Thursday, December 11, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GOES TO HELL

"Tell me where you see yourself in five years."
 
 
 
Hitler, Brutus and Satan, and it's an entrance interview in Hell.
 
 
They can't all be winners......
 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: Making Money


Making Money
Making Money by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Written at the start of Pratchett's decline into formula and repetition, there's still enough wit and sparkle in this volume to remind the reader that, at his best, there are few turners of phrase in 21st century literature to match him. Funny, insightful, ludicrous and absurd in turn, this is in the upper half of his catalogue without being at the very peak. An enjoyable diversion, and cleanser of the palate before turning to meatier works.



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Review: Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned


Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned
Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Not so much a novel as a series of linked short stories. The progression of former prisoner Socrates Fortlow from social outcast to moral compass of his tiny, impoverished community in the heart of LA is told in a series of short morality plays, each one building on what came before to give a compelling insight into the difficulties faced by the marginalised communities on the fringes of urban America and the redemptive power of a man who regrets the badness in his life. Some of Mosley's best writing in years: simple, yet brutally powerful



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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review: An Advancement Of Learning


An Advancement Of Learning
An Advancement Of Learning by Reginald Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Thoroughly entertaining read, full of acerbic humour and tightly plotted mystery, with well-drawn characters who jump from the page and demand the reader take notice of them. Bawdier and more pointed than the TV series that led me to it, this is an utter delight of a crime novel, and one that has me scurrying back to the library tomorrow to fetch a new volume of Hill's work.



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Sunday, November 16, 2014

DROOPY DRAWERS, FORTY FOUR

I turned 44 years old on Tuesday. To be honest, I don't know what to make of it. Lyn and the kids were beautiful to me, allowing me time to open and build my great big birthday Lego set and serving me a dinner created especially for me. And my bonus sons Aiden and Blake, as well as their respective girlfriends, gave me gifts that showed they really did think about what I like and what sort of person I am when I allow myself the space to simply be my private self.

It's a big thing, for me, when I receive gifts from my bonus children-- I came into their lives when they were pushing towards their teen years, and they would have every right to consider me solely as the man who married their mother, rather than any sort of friend or father figure. I'd understand their reasoning, if they did, because I've already lived with that sort of attitude-- my parents separated when I was only slightly older than they were when I came into their lives, and my stepfather made it very clear that he was only interested in being a part of my mother's life, not mine or my brother's. He even refused to marry her until we were both out of the house. But they don't. They took me into their lives as much as I tried to make them a part of mine. They not only remember my day, they mark it as something to which they attach importance, and that makes me feel like I've done something right by them.

And knowing that the members of my family see me as someone important helps, because right at the moment, my daily life seems to come with a high degree of difficulty: my day job is trying, and I'm struggling with the responsibility of several events I don't wish to run yet have to acknowledge fall squarely within my portfolio; the events I normally do enjoy running have left me flat and uninspired; after a positive start to writing work this month I've pretty much abandoned Nanowrimo and am taking stock of my upcoming work; the novel once known as Magit and Bugrat is to undergo another title change at the publisher's behest and has been pushed back a second time, so that it will appear far enough into 2016 to pretty much destroy any career momentum it might have helped maintain in the wake of the Corpse-Rat King books; and all in all, I'd rather just be at home with Lyn and the kids, preparing for our move to the new Batthome and enjoying a quiet and self-driven life together.

Perhaps it's my mid-life crisis calling, but I'm feeling a little sick and tired of living my life at the beck and call of outside parties.

I read over the blog post I made this time last year, and it was full of grand plans for the year between then and now. In the end, almost none of them came to fruition. So, no big plans for me this time. No announcements or prognostications. All I want for this coming year is to move to my new house, find a measure of peace with my family, and try to rediscover some sense of personal satisfaction with what I see in the mirror.

The way I feel right now, that would be enough.

Review: The First Book of Lankhmar


The First Book of Lankhmar
The First Book of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Immensely fun romp through the bedrock of modern fantasy with two engaging and enjoyable characters, until the constant overwriting and simmering misogyny begins to chafe just a little too often and a little too constantly for comfort. Cut the reading experience into thirds, along the dotted lines described by the volumes that make up the book, and refresh your palate in between them, and this remains a thoroughly fun experience. It just requires the reader to be understanding of its real world cultural roots, otherwise you'll finish the book relieved that it's all over, which is less than these seminal stories deserve.



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Review: Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction


Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Desperately dated and old-fashioned how-to that shows its age. While there are still nuggets of relevance o be picked out on the matters of narrative construction and motivation, there's nothing here that can't be found in more contemporary guides by current authors, and the out-of-date personal comments and prevailing attitude of the book are best left in the era in which the book was first written.



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Sunday, November 09, 2014

BUT I'VE GOT A HELL OF AN EXCUSE

So here we are, then. The 9th of November. By nano stats, that means I should have completed 15 000 of my unholy mess novel as of tonight. That means that, as of tonight, I'm only 7.56 days behind where I'm supposed to be!

But, like Jesus said when his Mum wanted to know who pinched all the tuna sandwiches, I have a hell of an excuse. Let's break it down, shall we?

Wednesday 29 October: Agree with Luscious Lyn that the Batthaim has become too big, expensive, difficult to maintain and draining. Decide to sell the place.
Thursday: Appoint real estate agent we've been sniffing around for a while. Receive list of final renovations necessary to bring house up to saleable standard.
Saturday 1 November: Received square metre of soil. Spend half a day carting the bastarding thing out to the back yard to fill the giant empty garden bed that's been sat there empty for two years. Plant colourful plants. Trim giant sprawling half-dead passionfruit plant. Patch cracks in upstairs room ceiling and kids bathroom. Do some actual writing, by virtue of mad panic and previously undiscovered wizard powers.
Sunday: More patching, sanding, and carting heavy bloody things all over the place. Pack family up and sod off for an hour while real estate agent brings people through.
Monday: Write the 2 thousandth and change words on the novel. Do shoulder stretches. Use bendy shoulder muscles to help pat myself on back.
Tuesday: Accompany Luscious to hospital. Be supportive husband while she undergoes horrendously invasive surgery.
Wednesday: Continue husband support role while trying to persuade increasingly grumpy wife that resting in bed does not involve any form of cleaning up or housework. More patching. More fucking sanding. More fucking painting.
Wednesday evening: Pack sore and sorry wife into car and spend what's supposed to be an hour at cafe while real estate agent brings people around the house even though he's been bloody told specifically not to do this today because Luscious is supposed to be resting and not gallivanting around the bloody neighbourhood.
Slightly later Wednesday evening: Real estate agent sells Batthaim. Becomes best friend for life.
Thursday: Packing. Lots and lots of packing.
Friday: Meet with mortgage broker just to make sure we can afford to actually move and won't end up living in a shopping trolley and smelling like cat pee.
Yesterday: Fucking patch. Fucking sand. Fucking paint. Get in car and drive round and round and round suburb of choice looking at interminable series of ugly, run down and general piece of shit house I wouldn't use for a crack house, never mind a place of residence.
Saturday, 3pm: Find the perfect house. Cry tears of relief. Wipe eyes, Put in an offer.
Rest of yesterday: drive from Baldivis to Southern Bloody River because the idiot not-local real estate agent didn't actually have the forms to sign an offer. Sit around for the better part of two hours while idiot not-local real estate faffs about like an idiot, including actually having to read the forms to himself to make sure he's got the right damn forms...... out of there by 6pm, nobody dies, it's a close-run thing.
Late last night: idiot real estate agent rings. Lyn. I think he worked out who best to speak to. Our offer is accepted.
All today, starting at 6.20am and finishing at gone 5pm when I stopped caring about life: MORE FUCKING SANDING AND PAINTING. Empty, box, clean and deconstruct entire shed. Entire. Damn. Shed.

Yeah, so, all of which is an overly dramatic way of saying, hey, what a week: the Luscious one has had surgery, we've sold our house and have bought a new one, and for the rest of the year we'll be packing and organising finances and-- all being as per instructions-- we'll be moving house the day before Christmas.

Turns out, Real Life (tm) trumps writing. Who knew?




Thursday, November 06, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GOES THE BOOT

"Nope, I still don't see anything."
 
 
 
Be honest: weeks and weeks cooped up together, in that tiny space, with their smells and their tics and their annying personal habits, with no possible means of escape. Then there you are, all by yourselves, and nobody's watching...... I mean, you would, wouldn't you?




GUEST POST: KEITH STEVENSON

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Keith Stevenson.

Keith is the man who gave Father Muerte his big break, debuting the Father's first story, Father Muerte and the Theft, in Aurealis 29, and providing me with my first sequel opportunity by gently nudging me until I sent him Father Muerte & the Rain. Since then he's gone on to found a series of excellently-produced publishing ventures including the Terra Incognita podcast; Dimension 6 electronic magazine and coeur de lion publishing, where he regularly produces brilliant tomes such as X6 and Anywhere But Earth. He's an all-round science fiction good guy, bon vivant, editor, publisher and reviewer. You can find his bloggy goodness right here.

And damn good writer in his own right: His debut novel Horizon is now available as an ebook via Harper Collins. Which brings us to the very reason for this introduction: Today, Keith joins us to talk about charting future history as part of his Horizon blog tour.

Give his entrance a nice, warm hand:



 
Horizon — Futureshock: Charting the History of Tomorrow
 
I’d like to thank Lee for giving over some space on his blog for the Horizon Blog Tour.
 
Horizon is my debut science fiction novel published by Harper Voyager Impulse. It’s an SF thriller centred on a deep space exploration mission that goes very wrong, with repercussions for the future of all life on Earth.
 
While the main focus of the story is the tense drama that plays out between the crew in the cramped confines of the ship, a lot of the grunt work in good science fiction goes into imagining the world of the future and how future events shape characters and create a believable background.
 
The explorer ship Magellan takes off on its mission between sixty and eighty years from now and the ‘in-flight’ time is fifty-five years (from our perspective). I’ve been deliberately vague with the starting point of the timeline in case actual historical events trip me up. But the world of 2075 (assuming we are all still here) has been mapped out to some extent already.
 
Certainly, unless certain intransigent governments come to their senses, we will be facing a climate disaster by then. The UN predicts we will reach a population of 9.1 billion by 2050, with population peaking in 2070 at 9.4 billion, and the great majority of those extra billions will be born into the poorest nations. Food security will be a major issue as the planet struggles to feed those billions. In today’s world, already over a billion people are going hungry.
 
Certainly in the short- and medium-term, the problems we see emerging in the Middle East following the Arab Spring look set to continue. Ethnic tensions are also leading to fracturing borders across Europe and elsewhere. It is a tense time for the world right now and our geopolitical map is in flux. And yet we are also witnessing amazing advances in all areas of science.
 
So here are the elements I have to play with: climate change and environmental degradation, population growth and impact on infrastructure, racial tensions and war, technological development and advances — I took all these factors and pieced together a future history that maps out key events in the fifty or so years leading up to the point when Magellan launches from Earth on its mission of exploration:
 
No. of years before wake-up near Iota Pesei
Event
110
Nuclear bombardment of selected targets in the Middle East and Asia by the United States of America, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
109
War on Terror officially declared ‘at an end’.
107
Compact of Asian Peoples formed. Compact petitions for UN membership. United States of America exercises its veto.
104
Pro-EU factions win UK government in landslide election.
96
Significant shrinkage of polar icecaps recorded for the fifteenth successive year. Effect of rising sea levels felt worldwide.
94
Fuel-cell boom sees formation of the Union of Northern States to protect sensitive patents.
94
Kyoto III finally ratified.
93
Compact coalition cuts all trade ties with Australia.
90
EU governments consolidated under a single body.
88
Hurricane Ivan lays waste to the eastern seaboard of United States of America and a large part of Central America.
87
United States and Australian governments ratify creation of Pax Americana, effectively merging the two countries into a consolidated trade, defence and diplomatic entity. The wastelands from Florida to Pennsylvania are officially excluded from the Pax.
85
The first fully fledged Pax election sees an increase in pro-Green elected candidates as a result of increasing environmental degradation and the legacy of Hurricane Ivan.
84
Pax Americana vetoes the Compact’s petition for UN membership.
79
To meet its Kyoto III targets, Pax Americana switches exclusively to fuel-cell technology for all public and an increasing percentage of private power utilisation.
78
The Pax oversees a massive retooling and retraining effort to gear its industries for the new information economy. The need for a larger skilled workforce prompts employment lotteries in the marginal eastern seaboard colonies. Thousands of former USA citizens are resettled in the Pax.
74
The Union of Northern States develops second-generation fuel-cell technology, halving cost and mass and doubling output of the new cells.
72
The Pax economy takes off on the crest of the fuel-cell revolution and the rebirth of Silicon Valley.
66
First bio-jack experiments yield amazing results in quadriplegic subjects.
64
The UNS uses its voting block to force Pax Americana to approve the Compact’s petition for UN member status. Compact granted member status of United Nations.
63
Pax American Space Administration (PASA) formed, with its headquarters at Woomera, Australia. Near-Earth asteroid mining commences. Limited trial and use of deepsleep for asteroid-belt mining sorties.
63
UN aid program to the Compact finds health infrastructure is ‘primitive’ and in need of immediate assistance. Pax, UNS and EU pledge six billion U-dollars to build and equip fifteen hospitals and train over three hundred doctors.
61
EU scientist Earnhard Godel develops the picopulse black-box propulsion system. Wins Nobel Prize.
60
Environmental studies conclude that the depletion of the ozone layer has halted.
60
PASA announces the Explorer Ship program. International Space Station brought out of mothballs to coordinate the search for a target star.
57
Testing of Magellan prototype explorer ship complete. Crew selection includes Pax, EU and UNS members; however, the UNS representative is injured in training. The Pax government requests a replacement and UNS suggests a Compact citizen.
55
Magellan launches from Earth orbit.
 
Of course, the fact that the crew comprises members of the Pax Americana, the Compact and the European Union, means they are all heavily invested in this future history and moulded by the climactic events that took place in the decades before launch. But the world has not stood still while they’ve slept on the way to Horizon, and there’s a whole swathe of future history they need to catch up on when they wake, not all of which will be to everyone’s liking.
 
 
 
Like what you've read? Well, there's plenty more. Make with the clicky and the calendar, and follow the Horizon blog tour:
 
3 November — Extract of Horizon Voyager blog
 
4 November — Character Building: Meet the Crew — TrentJamieson’s blog
 
5 November — Welcome to Magellan: Inside the Ship — Darkmatter
 
6 November — Futureshock: Charting the History of Tomorrow — Lee Battersby’s blog (hint: you're here)
 
7 November — Engage: Tinkering With a Quantum Drive — JoanneAnderton’s blog
 
10 November — Stormy Weather: Facing Down Climate Change — BenPeek’s blog
 
11 November — Time Travel: Relatively Speaking — Rjurik Davidson’sblog
 
12 November — Consciousness Explorers: Inside a Transhuman — Alan Baxter’s blog
 
13 November — From the Ground Up: Building a Planet — SeanWright’s blog
 
14 November — Life Persists: Finding the Extremophile — GreigBeck’s Facebook page
 
17 November — Interview — Marianne De Pierres’ blog
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

NANO NANO NANO NANO NANO.... BATMAN! (I'M PRETTY SURE I MADE THAT JOKE LAST YEAR)

So Nanowrimo is upon us once again, (This is me: feel free to buddy up) and once again I'm using the month to concentrate on words and give myself permission to prioritise my writing over the distractions in my life.

Yeah, I know I'm a pro and writing is an important aspect of both my personality and my artistic career. But I'm also a man with a metric fucktonne of duties and responsibilities and sometimes I need the crutch to lean on. I'm happy for you if you don't understand this, and good luck to ye's. Me, I lie the feeling of having permission, so here I am.

This year's project is Bear Hunt, and it's starting out as a load of fun because, for the first time in a long time, it's not remotely speculative. It's a straight crime novel, and here's the brief I've set myself:

Somebody dragged Bear back into the life. Somebody made him a criminal again. And now somebody's spying on him. Doesn't matter if it's the cops or the crims. Somebody's going to pay.

Sound fun? It'd better, because I'm probably going to bore you shitless with updates as the month progresses. So just to give you a little taster-- and in the full spirit of understanding that this is a first draft, and for me, a loose one with no internal editor present-- here's a few lines to get us all started:


None of what went down would have happened if Bear hadn’t got himself banged up on a DUI charge. Bang to rights, too: point two over the limit, and the blood test confirmed it. So they took his car and stood him up in front of the magistrate in his only suit, and no amount of pleading that he needed his licence to ferry Mum back and forth to hospital and her therapist appointments were enough to save him, not with his record. Disqualified from driving, and his application for an extraordinary licence binned before it even started because extraordinaries are for work purposes only, Mister Burrage, as you well now. Then they spat him out, to stand blinking on the steps of the Mandurah courthouse, wondering how the hell he was going to explain it to Mum and trying to loosen his tie with thick, shaking fingers. Which was a bad time for a weaselly little prick like Gavin Sullivan to slide up from the shade of the nearby car park, but then, no time was ever a good time to have a weaselly little prick like him smiling his slimy smile at you.


Progress charts after day one are about as much use as publishing league tables after the first round of matches, but with a daily quota of 1667 words to make Nano's target of 50 000 in the month, I'm mildly pleased to report that I've completed 2362. So here's a progress pie chart.

Mmmmm, pie.




Friday, October 31, 2014

5 SONGS FOR A CREEPIER EVENING

Just for laughs-- high-pitched, hysterical laughter like a nail file along the edge of a glass-- here's a few songs to gt you through Halloween this year. I can't imagine what they all have in common.




The Ballad of Dwight Fry-- Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper is the rock master of all things Guignol. And, apart from being damned creepy and a tribute to one of the great lost, mad creatures of the classic Hollywood monster era, Cooper recorded the "Gotta get out of here" refrain by lying on the floor of the studio and having a pile of folding chairs heaped over him until his claustrophobia took hold. Recording your own panicked neurosis for the sake of your single? Welcome to Halloween, sweetheart.





Dead Eyes Opened-- Headless Chickens

From its buzzsaw beats to its grisly subject matter, this is a classic creepfest from beginning to end. The beautifully enunciated, teddibly teddibly British narration only adds to the off-kilter weirdfest. A dance floor hit about burning the severed head of a woman? Classic.





Aisha-- Death in Vegas

Let's be honest, it's not like the Iggster is at the normal end of the spectrum to begin with. But his monotone delivery and whipperwhill screeching over the discordant guitars make this another brilliant dance track that's an awkward listening experience. A self-confessed serial killer pronouncing his undying love for the titular character is almost irrelevant in the face of the sheer oddness of the delivery.





97 Bonnie and Clyde-- Tori Amos

Eminem's original is a darkly funny fable about a man dumping the body of his ex-wife and her new husband in a lake while the narrator's toddler looks on. Amos slows the music down and her cracke,d whispered delivery adds a thick layer of uneasiness to the track. Amongst the best covers ever recorded, and a distinctly unsettling listening experience.





Lotion-- Greens Keepers

Because everybody watched Buffalo Bill in action during Silence of the Lambs and thought, "What this guy needs is a ballad," right? Right?



So, if you're still here, wash your mind out with the real meaning of modern Halloween: dressing up in silly costumes and acting like a loon. Have the utter genius of the Bonzo the Dog Doo Dah Band for dessert.

Sleep well, children.


PEACE AND GOODWILL TO ALL ME..... GET THAT STITCHED, FUCKER!

It's Halloween, a time when we pause in our Godless lives to pay tribute to Saint Allens, the patron saint of childhood diabetes.

Have a nasty little piece of fiction from my past to keep you warm. It was originally published in Scary Food, a horror fiction cookbook put out in the dim, distant past by now-defunct Aussie publisher Agog Press.

Here it is, regurgitated for your pleasure. It's all you're getting: I've eaten all the candy.


, Rabbit, Run

     So they picked him up, the broken-shelled, loose-limbed motherfucker, lying unconscious in a pool of his own piss. Didn’t matter where they found him, was all the same to them and he didn’t care. He was only one anonymous, ruined face amongst thousands, millions, drunk and stinking in alleyways and shop doorways, every one a fugitive from some demon roaming the corridors of their own minds, lying under bridges and daring the night to come eat them up and see if anybody cares. Besides, he’d long since given up running. Couldn’t even remember why he’d started, memory ruined by knife points and alcohol, bouncer’s boots and junkie product, a hard man gone soft, dedicated to the act of fucking himself up, real hard man, real iron-muscled motherfucker, kill himself down dead long before whomever or whatever reached him and did the job their way. Choose the manner of your own death like a man, even if it’s a death of piss and vomit, gin blossoms and teeth on the tarmac in front of your face. Took time and effort, but he got there, more backs stabbed than a politician, he’d done it, oh boy, done it but good.
     They found him, though, dumped him in the back of a white truck and drove him away towards the lights of redemption. He was so wiped he didn’t even recognise them, couldn’t tell anybody where they came from or where he was going, no fight left in him and if they hadn’t found him it would have been some other monsters and fuck it, he was ready for them, finally, ready to lie between their teeth and play like meat. But they knew better. They smiled and tied him down and pumped his veins full of clear, clear liquid amnesia, called his name and played games with his screams as they drove slowly through the darkened streets, all the better to pass the time until the building drew them all in and he landed face down on a gurney through door after door banging the top of his head until the scalp bled. The scalpels made no sound as they cut him open, the drugs washed his blood and his marrow and his thoughts, and when they came to shave him here, there, and down below he didn’t even flinch at the sight of their faces, white and hairless and smelling of wine turned vinegar. And the sheets were soft, and the saline was tangy against his arteries, and if he couldn’t keep the food down for more than an hour before spewing it splash and splatter into the nearest corner nobody complained, so he puked all the harder just to watch them bend down to clean it.
     He slept when they told him to and ate when they told him to and wanked when they told him to, filling pots and buckets and forms and days, and somewhere deep down where the knives had missed and the scars circled round it like a ribcage, protecting, nurturing, hiding, a spark remembered itself: you can’t tell me what to do. You don’t own me. You’re not my...
     Fuck it. You’re not my anything.
     So he held the pills under his tongue and spat them into pot plants, crept along corridors at night smelling spirits and cleanliness, let his hair grow back and found a comb, cleaned his teeth by himself God Damn You!, ignored the outstretched hands and turned his back on the help and picked up the fork and took the spill-proof top from the cup and when they came for him one morning with the gurney and the bag of clear liquid with the tube hanging off it like a limp-dicked pensioner he said No. No more. I’m gone. I’m checking out. And they smiled and asked him if he was sure and he told them yes, fuck you, let me go. I want to go.
     That’s when they took him down to the offices with the soft carpet underfoot and pastel paintings and soft piped music and smiling lipsticked mouths saying yes, hello, we’re so glad. And a suit, in his size, washed and clean and smelling so good like a thousand fucks in teenager’s beds and a wallet filled with cash in the pocket and one final form with his name in neat black letters and the standard paragraph about release and welcome to the world and just sign here, here and here, please sir, no motherfucker you but a man, a real man, welcome back old friend just sign here.
     They helped him dress and placed the jacket over his shoulders and shook his hand, all in a line saying well done, good luck out there and he strode, not shuffled anymore, damn well strode to the front door and they held it open for him, sir and sir and sir and he turned for one last look and there they were, all lined up and not for a moment did their smiles slip or the love and affection in their gazes die but in each hand a scalpel, in each smile the taste for blood and every one of them a face he remembered, every one of them long teeth enemies fright in the night under the bed terror, every one of them a punch to his heart.
     Good luck, they said, and
     We’re so happy, they said, and
     See you again soon, they said, and
then, at last, to him,
really to him
     as the muscles in his legs spasmed and sent him to the cold concrete outside, ass on the ground and limbs splayed wide, the single street light bright against the gloom showing the first piss stain already damp dark wet against his trousers, one last thing before they started counting:
     Run.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS THE V-GER KICKED OUT OF IT


"Oh, honey. It'll be perfect for the baby's room!"


Part of the fun of science fiction is wondering what's out there: what strange, alien life waits for us out beyond the stars, with weird alien motivations and bizarre physical and emotional manifestations. It's part of the sensawunda that drove Golden Age SF and which you can still find in the pulpier fringes of the genre today. Let's be honest: aliens are fun.

The quickest way to a gag cartoon is to take a situation, and flip it: take the ordinary and make it bizarre, take the incredible and make it mundane. Of course there will be giant, alien space squid. But they'll smoke pipes and have a 1950's home life, and they'll use space shuttles as mobiles.

Of course they will.











Wednesday, October 29, 2014

WRITE, YOU DOGS!

So, remember when I said that I'll be appearing at a couple of Write Along the Highway events in November this year?

Here's the first of them: I'll be conducting a free writing marathon at the Mundijong Library on the 18th of November.

 
 
 
I'll also be taking part in Nanowrimo again this year: if you want to buddy me up, you'll find me here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: Lost


Lost
Lost by Michael Robotham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Strong, muscular crime story that begins with intertwined mysteries-- who shot the narrator and left him to die in the Thames, and what has happened to his memory?-- and weaves them throughout a narrative of a cop at the end of his time, slowly coming to terms with the knowledge that his methods and obsessions are being sent irrevocably into obsolescence.

Robotham's tight, controlled style never gives the reader time to draw back and see the greater narrative, and his masterful control of details and verisimilitude paint detailed vignettes that give spice to the constant action. Threats abound, tension is high, and the book rockets along at a frantic pace as time runs out for the protagonist, DI Ruiz, on a number of fronts.

Top notch storytelling.



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Friday, October 24, 2014

HELPING TO PERPETUATE THE HIDDEN SISTERHOOD OF POWERFUL WOMEN

Or, to put it another way, I've received news that Paradox Books have accepted my story The Daughters of John Anglicus-- featuring Trota of Salerno and the descendants of Pope Joan-- for inclusion in their anthology Crusader Kings, which will be coming out in December which means you'll be able to get me to sign it for you for Christmas. If you haven't already bought it, you can pick up Europa Universalis IV: What If?, which contains my alternative history Napoleon Bonaparte story The Emperor of Moscow, while you're there.

More details on the how and where of buying it as I get them, but for now, here's a little snippet to get you keen:

     Trota edges past the end of the bed. Once round to the other side she sees the woman more clearly. She is tall, taller perhaps than even Nicholas, and older than Trota expected, being perhaps in her mid-thirties. Long black hair is splayed across a bank of pillows, and her olive face is pale and drawn close in pain. A nightgown is bunched up above her knees and stretches tightly across the rounded bulk of her stomach. A white-shifted old woman dabs ineffectually at her forehead with a damp cloth. She scurries out of the way as Trota approaches, and shuffled from the room, crossing herself and murmuring respectful words as she passed Nicholas. He waves her on her way, and directs Trota to sit on the vacant stool.
     “This is your charge,” he says. “She is close to birth, but for the last month there have been... problems. Increasingly so.”
     “Why...” She sits, takes the woman’s long hand in her own, and gives it a soft squeeze. The woman turns pain-squinted eyes towards her. She clenches Trota’s hand hard enough to hurt, and hisses as her gut spasms. “Why is there no doctor here?”
     “She summoned you.”
     “I’m two weeks away!”
     “You are the only chirurgeon to whom Her Holiness has granted admittance.”
     “You let her lie here for two weeks in this sort of pain. What the hell--?”
     “Watch your mouth!” Nicholas’ sudden rage rocks Trota back on her stool. “You are in the presence of holiness. You will not use those words.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY IMITATES CHRISTOPHER PYNE

A short while ago, when the writing was going nowhere so fast I decided to give it up and go back to giving cartooning a proper go, I inked and coloured a series of gags to see whether I could sell them.

I've gone back to being a writer since then. That's all you need to know.

Anyway, here's one of those cartoons. Any similarity to any current Government, living, dead or otherwise, is entirely coincidental.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DOING THE CRIME

Last weekend, Luscious and I divested ourselves of all encumbrances and headed into Perth to spend the weekend at the annual convention of crime writing and investigative sciences, CrimeScene WA.

CrimeScene is a wonderful convention, not least because it has an incredibly strong science stream, presented by top notch industry professionals with a set of presentation skills that makes the traditional writing convention "three talking heads and a table" scenario seem decidedly second rate. For the first time in a long time I had agreed to be a part of more than one panel at a convention: apart from a solo presentation on writing settings, I agreed to assist Lyn with her presentation on Women Characters in Crime and take part in a panel discussion on what to do once you have been published. I was keen to see whether the change in convention genre would result in a change in approach to panel structure, so I packed our little Powerpoint shows and book-buying money, and away we went.

The convention was held at Rydges Perth, in the heart of the City: a hotel with a funky 70s retro-future vibe going on in the foyer, but with an obscene parking rate (valet only parking at something like $70 a day) and the traditional convention hotel quota of working lifts-- in this case, one of four. It was a delight to meet up with writing Guest of Honour Tansy Rayner Roberts, who I've known for years but seldom see in the flesh due to living on opposite sides of the country, and one of the nicer things about attending a convention outside of my own genre backyard was the opportunity to bump into authors with whom I interact in my day job but rarely on an equal literary footing: sharing the registration queue with Sarah Evans, a writer of my day job acquaintance from Bridgetown, was a lovely moment, as was a breakfast shared with Michael Murphy, up from Capel for the weekend. And Linda, Jay, and Todd-- the convention committee-- are good pals who treat their authors and experts wonderfully, so apart from the joy of their company they always make me feel like I want to do my best for them.

Thanks to the interwebbernet we found some cheaper (not cheap, cheaper) parking nearby. The walk to and from the hotel, coupled with a wander into the main shopping mall at Sunday lunchtime when we needed a break to visit the Nespresso store served one purpose, at least. Living so far away from Perth means we visit it rarely, and so had failed to observe a small but subtle change that has overtaken the CBD-- it's become a complete shit hole: filthy; filled with empty shopfronts; and generally more run-down than I have seen it in a long time.

One particularly unpleasant reminder of the inhumane and uncaring social policies of our State and Federal Governments was quickly apparent, too: I've never seen so many homeless people tucked into doorways and crannies as I saw this weekend. I'm not naive enough to believe Perth is any sort of utopia, or that homelessness does not exist here, but the two blocks between the car-park and hotel were occupied by no less than 8 homeless people trying to find shelter or ask for assistance, and that's a critical mass that's hard to ignore. There's rot in the heart of the apple in Perth, and it's beginning to show. One wheelchair-bound old lady, in particular, seemed to represent the failure of our social systems: passing her on the way to my nice middle-class hotel room to play at my middle-class pastime added some uncomfortable self-awareness of the advantages I take for granted:


This the kind of heritage you were talking about, City of Perth?

Still, on to the convention itself, and it was clearly apparent that this is a convention in two parts.

The science stream was utterly fascinating, with strong presentations on a wide range of topics. Highlights for me included a discussion on psychopath and offender profiles by Associate Professor Guy Hall, with an emphasis on the Claremont Serial Killer; a dissection of the murder scene of Don Hancock and Lou Lewis by Sergeant Clayton Bennie, the bomb squad Sergeant who was CSO at the scene; palynologist Doctor Lynne Milne discussing the study of pollen within crime scenes; and a history of bog bodies by Doctor John Watling. Each of these presentations was highly interactive, with a strong public speaker in confident control of both their subject matter and the audience, and excellent visual presentation aids that stopped the audience feeling like they were simply privy to a private conversation. More importantly, each presentation was focused, and delivered great value for money. I came away fascinated, educated, and with a feeling that I had been exposed to the best this particular industry had to offer.

The writing stream, I enjoyed not quite so much, for a variety of reasons, chief amongst them being my own involvement: in the end, CrimeScene felt like not much of a writing experience, and more often than not I wanted to be in the other room where the interesting crime stuff was happening. Clearly, most of the attendees agreed with me: apart from the ongoing procession of "three heads and a table" panels, the rooms were, quite simply, verging on empty whenever I attended a writing stream session, as the majority of con-goers were in the far more exciting science stream rooms. My own presentation, on creating settings, for example, attracted three attendees, and the experienced amongst you will quickly work out that one of those is Stephen Dedman, an author to whom I reckon I can teach just about the square root of fuck all:






Other writing panels I attended fared little better, but in all honesty, the majority got what they deserved as far as offering entertainment goes: there's only so far a crime convention can go when the majority of the writing stream consists of writers outside of the central genre, and particularly when many of the sessions are programmed against proven entertainment winners: Professor Simon Lewis and Hadyn Green are long-term CrimeScene alumni, for example, and deservedly popular, and the aforementioned discrepancy in presentation skill was overwhelmingly apparent. While I enjoyed assisting Lyn with her Women in Crime panel, I once again came away feeling that being a panellist at small scale conventions is something I no longer enjoy.

Lyn had been battling illness all convention-- and, indeed, spent the following week bed-ridden with a chronic chest infection-- so we finally gave in to the inevitable and left before the closing ceremony, so we missed the announcement that the convention is going on hiatus. It's a pity, because as a small scale industry exhibition it's the most enjoyable one I've ever attended. My hope is that it returns, with a strong focus on the elements that make the crime and suspense genre such a compelling one to read, watch and enjoy, and perhaps, with a writing stream that goes out into the community outside of the convention time frame so that it doesn't suffer in comparison to the far more professional presenters who populate the science and crime streams.