Saturday, 13 May 2017

doubleBig news

New book, new publisher!

Night-night, Sleep Tight is a psychological thriller set against the backdrop of a vast, forested wilderness, and will be released for publication on 1st June, 2017 by Windeye Publishing.
Meg Dapsy’s family home has been destroyed in an arson attack. Her mother is dead and her father is missing, but Stella, the younger sister she’s always taken care of, has one secret too many… and it involves an old boyfriend.

With suspicion falling on a group of militant Animal Rights activists, Meg has no doubt where the blame really lies.  

It's been a while between novels, but having decided to say goodbye to my British publisher, I've followed much good advice and spent several months setting up my own independent publishing company: Windeye Publishing.

Wanting to get things absolutely right - in terms of interior book design, cover design, etc - and not wanting to risk another author's book on the first run, I decided to launch with Night-night, Sleep Tight. And I'm delighted with the result: it's everything I wished for.

It's already available for pre-order as an ebook in the global marketplace (Amazon, Kobo, Apple, etc) and should be available for pre-order as a paperback before long.

If you live in Australia, you can buy it direct from Windeye with free delivery, or, if you live in this part of Victoria, I'd love to see you at the launch, which will take place at Blarney Books & Art in Port Fairy on 10th June, 2017, from 6:00pm, as part of the 2017 Biblio-Art Opening and Awards night.

Across that same long, winter weekend in Port Fairy, my short play, Laundrette, will also be performed (premiered even) by the Port Fairy Theatre Group, along with 6 other plays. So it's tripleBig news really, I guess.

Night-night, Sleep Tight

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink

The Woman on the StairsThe Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a sucker for a flawed narrator, especially when the reader catches glimpses of those flaws ahead of the narrator's discovery of them in him or herself, but only as long as there's ample opportunity for redemption and the opportunities are eventually grasped. In part, these aspects drew me to the naive and unimaginative lawyer in Bernhard Schlink's wonderful The Woman on the Stairs: his inability to understand Irene Gundlach, the mysterious woman who modelled for the eponymous painting, coupled with his determination to be her shining knight - to 'save her' and have her love him... while failing to see that it was he who needed saving. Although his behaviour was a tad irritating at times (offset by the arrogance of both the artist and her ex-husband), the delightfully mellow narrative voice of this novel draws the reader along towards a beautiful, redemptive climax (albeit a far from expected one.) A rich novel.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

The Book of SpeculationThe Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Erika Swyler's The Book of Speculation is a delightful read. I entered its world after being disappointed by several other attempted reads (mainly novels by Booker Prize winners and short-listers) and found it to be a breath of fresh air. I particularly enjoy books that introduce hints of magic or that flirt with the surreal, without being too far-fetched and while remaining grounded in the 'ordinary every-day', and The Book of Speculation certainly satisfied this for me. Loved the two narratives - past and present - and the way they intertwined, and was quickly drawn to the characters (and their relationships) so that I wanted to see how each of their stories connected and played out. Nice one.

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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Penguin ... butcher

This shop sign conjures a range of graphic images. I recently came across it in the beautiful, north-west Tasmanian town of Penguin.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Audio excerpts of Snowing and Greening and Grease Monkey online at The Narratives Library

A few years ago, I'd drive 70 km to work each day along a road that didn't see much traffic - just the occasional truck. Of an evening, I'd be extra careful driving home though, because of the wildlife. An encounter with kangaroos could do serious damage all round as I once discovered on a different road when I managed a 180 degree spin and to wipe out two tyres just avoiding three roos that were a tad short of road sense. One dark night, I came across half a dozen sheep wandering down the road  followed, a few minutes later, by a large koala sitting in the middle of the road ... as a truck bore down from behind. There was no shortage of trees waiting at the side of the road either, ready to scoop you up if you swerved too sharply. However, the biggest danger by far, after 12 years of doing this drive, was falling asleep, particularly when the sun was low, and so I'd try out different strategies to keep me alert and add interest to the journey. Unlike the fella I once saw driving towards me with a newspaper spread across the steering wheel, I came to particularly appreciate the value of radio, a good supply of CDs and audio books. They kept me sane.

And so it was with more than a smattering of delight that I came across The Narratives Library recently, and the opportunity to contribute a few audio recordings of my own.

Set up by Karena Wynn-Moylan in conjunction with Bay FM 99.9 and Arts Canvass, which Karena presents each Thursday, The Narratives Library "provides a permanent, online  resource for community  radio stations, educational institutions, book clubs, writers and readers – anyone who is interested in books, stories and writing." Arranged into a variety of themes or categories, the library houses a growing collection of recordings of authors reading excerpts from their books.

The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore and The Grease Monkey's Tale are both represented under Love, Romance, Sex & Relationships. A further Snowing and Greening excerpt can be found under the Strange and Fantastical category, and a second Grease Monkey reading is located in Crime Fiction and Fact.

I hope you enjoy listening to these as much as I enjoyed making them.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

SUBTITLES FOR NOVELS or A Shift in the Style of Writing Across One Hundred and Fifty Years

Subtitles for novels have gone out of fashion, it seems. I can't recall a recent publication that's used one. And that's probably not such a bad thing. They seem to belong predominantly to that Victorian era where long, convoluted sentences were strung into long, convoluted paragraphs; each one intricately knotted together with so much punctuation that they somehow ended up resembling the crocheted sideboard runners and antimacassars of the day.

Elizabeth Gaskell's MARY BARTON (1848) is subtitled A Tale of Manchester Life, while Flaubert's MADAME BOVARY (1857) is subtitled A Story of Provincial Life.

Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1843) ran under the full title:

In Prose
A Ghost Story of Christmas

And HARD TIMES (1854) as HARD TIMES For These Times.

Thomas Hardy was no slouch when it came to a solid subtitle either, with:

A Rural Painting of the Dutch School (1872)

The Life and Death of the
A Story of a Man of Character (1886)

A Pure Woman
Faithfully Presented By
Thomas Hardy (1891)

While it's a maxim that didn't carry much weight in the nineteenth century, I suspect, authors today are urged to 'Show, don't tell,' and this may account not only for shorter, punchier sentences and less knotty punctuation - to say nothing of the shift in narrative voice - but also for the decline in subtitles. Of course, subtitles still occasionally surfaced during the twentieth century and Hermann Hesse wasn't averse to using them, most notably with:

A tentative sketch of the life of
Magister Ludi Joseph Knecht
together with
Knecht's posthumous writings
edited by

Although it could be argued that Hesse used this as an artistic device on this occasion in order to extend the fiction.

Which, no doubt, is what Kurt Vonnegut achieved in 1969, when he appeared to nail the subtitle once and for all.
Or The Children's Crusade
 A Duty-dance with Death

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
A fourth-generation German-American
now living in easy circumstances
on Cape Cod
[and smoking too much],
who, as an American infantry scout
hors de combat,
as a prisoner of war,
witnessed the fire-bombing
of Dresden, Germany,
'The Florence of the Elbe,'
a long time ago,
and survived to tell the tale.
This is a novel
somewhat in the telegraphic schizophrenic
manner of tales
of the planet Tralfamadore,
where the flying saucers
come from.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

What's In A Novel's Title? Some Famous Alternatives

It seems that a good book title is almost as important as a good book cover.

When my first publisher and editor at PaperBooks, Keirsten Clark, changed the title of The Snowing and Greening of Tom Passmore to The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore, it didn't take long to weigh up the benefits of having a more rhythmic metre to the title against the less formal use of his name. After all, my aim was to make the prose in this novel as lyrical as possible and, besides, the reader would soon find out, through reading his story, how his friends called him Tom and only officials and his estranged family called him Thomas. And so I happily went with it. 

Sometimes I've wondered whether The Grease Monkey's Tale wasn't catchy enough as a title and whether it might have reached a wider audience if it had been called something else - it certainly hasn't done as well as Snowing and Greening - but then I've never come up with an alternative title I like as much.

With these thoughts in mind, I was interested to read this item at Jonkers Rare Books on Working Titles of Famous Novels. I can't imagine feeling the same way about The Great Gatsby if it had retained its original title: Trimalchio in West Egg. As for 1984...


Saturday, 11 June 2016

A Second Run for Virtual Reality

Pleased to announce that, following the three sell-out performances of one act plays last February, Port Fairy Theatre Group have chosen to present my comedy, Virtual Reality, once again, but this time as part of the Winter Weekend festivities. It'll be a two-play evening on this occasion, with Garbage, the accompanying play, and will be performed at the Lecture Hall theatre on the evening of Saturday 23rd July and afternoon of Sunday 24th July.

The seven weekends of winter festivities began last night with exhibitions, films, concerts, light projections around the town and a few glasses of mulled wine. Further details of all activities across each of the weekends can be found at http://www.portfairywinterweekends.com.au/ .

Tickets for the plays are available via the website, the Visitor Information Centre and possibly on the door (although they sold out ahead of the evening last time). 

Depending on where you live:     Break a leg!     Merde!     or     Chookas!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Writers Victoria Salon in Warrnambool - Invitation

Writers Victoria extends an invitation to local writers, which I happily pass on:

"Join us in Warrnambool as we invoke the grand tradition of literary salons without the pretence. Share your work or success stories in our two-minute rapid fire Speed Celebration, delight in conversation with fellow writers and enjoy a brief talk from visiting author Leanne Hall.
The Salon is FREE but bookings are essential."

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

First Five - A Season of Short Plays

The last time I wrote a play for performance was when I was a student at Kingston Poly in London, reading Literature, History, Philosophy, Politics... that sort of thing.  I didn't actually write the entire play, but was part of a group of budding authors who all contributed, under the mentorship of playwright and writer-in-residence, Olwen Wymark.  She listened to our ideas, interpreted them, gave them shape and ultimately did the bulk of the writing.  We ended up with a play called The Encounter, about an Encounter Group meeting which is busted by the police, and I don't remember much more about it than that, except I was somehow conned into performing the role of a detective during its performance.

Last year, however, a few other writers and myself were invited to each write a short, one act play for the Port Fairy Theatre Group.  I hadn't a clue what I'd end up with when I agreed, but certainly didn't think it'd turn out as a comedy, nor that my interpretation of 'short' was a little longer than other people's interpretations.  Be that as it may, Virtual Reality and four other plays are being performed in the Port Fairy Lecture Hall, Sackville Street, on Friday 26th February (7:30 pm), Saturday 27th February (7:30 pm) and Sunday 28th February (2:00 pm).  Tickets available from the Visitor Information Centre or online from Trybooking.com/KGSD.  Further details above.