Goodbye and good riddance, 2016

Yup, it’s been dead air for a while around here. Let me share with you the round-up for 2016.

In the last 12 months I’ve finally recovered from 2 herniated cervical discs and a jammed upper spine; moved house, after undertaking major renovations/remodelling to the new house so I could fit in there and write; sold a house; dealt with major damage to the old house after the big rainstorms in June, including the bloody NRMA; discovered that the neighbour at the new house has undertaken massive and illegal earthworks that have hugely and negatively impacted my property – and also learned that the council seems to be in no hurry to enforce its own rulings and regulations, so 2017 looks like containing a legal fight; realised that my lovely horse Steve had something truly wrong with him that might not be fixable; dealt with a few health relapses plus tendonitis/bursitis in both forearms/elbows; nearly lost new boy Misha to a serious bout of colic, that involved 3 days in hospital; struggled to get my writing mojo back; dealt with new baby filly’s virus picked up while travelling to me, which took months; dealt with her slashing her leg open so she had to be kept in a stable for a month; still dealing with the undesirable huge growth spurt she’s gone through (6 inches in 5 months) which has impacted her joints; finally faced the fact that Steve was unfixable and really, properly dangerous (after he nearly put me through a fence and seriously tried to kill one of the other horses here, as in teeth and hooves and a bent gate) so sent him to heaven; and of course, the big one, my father’s stroke and subsequent death which has left me with overwhelming life changes and responsibilities as his executor and heir.

Yeah. 2016 has been a year.

Looking ahead, I want to hold on to the good things of this year — the horses, the great new friends I’ve made, the promise of adventures to come. Despite everything I’ve managed to drop and keep off nearly 30 pounds, and I look forward to dropping the last 20-30, to achieve my fighting fit weight. I look forward to expanding my equestrian horizons, improve my riding, start competing, and enjoy the adventure with my other new boy, Goldweaver. His story to come.

My writing will at long last get back on track. I have been derailed for 2 years, physically, mentally and emotionally, and I’m only just beginning to understand how deep and harsh the impact has been. In the long run I’m sure the work will benefit, because it’s all good copy … but wow, it’s been rough. But that is now behind me!

I look forward to 2017 with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism. I am blessed with my circumstances, my friends, and my inner resources. There will be challenges, especially since I’m looking to deal with the winding up of my father’s estate, which is going to be time-consuming and confronting at times.

But I intend to achieve big things this year, and I look forward to celebrating the successes and achievements of my friends in real space and cyberspace. To those of you who have also faced a daunting 2016, I send my love and hugs. The fact that we’ve survived means we’ve earned a gold star.

Onward and upward! To infinity and beyond!

Dear readers, your ongoing support and patience throughout this writing drought is more appreciated than I can ever say. But I have picked myself up, dusted myself off and I look forward to bigger and better things!

Spotlight on … Dave DeBurgh

South African bookseller Dave DeBurgh, long time fan of all things speculative fiction, has recently seen the release of his debut epic fantasy novel. Here’s Dave in his own words, talking about his experiences as a first-time novelist …

DaveDeBurgh meWhen I began writing (and this may surprise you) it wasn’t because I wanted to write.

You see, there were two reasons I began writing – one was because I couldn’t draw or sketch well enough, and the second was because the only way I could truly try to explore the images and stories in my mind was by writing it all down.

Understand, it wasn’t what I was doing which was important or what drove me – it was what I was letting out.

And when I was trying to write what would eventually become “Betrayal’s Shadow” it was that push to release it all which still drove me. I was struggling – probably because I hadn’t made the decision to take what I was trying to do seriously; so I decided that taking a writing course was the next step, and it helped massively. I finished writing the first draft of the novel, which lead to that all important choice to take it seriously. And which also lead to me realising that I wanted to be a writer.

I’ve explained “Betrayal’s Shadow” in a lot of different ways to many different people over the years. One of these explanations was, “It’s an uncomplicated, less-dense combination of Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire, in terms that it has more magic than GRRM’s work, is as brutal in some sections as his, but also tells a sprawling tale more akin to Tolkien’s exploration of his worlds.”

Is that ambitious of me? Certainly, but it’s also what I believe the novel (and the trilogy, when it’s done) will be – well, one of the things.

I’ve also said that the novel is (surprise-surprise) about betrayal, and how betrayal casts shadows on many different people (in this case, characters) and that betrayal can follow down through the years (along with the immediate effects).

The novel is also an exploration of slavery, abuse, the dangers and pitfalls of love, how very easy it is unknowingly abuse trust and usurp the few good aspects of religion… And I didn’t set out to ‘explore’ all these aspects of society and life – not intentionally. Every time I try to make a character conform to the idea in my head, the character balks and does something different. So I let them do what they wanted to do, while keeping the plot and the novel’s climax in my head. In other words, I let them work their way towards it.

The plot itself will probably surprise you. “Betrayal’s Shadow” is not the kind of Epic or Heroic or High Fantasy novel you might expect it to be. It has elements of SF and Horror in it, too, since those are the other two genres I love reading.

One of the most compelling and formative things I’ve ever read is when Steven Erikson wrote that editors had told him that ‘Garden’s of the Moon’ was too ambitious, and sure, I might not be as ambitious yet (a ten-book saga is in me, somewhere, but I’m not yet the kind of writer and storyteller who can pull that off), but some readers have compared my novel to Erikson’s Malazan saga. I’m still smiling because of that.

So, in it’s own way, my novel is ambitious, and perhaps even brave. It was damned fun to write, though it was also damned difficult. It represents the beginning of my career as a storyteller and writer. It’s my leap into space.

I hope you enjoy it enough to catch me. 😉

 

And here’s all of Dave’s contact and book info:

 

Kindle edition Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Betrayals-Shadow-Mahaelian-Chronicle-Book-ebook/dp/B018S2U4Z2/

Kindle edition Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018S2U4Z2

Limited Edition hardcover releasing on the 13th of January – pre-order link: http://www.ticketyboopress.co.uk/dave-de-burghs-signed-hardback-now-available/

My official website: http://davedeburgh.weebly.com/

My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/davedeburghwriter/

My Twitter profile: D-B de Burgh (@DaveSASFFAuthor) | Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016

Well, it has to be better than 2015!

You’ll note things have been pretty quiet around here. That’s because 2015 knocked me flat and kept me flat, almost to the very end. Not a good year on any front, really, and I can’t tell you how relieved I am that it’s in the rear view mirror!

However!

New year, fresh start. I am still playing catch up with Tarnished Crown bk 2, which is going well in spite of all the health-related delays and setbacks. As soon as that’s handed in I’ll be romping with Gerald and Co. for the next Rogue Agent novel. After that, it’ll be finalising Tarnished Crown bk 2, then looking ahead to bk 3 and whatever’s coming next for the Rogue Agent universe.

This year promises to be quiet on the public appearance front, as I knuckle down and reclaim everything that got hammered last year. Writing, fitness, life stuff – all is up for renewal, replenishment and kicking into high gear. I’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, I wish each and every one of you the most glorious new year, with much joy and achievement and a minimum of heartache.

2016? Bring it on!

Updating, and a recommendation

Slowly but surely, the words accumulate – and I remember how it feels to be a writer. Big smiles all around!

In other news, last night I finally caught up with one of my dearest friends in the world and got to show her one of my favourite ballet documentaries. Before a horrible injury she was a dancer, and still loves the art.

Born to be Wild is a fabulous doco featuring 4 principle male dancers from the American Ballet Theatre: Jose Manuel Carreno, Angela Corella, Vladimir Malakhov and Ethan Stiefel. 4 very different dancers, with intriguingly different backgrounds, but all equally and mind-blowingly talented.

If you love dance, if you love watching the guys do more than prop up the ballerinas in various poses, this is the ballet documentary for you. It’s available online from Amazon, but if you’re not in the US you’ll need a multi zone dvd player to watch it.

Because I keep showing this dvd to various friends, I’ve seen it multiple times — and I never get tired of it. These guys are super fabulous, super free of tedious ego shite, and a visceral pleasure to watch.

Enjoy!

A different kind of cop show

The other thing that happens when you fall over with a disgusting stomach/gut virus – apart from the obvious – is that you’re left stranded liked a beached whale, unable to do anything meaningful except watch some dvds. You can try reading, but for some reason that doesn’t always work out. Anyhow. A while ago, while ordering something else online, I saw another show highlighted. I’d never heard of it, but it sounded interesting so I ordered a copy. And while I was laid low with the disgusting stomach/gut virus, I watched it.

19-2 is a Canadian cop show. It was originally made in French, and then it got an English makeover. It’s set in Montreal, part of French-speaking Canada, which explains why. For those of us who watch shows filmed in Vancouver (mostly) there are some familiar faces in the cast, and as guest actors. Most notable of these is Adrian Holmes, who was Detective Lance’s partner for a while in Arrow.  The first season is out now on dvd, and the second season is about to be released. It’s been picked up for a third.

This is a fascinating series, because it has a very unAmerican cop show sensibility. Style-wise it’s approached like a documentary. There’s an edge, a rawness, to the camera work that’s really interesting, but it never gets in the way of the storytelling. (I really hated the stupid idea in Southland where the soundtrack bleeped out the cops swearing. Way to interrupt the narrative, guys. Way to be pretentious!) It’s a very personal, often in-your-face kind of narrative. It’s also pretty bleak. The story weaves its way in and out of the cops’ professional and personal lives, but it never feels like soap opera. In that sense, it’s pretty much the diametric opposite of another recent Canadian cop show, Rookie Blue.

I’m thinking that if you’re a fan of darker fare, stuff like The Wire, you might well enjoy 19-2. And even if bleak isn’t really your thing, I’d say give it a go anyway. The writing and acting are top notch – and it’s always an excellent adventure, exploring different takes on a familiar – and some might say – overdone genre. In fact, I think that writers should make a point of watching a bunch of different shows in the same genre, and noting how each narrative handles the demands of that genre. What works, what doesn’t, and how those lessons can be applied to our own work.

I bought 19-2 from Amazon UK. When you buy from overseas you need a multi zone dvd player, remember!

Here are some great books to read

I’m often asked which books and/or authors are my favourites, or have influenced my writing in some way. There is always a standout answer: the late Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles – a 6 book historical series that is pretty much the benchmark of excellence for the genre. Nobody, but nobody, is in Dunnett’s league. If you love great fiction, especially historical fiction, and you haven’t read this series? You’re missing out an amazing experience. The first book in the series is The Game of Kings. I urge you to get a copy and be ensnared in brilliance.

But Dunnett also wrote a mystery series, known as the Dolly series. It was called that because the main character, Johnson, owns a yacht called Dolly, and he travels the world in it painting portraits – for which he’s famous. However, there is more to Johnson than a paintbrush, which is where the mystery element comes in.

What’s remarkable about the Dolly series is that each book is told from a first person narrator perspective, and each time the narrator is a different woman whose life intersects with Johnson’s – with not always happy results. It means that we learn about Johnson second-hand, and each character reveals something new and different about him. Reading the series is like putting together a Johnson jigsaw puzzle, and it’s truly fascinating. It’s also a masterclass in writing. Reading Dunnett is like that – you learn so much about writing from reading her extraordinary novels. Each narrator is a distinctly different person, with a unique voice, which is reflected in every element of the narrative.

If you like the mystery genre, and enjoy strongly character-driven storytelling, I can’t recommend the Dolly books highly enough. You can find them online at reasonable 2nd hand prices. I’ve just replaced a few of my own that were falling apart and it hasn’t broken the bank.

Start with Dolly and the Bird of Paradise. That’s the first book, and it sets the series up really well.

Back on the horse, again.

When the history of this year is written, at least from my point of view,  it will contain an astonishing amount of screaming and obscenities. I’m back on my feet again after 10 days of a truly gross stomach/gut virus that saw me in hospital undergoing many tedious tests. I managed to avoid cameras in unfortunate places, but only just. After 5 days of not being able to eat anything, I was able to eat rice crackers and not much else. It all sucked. This year has done pretty much nothing but be sucky. I’m over it.

But! I am back at the computer again, writing. The words are good. I am catching up, slowly. Please cross your fingers for me that I am now totally done with getting sick or injured, for the foreseeable future!!!!

A quick update

First of all, helloooooo! to the lovely folk who’ve recently signed up to follow this blog. Thank you!

Now, I’m doing my best to keep up with stuff but juggling everything while trying to get my writing groove back is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Keeping up with social media is driving me nuts. I appreciate your patience, and in the meantime I’d say you might also like to hook up with my FB author page, if you haven’t done so already. Right now that’s pretty much the only attention span I have left! Give me a little longer and I’ll be ready to start going into more in-depth blog posts.

What I can say is that the groove is almost properly back, the words are flowing faster and more smoothly, I’m very happy with how it’s going and I’m doing my level best to pick up the pace.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, guys.

Here’s the link to my FB page!

Some musings on the way things are going

As I think most of you know by now, 2015 hasn’t been a great year for me. In a nutshell, after I came home from the UK (this time last year!!!!) I had a few little health hiccups that road-blocked my game plan for the next book. Then, just as I was revving up again, in early December  I had a tumble on my mother’s very steep driveway.

Read on …

Continue reading

Life imitates art imitates life

Last week I finally got around to doing a big chore, that I’d been putting off — namely, clearing out all the tv shows stacked up on my dvd recorder. Of course, the only reason I got off my arse and did it is because I had almost no space left. But hey. At least I did it. *g*

60 hours of history docos and whatnot later, and this afternoon (after finishing another chapter, woo hoo!) I finished labelling the recordings I couldn’t label at the time. And so I discovered one I recorded about Sir Flinders Petrie: The Man Who Discovered Egypt. Basically, Petrie invented modern archeology. It was his pupil, Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb. Everything we take for granted about modern scientific method in the field is because Petrie set it up that way. He was extraordinary. Also stunningly eccentric. No spoilers, just … wait till you find out what happened when he died!

The reason I recorded this doco isn’t because I’m a huge Egypt buff. Oddly enough, for all my fascination with various ancient civilisations, I’m not. But I did know his name thanks to the wonderful Amelia Peabody books, written by the late, great Elizabeth Peters. (The first book is The Crocodile on the Sandbank. It’s the most wonderful historical mystery series set in Egypt, starting around the late 1800s. It’s history and mystery and romance and humour rolled into one glorious procession of books. I can’t recommend them highly enough.) Anyhow, Petrie figures as a character in many of the Peabody books and today I finally got around to watching this doco about his life.

It’s fabulous. And it’s also extremely amusing, because now I can see where Peters, herself an archeologist, used a lot of stuff about Petrie and his wife as inspiration for the Peabody books.

So there you go. Read the books, and watch the doco about Petrie if you can track it down. Fabulous, fascinating stuff! And the next time I’m in London, I’ll be making a stop at the Petrie Museum! And going back to the British Museum to pay closer attention to the Roman mummies Petrie found. The portraits attached to the outside of the mummy casings – used instead of mummy masks – are breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like them. The best of those are in the Cairo museum, so … yeah. Hopefully they’re being kept safe. But there are some in London. Wheee!

An important request

As you guys know, I really don’t do political stuff. Life is too short for crap on the internet. But this one is not politics. It’s human rights. Please, look at what’s happening in India, and spread the word to everyone you know that this kind of bullshit has to stop. All decent human beings must be appalled in their souls that this could happen. It has to stop. And it’s going to take all decent people screaming at the top of their lungs to stop it.

In short, two sisters in India have been sentenced to rape and public degrading to punish their brother. You can read about it here. And you can sign the Amnesty International petition protesting it here.

We live in a world where ISIS murders gays and rapes children sold into sexual slavery. For some reason our governments can’t find the courage or the will to halt this evil while it’s still relatively contained. We also live in a world where men sentence women to be raped, to punish another man. There are days when I feel like I’m drowning in depravity. Signing a petition, and drawing attention to this evil, helps me to be less helpless. Please spread the word. Good people can’t do nothing for much longer, else we all drown in the worst of human excess.

Random stuff

So this is me, keeping my word to be more present in my own space.

Right now I’m haunting the post office for my copy of Kate Elliott’s new book, Court of Fives. It’s her first YA fantasy, and I have no doubt it’s going to be a brilliant read. Because Kate Elliott is a brilliant writer. For more information and some great interviews, you can go here.

I’ve really got nothing to say about the recent Hugo awards, but one thing. I find it utterly shameful that Toni Weisskopf was denied recognition for her stellar work as an editor because a bunch of folk – many of whom claim to be professional writers – decided that anyone who was nominated by people they don’t like should be punished. I feel sick, and so angry, that the folk who dishonestly accused the Puppy side of misogyny should take out their spite on a woman. I wonder if they’ve even met the word ‘irony’?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I got all super excited about getting back my fitness. And then I fell over in my mother’s driveway last December and 2015 happened. One of these days I might write more about the things I’ve learned since. For right now, I’ll just celebrate the fact that I can walk for an hour on the treadmill, and lift some weights, and my world doesn’t end. Yay!

Must beetle off now. Stay tuned!

Not dead yet …

Well, I have to tell you, cranking my way back up to writing speed is bloody hard work! But I’m finally hitting my groove, at long last, after months and months of utter hell. I now have the all clear on the neck and upper back, after a couple of frustrating relapses. Then, because of course, the lower lumbar spine (scene of a previous disc rupture and several herniations) decided to kick off. But that too is now sorted. I just have to keep monitoring it due to spinal scoliosis and a history of truly spectacular horse-riding injuries. I defeated the double-whammy flu, too, and finally got rid of the lingering spastastic cough. Which actually re-herniated a disc in my neck, I was coughing so hard at the worst.

But like I said. There are words. And now I must write like a crazy woman. There is also exercise, and I’m being consistent and also careful. So, as spring hovers on the horizon, and I look back at the last many months of zero achievement, I start to feel optimistic again.

I might even get my shit together and get more active in this here blog!

Stay tuned …

Supanova, and what came next

So, the last two weekends of June were swallowed alive by the amazing Supanova Expos in Sydney and then Perth. I had the most fabulous time, meeting and chatting with extraordinary people. We all worked pretty hard (though the actors sweated the most!) and I thought I was doing pretty well keeping the winter lurgies at bay. I flew home from Perth on the Sunday night, the red eye, and immediately had a sleep. I hadn’t slept on the plane.

And then I woke up.

It’s now been a week of fighting a seriously crappy attack of bronchitis. I’ve had to upscale the antibiotics from normal to double-dose supercharged and even then I’m not entirely sure it’s working. I’m a bit better but I’m not great. Of course, I could be expecting too much too soon. I can’t tell you how sick I am of being unwell. I’ll reconsider my position towards the end of the week. Hopefully I’ll be functional enough tomorrow to get back to some work. Up until today it’s been a case of coughing myself dizzy and sleeping  in between bouts.

There’s a lot I do want to say about the experience, particularly some of the guest authors who were amazing – as were many of the guest actors.

Cross your fingers for me that the super drugs do a super job so I can crack on with the work. I have an exciting announcement to make in the next day or so, once the final organisational Is are dotted and Ts crossed.

Stay tuned …

Yes, there has indeed been a long and deafening silence

Because honestly, the whole ongoing spinal drama has knocked me sideways. Nearly 7 months of constant screaming blowtorch pain, and multiple weekly medical appointments, and handfuls of drugs, and mostly poor sleep, and freaking out over all the work not getting done …

It’s been a challenge. But hooray! I am now released from multiple weekly physio appointments, the drug regimen is winding down, the pain is all but gone, there is still chiro and massage but they are manageable and I have a functioning brain again. Which means I can think straight to write and move well enough to go back to the beginning, again, with the fitness program.

In the meantime, though, as I get myself organised for life as I used to live it, enjoy this great interview with Australian spec fic author Thoraiya Dyer, who’s just made her first novel sale.

Read about it here!

Guest Post: Lucy Hounsom

Starborn cover   It’s now my great pleasure to introduce Lucy Hounsom and her debut fantasy novel, Starborn. This is the first in a new trilogy.

LucyHounsomLucy works for Waterstones Booksellers in London, and has a BA in English & Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing under Andrew Motion in 2010. She lives in Devon.
Here’s Lucy in her own words …
“Both the characters and the central idea that drives Starborn have been around for a long time. I wrote the first chapter over ten years ago as a naïve seventeen year old and then set the story aside when I went to university. But it bubbled away beneath the surface, never leaving me alone, until I knew that I had to write it even if it never got published. That’s the thing about stories – they beg to be told, to be shared and this one is a culmination of everything I’ve ever loved about fantasy. Books by authors like Tolkien, Robin Hobb, Patricia McKillip Ursula Le Guin and countless others made being an awkward teenager bearable, and at the same time convinced me that I wanted to write too. The idea that people could enjoy my stories in the same way is part of why I write. To create a world so immersive that it’s able to sweep you away for a time – that’s my goal. And fantasy is a wonderful cloth to weave; its threads are rich and steeped in history. It’s able to express archetypes in a way quite unlike any other literary genre. To me, writing and fantasy are seamlessly interwoven and in all honesty I’m not sure I could write anything else. So what do I love about this genre? The worldbuilding for starters – I love exploring worlds so like and unlike our own. In those worlds, the impossible becomes the possible, lands are populated with strange peoples and creatures, and there’s an overriding sense of the epic – the struggle that so defines our race. I love the characters we meet in fantasy, the heroes, the antiheroes, the villains, the rogues, the innocents. When we read a story, we automatically become the protagonist; we suffer through their trials, we’re with them when they fall in love, we look out of their eyes at the unfolding of events. When it comes to character, traditionally fantasy has drawn rather distinct lines between ‘good’ and ‘evil’; the hero is often Campbellian, the villain his recognisable opposite. While movements like grimdark have turned that tradition on its head, I set out with a different aim, which was to tell a story that explored heroism as a concept instead of a given trait. I started with the phrase, ‘one man’s heroism is another man’s tyranny’ and thought about the subjectivity that statement embodies. It suggests heroism is defined by context and individual perspective, instead of objective characteristics. The crux of Starborn – as Kyndra, my protagonist, comes to discover – hinges on the actions of one man, whose crowning achievement makes him a saviour in some eyes and a monster in others. It’s up to the reader to decide which he is, or even whether it matters to the histories. This discussion provides the background context for Kyndra herself. I wanted to move away from the established rendering of the Garion[1]-type hero as a hard-working, honest sort, instead drawing Kyndra as she would more likely be, living in a small community: sheltered, idealistic, stubborn. We are shaped by our childhood and our childhood environment and our earliest experiences colour everything we do. Kyndra has an unbelievably long journey ahead of her, which changes her more than she could ever imagine, so I wanted her to retain the roots of her thinking, to see the world – rightly or wrongly – through the eyes of someone who has grown up in an isolated community at peace. The very concept of war is alien to her, as are the attitudes that foster it, and she struggles to understand the divisions responsible for fragmenting a society. When you want to explore a particular subject, I think it’s important to have a recognisable base as reference, so there’s a lot you’ll find familiar about Starborn. It’s a rite of passage novel where the protagonist is living an ordinary life in a small corner of the world, but is inevitably swept up in wider events. Kyndra learns what it means to take control of those events instead of letting them steer her course and she comes face to face with the idea of destiny and what it might require of her. Of course Starborn is also full of magic, mysterious citadels, buried truths and unresolved conflicts – all the elements that make epic fantasy such fun to read and write. I love this genre for its possibilities, its powerful nostalgia for bygone eras. I love its various characters and settings, from dragons to sorcerers to epic battles. Fantasy allows us to ask poignant questions about society while sweeping us off on an epic journey with people in whom we can see ourselves. I’ve just finished the first draft of Book Two, where Kyndra and her companions encounter a host of new challenges. I always envisioned the series as a trilogy, so that the characters I’ve come to love have room to grow and time in which to tell their stories, and I can’t wait to share them with you.” [1] The hero of The (excellent ) Belgariad by David Eddings
Starborn is available now in-store and online. If you enjoy fantasy adventure with a strong female central character, some mystery and some romance, give it a read!

The Falcon Throne paperback: Giveaway!

Well, the paperback edition of The Falcon Throne, book 1 in The Tarnished Crown series, is due to hit bookshelves in the real world and in cyberspace very soon. So I’d like to celebrate by offering 3 copies as giveaway prizes. All you need to do is send me an email via the Contact button on this website, and you’ll go into the draw. Good luck!

EDIT TO ADD: THE COMP IS NOW CLOSED, I’M SORRY. WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED SHORTLY. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO WANTED TO WIN A COPY.

So, that happened.

Went to bed Sunday night feeling fine. Woke up Monday morning feeling not so fine, with a swift and depressing slide into Oh shit, are you kidding me? Yes, my 7th cervical disc had herniated again. This time with a side order of something hinky happening in the cervical/thoracic junction. Yay! So this week has not been spent writing, it has been spent in pretty much non-stop pain from a non-functioning left arm, with physio, chiro and massage therapy, plus many many many drugs. But I can report that today, things are much improved. I even cautiously hope I can get back to proper work tomorrow.

I’m pissed, Roger. Now I’m really pissed.

On the other hand, I am thrilled because I’ve been invited to join the author stream at Supanova in Sydney and Perth. Stay tuned for more details on that!

Now I must get a hot water bottle onto my lumbar spine (because that’s going out on strike in sympathy) and take more drugs!

Music for the soul: Witness

Witness is one of my favourite films. For me, it’s a perfect little gem. It also showcases just how great an actor Harrison Ford is. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role as John Book. So deserved. After that he delivered an even more extraordinary performance in Mosquito Coast. And then, I don’t know what happened. Maybe he decided he’d rather star in the big bucks blockbusters than the performance perfect films that didn’t reach such a wide audience. But if you’ve not seen either of those films, I think you must. He really is terrific.

Probably the most iconic (or second most iconic!) scene in Witness is the barn building sequence. When you watch it (again) pay special attention to Ford. He is a professional carpenter as well as an actor, and you can tell from the way he handles the hammer and stuff. You can’t fake genuine expertise.

The music for Witness was composed by Maurice Jarre, and he used a synthesiser to create the sharply modern soundscape as a contrast to the out of time Amish community. The barn raising sequence music is pretty famous, and with good reason. Following the template of Pachelbel’s Canon, it builds and builds to its crescendo. Wonderful.

What I didn’t realise for a long time, until I stumbled across a movie soundtrack cd of Ford’s movies, is there is an orchestral arrangement of the barn building theme. It is one of my absolute favourite pieces of music, soundtrack or otherwise. So achingly beautiful. Only John William’s music touches me as profoundly.

Have a listen and tell me if you feel the same way.

Thank you, Terry.

Terry Pratchett was a genius. I’m just glad as all get-out that we didn’t wait until today, the day of his death, to figure that out or let him know posthumously. I’m glad that we, the reading public, got to tell him every day for the last few decades. And I hope that of all the things bloody Alzheimers took from him, it never took that. Because he deserved every accolade heaped upon him — especially the ones he wasn’t awarded because he was ‘too popular’ or ‘too commercial’ or too ‘whatever’ for the folk who take it upon themselves to hand out the little gold statues.

I’ve been asked by Booktopia to do a guest post about Terry Pratchett and his work, so I won’t pre-empt myself on that. What I will say is that I was incredibly, unbelievably privileged to experience Terry’s brilliance in a way few others ever enjoyed. That’s partly what I’ll be talking about in the guest post, which I’ll link to in due course. It was pure serendipity that I had that experience and it’s one I’ll treasure forever.

There is nowhere else in fiction remotely like the Discworld. It is a creation of extraordinary intellect and philosophy and humanity. Just as there was only one William Shakespeare, there will only ever be one Terry Pratchett. Now please, please, please, can somebody re-release all his work in hardcover editions with the original Josh Kirby covers? A few of mine are falling apart.

Thanks, Terry. You made my world a better place.

 

 

Honestly, we’re not making this shite up …

Because these days it seems so hard to have any kind of thoughtful debate without the internet piling on and bullying and outright falsifying a person’s position to demonise them for whatever reason, I tend not to do the political stuff. I don’t often do the feminist stuff either because as far as I can see the whole notion of feminism has largely been hijacked by a bunch of women I could never in good conscience ally myself with. (Talk about painting a target on my forehead!) But it’s the truth, so there you go.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have strong opinions about the treatment of women around the world, including at home. And while, God knows, we women of the West are laughingly well off compared to the atrocities visited upon women in countries like India and Pakistan and so much of the Middle East — still, we have issues. And if we’re not careful, if we don’t ferociously safeguard our rights and our freedoms and our safety, then we will wake up one day as screwed as the women of Afghanistan who went to bed with jobs and woke up with the Taliban. The biggest mistake anyone ever makes is in saying ‘Yes, isn’t that awful, what’s happening over there, but of course it could never happen here.’ Because it could. And inevitably it will, if we don’t kill the anti-woman creep in its tracks. Hell, it already is happening here. There was a time when the idea of honour killings and forced child marriage and female genital mutilation in Australia were beyond unthinkable. And now we have all three.

To that end, I give you this article by Shannon Hale, an American woman writer.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but this shite is real and unless more people stand up and speak against it, it will only get more real and more real until one day it will be the only reality we have.

And if that happens … we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

 

Are you a fan of ER? This is a great article!

ER is one of my favourite dramas. I own it all on dvd and rewatch it every other year, or so. True confession — I skip a lot of the back end because by the last couple of seasons I think it was terribly tired and frankly, there were some characters I really couldn’t warm to. But I always watch the ones where Carter is back, because I love that character.

However. There is one episode I won’t rewatch, and that’s Love’s Labor Lost from the first season. Not because it’s terrible. No. Because it’s so good and so harrowing I can’t bear it. I think everyone should watch it once, because it’s some of the best storytelling on tv ever, but I can’t do it twice. Call me pathetic and I won’t argue!

So, for those of you who are ER fans and do remember this episode (and honestly, I can’t imagine anyone ever forgetting it, once seen) here is a fabulous look back on it with much interesting input from the team in front of and behind the camera.

I think this is what those of us who tell stories really hope: that out stories get remembered. Kudos to all the amazing folk who brought us ER.

Life is a pain in the neck

Literally. I am making some progress with the stupid herniated neck discs. Off to the GP today to revisit the drug regimen, which I don’t really like. If I take the drugs, they knock me out. If I don’t take the drugs I’m in pain all the time. I think this is what they mean by a lose, lose scenario. Lots of exercises to do, plus lots of massage which actually helps. Let me sing the praises of expert deep tissue massage. Or maybe that should be scream the praises …

Work is still off the table – but I’m refusing to let myself melt into a shrieking mess over that. Serenity prayer, Serenity prayer. I can do dvd research because I can watch the tv without compromising my stupid neck. Reading is an issue. Lengthy typing sessions are an issue. I can still exercise, which is crazy, but at least I’m not getting fatter – which is what happened when I ruptured/herniated the lumbar discs.

So there you have it. If you’ve dropped me a line and you’re still waiting for a reply, my apologies for the delay. I shall provide one ASAP, I promise!

He lived long, and we prospered: RIP Leonard Nimoy.

The world would not be what it is today without Star Trek. The sometimes confronting, sometimes deeply moving, sometimes tragically cheesy ’60s SF show – that wouldn’t have happened without Lucille Ball – transformed so many lives in so many different ways. And probably it wouldn’t have had that amazing impact without the extraordinary character of Mr Spock – and the man who played him, Leonard Nimoy.

83 is a venerable age. And in his 83 years, Nimoy had an impact upon the world at large, upon the hearts and minds and imaginations of countless thousands of people. He was a unique individual whose contributions will live long after those of us who remember him living are gone.

And somewhere in the universe, Spock and Bones McCoy are happily quarrelling again …

 

Spotlight on … Phillip Reeve

I believe that some of the very best speculative fiction can be found on the shelves of the Young Adult section in bookshops and libraries. A case in point is the marvellous work of British author Phillip Reeve, in his Mortal Engines Quartet. If you were to ask me what speculative fiction books we should be shoving into eager readers’ hands, these books would come first. Rumour has it that Peter Jackson is interested in adapting the books for film, but after The Hobbit trilogy, who knows? Handled by the right people I’d certainly love to see this story on the big screen.

Here’s why …

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Spotlight on … Banshee

So, to celebrate the launch of Banshee‘s third season (in the US. With luck it will come to Foxtel. Otherwise I’ll have to wait for the dvd release. Sigh.) this blog post is about the show so far … just in case you’ve missed it, or passed on it. Hopefully after my burblings you’ll give it a go, because even though on the surface it might look like mindless high-violence tits-and-arse action, in fact the show is an interesting meditation on a whole lot of things.

But to be fair there is also sex and violence. Interest piqued? Then do read on …

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A sudden pause …

Sometimes I think the universe hates me. Just as I was crawling out from under a whole pile of crap and back to writing, I managed to herniate 2 discs in my neck. In the New Adventures Karen Has Had, that meant an MRI. Wow. Now I know I could probably survive 20 mins of torture. The noise the machine makes is actually really interesting. It started sounding like a kind of urban percussive classical music piece. But the position I had to maintain revved the ole neck up something severe. Sob. Whimper.

I have Serious Drugs. I have a chair I can sit in without screwing the neck or the back. I have an appointment with a specialist, who please God will tell me he can fix me without surgery. If I can get the pain to settle down, I might even have some writing because not doing that is starting to send me mad.

So, yeah. Not the news I wanted to share.

Spotlight on … Dominion

So by now you shouldn’t be surprised to hear I’ll give any fantasy/supernatural film or drama a go. Of late, the only time I showed reticence was with Guardians of the Galaxy. Didn’t see it at the movies, but have just watched it on a borrowed blu-ray. My instinct after the trailer was pretty spot-on with that one: not entirely my thing. Very well done, but I’m not really the target demographic. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it – I think the work on Groot is astonishing, and on the racoon. (I really really want a pet racoon!) But it’s just a bit too rompish for me. I much prefer the darker, grittier style of Marvel storytelling as shown in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Guardians is just a bit too popcorn for my angst-loving heart. But like I say – entirely entertaining.

Which preamble leads me to nattering today about a SyFy channel offering: Dominion.

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