Monday, December 31, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
From The Australian:
Rudd to reward Aussie writers
AUSTRALIAN writers will from next year vie for one of the world's richest prizes with the Rudd Government to unveil the Prime Minister's Literary Prize for fiction and non-fiction books.
In a bold and affirming cultural statement, the annual awards will have just two categories: published fiction book of the year, and published non-fiction book of the year. Each prize is worth $100,000, tax-free, with a further $100,000 to be spent each year on promoting and administering the awards.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Some people like to do these lists because everybody else is doing it. Others refuse to do so for the same reason. I'm a combination of the two: if everyone else does it, then I don't want to, but I'm going to anyway ... because it's what I actually want to do.
But enough with the Maxwell Smart jokes and on with the list. As always, it's based on my personal reading of the year, which has nothing to do with publishing date. Since tracking it, I've learned that I only read about thirty books a year, all chosen by a whim of the moment.
EVERY DEAD THING by John Connolly
Famed for its hourglass shaped plot (one story tapers into the next), the first Charlie Parker novel is filled to the brim with lyrical writing and beautifully gruesome imagery.
CITIZEN VINCE by Jess Walter
There are two novels in this list about crims trying to get clean or stay clean, with both having a decidedly literary bent. Walter does a brilliant job here of fleshing out so much in so few words that I really should get off my arse and read some of his other work as soon as possible.
NO DOMINION by Charlie Huston
Thankfully the world of books generally does a fair sight better with sequels than cinema does, but in the hands of Charlie Huston, disappointment seems to never be on the cards. Thanks to vampire private investigator Joe Pitt, I want to be Charlie Huston when I grow up.
BENEATH A PANAMANIAN MOON by David Terrenoire
Piano-playing spy John Harper has a damned fine sense of humour and a softer side when compared to more traditional protagonists in the genre and it's these differences that bring Terrenoire's debut floating up above the rest. It took me far too long to get around to reading this, but the day David writes another novel is the day I queue up for it.
SATURDAY'S CHILD by Ray Banks
Other than wanting to be the love child of Charlie Huston and Ray Banks, I can't say enough about this fine piece of work. But if I had to choose my absolute favourite of this list, it would be a close fight between this one and the next.
THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE by Don Winslow
The retired hitman being pulled back into the biz is not a particularly new idea, but the depth of Frank "Frankie the Machine" Macchiano lifts this to the top of the foam from the cappuccino. Bob De Niro's working on a film of this and, as long as he doesn't stuff it up, I'll be one of the early viewers.
DOUBLE INDEMNITY by James M. Cain
Only one classic this year, and it was one I'd seen the movie of, so I wasn't amazingly shocked by the unfolding of the plot. Still, I gobbled down this timeless and twisted tale of desire in a couple of evening sessions. And it tasted damned good, I tell you.
RAZOR by Larry Writer
This year I delved into non-fiction of various subjects, but this account of the razor gang wars of 1920s Sydney reads almost like fiction, so I'm including it here. The detail of the research is mind blowing and made even more impressive by being set in locations that I know well. Whatever the newspapers of today may say, Sydney is a far safer city than it used to be.
THE CONFESSION by Olen Steinhauer
In my blogging travels I've come across a number of authors whose work I've read, but this is the first time I've read a second book from any of them (that has more to do with my playing catch up than the quality of the writing). I'm extremely glad I did. Everything I liked about Olen's first in the series, THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS, is in its sequel, but the story is taken to another level here. I can't think of any better endorsement of this amazing Eastern European spy series other than saying I have the next two books waiting on my shelf.
I was very tempted to include Joe R. Lansdale's LOST ECHOES in the list, even though I'm only about a third of the way in. Although I doubt very much that I'll be disappointed with the rest of it, I have to be fair, so I've kept it to a simple mention.
Friday, December 07, 2007
With Australia's federal election well and truly over, it's a good time to grab your voting hats and leg it on over to the Spinetingler Awards Shortlist.
Why, you say, why, Daniel?
Well, old mate, old chum, old pal, it's because iffun once you get there you scroll down a teensy tadbit, you'll be finding my first and last name under the nominations for Special Services to the Industry. Now that don't mean I've been handing out free lube to all the crime fiction kiddies, no siree, it's all about that wild and crazy social network I created and maintain, the one called Crimespace.
And while I'm being all forthcoming and such, I figure it's a good idea for me to be honest with you, my voting public. All the other people nominated for the same award have been giving good to the crime fiction world on the internet for longer and better than yours truly.
But to be equally honest, I'd like you to vote for me. Also, check out all the other categories while you're at it and vote for fellow Australian nominees, Amra Pajalic and Text Publishing.
Voting is open. ONE E-MAIL PER PERSON ONLY. You cannot send another vote in, even for a different category – multiple votes from the same sender will not be counted. Take the time to consider your votes carefully. E-mails must be received by December 30, 2007 - authors, if you're putting this in your newsletter make sure you are clear about the deadline for voting. Many recommendations were not considered in the first round because they were sent late.
You may vote for one winner in each category as long as all votes are submitted in one e-mail. Simply state the category and your chosen winner for each of the eight categories. Any votes that contain more than one selection per category may be removed from consideration completely. No ties.
Send your e-mail to email@example.com with AWARD NOMINATIONS in the subject line. It is not necessary to explain the reason for your vote.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Some time ago I spent a good six months working in fits and bursts on a short story idea that needed time to percolate. Most stories do, usually for much less time, but this one was special: it meant something to me.
I'm talking about religion here.
Having spent many hours reading books on Zen Buddhism and Buddhism in general, my programmer's mentality was drawn to the one religion that struck me more as a philosophy or system for living than an excuse for worship or mind control. Draw whatever assumptions you like from that, but Buddhism seems to be the only religion I know of that actively encourages people to question it.
Of course, one of my other main interests over the last few years has been crime fiction. Talk about the other end of the spectrum.
Like many before me, I wanted to 'write what I know', but I also wanted to keep it within the realm of crime fiction. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I stumbled upon a way to combine my interest in Buddhism with my interest in crime fiction.
It may seem like a strange idea on first thought, but a few prisons in various parts of the world have experimented with the teaching of meditation to inmates, as a way of helping them deal with their time behind bars.
All this percolation and back story eventually led to the publishing of my story, BUDDHA BEHIND BARS, over at that ezine that is the hardest of the hard, Thuglit. About six months later and we're back in the present, where I've been lucky to have that story included in the second Thuglit anthology (whose cover should look something like that above), called "SEX, THUGS, AND ROCK & ROLL."
Like the first anthology, HARDCORE HARDBOILED, a handful of guest authors added their contributions to the swath of stories from Thuglit herself. It's going to be great to be included among such fine writers as Joe. R. Lansdale, Marcus Sakey, Allan Guthrie, Scott Wolven and Jason Starr.
The extra special bit about all this for me is the feeling of signing my very first publishing contract, which was quickly followed by the realisation that it will take almost two years to come out.
But that's the biz, and now that I have a taste of it, I want some more.
# 8:46 pm
Thursday, November 08, 2007
What's especially good about these two issues are stories from people like Stephen Blackmoore, Patricia Abbott, Patrick Shawn Bagley, Seth Harwood, and some guy from Down Under that likes to play harmonica and whose favourite colour is black.
Yes, I know. Black isn't a colour.
Go thou and read now.
Download the PDF here:
Spinetingler Fall Issue 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
As a way of celebrating the joining of the 1000th member, Crimespace is proud to open its first short story competition. The plan is to run this heist every year, with the entries being crime fiction based around a theme.
To kick it off, this year's theme is 'Australia'.
How you include it is up to you. Your story could be set in Australia, have an Australian character in it, or simply mention Australia somewhere in the story. Hell, even including an Aussie cultural icon such as Vegemite will do. Entries must be no more than 2,500 words, including the title.
Get cracking. The deadline is January 31st, 2008.
Details, prizes and rules can be found here.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Thanks to Podomatic's recent bout of unreliableness, Angie's moved her world-famous crime fiction podcast to http://inforquestioning.libsyn.com/, so make sure to update this in your podcasting client (usually iTunes).
And if you haven't subscribed, what the hell are you doing over here?
Friday, October 12, 2007
Olen Steinhauer, well known among those of us that like our crime fiction bleak and real, is mostly linked with his series of Cold War novels set in a fictional Eastern European country that remains nameless. I'm guilty of only having read the first novel, but the second and third are already in waiting.
Why am I mentioning all this?
Word around town (this translates to 'from the horse's mouth'), is that Olen's done and got his upcoming novel, THE TOURIST, optioned by an unknown actor's production company called Smoke House. They say one of the people responsible is related to George Clooney, but I don't think that's true: he must be a distant cousin of Steinhauer himself.
I mean, I can't tell the difference, can you?
Thursday, October 11, 2007
That mad Hatadi has done it again: his voice has been captured for all eternity in a digital form. To be replicated and distributed through millions of small boxes with clicky wheels on the front.
(switch to first person)
And it's all thanks to that bold criminal of the podcast universe, Seth Harwood. If you haven't checked out his podcasts before, you owe it to yourself now, if only to hear my rugged Australian accent at about the nine minute mark of Seth's recent Jack Palms episode, all about Russian sex slaves and rabbit holes, number 17.
As Duane Swierczynski said:
"I like the cut of this young man's jib."
Friday, October 05, 2007
Blogging, blogging, blogging.
I've been doing it for about three years now, mostly on a weekly basis, often daily, but lately that distance has been slipping further and further. It's easy for a month to go by without an entry.
Anne Frasier said that a blog has a lifetime of about a year and a half, probably a close match to the hormones generated during any new relationship, that good old honeymoon period. Mine's obviously gone for longer. The idea for the original blog was that I would write it as my fictional character and alter-ego, Danny Hawaii. That idea didn't hold for too long (mostly because my stories never lived up to the character's name), and after about six months I just felt silly doing it.
My thoughts where that if I was to become a real author type personage, that I should damn well act like one and start now. After a brief flirtation with the idea of a pen name (because I didn't think my own name was marketable), I decided to stick to who I was and thus this blog was born. The very early entries were hand-imported from the Danny Hawaii blog and are still accessible in the sidebar.
Along the way, I've experimented with all sorts of posts, ranging from quick images with only a title, to what I hope are well thought-out pieces that are almost articles. At one point I even created another blog called 'Food What I Ate'. It was a surreal food blog, following my culinary adventures with mostly inappropriate captioning. The photos are still on my Flickr account, but the blog no longer exists.
I suppose Crimespace does take up a fair amount of my wet CPU power, which leaves just about enough for writing and other forms of entertainment. Every so often, I'll have an item of writing-related news to share, but I'm not a prolific short story writer, so those are few and far between.
Just to make it clear, because I'm sure the tone of this post implies that I'm saying goodbye ... I'm not. I'm still here and I'll be staying here, but you can take this as something of an explanation of my slackness in posting. And it always helps to get my thoughts out there, always makes it more real.
So how often do you get over blogging, you blogging types out there?
A lost and faithless fellow blogger wants to know.
Monday, September 10, 2007
One of Crimespace's own, Angie Johnson-Schmit, has started up a crime fiction podcast called In For Questioning, with the first interviewee being yours truly.
Hopefully you'll enjoy me hurting all your ears with my inane babble about starting up Crimespace and writing songs about dead rubber chickens.
Next week's interview will be with Cornelia Read, and there are many more authors that I'm dead excited to hear getting grilled by Angie.
This is the start of something special and I'm well chuffed to be part of it, not only in terms of the interview, but I can also take credit for composing the theme music.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
It's not often that a computer game crosses over into blog-worthy material, but The Darkness goes against that by being a cross between crime and horror, a genre combination that's a semi-obsession of mine. Mostly because I'm trying to write a novel that does just that, but also because I think the two genres are a natural mix.
And it's a not-so-sneaky way for me to plug my article running in issue 19 of Crimespree Magazine, titled 'Crime+Horror=Thriller'.
In modern day New York City, Jackie Estacado is a young Mafia hitman just turning 21, and finds himself the victim of an assassination attempt orchestrated by the don, his "Uncle" Paulie. Surviving the explosion meant to kill him as he crashes through a window, Jackie begins planning his revenge. A voice in his head manifests, calling itself "The Darkness", and demonstrates the power it has over Jackie by controlling his body and enabling him to use supernatural appendages and powers to violently eliminate all of the hitmen sent to make sure that he was dead.
In terms of both genres, you can see that the premise is filled to the brim with stereotypes. Mafia hitmen and demonic supernatural powers all exist within one young man that just happens to wear a long black leather coat and has long black flowing hair. On the surface, it seems fairly straightforward, but the presentation of the whole makes the game hang together beautifully.
The voice of the demonic presence known as 'The Darkness' is none other than Mike Patton of Faith No More, Mister Bungle and probably too many other side projects for me to name. Patton has possibly the most demented control over his vocal chords in the world, save for the Satanic bluesman himself, Tom Waits. Patton's voice isn't the only one that's top notch. The main character, Jackie, strikes just the right note of tough and cool, New York, 'I don't give a fuck' style ever heard in a computer game.
And I must give points for a great start to the dialogue: "I remember the night of my 21st birthday. That was the first time I died." Another happy line comes in the form: "Is there a way out of this fucking cemetery?"
Graphics are suitably moody and (dare I say it?) dark, with the demonic tentacles that represent Jackie's supernatural powers slithering menacingly all over the screen, making you feel as if they are growing out of your own shoulders as you walk around the neighbourhood laying waste to all the mafia types that get in your way.
I'm only part of the way into the game, but I'm told that the story hangs together well, which is a difficult thing to do in a computer game. You want to give the player a feeling of freedom, but not too much. The Darkness does well here because the player is forced to feel what the main character is going through by using a solid and immersive first person perspective.
The story is fleshed out with a third person voice over where we see Jackie gesticulate in time to his speech over a more than decent soundtrack. And something I haven't seen done in a computer game before: they put the effort in to make you care for the characters before they're killed.
Okay, I'll admit I'm a gamer. Not obsessively so, but a definite regular. What pulls this game above the rest is the attention the makers have put into creating an actual story. I'm tempted to say it's one of the finest examples of interactive fiction I've ever come across.
Gamers, go buy it. Readers and writers, see if you can look into it, as long as you don't mind a game that allows the player to devour still-beating hearts from victims.
There, I finally blogged again. Phew.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Every so often I find myself going through a bout of solitude. This has been happening for the last couple of months, possibly brought on by an abnormally cold Sydney winter and probably compounded by the re-entry into my life of copious amounts of caffeine.
Yes, I'm quitting it again.
During my hibernation I didn't spend a lot of time on the Internet, aside from keeping a watchful eye on Crimespace, but I also found myself not being much of a social animal in the real world.
Maybe it's the return of sunlight, or maybe I've had my fill of creative solitude, but this weekend I felt a shift back to normality. Evidence of this is clear: I actually enjoyed going to a party and sucking down cocktails. On top of that, I'm writing this post.
Solitude's been great, though. I obsessed over the love I'd thrown away: music. I researched lots of new audio gear and was blown away by how much everything's progressed since I left it all behind a few years ago.
For those that might find it interesting, I have a new soundcard, microphone, preamp (complete with tubes), guitar pedal, keyboard, and a couple of programs. Maybe that's a lot of money spent on what is just a hobby, but it's no more expensive than a decent digital camera.
And whenever I look at all that music making gear set up neatly in my 'studio', I have a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Or it could be just the heat coming off all the equipment.
Either way, I'm back.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Rickards has copped it twice now. The Rap Sheet has been keeping an eye out for it. Now it seems to be Olen's turn, although at least his book came out first. I only noticed it because I'm still reading Olen's previous novel and I was surprised to see what I thought was his book in the wrong part of the crime section.
I have to ask: Has it always been this way, or are we all just noticing it now?
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
For some unknown reason, I never did get my arse into gear to buy a harmonica microphone when I was deep into the music thang. Lately, something of that old fire's been returning and I've decided to re-acquire gear to replace the stuff I sold when I stupidly decided to leave music behind.
That's at least two buttock-related mentions in one paragraph. It's all about butts in chairs round these here parts.
After spending some time watching the harp-mike selling vibe on eBay, I stumbled across a devilish looking ashtray-like beastie of a mike. It called to my cupped hands, aching for my smoke-laden breath to fight its way through a Mississippi Saxophone and caress the element inside.
I don't smoke, but the red silk peeking out from behind the microphone's grill combined with the decent internals at a decent price. I was sold.
Here's the wild and crazy blurb from the eBay listing of this latest of my material acquisitions:
This Vintage Olson Microphone arrived in pretty bad condition a few weeks ago so the original green paint has been removed and the mic has been refinished in Black Hammertone.
The original Crystal element was DOA and has been replaced with a Hi-Z Shure 520DX Green Bullet element and transformer which was removed from a Shure 520DX. This element has Super Strong Output and plenty of Thick Gritty Chicago Tone. The Chrome Grille is in good condition but does show some blemishes. I've placed copper wire mesh behind it with a red silk backing to dress up the appearance.
This particular microphone was one of a pair that I recently received that were reportedly owned by Bruce Willis at one time, but I have no way to substantiate that!
The swivel-mount has been chopped from the microphone and a 1/4" jack has been placed in the bottom toward the back of the shell. The volume control has been added at the bottom of the mic and is slightly recessed in the bottom fin of the mic to keep it out of the way when playing.
Don't let this one get away!
From the Harp Mic Shop.
# 10:42 pm
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Possibly something that no publisher need ever know about, but the novel I'm working on right now started as a NaNoWriMo project.
Having only achieved a word count of 32,605 words, I could not declare myself a winner at the time, and I could not receive the glorious prize of Nothing Much Really. What I did win were those 32K words, a rough plot for the rest, and a determination to finish the damned thing.
I'm not quite there yet, but today saw me finally reach the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words.
32,000 words in one month.
18,000 in six.
You have to love the power of procrastination.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Having entered the world of crime fiction on the Internet about the same time I started reading properly again, I've had the distinct pleasure of getting to know much more than a handful of people, virtually. I've exchanged critiques, indulged in conversation on forums, even emailed about personal issues, but I've never actually met anyone in person. Until just the other day.
Authors Katherine Howell and Leigh Redhead happened to be dropping into Better Read Than Dead, one of my favourite book stores. My local, in fact. So when I received an email from Katherine inviting me to coffee afterwards, I was well chuffed. And a little anxious.
See, the people I know In Real Life are people I've met through friends, at clubs or parties, at work ... but never through the Internet. Considering I'm a programmer by day, you'd think I'd be fine with this. And I am. It's just that ... I've never met anyone through the Internet before. In all honesty, I was a little nervous to meet them both.
And I did this about about fifteen minutes after I'd planned to, on account of confusing the meeting spot with another cafe that happened to be right up the other end of King Street. After an embarrassing phone call to Katherine--embarrassing because I only live just down the road--I made it to the cafe, hot and sweaty from the brisk walk in the unusually warm sun.
The cafe was chaotic and noisy, so while we made our introductions, I ordered a coffee to calm my nerves. Yes, Mr. I Just Quit Caffeine decided to have a coffee. To relax. With my jitters now in full force, we powered through the conversation, learning a lot about each other's experiences in the world of writing in a very short time.
What I learned:
- Leigh did roughly the same PI course as me, although she dropped out further into it, but not before having a rollicking good time on the surveillance practical.
- Katherine has seen people die and live again, but none of them have gone on to write psychic self-help books about their experiences. Although there was one woman who thought she died for two weeks before returning to this material plane. The only explanation I could offer for this was the wanton use of chemicals.
- Both Leigh and Katherine were the only crime writers during their shared time at Varuna, the NIDA of the writing industry in Australia.
- I'm not the only writer who has complicated strategies for procrastination and Internet avoidance / addiction.
- Australian publishers seem to put a fair amount of effort into promoting their authors.
- Peter Temple is probably not going to join Crimespace (yes, I hope he sees this). Actually, I just made this one up. But I'm still hoping he sees it. And joins. Peter?
- When Katherine and Leigh saw the Crimespace t-shirt pictured above, they both wanted one. I must look into ways of getting them printed in bulk. Until then ... there's always the store.
- And one last plug for Crimespace: Leigh and Katherine were amazed at the number of very cool crime fiction authors out there in the world.
I'm currently powering through Leigh's debut novel, PEEPSHOW, but I couldn't miss the opportunity to get signed copies of their books. Leigh's being CHERRY PIE, the latest in the same series as the debut, and Katherine's being FRANTIC, the beginning of what promises to be an exciting series.
By all accounts, it looks like I'm in for a great read.
Interviews from ABC: Katherine Howell, Leigh Redhead
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Friday, May 04, 2007
Five years ago on this day, I held an alcohol-fueled birthday party at my bachelor pad in the burbs. There was much fuel consumed by all. Mary was one of those consumers and towards the end of the night, she told me she was staying. I wasn't about to disagree. That night turned into two days that extended into us moving in together and being together for five years, a personal record for both of us in terms of relationships.
Since there's no point in me trying to top Mary's post for our special day, I'm just going to share with you all a picture of the rings we put a down payment on today. They come from a dark and mysterious store tucked away in the Strand Arcade, smack in the middle of Pitt Street Mall, Sydney. The place is called Love & Hatred. The white gold ring is mine, but will be without the Latin text; the rose gold ring is Mary's and the symbols on it represent the four seasons.
We're not into marriage as such, but this is a mark of our commitment to each other. Here's to our love, through all the seasons to come.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
It's been a while since I've posted, mostly due to trying to limit my internet time to maintaining Crimespace. But there's something almost hypnotic and PacMan-like in gobbling up the bullets in a list, so I thought I'd give you people some little pills of Hatadi-tidbits to pop into your mouth.
Why? Because pills are good. Both my doctor and dealer agree.
What Hatadi Done Done Lately:
- Successfully quit caffeine. Okay, I had a bottle of Coke on the weekend, but I've been good otherwise, and the moods swings are finally on their way out the door.
- Polished off an entry for the Debut Daggers. I wasn't going to, but when I found out how many people I knew were entering I had to jump in on the insanity. It's possibly the strongest entry I've sent them so far, but I'm sure the competition will blow me away. That doesn't matter, though. There's nothing like a deadline--and money on the line--to kick your own arse into gear.
- Polished off another short and sent it off. There's every chance it could be about the world's first homeless vampire. Failing that, there's at least 3 out of 14 chances.
- Crimespace membership's just shy of 600 now. I'm equal parts excited and afraid. But I think that's a good way to live.
- Went around my whole house and put up my meagre collection of books on LibraryThing. I love the function they have for looking at all your books on one page. I may just try my hand at making a collage like this guy did. I've also added a random display of covers in the sidebar. Why? Because I'm geeky, and the Geek shall inherit the Earth.
- Watched A LOT of Battlestar Galactica. Almost two seasons worth. It's quickly become one of my favourite TV shows of all time. Until the next one hits anyway.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Since I started work for my current employer, I have been a happy and not so happy purveyor of the multiple evils known as coffee, Coke, Pepsi Max (my favourite poison), and all the other flavours of caffeine.
At first, it started off as a way to help me adjust to my new time zone. In the months between jobs, I quickly developed a habit of staying up late and getting up later. Turning up to work by 9am seemed a monumental task and my drug of choice, caffeine, seemed to be the obvious way of dealing with my lack of wakefulness.
Things have changed lately. I'd been having coffee with breakfast, followed by a hit of Pepsi Max when I got to work. That same bottle kept me going all day but left me worn out and cranky. Add to that the extra workload at my job and at Crimespace, as well as trying to work on a novel, and my head has been on the verge of exploding. Minor issues have blown out of all proportion and in The Real World I've been short, sharp, and snappy.
So yesterday, I quit caffeine. I've done this before and was without coffee and Coke for years. My head was clearer and I slept better. I'll still allow myself the pleasure of tea, but it's time to return to that previous version of me, the nicer version. I'll yawn for a couple of weeks and probably have a few minor headaches, but it'll be worth it.
This isn't really a big deal. It's just caffeine, nothing I've snorted or injected, but I'm putting this up here to keep myself honest. This makes it real.
Today's drug service announcement was brought to you by the letter C, which doesn't stand for 'sea'.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Computer based language translation is always good for a few laughs, but I've never been the subject of the original text before, so I thought I'd share what happens when Germans and Italians write about me.
What have I learned from this? I have learned that I am The Macher who writes yellow and pumps benzine. I'm sure this makes a lot more sense in the original languages, but I'm still planning on taking my new-found powers on board. Except maybe the bit about writing yellow. Unless I can find some snow.
This frippery leads me nicely onto the subject of translation of fiction. I'm working my way through the first issue of Murdaland and the stories translated from Spanish to English both exhibit a similar quirkiness that I've seen before.
Months ago now, I read Haruki Murakami's HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD. Even though it was originally in Japanese, the Spanish short stories from Murdaland have the same wonderful inconsistencies. I don't think this has anything to do with the quality of the translation, but there are definite artefacts when thoughts are shifted into a different culture and system of thinking.
I say system of thinking because I'm of the opinion that each language has a base set of assumptions that affect every thought made through that language. Some languages attach gender to inanimate objects, some don't have an equivalent word for 'self-esteem', some have many words to describe different types of snow, some only have one word for love.
While meaning can be lost in translation, something else can happen too. A well-turned phrase, a combination of words that would not normally exist in English can bring a smile to your face or create a poetic rhythm that has its own charm. The foreignness of the culture or the thinking behind the writing is what makes it so fresh.
But it doesn't always work and I've found that there are passages that I zoom through with glee then get pulled up short when a joke or idea doesn't translate well to English. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if the writer wrote in English from the beginning. But like Douglas Adam's poet who wrote on leaves and whose work was ruined when time travellers gave him liquid paper, I doubt the final work would have the same originality.
Something lost, but something gained. I might go read some Arnaldur Indridason right now.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
It's been a while since I've attached a book to my face and affected a cheesy, noirish stare. So when my first copy of Murdaland showed up on the great shore of Terra Australis, I figured the time had come again. And it was a great excuse to improve my Photoshop skillz.
The book itself is beautifully designed, complete with a satiny matt feel that my grubby hands love running over. I'm such a sucker for a good cover. To tell you the truth, I haven't even read a word of it yet, just skimmed through to get a feel for it. I want to devote my complete attention to Murdaland's first issue (right now that's taken up by Ray Banks' SATURDAY'S CHILD), because it's the type of crime fiction that excites me. And I may be the only one in Australia with a copy, so it feels somewhat exclusive.
It amazes me that what is supposed to be a magazine is, in reality, a book. A whole goddamned book of short crime fiction. And they're going to do it twice a year. I'm really looking forward to more issues, and I may just make it my personal mission in life to get one of my stories in there.
Monday, March 19, 2007
After all that huge-in-your-face-logo-talkin-like-I'm-never-gonna-post-here-again, Marshal Zeringue over at Writers Read (of course they do!) has posted a little ditty on, well, What I Read.
Also up on the site are a few names that might be familiar to my irregular readers: Libby Fischer Hellmann, Kevin Guilfoile, and Paul Guyot.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
The word had passed around on various forums and blogs, and the word had said that Ken Bruen was the crime writer to be reading. I was but a wide-eyed cadet in the world of crime fiction, so I kept at least one of those wide eyes on the lookout for Bruen novels.
Couldn't find one.
What was up? If this guy was so crash hot, why weren't his novels in Borders or Dymocks or Kinokuniya? The conundrum stumped me for a couple of weeks, until I figured out that all these stores only kept the latest novels on their shelves, at least when it came to the good stuff, the stuff that not absolutely everyone that had read THE DA VINCI CODE knew about.
Then I stumbled upon Abbey's.
Hidden in the heart of the city of Sydney, tucked in a street behind the Queen Victoria Building, Abbey's was a bookstore that specialised in language books or history or non-fiction. But not crime. Turned out I was dead wrong. They had it all.
First thing I did was look into this Bruen bloke. Got hold of a copy of THE GUARDS. Grabbed a Willeford too, something about custard and sharks. Took the books home, had trouble tossing up between the two. Something about the idea of custard and sharks was immensely appealing. But I opened up THE GUARDS and flicked through the publishing credits and such. Then I read the first page.
I was hooked.
But that thing that he did with the one word paragraphs was gimmicky.
Still, the rhythm of the writing was pure, flowing like nectar across my eyes. I was pulled into Jack Taylor's world, and I was pulled in deep. There in the bar next to him, I smelled the decade's old stains of smoke, booze, vomit. I felt his stress, wanted a release myself. Wouldn't have minded to have a drink and then just keep going till I hit oblivion.
I had to pull out. Pull back from his world. In time, I finished the book. Just took it slower than before. Bruen's words were an aged liquor that needed to be savoured, not devoured in one sitting with a splash of Coke.
But something about the book bugged me. Maybe it reminded me too much of the times I had to drag my dad out of the pub, when I should have been at home watching The Greatest American Hero or The A-Team. Yeah, I think that was it. But it wasn't long before I felt the taste for more. Went back to Abbey's, hands shaking, eyes darting. My addiction was writ huge across my face. Grabbed a copy of THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS.
This book was different.
Same rhythms, same paragraphs, but now it felt right. Like I was meant to be doing it all along, reading books like this. Bruen had me programmed now. Brainwashed. And I loved it.
Now I've read THE MAGDALEN MARTYRS and RILKE ON BLACK. Got copies of BUST and HER LAST CALL TO LOUIS MACNEICE in waiting, and I'm itching to get my grubby hands on THE DRAMATIST. I hear it's even better than THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS. And don't get me started on THE PRIEST or AMERICAN SKIN. I have to drag this stuff out. If I don't, I'll be left with nothing.
What'll I do then?
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Eight days ago I read an article in the local paper that talked about 'DIY social networking', mentioning a new service called Ning. Having been both fascinated and repulsed by Myspace, I was intrigued. What unites people on the internet are their common interests, so the idea of having a social network dedicated to a single theme sounded very appealing to me.
I tapped into "that nebulous part of the universe where all the real ideas are," pulling the word 'Crimespace' out with me. Seemed like a good idea, a name that can describe the site in one word, dragging along the entire world's knowledge of Myspace to do so.
After playing around with Crimespace for a couple of days, getting familiar with the tools, and making it pretty, I thought, hey, I'll email a few friends. That turned into a few more, they invited some friends of their own, I got excited and started asking various bloggers and crime fiction news sites to spread the word and, after only six days, membership has already shot past the 60 mark.
What am I talking about, you say? Here's the blurb:
Crimespace: A place for crime fiction writers, readers and lovers to schmooze, booze and draw up plans for the heist to end all heists. Find new authors to delve into and discuss the latest in crime fiction. Join up and enter the forums. Share photos, videos and make some friends. Pull up a chair at the bar and share your poison.
I'm really excited about Crimespace. If I'd thought about it some more before I went ahead and started, I might have chickened out. Instead, I've decided not to be half-arsed about it. I'm making a concerted effort to spread the word. Both Spinetingler and Crimespree will be running news items soon, and a few blogs have joined the fray, among them, Murderati.
Feel free to spread the word yourselves. I really want to make this place into a virtual bar where readers and writers can hang out together and make crime fiction bigger, better and badder than it already is.
If anyone wants a press release and logo to promote the place, feel free to contact me. It's easy. Just move the mouse up. A little more to the right ... up ... that's it.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Every year or so, Bryon Quertermous gets together a posse of word-slinging crime and other fiction writers then forces them to write a themed short story under the threat of a gun or soiled underwear. Previous efforts have resulted in more than just skid marks, as can be seen over at the first project, Junk In The Trunk, and the nameless second project.
A few weeks ago, the word went out on the street, the theme being blogging itself. Now the fruits of Bryon's labour have found their way onto the blogs. Below are all the shorts. Have a read, kill an office work hour or so, and enjoy.
Re: University Protocol on Incidents of Student Plagiarism: Patti Abbott
Take That, You Prick: Stephen Allan
The Sunshine Of My Wife: Bill Crider
The Truth Hurts: John Dumand
The Musings of a Serial Maniac: JT Ellison
As I Lay Dying: Paul Guyot
Dumped: Daniel Hatadi
How Does it Feel?: Mike Maclean
Nobody's Listening: Russel D. McLean
Blogging a Fantasy: Christa Miller
AmberSki77: David J. Montgomery
Smoking Gun: Karen Olson
I Am Not Paul Avery: Bryon Quertermous
Burning Down The House: Anthony Rainone
Flame War: JD Rhoades
Your Friends: John Rickards
Comments Enabled: Stephen D Rogers
Confession of a Spenser Fan: Gerald So
The Cat's Meow: Pari Noskin Taichert
The Best Blog Story ... Ever: Dave White
Just Another Wise Guy: John Stickney
Lady Jade: James R. Winter
Constructing Eugene: Lyman Feero
# 10:36 am
Monday, March 05, 2007
power / on
menu / address book
scroll / Mike
write new / text
how r u?
n e news?
wot u think?
menu / address book
scroll / Jenny
write new / text
yeah cant sleep
she'll make it
cant walk tho
not ur fault
menu / address book
scroll / Leanne
write new / text
yup. mike tol me.
when do we ... u know?
u didnt do her
she can dob
she can't walk
she can still blog
no pussy 4u!
menu / address book
scroll / Jenny
scroll / Mike
scroll / Jenny
somethin 2 tell u
i know who did it
not sure i should tell
her dad's car
call the cops!
can u? bcause...
scroll / Leanne
power / off
# 3:28 pm
Thursday, March 01, 2007
It was many moons ago when I read the book Destructive Emotions, a series of talks between the Dalai Lama and a collection of Western philosophers, psychologists and neuro-scientists. Within its pages lay a simple paragraph that sparked off a story, BUDDHA BEHIND BARS, which is now finally seeing the light of the prison day, over at Thuglit, Issue 13. Also be sure to read the other most excellent and hard stories by Anthony Neil Smith, David C. Daniel, Alejandro Pena, and D. T. Kelly.
If you don't already know it, Thuglit's a brilliant, hard-as-diamond-tipped-nails monthly emagazine filled to the rotten core with short stories that your mother would never let you read. Definitely worth a visit.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Went to the exhibition over a year ago, bought the book around the same time, love to sniff through the pages every so often. Even spent the last six months writing most of a novel inspired by the photos, but now that Peter Doyle's CITY OF SHADOWS has been published overseas I really did need someone like Karl Lagerfeld to tell me the book was good.
Amazing what passes for news these days. If fame, fortune or good looks aren't attached to something, it's as if it isn't even valid.
Article and photo from the Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
After all that talk on blogging, promotion and keeping a distance, I figure it's time to rebel against myself and share my recent weekend away to Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. I'd set up the projector if I had a theatre, but looking at the photos will have to do instead.
Dubbo is a place I'd never thought of as a weekend getaway. Close to being smack bang in the middle of New South Wales, the city houses Australia's second most famous zoo after Taronga. The main difference being the abundance of African animals, living in something close to their natural habitat.
We went all out and decided to travel by plane, a Qantas 36-seater each way. While we watched the land below transition from populated to green to a dry and dusty brown, the air hostess booked a cab to pick us up from the airport. Once we arrived we were treated to an hour and a half wait before check in, but this was easily filled with a very welcome cold beer and food.
Our lodge was somewhere between a tent and a motel room, a four star tent if you will (if it had air conditioning I would have given it a five). Strong waterproof fabric made up the walls, stretched tight around a thick steel frame, over a tiled floor. We were told that the tiles could be heated during winter, but the hot air was heat enough.
It wasn't long before we went on our first behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo. The thunderstorm that had threatened us on arrival promptly broke and rained down around our mini-bus, muddying the red earth as we made our way to see the African elephants. They stood politely in huge steel cages, waiting for our eager hands to give them bread, oblivious to the setting's resemblance to the movie Jurassic Park.
Other animal highlights included the wild African dogs, whose voices reminded me of evil children in Aphex Twin video clips; the Siamang monkeys that performed a complicated dance accompanied by the booming from their throat sacs; and the lions in their night pen. But my absolute favourite animal of the trip was the baby Bongo, the sweetest deer-like creature on this earth. And yes, there really is an animal called the Bongo.
After a three course dinner at the beautifully air-conditioned Main House, we settled in for an early sleep, followed by an early rise (not my best time of day, but still worth it). Sunrise over the Savannah and hand feeding of the giraffes was followed up with a buffet breakfast to provide us with energy for the hot day ahead.
Neither of us had a driving license so we couldn't use the zebra striped electric carts, instead settling for bicycles for our own day tour of the zoo. Riding around the six kilometre circuit was made easier with rest pauses in the shade and capped off nicely with more beer and food.
After doing battle with rhinoceros statues, racing Galapagos tortoises, and more rest pauses and beer, we bid farewell to the city we never saw and flew back to Sydney.
Zoofari. Not quite a zoo, not quite a safari, but a perfect combination of the two.
Friday, February 09, 2007
There's often talk around the blogosphere on how much promotion is enough or too much, how writers should be spending their time writing and leaving the promotion to someone more qualified, and there's even more talk without a lot of figures about the need to have an author blog in the first place.
Like many of the writers in my neck of the sphere, my blog isn't much of a promotional tool other than encouraging some brand recognition of my name. Its main purpose is to help me connect with like-minded writers and learn about the publishing industry. Maybe along the way, people who read my stories will ask me to contribute to anthologies or other projects, and that can only lead to more reasons to write.
Thing is, if I ever get to a point where I have a few novels behind me and I'm starting to see Steven King, Michael Connolly or even John Connolly sized sales numbers, I doubt that I would keep this blog in the same format.
Unless I'm out there providing a service like J. A. Konrath or Sarah Weinman, the only reason for maintaining a blog like this would be to provide a connection for my readers. The personal side of my internet presence would shift over to community forums and email. With large numbers of readers, I think a forum would be a better fit, kitted out with an 'ask the author' section. Main news would be shifted to the front page of the author website (okay, enough fantasising already). Part of the reason for a change like this would be privacy and security related (I'm just so tired of all these nymphomaniac stalkers), but the other reason would have more to do with image.
I desperately hope I don't offend any of my fellow bloggers with this comment, but I don't see it as extremely professional for a big name author to be detailing personal issues in a public forum, unless it happens to relate to their status as an author.
Different methods work for different authors. Michael Connelly has his forum as does Mark Billingham and Steven King. All of these authors are blogless. Janet Evanovich has her own questions and answers page, and as far as I can tell, maintains her entire website herself. Tess Gerritsen is one author who I think gets the balance just right. She blogs enough to stay in touch with her fans, gets out there and promotes, but is always aware of the writing.
I find the idea of a reclusive and enigmatic author rather appealing: it lends an air of mystery to their work and lets them stand on that work alone. I recognise their name because it's already plastered all over their book, and when they bring a new novel out I have a good idea of what it will be like, based on their previous work.
All that being said, the flipside is that I've found more than a handful of authors through their blogs, looked into their work, and decided I want to read more.
I love the crime and writing blogging community. Without it, I wouldn't be tackling a writing career with anywhere near the dedication I have now. I'd still be floundering on my own, probably turning up to writer's groups composed of fellow flounderers, and learning the ropes through an unnecessary amount of trial and error.
But if I make it big, you'll probably see me keeping just a little distance.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
For those of you that were there when The Gutter (Tribe's Flashing In The Gutters) was in full swing, it was a sight (and a site) to be relished like a dog in a bun.
It housed the best collection of flash fiction under 700 words, mostly with a crime bent, but no other rules restricting submissions. Along with Olen Steinhauer, Duane Szwierczynski and a few others, I happened to be one of the first to submit, the story being Poodle Girl.
My sentimental Australian abbreviation, The Gutter, caught on some. Tribe even referenced it himself. In my country, you know you've made it when you've been abbreviated. Although sometimes that abbreviation is more like an extension ... AC/DC = Acker Dacker.
Here are three of my stories from those wild and crazy heydays. For those of you that may remember, one of them is missing. It's doing the rounds in an extended version, so I won't spoil the fun when it comes.
Jesse's Lucky Knife (PDF)
Inspired by Blind Willie McTell's 'The Dying Crapshooter's Blues'.
Down In The Hole (PDF)
It's not easy being careful when you're that damned drunk.
Poodle Girl (PDF)
Playing in the park doesn't always turn out as expected.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
A couple of years ago, I came across the Spanish word, duende. At the time I took it to translate into something like: "the presence of the dark understanding of death." This concept stuck with me, and it's something I've been trying to achieve in my writing ever since.
Looking through the notes on my current novel, I saw this quote again and decided to look it up. Almost like the word 'noir' it is not quite definable and yet we all seem to know instinctively whether something is 'noir' or not.
From Wikipedia, "Duende is either a mythological character, or difficult-to-define phrase used in the Spanish arts, including performing arts." The mythological character sometimes appears as a fairy or goblin, like the grumbly fellow in the picture, but I'm more interested in the other definition.
Federico Garcia Lorca, a Spanish artist of a number of disciplines, gave a lecture in 1934 called Theory and Play of the Duende. If you follow the link and read the text, you'll find that even his understanding of this term seems somewhat vague.
Why am I interested in duende?
Art is such an inexplicable thing that I cannot help wanting to find some structure or method behind it, with the hope that there must be more to the seemingly random process of creativity. What makes great art? Various people over the centuries have come up with their own definitions and attributes, but I think that art can be defined like this:
"Goethe, who, in effect, defined the duende when he said, speaking of Paganini: 'A mysterious power that all may feel and no philosophy can explain.'"
Which of course doesn't help me or any other artist when it comes to our struggle. I use the word struggle because, for me, pulling out every word of every story is exactly that. Lorca's lecture used it as well: "The duende, then, is a power and not a construct, is a struggle and not a concept."
Sometimes I look at concepts like duende as mentors, guides in the process of creating art. In the isolating world of the writer, it can be hard to find a real-life mentor, and of all the arts it seems to be the one in which we must all walk the path alone. Sometimes, though, a kind word from a respected peer or a line of inspiration can give the learning process a gentle shove.
In October 2005, I wrote a review of a concert by Diamanda Galas. She stumbled across it and asked me for permission to use the review as promotional material. We emailed back and forth some, and one thing she said struck something within me, something linked to duende.
She said: "Fear is your business."
At the time, it wasn't. At least I didn't think so. I was having fun writing a self-indulgent, silly romp through my own corner of the P.I. universe. But that phrase stuck in the soil of my mind and spread its thin tendrils throughout my views on writing and art.
There's one last component of my personal definition of duende that comes from the review I wrote: "The old bluesman, Skip James ... would tell the audience that his music existed solely to inspire dread. It was not for dancing." I've seen a video of Skip James in action and you can see this in the faces of the people standing around him, watching him belt out his most famous tune, Devil Got My Woman.
Duende, like all words that attempt to define the indefinable, is for me a combination of fear, dread, and death. But even that seems to me to be too thin a definition. I can only hope that, in the future, duende will come across in my writing and that will be explanation enough.