BIBLIOPHILIA: THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

  1. The only places to purchase new books in Karratha are K-Mart and the airport. Karratha does not have a dedicated book store.
  2. The actual best bookstore in Karratha is the Tip Shop, which has an extensive collection of thrown-out books of variable quality for ten cents each.
  3. Even so, it’s hardly a bloody Mecca as far as book buying goes.
  4. Let’s not even talk about graphic novels.
  5. Luscious, the kids, and I spent the first week of these school holidays with our adult kids in Toodyay.
  6. We spent about half a day in Perth and a similar amount of time in Fremantle.
  7. Book stores.
  8. Luscious is 5ft 0 tall.

 

Book stack

 

5 FOR FRIDAY: BOOKS EVERY WRITER SHOULD HAVE

It’s been a couple of weeks: full-time employment called, and while I may not have been engaged in the writah-dahlink life I crave, my son’s Scout Jamboree for next year has been paid for, so that’s a thing that happened.

While I desperately try to re-insert writing back into my daily routine, I’ll need a bit of help and guidance. Here, then, are five books that form the cornerstone of my industry reading, and the pillars upon which my library of books about writing stand.

Continue reading “5 FOR FRIDAY: BOOKS EVERY WRITER SHOULD HAVE”

FIVE FOR FRIDAY: BOOKS I WISH I’D WRITTEN

As a reader, there’s approximately one hundred million billion zillion gajillion books that I love with great loveness and which are my squishy and that I pet and love and call my squishy. Approximately.

As an author, there are times when it’s impossible not to see the man behind the curtain. For all the individual skill involved, there are certain cornerstones of the craft that are apparent to anyone else practising that craft.

Occasionally, however, I read a novel that rocks me back on my heels, makes me blow out my cheeks and shake the book gently, all the while muttering “Man. I wish I’d written that.”  Here are five.

Five for Friday: Books I Wish I’d Written

Continue reading “FIVE FOR FRIDAY: BOOKS I WISH I’D WRITTEN”

MAGRIT GOT REAL

The dust has finally settled, I’ve gone back to the real world, and I can finally reflect on a mad fortnight of Magrit-related shenanigans.

First up was a surprise appearance at the Perth Writers Festival— a surprise to me as much as anybody else, as I was only added the roster 10 days out from the event when Emily Rodda pulled out, long after all the publicity material had been prepared and programmes printed. Even so, an invitation to appear is not one you turn down, so I duly rocked up to the Festival Schools Day on Thursday and spent a delightful 45 minutes talking all things writing with veteran YA author Carole Wilkinson and moderator Deb Fitzpatrick, as well as all the things you usually do on a panel for kids– pretending to eat the microphone, pulling stupid faces, impersonating Emily Rodda…… you know……

Talking all things kid books with Deb Fitzpatrick and Carole Wilkinson

Friday I rejoined Carol at a session for teachers on inspiring writing in the classroom, chaired by AJ Betts and in the presence of the all-powerful Andy Griffiths, who kindly consented to a selfie and a signed book for Master 11, who was filthy as could be that he was unable to meet his literary hero. Andy was an education– quiet and internalised off-stage, he came alive in front of an audience, mixing charm, performance and insight, then returning to his quiet, self-contained self at the end. While the session itself was enjoyable, and it was nice to talk about the teaching of writing for a change, exposure to other authors and the way they manage themselves is beyond valuable. Andy and Carole are very different people, and the insight into their working lives was incredible.

Andy Griffith: consummate professional, fantastic showman, and a guy who will turn it on anywhere, anyhow, if it means making a kid happy. An absolute education to work with. 

And then there was Sunday. A solo session, at 9 in the morning, (that’d be Sunday morning), for a pack of kids almost all of whom were expecting Emily Rodda. No pressure, then….. Stuck for ideas, Luscious and the kids jumped on and helped me stuff a bag full of random items from the garage, and while I read sections from the book, the kids used the parts to build a Master Puppet skeleton at my feet. I think they did quite well, too.

Haranguing children while they go into a feeding frenzy at my feet. 
Typical Sunday morning, really.
Pimp my Master Puppet.

The rest of the Festival was a joy, as it is is when you’ve got an artist lanyard in your hot little hand. Apart from access to the paid sessions for free, it entitles you to access the green room, whereby you can meet the other artists, and comes with an invitation to the opening night party. I bumped into the delightful Melinda Tognini, who I hadn’t seen since our first year of University in 1989, Luscious met Jack Heath, which was her entire reason for attending the festival, so much did she love his current novel, and Master 11 got an insight into the professional life of an author. It’s one of the reasons I attend every year: I get to breath in the essence of authorship, and realign my compass with the wider literary world beyond the cramped, and increasingly unsatisfying, speculative fiction borders I’ve inhabited until now.

Also, those big signs they have in the social centre of the Festival?
I may have got a little graffitti-y……

I’ve three books in my computer, all part-started and all clamouring for attention: another children’s novel, a crime novel, and a linked collection of supernatural historical stories. These are the works I need to complete, before I take on anything else. Being at the Festival, exposed to the full range of the literary spectrum, helps me realise how large that literary world is, and how much of it I still want to explore.

Then it was on to Stefen’s Books the following weekend, and the official Magrit launch. Stefen has always been good to me, and this occasion was no exception, with a window display, posters throughout the store, and a sell-out crowd that emptied the shop of stock. Some reading, a revival of some of my old stand-up skills (such as they are), and an awful lot of skeletons drawn in an awful lot of books — a once-only addition to my signature– and Magrit was officially launched into the world. As is a Stefen’s tradition, we then retired to the pub next door for lunch, a drink or two, and much laughter, which is part of what makes his launches so special.

Of course, what that also means, is that you can now get yourself down to Stefen’s to pick up a copy of the book, or order it from Walker, or find it at any one of a million billion trillion excellent, good, or utterly dodgy bookstores. Go on. What’s stopping you?

The set-up at Stefen’s. He knows how to treat an author well. 

I should have knicked this on the way out, I really should have……

Getting my signing on. Those worms weren’t all for me– we passed them through the crowd, just before I read the section where Magrit feeds the new baby by squishing worms through her toes and feeding him the paste. Because what’s a reading without sweeties and cruelty?

Let me tell you: a window display never, and I mean never, gets old. 

With Ms 14 and Master 11, who inspired the book and copped 
a dedication for their trouble.

So that’s it: Magrit is now out into the world, I’ve had my annual reminder of what it is to be a real writer, and now it’s back to the day-by-day crunch of day job, with a garnish of must-sit-down-and-write-something-today. I’ve made it know that my next work will be abut a boy who derails a ghost train, so I guess I’d better start adding to the 2500 words I’ve completed so far, right?………

TEN OF THE BEST…. AND THE OTHER BEST

There’s a meme doing the rounds of Facebook that requires the recipient to name 10 books that have had an impact upon them, then pass the disease on to ten innocent schmucks. Rather than waste all that typing on just one form of social media, I thought I’d list them here, too.

1. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein. Read it for the first time when I was ten and it blew the breath out of my mind. I’d never experienced such scope, depth and majesty in a story before, and have pretty much never experienced it since. Read it every year until my mid-twenties, and a few times again since then.

2. The Cats by Joan Phipson. The first book I ever bought with my own money. A kids book about psychic cats who kidnap a kid in the Australian bush.

3. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner. An amazing dystopian near-future SF work that feels as relevant and likely now as it did when I first read it in my early 20s. Brunner is the author David Brin wishes he could be when he grows up.

4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Everything I wanted to write when I grew up, in a single trilogy. It hasn’t aged well, but its impact on the 16 year old me cannot be overstated.

5. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. Sparse, brutal and unforgiving. The perfect crime novel.

6. The Scar by China Meiville. My first Mieville novel, it kicked off an ongoing love affair that has never abated. Beautifully lyrical, ugly, despairing, and epic and everything in the weird that I want to achieve.

7. Science Fiction Stories for Boys, editor unknown. A cheap ‘Octopus Books’ collection of the type that used to proliferate in the wild 70s before copyright law reached Australia. My first real SF book, it contained the story that set me on the path to an SF future. My first taste of Asimov, Heinlein, Leiber and Harrison. I still have it, and it’s still brilliant.

8. Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson. The first modern fantasy book I read that dared to break the Tolkein template. A deeply unlikeable protagonist, acres of grit and despair, a true sense of dirt under the fingernails of a real second world. The clear forerunner to the current ‘Grimdark’ generation of Joe Abercrombie and peers.

9. Booklife by Jeff VanderMeer. The book that helped me sit down and define my career goals at a time when I was floundering. More than one recent success is down to its lessons.


10. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre. Sparse, brutal and unforgiving. A perfect ‘cold equations’ novel, and still just about the best thriller ever written.

And because I’m me:

11. Red Country by Joe Abercrombie. The best novel of the last 5 years, bar none. Brilliantly grim, realistic fantasy, filled with consequences and the kind of bleak beauty rarely seen outside of a John Huston film. A stunning novel


And just for yucks, my friend Stephen Dedman decided I should list 10 films in the same way. So I did:

1. Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Brilliant satirical dark comedy centred around stunning multiple performances from Peter Sellers, who is never better than here. Kubrick’s best film by a country mile.

2. The Crow. Dark, dystopian revenge fantasy that distills everything that a 19 year old in the late 80s found too cool for words, backed by the single best soundtrack in movie history. Nominally a superhero film and on that basis still one of the best 3 or 4 superhero films ever made.

3. ET. First saw it on an excursion with my under 13 soccer team. We’ll all deny it to our dying breaths, because we were Rockingham bogans trying to be tough, but we all bawled like we were sponsored by Kleenex. The special effects have dimmed over time, but the emotional impact never has.


4. The Italian Job. The film that inspired a life long love of heist movies. Good, clean, criminal fun from beginning to end.


5. Fight Club. Nihilistic, counter-culture view of a personal apocalypse. Brilliantly out of kilter, with a career-defining performance from Brad Pitt.


6. 12 Monkeys. The perfect combination of Terry Gilliam’s visual and narrative brilliance, Brad Pitt’s superb ability to create a beautiful freak, and a thoughtful and finely tuned SF plot. An utter classic.


7. Iron Man. I’m making no excuses here: this is the movie the 8 year old me waited 30 years to see, and it was everything I expected it to be. I loves it with loves that turns any form of criticism at all into “nahnahnahnahcan’thearyoucan’thearyounahnahnah…”


8. Blade Runner. Ridley Scott was never better. Another stunning, beautiful dystopia rendered in images so perfect they will live forever in my internal viewfinder. The flames along the edge of Sean Young’s iris may be the most perfect filmic image ever committed.


9. The General. Film’s greatest magician at his highest peak. Brilliant comedy, special effects, stunts and storytelling, still genuinely gripping after 90 years.


10. A Night at the Opera. My first Marx Brothers movie, it still has the power to crease me over with helpless laughter and yet, as I grow older, it’s the quiet moment of Harpo and Chico playing together on the ship that fill me with wonder. The archetypal something-for-everyone comedy, it should make talentless hacks like Adam Sandler hang his soulless head in shame. A wonder.


So there we go. Now tell me, what’s your list? What books and films have had a lasting impact upon your poor, tortured psyche?