So, I’ve posted my review of The Great Escape but I’m still in awe of its content. How inventive those amazing people, held prisoners in Stalag Luft III, really were. Making things out of things I wouldn’t even equate as relative. Just incredible. And speaking of incredible, I’ve moved on to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, of which I love the subtitle, The Children’s Crusade, as well as the story behind that title as told in the introduction. Vonnegut is a model of contemporary authorship but he also breathes a sensitive, touchingly vulnerable new life into the telling of World War Two stories. A survivor of the Dresden bombing (which was done by the Allies when he was a POW) it isn’t hard to see why he’d have hated guns, hated war and hated aggression. But his ability to communicate that over to a story is a marvel. At the time, the 1960s World War Two stories were told with gung-ho masculinity and focused on the heroics. The Great Escape is no exception, despite its tragic outcome. Vonnegut’s antithesis on the popular Allied Heroes conception came early in America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and might just have given birth to the arts’ immense antiwar movement of the ’60s and ’70s and beyond.
What an achievement!
Speaking of, I’m still working on my next novel. Following Mighty Mary isn’t easy. The true story of a circus elephant doesn’t really leave any opening for what might come next. But I’m working. And I love what I’m doing.
Well, I’m hoping everyone will get to see what I’ve been working on lately maybe next year or early 2021. It’s been a lot of fun which I haven’t had writing something since Dino Hunt. Not that writing isn’t an exciting process, because you’re discovering quadrants of your own imagination and unlocking these hidden little gems that complete a story that was only vague in your head, which is an exhilarating process. But there’s also rewrites and making the whole thing coherent, which is where the work comes in. Often it feels like pulling the bottom floor out of a building so you can put it at the top. But I know something’s not good when writing it feels like pushing an acorn uphill with my nose. That’s not how the current manuscript feels. It’s one I can’t wait to get back to work on each day, so that’s exciting. I can’t wait to show it to you.
Reading The Great Escape. My review still to come but I’m loving it. Might need a pen and paper to keep track of all the names but wow; I’m just struck dumb by the ingenuity and resilience of these people. Makes me feel even sillier for complaining about writing being difficult sometimes!
I hope you’re all enjoying your month and keeping safe.
Oh, well. I’m not just a writer, I’m a keen academic and I work full-time in education. Unlike many a writer, I don’t intend to ever give up my day job. I like researching, I like learning and I love passing on information and helping people along their way. But add to that my volunteering, my need to remain fully qualified and properly trained and practiced in all my disciplines and well… it gets a lot. Very much looking forward to the end of the year when I can relax a little bit and go to England for Christmas and spend New Year’s just hopping about my beloved Europe. I love and miss her.
Still reading! I finished McCarthy’s Outer Dark and posted the review on Goodreads. Now I’m on to The Silence of the Lambs.
And writing. I’m working on what I’ve decided will be my next book. It feels right and I intend to have it out sometime next year. Watch this space.
So I hit a bit of a milestone on the 31st of May. Thirty is often a daunting age, or so I was told, but then I was also told life begins at 30. I have to say I’m experiencing neither. Maybe I’ve been 30 for some considerable time but society’s little critiques, insofar as I have been subjected to them, have never mattered much to me unless they related to my acting or my writing. Even my acting I never invested too much of my own ego in. And critiques for writing? Well, you can learn something from all of them. So none of them are bad. There are rules, of course, you’re supposed to own a house (I don’t) have started a family (I won’t) and drive some degree of enviable car (ugh – never). But I don’t think people who had six books published before they turned 30 wrote those rules. Success is precisely what you want it to be and nobody can measure your success but you. I wanted to be a writer. Now I want to be a better writer. This will never end. I’m quite happy with that.
Dino Hunt has been expecting a sequel for about four years now and I’ve been given another possible release date. July of this year. I’m not sure how I feel about something so old being given such sudden new life but I suppose when we put our work out there we are forever reminded of where we came from. That isn’t to say people in general don’t like Dino Hunt. It was a phenomenally popular book, for what it was. I hope, for ASJ, that its sequel enjoys as much enthusiasm.
But I’m on to new projects. Manuscripts galore at Casa Davine. I can’t wait to show those to you.
2019 is indeed a year of hard work. I haven’t had time to really think about a blog post… I’m really quite involved in a manuscript I’m working on at the moment. I hope it’s as good as it feels! I’m still not sure which one I want to follow Mighty Mary with – there are a few options – but you’ll all know soon enough.
Still reading From Whom the Bell Tolls. I forget what an absolutely stunning writer Hemmingway was. I mean, I remember it in theory – I know it is powerful – but it’s not until I pick up his work that it absolutely entombs me and I remember viscerally what a master he truly was.
Writing prose has always been a passion of mine, but when people talk about giving up their day jobs, I cringe. I’ve been there, briefly, and it didn’t work for me. I love having a job. A place to go in the morning, people to engage with, a community to serve, and a time in which my desire to go home and write can burn brighter and stronger for when I finally get the chance, come the end of the day. It makes for a busy schedule, yes, but you’ve got to interpret life as a writer and I just don’t see how you can do that if you spend too much time away from it. I’ve also been an editor and script doctor in my time, and the number of screenplays I read that are about writers writing screenplays nearly drove me crazy. Films and books about the industry exist. It’s been done and done exceedingly well.about killer Writing prose has always been a passion of mine, but when people talk about giving up their day jobs, I cringe. I’ve been there, briefly, and it didn’t work for me. I love having a job. A place to go in the morning, people to engage with, a community to serve, and a time in which my desire to go home and write can burn brighter and stronger for when I finally get the chance, come the end of the day. It makes for a busy schedule, yes, but you’ve got to interpret life as a writer and I just don’t see how you can do that if you spend too much time away from it. I’ve also been an editor and script doctor in my time, and the number of screenplays I read that are about writers writing screenplays nearly drove me crazy. Films and books about the industry exist. It’s been done and done exceedingly well. Like movies about killer sharks, there is nothing to add to it. It’s done and over for the rest of us. We have to find our stories elsewhere – in history books, in everyday activities like standing and in experiencing what happens when we throw ourselves out there.
I’m sometimes asked what my advice to young writers is and it never changes – live. Date that person. Tell them what you want to do with them. In graphic detail. Go on that road trip. Go on that holiday. Get lost. Get found. Get active. Join that sporting club. Go camping. Hate it. Love it. Whatever. Nothing great ever happened by sitting still – penicillin excepted. Participate in community activities. I’ve upset my mother again this year because instead of spending Good Friday relaxing with family, I’ll be on a fire truck collecting donation from the neighbourhood for the Royal Children’s Hospital. I’m going to see faces both dismissive and open, ugly and beautiful, charitable by nature and fed up with being asked. I’m going to subject myself to a world of inspiration and do a fantastic deed while I’m at it. Get out there. Open those flood gates and let life pour over you. There is such a lot of world to find, as they sung in Moon River.
I’m studying to get my teaching qualifications, and next year I want to commence my PhD in literature. I’ll find the time to keep writing, you can bet, and you will too. You won’t be able to help yourself.
I’m not going to talk about literature for a minute.
It seems to shock a lot of Americans and the English (the latter most profoundly) that so many of Australia’s firefighters are unpaid volunteers. That we do all the things the professionals do, except forgoing any remuneration for it. Of course, where populations are concentrated there are paid firefighting agencies who are always ready to go. But the simple fact of the matter is that outside of dense population centres, Australians really aren’t that many. I am a volunteer firefighter in Belgrave, Victoria. It’s approximately forty minutes’ drive from the city of Melbourne, where firefighting is done by a different agency and they are paid. I do in a month approximately what that agency does in a day. But what we do is no different. We’ll strap on BA and go into burning houses. We’ll go to car accidents to cut people out or, if they are particularly unfortunate, help clean up what’s left. Then there are suicides, other accidents, house and building collapses, floods. We’re there for all of it.
But this being Australia, the thing that plays on all our minds the most are the bushfires. The Australian forest has evolved to burn. Eucalyptus trees have a special oil in them that helps them do exactly this. If we knew what we know now about how extreme bushfires can be, we never would have built homes amongst the forests of this country. The indigenous peoples did everything to warn us, but we went ahead anyway. There are people who live out there. And they love it 99% of the time. But every few years or so, it burns. Sometimes it takes us by surprise, and we have cases like Black Friday in the late 20’s, Ash Wednesday in the early 80’s, and worst of all Black Saturday in 2009. There are others. We are there to prevent these events from taking place, because in these events, lives are lost. In the case of Black Saturday, 174 of them. I count one extra for my fellow firefighters who lost a patient in an unrelated house fire.
I’ve just got home from some massive fires in country Victoria that did not escalate to Black Saturday-level events because of the hard work of volunteer firefighters, as well as our paid colleagues, our friends in Forestry and Parks and the countless residents who have attended our information sessions and prepared themselves for what can happen. I’m young and still new to this. But I have seen firsthand the years of experience, honed instinct and incredible skill that has developed in these firefighters over years of unpaid dedication. Houses stand today because of us. People are alive because of us. I am alive because of them. I salute them. I thank them for being there and imparting their knowledge so that I may one day work at their level and be worthy of the praise and admiration which is so completely due to them.
Terribly busy at the moment. So this shall have to be a short one… I’m happily reading J. Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. After the glorious line-up of books I read while travelling; Clive Barker’s Everville, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, I feel like something more plodding and self-referential is a nice awakening back into routine. The one thesis that unites all the books that I read overseas is man’s relationship with and without society, I think. I managed to unite them, even if it’s just busy delirium talking. Clive Barker examines the line between extreme pleasure and sadomasochism and uses demonic metaphors to do it. McCarthy again puts forward the idea that men, deprived of society’s teaching and benefits, quickly devolve into savagery (which holds water, but I’d argue anyway – Society can also teach us that slavery is okay and the segregation, imprisonment and even killing of a minority is okay), William Burroughs seems to say do as you will and hang the consequences and Bradbury insists that comfortable self-deprivation is the only way to avoid loss of self by overindulgence.
Cooper, on the other hand, simply takes the standard Baroque melodramatic storyline, sets it against the backdrop of a war a la Gone with the Wind, Sayonara or Casablanca and gives it to us in the epistemological manner writers used to be allowed to.
What do you think? Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?
WOW 2019. I’m actually emotional…this must be what having a great year feels like. 2018 was amazing, and I knew it would be because I said hello to it the right way; surrounded by my best friends. That’s the secret, folks. Surround yourself with all the live there is in your life. There is much more than you might think. Everything I wanted to accomplish, I have, although some of my aspirations may have been poorly informed…that’s how we learn.
I’m surrounded by New York City this time, but I love this city, so same deal. I hope you are surrounded by love or something you love. Remember why you love. Then, love with everything you’ve got.
There’s something I’ve noticed about a new release – because of late people have taken to asking me – what it feels like or presuming that it feels “great”. Well, it does feel great, as well as daunting, especially given that Mighty Mary is out through a new publisher. It is also humbling. I don’t just see a book, at the end of the day, I see hours innumerable of my own work and then am left to only imagine the work others have put into it. See, manuscripts are the product of a single person, but a book is the effort of many. There’re editors, like Jesse McGunn, there’s website people, PR people, cover designers and general businessfolk who have to handle all the other little things that you’d never even think of, but thankfully they have. If it was just me, then probably all it would feel is “great” – I believed in it, of course I did, I gave it my time because it’s my own. But all the others at and around Tamarind Hill Press who have given their efforts to it, that’s where humbling and daunting come from. They believe in Mighty Mary as well. I’m grateful it’s been given this opportunity. Now we wait and see how it goes, I guess. Until then, congratulations to all. We’ve created something together. We’ve given this beautiful elephant a voice she didn’t have before, a voice humanity stole from her. Albeit in fiction. But fiction can be powerful, anyone who doesn’t think so should read 1984. I mean, that fiction is so important it isn’t even fiction anymore. It’s like… pre-emptive nonfiction. Mighty Mary is in no way 1984, but it’s our little contribution and I hope we’re all proud of it.
There’s a lot more work to do. Dina, my curator, is going to help me work out a few signings and appearances here in Australia, and I’ll be traipsing around New York, New Orleans and Los Angeles next month. There’s an interview with Bohemian Rhapsody Club I’ll be shooting in two weeks’ time. There’s lots. Let’s see what interest we can cook up! And to everyone who’s already got a copy on its way – from the bottom of my heart, I hope it serves you the way fiction should.
But enough about me! I’ve just finished Philip K. Dick’s the Man in the High Castle. Science Fiction and History buffs get on it! It’s an amazing vision of what our world might have been in the mind-warping way only Dick can give you (You’re smiling. Read that last sentence aloud. Go on. Now you’re smiling.) You can check out my review on Goodreads… next is Michael Ende’s timeless The Neverending Story, and only two chapters in, I am utterly enchanted! Let’s go on this adventure together, go on! Read it!