Friday, March 06, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: JOANNE ANDERTON

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.



These are the usual suspects that inhabit my writing desk at home. There's always a mug, because there's always tea of some kind. I've no idea how anyone can do anything without easily accessible tea. It's usually an Aperture Science mug. Those are my favourite. I lost a previous incarnation of this mug in an unfortunate incident involving gravity and a tiled floor, but thankfully my wonderful husband was there to save the day, and ordered me a new one almost immediately. 

Actually, he's responsible for everything in this picture. He gave me the hungry Garfield some time in primary school and it's been with me ever since. I have a feeling the typing Snoopy might have come with a MacDonald's meal years and years ago. He gave me that too, because it's a beagle writing a book. What's not to love? 

On the left is Nyanko-sensei, which he found for me in a tiny shop in Tokyo station. I am quite obsessed with Nyanko-sensei, and wanted to take home the entire shop, but it wouldn't all fit in my luggage. Snoopy, Garfield and Nyanko-sensei all sit under my monitor and cheer me on.







Joanne Anderton lives in Sydney, in the house she grew up in, with the man she fell in love with when they were eight. She writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes their worlds a little different. She sprinkles a pinch of science fiction to spice up her fantasy, and thinks horror adds flavour to just about everything. She's quite addicted to anime and manga, and these are strong influences in her writing. Her novels - DebrisSuited and Guardian -  have been published by Angry Robot Books and Fablecroft Publishing. Her short story collection, The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories won the Aurealis Award for best collection, and the Australian Shadows Award for best collected work. 

Visit her online http://joanneanderton.com/



Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY FEELS AN OMEN COMING ON

Death. Death is funny. Death is particularly funny when anthropomorphised, because there's pretty much nowhere he isn't wildly inappropriate. Still, some places are less appropriate than others. To whit, this cartoon.


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Review: Blood Stain


Blood Stain
Blood Stain by Peter Lalor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Detailed and descriptive examination of one of the most gruesome murders ever committed in Australia. Author Peter Lalor delves deep into the lives of Katherine Knight, her victim Johnathon Price, and the motley collection of bogans, drunks, losers and utter no-hopers that surrounded them in the dead-end shithole of Aberdeen, New South Wales, painting a compelling picture of the stresses and weaknesses that led this violent, cunning psychopath to stab her lover 37 times, skin and behead him, and cook a meal of his buttocks and head to present to his children. Marred slightly by the occasional confusion in tenses, and by an attempt to speak in the language of the area that comes across as artlessly casual and irreverent, this is still one of the most fascinating books of its type I've read in the last couple of years. Recommended for those with a strong stomach.



View all my reviews

Review: The Hollywood Hall of Shame


The Hollywood Hall of Shame
The Hollywood Hall of Shame by Harry Medved

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Good clean fun for the most part, this semi-affectionate skewering of some of film history's most pompous, pampered and deluded film projects makes for delightful reading for the dedicated fan of schadenfreude. With sections devoted to children's movies, musicals, obsessive tycoons, dictators, and a place of honour for serial turkey Goddess Elizabeth Taylor, there's something here to tickle the palate of all comers.

The only sour note is struck by the occasional bout of comedy racism of the "so solly" variety, which mars the general tone of popcorn superiority. Get past it, and you'll thrill to the sound of money being torn up and flushed, over and over again.



View all my reviews

Friday, February 27, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: CAT SPARKS

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

Today, our visitor is author, editor and illustrator Cat Sparks:




This house is full of doohickeys, whatnots, curios and ornaments but none of them are essential to my creative process. What is essential, aside from the obligatory computer, is the battered old green rocking chair that sits to the left of my desk.

The chair’s not mine. It used to belong to Rob’s former wife and when I first moved in to share his flat at Wombarra I was all for getting rid of the damn thing as it took up space and nobody ever sat in it. But eventually we bought a house and the chair found a niche of its own in the TV room. For reasons too convoluted to explain here and now, the far end of the TV room became my study and its window my private looking glass. Through it lies a pretty view of the rickety wooden moss-covered bridge straddling the creek that cuts through the back corner of our property. A vast array of birds alight on that bridge all day. Checking them out provides welcome screen distraction, as does that old green chair. That chair and I spend a lot of time together.

I refer to it as my ‘reading chair’. Covered in green velvet, it’s a recliner: old, ugly and kind of wonky but extremely comfortable. I read better in that chair than I do anywhere else. Reading progressed to note taking when I started my PhD, then note taking evolved into full-blown slabs of longhand whenever the spirit takes me. I scribble stuff down, then haul arse up to the computer desk, which, by the way, I found abandoned on the street outside Chuck McKenzie’s house way back when he used to live in Sydney. I tweak and polish my scribble as I type, rendering it into a second draft.

Of course, the minute that chair became important to my creative process, Pazuzu, our spoilt and surly big-boned tabby, decided it to be an essential element of his creative lifestyle too. We work that chair on a timeshare basis, with him mostly hogging all the prime morning real estate & me getting a go mid afternoon. I’m pretty sure I’d be a more prolific and potentially more fabulous author if Pazuzu picked some other place to sleep.


As well as the chair, my writing process requires a wadge of A4 white ruled legal pads and black Sharpie pens, size: fine. I have become a tad obsessive about those pens. Several years ago at an American convention a prominent Australian author offered me that exact type of pen in my moment of need, swearing that they were the best pens ever. He was not wrong. The house is subsequently littered with them and I won’t write with anything else if I can help it – not even when jotting shopping lists. The fine point on those Sharpies gets worn down pretty quickly, which means I go through them like other people go through Nespresso pods. Which I also go through a fair few of. So sue me.





Cat Sparks is Fiction editor of Cosmos Magazine. She’s halfway through a PhD on YA climate change fiction and almost finished revisions on a novel she seems to have been writing since the dawn of time.









Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GOES TO THE PARTY

I use Random.org to choose the order I post the sketches for Thumbnail Thursday. The fact that today is my father's 71st birthday is not only entirely coincidental, it's also rather bleakly funny.


"Honey, the clown is here!"

Monday, February 23, 2015

STORY GENESIS: THE LOVELY QUIET

In the wake of the Writers Festival, it's apparent that one of the reasons for my ongoing creative despair has been the lack of creation. For a long time, I've not being writing anything new, simply stirring the embers of words already committed, thoughts already created and let loose.

Thankfully, as always, Luscious not only has the answer but is living it.

For a couple of weeks now she's been challenging herself to a different writing exercise a day, not with an expectation of creating a glowing, new, complete work to loose upon the world but simply as a way of rediscovering the habit of writing, the self-given gift of sitting down to write and creating something new.

So, yesterday, with no expectation of anything other than filling a page and remembering how to put one word in front of the other, we sat down on either side of the kitchen table, and performed the following exercise. It's yours to play with, too, should you so desire.

It's simply this: take the last line of a story, and make it the first line of a new story.

The book, randomly chosen from our nearest bookshelf, was The Locus Awards, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Charles. N Brown. The story we chose, by virtue of picking a number between 1 and 18, was The Persistence of Vision by John Varley. And the line: We live in the lovely quiet and dark.

You, of course, may choose whatever book you like :)

With no great expectation, we gave ourselves ten minutes. 450 words later, The Lovely Quiet became a thing.

Another 300 words tonight, and it remains a thing, and a thing I'll be prodding at every night until it's finished. I'm setting no word goals, and no time limits. I'm simply writing for the rediscovery of it, putting one word in front of the other to see what happens. But it's a story, and that's all I care about. 

We live in the lovely quiet and dark. Mother curls around us, keeping us warm, keeping us safe. Soon it will be time to hatch, time to feed, time to crawl up through the ooze and muck and cloying dirt into the light, to chase and catch and bite and feed. But not just yet. Not now. Now we rest, and suckle, and draw fat and warmth into ourselves. Mother surround us, fills our mouths and our stomachs. She is our shelter, our protector, our food. Mother is the world.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

THIS SUNDAY AT HOME WORKING HAS BEEN PRESENTED TO YOU BY TWO DAYS AT A THREE-DAY WRITERS FESTIVAL

It's no secret to anyone who has me as their Facebook friend, but I've been suffering from a fair bit of darkness and despair recently. My writing has been non-existent. The editorial process for the children's book now known as Magrit has been a bizarre combination of slow-slow-NOW. My day job has somehow managed to increase its level of complexity while my organisation continues to make it clear how little my field of work is valued. My days were packed from beginning to end with obligations rather than pleasures, my health was up the shit, and my general gloominess and blackness of mood was affecting my wife, my kids, and pretty much anything I touched. I'd fired my agent, and couldn't face the long, hard road ahead to try and find someone to represent the Father Muerte novel. When a higher-paying job in my field dropped into my inbox a week ago-- one whose time commitment and travel commitment would have meant the death of my writing career without any shadow of a doubt-- I read through the job criteria and, even though it was beyond me, went ahead with writing the application.

For the first time in over a decade, I faced the idea of ending my writing career and not only accepted it, I didn't give a damn.

This is usually the sort of point where Luscious sits me down and gives a damn good talking-to. Only, this time, she didn't. What she did do, was tell me three things:

  1. If I really wanted this new job, I had to apply for it for me, not because I felt I had an obligation to provide for my family. I already earn a decent wage. We do all right. What the family want from me is my time, not more money. If I had developed ambitions in arts administration, that was fine, but I needed to pursue this job for my own satisfaction, not theirs.
  2. If I really wanted to give up writing, that was fine, too. As long as I was giving it up because it no longer made me happy. If my unhappiness was coming from my inability to write, then perhaps I needed to examine that.
  3. The Perth Writers Festival was on this weekend, and I'd already booked leave to attend it. Why not do so, and see how I felt. If I still wanted to give it all away, then she'd support me in whatever I wanted to do. But I'd set myself up to attend, I'd highlighted a number of panels I wanted to see, and I had enjoyed last year. Why not go, anyway, and see what happened?


My wife, as you might have surmised, is much wiser than me. She also has better legs.

Suitably reinforced with love and support, I made my way to UWA, home of the world's most expensive toilet paper, for the three days of this year's Perth Writers Festival.


$33 a roll might seem expensive, but keep in mind that each roll
comes with an almost unlimited supply of its own shit.


What I saw ignited my passion to write, but not in the way I had expected. I had hoped for an epiphany, or at the very least, a sign that passion and the creative drive that had once seemed so important to me was a living thing; had hoped to be surrounded by a conglomeration of fiery wordsmiths, consumed by the desire to create dancing words of joy, to preach like tent show revivalists to a tub-thumping, arm-waving crowd of screaming true believers. Or, at least, you know, a sign of fucking life. What I got was an endless procession of carefully-preserved, cautious, prim middle-class white people navigating a series of carefully stage-managed questions about their book and only their books, over and over and over and......

With two exceptions. Maxine Beneba Clarke and Ellen van Neerven are women of colour, and when they spoke at a panel on short stories (a panel I attended with Luscious and Doctor Stephen Dedman, 250+ short stories between us, there to see what we could be taught by... I don't know. That's what a festival does to you. It's that or sit in the heat of the quadrangle drinking $5 bottles of water and listening to fatuous self-congratulation on the ABC radio) they were as well-coached and self-preservation obsessed as anybody else, except, EXCEPT: Maxine talked about culture, and cultural difference, and pointed out that no, the writing family isn't one big, happy wonderful ball of love. Sometimes it's fucking hard, and sometimes it's fucking hard not to fit the facial template. A black woman, saying this, in yet another panel populated by the whitest, primmest people in the world. And after all the talk of legacy, and authorial reputation, and buy my book, make me special, this, from Ellen:

I don't care about my legacy. I just want to make a difference to the here and now.

And if you think I was the only person relieved to hear someone not speaking from carefully cultivated self-interest, explain the round of fucking applause that burst out.

And then there was Omar. Omar Musa. Poet. Rapper. Novelist. Clearly Not From Here. Malaysian-Australian and very aware of what that means, especially in the arts. Omar swears. He reads in rap rhythms. He quotes the line from his novel, "I'm not here to fuck the white girl out of you" while the rest of his panel--- whitey white girls all-- freeze in such sudden "OMGOMG" handwaving panic that it's all I can do not to bark in mad laughter. He's full of fire, full of passion. He sets the tent ablaze, and suddenly it's like I've been poked in the back of the neck, hard. Fuck. This is what it's like. This is what I have, only somewhere along the way I'd forgotten I had it. Who cares about respect? Who cares about money? Who cares about spending an extra ninety minutes a fucking day on the train going to a job I don't even want to do in a town I don't give a shit about? Just like that, the job application dies in my thumb drive. I'd forgotten: I'm not an arts administrator who writes. I'm a writer with a day job. That's not wordplay. It means something.

Jesus. Of all the things to forget. I'm not a panellist. I'm not someone who makes appearances. I'm not interested in your approval. I'm a fucking writer, and I say things that other people can't say because they don't have the words, or the courage, or the torpedoes to damn. By the time Omar, in answer to a typically bland and innocuous question about reaching out to the mainstream demographic, answers with the beautifully atomic bomb-like "Fuck the Average Joe. I'm not here to create art by referendum." I don't know whether to have his babies, get it tattooed on my chest, or just run screaming for the nearest laptop.

Jesus. All that time spent banging on about fucking the demographic, about drowning the washed-out, diluted, pissant shadows of Tolkein down the toilet where they belong. All that chest-beating about vision, and voice, and forcing them to read what I write and not the other way round, and I forgot it all.

And after that, two days of the Festival was like a fucking purgatory I had to wade through to get that message beaten right back to the rear of my eyeballs so I don't damn well forget it ever again, as wave after wave of lily-white AM radio voices paraded before us to beg for our approval.

Day three of the festival was spent at home courtesy of day two of the festival. Writing.

I was lost, and now I'm fucking well back.











Friday, February 20, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: NICK MAMATAS

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

This week, we welcome our first international friend, international man of mystery and all-round bon vivant, Nick Mamatas:



As someone who is known, to the extent that I am known at all, for dark fiction and incendiary blogs and essays, perhaps I should be less forward in my fetish for buttercream, but here it is. To go "out there" I prefer initial fortification via creature comforts--a nice piece of cake, for example. I spent quite a few years in the beginning of my career living hand-to-mouth, learning to "starve better" as my how-to book puts it, and small treats work best to keep me motivated and awake when I am writing. I don't drink much (and never at home) or like coffee, and don't have a dedicated office or a nice couch to stretch out on, so snacks do it. They're inexpensive and provide a cheap sugary high; as I am a night-writer, most productive between 9pm and 4am, I need to stay alert.

I suspect that some Friday Fetish entries will involve an item or object that recalls either writerly success or an instance of horror. I'm not inspired by success stories (clearly!) and, frankly, the horrors of the world  are never far off from the front of my mind. A little piece of cake with buttercream frosting reminds me that small rewards are more likely than large ones, and that there are small pleasures to be had...like, say reading a short story. Without it, I'd probably commit the sin of writing for catharsis--when the writer achieves such a purge, the reader never will. Cake is a reminder of good things, and a link to the ordinary world--a requirement for horror and the fantastic.







Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including Love is the Law, The Last Weekend, and the forthcoming I Am Providence. He's published over one hundred pieces of short fiction in venues as diverse as Best American Mystery Stories, Asimov's Science Fiction, and New Haven Review. His short Lovecraftian fiction was recently collected in The Nickronomicon, published by Innsmouth Free Press, and his how-to guide to being a failed writer, Starve Better, is still available. Follow him on Twitter at @nmamatas














Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 


Thursday, February 19, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY DOES APART AFTER DEATH

Here's one that I got as far as pencilling and inking to the best of my ability. My not-very-good ability.

This is why I'm an author. That and my utter inability with a guitar.... a paintbrush.... science......



Friday, February 13, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: KEITH STEVENSON

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.




I'm a bit of a loser when it comes to fetishes that help me get into a creative state, because early on I cultivated an ascetic stance to writing. I don't have a favourite pen, or chair, or computer or view out the window simply because - as a working stiff - I have to wedge my 'writing time' into whatever spare moments I can muster. 

I write on trains, trams, buses and planes (though never behind the wheel). I write on sofas, in airport terminals between flights, in draughty bus stops, in bed with my eyes shut. I write with a laptop, with a pen in a notebook, on a post-it note. I feel smug that my writing does not depend on some talisman that, if lost, will mean the loss of my writing mojo. I don't need to sit or stand or be somewhere to 'get into the creative space' because if I had to wait for that to happen I'd be a slower writer than I already am (and I'm glacial at present). 

There are, however, two things that I fervently believe in when it comes to my writing. Firstly I believe in the power of my subconscious to mull away at problems in the background and throw up an elegant solution whenever I need it and, related to this, I find that writing in the early morning, when my brain has not yet hard-wired itself into reality lets me follow my instincts as I write. Secondly I believe in always finishing a particular writing session mid-sentence or mid-scene so I have the impetus to get right back into the story when I pick it up again. 











Keith Stevenson's debut novel, Horizon: an SF thriller, is published by Harper Collins Voyager Impulse. He blogs about the science and ideas behind Horizon at www.horizonbook.com.au 









Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY ASSEMBLES BEHIND SOMEONE'S BACK

I'm just saying: I nailed every single expression in this one. Every. Single. One.

What's sad is, I highly doubt I'd have the skill to deliberately recapture them this well if I tried to pencil and ink the thing properly.


"Don't lie to me, Doris. I can smell machine oil!"



Friday, February 06, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: JASON NAHRUNG

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.





There was a time when I carried a little ‘dice idol’ around on writing excursions – a miniature Thoth. Then I realised that the simple act of opening the laptop lid was sign enough it was time to write. At home, I occasionally burn incense in a nod to mood, and Thoth still sits there on a shelf, watching over.

But when it comes to writing, you sit, you write. And try to look after the health of your back, neck and your hands as you do so!

Most of my writing is done on commuter trains these days. There’s no room for fetishes, even if I wanted them.

When it’s time to write, you write.

If there’s one thing that is useful, though, for me – and everyone is different, of course, we all have different processes – is music. Sometimes just to take the edge off the malarkey going on around me; sometimes to set the tone.

For instance, when writing ‘Watermarks’, a story that came out in 2014 set in a flooded Brisbane, I played Crater Vol. 1 by Android Lust a lot. That and Wendy Rule’s The Lotus Eaters. I used Wendy’s album a hell of a lot when working on Salvage, too: the sea theme made it a natural fit.





When writing my vampire novels Blood and Dust and The Big Smoke, the playlist crossed as much territory as those two novels: Midnight Oil and Aussie garage rock such as The Angels for dusty highways; thumping action soundtracks such as Rammstein and AC/DC for kicking arse; dismal albums suitable for grungy urban scenes from the likes of the Sisters of Mercy and John Foxx. (Vampire aficionados: check out the Music from the Succubus Club compilation; the Lost Boys soundtrack; the Forever Knight soundtrack for the quieter moments.)

Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan’s Jagged, Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration and Attrition are among those that have filled out the sonic backdrop, depending on the mood.

I know some folks find it hard to write with music at all; others find music with lyrics intrusive. But for me, as long as the music is well known, it just fades off into the background, helping me zone out of the real world and into the story world. 





Jason Nahrung grew up on a Queensland cattle property and now lives in Ballarat with his wife, the writer Kirstyn McDermott. He works as an editor and journalist to support his travel addiction. His fiction is invariably darkly themed, perhaps reflecting his passion for classic B-grade horror films and ’80s goth rock. His most recent long fiction title is the Gothic tale Salvage (Twelfth Planet Press), with his outback vampire duology Blood and Dust and The Big Smoke coming soon through Clan Destine Press. He lurks online at www.jasonnahrung.com.




Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY FEELS THE LOVE, SHERWOOD STYLE

Sometimes, the image explains itself. Sometimes, it requires a caption. Sometimes, the caption is too bloody convoluted for its own good.

This is one of those times.

"Feeling the arrow strike him, Robin acted without thought, and instantly 
loosed an arrow at his attacker..."


Friday, January 30, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: LAURA E. GOODIN

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

This week, I think it's fair to say, the bar has been officially raised :)



 
American-born writer Laura E. Goodin has been writing since childhood.  Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Michael Moorcock's New Worlds, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Adbusters, Wet Ink, The Lifted Brow, and Daily Science Fiction, among others, and in several anthologies.  Her plays and libretti have been performed on three continents, and her poetry has been performed internationally, both as spoken word and as texts for new musical compositions.  She attended the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and is currently completing a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Western Australia.  



Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise.