Monday, May 26, 2014

Latest Stories (including Kisses by Clockwork) and Current Reads

Latest story releases: "The Tic-Toc Boy of Constantinople" in Kisses by Clockwork and "Submerging" in Overland Journal Issue 214, Autumn

"Submerging" in Overland Journal 214, Autumn can be ordered here:

There's some truly courageous articles in the journal, as well as three other stories, so it's well worth the read - as is every edition of Overland.

In fact it's Overland's 60th anniversary. That's sixty years of courageous dissent; sixty years of trailblazing for authors; sixty years of standing up for the wrongly marginalised; sixty years of meaningful provocation against those who lack compassion, and sixty years of fighting those who support anti-egalitarian ideologies. That's 60 pretty special years.

And "The Tic-Toc Boy of Constantinople" in Kisses by Clockwork will be released at a mega-launch party at Continuum (the national convention)  at the Intercontinental Rialto in Melbourne on Saturday the 8th June starting at 2pm.

Wish I could be there - it's a Perth tyranny of distance type of thing.

Needless to say, the story is a different work from "Submerging". Steampunk is a whole fascinating genre in its own right, including very stylistic art and craft. As usual, I'd imagine that there will be a little magic for all types of readers in Liz Grzyb's (Ticonderoga Publications) latest anthology. It's a pleasure playing a small role in it (or at least a good 20 page role). I can't wait to plunge into the steam-filled pages myself. I've set the timer on: tic-toc, tic-toc, tic-toc...

You can pre-order Kisses by Clockwork at

And after the launch Kisses by Clockwork will be available from Amazon Books, Book Depository or Indiebooksonline:

Congrats to Liz Gryzb and all the writers involved. 

Currently Reading: Just finished The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble. The ideas, commentary on society, and Drabble's rhythm, all scintillate. Its pitfall, however, is the distant narrative voice (distant from the story rather than cold and distant), which fails to captivate for the novel's entirety. It does, however, work superbly in patches.

The Pure Gold Baby isn't a bad read but the observant quasi-Victorian point of view needs to be more engrained within the story. I think it may be the case of a fine writer not being at her best here, or perhaps, Drabble is enjoying a dose of self-indulgence that ultimately over-weighs the reader.  

I'm also reading Dangerous Women ed. George RR Martin & Gardner Dozois. It's a compilation of stories and novellas with some real meat on them. Some standouts so far include: Joe Abercrombie's "Some Desperado", which is an action-packed Western with superb prose. After being slightly disappointed by Queenpin, Megan Abbott shows more than just the goods here with a wonderfully structured story that few writers could execute in the brilliant and psychologically intricate "My Heart is Either Broken".  "Wrestling Jesus" by Lawrence Block is a fun story of rugged 'old-school' masculinity. "Neighbors" by Megan Lindholm is easily the best story exploring issues relating to dementia that I've ever read and "Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell" is my first introduction to Brandon Sanderson and it's a pleasant surprise. More highlights to come.

Happy reading and writing!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Reading Meme for All

A fellow Perth short story writer, Laurie Steed, sent me a meme. I'm not going to add specific names - I'm happy to hear everyone's thoughts on reading.

What are you reading right now?

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Dangerous Women an anthology ed. by Geroge RR Martin and Gardner Dozois
The Neanderthals Rediscovered: How Modern Science is Rewriting Their Story by Dimitra Papgianni & Michale A. Morse

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble for my book club and then Falconer by John Cheever.

What five books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?

There’s hundreds on my random 'must-read' shelves. I suppose the extended 'five' whose numbers I’ve always wanted to come up of late are:  

The Prestige by Christopher Priest
Great Apes by Will Self
The Iron Heel by Jack London

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan 

 Tallula Rising by Glen Duncan 

Assymetry by Throraiya Dyer  

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez  
Dr Rat by William Kotzwinkle 
Yellowcake Springs by Guy Salvidge
George Saunders' Pastoralia
The Australian Movement by George Megalogenis. 

I’ll confess that Karen Russell and George RR Martin are two writers whose work leapfrogs the random reading list everytime.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/ lounge right now?

I currently subscribe to Overland Literary Journal, One Story (a great concept) and Meanjin. 

I also have a myriad of other literary journals lying around or on the shelves. These include many from: Griffith Review, The New Yorker, Tin House, Zoetrope: All Story, Granta, Island Magazine, Southerly and Ploughshares. And for the genre binge I’ve got a few Magazine of F &SF, ASIM and old print editions of Aurealis Magazine. These are all a wonderful byproduct of mad buying and very generous writerly friends.  

I always have National Geographic and an Australian Geographic lying about too. 

 National Geographic and Overland Literary Journal are the actual two on the coffee table at present. 

I have to admit that I'm dismayed by the rise of electronic fiction. I understand that it's complicated and relates to business prophet margins but as soon as a journal goes solely electronic, I stop reading it - whether it's quality fiction or not.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

It's only been over the past few years that I’ve learned to surrender books which I really dislike. Worst that I’ve read to completion recently has to be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I know, I know, super popular. How could you?!

It just plateaus completely for me. When I say 'plateau', I mean like leveled concrete, same colour too.

What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?

As just mentioned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Didn’t finish Love in a Cold Climate either…

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?

So many! One is a strange concept:

Let's see for a classic American novel: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle. If you don’t mind comedy and political incorrectness.

The Song of Ice and Fire Series (Game of Thrones) by George RR Martin,  if you want a fantastic, epic story. 

LOTR by JRR Tolkien, simply because it’s superb in its richness, world building and uniqueness.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole for a rich, comical, literary masterpiece. 

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson for a great Victorian novella.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Wonderful work.

Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakis, a much forgotten and seriously underrated writer at his best here. When Albert Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize he proclaimed that Kazantzakis deserved it more.

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Simply outstanding.

Captain Correlli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières for a novel that has it all in terms of narrative.

Bluebeard, Timequake, and God Bless You, Mr Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut (along with many others)

Short stories:

 The Locus Awards: Thirty Years of the Best in Science Fiction & Fantasy ed. Jonathan Strahan & Charles N. Brown

Almost anything and everything by Richard Yates, John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Karen Russell.

Joyce Carol Oates for a lesson in narrative craft

Will Self  if you’re after OTT ostentatious satire

Where do you usually get your books?

Love supporting independent stores. The following Perth bookstores may confuse interstate and overseas readers: I think I'm the backbone for sales at Northside Books on William St and Planet Books on Beaufort. Crow Books, if I’m in the area, and New Edition in Freo. Stefen's Books also does very well out of me. White Dwarf and Oxford Books too. 

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

The laboratory/dunny/toilet, bed, sofa, dining table, you name the place, even managed the shower once or twice...

Never really read during school hours though.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was too good to put down?

Always George RR Martin. Stayed up with Burial Rites by Hannah Kent too.

Have you ever “faked” reading a book?

Think I fake-finished a couple to impress when I was younger. Don’t see the point now.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

 As a teen, binging on fantasy? Of course

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

How much space do we have here? Tolkien’s The Hobbit and LOTR were fab. I adored Roald Dahl’s novels too. Asterix comics too - what a Gaul!

What book changed your life?

Wish I could say that they did. I suppose I dreamed of mountainous sword adventures in primary school? 

Hang on a tic, I’m a writer, so if I really take ‘reflection’ to an extreme, I’d say that they all have and still do. 

What is your favourite passage from a book?

It’s like asking you to choose a favourite member of the family.

Who are your top five favourite authors?

 ATM, this is my long five…

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Graham Greene

JRR Tolkien

George RR Martin

Karen Russell

Richard Yates

Joyce Carol Oates (short stories)

Kurt Vonnegut

John Cheever

What book has no one heard about but should read?

Depends on your hearing. 

Think that in Australian Independent Spec-Fic there are some great collections and anthologies from Ticonderoga Publications, Twelfth Planet Press and Fablecroft -  all Publishing Houses that are deservedly getting some real notice from elite level critics as well as winning (or being finalists for) The Aurealis Awards on a regular basis

What books are you an ‘evangelist’ for?

Anything on the favourite list. 

What are your favourite books by a first time author?

A Confederacy of Dunces. From recollection, John Kennedy Toole's first and only novel was published posthumously

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Beautiful debut.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. As long as you forget about the icicle scene. 

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell as a novel, and her collection, St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Girls is incredible. One of my all time favourites.

What is your favourite classic book?

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stephenson

Five other notable mentions?

Not classics, just mentions in general. I’m a rule breaker: 

Seahearts by Margo Lanagan

The Quiet American and The Confidential Agent by Graham Greene (as well as a host of others by Greene)

The Road by Cormac McArthy

Adult short stories of Ursula Le Guin .

Tobias Wolf

Roald Dahl’s twists are often seen as dated but I still love them, same applies for Kurt Vonnegut

Sherman Alexie

George Saunders.

Michael Swanwick’s short stories

Nalo Hopkinson’s short work too. Looking forward to reading her longer work.

I've read two short stories now by the Australian writer, Ryan O’Neil: “Four Letter Words” and “R and L" and I’ve been impressed.

And in Australian spec-fic, Margo Lanagan aside, the few stories that I’ve read by Lisa L. Hannett, Deborah Biancotti and Angela Slatter have been fabulous. I’m also looking forward to reading more from Faith Mudge, who has a real talent for fluid storytelling so it will be interesting following her writing journey.

I’d add my writing group here too… All are doing very well at present but that just seems in poor taste and they know who they are.

Jonathan Shaw Looks at Overland 214

Jonathan Shaw is an Australian poet, who also provides regular commentary on a few literary journals. His blog is of interest to any reader, especially Australian ones. His Overland updates often make my 'reading guide' when I'm busy and need to save my cover-to-cover reading for a latter date.

It's flattering to be mentioned in his recent review of Overland 214, Autumn ed. Jeff Sparrow:

I think his final lines ring truer than ever regarding Overland's 60th birthday:

Sixty years of dissent, interrogation and craft! May the road rise to meet you, Overland, and the wind be at your back for at least 60 more.