Friday, March 30, 2007

The Black Rider as in Tom Wait's Album

I've been getting plenty of words down, about 2000 a day on the "new project"*, and then bits and pieces on other shorts: which I hope to have to market (along with some piggies I've been fattening up, we'll travel down the old dirt road that leads into Toowong proper, me chewing on a fat blade of glass, and humming them there Christian songs I like to hum, hymns and that for the most part) in the next couple of weeks, well some of them, some will prove stubborn, and some will dread their delivery onto the world, and will come quickly back to me.

Word to Martin Livings, Cat Sparks and Anna Tambour, not to mention my ROR pal Margo who were all mentioned in this.

We writers love to be loved.

There's some interesting discussion over at ASIF, my favourite review site, looking at writers and their reactions to reviews. I've been fairly fortunate in the reviews I've received over the years, and no-one likes to be slammed, but one of the first things a writer needs to develop is a thick skin. You've got to be able to deal with rejection, and God knows there's plenty of that, and you also have to divorce yourself from your work: once it's written. There's nothing more embarrassing than watching a writer enter into a debate with a reviewer over a review– the writer only ever looks bad.

One of the best bits of advice I've ever heard was from Jeff Vandermeer and it was to never read reviews.

Never followed it myself, I'm always chuffed, and perhaps a little embarrassed to know that someone has read one of my stories and given it a little critical thought. And besides, there's always something slightly hypnotic about watching a train wreck even if it's your own train.

I'm listening to Tom Waits of late, as previously noted, picked up a copy of "The Black Rider", Waits and Burroughs (William) now that's a bleak combination, and lovely, "November" is one of my favourite songs right now, that and the Mark Lanegan penned song "Revolver" on the Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan album "Ballad of the Broken Seas". Countering that gloom with a lot of Belle and Sebastian and the Crystal Skulls, it's taken me nearly twelve months to warm to the Crystal Skull's last album "Outgoing Behaviour" but I have, and I love it.

*My, how enigmatic.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Autumn, March, and Flowers, oh my.

Autumn's hanging around the house now, it's still a little tentative, occasionally ducks off to more southern climes, or hides in the laundry, but today was really autumnal, and it's supposed to get down to 17 degrees c tonight, which is almost snuggly. I love Brisbane in the Autumn, there's less sweat, and the sky, well I love the sky this time of year.

Augie March were a bit patchy on Friday, but I don't know if that was my mood or the band. When it worked they were brilliant, Cold Acre and Mother Greer were highlights, as was a pitch perfect rendition of Bottle Baby. Lyrically there's probably not a better band in Australia – which is a big call – but there's a wonderful multiplicity of meanings in every song. Glenn Richards is a poet and a master of the well turned, and, oft-disquieting phrase. But I just didn't feel that they connected with the audience on Friday, in fact they seemed a bit tired. The last band I saw at the Zoo, the Twilight Singers ,with Greg Dulli laugh-scowling at the crowd, and challenging them not to like it (as well as a quietly charismatic Mark Lanagan), were so good it's lifted my expectations. Then again, I loved Augie March last time I saw them, so let's just say it was me.

One thing I unreservedly enjoyed was Jay Lake's "Trial of Flowers" I see he's writing a sequel and I'll be getting that the moment it comes out. Trial was such a clever book, with echoes of so many other books – Jay tips his hat to the genre of decadent urban(e) fantasy with absolute assurance. Jay didn't shy away from its character's dark sides, and those dark sides come with consequences.

Here's hoping this one finds a UK distributor, the Nightshade edition is awfully pretty, and you should get it, what with the Australian dollar being so strong at the moment, but it would be nice to see this one as a nice UK mass market paperback, I definitely feel it would have a readership, as well as deserves one (which is a different thing).

Getting the words down these last few weeks, lost of words, and mostly coherent, even plot like.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The planet turns a switch,
and then, without a hitch,
Summer's Autumn's bitch.

Things I like, right now.

The last sentences of novels, but only with the weight of all those other sentences preceding, as well as the dark weight of all those sentences considered or removed – because they're there even though they're not.

Watching someone enjoy a quiet moment; this calms me, I'm stealing someone else's moment, but vicarious moments can be so sweet, and we're all thieves really, hungry for last sentences, and quiet moments.

The first sip of a really cold beer on a really hot day, this is what beer was made for.

Tom Waits, this is new, and utterly Marianne's fault. (Looking for) the Heart of Saturday Night is such a beautiful song.

Live music, seeing Augie March tonight, can't wait.

And, things I'm look forward to.

New Ceres 2

With Jay Lake, Lucy Sussex, Stephen Dedman, and Cat Sparks what's not to get excited about? It's nice to get all fannish and excited.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Check this Out

If you're looking for a fine read, check out Ben Payne's new story Inside, a wonderfully written dystopian tale. While you're there have yourself a poke around the rest of the Ticonderoga site, I haven't read the rest of the stories yet, but Ticonderoga Online have been consistently publishing interesting stories for a while now - hey they even published one of mine a few years back, it was a low point, but they've recovered.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Way to rub it in, guys!

Well, ROR's over, missed it, but if you want an idea what it was like check out here and here. Just the thing to read when you've gotten stuck in chapter 4, and you've realised, sure, you've got giant sharks, and some lovely building tension, but you don't have a clue in hell as to what your characters are actually doing, and why they're doing it.

I'm never going to forgive myself for missing ROR, because, quite simply, a better writing group you couldn't hope for: they're as close to family as I have outside of my family. If I ever miss another one may all my toes drop off and be eaten by unicorns.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Perfect Afternoon

Walked to the video shop today listening to "Ballad of the Broken Seas" an album that grows more rewarding with every listen, and watched old sun set from various points along the suburb. On the way back a pair of scrub turkeys crossed the road in front of me, mother and child from the look of it, both looked pleased with themselves. We nodded at each other and went on our way. It was one of those perfect afternoons.

Sold a story, too, to this lot, very pleased.

All in all a good day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

ROR looms and I ain't going

ROR starts tomorrow, I'm quite miserable that I can't make it. Every ROR has been simply wonderful, and I'm sure that this one will be the same – and I really did want to check out Tansy's home state.

I've been overcompensating by writing, finishing, and subbing things, lots of things, and making sure I finish my days with something nice, lately it has been this, watching the evening's clouds come in.





While I have been reading this:





Which is extremely entertaining.

Hope ROR is wonderful, guys - while I secretly, and jealously hope it isn't. Have a great horrible time.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

more clouds and stories and sentences that drag on and on

Sat and watched the day roll out and the clouds roll in, stinking hot day, but the clouds came on a wind, so it was pleasant enough watching them scroll past, city rouged on one end, night bruised on the other. Brisbane doesn't know Autumn's here, another month at least before it cottons on.

Read Matthew Hughe's The Helper and His Hero today, a fine two part serial in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, particularly recommended if you like Jack Vance – and I do – it's an affable pottering in the Vancean sandpit and Hughes has added some fine sandcastles.

I've been reading quite a bit of MFSF lately, not everything has grabbed me, that's too much to ask, but every issue has contained at least a couple of wonderful stories, this issue's stand out was M. Rickert's Memoir of a Deer Woman a meditation on life and loss and the power of words (which says little of the story because these are story's –well, the written one's at any rate - central concerns*). It's a heartbreaking piece of writing, but quite gorgeous.

I'm sinking deeper into Bellow's prose in Humboldt's Gift:

I went out and walked in the cold. Light poured from the cottage into ruts and gullies, over the tangled road-crown of wild carrot and ragweed. Yapping dogs, foxes maybe, piercing stars. The late-late spooks jittered through the windows, the mad scientist shot it out with the police, his lab exploded, and he died in flames, the synthetic flesh melting from his face.

There's a wonderful rhythm to the prose, a marvellous balance of images. It's just lovely. Good writing settles into your*** bones and becomes a second heart, a second ghostly sparking of thoughts, and Bellow has knack for making you feel brighter and more aware of the world than you are - well, he makes me feel this way, the rest of you all may engage with the universe in a fuller more vital way already, but for us less sanguine types, the book's a marvelous tonic.

Hope you're all reading and loving what you're reading, and letting it break you and remake you, and shutting the pages and staring up at the clouds and knowing that it hasn't really changed you (though it might, there's always the promise of that) but for a while you were somewhere else, perhaps wiser or stupider, but different, and that it's waiting for you to open the covers and return.


*Which often makes me wonder if all** art is concerned with, in part, its own importance in expressing, or failing to express, the central concerns of life, and in championing its own mode (except music, or painting, ok so it's a flawed argument, but such is the nature of quickly written blogs).

**What an amazing generalisation.

***Of course I'm only guessing, we all have our own ideas about what constitutes good and where it settles.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Good Short Stories, and Bats

Sat outside drinking beer and thinking about unreliable narrators – I've one in my hard drive and I don't know where she's headed - and reading some shorts – stories not pants, pants are generally less rewarding, unless they're really nice pants.

Read a nifty Gaiman short How to Talk to Girls at Parties which pretty much sums up my experiences with girls at parties when I was young. Women really were an alien species, and that was with two sisters – who I adore, hey K & J. It's a very sweet tale, and you can find it in Gaiman's Fragile Things.

Also read Updike's The Lucid Eye in Silver Town another nice short, this one about siblings and fathers and sons and the various rivalries that inhabit these relationships.

The beer was settling well, and the sky dimming to the point where reading wasn't an option, but the night has other attractions, I watched the city turn the clouds red and the fruit bats swim beneath them with desultory jerks of their wings – I love the way fruit bats fly, they seem to lack the decisiveness of birds, but that's only from my vantage point, they know where they're going, like a good short story.

Talking of which, the anthology I am most looking forward to reading this year is this one. Check it out, pre-order it, I've not had a lot to do with the editor but his heart and his mind are in everything he does. It's going to be an absolute cracker I reckon.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Writing Fire

I'm on writing fire.

The words are dripping from my fingers, which is unpleasant, the nails on my fingers have blackened*, and curled, the house smells of smoke.

This is good, because I'm not going to ROR next week. I love ROR, and I dearly wish I was going, particularly now that the words are coming, but they weren't, so what are you going to do.

Bought a copy of Jay Lake's Trial of Flowers yesterday. If you can get your hands on a copy do so – particularly if you've enjoyed Brian Aldiss' Malacia Tapestry, one of my favourite books – the book possesses a wonderfully grim and dark joie de vivre, and a sense of multitudes.

I'm flipping between it and Saul Bellow's Humbolt's Gift. I've been dipping into Bellow's collected short stories of for a while now, but the novel is working on a much heightened level**. I'm loving the layering of imagery (the book drips with telling images) the depth of characterisation, not a single word is wasted. When I read Bellow I just want to write, not because I feel I can ever match it but because of the possibilities he reveals. Faulkner, Salinger, Updike, DeLillo, all of these writers stretch the limits of the word for me, subtly sometimes, but definitely and all make me want to write, just to see what might happen.***


*Fortunately there are creams for this sort of thing.
**Well, duh. Except some novels don't.

***And they're all old white men, time to broaden my reading a little.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Blindsight

Finished reading Peter Watt's "Blindsight". It's extremely good, extremely clever, and scary, and it does one of the things that good science fiction does best, asks what it is to be human, and if that's even important* – oh, and things explode, and there are vampires.

If you want a much more considered review of the book check out the extremely pan-talented Cat Spark's review over at Talking Squid it's on the money, I reckon.


*Okay so all literature does that, well sort of, sometimes a little tangentially, but SF, particularly stuff set in the depths of space, can do that better, not all the time, after all in the darkness what else do you have but these questions – and explosions

Monday, March 05, 2007

Oh, but it's been quiet here.

But that's because I've been writing, redrafting my novel, the sad old thing that's been tottering around, but now seems to have a bit of heft to it, and finishing short stories, and researching the new one. I've actually been productive, which may or may not be a good thing but you take your chances, and I'm having fun, so I'll call it a good thing.

I'm sort of between careers for the next couple of months, which is giving me a lot of time to get words down, and I was worried that I didn't have the required discipline to actually get the words down. Well, so far so good.

Which is about all you're going to get from me, because I'm not too big a fan of writing about the process. I prefer the process itself, and I prefer to write, however overenthusiastically, about what I'm reading. Talking of which Peter Watt's "Blindsight" is really good.

One of the things I want to do is play around with blogger, see what I can do with it, which may be a bad thing too. But we'll see. Oh yes we will.