Thursday, December 19, 2013

Writers [on Writing]: David Leavitt

That creativity lies on the other side of madness is commonplace, though popularly the madness with which art is associated is of the delusional variety, marked by visions and demons.

David Leavitt, Comforting Lessons in Arranging Life's Details

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Overland Subscriberthon

Overland Literary Journal is having its annual Subscriberthon.

For me, it’s not about the gifts and packages Overland is offering (although Christmas is around the corner), I’m a subscriber as I believe in what they offer to the community: a willingness to engage in socialist discourse – and serve up a  polemical when required too.  

The fact of the matter is that you can read the journal for free online. So, in effect, subscribing is similar to donating to the journal. A journal, mind you, that has been steadfastly at the forefront of socio-cultural and political discussion since it began in 1954.

 Overland encourages an open-minded liberal debate. And, what’s more, as a subscriber you’ll be supporting writers who earn the professional standards of pay that Overland provide, which is a rarity in the world of modern literary journals.

As a short story writer, I’m a keen reader of Overland's prose (another reason to subscribe as fiction resonates far better for me in print). Under the previous fiction-editor, Jane Gleeson-White, and the current fiction-editor, Jennifer Mills, the selection of stories has been impressive, a mixture of new and established writers who merit praise. Let’s not forget that Overland unearth new names (and hopefully future stars of Australian literature) as well as publish established authors, including Peter Carey, Patrick White, Thea Astley, Christos Tsiolkas, Sophie Cunningham, Charlotte Wood, Margo Lanagan and many, many more.

Despite their free option, or as a result of it, under the guidance of the mercurial Jeff Sparrow, Overland is growing in terms of both readership and subscribers (both at a 30 year high). They are also closing in on 5500 followers on Facebook. Overland's recent growth is integral to the left having an impact. Its many voices are being heard. 

If you’re interested in the arts, literature, politics, as well as cultural and social issues, then Overland could well be the journal for you.

I’ve attached the contents page of the latest edition. Take a look for yourself:

Writers [on Writing]: Hans Koning

Serious writing is not better; it has a different origin. It is writing what you have to write, what you hear in your mind.
        You don't inquire what is selling those days. You don't worry about what editors or reviewers may like or not like. 

Hans Koning, Summoning the Mystery and Tragedy, but in a Subterranean Way

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Writers [on Writing]: Barbara Kingslover

Writers [on Writing]: Barbara Kingslover

In actual word count, if the literary novels in my bookcase accurately represent human experience, it looks as if people spend roughly half their time in intelligent dialogue about the meaning of their lives, and 1 percent of it practicing or contemplating coition.
         Excuse me, but I don't think so.
         Why should literary authors shy away from something so important?

Barbara Kingslover, A Forbidden Territory to All

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Few Years Ago: Reading Alice Munro

A Few Years Ago

A few years ago I despairingly forced myself to read Munro. I couldn't appreciate her style at all: overly descriptive, overly wordy and overly subtle plots. 'Littish wank.'

Yet now I keenly observe everything she does. Her generally subtle plots are wonderful flavours imbuing her work; her significant details enable us to view humanity under a microscope; she evokes relationships with elegant descriptive brushstrokes. Her structure is also unique and effective, almost like biographical or autobiographical snapshots (sometimes a series of snapshots).

I suppose what Munro has taught me is that the more you read and write the more you appreciate different aspects of narrative mastery. The irony is that a few years ago I would have told friends to avoid her, unless they liked wading through a turgid mire.

A few years later and I'm a Munro evangelist: 'Read Munro!'

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Review of Dreaming of Djinn in Locus Magazine, Michael Swanwick's Blog, Current Reads and Latest Publication News

Locus Magazine Review of "Oleander: An Ottoman Tale" from Rich Horton

The end of Rich Horton's Short Fiction Review in Locus Magazine (October) included a nice review of my story "Oleander: an Ottoman Tale" in Dreaming of Djinn.

As short fiction reviewers for speculative fiction's most celebrated review magazine, Rich Horton and Gardner Dozois are two editors that read as much short spec-fic as anyone in the game. They additionally compile and edit 'Best ofs', along with Jonathan Strahan (based here in Perth), Ellen Datlow (Horror) and Paula Guran (Dark Fantasy and Horror) - apologies if I've missed anyone out.

So it's flattering to be mentioned in Locus Magazine at all, let alone by a specialist in the field. In the story, as Horton mentions below, I intended to combine many elements and, while maintaining drama and tension was important, I wanted the ending to be a more pensive, thought provoking one, rather than the overly dramatic kind.


I'd like to thank the editor of Dreaming of Dinn, Liz Gryzb for sending the following through to me with a sweet congratulatory message.

Short Fiction: Rich Horton p. 17

Finally, a brief mention of a nice story from an Australian anthology of fantasies on Middle-Eastern themes, Dreaming of Djinn: ‘‘Oleander: An Ottoman Tale’’, by Anthony Panegyres, about the daughter of a failing merchant who wants her to marry an Arabic man to restore the family fortunes. She is interested in a soldier who sometimes rides by her window. Intertwined with that story is a djinn who seems to visit at night, and also the fate of her brother, taken to be a Janissary, and of a little boy she encounters in the market. A lot of elements combine in a story ultimately quieter, and less dramatic, than one might expect, but quite nicely done.

Michael Swanwick

And the link below is a bit on Michael Swanwick's blog. I don't quite agree with Swanwick on this one but I loved his reply to some haphazard comments I made. His blog 'Flogging Babel' is well worth following as he's a frequent blogger who's personal, witty, humorous and sharp (I hardly blog - Swanwick manages it all). His blog aside, Swanwick's fiction is worthwhile reading and much of it groundbreaking.

I have waxed lyrical in the past about Swanwick on this blog but I've also been mildly critical of some of his work. After reading his post, I'm beginning to wonder whether it was the right thing to do...but then again.

Currently Reading: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Finishing off Richard Yates' Collected Stories (surely he deserved a Pulitzer for his short fiction alone) and Alice Munro's Selected Stories (went off and bought The Beggar Maid and Progress in Love to read more of her work - the stories from those two titles stood out for me the most).

And ironically, I just finished Dancing with Bears by Michael Swanwick. Although lighter fare than his earlier novels it still abounds with symbolic meaning. It also displays Swanwick's deep understanding of Moscow and Russian history, albeit through a clever, farcical 'steampunk' adventure, starring those two likeable rogues, Darger and Surplus. 

Latest Publication News

Proud to have stories being released soon in two of our leading literary journals, Meanjin and Overland

I've been extremely fortunate since I began submitting a few years ago - it's been a dream run: nine publications since 2011, including literary journals I thought untouchable; an Aurealis Finalist last year for Best Fantasy Short Story; and a story in The Year's Best of Australian Fantasy & Horror. The publications have challenged my previously misguided belief that the big journals just published name authors. I now believe, perhaps wrongly of course, that writing of quality is generally rewarded - this sounds conceited and it's not my intention here, what I essentially mean to convey is that at least in Australian circles, the 'big' journals with limited space and often renown names, appear to be selecting on a merit basis. Fortunately, I live in Perth and have no contact whatsoever with the Eastern States editors before selection, which means it's entirely based on the work itself rather than the personality behind it (an exception to meeting editors  is Perthite, Liz Gryzb, who I'd met at a convention but she'd  read my story "Reading Coffee" for The Year's Best beforehand. Since then we've met up on several occasions). 

The part I've enjoyed the most so far is that there haven't been any boundaries or issues in having both 'realist' and 'spec-fic' published simultaneously. After all, I have a passion for reading and writing in both genre.

My latest story (a homage) is in the deservedly lauded Meanjin and the next story out "Submerging"will be in Overland 214. This is my second story to appear in the pages of that courageous, thought-provoking journal. It's a different fiction editor who's working there now, author Jennifer Mills. Both Mills and the former fiction editor, Jane Gleeson-White write extraordinarily well (fiction and non-fiction respectively).

My two most recent stories are 'realist', although "Submerging" is also a metaphorical work. After the Locus Review, however, I feel encouraged to 'spe-fic-it-up' again soon!

Political Gripe: The mad right wingers having a mad-hatters tea party in Congress.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Allow for Serendipity: Murdering themes or preconceived ideas.

Allow for Serendipity: Murdering themes or preconceived ideas.

Writers are told all manner of 'rules': don't pull the readers out of the story; start late finish early; show don't tell. The list is endless. These rules are well-meaning but good writers are criminals who break the rules, or at least shift them, whenever it suits. But what about planning a story? What about the before work?

There is no doubt that a plan can aid a writer. This doesn't necessarily mean a formal plan, it may mean that a writer has pondered over the strength of the idea, its potential pitfalls and its many possibilities before putting pen to paper.

But there is also an inherent danger with planning – or to be more precise: it's often perilous to insist on sticking to the initial plan. Not one of my stories has panned out exactly as intended and that's a great thing to say. It's the most wondrous part of the narrative craft, the ability to be flexible, cull parts that you originally desired but don't quite fit the mould as the work evolves. Writers benefit from allowing for that evolution. Their revising and chiseling away allows for something richer than the original 'primitive' being.

What does this mean for a writer? It means discovering those emerging threads and elements in their piece, and nourishing them.

From my own observations of others, sticking to a slanted theme, which a writer hangs preciously on to, can be the most hazardous approach. I've read some drafts from writers whereby the original aim of the work is actually the sole thing holding back a piece. Furthermore, the clinging necessity for that original idea to be conveyed is harming rather than enhancing the story. It's a hard thing to acknowledge: that the very essence of what a writer initially intends to do actually requires a new perspective or viewpoint or approach taken to a theme.

So it's not about murdering your darlings sometimes, it's also being able to murder the perspective or angle taken relating to your original theme and re-visualising it according to the strength of the work itself.

Serendipity is a magical thing and once unearthed, nurture it. Don’t let the chains of your primary vision shackle its evolution.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Currently Reading and Meanjin Story

Currently Reading (outside of this edition of Meanjin, which I've a story in): Richard Yates, Alice Munro, Philip Mansel and Michael Swanwick. They're all so satisfying that I've slowed my reading pace to prevent from finishing early. Sad but true.

Congrats to all the Meanjin contributors, especially the fiction writers: Jane Jervis-Read, Craig Billingham and Angelina Mirabito. I'm  looking forward to reading Waleed Aly's piece too. I'm generally an admirer of his socio-cultural and political commentary. Aly certainly allows for a more rational, loving and accepting discourse.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Latest Dark Matter review of "Oleander: An Ottoman Tale" from Dreaming of Djinn

Nalini Haynes' Dark Matter Review of my story "Oleander: An Ottoman Tale" from the Dreaming of Djinn
Chrisaphina lives in a hostile world where her father’s business is failing and she must marry to survive off the streets. Her brother was lost to the Janissary corps; every street urchin reminds her of him. Chrisaphina’s father wants to marry her to a Muslim while she imagines herself in love with a stranger who rides by daily. A djinn imbues the story with mystery.

I really liked the end. Nicely done.

For reviews of other stories by in the anthology, please visit the link below:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Writers [on Writing]: Jamaica Kincaid

Writers [on Writing]: Jamaica Kincaid

I have noticed that when you know people who die, you catch it and end up dead, too.

Jamaica Kincaid, Those Words That Echo...Echo...Echo Through  Life

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My own personal thought on writing fiction

My personal thought on writing fiction:

A storyteller conveys an interesting plot.

A writer of substance explores the human condition.

do both: be the storyteller who explores the human condition.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sentence length: The Long and Short of it...or Just the Long of it.

Sentence length: The Long and Short of it...or Just the Long of it

I recently saw on my facebook account that Karen Russell is giving a talk on long sentences - she humbly (and falsely) stated that she wasn't very good at it.

Syntax is important. Varying sentence lengths is vital but it's the longer sentence that especially captivates writers. It's due to the craftsmanship - there's an artistry in creating the many nuances it can possess. Long sentences are often dependent on whether the voice allows for them too. For instance in "Oleander: An Ottoman Tale" I purposefully went 'long' (for me) in many places, while there are no truly long sentences in my soon-to-be released Meanjin story, as it didn't suit the stronger narrative voice and more robust feel of the piece.

Karen Russell, Joyce Carol Oates and Angela Carter are three writers that I highly regard in terms of both technical mastery and the art of the long sentence. There is so much that a writer can observe, and hopefully absorb, from their majestic handling of syntax. I'll have to add some examples at a later date (my posts are the lackadaisical cafe sort).

Long sentences are not my speciality. Those in my two most recently published stories are often 'listy' and don't convey the rich beauty and array of nuances of those of Russell, Carter or Oates. I've put two of them below for you anyhow - I was curious and took a quick skim through my own work . Naturally, they are by no means perfect and also by no means very 'long'. It is an area that I'm eager to work on - if only Karen Russell could give her talk over here in Oz...

from  "Reading Coffee" (in Overland 204 and reprinted in The Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror, 2011):
She looks forwards to wakes: the brush of uncomfortably formal suits on her skin; the kitchen, a pulsating heart sending food forth and then the remains flowing back; the sad smiles; and the composed ladies who only an hour or so earlier had worn tear-stained faces .
from "Oleander: An Ottoman Tale" (in the anthology Dreaming of Djinn):        
That way he never realised that she knew most, if not all of the house's secrets: where he kept Mama's wedding ring; the tiny shoes that Stephanos had worn; the story of Ysmine and Ysminias; the icon of Athanasios that he displayed on a whim; and his leather water pouch that was filled and emptied every two days with aniseed spirit.
In terms of technical mastery (and great reads), I'd advise reading Karen Russell, Angela Carter and Joyce Carol Oates. Their prose certainly soars (for me) like a great Andean condor. I'm just a hopeful fledgling admiring their unique and rare talent from far below.

Current Reads:

Just finished the impressive, wistful novel Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan, which in a folkish, parred-back but rhythmical style, successfully explores issues relating to those mythical selkie sea-wives, their human husbands and their 'hybrid' offspring.

I've also read the exceptional Richard Yates collection, Liars in Love. Yates' stories kept getting better and I was wrong in a previous post: Liars in Love is every bit the equivalent of his brilliant Eleven Kinds of Loneliness. His stories are (or were) that good that I actually slowed down my reading pace to make them last longer.

I'm currently reading Strange Objects by Gary Crew, to be followed by Graham Greene's  The Comedians.


I don't often do this regarding friends, as it seems to border on nepotism, but I'm excited: so a hearty congrats to a mate, Daniel Simpsom, on having a story "Those Days" in the anthology Next ed. by Simon Petrie & Robert Proteous.

And a huge huzzah goes out to Kaaron Warren whose novella "Sky" (from the Twelfth Planet Press collection Through Splintered Walls) just won the Shirley Jackson Award for best novella!

Lyn Battersby, Lee Battersby, Kaaron Warren and I during Kaaron's recent trip to Perth. An enjoyable day of 'chewing the fat'.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Writers [on Writing]: Ward Just

Writers [on Writing]: Ward Just

Novels have more to do with desire - translating desire into prose - and a temperament that accepts concentration over the long haul, meaning the ability to sit alone in one place day by day.

Ward Just, Sitting Down a Novelist, Getting Up a Playwright

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Writers [on Writing]: Diane Johnson

Writers [on Writing]: Diane Johnson

Must a novel have a theme? If so, who is in charge of it?
Diane Johnson, Pesky Themes Will Emerge When You're Not Looking

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Meanjin Story, Isobelle Carmody on "Dreaming of Djinn" and Current Reads

 Isobelle Carmody on Dreaming of Djinn, and Current Reads

The renown Isobelle Carmody was the guest on Monday's Meanjin blog post and she waxed lyrical about Dreaming of Djinn ed. Liz Gryzb, the latest anthology that I have a story in:

I have just this second finished a short story collection called Dreaming of Djinn edited by Liz Gryzb. It is the most mouthwatering collection of stories merging speculative fiction with the Arabian Nights. Right up my alley subject wise, and I mean it quite literally when I said it was mouthwatering. The food descriptions are just so sensuous and evocative that they pleased me aesthetically and made me salivate with longing. And there is belly dancing that ranges from dangerously potent to hilarious.

For the entire post and what Carmody is reading (including a few juicy bits on works that she's not entirely sold on) see the following link:

Another Story out in 2013

Carmody's words on the Meanjin website come at an appropriate time to announce that I'll have a story nestled within the treasure trove that is Meanjin later this year.

Currently Reading

Dreaming of Djinn ed. by Liz Gryzb: nine stories in and wow!  But I'll let Carmody's afore mentioned words speak for the anthology rather than my own.


Philip Mansel's Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe in the Mediterranean examines three once cosmopolitan Levantine cities: Smyrna (Izmir), Alexandria and Beirut. Is there a better historian?

Liars in Love by Richard Yates: not quite the same as his sublime Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (some stories are certainly on par though) but still an exquisite collection by a writer whose portrayal of the period he lived in is arguably unrivalled.

And a steampunk anthology which, only two stories in, has so far disappointed - they're too pulpy for my own personal liking. I'll read a few more tales before I decide whether or not to surrender it to the shelves.