Sunday, November 22, 2009

more book reviews

Here some more of my reviews over at

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
World Shaker by Richard Harland
Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris
Shamanslayer by Nathan Long
The Laughing Corpse by Laurell K. Hamilton
A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris

Articles from an interview I had with Diana Gabaldon will shortly be published in ACT Write, the newsletter for the ACT Writers Centre and on

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Parallel Import Restrictions being retained!

In the face of strenuous opposition around the country, the Australian Productivity Commission had recommended to the government some time back that Parallel Import Restrictions on books be lifted. The whole slew of recommendations were, in my opinion, a poorly considered short-term view. The justification was that books would become cheaper. The income base of existing authors would supposedly be protected by recommended introduction of government grants. Tough luck for those who were not already published authors and faced an even steeper uphill climb under the Fels scenario. There were other means of making books cheaper, such as lifting tax on them. Instead, Professor Allan Fels and his cohorts argued strongly that the only means of making books cheaper was to allow excess production from other countries to be dumped on the Australian market. Significantly, countries such as the UK and USA, while being in a position to shift more product onto the market outside of current Australian publishing channels, flatly refused to lift their own restrictions.

This morning, the Australian Competition Minister announced that the government would not be implementing the recommendations. This is a victory for the entire Australian publishing industry. Significantly, about the only voices in favour of the Fels recommendations were a narrow coterie of big business interests.

Following is a press release from the Australian Society of Authors. While it is rather gratuitous as there were definitely more than just the ASA campaigning against these recommendations, nonetheless it does reflect wide-spread pleasure and relief at this morning's announcement. Ironically, Prof Fels was due to be debating this very subject at 12:30pm today at the National Press Club, with the CEO of Melbourne University Publishing. The topic? What price cheaper books? I wonder what dear Prof Fels had to say?

From: Jeremy Fisher []
Sent: Wednesday, 11 November 2009 11:24 AM
To: Jeremy Fisher
Subject: PRESS RELEASE: ASA Members Victors in Parallel Importation Debate!

PRESS RELEASE: ASA Members Victors in Parallel Importation Debate

The ASA congratulates its members and our colleagues in the Australian publishing industry in their united, sustained and ultimately successful campaign to retain territorial copyright.

“The ASA membership has once again demonstrated its quiet strength,” ASA Executive Director Dr Jeremy Fisher declared. “Our members have been constantly telephoning and writing to their parliamentary representatives pointing out how the removal of territorial copyright would destroy Australia’s literary culture and publishing industry. Their persistence has been rewarded. Our leaders have listened. Today’s announcement by Competition Minister Craig Emerson that the parallel importation restrictions in our Copyright Act will remain unchanged is a clear victory for Australia’s literary creators.”

Dr Fisher also acknowledged that the Australian publishing industry was facing significant pressures and authors needed to bear these in mind.

“Minister Emerson correctly highlights the fact that e-books and digital technology are having an impact on the Australian publishing industry,” Dr Fisher said. “The ASA welcomes change. We constantly seek new means to increase authors’ incomes. We are currently in discussions relating to fair contracts for authors with regard to e-books and products such as Kindle. We have also taken an active role in the US-based Google Book Settlement, which will see authors being able to pursue income streams for out-of-print works. The ASA will always seek improved income streams for its members in both print and digital forms.”

Dr Fisher has announced that he will leave the ASA on December 11 to take up the position of Senior Lecturer in Writing at the University of New England.

Monday, November 9, 2009

progress falling behind schedule

Real life has decided to intrude the last few days. End result, I am now some 5,000 words behind schedule. I still have some 10,000 words done, so it's not as bad as it may sound. But at last I have a title now: Blood Redemption. That makes a better working title than Untitled Urban Fantasy About Vampires 'n' Stuff.

And my moustache is still growing for those who want to sponsor it for Movember!

Monday, November 2, 2009

hit the 7,000 word mark

In fact, I have passed the 7,000 word mark. But that is not a lot of progress today. I flipped quickly through what I had already done before starting today's writing and that was when it hit me. I had messed up. Now the idea is that you don't edit until after the end of the month but I could not see much point in continuing to write when I had made a fundamental screw-up in my plot line. So today I fixed that up hence the very low daily word count so far. I have a meeting on tonight but might get some more done after I get home. Maybe.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

NaNoWriMo - off and running: 3702

Well according to the NaNoWriMo website, it hasn't actually started yet. But as far as I am concerned, November is almost 17 hours old. Time zone differences can be a pain. Ask me sometime about the joys of conducting a courtship over a 15-hour difference.

This writing lark is easy, isn't it! The required average daily word count is 1667. I hit 3702 on Day 1. What a piece of piddle! :-) And people try to claim that it is hard.

Actually this was the easy bit. I have been playing that intended opening movement of my NaNoWriMo symphony of prose (and don't that just sound so grand!) over in my head so much that it was to all intents and purposes already written, just not via the keyboard. Not going to be that easy all the time I'm afraid, despite all my pre-planning. Although I could always go back off the wagon for the month, spend my time shit-faced drunk and figuratively spew rubbish out onto the page. On second thoughts, I don't think so. After being sober almost eight years, I doubt my body could cope with the hangovers.

Friday, October 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo - starters take your blocks

In only a few hours local time, NaNoWriMo will be officially off and running. Not that I shall be writing immediately post-midnight, but I will definitely be starting my writing on November 1. I will post some progress reports etc about the experience as I go.

At the same time I shall be also busy growing a moustache for Movember -

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NaNoWriMo is coming

November is National Novel Writing Month. That would be better renamed International Novel Writing Month as it has extended way beyond North America where I believe the concept first started. But IntNoWriMo does not have quite the same ring to it, does it.

Anyway, I have signed myself up. The idea is to commit yourself to writing 50,000 words of your novel during the month of November. So I am gearing myself up to rip right into it.

While I'm at it, I shall also be hard at work growing a moustache for Movember, the fund raising initiative. I shall be posting weekly progress pictures. Let me know if you would like to donate to this worthy cause.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Some recent book reviews...

The Cold Kiss of Death

The Flight of the Eisenstein

Descent of Angels

I have received a great heap of books to review lately so more reviews shall be coming out. Read them here or just monitor my activity at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

There are those of us that nature has very much designed as anal retentives. We need forms, structure and that sort of thing.

I use a variety of things including software for mindmapping and other things. I have just discovered what appears to be a nifty electronic means of tracking your novel in progress. It is a freebie courtesy of author Simon Haynes. Get it here

Having had a bit of a play, I think it would be quite useful for the other control freak authors out there like me. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It ain't always easy

I have been working on a novel for a while now. What aspiring writer isn't? I have been going great guns for a while, having done a lot of development work prior to commencing the actual writing. Writing sessions were routinely producing 2-3,000 words, sometimes more, leaving me feeling quite accomplished. Writers block? Pah!

Today I had a salutary lesson that it isn't always quite so easy. After several hours work, I had barely managed some 400 words. I felt I was almost oozing blood with the effort of trying to get the right words out. I quite deliberately try to write in that first drafting in as spontaneous a manner as possible. However, today that spontaneity just would not come, possible because I was adding in a piece that introduced an important character at an earlier, more effective point, working hard at producing a particular emotive effect.

At the end, when I called it quits and put the laptop to sleep, I was left wondering - was my lesser output a sign of having failed to produce, or was the possible greater quality of the work better on this occasion than quantity? I do not have an answer as yet.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

poetry article

I had forgotten that the October edition of ACT Write, the journal of the ACT Writers Centre, was to feature a short piece by yours truly about short forms of poetry. So now I am now not just a published poet (one published poem!), I am also a published author on the subject. Woo hoo - watch the head swell now!

Monday, October 5, 2009

some book reviews

Here are some links to some recent book reviews I did:







After a dry spell, I have just received word that one of my short stories has been accepted for publication in a webzine. And the publisher also intends including it in a print anthology in mid-2010. The webzine should be out in late November or early December and I'll publish a link in here when it's out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

REVIEW: District 9

The backstory to the making of District 9 is fast approaching folkloric proportions.

Peter Jackson (naturally the PJ of Lord of the Rings fame) wanted to work with South African, Neil Blomkamp. The intended project become bogged down as I understand things often do in the film world. Jackson instead now encouraged Blomkamp to redo an earlier short film he had made about aliens appearing over Johannsburg. District 9 resulted.

The first third or so is shot in documentary format, the moving camera and 'unscripted' appearance giving a real immediacy to the audience before moving seamlessly into the film as such.

This is not a happy film. The Death Star is not destroyed and Princess Leia giving medals to the victorious Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. This is a dark film. It looks at issues like seggragation, prejudice and the willingness of the authorities to be ammoral, especially when they have something to gain.

Following the appearance of alien creatures, nicnamed prawns from their similarity to those crustraceans beloved of our dining during summer, the visitors end up in a major encampment. With this film set in near-future Johannasburg, the irony of setting up post-apartheid forced separation hits the viewer with as subtly as a brick. However this does not detract from what is more important, the story telling.

The action slowly builds up and once that pace is achieved, just rockets along. I hardly moved at all in my seat while watching, and as the film finished only some 40 minutes ago as I draft this entry, my dodgy knees are still suffering from being locked in the one position for far too long. It takes a lot to get me of all people, to sit that still for that long.

We are left with an ending that is not an ending, but could be seen as set-up for a sequel.

The screenplay was written by Blomkamp with Terri Tatchell. I'd love to have a read as I imagine it would be one of those scripts that reads as well as it ends up being shot.

NOT a film for the kids and not one for adults who like soft, fluffy endings.

As a dedicated sci fi freak and lover of all good story telling, this gets a big thumbs up from me!

REVIEW: Pelham 123

I'm not a great fan of remakes. If the original was any good, I tend to agree with Samuel L Jackson when he was first approached about starring in the remake of Shaft: “what's wrong with the one we've got?”

I remember The Taking of Pelham 123 as a fast-paced thrill of a film. Raymond Shaw was memorable as the clinically cold, calculating criminal, holding a train of hostages for ransom in the New York Underground.
With that original being such a good film, I had to ask, why remake it? Unless you can improve on the original, then why not leave well enough alone? The exception to that rule, to my mind, is when a filmmaker can bring a new dimensino to things without detracting from the original story.

It was with some trepidation that I went to see Pelham 123, the remake starring John Travolta. While I long ago accepted that the mature Travolta can definitely act, part of me still associates him with Saturday Night Fever, or worse, with Grease - bland vomit-inducing. A part of me also still remembers him as Vinnie Barbarino in Welcome Back Kotter (am I really that old?). How was Director Tony Scott going to address things. Was it just going to be a cheap copy? The original story butchered beyond recognition?

Thankfully, my fears were not realised.

Travolta was menacing from the moment he first appears at the start of the film. Kudos to the make-up people who ensured that the tattoo on his neck actually looked properly aged and not just obviously slapped on for the role as is too often the case. Verisimiltude folks!

Whereas Shaw's portrayal of the villain was a man always in control, even when things were getting away from him, Travolta's is far wilder. He goes off into rants at the drop of a hat, to the point of foaming at the mouth. Yet before killing people, he tends to apologise for what he is about to do.

It is easy to forget beforehand that the film also stars Denzel Washington who was an excellent counter-point to Travolta's character. There was nothing particularly stand-out about his performance but then we have been spoiled over the years with solid-to-excellent performances by Washington, film after film. Both Travolta and Washington were credible and believable in their roles, giving that all-important suspension of disbelief by the audience.

A good supporting cast rounded things out, particularly with James Gandolfini as a jaded New Your City Mayor, who cannot wait for his term to end so he can get the hell out of the place.

The film managed to retain all the original crispness of the original but deepened things by a greater exploration of the characters involved. I won't say that this is better than the original, but Pelham 123 is definitely worth seeing in its own right.

Well done to the original novel's author, John Godey, and scriptwriter, Brian Helgeland.

This one gets a big thumbs up from me!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

REVIEW: Watchmen - what a film!

I had heard that Watchmen was a good film but I never got around to seeing it at the cinema. I recently bought a copy of it on DVD, entirely on a whim. Oh wow - am I now regretting not going to see it on the big screen!

This film simply blew me away. As a rule, the idea of Superheros who are able to maintain their secret identity by putting on a simple mask that just covers their eyes, really gets my goat. Like, who can honestly believe the idea that Superman has been able to hide as Clark Kent for all these years by simply combing his hair over and slipping on a pair of hornrim glasses. But the power of Watchmen drew me in, entirely suspending disbelief.

The camera work was brilliantly shot, with scenes and shots blending just so seamlessly, with even moves into CGI not being noticeable, apart from the obvious exception of the bright blue Dr Manhattan.
Jackie Earle Haley was brilliant as Rorschach, the near-sociopath. The power of his performance was simply amazing. Jessica Alba and other established gorgeous young babes of the screen were considedered for the role of Laurie - Silk Spectre II - but were considered too well known to be taken seriously in the role. Instead Malin Ã…kerman was cast in the role. And it was a great move. She was equally as wonderful in her way, but also looked hawt!
What an different view of superheros was presented - dark, dangerous. But that was what the original Batmen was like - practically a vigelante. But I didn't see the willing sacrifice of some 15 million people to save the world even remotely coming.
I am not generally a great lover of film treatments of comics and graphic novels. All too often they are either soft and fluffy, lacking the original edge, or end up lacking all credibility. I have not read the originals but there was nothing soft or fluffy about this film, nor was it lacking credibility in the slightest. This was hard, edgy stuff and absolutely compelling viewing.
This one is a winner!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rejection doesn't have to hurt

I received another rejection the other day. Nothing new there. But this one had some positives in it.

Hi Ross, we have decided not to use XXX for the XXX anthology. It's a good story with good characters, prose, pacing, etc., and, in fact, was among the final few we selected from the hundreds of stories we received where we'll select the stories that'll go into the anthology.

So it appears that I made the short list out of hundreds received. That is nice to know. After another quick review, it has been sent out to another publication.

The original story was in fact penned some years ago. And it was presented as derivative crap. Not surprisingly, it was rejected. The fact that a revised version of the story has made it down the final shortlist of an international anthology speaks volumes for how much my writing has improved, not least of which being my appreciation of what a story actually is.

I also have several other short stories out with editors at the moment along with a speculative poem and more getting close to being ready to be sent out.

Sadly, my romantic comedy film script has stalled badly. I thought I would have difficulties with the romantic bits but instead it has been the drama that posed problems in scripting. It has been shelved for the moment, but most definitely not forgotten.

Friday, June 12, 2009

REVIEW: Shatter by Michael Robotham

I came to appreciate Michael Robotham's writing not quite a year ago. His novels have a dark, psychological grit to them, in total contrast to the man himself when you meet him.

In Shatter, I think Robotham has reached a new high. Our returning protagonist, Joe O'Loughlin, is more human than ever, with the spectre of his Parkinson's Disease overhanging everything he does. The antagonist truly creeps me out. Having met and chatted to Robotham, it is so hard to equate that smiling, quietly spoken man with the dark, twisted antagonist he has conjured up. That is the mark of a true storyteller.

At times Shatter rather disturbed me as I saw just how the human spirit can be warped and then broken. But I just had to keep reading. The Sunday Telegraph described the novel as 'nail-biting suspense of the highest order.' They weren't kidding. This is true, edge-of-the-seat thriller material, full of characters so real that you can almost visualise them leaning over your shoulder as you read.

Robotham has created such a powerful and believable antagonist that about two-thirds of the way through reading, I found myself wondering 'how can they ever catch this bloke?'.

Underlying events is the question of what sort of world do we live in where the authorities sanction creation of a monster only to lose control of him. It makes you ask questions like just what does go on in places like Guantanamo? Or on the other side of the terrorism conflict for that matter.

This is powerful writing at its best. The only thing that I could fault was a minor copy-editing issue that slipped past editorial and proofreading.

Compelling, believable characters. An engaging plot that hooks you from the outset. First class writing. Definitely worth reading!

Michael Robotham
ISBN 978-0-7515-3731-4

Saturday, April 11, 2009

revealing plot through dialogue is bad??

I have just received probably the strangest justification for rejection of a story that I have received yet. The editor concerned did not like the fact that I revealed plot through the dialogue. But that is showing the reader - would they have preferred that I just dump big chunks of exposition and narrative, telling the reader what is happening? Don't get me wrong - it wasn't just all dialogue and nothing else. There was a lot of action going with that dialogue. But according to this particular editor, revealing plot through dialogue is bad?

I've never heard of such a thing. Bloody nonsense in my opinion, but then they are just as entitled to their opinion as I am.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Some thoughts inspired by Sylvia Plath's poetry

Sylvia Plath had a short life - 1932-1963. She worked at her poetry for a number of years, but particularly in the last couple of years of her life.

Her husband, Ted Hughes, interestingly described her as rarely discarding a poem but continuing to work on it to get something out of it. Quoting Hughes, if she could not get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair or even a toy. The product for her was not so much a successful poem, as something that had temporarily exhausted her ingenuity.

I have been reading a lot of Plath's poetry lately. It is often very powerful in its observations. Consider the following extract from Mushrooms.

Overnight, very
Whitely, discretely,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam
Acquire the air

How can you fail to see mushrooms in your head, emerging, growing, on reading those lines? In my opinion, this is what makes that powerful verse.

To be able to write like that requires great observation of details in what surrounds us - something that every writer needs to be able to do. The writer's journal or notebook is good for aiding this. I am rarely without pen and paper to hand and scribble down all sorts of things that catch my eye. In theory these notes are all transcribed into my journal although I must admit to having been terribly slack on that front of late.

I was sitting outside as I first began to scribble these thoughts.

A Crimson Rosella (a red and blue type of parrot for my friends outside of Australia) was feeding on the remnants of a sunflower head in the garden, the seeds audibly cracking in its beak with sounds like the clacking of an old-fashioned typewriter. A large, black Chuff swooped down in a smooth glide to land on the edge of the bird bath, to watch me suspiciously before taking a drink. Its strange, yellow eye, looks like a solitary corn kernel in the middle of an ebony plate. A plucky Mudlark - a smallish bird in striking black and white - darted in close to my chair, checking the ground for edibles before darting away again. A Noisy Miner - related to the Asian or Indian Mynah - perched on the edge of a flower pot, glares around. This is his domain! How dare these other birds intrude!

Moving so quickly that the eye is hard pressed to distinguish the actual movements, a skink darted across the pavers, from one bit of shelter to another, its body all sinewy movement in one moment and frozen stillness the next.

All fascinating little observations in only a few minutes. Several poems have resulted from these and I look forward to using those observations in creating a sense of place in a future story.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I have just submitted a story to an anthology. This piece was a little different from my usual fare. It is a bit of alternate history with overtones of supernatural horror.

Researching the necessary historical aspects of Elizabethan England proved to be fascinating as to almost take over from the actual story telling. I had to remind myself that I was not writing a history but story within a particular historical setting. There is a significant difference.

So what next?

I have a script for a possible feature-length film under development. It is a romantic comedy. The comedic bits proved easy to do as did a comedic subplot. But the dramatic scenes are proving more problematic to get down. I shall keep plugging away at it as finishing such a large project will be a good test of my ability to stick at things.

I have been incredibly slack with recording things in my Writing Journal. But last Friday evening I attended a poetry reading with Australian poet, Les Murray. I sat there, scribbling thoughts on a scrap of paper as they occured to me. I also had the opportunity to talk to Les afterwards and tell him how I had adopted him as my internal Censor during poetry studies at university last year. It was a thill to speak to someone of that stature/

Those thoughts I captured have to be written up in my Writing Journal as the start of recording in it on a regular basis once more. I also have various other thoughts and ideas scrawled on random bits of paper that also need to be transcribed into that Journal.

I have a program of anthology targets that I wish to submit to over the rest of 2009. The next target is an anthology of zombie poetry of all things. But how to tackle such a thing?

First some research into zombies, looking for clues on what to write about. Next thoughts about possible poetic style. I was recently reading some of Kipling's poetry and was struck by its story-telling nature - I think that is the way to go with this piece.

The first draft has some twenty stanzas although a lot of editing is required yet.

Stay tuned to see how I go.

Monday, March 16, 2009

the talamaur

During a Flycon panel about vampires, I referred to an Australian vampiric myth and said I would dig the details out and post them here. Another panel member posted details of an Australian vampire myth, but that turns out not to be the one I recently read about.

Legends of Blood: the Vampire in History and Myth, Wayne Bartlett and Flavia Idriceanu

Even Australia has its own variant, the talamaur. This is a living vampire, which could extract an residual life force trapped in the body from a recently dead corpse (an interesting case of rule reversal).

That's it. Finding out more about this is now on my things-to-research-list and should I find out anything more in the future, I will post in here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Westler - a film review

I am a long-time fan of Mickey Rourke. He always seems to bring a brooding sense of menace to his roles that intrigues me. His career stalled with personal problems but The Wrestler was announced as being the resurrection of his career. So I was interested to see just how the film lived up to that degree of hype.

I was impressed. Rourke was perfect for that role and his award success to date and Oscar nomination was well deserved. I had quite deliberately not read anything about the film before going to the theatre. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see that Marisa Tomei was his co-star as I have a real soft spot for her. Her Oscar nomination was also well deserved.

Twenty years ago, Randy 'The Ram' Robinson was at the top of the professional wrestling game. Today, he is stacking supermarket shelves and struggling to pay the rent on a mobile home in a trailer park. Reliant on painkillers and steroids, he continues to wrestle in small shows for die-hard fans.

Early in the film we see a wonderful scene 'backstage' where the wrestlers are deciding what moves are going to be done in which match.

Following a particularly brutal match that is more gore fest than anything else, Randy is forced to re-evaluate his life. His only real relationship is with the aging stripper, Cassidy (Tormei). Their relationship starts to develop and he also re-establishes contact with his long-estranged daughter. But the only world that Randy is able to really make sense of is that of professional wrestling. Things begin to unravel once more and Randy has to find some way to cope.

There will be many people who will be turned off from the film because of the professional wrestling angle. But it is much more than that. It is much grittier and darker than Stallone's Rocky and does not try to hide from the fact that professional wrestling is a performance, albeit one that can be brutally hard on the performers. The film also looks at the question of how does a professional athlete or performer cope once their best days are behind them and that world no longer really wants them.

Mickey Rourke is simply wonderful in this role. He is more than an actor playing that role, he becomes Randy 'The Ram' Robinson. I suspect his performance may reflect the fact that the film could be seen as something of a metaphor for his own life and career. Whatever the case, it was wonderful. Marisa Tomei was a wonderful support and looked wonderful - and I'm not just saying that because she is seen in full swing as a bare-breasted pole dancer and lap dancer. But then again I am rather biased about Ms Tomei (be still my beating heart).

I thoroughly recommend the film.