exist to remind us that we die. If you think they serve any other function then you're not really thinking it through.

We're just waiting for them to die. Holding our breath. We all die. But celebrity possesses a narrative. Celebrity is larger than life and defined, and summed up after death. Without the death, you've only half the story.

Irwin. Thiele. Brock.

They've fulfilled their function.

Just like Enkidu*.

And it's a tragedy, but we're all heading there, and it's all waiting for us. It's tragic, but that's life, and life needs stories with beginnings and endings (no matter how abrupt or disjointed), so we hold our breath and wait for them to die, and, even when it's a surprise we know it isn't.

Celebrities exist to remind us we die.

*who was really a sort of proto Steve Irwin if you think about it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dog and Moon

I took the dog and the moon for a walk today.




The moon all hung up on its ripe luminosity, and wanting to be a symbol of love or murderous inclination, stalked ahead. The dog just wanted to sniff things. The moon was all, "I am the master of tides." The dog was all, "Let's just piss here. Oh, and over there."

The dog had a lead. The moon didn't, it followed me home regardless.

The tree outside my window fell down today. Crashed beneath the weight of the wind, and very luckily, not onto our roof. I was just getting ready to leave for work, and there was a crack, loud as god's troublesome neck popping back in, and the tree wasn't outside my window any more.

My window has nothing outside it now, except the world and the moon.


The moon is taking credit.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's over...

Well it was wonderful, really, really wonderful. If you get a chance to see Okkervil River live you simply must.

The vibe at the Zoo was really good, and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves. I loved them last time, but Will Sheff had a strep throat, and the band was a couple of members short, and they looked tired, and I still thought they were the best thing I'd ever seen live.

Well, I'm even more impressed. Go see them. Then buy their cds.

Just got home, the streets were quiet, my ears are buzzing warmly.

And I have to work tomorrow.

Better get some sleep.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Only one day to go

The house is quiet, even the animals are sleeping - I think we may have narcoleptic pets.

I haven't got the diggingest dog, just the sleepiest dog and the yawniest cat, which is cool because they're not waking you up at five in the morning wanting their breakfast. But it just isn't right when your pets like to sleep in after you get up. They should be entertaining you or, at the very least, barking at something – though I wouldn't mind if they even put on a pot of coffee, you don't even need hands for that just a snout or a paw.

I can hear my dog snoring. It's distracting, I'd put on some music but I don't want to wake him or the cat. They can get a bit surly. Ernie once threatened me with a shovel when I tried to kick him off the bed, it was all a lot of fun and we laughed about it later, once they'd set my arm. His bark is bigger than his bite, but his use of garden implements coercive tools overshadows them both.*

Tomorrow it's off to the Zoo and Okkervil River, sure I haven't built it up or anything, it's not like it's become the most highly anticipated gig of the year, or that I'll be utterly devastated if they have an off day. Not at all.

Have to stop typing; the noise is bothering the dog.


*you should have seen what he did to the postman. Nasty. It's still working its way through the courts so I can't be specific, just never leave gardening shears lying around.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Only 2 Days until Okkervil River Plays

Just two days to go.

If you can still track down tickets, do it. You won't regret it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Stories read and imagined and stuff

Short stories can be such a rush. You don't inhabit them like novels, they inhabit you. I bought a copy of the August F&SF a couple of days ago. It's a rather good issue. I'm a dipper when it comes to magazines, I never start with the first story nor end with the last, I tend to flip open the magazine and start reading. Don't know why, but it works for me.
So far I've totally dug the Christopher Rowe story "Another word for Map is Faith" as much for the title as the story itself, which is nice and subtle, and dark.

And I've just finished the Chris Willrich story "Penultimate Thule" and loved it. If you like the Leiber's stuff, you'll probably get into this. I'd be very surprised if it doesn't get into one of the year's bests for 2006. It's fantasy, old school, and part of a series of tales that I'm going to have to hunt down.

Been getting a bit of reading done, what with the rain and all public transport slows down, and I'm finding the trains a bit to crowded to write in at the moment.

I'm a little disturbed though, when I start reading people's stories in my dreams I know I'm not writing as much as I should. Ben Peek has been very productive this year – not just on his blog – but does he have to publish fiction in people's dreams? I'd like to think I could do that myself, or at least I'm reading my own stories. It was very good, though I can't remember the specifics except that it was set in his very cool Red Sun world place – check out his blog for more details on where you can read real Peek stories, and let me tell you that's lots of places these days, which is not at all a bad thing.

Oh and the dullness has passed - or at least the sense of it.

Next week I'm seeing Okkervil River, then a few weeks later it's road tripping New Zealand, which should be cool - oh and there's the Dresden Dolls in there somewhere too - and a bunch of new books, I'm eyeing off the newish Neal Asher, and Polity Agent is coming out very soon as well.

Life is good, and it's friday, and I can hear frogs croaking, what more could you want?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Shh

it's raining.

Roads are slippery and shiny and treacherous with it.

Even though B is a city, indisputably a city, it feels more like a city when it is raining. The rain obscures and clarifies, gives everything a cinematic quality. The effect is particularly marked at night. In the rain, neon becomes a kind of holy fire, an iconography of possibilities. In some streets, as the rain plays over everything, you may feel as though you have become part of the mise-en-scene for a movie all noirish and significant. And you can pull the collar of your jacket up and walk in the rain like you're going somewhere important; like you are someone important; someone with grand passions and grander pains; someone deserving of the scrutiny of the camera lens.

It's raining.

The roof is mumbling with it.

I've nearly finished a story that concerns itself with a reoccuring dream that a character has, but only when it's raining. It's a story that has been long in the writing, but one that I keep coming back to. The city it's set in is Brisbane, when I first started it, it rained frequently, now that element is almost the most fantastical part of the story.

Tonight it's raining, and I know my character will be dreaming.

It's not a very pleasant dream.

Poor guy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What it used to be

My life has been dull of late.

Very, very dull. I mean, read this blog - not that I'd blame you if you didn't.

Not that interesting, is it?

Today I went to the shops, drank some coffee read the papers, came home, did a whole bunch of housework, watched a DVD, didn't think anything particularly profound, didn't come across anything particularly profound in the news, and then I sat down to write this.

Dull, very, very dull.

I am actually approaching a state of almost zen-like dullness.

I have entered my mid thirties and found it to be a place with mildly(but only mildly) offensively coloured carpet, a couple of dog-eared (and eaten) paperbacks, and an increasing nostalgia for things "the way they used to be". I'm even finding that I watch more television, Christ, I'm even blogging about it.

Dull.

If this continues, I'm going to start blogging about the amusing antics of my cat. At least he's out there doing stuff, eating small animals, annoying my dog. Well, appearing to annoy him, if I know my cartoons, and I do, then they're probably trading wisecracks, and scheming schemes that end up in everyone being taught a nice lesson about something or other, usually involving self esteem or the need to follow your dreams.

Shit, even my animals are dull.

I know that people think that science fiction short story writers lead thrilling lives filled with motorsports, and opportunities to wear leather jackets and rather fetching pants, and that when they're not writing, which only takes up about half an hour of their day, they're out researching quantum physics with their sexy companions, or solving crimes involving quantum physics and grammar and more sexy twists and turns than an episode of Melrose, and even sexier companions.

But it just isn't true.

It used to be, back in the Seventies. Christ, there's that nostalgia again. These days we're all too busy blogging, and what crimes we solve never seem to make it into the papers. Writing just isn't what it used to be.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

In the Blogosilence I...

wrote a lot, delivered my shim manuscript, got extremely rolling drunk -and extremely swiftly and projectiley regretful – caught up with my family, wrote some more, returned to work, launched a book – a wonderful book, which sold out at the launch so I feel that I didn't suck too much at the launching, and, hey, the lads at Pulp Fiction did a fine job too.

I also invented gravity, read more Stross, defined three nouns (and found that they could also be used as verbs, which is handy, it's like have a word with handles or a little pouch you can put your snuff in), and realised that you can never have enough commas in a sentence, but it was something that, I think, I knew already, deep down. I'm still thinking about the shininess of 1950's writing, but grew too enamoured of my own shiny prose*, to blog about it.

The Stross is still fun, onto the second book, it's keeping me company in my lunchbreaks


*And was too worn out by inventing gravity, do you know how hard it was to invent gravity, I mean that just doesn't make any sense, how do you invent gravity anyway? Well, I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you, and there's not enough good burying space left in the backyard.**

**it's where I buried all the nouns that have crossed me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Echo Echo

It's sure been quiet around here. I've been writing. Finishing things.

Oh, and the Shim are coming. Slowly, but definitely surely, they're on their way.



Thursday, August 10, 2006

Holiday. Holiday

Well I’m on holidays for the first time in a long time. It’s not exactly a real holiday, that’s in October – I’m going to New Zealand for a couple of weeks.

This is what folks call a writing holiday - kind of like a fishing holiday, but with stories and whatnot to finish, and not as much fish, it’s one of those middle-class luxuries*. I’ll be writing and such, may be even blogging some sensible blog entries – like something I’ve wanted to write about fiction in the New Yorker in the Fifties and its general shininess - certainly reading, oh, yes, there will be reading, and coffee, `cause I need those caffeine induced heart palpitations.

Tonight, though, I cracked open the Chartreuse**: after a bottle of red, not such a good idea. Tonight doesn’t count as my writing holiday” alcohol and writing doesn’t mix – it might have worked for Dylan Thomas, and, maybe, Fritz Leiber, but it sure as hell doesn’t work for me.

Oh, only 27 days to go until Okkervil River hit the Zoo, and 36 until the Dresden Dolls play the Arena. Bring on September.

Bought the new Crystal Skulls album "Outgoing Behaviour" on the weekend, I'm not warming to it as quickly as their first album "Blocked Numbers" it's, perhaps, a little too smooth, but it's still good, and the title track is a corker***.

*not that bookstore wages are middle-class, you can't really afford a middle-class lifestyle and work in a bookstore. But who earns real money these days anyway, what with wars and rates and petrol and bananas and such?

**and surely that green drink is the nectar of the gods - well, the alcoholic ones anyway.

***listening to it now, and, after the chartreuse, it's all rather good.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Well, I'm back - after all, who doesn't like to pretend that they're a hobbit back from a long journey in which they farewelled their closest bud?

Back from the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Like to say I was down there plugging my writing, or, even better, enjoying the beach, but I was working selling other people's books. The weather was terrible, but, from all accounts, the Festival was a success.

I only worked yesterday, did a couple of school events, let me tell you there is nothing more terrifying than three hundred kids bearing down on your little table of books, all anxious to buy their books, so that Andy Griffiths - a master of stand up for the under-eights - can sign them. All in all, though, it's great to see so many kids so enthusiastic about books.

The most exciting part of the whole thing was the storm that ripped through Byron in the middle of one of the events. Nearly blew the marquee we were in all the way to Kansas*.


*Which makes sense, because we’re already in Oz, see?**

**Okay, that’s rather lame, but I’m tired.***

***I am enjoying all these astericks though****

****which leads one to wonder, at what point do they become ridiculous.*****

*****probably about now.******

******yeah, I think so.*******

*******so when do you think they'll call a state election in Qld?********

********ooh, gone all political have you? Going to mention the water crisis again, eh? *********

*********shut up.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

She fell from the sky, she fell very far and Kansas, she says, is the name of the star.

We bought a copy of the Wizard of Oz on DVD today, which is odd: odd that we hadn’t bought it earlier*. The Wizard of Oz is cool, I like it a lot, but it's my wife’s favourite film, Diana can quote the entire film; I’m not kidding.

Some nights, when Diana is having trouble sleeping, she’ll start quoting the film, and I’ll only know that she’s fallen asleep when the dialogue stops – we’ve gotten to “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My” but never “Poppies will put them to sleep”** which is a great comfort because I like my sleep, and I don’t keep a supply of poppies in the house.

I can’t quote anything. I have a terrible memory for quotes, absolutely terrible, which is why my favourite poem is William Blake’s “Sick Rose” one stanza, easy.

The thing is, having a wife who absolutely adores the Wizard of Oz can be mighty helpful. I wouldn’t have written Slow & Ache*** or Porcelain Salli without that love, and I don’t think I would dig David Lynch movies as much either.

Anyways we’re about to get to the Cowardly Lion.

I'm offline for the next couple of days****, have yourselves a lovely weekend.




*Well, we’ve always had a copy on video.
** any incorrect quotes are mine, Diana is too busy watching the movie and pre-empting the dialogue as I type.
*** even though I cut out the Wizard of Oz references in the published version.

****'cause I know you'll miss me, these entries are so exciting, what with the writing and the rambling and such.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It's been a Quiet Week

I'm working my way through a draft of my kid's novel "The City & the Stony Stars". It's been fun. The writing is stripped back and more action focussed than what I usually write. It has also revealed a lot my flaws as a writer - weird logic jumps, a tendency to sentence fragments, and run on sentences. This is all good, it never hurts to be aware of these things, nouns and verbs, people.

Also been ticking along on what I think is my new novel. Not sure if it’s working, but it’s keeping me interested, and that's the most important thing, at least at this stage.

Tonight though, I'm just wasting time, and wishing I was in Melbourne. Happy launches to Paul Haines, Grace Dugan, the Eidolon folk, and anyone else I may have forgotten.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Okkervil River - only 36 Days to Go

Okkervil River play at the Zoo in just 36 days. I bought my tickets today. If you get a chance to see them, do it. They're very cool. Yeah, I know I go on about this band far too much, but their range of themes from Carveresque landscapes and raw Fairytale kingdoms, pretty much aligns itself to my obsessions*.

"Bigger, blacker things go following them into a patch of forest somebody once planted for this song."

Black Sheep Boy Appendix - Missing Children

Lead singer, Will Sheff is a master storyteller, with a perfectly-strained-vocal talent to match, not to mention a wonderfully dark turn of phrase.

I keep grasping for musical points of comparison (not to mention appropriate musical verbs). They fit well between, say, REM and Radiohead, but that's selling them short, and it's really not that accurate a comparison.

Anyway, enough clumsily phrased proselytising, I’ve got my tickets. I’m going to see them. And I’m very excited.


*Not that my obsessions are that unique, but this band provides a very close match.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Family Trade

Moving on, I’m now reading Charles Stross’ “The Family Trade”.

Interesting seeing him play in the fantasy sandpit*. I really dug “Iron Sunrise” and his short fiction has always been infodensely entertaining, and just plain fun, but I wasn’t sure how “The Family Trade” would work. It unashamedly wears its influences on its sleeve and such good influences they are. Going by the few chapters I’ve read so far if you’re a fan of Zelazy’s Amber Books you’re going to like this.

Wishing I was getting down to Continuum, but I’m not.


*But not surprising, Charles Stross likes his multiple streams of sandpits.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

David Gemmell & Dad

David Gemmell is very much an author of my young adult years, his early books, Legend, Waylander and King Beyond the Gate are perhaps my favourites. My signed copy of the later sits rather proudly on my bookcase. He was the master of the perfectly paced heroic fantasy, and if some of his books didn’t work as well as others, they were always entertaining.

David Gemmell was one of the few authors that my Dad and I shared in common. The moment I'd heard that David had died I called dad - they're of similar ages, and I can’t think of David Gemmell’s work without thinking of dad.

I met David once at a signing quite a few years back. He was touring the country with Terry Pratchett, and a bigger height disparity you couldn't imagine. David Gemmell was very tall, Terry Pratchett very short (on the other hand David Gemmell’s signing queues were pretty good, but Terry's stretched for miles). I was there to get my copy of King Beyond the Gate signed and to get a copy signed for my dad. I handed my books over, and, as usual when I go all fanboyish, my mind blanked and I mumbled something about his books being one of the few things dad and I had in common.

David smiled and told me about his dad, and how he hadn’t had that much in common with him, but that it didn’t really matter in the end. Well, it was something like that.

I’ll miss seeing his new books on the shelves at work, and I’ll miss buying them for my dad.





* though I really liked Knights of Dark Renown – kind of the seven samurai with vampires and knights.

Vale David Gemmell

From Locus Online:

UK fantasy writer David Gemmell, born 1948, died this morning at his home, a week following quadruple heart bypass surgery. Gemmel was the author of over 30 novels, including Legend (1984), first in the long-running Drenai series, and numerous other books in the Slipstrassi, Hawk Queen, and Rigante sequences.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Silver Road

I have just finished reading one of the most wonderful books I have read in a very long time.

What's more it was written by a friend. I am also launching the book in Brisbane - the Brisbane launch, as it is also being launched next weekend at Continuum, in August 22 - and, having read it, I am feeling extremely pleased, extremely honoured and just plain proud to be connected with this book in even such a tenuous fashion.

The book in question is Grace Dugan’s “The Silver Road”. It’s out now.

You should buy it.

Being a bookseller (and a person who likes to say this book is like… ) it draws more than favourable comparison with one of my favourite books, Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Tigana” and I can say this quite happily having only read “Tigana” again a few months ago. They have similar concerns, but, dare I say it, Grace’s characterisation is more subtle, she has breathed life into her characters and given them the ability to etch themselves into your memory.

It’s a rich and glorious book, and much more than one should expect from a first novel. Even though we do, these days, don’t we.

I’m going to write about this book at length, but not now – it’s still a little too fresh, and I’ve drunk perhaps a glass too much wine.

Monday, July 24, 2006

In a world where anything is possible

Ads generally annoy me, the logic of ads, and all those white teeth, but one ad caught my attention today.

It's for that new film "The Lakehouse" which is a remake of a Korean film, I believe, which is neither here nor there, because I'm whinging about the ad, not the film, which I doubt I'll ever watch. The ad has a voice over which goes roughly "In a world where anything is possible, could a man from the future love a woman from the past?"

Well, yes.

In a world where anything is possible, anything is possible.

In that particular world I am emperor of the universe, and so is everyone else, and my pets (one of which is a dinosaur*) can talk, and I have a giant robot, and so on**, because in that world, anything is possible.

We even get entertaining advertising.


*forget about one dinosaur, I've got a million dinosaurs, make that a trillion - and I know all their names.

**including that I'm Tarzan's grandson, and that all the books that I love in this world I wrote, during the first week of my year 11 summer holidays, and this blog is actually really interesting.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

What a wonderful sort of weekend.

I rarely have such serene weekends*. It consisted of hanging out with the lovely d, wine, walking, writing, and wanking on about music, and other bloggerly stuff. My left leg, which had me a virtual cripple two weeks ago, is now completely better - I walked four kilometres today, not counting a quick trip down to the shop, without even a twinge.

I love walking, and not being able to walk down to the train or for a coffee at more than a limping crawl was beginning to depress me terribly.

It’s also a lot easier to write when you’re not in pain; writing when your body isn’t functioning well sucks.



*which isn’t to say that my weekends are usually crammed with excitement, just that they’re rarely as blissfully relaxing.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Music - a slight wank

I've had the best year music-wise. Just as in my reading I've been utterly spoilt by the albums I've bought this year. Everything has engaged me.

Shearwater's Palo Santo is still the stand out of all the things I've bought this year. It's stood up to a month and a bit of listening and is as radiant and mysterious an album as ever.

I'm totally getting into the new Thom Yorke album Eraser. At first I thought, well it's just another Radiohead album but without the depth. And it kind of is, but that's what makes it so good. There's a lot more going on there, stuff that I don't think I can capture without sounding like an absolute wanker.

Also liking the new Dresden Doll's album Yes Virginia... bought tickets to see them play in September should be good.

Though I suspect it's going to be overshadowed by Okkervil River, also playing September. I can't stress enough how good these guys are.

Oh, and there's a new Crystal Skulls album. Their last album Blocked Numbers was a laidback lounge rock delight. Worth buying for the song "Hussy" bloody excellent.

Yup, and then there was the new Augie March - Moo You Bloody Choir.

Been totally spoilt I reckon.

Tumble and Golf Courses of the Old West

It's been an extremely quiet year for me on the short story front. Not a bad writing as a sort of career year, hey, I sold my first kid's book - contract finally signed, thank you - published my first book of short stories, and won an Aurealis Award, none-of-which suck. But the shorts haven't exactly been coming that quickly, though I'm happy with what I'm writing almost none of it is ready for publication. 2007 should be good, and, even if it isn't, and, as frustrating as that can be, I'm enjoying the process, the act of writing what I'm writing, everything else is just icing on the writing cake.

Anyway adding to my list of nice things that have come from stuff already published one of my stories made the ASIF recommended reading list.

ASIF is an Australian SF review site. Very much worth checking out if you want to get an idea of what's going on in Australian SF. (And check out the discussion forum, Cat Sparks is the featured editor - very interesting, but Cat's always interesting and entertaining, and too damn talented.) Mix it with Tansy Rayner Robert’s , Jonathan Strahan's and Ben Peek's blogs and you've got a very nice overview - all thoughtful and far more erudite views on writing (and other stuff) if that's your bag.

Anyway, the story "Tumble" (you can check it out here *)is one of my favourites so it was good to see that at least a couple of other people had read it, and liked it.

I totally dig Leone westerns, and it's sort of a western. I like the terse patter, the guns, and the long shadows. When I was editing K.J. Bishop's "The Etched City" one of the things I loved about that book (actually what wasn't there to love about it?) were the opening scenes set in the Copper Country. Few books have ever captured that sense of the West - but a west viewed through the lens of Sergio Leone - so well.

Getting back to my story - it's my blog, and I can brag if I want to - "Tumble" is also the only story I've ever set in Gunnedah - well, a fantasy Gunnedah, with a fantasy golf course hotel. My dad, who is also a dead keen fan of Westerns, loves his golf, so we never lived far from the golf course. That golf course was a big part of my childhood. I liked the dams it contained, the curious swans and geese, its quiet darkness. It always seemed to be waiting for something, a particular moment perhaps, when it might rise up in a cloud of drowned golf balls and angry geese and go shuffling off into the dry land beyond the town. Never did.

I guess it’s still waiting.


*just ignore my lame-arse introduction, I hate those things.

Enchanting

I live in an enchanting writerly sort of life – engaged in a sort of fervid and thunderous battle against the terrible silence of the world, as well as all manner of enchanting writerly stuff. I know you all read this blog ( well my mum does, hi mum) and think, how wonderful, I wish I could write such an enchanting and interesting blog.

Well, let me share my secret,the wellspring of all this enchantment.

This aloe vera plant lifts its mighty and succulent leaves at the front of our house. A magical pixie lives at the base of the plant.

Enchanting.



The little pixie often eats these berries.




Enchanting.

Unfortunately the berries are toxic, so he frequently gets lost on his way home, and ends up here.




It’s the magical and enchanting reverse-cycle air-conditioner under our living room. You can see the pixie’s shadow here.



Yes, the magic is alive. Enchanting, you could say.

Most fridays I sit with the little fellow, discussing the nature of narrative and the australian sf writing scene, and eat some of the magical berries, too. Then, I go up to my desk, this is what it looks like after a couple of berries.




Bloody enchanting.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Graph's are Math

I've discovered that I am extremely crap at writing synopses. This is disappointing. I like to think that I'm good, well, at least passable at most things - except mathematics, oh, and most sports, and mathematics. Synopses must, in part, be mathematical. Well, everything is math, to a degree, and I think my skill level exists on a level proportionate to the mathematical nature of the task.






Now this is a very badly constructed graph, but that makes sense, because graphs are math.


And how bad is "Neighbours" lately - well, it's always been bad, but lately I can hear the bad acting from the other room.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Is "The Chronicles of Riddick" the worst SF Movie ever?

I finally got around to watching "The Chronicles of Riddick" tonight, yeah, so it takes me two years to get around to watching a movie - hey, I only saw Casablanca a couple of years ago.

The bad SF movie bar was set for me by "Mission to Mars", tonight it may have dropped a couple of rungs. "The Chronicles of Riddick" just made no sense. It looked sort of pretty in that, well, lets design our sets in a kind of art nouveau sort of style that has been mined ad nauseam in SF movies since, well, the nineteen thirties. But pretty is not enough.

Now, I understand that action SF movies have (in the main, but not always, because there are always exceptions) degenerated to set pieces linked by the most tenuous of logic, but even still, this movie sucked. I’m not even going to bother with arguing with the movie’s logic or breaking down the plot, it would be like breaking down the plot of a brick, only a brick with less structural integrity than your usual sort of brick, maybe a brick designed by a bunch of studio execs after they’ve been up all night snorting coke – leavened with a generous helping of talcum powder.

This movie made “Aeon Flux” look classy.

And what's worse is that I really liked "Pitch Black".

What's this?

Why, I believe it's rain.

I have a cluttered, er, functional office, but this is where I write most weekends.

Well, more precisely, here.

Not today though. Gotta love the rain.

Also received the most glowing review I have ever had in my life. Check out the Courier Mail, if you can, or want to. Thanks, Jason.

My little, but apotropaic, book is now on sale at Pulp Fiction, too. Which is very cool. Ever since I stumbled upon that shop, many years ago, it's been a dream of mine to have a book there. And now I do. Still don't believe it, but I do.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Today

was unseasonably hot. Too hot.

I have a cold.

My wife has a cold. And the city has a fever.

Miserable, and on my way home from work, I bought the new Thom Yorke album - on first listen it's a prickly thing, but I suspect it will grow on me.

I am reading a gorgeous book. That's all I am going to say for now. Other than I'm loving it - yet another novel to be enthusiastic about in this blessed for trent reading year. The writing is wonderful. And, well, that's all I'm going to say. For now.

Blogs need mystery.

Where have I been?

I have sat in the dark.

I have crouched upon the precipice of the world above the world, where the winds are snatchful and ice-fingered, and regarded the world beneath the world above.

I have craned my neck, looked up and up, at the great peristaltic innards of the snake god what swallowed the world.

I have hidden in a fortress of matchsticks and whispered, in the midst of all that brittle creaking possibility of flame, and no-one heard me.

I have pushed the shopping trolleys of the night and found that none of their wheels please me.

I have watched a girl with a talking knife bury her mother, then bury another by a lake called December.

I have removed the stickers from books, and though they begged, their whiny bookish voices irritating even as they offered me the world, I boxed them up and sent them away to the dark warehouses of the Books that Do Not Sell (even if they ought).

I have sat and written this blog.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Post Wedding

Well, the wedding was lovely. The reception, in a really cool restaurant in the middle of the Botanical Gardens, was grand. Both Jaqui and Tim looked extremely relaxed, and very happy. Definitely the most chilled out wedding I've been to, lots of champagne, brief but very entertaining speeches, and a couple in love.

Diana was the official photographer, so not as relaxing for her, but she loves bossing people about - she's a primary school teacher after all - so she was in her element.

Yes, it was a wonderful day.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

And, regarding Hugh Cook...

my brother Travis directed me to Hugh's blog which directed me to this webpage. Check it out.

Thanks, Travis. You were holding out on me, bro. I would have appreciated this much sooner.

Also, fellow ROR writer, Maxine Mcarthur has a new webpage. It's very pretty, and it's here.

On the ROR front it looks like we're getting together in March or April next year, which means I have to write a new novel by then. Well, by the end of the year. Yup, easy. I'd write three novels just to hang out with Team ROR. And, since I've been sitting on three novels I think I might.*


*Okay this is just me trying to be a big man, but when you're the least successful member of such a wonderful group you have to talk the talk

Word to the J & T

A big word to my sister-in-law to be Jaqui, soon to marry Diana's brother Tim. And when I say soon I mean Saturday. Welcome to the family, Jaqui*. This is the first family wedding I've been to, Diana and I have shared a few funerals (and our own wedding, of course, which was not at all funereal), but to actually see two people who I care about so much tie the knot is going to be very cool indeed.

And on a similar note, my best friend Jodi is on her honeymoon - it only took her and hubby Pete 12 months, but they're there. I hope you're having fun over in Paris etc.


*Not that you weren't family already in all but name.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Carnies - get yours today

I finished "Carnies" today, and it entertained me from start to finish. Thematically it is very similar to "Anansi Boys" - it's about family, particularly brothers and their relationship with their father - it's also similarly paced, though much darker. It's wonderful, old school horror - if your old school is 7o's horror, as opposed to say early 30's weirdness.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Martin writes next. Until then I'll just have to make do with his short fiction.

Everybody needs a nice dose of horror in their diet. Get out there and get yours today.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Quiet and Cook

It's been a quiet few days. Very quiet. Maybe too quiet.

And it looks like quiet is on the horizon.

I've been thinking about Hugh Cook. He wrote a fantasy series called "Chronicles of an Age of Darkness". The ten books that made up the series were a little patchy in places, but it still sets the benchmark for fantasy series for me. It rambled all over the place, and he wasn't frightened to kill his characters, and even when it was about quests and all the appurtenances of modern fantasy it wasn't.

They were pretty damn good books.

Then Hugh Cook disappeared.

Well, not completely, he wrote a bunch of interesting horror shorts, published in small press magazines a few years ago, but I've not seen anything lately.

Those ten books appeared to kill his career.

Damn shame because they were pretty damn good. The books teemed, part dying earth, part space opera, part quest fantasy, part comedy, part historical diatribe. They were playful and dark. They obviously didn't sell.

My favourite of the series is called "The Walrus and the Warwolf" it's a coming of age tale that also explores religious fervour, love, the end of the world, and pirates. It's bloody excellent.

Friday, June 30, 2006

How to

I'm not a big fan of books on how to write. I really don't like guides that just throw their wisdom down, saying, "this is how it is." They seem a bit cargo cultish to me. I'm also a little suspicious of people who claim mastery of the craft - in fact that is one my indicators of an author going off the boil.

"How to Write" books make me feel paranoid, that I'm doing it all wrong.

Actually, pretty much all "How to..." books make me feel paranoid, which is cool, a certain level of paranoia is probably a good thing.


you all hate me, don't you.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Friday is nearly here

Well, it's been a busy week, but it's all tumbling into Friday now. Is there any other day more crowded with possibility. Friday is pure potential. Saturday and Sunday invariably disappoint, how can they not with Monday looming - Monday starts looming about mid-morning Saturday? But Friday. Friday is glorious.*

Nearly finished "Carnies", if you haven't bought it yet, get yourself down to the bookstore and do so, damn it.


*Just in case you didn't know.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Canes

Spent the day hobbling around. Must have been pretty amusing as I rushed - rushed being an extremely relative word - down the street to catch a train, missed it, then missed the next one. I now know why people get canes, it's not to help them walk, but to take out their frustration on passers-by.

But all is good. An Okkervil River t-shirt showed up in the post - it had been sitting in my PO Box since Friday, which is pretty cool since it came all the way from Austin Texas, and I'd only ordered it a week before. I love my PO Box.

Other goodies that have shown up recently are issues 23 & 24 of ASIM. Plenty story goodness

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hobble and Books

I've just finished Neal Asher's "The Line of Polity" and gotten further into Martin Living's "Carnies".

"The Line of Polity" was an absolute hoot, have to say I'm glad that I've still got another three or four of his books to go: going to pace myself. This is high octane space opera, witty, marvellously paced. And I see that Neal's put up a timeline at his blog - I love timelines. And, if you want to get a sense of what his stuff is like, check out the review of "Prador Moon" in the latest Emerald City.

On to "Carnies" I'm going to label this "the year of Trent picking books that he's going to love" so far I can do no wrong in my book purchases. This is just going on what I've read so far, but the book's handling of the relationship between two brothers strikes me as extremely authentic. Martin's got the deft touch of Gaiman - with a slightly earthier humour - mixed with a little early Jonathan Carroll, think "Land of Laughs". Which isn't to say that he doesn't have his own voice, I'm just scrambling for comparisons. I'm looking forward to reading what he writes next. Martin's control of his work is only going to get better.

Books good, health a little patchy, I've sprained or torn a muscle in my left leg. Walking is extremely painful, which sucks because my job involves a fair bit of walking - hunting down books and such for returns.

Fortunately reading does not involve walking.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sunday

I like sundays. I usually get more writing done on Sunday than any other day of the week, what with the sleeping and the not working.

I spent the afternoon googling Gods for two different stories - one to make a world and one to swallow a world*. Then sat outside and wrote until it was too cold. The cold creeps up on you when you are writing, I didn't notice it until I was shivering, and the only warm spot was where the dog was curled up next to me.

Since I've moved up to Brisbane I've thoroughly acclimatised. Nineteen degrees and I'm scrambling for a jumper. Winter in Gunnedah, even Lismore, was a hell of a lot colder. We had a wood burner, and I remember sitting in front of it reading, and utterly glad I wasn't outside.

Of course everything has a price.

Those burners went through a few loads of wood each winter.

Dad would borrow a mate's trailer and take me and my brother out into the scrub, find a dead tree and start chain sawing. Man, the horrible things that used to come pouring out of that wood, venomous looking centipedes the size of your forearm, huntsman spiders, tiny scorpions, the occasional snake. None of them that happy about being disturbed.

And, all the while, Dad, the one with the chainsaw and a good bit of distance from all that swarming, slithering venom, would be blithely yelling, "Get it into the trailer, kids!"

Don't remember being bitten, though.




* and let me just say, thank you, Ancient Egypt, your mythology is most, most cool.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tap Tap Tap Drip Drip Drip

I've spent the afternoon (once I finished the usual choring, okay, so there's still washing in the sink, but let me get to that later on - and how do you know there's washing in the sink? That disturbs me.) dropping new sentences into stories, and wishing that my writing process wasn't so glacial. I remember when stories poured from me.

These days it's tap,
tap,
tap - or to continue the pouring metaphor, drip,
drip,
drip.

After the tapping, er dripping, I worried at a few technical problems. Like tense and voice. One of the stories I'm working on at the moment changes from past to present tense, and from third to first person, all over the place, and I kind of liked the sloppiness of it, but now it's time to rein it in. Which means a total redraft, a whole bunch of squiggling in the margins, and a headache.

So, I'm whining, but I actually like this state of affairs as well.

For all the lack of speed, I'm feel particularly narratively fecund. I'm using it as mulch for the garden.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Why You Should Buy that Book Now Now Now.

I am in charge of returns in a largish bookstore in Brisbane.

It's my job to send the books that don't sell back to the publisher, so I see the depressing end of the old literary dream. Basically it works this way, though there are exceptions, there is 3-12 month window in which books that are a bookstore buys are returnable. If they are not returned after this time they become what is called firm sale - basically meaning bookstores can't return them.

Most publishers date this window from the publication date of the book, rather than when the book is bought, so most backlist titles (as opposed to New Release or frontlist titles) are bought firm sale - which means the bookstore takes a higher risk buying them. Most of your favourite books are probably backlist titles*.

Now this system works okay, for one it means bookstores are willing to take a risk on newer authors, but also it gives an author pretty much a three month** window to start selling their book or they're kind of screwed. Three months isn't very long.

Which is why you should never hold off buying that new book, because chances are in three months time - or tomorrow - it won't be there, and once it's gone, it's gone.

It is also why you should go out and buy a copy of Martin Living's Carnies, today - well, tomorrow because it's getting late.

It's a fun read - I've only just started, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it. And I'll feel happier if I don't have to return any copies - it makes my job easier, so you'd kind of be doing me a favour as well, or some other poor chump like me.



*Backlist titles being firm sale was something that came into prominence about four or five years ago (maybe a little longer, I've been doing this for a while). It basically led to more cautious buying from bookstores, and a lot of author's titles going out of print very quickly.

**Because who's going to keep a book for longer than three months if it isn't selling, that book is taking up valuable shelf space.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Rain

It's raining. Has been for most of the afternoon. I love this city in the rain. And I'm getting some writing done, and reading - I just wish I could read faster.

Along with "The Line of Polity" - the book which actually has me looking forward to the commute - I can highly recommend Agog! Ripping Reads, definitely the best one of Cat Spark's antho. series yet. I'm a dipper into of anthologies, and this one has already served up some treats. Ben Peek's "The Souls of Dead Soldiers are for Black Birds, Not Little Boys" is great, maybe my favourite of Ben's stories so far. Geoffrey Maloney's "When the World was Flat" is also a corker and sits very nicely at the front of the book.

The best thing is I've still got at least a week's worth of dipping to go.

Now, lets hope this rain keeps up for a few days more.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I've got, I am, I have, It's, Life is.

I've got myself a copy of Agog! Ripping Reads, thanks to the wonderful Cory Daniells.

I'm cooking a very nice lamb curry for dinner.

I have a bottle of good Pinot.

It's raining outside.

Life is pretty swell, I reckon.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Nice

Well, this is just nice.

From the June 2006 issue of Queensland Books:

WARNING: IF YOU LOAN THIS BOOK TO A FRIEND CHANCES ARE YOU WON’T GET IT BACK.
Trent Jamieson’s Reserved for Travelling Shows is not the kind of book to be read once or even twice, it needs to be on call; so buy a copy, and hide it.


Yes, my collection encourages book theft.

Oh, and Neal Asher has a blog check it out. Asher's been my big find of the year - his books are utterly addictive.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

And for my next book...

Hey, it looks like I can talk about the big news I mentioned rather unsubtly in May.

My second book has been sold to the ABC. It's part of a children's series -- called "The Lost Shim" -- I'm doing with my writing group ROR. The details are here. They're a bit sketchy at the moment, but things will develop over the next little while.

My book, with the working title of "The City and the Stony Stars" was a lot of fun to write - maybe the most fun I've had writing anything. Pretty cool, eh.

Almost as cool as Okkervil River touring in September.

Nah, it's cooler.

Consock 06 is over.

Ropes of smoke dangling skywards from the pyre, melted button eyes leering out of the ash, a single flaming sock puppet arm lifting into the air in a sad (sockery) mockery of a wave. Sock puppet authors burn better than regular authors - though not as well as finger puppet authors and not nearly as well as kerosene puppets. The priest who performed the exorcism said it was necessary, or they might never leave - he was a sock puppet priest, so he went in right at the end.

Still it was a relatively successful con - sold 5 copies of reserved for travelling shows - my book, in case you hadn't heard about it, and sock puppet trent is a pretty good panellist - no long silences, no mumbling into the mike - I made sure he burnt long and slow.

Friday tomorrow and it looks like I'll be catching up with one of my favourite people in the world - and one of my favourite sf writers. Hell, if you can't name drop on your blog where can you?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Okkervil River

are touring in September. I didn't expect to get a chance to see them again so soon. Extremely excited. Like I can't tell you how excited I am.

If you get a chance to see them live, do it.

Now, I've got writing to do. And a bottle of red to crack open.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Spent the morning

painting furniture (second coat). Spent the afternoon catching up with family.

Spent the evening thinking over stories.

The thinking part can often be the most fun, feeling the story grow, feeling sentences flex and characters begin to mumble and argue with each other. And the best part is finding that one contrary idea that pulls a story apart and pulls it together at the same time.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pleased in the winter winds.

The rain dried up, the wind got cold. I've spent the day writing and painting outdoor furniture. The moon was swollen, and the clouds had that hyper real quality that clouds sometimes get so you feel like you're walking around in a cartoon. Happy with the writing, happy with the furniture, though it needs another coat - listened to Palo Santo while I painted, it's an incredible album.

I'm pretty pleased with the writing. I reckon I'll have about a half dozen stories ready for market in the next couple of weeks. And then it's time to get a start on novel number three.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Guinness Good Guinness Bad

And that's all I have to say on the matter.

I'm listening to "Palo Santo" by a band called Shearwater. It's brilliant and moody and dark and gorgeous.

Oh, and it's raining in Brisbane today. Not enough, but the city's all beautiful, draws the rain round itself like a shawl.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

yeah, I'm kind of over sock puppets

I woke up at seven this morning, feeling a little lopsided. Diana looked at me from her pillow. "Has that sock puppet always been in your ear?"

A sock puppet CS Lewis had burrowed into the canal. Took out a chunk of my eardrum having it removed - surgically, of course. Oh, and they left a pair of tweezers in there, so as I'm typing this my head is jangling, bloody sock puppet doctors.

Got to work and noticed a sock puppet Lewis Carroll trying to gnaw its way into my right kidney. I'm a mess of bloody dressings - and they're all pissed at me because I didn't consider a dressing puppet con, maybe next year.

Sorry, got to go cough up that Lovecraft - which is marginally better than having TB.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

a radiant gathering of sock puppets

The sock puppets are gathering, knocking on the door with their little sock puppet knuckles. I woke this morning to a whole bunch of them standing on the end of the bed watching me with their beady button eyes - I think the sock puppet Heinlein is their leader. He was chatting with a sock puppet Hemingway - on his way to a literary festival in Melbourne.

I coughed up a sock puppet Poe the other day, and I suspect there is a sock puppet Lovecraft in my left lung - growing, changing.

The dog and cat are skittish.

This may have been a mistake.

But I remain optimistic.

The sock puppets are gathering.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

And, if you're going to Conflux...

My short story collection "Reserved for Travelling Shows" will be available in the dealers' room. Bill Congreve has copies and I am sure he would be delighted to sell them to you.

At Consock 06 each copy comes with wise cracking a sock puppet Trent. But, at Conflux, you just get the book. Bet you wish you were hanging with me and the puppets, eh?

Just Finished Just Started

I finished "Cowl" by Neal Asher last night, and bought his "Line of Polity" today. I tend to avoid reading two books by the same author in a row, but I'm addicted damn it. Cowl was great, the best time travel, giant monster with many mouths, and lots of dinosaurs novel I've read - and probably the most fun time travel story I've read since "Big Time" by Fritz Leiber - the time travel was kind of peripheral in "Big Time" but it still counts. It's great stuff.

Once "Line of Polity" is done, I'm rushing onto the Sean Williams and Shane Dix Geodesica duology. I heard Sean read from this a couple of years back and I have been meaning to read it for a long time. Sean's written some absolutely wonderful novels, and I've tended to read them at pivotal moments in my life. I can still remember reading "Metal Fatigue" when I asked Diana to marry me - and she said yes, of course, because I was reading a book with such a cool title.*

Unfortunately a Neal Asher sock puppet couldn't be made in time for Consock 06, nor is the Sean Williams sock puppet attending - as it was already commited to three other sock cons this June.


*No, she's not that shallow, I was wearing an attractive jumper at the time.