Recently in On Other Blogs Category

On Other Blogs #38

kimbofo has responded to a new reading meme which asks "If the world were to end tomorrow what book would you read today?" Her response: My Brother Jack by George Johnston. Mine would probably be The Boy Scout's Guide to Doing Practically Everything, if there is such a book. The reason being that we all know that the end of the world normally means there's a few people left behind, (eg The Road by Cormac McCarthy or I Am Legend by Richard Matheson), so I want to be well-prepared.

Angela Savage has had her first novel, Behind The Night Bazaar, published in German under the title Nachtmarkt, which sounds a little pedestrian. Anyway, she was intrigued to read the write-up on the German publisher's site, but having no German she utilised the internet Babel Fish translator, with amusing results.

It's zombies all over the place, with Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, and Lili Wilkinson introducing the monsters into classic texts by such writers as Dickens, Joyce and Whitman. And they read pretty good as well. However, I'm more of a vampire man myself.

Sean Williams releases news of a forthcoming collection of his best short sf stories. The publisher will be Ticonderoga Publications. No, I have no idea how to pronounce that name either.

On Other Blogs #37

D.M. Cornish let it be known that Lamplighter, the second volume of his "Monster Blood Tattoo" series, went to the printers on November 7. The book weighs in at over 600 pages and is expected to be released in May 2008.

Susan Johnson, held a book reading in Paris at Shakespeare and Co. "In many ways Paris is the perfect place to confirm oneself as a writer, since it is one of the few places in the world to respect the arts so highly, and literature in particular. If Australia is (arguably) still a place where the important man is the rich man (as Patrick White suggested in his essay The Prodigal Son and which I still believe holds true) then Paris is still the place where an un-rich and unconfident young woman might hope -- even in the most modest and uncertain way -- to pledge herself to some higher thing. Paris made the possibility of a life pledged to literature seem completely possible, and not 'wanky' or 'over-wrought' or 'ridiculous' in the least."

Matt Rubinstein is getting involved with a brand new project in which he, and a few other writers, will "pretend for a year that they are living in one of the other writers' hometowns, where they have in fact never been." Rubinstein will "be spending a virtual year in Graz, Austria, the birthplace of Claudia Chibici-Revneanu."

Margo Lanagan notes that she has a new story coming out in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow, which also features a new work by Lucy Sussex.

On Other Blogs #36

Judith Ridge raises an interesting question about the way newspapers allocate books to reviewers in her review of the film "The Door in the Floor". Her point, made in passing, concerns the way "The Sydney Morning Herald" sent Nick Hornby's new novel, which fits into the Young Adult category, not to the resident YA reviewer but to someone with no connection to the genre.

I've skirted around this issue before - see my notes on an "Australian Literary Review" review of Richard Ford's Lay of the Land. I really can't see the point in reading a review written by someone who knows nothing about the genre in question, and isn't willing to move towards some level of understanding of it. It's a pointless exercise. A

A month or so ago we had the news of a European novelist who was convicted of a murder after police decided his crime novel show more than a passing acquaintance with some facts of the case that had not been made public. Now we have an aspiring horror novelist in Mexico who has been arrested on murder charges after authorities found various body
parts in his apartment. Reports state that there might be three bodies involved.

Max Barry is disturbed by the amount of research the writer has undertaken: "I'm sometimes asked how much research you should do when working on a novel, so let me say: this is probably too much. It wasn't just the girlfriend, you see; there's also a missing ex-girlfriend and a chopped-up prostitute. That seems excessive to me. One, I could understand. I mean, I wouldn't support it. You let horror novelists start cutting up hookers, and the next thing you know Tom Clancy is commandeering nuclear submarines off the coast of Florida...Call me a purist, but I prefer to do things the old-fashioned way: dismember people in my head."

Sometimes you get a certain blogger covering a couple of very interesting topics in the one week which are hard to ignore. Such is Judith Ridge who attended a seminar organised by the writing and society research group at the University of Western Sydney, titled "The Uses of Blogging". The seminar speakers were Kerryn Goldsworthy and Stephanie Trigg. It's best you read the piece. This is the type of writing blogs do so well: personal and informed.

On Other Blogs #35

Ampersand Duck has been to the Lifeline book fair in Canberra, and over-indulged, again. Her tale of woe is a delight to read, especially as she finds a wondrous book with an intriguing title: She Vomits Like a Lady. Surely a book that should be in everyone's library. It's certainly one I'm going to keep an eye out for.

Henry Rosenbloom, publisher at Scribe Publications, goes out on a limb on his weblog and attempts to describe how publishers think. Oddly enough, it comes across as perfectly reasonable. "It's a fact universally acknowledged that an unsolicited manuscript has a very low chance of being of a publishable standard; that's why it gets put, in the first instance, in what's known as 'the slush pile'. It's very hard to justify putting scarce editorial resources into assessing such manuscripts. And yet -- as numerous mistaken rejections by publishers around the world and throughout history have shown -- it's folly to treat them all as unworthy of consideration."

Ben Peek is in the midst of writing a new novel, Across the Seven Continents of the Underworld, which he describes as "my-red-sun-bushranger-inspired-revenge-narrative novel". As well as posting the opening of the novel he also ponders on a question that I guess gets asked at just about every literary festival: "A lot of people will tell you a lot of things about the practice [of] writing and they're mostly a yawn. I figure you find your way and do it, and whatever that is, you do it. Write drunk, write sober, write high, write straight, write naked, write clothed, write whenever, write however. It's the end product that matters. For myself, when I'm writing a piece, I find that having a pattern is what's important. All I need to do is sit down every day and write a bit of it and when I'm done, I'm done."

On Other Blogs #34

The wriggly blokes over at the "Talking Squid" weblog have started a new interview thread: the subject of one day's one-question interview asks a question of someone else the next. The first featured Chris Lawson talking to Nick Evans, who then spoke to Sean Williams, who then questioned Jonathan Strahan. This could go on forever. Mainly sf
so far but it could spread its wings soon. Wish I'd thought of it.

Max Barry, author of the excellent novel Company, responds to a reader stuck in a dilemma. The reader has been lending copies of Barry's book to work colleagues and now finds that his manager wants to read it, and wants the reader to attend his book club to discuss it. "One of the interesting things about corporate workplaces is that they turn otherwise decent human beings in... well, management. They're not like that because they're petty, deceitful
scumbags. I mean, obviously that helps. But it's the environment that encourages those personality traits." He might be getting into a nature vs nurture debate here. From what I'd seen, I would generally come down on the side of nature.

On Other Blogs #33

Justine Larbalestier explains why she loves blogging. 'Lately, I've realised that part of my writing process is to procrastinate. I need to futz around blogging, reading blogs, cooking, reading books, watching tellie in order to get my brain to the point where it's ready to write. When I just leap into writing gears grind on gears and it ain't pretty. Blogging and other procratinatory activities are necessary brain lubricants." Which is a pretty interesting way of looking at it.

Alice Taylor, via Cory Doctorow and the "Boing Boing" weblog, recommends The Silver Road, by Australian author Grace Dugan, as a great summer read. Not quite the season here yet, but if this weather keeps up summer will be here before we know it.

Jonathan Strahan is reading stories for inclusion in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Vol 2, and has hit the panic stage. It seems that judicious use of single malt scotch might be the only reliable cure.

On Other Blogs #32

Juliet Marillier ponders the problems associated with changing the current work-in-progress due to a contractural obligation. The resultant conflict showed up in the new work, necessitating a re-think and a big rewrite. A good lesson for young writers: if it isn't working, chuck it out.

A correspondent from "Speakeasy", the weblog of The Australian Writer's Marketplace, attended the Byron Bay Writers' Festival last weekend and wrote up their impressions of a few of the panels. Research and Fiction featured Garry Disher, Gabrielle Lord, Carrie Tiffany and Richard Flanagan; Kiss-Ass Protagonists [strange American spelling there] had James Phelan, Gabrielle Lord and Michael Robotham; Robert Dessaix was in conversation with Ramona Kaval; and Annette Barlow (Allen & Unwin), Ivor Indyk (Giramondo) and Bernadette Foley (Hachette Livre) chatted to Varuna director Peter Bishop about Australian Publishing.

Trent Jamieson won the 2005 Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Short Story and asks: Does it say anything about my work? and Does it change your life?

On Other Blogs #31

"How's this for a Guinness world record: we and another publisher have just published a book with the same title, on the same day, about the same person, with the same retail price. We've published Kevin Rudd by a journalist called Nicholas Stuart. Penguin have also published Kevin Rudd, in their case by a journalist called Robert Macklin. Our sub-title, though, is 'an unauthorised political biography'; theirs is 'the biography'. Is this coincidence, conspiracy, or cock-up? And what is the significance, if any, of the differing sub-titles? "To get an answer to these questions, sit back and relax while I tell the tale of the bringing of our book to market." Which is just what Henry Rosenbloom proceeds to do on his weblog "Henry's Blog". By way of introduction, Rosenbloom is the founder and publisher of Scribe Publications, an Australian small press. [I reviewed the publisher's Will Dyson: Australia's Radical Genius by Ross McMullin last year.] There aren't many blogs written by publishers in Australia so this one gives us a valuable insight into the inner workings of the industry.

Margo Lanagan is really getting stuck into the revisions and rewrites of her upcoming novel, Tender Morsels, which is still a year away from publication. "I have reached the point in the revisions where, if I'm going out and I know everyone else is going to be out of the house, I lock the manuscript away with the laptop. This is because back in March, our house was broken into, and I've done enough work on the revisions (and not word-processed it yet - I'll do that when I've completely scribbled over the entire manuscript next week) for it to be, not traumatic (and it probably wouldn't hurt the story at all -- hmm, must think about what that implies about the state it's in), but a big bloody nuisance to go back in to the last WP'd version and re-do them." I hope she's keeping off-site back-ups.

"Lit Lists" is one of Marshal Zeringue's many weblogs under the general umbrella of the "Campaign for the American Reader". On this blog he links to book lists supplied by authors to various publications and websites. The most recent entry is from Kate Blackwell who was asked by to recommend "five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise." Among those books is The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead, which she admires for its "sheer originality of language and unique vision".

The "Australian Crime Fiction" crew have purchased their tickets for the upcoming Melbourne Writers' Festival and have now published their itinerary. Pretty impressive energy levels. Which reminds me that I have to get tickets for the Ned Kelly Awards night.

Judith Ridge, on her "The :: New :: Misrule" weblog asks: "My question for the good readers of Misrule is this -- how do you define 'voice' in narrative fiction? For writers -- how do you define it, and how do you find it? How do you make a voice distinct from character to character -- especially when it comes to first person?" A lively and informative discussion ensued, which necessitated a follow-up posting.

On Other Blogs #30

Chris Lawson, over on the "Talking Squid" weblog, asks a number of Australian authors about their favourite character
: street signs, friends' surnames, and variants of found names all get a mention. You'll need to follow through on the comments to this posting, as some of them are very amusing.

Andrew on the "Black Dog Blog", has noticed one of those things that, after you've read it, you think, "yeah, why didn't I see that?"

Judith Ridge points out the upcoming publication of That's Why I Wrote This Song by Susanne Gervay, which will be accompanied by a CD of music specifically written for the book by the author's daughter Tory. Ridge wonders if it's the "first YA book to be released with its own soundtrack".

Appeal Denied by Peter Corris is put to the page 99 test by Marshall Zeringue on his "Campaign for the American reader" weblog. [Personal disclosure: Marshall links to a photo I took of Peter Corris's plaque at Circular Quay in Sydney.]

On Other Blogs #29

Marshal Zeringue applies the "Page 99 Test" to Emily Maguire's first novel Taming the Beast.

Sophie Masson, author of a number of young adult novels, has taken up a guest blogging role at "The Good Reading Magazine" for the next three months. Her two columns so far have covered the topics "This Writing Life" and "Why I Write for Children." It's her enthusiasm that makes me come over all tired.

Penni Russon wonders about "early chapter books" for the 4-9 year olds on her weblog "Eglantine's Cake". As she puts it, so succinctly: "There are so many freaking FAIRY and PRINCESS books it also made me want to vomit rainbows and butterflies." My son, who fits into this age group is a big fan of the Zac Power books - about a boy who has to save the world and still finish his homework - but beyond that it gets a bit thin.

Justine Larbalestier extols the
virtues of swearing, without actually doing so, which I think is a pretty good trick, and in the process puts the boot into the banning of books.

On Other Blogs #28

Damien, on his "Crime Down Under" weblog, has followed up his list of Favourite Comic Crime Novels, with a rundown of Australian Female Private Investigators. It's a pretty substantial list.

In the middle of a post about being asked to attend Adelaide's "Festival of Ideas" in July, and blog about it, Pavlov's Cat writes: "For anyone new to this blog who is bemused by the catblogging and other domestic preoccupations
indiscriminately mixed up with the posts about politics and culture and ideas, this kind of heterogeneous reportage is one of the most pronounced manifestations in the blogosphere of gender difference, and in my case at least is a deliberate if very mild bit of feminist activism. Never mind the women from Venus and the men from Mars; my equivalent book on the subject would be called Male Bloggers Compartmentalise and Female Bloggers Don't." Surely not!!

TET, "The Extraordinary Tourist", goes looking for a statue of C.J Dennis while on a road trip from Adelaide to Broken Hill. He draws a blank around Auburn (where Dennis was born) and in Mintaro (where he lived for a while) before discovering that the statue he was looking for is located further north in Laura. Actually there are two statues in the town - which I wasn't aware of when I was last there about 10 years ago: one in the main street, which you can see in the Clare Valley Heritage Trail brochure (PDF file); and the other by the town hall, a photo of which I published on this weblog last year.

On Other Blogs #27

Penni Russon, author of Undine, and curator of the "Eglantine's Cake" weblog, comments on a rather harsh review her novel has received on the Amazon site. This is normally not a good thing to do, but Russon looks at the review objectively and comes to some quite reasonable conclusions about it.

And from the other side of the equation, Pavlov's Cat writes about reactions she has received to reviews she has written. As PC puts it, authors cannot take reviews personally. The aim of any reviewer is, or should be, to examine the book not the author. If a personal attack is involved (such as the classic case from Europe earlier this year where a critic wrote a scathing review of a novel that hadn't even been published purely because he had "issues" with the author) then you've still got to keep quiet. In PC's case I'm sure there was nothing personal in the review. She either thought the book was well-written and successful, or not. Russon's critique of her review wasn't based on a personal attack either, but on the woolly-headed thought behind the review. She is disappointed the reviewer didn't understand what she was trying to do in her novel, and who wanted to read a book she basically didn't write. She handled the approach perfectly.

On Other Blogs #26

Peter Nicholson, on the "3 Quarks Daily" weblog, examines the standing of Gwen Harwood as a poet, and, in the process, has some interesting things to say about Australian literature and the categorisation of culture. "How good it is to come across a poet where there is no look-at-me subtext going on. Meditative, rueful, this is writing one can immediately relate to. Harwood's philosophical bent has made her world thetangible one we all know: about the house, glimmers of beatitudes, thinking on the meaning of friendship, loves remembered, nature's beauty holding off darknesses. Eloquent music. A memorable and hard-earned calm in the face of the tell-tale X-ray or the tragicomedy of having the large sensibility in the small-town environs. And there is passion too."

"The Rap Sheet" is a crime fiction related weblog out of the US, and just recently put out a call to all its readers to identify unjustly forgotten or neglected crime novels. Peter Temple wrote in (it's a fair way down the page) suggesting the Essington Lewis novels of Australian writer Robin Wallace-Crabbe, with his favourite being To Catch a Forger from 1988.

Chris McLaren appears to be a Canadian from Halifax - I found a few hints about this on the blog but no specific information - who found himself in Melbourne recently for work. Being a reader he got to spend a bit of time hunting out Australian books, and then decided to write about it. Good to see he discovered Shane Maloney, Peter Temple and Margo Lanagan.

Marshal Zeringue applies his page 99 test to Just Desserts by Simon Haynes.

On Other Blogs #25

Looking for a rundown on current and future Australian crime fiction releases? Then look no further than the "Crime Down Under" weblog, where Damien examines what's been released so far in May and what we can expect to see in the next few weeks.

In "The Walrus" magazine, Lisa Moore compares literature from the ends-of-the-earth, namely Newfoundland and Tasmania. "Despite all the differences between Newfoundland and Tasmania, there are also compelling similarities. The most tragic similarity is that both of the islands' aboriginal populations were decimated as a result of European settlement. We are also both islands off the coast of a continent; we are both ridiculed by our respective mother countries. Newfoundlanders are lazy and stupid and Tasmanians are inbred, the story goes. The joke is that the Tasmanians are so inbred that they're born with two heads. In the Salamanca Place market, in Hobart, they sell T-shirts with two necks, just as you can find miniature models of Newfie outhouses with two floors in some joke shops around St. John's. "Most importantly, both islands have gone through a burst of astonishing literary production in the last twenty years that has caught the attention of the world. Just as Newfoundland author Wayne Johnston put the province on the literary map with his novel The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, so Richard Flanagan made the world aware of the rich cultural heritage of Tasmania with his novel Gould's Book of Fish."

HipWriterMama has been captivated by Justine Larbalestier's YA "Magic or Madness" trilogy, and powered through all three books over one weekend. It would be nice to have the time.

On Other Blogs #24

Judith Ridge casts her eye over the recently released Children's Book Council of Australia - Book of the Year Shortlists. She's surprised at some of the omissions.

Damien continues his good work on his weblog "Crime Down Under", this time alerting us to the crime novels of Robert Gott: "In Good Murder he was unleashed on the unsuspecting Queensland community of Maryborough. In A Thing Of Blood he was back home in Melbourne but no less despised. He is William Power: actor, private inquiry agent and, yes, total dickhead. Robert Gott has sent Power north into the wilds of Australia's top end for the 3rd mystery in the series titled Amongst the Dead (pub. Scribe Publications)."

Sean Williams thinks he's talking about fellow writers when he says: "There's always someone who won't take criticism. There's always someone trying to please everyone. There's always someone who over-researches. There's always someone who's blocked. There's always someone who thinks they know everything. There's always someone doing it for the money. There's always someone who reaches right into your heart and makes you want to weep--or laugh, or dance, or hide--and strangely they're often the ones who give it away all too soon, as though they've over-generously expended everything they had in a few short pieces, whetting your appetite for more that never comes." Sounds like my work, and probably yours too.

On Other Blogs #23

Ben Peek has had a new story published in "Aurealis #37" titled "John Wayne (As Written by a Non-American)". On his blog he responds to an implied request from a reviewer of the piece, providing his motivation and his plans for a series of stories in a similar vein.

Marshall Zeringue subjects Penni Russon and her novel, Breathe, to the page 69 test on his weblog "Campaign for rhe American Reader". It's quite decent really.

Peter Rozovsky is a big fan of Peter Temple's novel, The Broken Shore, and has been discussing it on his weblog, "Detectives Beyond Borders."

On Other Blogs #22

Patricia Storms couldn't finish Markus Zusack's The Book Thief (last book in the item). As she explains "So why didn't it work for me? Well, for starters, it really is dark. And depressing. On many occasions I just had to set it aside because I couldn't take the never-ending sadness. And I really do think that the book is much too long. But more than anything else, (and here I go again with that word) I gradually became suspicious about the authenticity of the writing. If I feel that my emotions are being quite deliberately manipulated, I begin to get annoyed."

Sophie Masson, author of the Thomas Trew books for 7-11 year olds has started a blog based on the books. The first in the series, Thomas Trew and the Hidden People is due to be published in Australia in April. Subsequent volumes - there are six in all - will follow at two-month intervals. I'll be keeping an eye on this. My son is eight and is finding it difficult to discover books he likes. This might be one he can get his teeth into.

I've mentioned Max Barry's new novel, Company, on this weblog a few times over the past few weeks. From the profiles, interviews and reviews, I'd say that the book lies in the area of "modern life humour", if there is such a genre or label. But Damien, on his weblog "Crime Down Under", puts the case for considering the book as a mystery novel.

Andrew, on the "Black Dog weblog, is reporting that Borders UK may be up for sale. A sale that may well have implications for the Borders stores in Australia and New Zealand. Have to keep an eye on this story.

On Other Blogs #21

CB, on her weblog "Sultanalog", writes of the books she read in preparation for chairing two sessions at the Words and Ideas Festival, which was part of the Perth International Arts Festival, held in that city recently. She was originally slated to chair a panel on Biographies but was moved to crime and young adult fiction. As part of her preparation she was most impressed with James Bradley's The Resurrectionist, and a young adult novel by Garry Disher (she doesn't state which one, unfortunately). Which raises the point that someone considers Bradley's novel fits into the crime genre. Not a thought that had crossed my mind previously. There are crimes committed within the book, but I'd would have thought it fitted into the "gothic horror" genre rather than crime. That is, if we felt compelled to find a genre slot for it, which I don't.

The "LibriVox" weblog provides details of free audio books available over the web, and this week lists The Glugs of Gosh by C.J. Dennis. You can access the Gutenberg e-text and listen to various mp3 files of a reading of the book.

Margo Lanagan and friends have an interesting approach to their writers' group: they travel interstate and meet up at one of their homes, blocking out the real world for a weekend while they work on their writing. Margo tells some on her weblog, and Tansy Rayner Roberts fills out the details on hers.

On Other Blogs #20

Sean Williams provides us with
details of his upcoming publication, a collection of his early stories, Light Bodies Falling. You can purchase signed pre-release copies from the publisher. Sean has the details.

Lazy Cow, for that is what she calls herself, only read 11 books during February (!). She details the problems she has stopping herself spending money on these books on her weblog "Only Books All the Time". Three suggestions: 1) stop beating yourself up over the number of books you've read - one a week puts you into the top 5% of Australian readers anyway; 2) stop counting the amount you spend on books - it only gets you despressed and you need to think of books as soul-food; 3) consider finding a good library - it turns out cheaper that way.

Eddie Campbell takes an unusual approach to judging a book by using another book's cover. In this instance he suggests that Will Dyson's cover for the book Fact'ry 'Ands, by his brother Edward Dyson, might just be a better illustration for C.J. Dennis's The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke. He has a point.

On Other Blogs #19

Andrew Kelly writes about the use of the first-person narrator, as opposed to the third. He notes that "as a child (not a teenager) I preferred the adult warmth of the 3rd person, the sense of sitting on the narrator's knee...The first person seems peculiarly suited to the the intense egotism of the teen years." He needs to expand on this. There's some interesting connotations springing out of this.

The Blogging Parson, from Oxford in the UK, has a deep look at the poetry of Les Murray, and is very impressed: "I really think you should read some of Les Murray's poetry. Les Murray is arguably Australia's best regarded poet, both in Australia and internationally. The collecting of forty years of his work in a single volume shows just how impressive his achievement is. His unique accent - which he says is part of the soil up Bunyah way - and his extraordinary, prodigious gift of language combine in poetry that is at once chatty-colloquial and demanding. He doodles with words in the same way Shakespeare did. He writes with a mordant humour and a laughing sadness that is distinctively Australian and shows that a distinctively
Australian poetry doesn't have to be of the bush-ballad variety."

Phryne lists "The Doll Trilogy" by Ray Lawler as one of the five books that changed her life. "These three plays Kid Stakes, Other Times, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll tell the story of six Australians over a 17-year period. The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll was required reading at school, but I went onto read the other two and they gave me a greater appreciation for Australian literature and the Australian struggle for identity. The plays lead me to re-read several Australian classics that I had read because of school and had quickly dismissed as relics of a culture long dead."

After an absence from the scene Peter Nicholson is back on the "3 Quarks Daily" weblog with a piece about criticism, which outlines a new approach to critics: "Marbeck Valerian is my imaginary name for all the critics one is going to come across who will misunderstand work, misrepresent it, or land on it like an Exocet missile and proclaim it the best thing since sliced bread, probably the worst fate of all...Marbeck Valerian may be your long-term friend. His/her musunderstandings are the seeds from which art begins its proper journey through time's unpredictable mangle." I wonder if naming them makes it easier or harder to dismiss critics of a certain type?

On Other Blogs #18

Ben Peek responds to a
recent article in "The Australian" newspaper by Jenny Sinclair. In essence, Sinclair calls for the closure of "writing courses, writing workshops, writing weekends, writing holidays", saying that the "only people writing should be those who must write". I thought this was wrong when I read it but Peek does a better job of criticising it than I ever could.

On his weblog "Detectives Beyond Borders", Peter Rozovsky recently wrote a piece about "disillusioned fictional male detectives with bad, sad or uncertain marital histories and quirkily solitary habits". (Many self-deprecating jokes removed here on the grounds that if certain people were to read them I'd be in dead serious trouble.) As examples of that particular life-form he mentioned: "Kurt Wallander from Sweden, John Rebus from Scotland, Franz Heineken and Jack Irish from Australia, Hector Belascoaran Shayne from Mexico, Pepe Carvalho from Spain, Inspector Espinosa from Brazil, Brahim Llob from Algeria and Sartaj Singh from India come to mind, along with a couple of Americans you may have heard of named Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe." One of his readers commented that Jack Irish seemed out of place in that grouping, and now Peter has written a long response: "I'd been thinking of reading more Jack Irish, and the thoughts that led me to write this comment also sent me to a nearby bookshop, where I bought Black Tide, the second Jack Irish novel. I've read the first chapter, and it's brilliant. But then, I expected no less when I paid tribute to Jack Irish by including him on my list of interesting fictional detectives." If, by any chance you like crime fiction, you really should be reading this weblog.

"Mitzi G Burger" (the G is for Gherkin), in her eponymous weblog, looks at Highways to a War by Christopher Koch which "does what I suspect the majority of the sad lot of us aspiring writers wish to do and feel guilty for wishing it, and that is the glorification of the beautiful...Whatever the book is - 60s nostalgia, horror at the world's failure to prevent the Khmer Rouge's assaults on humanity, opium-drenched whiffs of bygone Vietnophilable eras - it's unquestionably a GAN - Great Australian Novel."

On Other Blogs #17

Peter Rozovsky, from the "Detectives Beyond Borders" weblog, ponders how authors build up a character in a detective series. He uses David Owen's novels about "Franz Heineken, the entertaining, gruff and thorough Tasmania police inspector" as a guide.

Want to know how to plan to publish a book yourself, then Ampersand Duck has the answer. She talks about an art show catalog but the same process can be used for just about any other form of self-published work.

If you are at all interested in selling dark or speculative fiction then you should have a look at the "Horrorscope" weblog's update on the current magazine outlets. Categories featured include: dead markets, suspect markets, closed markets, status changes, and open/new markets.

Mike Volpe, GM of Opera Holland Park in London, is looking for Clive James. Not in a stalking, predatory way, but because he wants to interview him about opera and Holland Park. He's tried James's agent and website with no luck, and now puts out a call on his website for contact details. I get questions like this from time to time, and always refer the enquirer to the author's publisher.

Penni Russon announces the arrival of her new novel Breathe - on US bookshelves at least. As you might expect, she's a bit chuffed about it.

Kate Holden, author of In My Skin: A Memoir of Addiction, undertakes the "page 69 test" on Marshal Zeringue's weblog "Campaign for the American Reader".

On Other Blogs #16

Ronlyn Domingue, author of the novel The Mercy of Thin Air, writes about her favorite books of 2006 on Marshal Zeringue's weblog "Campaign for the American Reader". Of the three she mentions: "Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman, a virtuosic, compelling, psychological novel about a man who kidnaps the child of a former lover."

In attempting to answer the question, "Is the Holocaust a fitting subject for children's books?", on the Guardian Arts blog, Dina Rabinovitch looks at The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. "'Markus Zusak hasn't really written Harry Potter and the Holocaust,' declared Janet Maslin in the New York Times. 'It just feels that way.' She means the dramatic sweep of the novel, its young heroine in a world of adults, its capacity - once you are past the first few pages - to keep you reading right through the night." She recommends it.

Sean Williams talks about his upcoming 23rd novel, Saturn Returns, and a strange character in the book who only talks using the words of a certain 1980s electropop pioneer.

Homesickness has overcome Kelly Gardiner, an Australian writer living in New Zealand, so she has decided to return to Melbourne and work at the State Library of Victoria. Now it's just packing, packing, packing.

Judith Ridge is researching critical writing about Australian children's and young adult literature, and has put out a call on her weblog: "if any fellow critics/reviewers are reading, I'd be pleased if you could direct me to the review or article which you think is your best and/or most significant piece. And while I'm here, anyone can contact me to alert me to a review or critical article about Australian children's literature that you think is well-written and significant in what it has to say about the literature and/or about attitudes towards children's books, children and childhood/adolescence, or even about Australian society and culture in general."

On Other Blogs #15

Sally on "Books and Musings from Downunder", lists all 141 books she read in 2006 - a pretty good effort - along with her ratings for each. I notice she gives Banville's The Sea a D+, Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson a C, and an E for The Broken Shore by Peter Temple.

On his weblog, "Cheeseburger Gothic", John Birmingham outlines some rules for introducing characters in fiction: "Don't front end load the entire backstory of a character the first time we meet them. Physical descriptions, yeah. If you want to go into great depth about what they look like, it's appropriate to do so early, if not necessarily in the first line."

A new discovery for me is Peter Rozovsky, from Philadelphia in the US, and his weblog "Detectives Beyond Borders: A Forum for International Crime Fiction". Late last year he discussed the books of Peter Corris, during which he stated: "After reading Peter Temple, Garry Disher, David Owen and Shane Maloney, I found myself associating Australian crime writing with humor, of course, but also with a low-key approach and a lack of self-pity on the part of first-person narrators." So it looks like I'll have to check out David Owen as well. If Peter includes him in that company he's got to be worth checking out.

Cam, on his MySpace page, waxes enthusiastic about a David Malouf novel: "I just finished reading David Malouf's The Great World, and I have to say that this is actually one of the most fantastic books I have ever read. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in some holiday reading. Malouf's an Australian author who wrote a lot of poetry before turning to novels, and it shows in his writing style which is-- well, I found it to be utterly incredible. He isn't particularly verbose, but he manages to evoke very clear and powerful images with just a few words. Seriously, it's fantastic."

On Other Blogs #14

Kirsty Brooks writes about how she became an author ten years ago, and how she keeps at it: "...writing fiction is really a whole hell of a lot more than just making stuff up. I'm also writing to entertain myself and I have to keep that objective in mind the whole time. It sounds entirely selfish, and I guess it is, but it's also the central objective to my writing and if I don't entertain myself, then I've failed to do my job. If I'm bored, or confused, or unconvinced by the story, then the story just won't work for the reader, either. If I don't like the story, I can't expect other readers to either. That's the thing, you tend to just be better at what you enjoy, and enjoy what you're good at."

Justine Larbalestier discovers a new writing technique, one that gets her back into the swing of things faster than previously. She also thinks it has given her a small insight into how Samuel R. Delany works. I was with her until that point.

Sean Williams wraps up his year. From the sounds of things, he needs a rest.

Kelly Gardiner has been reading Kate Grenville's novel, The Secret River, and the essay by Inga Clendinnen, and was rather under-whelmed by the novel: "I certainly didn't learn or understand anything new about the time or the violence or the people that I hadn't read years ago, in history by Manning Clark or Robert Hughes, let alone the historians of the last two decades; in novels of a generation before Grenville - say, Herbert or Stow; or even in the poetry and essays of Judith Wright."

Remember all the flak that kimbofo, an ex-pat Australian living in London, received a few weeks back for presuming to suggest that litbloggers need to be careful about what they receive from publishers, what they disclose and how they review free books? Now you can read what another part of the blogging world thinks of something similar: Gadget Lounge is critical of a group of tech bloggers who took the Microsoft shilling to talk to Bill Gates about MS's Zune. Other than a difference in scale, is it only me that sees a lot of similarities here?

On Other Blogs #13

Andrew Kelly, in the "black dog blog", writes of an article published in the "Melbourne Weekly" concerning independent publishers in the city. He acknowledges the differences between his publishing house, Black Dog Books, and that of Michael Heyward's Text Publishing. "The differences between the independents, in fact the differences between publishers, are a good thing. It means we're all offering something different."

Susan Wyndham, former and currently acting literary editor of "The Sydney Morning Herald", writes about the reviewer/blogger discussion - that was mentioned here a while back - on her "Undercover" blog at the newspaper. Her conclusion: "The solution is to read critically, even when you're reading reviews." Exactly. I'm not sure why people would think this is any different from reading film reviews. Do you believe every film review you hear/read from Margaret Pomeranz or David Stratton, or your local paper's film critic? Of course not. You have to become attuned to their likes and dislikes, their prejudices and hidden "guilty pleasures". The same goes for book reviewers, whether they write for weblogs or printed media. It takes a while but it makes the whole process worth it in the end.

Margo Lanagan reports that she has signed a two book deal with Knopf in the US. One of which will be an "as yet unwritten novel". That one is due out in April
2008. No more bike-riding for Margo then.

If you are at all into Children's or YA literature (and why wouldn't you be), then you should be reading Judith Ridge's "The New Misrule Blog". Her latest entry concerns the curious workings of the JHunt award. Markus Zusak is one of the twelve on the 2006 longlist.

On Other Blogs #12

Ron writes about a distant relative, Louis Becke, who was his aunt's great uncle. Becke was an Australian writer who lived from 1855 to 1913. He travelled extensively through the South Pacific and was, at one time, arrested for piracy. He lived for a time in London where his work was admired by such writers as Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad.

On the "BldgBlog" weblog Simon Sellars author of The Lonely Planet Guide to Micronations is interviewed. Nice story about the declaration of the Independent Republic of Bentleigh, which was later invaded by Poland.

"The Daily Flute" riffs on the recent O.J. Simpson brouhaha, and a recent series of ads that have been running for Abebooks lately, to offer a book title that has just been "pulped" by Rupert Murdoch's publishing empire.

With under a week to go in NaNoWriMo, Daniel Hadati has hit just over 31,000 words, or 62% of his 50,000 word target. Doesn't look like he's going to make it. He is interviewed by Sean Lindsay on 101 Reasons to Stop Writing. Wouldn't have thought any of us needed 101.

On Other Blogs #11

Peter Nicholson, writer of the Poetry and Culture column on the "3 Quarks Daily" weblog, writes about the Ern Malley affair in his latest piece. Ern Malley was a fictitious poet invented by James McAuley and Harold Stewart in the 1943 "to expose what the perpetrators thought of as Modernism's foolishness." Such is the nature of the Australian literary soul the "hoax poem becomes, even against its makers best intentions, a serious work of art." Ern Malley was also the inspiration behind Peter Carey's novel My Life as a Fake.

Ben Peek makes a guest appearance on the "Talking Squid" weblog, explaining that "once you accept that you're a shallow, egotistical maniac out only for yourself, you don't have to bother with making yourself a better person. You've accepted something bad. You've embraced it." If this piece leaves you wanting more from Ben, you can read excerpts from his autobiography, Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, on the Wheatland Press website.

Kimbofo, from the "Reading Matters" weblog, cross-posted her piece about litbloggers and review copies on the "MetaxuCafe" weblog and found herself in a sea of comments - some of them personal, and therefore highly suspect. I think some of them completely missed the point.

Bonny Symons-Brown interviews Jack Durack, who is the Chair of Sydney PEN's Writers in Prison Committee, about the committee's work, their successes and the tasks ahead.

On Other Blogs #10

Dean follows up on the Tim Flannery award story over on his weblog. Flannery looks like starting his work at Macquarie University at the start of the 2007 academic year.

Kim, on her "Reading Matters" blog, raises some very interesting questions regarding the relationships between lit bloggers and publishers. It's made me rethink my own review policies and incorporate her ideas into mine. A very lively discussion has ensued over her comments, with some commenters not totally in agreement.

Margo Lanagan gets back into blogging, after being swamped at work, only to come off her bike and break a collarbone. Given she is only typing with one hand now expect the postings to drop off. We wish her well.

Jo Case, deputy editor of "Australian Book Review", blogs about her bimonthly appearance on Triple R, a Melbourne community radio station. Good stuff it is, too.

On Other Blogs #9

Daniel Hatadi is off and running on his attempt to write a novel in a month as part of NaNoWriMo (as reported here previously). We wish him well.

On the "Larvatus Prodeo" group blog, Georgina asks the question: Australian literature on the nose? Good, lively discussion ensues.

Justine Larbalestier reports that the first two chapters of the final book in the Magic or Madness trilogy, Magic's Child, are up on her website. She does warn us, however, that it's not a good idea to read these chapters if you haven't read the first two books in the series. A few spoilers lurk there.

On Other Blogs #8

Leanne, on the "Gone with the Wind(Mill)" weblog, gives a short review of Tim Winton's Cloudstreet: "Some parts are comical and others quite touching. Winton has a poetic descriptive manner with an Aussie twang giving the story a realism it deserves. Would read again. Highly recommended."

In rounding up his October reading, Tim, on his "Sternezine" weblog, gives his impressions of Shane Maloney's first novel, Stiff (second last entry): "I have read some of the later Murray Whelan books, so it is a bit weird to go back to the first book in the series. It's still Maloney, and it's still Whelan, but it's not quite the same." He comes to the conclusion that it suffers from being a first novel in the main. The latter ones in the series are much better. I'd agree with the comment that it's a bit rough in places but it is still pretty funny.

Margo Lanagan is back at her weblog, explaining that "real life" (read as the paying stuff) intervened, hence her enforced absence. She gives news of her new collection of stories, Red Shift, and the extra publication details of some of the stories in that volume.

Ben Peek gives a good run-down on how a doctorate thesis is marked, in this case a novel.

It looks like the Patrick White Readers' Group is going to hold off on reading a new novel of White's in November. No decision has been finalised as yet, but as it's now November and nothing seems to be going on I suspect we can draw down the curtain on this month.

On Other Blogs #7

The Australian Book Review's weblog has moved to a new address, and the comment facility has been turned on. The latest entry is by ABR editorial assistant Dan Toner, who describes the magpie approach he is utilising in writing his first novel.

Kirsty Brooks, Adelaide-based author of the "Cassidy Blair" series of humorous crime novels, reprints an article she wrote in 2001 about the then-current
state of Australian speculative fiction.
[Thanks to Sean Williams for the link.]

Tim Sterne welcomes four new contributors to the community weblog Sarsparilla.

Does anyone know if Margo Lanagan has dropped out of the blogging game, or if she's taking a well-earned rest? Her latest posting was over a month ago.

On Other Blogs #6

Sean Williams announces the
upcoming publication of his new novel, Saturn Returns. He's also posted a scan of the cover. Tell me, has there been a resurgence in the space opera sub-genre lately that I missed?

On the "Sarsaparilla" litblog David reviews the "Heroes and Villians" exhibition of Australian comic books at the State Library of Victoria, which I noted a couple of weeks back. I still need to get along to this.

Kerryn reviews Andrew McGahan's latest novel, Underground, on her weblog "White Thoughts No One Sees". Her opening sentence pretty much says it all: "It has been some time since I started and finished a book in one sitting." What author wouldn't long for a review to begin like that.

On the "Happy Antipodean" weblog, Dean reviews the latest Quarterly Essay, The History Question: Who Owns the Past? by Inga Clendinnen. This essay hooks into the article by Jane Sullivan in "The Age" over the weekend.

Alice Garner's new memoir, The Student Chronicles is reviewed by be_zen8 on the "Books Give Wings" weblog. "I found the first half more interesting than the second, and I actually developed a few small complaints about it toward the end. Firstly, this is not a typical university student's chronicle as she might claim. Alice's parents are both academics (and her mother is incredibly well-known.) She was heavily subsided and she was an actress at the time. I would really love to read an account of someone, who like me, has spent years struggling to truly make ends meet while studying."

On Other Blogs #5

Victoria, on the Eve's Alexandria weblog, has reviewed Kate Grenville's The Secret River. "At its heart this is what The Secret River is: a deeply evocative and sympathic narrative of colonial confrontation - about a meeting of two cultures, with two divergent ways of understanding ownership and belonging, in a very hard and unforgiving landscape."

Justine Larbalestier provides a useful introduction about how to talk to an author.

The contents of the upcoming book, Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror 2006, are provided by Chris Lawson over on Talking Squid.

Sydney crime writer, Daniel Hatadi, looks like taking up the NaNoWriMo challenge - that's the National Novel Writing Month - during November. He has to complete a 175-page (50,000 word) novel in 30 days. This challenge has become pretty popular over the past few years, and while it may not produce any masterpieces it does force writers to overcome the major writing hurdle they will face - getting the bum on the seat day after day. It would be good to see him blog about his progress but him may well be worn out after writing his requisite 1,666.67 words a day.

On Other Blogs #4

The Australian Book Review's blog has reappeared after a two month gap. The first posting was on 7th August and this second on 2nd October. This time round Tamas Pataki "he writes about his background, his critical approach, ... and his views about what makes a good book review." Which reads like it could be a piece for the ABR itself. Not sure what the magazine is trying to do here. But doing it a bit more often might lead us to some conclusions.

Australian writer Sherryl Clark discusses dialogue, how to write it and how to get an ear for it, on Books and Writing. I
liked the line: "Listening to daytime soaps will also teach you about dialogue - how to be boring and repetitious and explain everything three times. That's the job of dialogue in soaps. It's not what you do on the page, because a reader who fell asleep and missed a bit can just flick back a couple of pages and read them again."

Judith Ridge writes about children's literature on her New Misrule blog, providing news and commentary on the genre. I like blogs like this; blogs that concentrate on a particular genre or section of the literary world. You get a level of directed enthusiasm that is often dissipated on blogs with a wider scope. I notice Judith is reading Wendy James's novel Out of the Silence, which seems to be emerging as a favourite of Australian litbloggers.

On Other Blogs #3

Peter Nicholson, Australian writer and poet, who writes the Poetry and Culture column for the 3quarksdaily blog, this week gives us the Poetry of Lists. The posting revels in Australian names: names of Aboriginal languages, Australian wines, Australian place names, bands and singers performing in Sydney, international stocks,names of paint colours, and titles of poetry magazines and ezines.

Jonathan Strahan asks, on his weblog: "Is it possible to write a science fiction story involving a young adult protagonist who has entered military service with the intention of serving in an extraterrestrial setting that reads like it was written after 1955?" Someone suggests Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I'm not sure why, as it's one of the worst sf books I've ever read. And I've read some doosies I can tell you.

Over on the multi-contributor weblog Sarsaparilla, Ampersand Duck (for that is their pen-name) reviews three new Australian books: edited correspondence between David Campbell and Douglas Stewart, a selection of Campbell's poetry, and a collection of essays. All three originate from the Canberra area. Don't ignore this piece because it's a review; good writing and clear thinking are to be found in many different places.

On Other Blogs #2

Justine Larbalestier discusses the art of lying with John Green on her weblog. Fiction is just lying? Who knew? I especially liked Justine's line: "Me and my sister being on the run from an evil cult of nuns who killed our family and ate our family cat and now being in witness protection with our fake parents was way more exciting than my actual life." It's the bit about the cat that amuses me.

Kimbofo has been running a set of author profiles on her weblog, detailing each of the authors on the 2006 Man Booker prize longlist. [The link here is to Sarah Waters, the last in the series.]

Kelly Gardiner details some problems of being a writer working from home: specifically having to put up with a loud radio, belonging to the builders next door, blaring out crap 80s commercial pap.

Scott Westerfeld informs us that Penguin Books have posted a podcast of a conversation between himself and his partner Justine Larbalestier.

On Other Blogs #1

Meg, a Sydney-based blogger, describes her attempts to read the novels on the 2006 Man Booker Longlist, over on her blog And so the days are filled.... Needless to say she doesn't get all the way through but does end up reading two of the final shortlisted works in the process. It'll be worthwhile keeping an eye on her progress. She has an engaging style and is quite happy to report what she does and doesn't like about a particular work, leaving you in no doubt as to what she thinks about it. Refreshing.

Chris Lawson reports on a change of editors at the magazine "Aurealis".

Kerryn Goldsworthy alerts readers of her weblog A Fugitive Phenomenon, who are doing post-grad research on Australian Literature and who are also under 30, to the existence of a scholarship based at the National Library of Australia. But as commenter Zoe points out: "Surely no one's under 30 anymore?"

Writer Geoffrey Gates reports that his first novel, A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion published by Interactive Press in October 2005, is now being distributed by Tower Books. He provides a list of Australian bookshops which should have the novel in stock.

I haven't looked at it for a while but it appears that the Intersecting Lines weblog has folded. Pity.

Lili Wilkinson reports that she will be the new writer-in-residence on the website.

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