Saturday, July 30, 2016

Writers [on Writing]: William Saroyan

My uncle, Terry Pitsikas, introduced me to the Armenian-American writer, William Saroyan, back when I was in high school. His work still resonates with me.

How do you write? My answer is that I start with the trees and keep right on straight ahead.
                          William Saroyan, Starting with a Tree and Finally Getting to the Death of a Brother


Friday, June 3, 2016

Interviewed here by the lovely Louisa Loder; Latest Read: East of Eden and Latest Story

The lovely Louisa Loder manages to get me rambling away.  For the interview see the link below.

Latest Read: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. An utterly intoxicating melodrama, which explores American identity. It's humorous in parts, yet also moving, reflective, considered and visionary. The critics are right–the sporadic intrusion of the first person narrator doesn't quite suit. Still I don't believe it impacts on the overall quality of the novel. Highly recommended. Superb

Latest story: The anthology At the Edge ed. Lee Murray & Dan Rabarts, which contains my latest story 'Crossing' will be launched at Au Contraire in Wellington this weekend. I look forward to reading it myself. It will be sold at various bookstores and will also be available from Amazon Books.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Celebrating Australian Short Spec Fic at Swancon; and Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar wins an Aurealis Award

 Australian short spec-fic panel: a celebration

Where: Swan Con Panel at the Pan Pacific Hotel

When:  8:30 - 9:30 Easter Sunday

Panelists: Anthony Panegyres, Liz Grzyb, Stephen Dedman, Guy Salvidge, Leonard Goulds

I'm both host and a panelist in this celebration of short spec-fic down under. We'll have great book giveaways, including Aurealis Award winning and short-listed anthologies. I anticipate that like last year we'll have an audience led discussion. We'll most likely cover recommended reads, recommended writers, the market, the craft, the submission process, payment, publication houses and journals. The list goes on. Come along for an informative and fun night. Feel free to field questions too - we encourage it.

Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar wins the Aurealis Award for Best Anthology!

Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar (which I've a story in) won the best anthology category at the Aurealis Awards!

Here's the impressive list of world-class finalists:

Hear Me Roar, Liz Grzyb (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2014, Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (eds.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Meeting Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (ed.), (Solaris)

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 9, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) (Solaris)

Focus 2014: highlights of Australian short fiction, Tehani Wessely (ed.) (FableCroft Publishing)

Congrats to Amanda Pillar along with the 16 writers, who all contributed to the award:
  • Joanne Anderton "Unnamed Children"
  • Alan Baxter "Old Promise New Blood"
  • Nathan Burrage "The Ties of Blood, Hair and Bone"
  • Dirk Flinthart "In The Blood"
  • Rebecca Fung "In the Heart of the City"
  • Stephanie Gunn "The Flowers That Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth"
  • Kelly Hoolihan "The Stone and the Sheath"
  • Kathleen Jennings "The Tangled Streets"
  • Pete Kempshall "Azimuth"
  • Martin Livings "A Red Mist"
  • Seanan McGuire "Into the Green" (also writes as Mira Grant)
  • Anthony Panegyres "Lady Killer"
  • Jane Percival "The Mysterious Mr Montague"
  • Paul Starkey "The Tenderness of Monsters"
  • Lyn Thorne-Adder "Lifeblood of the City"
  • S. Zanne "Seeing Red"
The complete Aurealis Award Winning List is below (congrats again to all the winners and finalists). Here in Perth we had a fantastic time at the Pan Pacific Hotel, where the great gang at Swancon had it streamed live from Brisbane on a big screen (with food and alcohol catered for). Wonderful night and it felt as if we were almost there.

A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay (Walker Books Australia) 

The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin)                  

“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Bullets”, Joanne Anderton (In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep, AHWA)

“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press) 

“The Giant’s Lady”, Rowena Cory Daniells (Legends 2, Newcon Press) 

“Defy the Grey Kings”, Jason Fischer (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Firkin Press) 

“All the Wrong Places”, Sean Williams (Meeting Infinity, Solaris)

“By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers”, Garth Nix (Old Venus, Random House)

To Hold the Bridge, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin) 

Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications) 

In The Skin of a Monster, Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin) 

Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)

Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing) 

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin) 

The Watergivers [The Last Stormlord (2009), Stormlord Rising (2010), Stormlord’s Exile (2011)], Glenda Larke (HarperVoyager)

Letters to Tiptree, Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Awards and Reads and Releases

 Congrats to All: Aurealis Awards and Ditmar Award Finalists

It's Ditmar and Aurealis Awards time in Australia. The shortlists are out and it's a thrill to say that the latest anthology I've a story in, Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar (Ticonderoga Publications), is a finalist for both awards.

There are plenty of great writers on the lists here and rather than congratulate everyone individually I've attached the links to the short listed works below.

Congrats to the editor of Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar, along with Ticonderoga Publications. I would also like to personally congratulate fellow Perth writer, Stephanie Gunn, whose novella from the same anthology has been short listed in the category of Best Fantasy Novella (Gunn is also a finalist for another novella in Hear me Roar ed Liz Grzyb).

Aurealis Awards Link

Ditmar Awards Link

Short Story Recommendations

It's not often you find Australian short fic being recommended so I feel humbled that Fossick Book Review has recommended one of my stories. 'Reading Coffee'  (originally published in Overland 204 in 2011) was the first story that I was truly proud of and it's recommended here alongside, Angela Slatter's (who is a giant of short spec-fic) 'Brisneyland by Night'. Once again the link is attached below.

Twenty One New Zealand Books We're Looking Forward to in 2016

The next anthology I've a story in, At the Edge ed. Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray is on this list of New Zealand books to look forward to reading. It's released in June.

21 NZ Books to Look forward to 2016

Lee Battersby's launch of Magrit

On Saturday I attended Lee Battersby's launch of his new novel for children Magrit. Battersby usually specialises in dark spec-fic (often with a comical edge) so hearing Battersby read so well to a much younger audience than usual was an enjoyable surprise. The story had all the wit and evocative imagery that readers expect from Battersby's adult work too. Lee ran a fun launch and Stefen Brazulaitis of Stefen's Books (check the store out in Shafto Lane if you get the chance) organised a great pub lunch post-launch too. 

Latest Read

Just finished Nights at the Circus by the incredible Angela Carter. It's a genre defying tour de force, well worth savouring and it deserves all the kudos it has received.  The perpetual dichotomy of the winged heroine, Fevers makes for one of the great characters in literature. It's already one of my all time favourite novels.

Currently Reading
  • I've a few pages to go in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. And yes, Harper Lee ironically passed away when I was about midway through.  It was a sad day for literature but what a legacy Lee left behind her with TKAM. I can see why it's deemed an all time classic; the narrative voice of Scout is both innocent and gutsy, allowing for a beautiful observational voice. I don't think I'll read the recently released prequel/sequel Go Set a Watchman though. From the snippets I've read about Go Set a Watchman, I wouldn't want to tarnish my reading of what I believe the Finch family stand for in TKAM.
  •  The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes. Interesting look into Shostakovich, his music, and his relationship with the totalitarian regime (what Barnes aptly labels "his relationship with 'Power'"). The prose, as always with Barnes, has a pure feel due to his strong use of nominalisation throughout, and let's face it, little imagery. I'm almost at the end of this novel too. I've enjoyed it so far, but to be honest, at times I wanted a little more from the narrative, especially after reading Barnes' captivating Arthur and George a couple of years ago. Still, a good, solid read.

Political Gripe: Okay, we can't really say too much Down Under after the rise of Tony Abbott but at least he's now fallen. Yet the Americans have trumped (or drumpfed if you've seen John Oliver's comical segment) us in the Mad Tea Party stakes. What's dangerous about the far right is that it plays on fear and division rather than inclusiveness. Wake up, America! This guy, Drumpf, is leading you down a foolishly dangerous and bigoted path.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Writers [On Writing]: James Salter

I understood, of course - it was dogma - that a true education was based on being well read, and for ten years or more I read all I could. These were wonderful years of voyage, discovery and self-esteem. 
James Salter, Once Upon a Time, Literature. Now What? 

Friday, January 1, 2016

33 Highly Recommended Short Stories from my 2015 Reading

Top Short Stories Read in 2015: A Celebration

I read 122 short stories in 2015. I’ve decided to put up my top 33 reads for the year (only a handful though are from 2015 publications). I suppose these yearly lists are a confusing fusion of styles and content but as varied as all the stories listed are there is something I love about each and every story. Some of these stories resonated strongly with me; others simply entertained.  Within the brackets I've indicated the anthology I read the story in (in a few cases I've attached prior foundational homes). I'm happy to discuss and provide further comments for any of the mentioned works. 

 ‘Jon’ George Saunders  (My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides from In Persuasion Nation: Stories)  
‘Johnny Bear’ John Steinbeck (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny from The Long Valley)                                                                                    
‘Fireworks’ Richard Ford (My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides from Rock Springs)

‘Patricia, Edith, and Arnold’ Dylan Thomas (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog)                        

‘The Hitchhiking Game’ Milan Kundera  (My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides from Laughable Loves Milan Kundera)             

‘Too Early Spring’  Stephen Vincent Benet(Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny from The Selected Works of Stephen Vincent Benet 1933)
‘First Confession’ Frank O’Connor (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny from The Stories of Frank O’Connor 1951)                                                 

‘Bad Characters’ Jean Stafford (Points of View)
‘The Moon in it’s Flight’ Gilbert Sorrentino (My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides from The Moon in it’s Flight by Gilbert Sorrentino)                  

‘The Five-Forty-Eight’ John Cheever (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny)                                                                                                                            
‘Unighted Lamps’ Sherwood Anderson (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny)                                                                                                         
‘Fever Flower’ Shirley Ann Grau  (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny)                                                                                                                                
The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)

‘Unnamed Children’ Joanne Anderton (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)                      
‘Heavy Metal’ Cherie Priest (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)
‘The Meaning of Love’ Daniel Abraham (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)                                                                                                              

“Bazaar of the Bizarre’ by Fritz Leiber (Selected Stories by Fritz Leiber)             

‘Maria Concepcion’ Katherine Anne Porter  (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny)                                                                                                         

‘Red Rose, White Rose’ Eileen Chang (My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed. Jeffrey Eugenides from Love in a Fallen City)  

“Born and Bread” Kaaron Waaren (The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013 ed Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene)                                                                                       
‘By Bone-Light’ Juliet Marillier (The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013 ed Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene)

Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)

‘In the Blood’ Dirk Flinthart  (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)

‘The Stone and the Sheath’ Kelly Houlihan (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)        

‘The Tangled Streets’ Kathleen Jennings (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)                                       

‘A Better Way to Die’ Paul Cornell (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)                                                                                                                             

‘Azimuth’ Pete Kempshall (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)                                     

‘A and P’ John Updike (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny from The New Yorker) 
‘The Suicides of Private Greaves’ James Moffett (Points of View ed James Moffett & Kenneth R . McEleheny)                                                                                                              ‘The Signal-Man’ Charles Dickens (That Glimpse of Truth: 100 of the Finest Stories     

What Do You Do?by Gillian Flynn (Rogues ed. George R.R Martin & Gardner R. Dozois)                                                                                                                                      
“The Flowers that Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth’ Stephanie Gunn (Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar)                                                                                                                                               
‘Almost Beautiful’ Angela Rega (The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013 ed Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene)                                                                                      

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Reading Review

2015 Reading Review

I keep my private life largely out of this blog - it's more about reading and writing. So if you're after something more personal I apologise but if you're after a few recommended books you've come to a welcoming place. 

I read 32 books this year, which is up from my norm of late. I read a number of strong books, which I’d happily recommend. Let me know if you want specific thoughts on any of those listed below (happy to hear yours too).

Books Read in 2015

The Shadow Year Jeffrey Ford                                                          

The Prestige Christopher Priest
The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie

The Year of the Ladybird Graham Joyce

My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro ed. Jeffrey Eugenides (anthology)

Points of View: An Anthology of Stories ed. James Moffett & Kenneth R. McEelheny
Before They Are Hanged Joe Abercrombie 

The Last Argument of Kings Joe Abercrombie 

We Always Lived in the Castle Shirley Jackson                                                     

Tallula Rising Glen Duncan 
Peace by Gene Wolfe 

Station 11 Emily St. John Mandel                                                                         
Behold the Man Michael Moorcock (novella)

The Man Within Graham Greene 

My Cousin Rachel Daphne Du Maurier
 The Princess Bride William Goldman
A Little Life Hanya Yanagihara 

Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar (anthology)

The Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013 ed. Liz Grzyb (anthology)

The Buried Giant Kazuo Ishiguro                                                               

The Roving Party Rohan Wilson 

Love and Romanpunk Tansy Rayner Roberts (collection)                                                                                                 
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Selected Stories Fritz Leiber (collection)                       
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms N.K Jemisin                                                  

The Dwarves by Markus Heitz                                        

Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds John Pickrell  (expository)

The Sleeping Sorceress (Elric #4) Michael Moorcock  

Thief of Lies Lucy Sussex (collection)  

Bad Brass Bradley Denton (novella from Rogues ed. George R.R. Marin & Gardner Dozois) 

A Dark Matter Peter Straub 

Inside Creative Writing: Interviews with Contemporary Writers ed. Graeme Harper (expository and a complete dud)

Novel Highlights

I thought I’d mention my top 4 novel reads for the year  - many  came close.

 The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford

A wonderfully reflective novel relating to family, childhood and the neighbourhood, more like a memoir, but peppered throughout with a dark mystery. Superb.  Deserved its World Fantasy Award. 

The Prestige by Christopher Priest.

Dueling rival magicians from different backgrounds weave webs of deceit and illusion. Though there is a contemporary first person thread the text is largely epistolary, which suits the late Victorian and Edwardian era in which the novel is chiefly set.  In a structural sense, along with its intriguing unreliable narrators, The Prestige is a masterpiece. Very clever. 

The Blade Itself  by Jo Abercrombie

Love Abercrombie's short stories and I now say that I’m now a fan of his longer work too. Not everyone’s cup of tea but Abercrombie’s characters are vivid, there’s plenty of escapist action and acerbic humour and his lively active prose has dollops of impressive imagery. Perhaps Abercrombie tries too hard to subvert genre narrative conventions at times; the red herrings and overt subversion make it fall a little short in terms of overall plot but there are plenty of exceptional scenes. Gripping, fun and you’ll enjoy the series. 

The Year of the Ladybird by Graham Joyce

Joyce’s passing was a sad loss to the world of literature this year. The Year of the Ladybird is a gentle read and a wonderful love story. Set in an old fashioned summer entertainment camp in coastal Skegness, the novel’s nostalgic setting allows for an array of colourful characters. It explores a vanishing culture, nationalism, love and coming to terms with one’s past. A lovely summer read. 

Two anthologies really stood out for me (not including anthologies I have stories in or in recommended reading lists here as that just seems unethical): My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro ed. Jeffrey Eugenides and the old classic Points of View: An Anthology of Stories ed. James Moffett & Kenneth R McEelheny.

Like most anthologies there are a few stories I dislike,  but there are also many incredible works in these two anthologies. A few featured on last year's short story list and more will be on this year's (I'll put it up in soon) 

Wishing you all a fruitful, thoughtful and happy 2016.