Archive for October, 2009

How To Slow Down

October 31, 2009

I blogged a while ago about moving out of my Nissan 200SX turbo coupe (which my wife now drives) and into a Subaru Outback station wagon. I needed the space for people and stuff for work. Considering that the Nissan has been my work car for six or seven years I’ve held out pretty well.

The Subaru is nice enough to drive, but let’s face it – it’s not the Nissan. Consequently the changeover has slowed me down a fair bit.

Today I came across this. It’s a Subaru. 1958 model, the mother of them all.

1958 model Subaru

If anybody wanted to slow down I reckon this would be the way to do it.

Oh yeah, and if you are wondering about the real reason behind posting this. It’s because tomorrow I start out on the NaNoWriMo thing, so today I’ve been getting notes and chapter planning in order so I’ve got a bit of a framework for the next month. Trouble is, it’s a pretty boring thing to be doing. So I mowed the lawn, did some planning, and chased up pics of old Subarus. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Remedy For Straining My Brain

October 31, 2009

I think it was Ulysses that did it. Strained my brain, I mean.

I got a bit too close, that’s all. Too close to the rarified atmosphere or wherever it is that Ulysses lives.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have written yesterday’s blog. Well, not all at once, anyway.

It’s left me a bit vague and drifty. Not a bad feeling, but certainly not conducive to full functioning.

I’m sure it will pass, this light-headedness. But I’ll be more careful when approaching the dizzy heights of literary genius next time.

However, I have a remedy. Hal Spacejock.

Yep, that’s the way to get back to normal. I hope you’ve heard of Hal. Not the, ‘I’m sorry I can’t do that, Dave,’ HAL of Stanley Kubrick.

Hey, hold on there. Stanley Kubrick is getting up into rarified air again.

Let’s get down to earth again. Stick with Hal Spacejock.

Hal is the brainchild of Simon Haynes. Simon is an author from Perth, WA. And Hal Spacejock is the worst space pilot in the galaxy. The books are funny, filled with gung-ho adventure and mishap, have beautiful women, crazy plots, and a save-the-day robot named Clunk.

Simon has written four Spacejock books, and if you like Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett or Red Dwarf, or that guy Ford with two ff’s, then perhaps Hal Spacejock should be on your reading shelf.

You can get the first book free. Yep. Free, with one f.

Head on over here and you will see the link for a free download of his first novel in the series.

Ulysses for the Patience Impaired

October 30, 2009

I’ve never read James Joyce’s Ulysses.

I’ve never even started to read it.

I believe that some people pretend to have read it, for example at a posh literary dinner, but that’s not me.

I have however, read some of the Wikipedia entry. I don’t think that counts for much in the world of literature, but it lets me say profound things at literary dinners like how Ulysses contains the longest single sentence in the English language.

At something over 4,000 words it’s really a short story without a meal stop. If you want a bit more accuracy on the word count, go chase up Wikipedia. Or perhaps you can read the book until you come across a sentence that has been going on for over three thousand words and perhaps you’d better go back and start counting them to see if this is the one.

And now …..

And now there is another thing you can do. You can read the comic version.


It’s not completed yet. In fact they’ve only got into the first of its eighteen episodes. But they are adding to it each week, which is what, after all,  Joyce did with the original. (I got that last bit from Wikipedia. Don’t hold that against me.)

Here is the link

Confession Time

October 28, 2009

OK, I’ve done it. After years of resisting, of holding off, of directing my attention elsewhere, of what the psychologists called ‘sublimating’, I’ve done it.

Today I signed up to NaNoWriMo.

Don’t know that that is? Check it out here

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. In November each year a bunch of people sign up to encourage themselves and others to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month.

I’m looking at getting serious with the next book, so I signed up.

OK, I feel better now that I’ve got that off my chest.

That PIR Thing Again – A New Twist

October 27, 2009

We once had an Irish Setter. We had three of these wonderful dogs over many years and I suppose I could tell the following story about any of them, but I will choose one. Flash was the most recent. He was energetic, enthusiastic, enlivening, every else that starts with E.

Flash loved to wrestle. My son or I would get down on the floor and growl and he would get into position, hind-quarters up and forelegs and chin on the floor, eyes alive. We would make our move and grab him around the middle and he would try to lick us into submission, wriggling and twisting all the time to get free.

It was impossible to hold him for long as wriggling and twisting was his best thing. As soon as he was free he would get back into position for the next round. We tired out before he did.

There’s an irony in wanting to get into the wrestle, only to wriggle free. Can I leave the metaphor with you?

Don Grover is CEO of Dymocks Booksellers. John Forsyth is the Chairman of the family company that owns Dymocks. Dymocks is one of the members of a retail coalition that wants to get rid of territorial copyright on Australian books. The other members of the coalition are Coles and Woolworths. These other two are supermarket giants who between them own 80% of Australian grocery business. This is the highest concentration of grocery ownership in the world. They want to sell cheap books and they want to get rid of territorial copyright, saying this will make books cheaper.

Here’s a quick run through on what that means. English speaking countries have territorial right to publish and distribute books in their own place. UK, US, Canada, Australia. They respect the right of local publishers to distribute books on their patch without interference. Because each territory has differences in culture and language, books for each territory are edited to suit the differences, and those editions only sold in the appropriate territory. New Zealand gave up their PIRs some years ago and have paid the price for it since.

This is how it plays out in practice. An Australian author writes a book. It is taken up by a US publisher. The US publisher wants the Australian idiom changed to US norms. Elements of the story have to change. Cricket is changed to baseball, wombat is changed to opossum, Mum is changed to Mom, Dubbo is changed to Dallas, the main character no longer has freckles but has to have long golden hair to reflect the US desire that everything be beautiful. In other words, what was an Australian book has to be edited to reflect the US publisher’s marketing guidelines.

OK, those changes are made and the US edition goes on sale in the US. But the Australian version has territorial rights for sale in Australia, so the Australian reader gets the original. The US reader gets the Barbie and Ken version but not the Australian version. That is the idea behind Parallel Import Restrictions. Each country guards the right to publish for their own culture.

The proposal to lift PIRs in Australia would mean that the US version can be shipped into Australia and sold in competition with the local version. And with publishing costs cheaper in the US because of matters of scale and lower quality of paper and binding etc, the local version would not appear on the shelves. So the local publisher who has put the original and costly work into getting the book up and running can’t sell locally produced copies in the Australian market. And they can’t sell into the US or UK either, because those markets are closed to Australian sellers by the US and UK  PIR legislation.  Australian publishing business drops.

Dymocks, who want to see an end to PIR so they can sell cheaper US imports, recognise this. They recognise that those US versions will lessen the ability of Australian publishers to stay in business. They recognise that Australian authors will therefore find it more difficult to get published. After all, what US publisher is going to spend money on Australian authors, especially in developing new talent?

So Dymocks has a suggestion. They suggest that Australian publishers have a 1% levy applied to them by the Government. And that levy be used for ‘Australian writing grants’.

How about that? Dymocks, the retailer, recognises that removal of PIRs will hurt Australian writing and publishing. So to help prop it up they suggest a new tax on the ailing publishers. And out of that tax we give grants to Australian authors to write what they call ”culturally worthwhile books”.

Is it just me or can somebody else see a bit of wriggling and twisting happening here?

Are you up for a list of questions?

  • What does “culturally worthwhile books” mean?
  • Who decides what it means?
  • Who decides what authors get a grant?
  • Who decides how much that grant will be?
  • Once the author has written a “culturally worthwhile book” who publishes it?
  • Where does it get published?
  • If it is published in the US does it have to be edited into a US “culturally worthwhile book” so it’s marketable there?
  • If such a book was to be published by a US publisher and imported to Australia does that US publisher have to pay 1% of everything they publish into this grant fund?
  • How much of this grant levy goes into administration, and by what govt. department?
  • What if somebody was to suggest that 1% be levied on retailers and not publishers?
  • Would Dymocks support that?

I tell you, it was a lot more fun wrestling with Flash than trying to sort out the wriggling and twisting of this suggestion.

You can chase up a news report on the Dymocks suggestion here.

Author Interview with Kim Miller

October 24, 2009

Some time ago I was invited by a local community radio station to come in and talk about my work. Being a prison chaplain sounds a bit exotic and so people like to ask questions about the people I work with. The radio guy suggested I might like to put some questions down that would guide him. I did better. I wrote a whole interview, his questions and my answers. Then I turned up at the radio station and we got on with it. It worked for him, and it worked for me.

This time somebody else is interviewing me. I’m an author. I write fiction. That means I get to tell lies and people pay me money for it. It’s not a good beginning for an interview is it? So this time somebody else is going to make up the questions. Actually, they did it already.

If you head over to the WeLoveYA blog, one of Australia’s young adult fiction appreciation zones, you will find the interview. I didn’t make up the questions. And I managed to tell the truth in the answers.

Aliens Relent

October 22, 2009

I woke up this morning, turned on the computer, and the Alien Abduction Lamp page loaded. Easy.

I checked the price. $100 US.

I checked shipping to Australia. $25 US.

I converted those aliens numbers to Australian. $134.926

I transferred $135 into the account I use for web purchases.

I placed the order.

I have gone where no man has gone before.

OK, that last one is a lie.

The Alien Abduction Lamp

October 21, 2009

I have a wonderful wallpaper pic on my laptop. It’s of an alien spaceship abducting a cow. Wanna see?

Alien Abduction Lamp

Alien Abduction Lamp

The guy who did the mockup you see here has been working these last two years and he’s now in production.

Today I got my email.

Alien lamp poster

And this is what the production version looks like.

Alien abduction lamp - production model

Trouble is, the website won’t load. The email tells me that there are only 2,000 lamps available. I reckon those have been snapped up in minutes of those emails hitting the world. And the website just can’t handle the traffic.

So here I am with my credit card on the desk and no way of getting into the ordering system. It’s a sad day.

My Private Pectus – A Review of Sorts

October 20, 2009

My Private Pectus
Shane Thamm

Ford Street Publishing. 2009
ISBN – 9781876462833

It’s part of being human that we try to fix the things that seem wrong in our life. Even if we go about it in the wrong way, the effort put into fixing things can be significant. But sometimes the ‘thing’ is just a bit too hard. What then?

Shane Thamm has written a book about a boy trying to fix something that’s just a bit too hard. He’s got a physical condition known as Pectus Excavatum. A flatmate with PE back in my single years called it ‘sunken chest’ and was well stocked with jokes about Davey Jones. Our cohort took little interest in his chest and the flatmate was pretty laconic about it as well.

Not so the Jack (Sticks) of My Private Pectus. Sticks finds the condition embarrassing and intolerable, and he is constantly having to put his fixing skills into action. Touble is, he’s not much good at fixing up his life and his fixit attempts leave more damage. It’s just a bit too hard. So he translates his fixing ability to that common male metaphor, the motor car.

The car does not belong to Sticks but to his best friend. A couple of high school kids doing up an old Nissan Bluebird. It’s a bit of a bomb but Sticks proves up to it and so rebuilding the car becomes the bones upon which Sticks builds some pretty significant expectations.

Thamm has thrown another fixit dilemma into the story. Sticks’ dad. A lot of books about boys becoming men feature the father son relationship, but Thamm has given this father an extra edge. He’s also trying to fix his life. And the bones upon which he tries to build a new self is being the coach of the footy team at Sticks’ school. Does Sticks like footy? Sorrry, can’t tell you that. Some things you just have to find out for yourself.

Men do this, you know. They form these attachments to exoskeletons such as junky old Nissan Bluebirds and footy teams in the hope that some meaning will emerge to satisfy their inner vacuum. They don’t work. But it’s the male way (men’s not so secret business) and will have to do until a deeper reality comes along in some recognisable form.

Sticks finds that his relationship with the mate’s Nissan folds up underneath him. His own fault, of course. Everything else is also going wrong and it seems as if disaster has struck on several levels. But when everything happens at once he is forced to find his own reality and to rely on that, no matter the outcome. Without the Bluebird he starts to find something that only one other person can see within him. Trouble is, he’s also pissed that person off something fierce. And if there is one area of life that Sticks proves he doesn’t understand, it’s girls.

I mentioned the dad. His exoskeleton also fails. They all do in the end. And in the end we are forced back into our own reality, often enough a reality that we have denied for yonks. It’s a bit hard to tell if it’s a shrinking or an emergence, but Sticks’ dad manages to chuck it all in and tell the truth at last. Sadness or victory? Make up your own mind.

My Private Pectus is the story of a teenage boy struggling with a physical condition, but underneath there is the archetype of a father / son struggle for dominance. The toxic nature of this particular story is that each one is trying to define himself in terms of what the other is not. It’s normal for the son to do that, but not the father.

Shane Thamm has given us a story peppered with the good natured humour of teenagers who just want to be mates without the complications of responsibility, parents, or school. Between the beer, the bong, and the talk about girls, things seem to go along easily enough most of the time. But there are a few crunch times along the way.

The voice of Sticks is realistic as we see his inner conflicts and frustrations boil over into some pretty dicey behaviour. The story is well told and holds together well, taking us through some unexpected territory in the telling.

Oh yeah. It’s not really about ribs and sternums and cartilage out of control. But you already knew that.