Monday, October 10, 2011

She Came, She Saw, SheKilda

Over the past weekend women crime writers from across Australia, and from Singapore (Shamini Flint), South Africa (Margie Orford) and New Zealand (Vanda Symon), gathered in Melbourne for the 20th Anniversary of the Australian chapter of Sisters in Crime. The event was called SheKilda and from Friday night to Sunday afternoon there were panels on a range of subjects, across a range of crime writing genres involving 70+ writers.

Why a women only crime writing conference, you may ask?

In the week leading up to the conference, this question was one of a number of topics addressed on the SheKilda blog. I was very happy to be given the opportunity to submit an entry for the blog and I chose to look at the history of the Sisters in Crime organisation. I was left exhilarated at the progress within the women's crime writing world but also frustrated that many of the same issues that had led to the formation of Sisters in Crime were still there, and that was before I read Andrew Nette crunching numbers in his blog The State of Play!

So, why a women's crime writing conference?

Well, for one thing, we writers don't get out much you know. For most of us it's a solitary life, often spent in pyjamas (am I right Sulari Gentil?) forgetting about OH&S as we slump, hunch and sweat over keyboards, notebooks, or pages. Whilst twitter, facebook and email provide the cyber equivalent of the tea room, where we can stop, have a chat and procrastinate, it's not the same as a real life, honest to goodness, in the flesh meet up.

As Malla Nunn put it,  "There's something about being in the presence of so many smart, bright women." It's inspiring, that's what it is. Listening to so many writers sharing their thoughts, their processes, their take on writing, on crime, on society and politics and work and life - you come away energised, convinced that the stubborn draft you've been wrestling with single-handed isn't going to get the better of you.

Networking is one of those vile, cold, managerial terms, that has (to me) a slightly parasitic flavour to it. I like to think that what took place over the weekend at SheKilda was something less rigid, less vampiric than "networking." I think it was simpatico-ing. A whole lot of solitary souls suddenly recognising one another.

So that was how SheKilda looked from the point of view of an author. I met writers and I met readers. I hope that the readers enjoyed the weekend as much as the writers were.

Saturday night was Davitt Awards night - and over at Fair Dinkum Crime they have already blogged up a good wrap of the winners, who were:

Katherine Howell "Cold Justice" - Best Adult Novel
Penny Matthews "A Girl Like Me" - Best Young Adult Novel
Colleen Egan - "Murderer No More" - Best True Crime

I know that I have special reason to be grateful to the readers - they selected The Old School as The Davitt Readers Choice - for which I am extremely grateful. I even prepared a speech! Which due to a number of factors (2 hours sleep after a nasty bout of gastro overnight, low lighting, forgetting to put my glasses on thinking the font was big enough - it wasn't) I rather mumbled and stumbled my way through before sputtering to an end and slinking away...

No photos as yet, if any come to hand I'll blog them up. Till then keep an eye on some other blogs - Angela Savage has some great pre SheKilda goodness, and was tweeting the #SheKilda news from her iPad. Tara Moss has blogged a summary of the weekend and an excellent comprehensive list of authors' websites.

That's it for now .... I'm off to play with my new best friend.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A crime writer and a poet walk into a literary award night ...

... sounds like the start of a "walk into a bar" joke, does it not? Instead it was the start of a really wonderful night down in Melbourne a few weeks back.

When Clem, the ever optimistic Penguin editorial assistant who shepherds the Penguin stable of books into awards, contacted me to suggest The Old School should be put forward for The Asher Literary Award my reaction was curious, closely followed by dubious. 

Curious came first, as I'd not heard about this particular award, but dubious soon followed when I saw that tag "literary" and learnt that I'd need to provide a 500 word "artist's statement."

Just goes to show how you can be totally wrong about just about everything.

I read up about The Asher, and discovered the story of Helen Waltraud Rosalie Asher, a German refugee to Australia in the wake of World War Two, who established an award to recognise women writing on an anti-war theme or issue. 

So, I set about preparing an artist's statement and found that instead of the process being a drag, the opportunity to write about themes and ideas and how the story and plot informed those themes was actually liberating. 

The Old School is a crime novel. It sits firmly within the genre of crime, but when I wrote it I also had many ideas and concerns on my mind beyond just providing a murder plot.

Creating an artist's statement suddenly gave me a chance to explicitly articulate the political and cultural questions I had discovered throughout the journey of researching and writing the book.

So, when I was contacted by the chair of the judging panel Professor Kate Darian Smith and told that The Old School had been declared joint winner with Roberta Lowing's poetry collection Ruin (Interactive Press), well, thrilled, doesn't come close.

And so it came to pass that a crime writer and a poet walked into the Melbourne Writers Festival and walked out sharing an award for literature by women writing on an anti-war theme or issue. 

Thank you Helen Asher for your decision to create such a unique award. 

As writing an artist's statement is not something that you are asked to do everyday, I thought it might be interesting for any future entrants to this particular award to see the approach I took: - 

The Old School is a crime novel that bears witness to the enduring wounds of war. My vision for this work was to use the accessible genre of crime fiction to interrogate Australia’s contradictory, and politically malleable, myth making about war. In recent years we have adopted as our national foundation narrative an act of war that occurred nearly a century ago on the other side of the world. We celebrate the sacrifice that took place on the beaches of the Turkish peninsula, whilst comforting ourselves that such slaughter has never bloodied our land. 
My ambition in the novel was to demonstrate that this national myth is dishonest and destructive. It elevates tales of heroism and mateship in order to sanctify the brutal truth of war while denying the violence of white settlement. It is remembrance without reflection. 
The Old School challenges the nature of our chosen foundation myth through story and characters. Central to the novel are women, immigrants and Aboriginal Australians; characters who defy the national identity constructed by a male military narrative based on an imperial war. The Old School is an account of seeking the truth about murder, about the past and about war. It is fitting to approach these subjects through crime fiction. It is a genre that honours those who seek the truth about the most serious crime imaginable – murder. And after all, what is war but state-sanctioned murder perpetrated on an industrial scale?
Unlike the national myth in which the foreign dead are but a rumour, The Old School tracks the tragedy of a Vietnamese family through decades of war. It is told through the eyes of a young Australian-Vietnamese police detective, Nhu “Ned” Kelly, who discovers the truth of her family history; of three sisters who made three choices on how to survive in war. A Buddhist nun who joins the ranks of the martyrs who self-immolated for peace, another who joins the North Vietnamese to fight for independence and resolve the shame of a father who collaborated, and the third, Nhu’s mother, who chooses to leave and start afresh in a new land with an Australian soldier who can longer bear to do his duty. 
This modern war is interwoven with an investigation into the discovery of two bodies buried in the footings of a building in Bankstown. It is 1992, the year of the Mabo High Court ruling and Paul Keating’s Redfern park speech. As the excavation at the crime scene burrows deeper into the past, a son discovers his mother, a 1970s Aboriginal Land Rights activist, was murdered over of a piece of land already stained with Aboriginal blood. When Aboriginal bones dating from a white-settlement era massacre are discovered The Prime Minister’s words, “We committed the murders” take physical form.
Society demands each act of murder is investigated, the guilty punished, justice served. The Old School demands the same of Australia’s sentimental attachment to its stories of war.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It's almost summer (well it's almost the end of winter).

I don't do winter well. It's probably no coincidence that the rather long silence on the blog roughly corresponds to this Sydney winter, which has been extra cold, extra wet and extra miserable.

So it's probably also not a coincidence that having had my first outdoor swim of the new season at North Sydney Olympic Pool today in glorious mid-twenties temperature, I find myself back at the blog and doing a bit of an update.

Much too much to catch up on.

There was a lovely writing residency up at Varuna in the late autumn.

There were log fires, red wine, delicious food, quiet times writing in Eleanor Dark's studio

and long walks, that always seemed to end up somewhere that served good coffee and homemade chocolates.

Then there was the Sydney Writers' Festival where I had a marvellous opportunity to talk about crime with Shamini Flint and Nicole Watson, moderated by Mark Dapin in front of a knowledgable crowd. It was also the opportunity to experience first hand the "Oh my, that other writer's autograph queue is looooong" moment that all writers must face.

In our case, we were up against one of the SWFestival's BIG stars, Michael Cunningham. As our little crime panel wandered in and sat down we saw a long queue, a very long queue. It went out the door and down the stairs of the Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay. A few hardy souls of the the criminally minded found their way in and we signed, with delight.

Then as we scurried left the room, past that long, long line, we were waylaid by some delightful audience members clutching our books, unknowingly caught at the back of Mr Cunningham's queue (and possibly thinking to themselves, "Wow, these crime writers are coining it!")

Since then, I've been lucky to have shared microphones with Kirsten Tranter, James Bradley, Georgia Blain and Mardi McConnochie, at a series of "When Genres Attack" events with Shearers Bookshop. These events are an ongoing project that will be growing, and spreading, to many indie bookshops. It's a chance for writers to provide some of that extra je ne sais quoi that customers can get at a bricks and mortar bookshop, that the online experience just can't deliver. And that is, a good night out, in good company, taking part in a good conversation about books, writing, reading, and storytelling in all its forms.

There are more events coming - and I'll be updating the events page in the next day or so.

Then of course there is Book 2, which has been preoccupying my mind as I work through the editorial feedback from my thoughtful and insightful editor Jo Rosenberg. I say pre-occupied, as the winter blues have had me riddled with good old fashioned old self doubt.

Amazing what a difference one afternoon sitting in the warmth of the outdoor office, listening to the churn of the pool with the manuscript on the knees, can make.

Pages were struck through boldly, new bits added, structure starting to take a bit of a hopeful shape. Roll on spring and summer.

One of the many distractions to working on novel structure 24/7 has been my new role as Writer-in-Residence at North Sydney Council.

This has given me a space to work in, at the beautiful Don Bank Museum - a mid 1800s wooden house in North Sydney's CBD, surrounded by high-rise.

It has also given me a project - My Place at The Pool. As part of the North Sydney Olympic Pool's 75th Anniversary, I'm working on a way of collecting words and images about it from the people who love it. Drop in at the blog and add yours.

There is more news, a short story in the works, and an online writing course that's got me rather excited and adding to the deadlinitis, some future teaching news, and more.

But I'll save that for the next blog.

At this stage I'll close with some rather lovely news that arrived this week.

The Old School has been shortlisted for a Ned Kelly Award along side two very fine books Line of Sight by David Whish-Wilson, and Prime Cut by Alan Carter (both Western Australian stories and writers!)

Congratulations to both David and Alan, two very fine books. If you haven't read them, go, do it now.

I'm also thrilled that my mate Angela Savage has made it two out of two with her second book, The Half Child, being shortlisted for the main Ned Kelly award. She's side by side with Chris Wormsely's Bereft anGeoffrey McGeachin's  The Diggers Rest Hotel. Angela has written a fabulous book, handling issues of culture and society in Thailand, doing what crime fiction does best.

That's it for now, more soon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Go big or go home .....

... or you could go to the Sydney Writers' Festival, in May.

I'm looking forward to talking about crime fiction, The New School of crime fiction no less, with Shamini Flint, Nicole Watson and Mark Dapin, on 22 May.

Come along it should be fun.

And continuing the go big or go home theme, well sometimes, go small can be good too.

Coming at the end of May - The Old School in B format.

Same number of words, in a smaller and sexier spine.

Loving the new blue look, the nice words and that gorgeous little Penguin shimmying on the spine.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Guwanyi (to tell) - 3rd National Aboriginal Writers’ Festival at NSW Writers' Centre

Often it's the headline "names" that lure you in to a writers' festival, but it's the discovery of the "names" you've never heard of that deliver another level of satisfaction in the experience. Cathy Craigie, Festival Curator, delivered on all counts at Guwanyi.

On Saturday 19th March the NSW Writers' Centre was the venue for Guwanyi (to tell) the 3rd National Aboriginal Writers’ Festival there were well-known names in Aboriginal writing, such as Anita Heiss and Kim Scott, along with brand new names, such as Ricky Macourt, and (to this reader) a previously unheard voice such as poet Ali Cobby Eckermann.

The day opened with Anita Heiss and Peter Minter talking about the process of editing the Macquarie Pen Anthology of Aboriginal Literature. They began with Peter Minter reading the first text in the anthology, Bennelong's letter to Governor Phillip, the first recorded written text by an Aboriginal author.

The letter, much like the man who dictated it, prompted discussion and divergent responses. Minter saw the letter as exemplifying the twin themes of the anthology - the way in which Aboriginal people used the language of the colonisers strategically in order to negotiate survival and also as a way of preserving culture.

Minter read the letter as an example of a man attempting to strategically negotiate with authority in a new language, whilst also trying to establish a sense of reciprocity, of exchange, in an attempt to preserve culture. For others the letter prompted tears of sadness, whilst some felt strongly that Bennelong was a collaborator.

The discussion about Bennelong, known to white Australia through school texts and place names, proved that he is still a contested figure. So, it did seem like the universe was stirring the possum when, the following day, the Sunday papers led with headlines that after 198 years the site of Bennelong's grave had been located in the front yard of a house in suburban Putney.

Anita Heiss talked about the editorial process of choosing what went into the anthology, narrowing down from 3,000+ pieces to 81. Their approach was that Aboriginal literature is about self- representation, so they pushed the boundaries of what was regarded as "literature" by including letters, petitions, manifestos, song lyrics, plays, autobiographical and biographical materials as these were where the voices were located.

The second session chaired by Melissa Lucashenko was about how to use genres and included Goie Wymarra, a young woman with a lot of stories and different ways to tell them. Goie Wymarra has used comedy, film, children's books, and is now working on animated films at Batchelor Institute as part of a creative writing degree. Wayne Blair had exciting news about transferring the stage play The Sapphires into a screenplay for the big screen.  

Marcus Waters spoke about writing screenplays for mainstream TV and his eventual disillusionment when he was unable to write stories that included Aboriginal faces or experiences. He described getting the courage to walk away and tell his own stories. He now concentrates on writing stories from the community and for the community, for his kids. In a moving reading he shared one of these stories with the audience, "Fade to Black."

The third session discussed the ways to get Aboriginal writers out into the world, and heard from AIATSIS (The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) and their publishing arm the Aboriginal Studies Press. Ricky Macourt spoke about writing his life as a boy from Nambucca Heads who winds up as a boarder at a Sydney private school into Jali Boy, part of the Yarning Strong series by Laguna Bay Publishing. He is now studying law at Bond University, and his ambitions to be Australia's first Aboriginal Prime Minister (or President) do not seem unreasonable. 

The third panel member, Ali Cobby Eckermann, spoke about the battle to find her family in her thirties, an event she believes saved her life. Growing up with a family that loved her but denied her their knowledge of her birth family triggered her writing. She talked about her "need to tell" as greif and anger were blocking her ability to live her life. She then read some of her poetry, which contained the heartbreak and the humour of an extraordinary woman and gifted writer. 

Lunch was accompanied by some open mike poetry readings on the verandah from the stars of the next festival, then it was time to return for the afternoon sessions.

A session asking Is there a future for Indigenous Literature? - was sure to provoke lively discussion, and it did. Melissa Lucashenko argued that literature should not be narrowly conceived, that is should be an account of "What it is to be alive in this place where so many have lived before." In thinking about what story is for, she believes it is for building a society that works. 

Philip Mclaren talked about subject matter determining readership, using the example of Martin Cruz Smith, a Native American writer who sells millions of his straight thriller novels (Arkady Renko) and considerably less of his Indigenous themed work. Same writer, same talent, same skill. Mclaren suggested Indigenous Australian writing should consider writing their own "Gorky Parks" which got the debate off to a flying start.

Bruce Pascoe said he felt confident and hopeful about the future. He pointed out that ten years ago this festival wouldn't have happened, so it was a concrete sign that Aboriginal Literature was strong and getting stronger. He believes that the country, the landscape itself, was changing White Australia.

Cathy Craigie chaired Kim Scott, fresh from his success as the winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the best book in south-east Asia and the Pacific, and Leanne Tobin, whose research into her family history uncovered a wealth of documents charting negotiations over land in "Blacks Town" Western Sydney conducted by a strong Aboriginal woman Maria Locke.

Kim Scott talked about how his novel That Deadman Dance grew out of a decade of reading the historical archives, his project on "cultural maintenance," such as his book with Noongar elder Aunty Hazel Brown. It became clear to him as he read that the protagonists in these archives were not victims, and that, for a short time, the oldest civilisation in the world and the newcomers had conducted relations across a friendly frontier. 

He realised this might be a bit of a controversial take, as "the dominant yarn is the story of defeat", but from his point of view, "the story is not over" it's a "long yarn." The resistance warrior stories have appeal but Scott fears that these stories are not perhaps the most nurturing for angry, damaged people to tap into, and are in many ways similar to the Gallipoli stories white Australia tells itself.

The overwhelming sense of confidence that he drew from the archives, stories about strong people, people who were so confident, people of their place, were the source of his approach to the book. The colonisers were outnumbered and scared and, as Scott put it, "When we had power - how classy we were." 

Cathy Craigie compared the Noongar encounters with the story that emerges from Cpt. Dawes' diaries and his encounter with Patyegarang. The themes of exchange and reciprocity, adaptability and ambassadorial roles felt like we had returned full circle to the first story of the day in Bennelong's letter.

Kim Scott spoke about creating a new narrative, the Recovery Narrative, and his desire to story it in a way that empowers the whole community.

There was more, a lot more, but perhaps it's best to seek out some of the works mentioned and read them, and check out your local festivals for these, and other names, and listen to them. 

Ali Cobby Eckermann signed my copy of her book of poetry, and I'll quote her inscription to finish off: 

Palya - travel true.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Why The Wire sets the bar for crime fiction writers

It started on twitter.

An observation from Jon Page, of Pages and Pages Bookstore, who was re-watching Season 4 of The Wire. He was moved to tweet that it was "the best written piece of drama (novel, TV, movie) ever" - which kick started a conversation conducted in 140 character bursts. The Wire lovers tumbled out of cyber space to wax lyrical about the show and debate Jon's suggestion that a TV drama could go close to having the depth, complexity, and weight of a novel. It later moved on to Facebook, where there was a bit more room to talk about the ideas.

Not being one to waste words, I've taken my contribution to the conversation and tidied it up a little bit for the blog.

I was thinking about what it was about The Wire, that for me, made it perhaps the most powerful piece of dramatic fiction (written or visual) that I'd ever come in contact with. It certainly stands as a powerful piece of crime fiction, and towers over every other crime genre TV drama yet made but I think it was doing more than that.

When looking at it in the terms of a novel, I feel that the sheer scope of The Wire does what few other single novels do. Whilst the old-school of, for example, Dickens and Tolstoy certainly didn't shy away from vast sagas, big casts, long sweeps of time and history, there is a tendency in contemporary fiction to choose to go small, even if the "issue" is big. 
The focus is usually on an individual or small handful of individuals, even if large sweeps of history are taking place outside. The increasing popularity of the 1st person narrator also tends to preclude a vast narrative sweep in which a range of characters present their stories.

The Wire is structured in five seasons, with each season being similar to a novel, each episode a detailed chapter. As the seasons went on, The Wire just built and built and built. It kept filling out a rich and detailed cast of characters, who were all interrelated, all connected organically by the city of Baltimore. 

As the seasons passed characters died, minor players grew into major ones, the focus shifted from the streets, to the schools, to the media, without ever forgetting any of these places on the way, and all the while five years of life in a decaying American city unfolded.

Seriality is not new in crime fiction. It's one of the characteristics of the genre, and that feature is often raised as a reason that it fails the serious literature test. In all honesty, the serial nature of crime fiction and its investigators is not often used as effectively as it could be, becoming a dilution of story rather than a strength. 

This is why, for me, The Wire raised the bar on crime fiction writing. After seeing how long form serialised drama was used on The Wire, seriality should no longer be seen only as a lazy shortcut to writing the same book, over and over again. Instead it should be the key to developing complex, nuanced characters and places of rich texture, that grow and change and have decided effects one upon the other.

In trying to think of "crime" that has had such a broad scope, Ian Rankin was one of the first crime writers to actually place his detective in "real" time, have him age and change, and interact with the real world. James Ellroy's LA Quartet set in the post-war Los Angeles had a recurring cast of characters who moved through the world of the novels. I have The Red Riding Trilogy DVD set on my shelf to watch soon, based on David Peace's Red Riding Quartet of novels which cover a decade in time.

I'm hoping that The Wire will have an impact on crime writing, not just on TV drama production. It's no coincidence that crime writers worked on The Wire. Pelecanos, Lehane & Price formed a real synergy with Simon and Burns to produce something that took storytelling to a new place. They managed to marry the pace and narrative of the written form to the visual form and the result was extraordinary.

However, there are somethings The Wire does which a book cannot. Visual storytelling can do things that, when done in a novel, are not as obvious or as effective.

The Wire featured a cast that was predominantly black. Something that is not often seen on American TV, and not seen at all on Australian TV. In a novel this just does not have the same impact. You can describe the characters and name them, the reader can register their ethnicity, their colour, their appearance, and then the reader gets stuck straight back into the story.

But remember watching the first few episodes of The Wire? 

They were confusing, hard to follow.


Well, because for most of us viewers we were not that used to seeing so many African American faces all at once in the one show. Most mainstream movies and TV shows usually feature "the" black character, (the Asian character, the Hispanic character, etc) and perhaps his/her family. Generally there is not an entire community of non-white faces who appear all on the screen at once, all in the same scenes at once.

I'll freely confess that it took me time to figure out who was who. It took me time to be able to tell Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale apart. That was confronting. That told me, the viewer, a few things about myself that I wasn't all that proud to discover.

Not only that, but the language these characters were using was a barrier. That could be solved by (belatedly) turning on the sub-titles, suddenly the "ya feel me" code was cracked, and I could identify the characters by name (Poot? Wee-Bey?) but the makers of this show (as Simon has said in many interviews) deliberately set out to make the viewer work, and to discover something about themselves as they did.

The Wire, in this way, kicks arse, both visually and literally, and does things that a novel can't do. But 
I know I'm looking to it for inspiration in my writing because it has set the bar, for brave, honest, storytelling, for characterisation and scope, for showing how to turn a political thesis into gripping human drama, in whatever format you are working in.

PS. Draft of Book 2, finally finished. A few little seams to sew up, buttonholes to add and remove. And it's off.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Writers on rafts, upcoming events and a rather lovely surprise

The floods that have hammered Queensland over the last few weeks have drawn support from Brisbane's Mop Army to sports folk donating amazing packages.

The Queensland Writers Centre have come up with a fund raising project that offers something for everyone. Ever wanted your name in print? Well, how about your name turning up in John Birmingham's latest volume of all-explodey goodness? What about a book package signed and sealed by Emily Maguire? Or a visit from Linda Jaivin? I don't get out much, so I volunteered myself for a few things.

Five bucks will buy you a ticket in Writers on Rafts that's right $5! Prizes will be drawn on February 25. More information here.

I have a few events to update on the events page - until I do that, this is what the year holds so far:

List of upcoming events: 

Sunday, 6 February, 3pm
I'll be having a yak with Partners in Crime  at the St Helens Community Centre, 184 Glebe Point Road, Glebe. We're going to have a chat about The Place of Place in Crime Fiction. 
Cost is $10/ $5 (members). Contact:

May 6 and 7
I'll be at the Literati Festival, Gold Coast QLD. No website as yet, but I've seen the guest list and it's going to be a great weekend. 

Saturday 4 June, 10am - 4pm
I'll be at the NSW Writers Centre, for a 1 day Workshop Perfect Crime

Then in September back up to Queensland

17 and 18th September I'll be doing two workshops with the Queensland Writers Centre

17th September, Cairns 
Workshop From Cleanskin to Crimewriter

18th September, Townsville 
Workshop From Cleanskin to Crimewriter

#WIP is the twitter hashtag lonely writers wave from their desks to signal their engagement on the work in progress. 

As to my, #WIP, it progresses. 

The scary bits I've been putting off have started to appear and the first set of eyes have started reading. Doing it like Dickens - I'm sending out instalments. Keeps the pressure up on me not to succumb to the vortex of endless rewriting - so far so good.

About to clean off the big white board (as the breakdown of final scenes there no longer resembles the breakdown of final scenes in scrivener and in my head) and look at landing the plane in detail. While it's good to forward plan - it's also good to stay flexible. (Usually results in a bit of back-stitching - but it won't be the first, or the last, time things get unpicked, re-arranged and re-stitched.)

In a delightful bit of news this week The Old School has been shortlisted in the Debut Fiction Category of the 2011 Indie Awards alongside some very fine books indeed: Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer, Book of Lost Threads by Tess Evans, The Legacy by Kirsten Tranter.

As an unknown novelist you step into a very very very crowded agora with your first book. The difference between debut, and dead in the water, comes down to the enthusiasm of the Indie Booksellers, readers themselves who are prepared to pick you up off the shelf and put you in the hands of other readers. It's every wallflower's dream come true.

Thank you Indies!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

B2 D1.5

Realising that I've been a tad slack about updating the blog - the new year is here and already into double figures!

So Happy New Year to all. May it bring stories to tell for one and all.

Busy being busy here, still working away on B2 D1.5 (that's Book 2 Draft 1.5). The 1.5 is because the majority of it is first draft plus a read through and re-draft whilst a small but significant section is fresh - very fresh - smoking, steaming fresh - some of it, in fact, is still "cookie dough" to borrow an analogy. Which is to say, I'm still at the stomach knotting, knuckle gnawing stage where I wonder if the story I have to tell and the way I want to tell it is going to work. No way to know for sure until it's finished and being read, so press on.

I've started to send out bits to be read by a trusted set of eyes. We're "doing it like Dickens" - starting at the beginning and moving on. It's good because it gives me the sense that the story is in motion, so to speak. But I'm still to get my head around releasing it into the editing/drafting process in a much rawer state than The Old School. That's when I get the stomach churning, knuckle gnawing, yips again.

I did get to take my mind off my own long-dark-tea-time-of-the-soul for the traditional five day pilgrimage to the SCG for the New Years Test. Nothing like seeing a team of cricketers being comprehensively humbled, before a huge crowd to put things in perspective. The fact it was an Ashes Test just made it hurt more.

The Barmy Army were in full voice (have to admit, it is good to see them finally get the team they deserve). Twenty thousand voices singing "The mighty - mighty - English" (and other much ruder things to Mitchell Johnson) was rather traumatising by Day 4. That's how I felt and I was only in the stands - I imagine Mitch Johnson might need therapy.

I confess to returning home and watching the South Africa V India game on the telly at night, to remind myself of what a real contests looked like. Steyn and Tendulkar both at the top of their games. Magic.

And ..... oh yes.

Indulged in a little extra-curricular fun involving a short story and a cylon.