"I'm just going to write because I can't help it."- Charlotte Brontë

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

And the Lucky Winner is...

So. The Halloween draw for a free copy of Return of the Dead Men (and Women) Walking anthology full of stories about undead folk of all shapes and sizes. The road to this draw was not an easy one, I can tell you, and there were dramas a' plenty. Extravagant plans for a glittering gala event at my neighbourhood centre for struggling scribes with some local literary luminary desperate for exposure drawing the winning number fell apart when our usual last Wednesday of the month meeting was replaced by a non-Halloween, Friday night trivia contest. Since I seem to have misplaced my tiara, perhaps this was for the best.

Fortunately, a busy friend who is not me kindly agreed to pop around this evening and do the honours for a quick cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit or two.

Unfortunately, with that settled, I realised I'd forgotten to buy a witch's hat or pumpkin. No worries, I thought, I'll get one at the cheapo place next to the supermarket when I go shopping. So, after putting in a few hours of flat out writing here at home (yay!) I sauntered into town, but alas, I was so diverted by winning $13.90 on my lottery ticket and procuring a whopping great pineapple for the low price of $3.95 that I forgot my original mission. My mind at the moment, as I may have mentioned a few times previously, is not exactly a steel trap. The superhuman ability to improvise under great duress, however, is still mine to wield, so a woven hat covered in giant seashells became an official Sea Witch's Hat. My friend turned up, tutted at the lack of a suitably black and conical piece of head attire or pumpkin for the draw, took her cup of tea and chocolate biscuits up front, politely declined to be photographed, then adequately performed her task. Five slips went into that Sea Witch's Hat on this balmy Halloween evening, but only one came out again.

I won't even go into how my computer then stuffed me around and it looked as if I might not be able to post this notice.

And so without further ado, but lots of trumpet blowing to celebrate the event (a freebie!!!!), the lucky winner is:

Congratulations, Mary!!! If you send me your mailing address, I'll forward the information on to the people at Bards and Sages Publishing, and they'll make sure you get your prize. Enjoy.

And a big thank you to everyone who participated. My blog stats show that oodles of people clicked the pumpkin picture and checked out the competition, but it seems that only the few, the fabulous five, were brave enough to commit. I wish I had more copies to give away so you could each get one. Thank you again.

Now I'm off to put on my pyjamas and watch a suitably scary Halloween movie.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Zombie Thesis

Large Hadron Collider. The Higgs Boson particle stars in a physics experiment that accelerates out of control. Zombies ensue.

Yep, zombies. More zombies. 2012 is definitely the Year of the Zombie.

In a breaking piece of Halloween-is-fast-approaching news, a group of Physics PhD students have put their degrees to good use and made DECAY, a horror movie set in the LHC. Apparently: The greatest discovery in physics could be our last.

But be warned, you nitpicking science buffs. Amazingly: This film has not been authorized or endorsed by CERN.

You can check out the trailer HERE.

Also, here's an ever so gentle reminder that the Halloween Giveaway will be drawn soon. If you'd like to possibly win a free print copy of Return of the Dead Men (and Women )Walking, click the pumpkin picture to your right sometime over the next forty-eight hours, or thereabouts, read about how easy it is to enter, and then do so or forever hold your peace.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Another Horse Riding Hit

I'm feeling good, though tired (naps have been taken), after another swig of that greatest of get well tonics called horse riding.

My sister very kindly came up Saturday and stayed over to make everything easy, convenient and low-energy for me, so all we had to do after brekky this morning was head on up the road to Daylesford, turn a sharp left, and arrive in time for a ten o'clock ride. Words simply cannot describe how gorgeous the weather was today or how lush and colourful the Spring landscape was - everyone was commenting on it, everyone was radiating contentment. With oodles of good cheer, we headed off into the Wombat Forest together, just my sister and I, on lively horses that were both fully and joyfully in tune with the utter wonderfulness of the day. It was just a short 2.5 hour ride like last time, but it went so well that we're planning one more short ride next month, then I'll try to tackle an all dayer in December. Hopefully we can resume our usual riding trips after that.

So, now I just need to get my writing routine up to scratch as well and I'll once again be a fully functioning Gitte. Ah well, steady as she goes...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's All Hush Hush

The Chook has stayed away for a lot longer than usual this time. Obviously, her mission is one of extreme importance.

I can't say anything for certain, but I do have four words for you : United States presidential election.

Say no more. And please, keep it under your hat.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Experiments in Self-Exposure

I've only ever been asked exactly four times to write pieces for other blogs, but each time I venture out into the wide world of the Internet, I learn new things. The most important lesson I've learnt is the most obvious, that once something with your name on it is out there, it's out there, and there's no undoing it.

The first invitation I received was an email from the ether last year soliciting my help for a project that looked fun and interesting - a blog about writers and their loyal lap warmers that might eventually become a book to be titled A Cat on my Keyboard. I was flattered to receive the request, and enthusiastically set about ruthlessly exploiting a member of my feline tribe for self-promotional purposes. Also, I wanted to share with the world just how damned cute he is. The result was this piece about Cooper. As you can see, I was obviously the only person who responded to the request for cutesy, catty material, which now seems a little embarrassing. The whole blog and book thing seems to have completely stalled too. Ah well, I couldn't know that at the time. Lesson learnt: check out who else is supporting such projects before you commit.

The second invitation blew me away - an offer to participate in this 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. My gosh, was I excited and flattered and all of the above or what? I carefully crafted my answers to David McDonald's questions, but then ruined the effect by sending off a hastily snapped selfie to accompany the post. All I can say in my defense is that I'd just been through one operation and was rushing around getting things ready for the second major operation, my mind addled by pain and my judgement seriously impaired by pain killers, so the photo seemed okay at the time. Then, while I was in recovery, my two, ever-so-sensitive brothers began to tease me about it, because that's what brothers do. When I looked again with my post-op eyes, I saw they had a point. Lesson learnt: I desperately need to scrub up, find a photographer who specialises in diffuse lighting, and procure myself a professional looking author pic for self-promo purposes.

My third invitation was the one I blogged about a few weeks ago - the author interview for Return of the Dead Men (and Women) Walking, which hasn't been used yet. Possibly it won't be used because it will require too much editing - I did go on a bit, and it turns out the interviews are actually micro interviews. Lesson learnt: find out how much space you're supposed to take up with your wafflings.

And now for my most recent foray out into the world of letting it all hang loose - I'm this week's Wednesday Writer over at David McDonald's excellent blog Ebon Shores. And a big thank you to David for extending this invitation. I think it's an okay piece, but of course I'm having second thoughts about it now that it's too late to go back.  As you can see, it does need an author pic, but since, as I told David, I don't have any reasonable and attachable photos that don't include a horse, the book cover will have to suffice. Lesson learnt: the same one as earlier, namely that I still need to secure a tolerable author pic.

Funnily enough, late last night, mere minutes after I emailed off this piece about second-guessing, I received notification from two editors, who last week quickly rejected my first submission to them for a themed publication, that they're holding my second submission for further consideration. It was a story I sent off on a whim when I suddenly realised it fitted the guidelines even though I was sure they'd outright reject it...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oh No, Not Noir!

I had a movie-going experience yesterday that hasn't happened in many years - people constantly walking out of the cinema all throughout a film. By the end credits, about a third of the audience had left. The movie was Killing Them Softly, a gritty, stylish, outrageous, exceedingly bleak but, for those tuned into its vibe, smart and funny film that was all about the characters being true to themselves, even if that meant them being tiresome and obnoxious, rather than pandering to the audience's entertainment needs. It's set in a tough guy underworld almost entirely populated and ruled by cock-of-the-walk men all looking to accumulate huge amounts of cash and garner alpha male points to impress their colleagues. The dialogue made my ears hum with joy - noir knows only too well that it needs to provide us with snappy lines and cut-glass observations about society amidst the unrelenting noirness as recompense for all the nastiness, human frailty and seediness it throws at us in spades -  and I knew right from the start that I would love it. Others, probably, knew right from the start that they would hate it, and the first disappointed person left just five minutes into the film.

Up on the screen, two young men discussed with brutal frankness how best to survive a spell in prison and the second audience member exited in a hurry. A short time later, when hopeless addict Russell (Ben Mendolsohn), not looking pretty and ensconced in a grotty setting, shot up, a couple jumped to their feet and scurried out, and when the film showed Russell's disjointed POV of his surroundings, two more people left. When the sharp dialogue finally stopped long enough for the first action piece, the non-glamourised violence drove more people out. The next scene to inspire an exodus was a brilliant piece of showing, not telling, or at least I thought so, where a character is allowed to whinge and whine until the audience and the character forced to listen to this self-pity fest are thoroughly sick of the man. I wanted to smack the man around and yell at him to shut up and get a life, and so the filmmaker's desired effect was achieved as far as I'm concerned. After that, people left in dribs and drabs as they reached the end of their respective ropes.

Based on the crime novel Cogan's Trade by George V Higgins, Killing Them Softly is a movie that stirs up the old debate about whether a writer is obliged to create likable characters. Do creators have to slip in a neglected childhood or personal trauma as a quick excuse to explain why a character walks darker paths? Do bad main characters have to ultimately redeem themselves so as to not disturb the audience too much with troublesome moral dilemmas? Do crime works have to imply that their scummy protagonists would rather have a nice job in an office but life won't give them a break rather that upset readers and viewers with the knowledge that killers and swindlers and thugs go about their business as blithely as others go about their legitimate trades?

I can only imagine that the people who left the theatre were expecting more of Roberta Flack's cool vibes and less blood, bullets, exploding craniums and sometimes foul dialogue. Smart, classy hoods humming bluesy tunes as they coolly hustled each other instead of scruffy, obnoxious bottomfeeders cheating, stealing and endlessly making blatantly bad and stupid decisions. Misunderstood boys just trying to survive rather than calculating idiots who actually want to be career crims. Palatable stuff rather than visceral promptings.

Mind you, there were a certain two people in the audience whose departure early on would have been celebrated by those of us in the audience enjoying the film - a couple of lovely, but very very very chatty old ladies in the row behind us. I still find it odd that they, of all the people present, weren't the first to decamp in disgust. Anyway, when it became clear that they weren't going to settle down and cease their continuous commentary, we issued a polite, but firm, request. It was, I quote, "Could you please stop talking all the time."

They shut up instantly. Not a peep did we hear from them after that. When the lights went on, the old ladies stayed put. We were a bit slow moving off - too busy discussing the movie - and it took a few moments before I noticed that the old ladies still hadn't moved. Leaving the cinema would require them to walk down the aisle past us, and it soon became obvious to me that they weren't going to budge until we were gone. They did not want to risk any kind of contact with us. Feeling a tad guilty, I smiled at them, but they looked away and hunkered down. We left. I'm sure the old ladies eventually did too. If not, I hope the cinema attendants are keeping them well fed and watered.

And so it was that we, from the two lovely old ladies' POV, became the true bullying hoods of yesterday's piece.

***Update: I wish now I'd titled this post 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Noir'. It would have been Sooo much better, and given the week's blogging a more linked feel.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Zombie Planes

In what seems to be turning into my own personal Year of the Zombie (I watched 2 seasons of The Walking Dead and am hanging out for the third, got a story in a antho that includes zombie stories, and have seriously felt like one myself as I've shuffled about for a goodly portion of 2012), at the Arvo Job yesterday, I finished listening to the first two books in Diana Rowland's White Trash Zombie series, namely My Life as a White Trash Zombie and Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues.

Wanting something light and fun to give a lift to my workdays and take my mind far from the office, the titles alone sold me when I was perusing the audio book catalogues. I had great hopes for many chuckles and euuuuuuwwwwws, and I was not disappointed. I did, however, at one point start to worry that the series was going to make being a zombie too nice, and actually enviable, so our down-and-out heroine Angel didn't seem too icky, sort of champagne zombies or zombies lite, but fortunately things quickly yucked up. Towards the second half of the second book, our smart-mouthed, halter-top wearing, trouble-prone Southern gal was being seriously disgusting and doing terribly monstrous deeds, so I went euuuuuuwwwww, relaxed and enjoyed the ride. I mean zombies! You cannot add sparkles to what are essentially rotting corpses and pretty them up the way you can certain other undead creatures (and even then, the outcome is questionable.) I'll have to download the third book in the series, White Trash Zombie Apocalypse, quick smart.

So what do you call a mechanical creature back from the dead? Is there such a thing as a zombie airplane? Just wondering, because I know my oldest little brother is probably extremely excited about the recent discovery of dozens of Spitfires that were grounded in every sense of the word over 70 years ago in Myanmar. Soon the soil will part and these revered fighter planes will rise once more from the distant past - reports vary as to how many there are, some estimating that up to 140 mechanical revenants will re-rev their powerful Griffon engines. Given that there are only 35 Spitfires still flying, the prospect of squadrons of these ancient, mythological beasts soaring amongst us again has aviation enthusiasts all over the globe almost airborne themselves, lifted by their own kind of fanatical raptures.

I like this story a lot. It gives me hope. On a planet that often seems small and feels increasingly overcrowded, it's inspiring to know that there are still spaces big enough for secrets this huge to hide, and it's a comfort to all dreamers that the world can still come up with the goods for those intrepid questers who are stubborn enough and brave enough to go forth and seek buried treasures.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Instigating a Scientific Investigation of the Fowlest Kind

It would seem the world needs saving again, for the Chook has once more vanished. I could tell she was distracted yesterday - she just swooped in for a quick brekky and that was the last we saw of her for the whole day, even though the house was open and she usually likes to sneak inside on Wednesdays. Possibly she was too busy in her secret chookcave getting her chickenmobile prepped for combat. This morning, she was a complete no show.

I might start logging her disappearances and plot the data on a fancy graph. I'll see if I can accumulate important information that can help me make sense of these cycles, or I might be able to tie in her absences with major events of the political, natural catastrophe, astronomical or criminal kinds.

It could be an interesting experiment. Who knows what outlandish correlations one might discover.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Yay, Team Spec Fic!

I'm always pleased when great examples of the speculative fiction genre are mentioned in mainstream press and treated with the respect they deserve, and was especially happy tonight to read on the train on way home a serious economic piece in the serious political commentary section of The Age about rampant consumerism and wealth distribution that referred to Ursula Le Guin and how she "once wrote a remarkable short story on an imaginary society called Omelas". The article then goes on to explain the setting and ethical dilemma at the heart of the famous 1973 philosophical parable that all science fiction and fantasy readers know so well.

I remember how The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas blew the moral circuits of my mind the first time I read it. It so succinctly tells us that we each and every one of us are responsible citizens who have to make a decision about what kind of a society we want to live in, and that at some point, there's no fudging that choice - you have to face the truth about what kind of a person you are. It still gets me with that last sucker-punch of a line :

"The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas."

I suppose the day that line, and indeed the whole story, stops getting to one is the day one's mind has stopped questioning injustices because it's easier and more comfortable and convenient to do so, and one's heart has hardened to the point where ingrained selfishness prompts one to habitually turn a blind eye to the sufferings of the poor and the powerless. The day this story no longer has an impact is the day when we, as individuals and as a society, have decided to stay in Omelas, a sad sad day indeed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cleaning my Slate

Can one become addicted to watching Bruce Willis movies? After seeing Loopers last week and Moonrise Kingdom yesterday, I was overcome by, and surrendered to, the urge to watch 12 Monkeys again last night. Now I find myself eyeing the multiple stacks of blu-rays kindly left by my brother and battling the urge to pull out Die Hard 4 tonight - a worrisome development, because Sunday is Game of Thrones night in this household. I shall be strong and resist. No more Brucie Boy, not for for a few weeks at least. I can control this!

Addiction is something very much on my mind at the moment because I'm slowly coming off all the pain killers that have kept me upright and functional over the past 6 months. It's a very strange experience. I completely stopped taking one medication two weeks ago, and my body tried to make me believe it was suffering shooting pains down my legs and other discomforts, but I put on my poker face, waited it out, and sure enough, four days later, my nervous system threw in the towel and everything was fine again. It's a sad day when you realise your own body has become a junkie willing to lie to you for another hit.

I'm particularly eager to be done with the last lot of pills, but have been advised to gradually wean myself them off over the next few weeks. I thought the doctors were exaggerating, but nope, it's no fun. But I'll persevere. The reason I'm so keen to see the last of them is because there's no way around the fact that these strong medications, while a pharmaceutical blessing for which I have been deeply grateful up until now, seriously affect my writing and other aspects of my daily life. They make me constantly drowsy, blunt my problem-solving abilities, and for the past 5 months, there's been a thick layer of fuzziness between my cerebral cortex and cranium. I've never been a big one for believing that you have to suffer terrible deprivations to create art, but I do find it curious that analgesics should so effectively dampen one's imagination, or at least they've done so to me. No matter how hard I've pushed my brain, there have only been brief windows of time when I've felt inventive enough to get down a few new lines. I now far better understand those stories about artists who stop taking anti-depressants when they realise the medication is interfering with their creative process, choosing to risk their own well-being rather than live what they consider a half-life devoid of artistic input. Conversely, there are others who suddenly stop producing new work when they choose to stay the medicated course rather than risk the ravages of their illness. Already today, after only a few days on lower dosages, I was back at the keyboard for a flat-out, two hour stretch before breakfast, and then another session after eating. Hopefully my brain will soon once again be unfuzzy enough for me to get back into some kind of regular writing routine.  

Since writing is itself an addiction for many of us  -  we poor scriberly junkies need regular paragraph hits to feel complete and happy, obsess about when we can clear time for our next story score when not writing, and sometimes neglect other aspects of life to satisfy the need for putting down page after page of prose - I find it amusing that what I'm desperate to break my pill-popping habits so I can satisfy another habitual craving. Of the two dependencies, however, I do think writing is the lesser evil :)

I started this year with all sorts of big plans for working really hard and producing better stories and getting them off to professional publications. I had a schedule that involved writing stories for a number of upcoming anthologies complete with timelines for their completion, had tagged a number of more ambitious stories for magazines that I would love to get into, and had even dared to put aside time for finishing my YA novel. All these plans, of course, skidded off into the concourse when I tried to negotiate a particularly sharp turn on the racing track of life. I survived, and that's what really counts, but lost most of this year to medical issues. Tomorrow, because of my time out in the Land of Not Well, there's yet another deadline that I'll most reluctantly and sadly miss because I've decided the story I've been working on isn't ready - I'd prefer not to get a reputation for subbing rough drafts rather than polished pieces.

Anyway, I've decided that all this looking backwards at all this year's lost time and lost opportunities is not only useless, but it's counter-productive and misery inducing, so today I firmly cleared the table of all but one of my writing plans for 2012. I will now turn my attention from what might have been to what might still be in 2013. With the detritus of 2012 now dumped in my wastepaper basket, I've pinned nice, new notices of upcoming anthologies with deadlines due next year to the workboard over my desk, and I've tentatively planned a more realistic, light writing schedule for the remaining two months left of this year.

Then, come the month January, I'll hit 2013, and I'll hit it hard!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Mighty Amazon Gets a Smidge Mightier

Yep, there they were in my inbox this morning, sent on by kindly, well-meaning souls  - multiple links to the new Amazon Author Rank. I can, even now, almost hear the frantic mouse clicks of insecure writers all over the world as they try desperately to gauge how much the reading public loves them. Or not. I'm trying to resist the temptation to join their ranks. I have no status to speak of in the world of writing, but oh, the curiosity, the urge to take a just one peek...

Luckily, a few minutes later, I read this post by John Scalzi. Level-headed sanity from a professional is always welcome when these sort of media thingies threaten to sweep up and exploit less confident writers. He ends with:

Authors who start to worry about their Amazon ranking should likewise be aware that by doing so they’re allowing Amazon to define their success to a greater or lesser extent… and they should really ask who ultimately benefits the most from that: Amazon or them. Amazon isn’t (necessarily) evil, but Amazon is interested in its own goals, many of which may ultimately be at cross purposes to an authors’ own. Amazon will be happy to frame your career to suit its own purposes. All you have to do is let them.

Keep it in mind as you’re refreshing your Amazon author page to see where your ranking is right now.

 Good on you, John. All you have to do is let them. So true.

Now, gotta go. It's pouring down outside, but the Arvo Job beckons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gitte's Halloween Giveaway

With only three weeks to go until restless spirits unsettled by All Hallow's Eve walk amongst us for a while, it's time to get my very first giveaway competition up and shuffling. As posted last week, the good folk at Bards and Sages Publishing have offered to send a print copy of Return of the Dead Men (and Women) Walking anthology to the winners of any competitions that we contributors might get going, so I thought I'd give it a shot. A freebie is a freebie, not to be sneezed at but a thing to be seized with joy! I've made it as easy to participate as possible, and the drawing of the winner as random as possible. I may live to regret this, but what the heck. I'll muster up some Halloween bravado and forge on. So, with a long, teenage scream-queen squeal, here we go.

Step One:  Just leave a comment naming your favourite or most unfavourite, real or made up, living or undead, horror creature. One word will do it, although feel free to wax lyrical on why you like, or despise, your chosen subject. Please, keep it nice though, or you will be deleted. You don't have to come up with a little known subspecies of Mesopotamian werewolf or an obscure Aztec revenant who haunts the world for all eternity. A bog standard comment like 'I rooly trooly heart zombz' will do, even if many others have already written this. You can even be specific and name names if you prefer e.g Dracula. Don't sweat it, just participate, then cross your fingers.

Example of Stage One: My favourite undead creatures are politicians pink zombie ponies.

Step Two : Like a marine out on manoeuvres with his mates, "shout out" your number. To do this, you'll have to check the number of the person who left a comment before you. Like the marines, keep it sequential so the sarge-in-charge, a.k.a me, doesn't get confused. The first to leave a comment is one, the next person is number two and so on.

Example: My favourite undead creatures are politicians pink zombie ponies. Fourteen!

Step Two Point Five: if you're an anonymous commenter, you'll have to distinguish yourself from the other anonymous commenters by leaving a name of some sort, real or made up, or use a call sign like 'Rubber Ducky'or 'Sparkly Vampire'. Again, keep it nice or be forever vanished into cyberspace.

Step Three: There isn't a step three. You don't really have to worry about this stage of the operation. You've done your bit. Thank you, and good on you. Good luck too. No, stage three is for me. Depending on how many people sign up, I'll either buy a fancy raffle book full of tickets with printed numbers down at the super-cheap nic-nac shop next to the supermarket, or I'll just grab a nearby pen and scribble numbers on a couple of scraps of paper. Either way, the numbers will go into some sort of Halloweeny receptacle like a stylish plastic pumpkin or a witch's hat, and a ticket or scrap of paper will be pulled forth on that creepiest of nights, October 31, 2012, the one evening when you can't be entirely sure whether or not the raggedy people you see dragging their feet on the opposite side of the street are wearing costumes.

Anyway, the fanfare that goes with this special draw may be big, it may be small. Again, depending on how many people are eager to win a freebie copy of this fine tome which is so imminently suited to being a Halloween prize, I'll find someone who isn't me to draw the winning number - possibly a random stranger dressed up as a ghost that I happen to meet in the street on that spooky evening, or, less creepily, and less likely to end with me in goal, if the turnout is respectable, I'll see if I can find a volunteer at my local writers' centre to do the honours. I might even take a picture. And wear a tiara for the event.

I'll announce the winner on this blog on All Hallow's Eve. The winner can then use my contact email on this blog to send me their postal address, which I will forward to the people at Bards and Sages Publishing. They'll make sure you then get your free copy of  Return of the Dead Men (and Women) Walking anthology ASAP.

There, I think that about covers it. Easy and random. Give it go. You know you want to. Good luck.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Congrats, Clunes

During my Sunday morning leisurely read a few hours ago, I came across a piece about Clunes Booktown, which since April has actually been an accredited international booktown, one of only 15 such towns in the world. Ever since I moved from St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne, and had to give up my easy access to all the festivals that go hand in hand with living in a capital city much enamoured with artistic exhibitions, the closeness of Clunes, and the many other regional Victorian festivals that are springing up all around me, have gone a long way towards fulfilling my cultural needs. Yes, I know Melbourne is just a train trip away, but after a week of commuting, the thought of popping down for a film festival tends to make me groan. And besides, my focus has shifted to the place where I now live, as it should.

Anyway, what caught my eye about this piece was how the three organisers emphasised their determination to maintain the Clunes event as a "festival of books" as opposed to a writer's festival. That made me smile. I could almost read into the line - and I'd like to point out that this is an entirely subjective interpretation of their remark - a gritty resolve to not let the purity of the Clunes event  "degenerate" into a writer's festival, which would inevitably be about egos, personalities jostling for the biggest marquee spaces and the grubby art of promoting products. You have to admit, they have a point. Impoverished writers desperately scrabbling for attention so they can make a living doing what they love can tend towards dominating proceedings.

 As it is, Clunes is about the finished work, the book that leaves its author's brain and goes on out into the world to take on a life of its own. No matter how much writers might loudly claim otherwise, the popular perception is that once it's published, a book becomes the property of all its readers. It goes through a myriad of reinterpretations as it filters though the minds and experiences of countless individuals, some of whom, if the writer is very very lucky, think the book was actually written just for them. That said, those same readers can become quite upset if the writer, who has no clue about their own creation obviously, dares to contradict readers' cherished preconceptions about the book.

Clunes Booktown is more about the cult of collecting rather than the cult of celebrity, hence the joy of stashing countless shopping bags on the backseat of the car before you set off in an optimistic anticipation of a gigantic book haul. Who cares about the bleeding writers? It's all about finding that out-of-print book you've been searching for for years. It's about finding old magazines and obscure texts that make you quiver with excitement. It's about coming home with a stack of treasured tomes higher than yourself and the joyous anticipation of leafing through all those many many pages.

So back off, writers! Clunes Booktown is not all about you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

True Terror

On my weekly Wednesday medicinal walk today, I was divebombed by a familiar black-and-white shape. Luckily, it was a rather half-hearted attack, but it did remind me that it's swooping season here in Australia, a time when nesting birds become aggressively territorial and the worst of them, the razor-beaked magpies, have us humans scared stiff and skittering about to their tune.

When I was a kid living on the outskirts of a small coastal town that seemed to breed especially aggro maggies, this was the one time of the year when the children living on our long stretch of country road would put aside our tribal differences and band together. Our goal was simple: to get to school. There were three nests we had to pass, and no way to avoid them unless we wanted to add hours to our journey - those maggies had wide territories and flew extensive patrols.  And please, don't ask about our parents. In those long ago days, this kind of thing was kids' business, pure and simple. We would never have dreamed of bothering our parents with requests for protection or a lift in the car. It had nothing to do with them, and we had our pride to consider. That's just how it was.  

So, we set off each day, hoping the safety-in-numbers strategy would work, all bunched together, clutching our school bags like shields and wielding big sticks. My memory is no doubt faulty, as well as prone to dressing up the past, but I remember our formation as a rather ragtag version of a Roman testudo formation , and we kids as juvenile legionnaires bravely setting off to do battle every day, as deeply frightened by the thought of our eyes being stabbed or our heads being pierced by sharp beaks as our Roman counterparts would have been of barbaric, Germanic hordes. But we were also thrilled to the tips of our tiny toes by the prospect facing of real danger and testing our mettle. We scared ourselves even sillier as we went by recounting tales of the horrific manglings we had heard about, with tales of maggies plucking out eyes, maybe even two from the same victim, as perennial favourites, these vile tales acting both as encouragement to each other, but also as a mean-spirited attempt to reduce someone to tears or, even better, make them break ranks and run home. No-one ever did. To have been branded a coward would have been worse than getting a beak in the head. Or so we thought.

Our terror was deep and true and complete, and yet we went on, shrieking when we were divebombed and waving our sticks at the swooping monsters.  Each day that we kids made it to school without any blood spurting in great gushes from our temples was a triumph. Not that I recall anyone ever getting hurt. But there were enough close calls to legitimize and further feed our fears. When nesting season ended, our alliance fell apart until the next breeding season.

I mention all of this because it seemed to me today as I walked that those childhood adventures incorporated all the fundamental elements of a horror story - the terror that writers try to tap into and recreate in their protagonists and the delicious scares and primal thrills that readers seek when they pick up a book of dark tales. Then, of course, there was also the camaraderie of fellow travellers venturing forth to vanquish vicious beast, so we were also experiencing a daily quest. And anyone who thinks I'm exaggerating the menace of magpies obviously hasn't faced down one of those black-and-white monsters of the air.

It wouldn't happen nowadays, of course. Folk check out the location of swooping birds on the Internet, tweet updates on aggro birds, buy handy anti-swoop toolkits from the Department of Sustainability and Environment, and drive their kids to school. Not that I'm romanticizing getting your eyes gouged out or recommending that anyone send their kids into a lion's den armed only with a Bowie knife in order to prove themselves. I'm just saying it was a truly terror inducing situation for us children, but not one without its redeeming features, and that one often treasures memories of a little scariness as much as one does memories of happiness.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dead Deals Coming Your Way

And so my personal publishing Day of the Dead has finally arrived - the anthology of undead creatures large and small Return of the Dead Men (and Women) Walking  featuring my 1920s Aussie vampire droving yarn The Snowy River Feral is finally out!

Purchasing links are HERE, although it looks like the print version isn't quite ready yet (but I know they're sending our contributor copies out at the end of the week, so it shouldn't be long).

The TOC looks like this:

Bring Me the Head of Pepe Cortez!
by J. Tanner
Putting the Romance Back into Necromancy
by Sarina Dorie
The Snowy River Feral
by Gitte Christensen

When the Rain Stops

by Mark Charke
by Kurt Bachard
by E.M. MacCullum
Deadest in Show
by Karissa B. Sluss
The Body in the Water
by Marilag Angway

For All Your Carpeting Needs

by Matthew D. Johnson
The Baby
by Brian Rosenberger
Fixing Nancy
by Jonathan Templar
by Dawn Lyons
The Heart of the Storm
by Matthew Smallwood
Three Strikes
by Aurelio Rico Lopez III
The Horror in the Attic
by Julie Ann Dawson

And there are a couple of great opportunities to win free copies of the anthology. The one is an invite by Bards & Sages Publishing for me to get a competition going on my blog for promotional purposes, and they'll provide a print copy as a prize for the winner. I have an idea for easy participation and a random choosing of the winner, more a lottery than a sweat-it struggle - I'll just have to run it by the B&S people first. Cross fingers it's okay.

Until then, if you'd like a shot at winning a free e-copy of Dead Men, there's this offer from B&S Publishing to join them at the eFestival of Words Virtual Bookfair site to play Horror Bingo. All you have to do is sign up to get your free bingo card,  follow @festivalofword or @bardsandsages on Twitter, and then watch your Twitter feed daily to catch the Horror Bingo word of the day. Complete your bingo card and who knows, you might win a free digital copy of the anthology in your choice of Kindle, epub or PDF format. Easy as!

Good luck.

***The links are all fixed now. Go forth and win!