I’m terrible at self promotion. We’re supposed to be good at it, but I really suck. Still, I’m going to take a deep breath, and…
Day Boy is up for the Courier Mail 2016 People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year Award.
The prize is $10,000 and it’s decided by vote (and you don’t even have to be a Queenslander to vote) so if you’d like to vote for the book please follow the link.
I’d really like you to.
Think of it as a Kickstarter where you don’t have to put any money in.
$10,000 buys a lot of fancy writing time. I work pretty much full time (in a job I must stress, that I love) so that money would open up a nice window of me typing away in the new year: a big fat, writerly window.
I’m working on a new book (maybe my best book, ever) called The Stone Road, but I’d also like to finally finish off that Death Works novel, you know, the one with the killer clowns, and the Death Dimensions and all the technicolour deathishness*.
I reckon that $10,000 would let me do that, maybe even finish a really cool book I have mostly done about magicians, Northern NSW, unicorns, alternate dimensions, and the real reason that speed cameras were invented. Oh, and there’s a novella about a girl and giant, and another one about a female vampire in the Day Boy world, and, and, and…
I’m sure all the other wonderful authors (and they really are wonderful writers) on the list have projects they’d like to complete, too, so if you like one of them more, please vote for them
And if you do vote, and I do win, well, I reckon you’ll see at least one major Death Works project out me in the next year. Why, if I was to win I may even publish a nice chunk of it here (just as a taster: a killer clown, dimension destroying taster).
Over the weekend I won two Aurealis Awards, one for best Horror Novel and the other for best Fantasy Novel. It was completely unexpected – particularly the Horror win. Unexpected enough that I may have had a glass of wine too many to accept particularly coherently.
You never really know if anyone is going to like the book you’re writing. You just do the best you can. Publication itself is wonderful and hard (and I was so lucky that Text decided to take Day Boy) and anything else, reviews, shortlistings or awards are just generally so unlikely that you can’t even factor them into the equation – and you certainly wouldn’t want to. Sometimes I think you’re just amazingly lucky if you even get time to write, let alone anything else.
But, somehow, I managed to snag two. I am still in a state of quiet shock.
Thanks to the judges who actually liked the book, and to the awards folk who put on a good night, and the Contact people who ran a great convention (I admire them all, and their hard, hard work) – it was a delight to catch up with old friends and to meet a few new people. We’ve such a rich and vibrant SF community and it was great to feel a part of that when I haven’t (through no fault of anyone but me) for a little while. I’m proud to be part of my tribe, they are generous, hard-working and kind – and, maybe, the nicest writing community in the world
And it gave me a chance to thank my then agent Sophie Hamley for getting the book out of me in the first place, and Diana who had to put up with me writing that book, and Mandy Brett who was the editor that beat it into shape. Without these three people this story of angry boys in an angry melancholy world would never have been written.
You write a book alone, but it’s never in isolation – a vacuüm produces nothing.
If you’re interested in the winners, check out the details below. It’s a pretty fine reading list, as are the shortlisted titles.
I don’t believe I will ever be so lucky again, and if it had to be a book, then I am glad it was Day Boy.
And thanks to Ron and the crew at Pulp Fiction – I believe they sold out of copies (which, as a bookseller in charge of returns, makes me very happy indeed).
Aurealis Awards 2015 Winners
BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION
A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay (Walker Books Australia)
BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL / ILLUSTRATED WORK
The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin)
BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY
“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)
BEST HORROR SHORT STORY
“Bullets”, Joanne Anderton (In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep, AHWA)
BEST HORROR NOVELLA
“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)
BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY
“The Giant’s Lady”, Rowena Cory Daniells (Legends 2, Newcon Press)
BEST FANTASY NOVELLA
“Defy the Grey Kings”, Jason Fischer (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Firkin Press)
BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY
“All the Wrong Places”, Sean Williams (Meeting Infinity, Solaris)
BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELLA
“By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers”, Garth Nix (Old Venus, Random House)
it’s been a while between posts, and it will probably be a little while between this and the next. But I have been working.
I’ve a draft of a new novel – set in the same world as Day Boy with a few tangential characters appearing, and mostly female characters, because I always wanted to address that in whatever I wrote next in that world.
I’ve a stack of new short stories just waiting for polishing. I got all whimsical and these stories are about dragons, giants and vampires.
And, finally, next to my bed is a draft of the next Death Works novel (that’ll be number 5) – it’s a short novel, but it is definitely a novel – and it kind of works. As soon as it more than kind of, and if it’s up to scratch, and if certain editors will ever forgive me for taking so long – I’ll let you know.
A writing career is noisy and quiet, and right now it’s quiet. Which means, in theory, work will get done, which makes me happy. I’m enjoying that steady, incremental work that is drafting and rewriting. It’s slow but it gets results.
A couple of months back, one of my dearest friends, Krissy Kneen told me she was going to be reading poetry naked at the Qld Poetry Festival. Diana told her that we were definitely going to come along. I was a bit… uncomfortable, I think I’ve been nude in front of a handful of people in my entire adult life.
It was a nude open mike event. The wonderful David Stavanger was hosting – I was happy enough (sorta) to be nude – but, at the door he said to Diana and I: You’re both reading, right?
Diana nodded enthusiastically, and I answered: No chance in hell.
We stripped in a room full of poets, all of us, quietly and at the same time.
And within a few breaths it was wonderful, discomfort fell away, and we waited to hear the poems. Still, when the call went out for readers there was a slight hesitation. Diana looked at me, took a deep breath, and got up to read. First.
She read about the source of her scar, the Intensive Care Unit where she lived (so close to death) for weeks after her liver transplant, and she made me cry: even though I had heard the poem several times before. I have never felt so proud. There was my wife reading in front of an audience for the third time in her life and she was doing it nude.
So, I thought what the hell. I got up and had a go too. Might have been better if I had prepared something – the two poems I recited I managed to forget lines even though they were brief pieces, which really seems to prove that reading in public is more nerve-wracking than nudity.* But I was so nicely heckled that I didn’t mind.
Regardless, it was a fabulous event, at a wonderful poetry festival, and one I will remember for the rest of my life.Fill a room full of nude poets and writers and readers and what you get is supportive and gentle and far more lovely than I would have believed. Angela Meyer described it as an Unforgettable Festival Moment and I completely agree.
Thank you Krissy, and David and everyone else involved in giving us the chance to do something really wonderful and frightening, and to discover it really isn’t (nor should be) that frightening at all. We gave each other the gift of our vulnerability and it was a powerful and fabulous thing.
*Also, proves the first law of readings. If there is a chance you might read HAVE SOMETHING READY!
(AND BECAUSE I AM VAIN HERE ARE THE POEMS AS THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN READ
When I finish a book, it can take me a while to return to the routine of writing. My routine has always been a bit irregular, and for most of my adult life (including now) shared with my day job. Most days I write a little (novels are based on writing a little over a long time for me) but I’ve started to fall back into the stories that are waiting for me in their disorderly queue, which means I am writing more, which makes me happy.
I’ve also fallen back into reading (which is just as important). If I’m not reading or writing – preferably both – with some frequency I’m a miserable lad. And decades of experience have taught me something I always forget and then remember. If I chip away things get finished. So the rest of the year is devoted to chipping. And reading.
Talking of both these things – the Brisbane Writers Festival is coming up.
It’s the first week of September and I’ll be there talking vampires and Day Boys and writing.
So I’ve been more than spoilt by this Festival. Please come along if that’s your kind of thing.
And if you want a taste of me talking things book. Here’s me chatting to Mary-Lou Stephens on the ABC Sunshine Coast.
Finally, thanks are in order for the lovely reviewsthathave been coming in. Anyone that takes the time to write a review good or bad is appreciated. Books are arguments. They’re not so much proclamations as conversations. It’s always confronting and wonderful and humbling to hear the other side of the conversation.
I really don’t write to numb the reader, believe it or not. If I’ve inspired someone to write about the book, well that’s a fine thing.
I’ve let this book go (and that was very hard thing this time) but I’d like it to live a while.
Talking of which – if you’ve not read the Death Works Stories you can currently get the Omnibus Edition for $8.99 at Itunes
That’s a pretty good price for a big chunk of book.
Never is a book more loved than on its launch in the author’s home town surrounded by friends and family. And Day Boy was well loved. And never is an author reminded more that writing is rarely a solitary endeavour but something buoyed by friends and family and those dearest to their heart.
I’ve never a had a drink named after a book before, but the people at my favourite bar the End (and my wonderful workmates at Avid) organised this beauty. I had two of them before my launch – which calmed the nerves, let me tell you.
Isobelle Carmody’s send off for my book was wonderful. Not only did I feel honoured that she’d said yes in the first place (particularly with Red Queen so close to release) but she spoke so beautifully and eloquently about the book and about launches in general.
Krissy Kneen was the host and she was wonderful (and her new book – the second for the year – Eating My Grandmother is absolutely divine).
And then I got to thank all the people I could remember to thank, and to read a chapter from my book that I have been dreaming about reading for nearly three years. I signed for about an hour catching up (all too briefly) with so many dear friends, students, and readers.
My friend and colleague, the fabulous Kylie Chan once said that the cliched television version of a book launch doesn’t exist – except at Avid Reader. And it’s true. I was so happy to share that launch with so many people I love – and so pleased that Mum and Dad, and Dad’s partner Lee could make it. You get to my age and you realise that your parents aren’t getting any younger.
Thank you to everyone that could make it. Thank you to my second home and second family Avid Reader. Books and writing are my life. But so are my friends and family.
I’m just going to post the launch speech here – sans the rather large amount of ad libbing.
You know I was a bit nervous about this launch. It’s been a while between drinks. (not literally). But then I got a check in the mail today from my bank for $13.00 refunded on a credit card I closed years ago, and I thought, well, that is a good omen.
Also, author Gary Kemble (check out his new novel Skin Deep!) sent me this from Scotland in his stead. It is haunted, and it is also very appropriate for the piece I will be reading. Actually, I think it’s revenge for me forgetting his name when I did my first ever signing (and I’ve known Gary for years – Gary, I’m sorry, I was absolutely horrified at the time, and I’m horrified now. I’m also sorry if I forget anyone’s name at the signing: really I am)
But, let’s start at the beginning.
Book Launches are like rocket launches. Not real rocket launches more like the one in Armageddon – without the singing – they’re a goodbye. You know that Bruce Willis is never going to see Liv Tyler again, but he’s going to save the world because he’s the best damn driller there is – and while, at that stage, there might be doubt because it’s Bruce Willis not Sean Bean and Bruce Willis doesn’t always die in his movies: it’s a definite farewell.
I am not overly fond of farewells. I hate them, in fact, if I could I’d save all the farewells up and do them all at once, maybe on my deathbed, and that would be that.
(Actually, I thought that was good idea for a story so I stopped this and went and started that, then came back to this.)
But you can’t save them up (and the horse has kind of bolted on this book) so before I say goodbye to something that has taken up a considerable part of my mental life for a considerable number of years (between other books) I would like to thank people.
Firstly to Isobelle Carmody for agreeing to launch the book.
And thank you all for coming.
This book or any of the others wouldn’t have been written without Diana who gave me the space to write. Who convinced me to take time off work and chase those books for a while. And this book started as a short story that I wrote in that time. Thank you, my love.
It wouldn’t have been written without Sophie Hamley my then agent, who convinced me it was worth finishing when I was full of doubt.
It wouldn’t have been written without Fiona Stager and Kev Guy, who let me have a job that means I can pay my bills, and still have some time to write.
And it wouldn’t have been written without the writers that I work with and who inspire me. Particularly Krissy Kneen and Chris Currie. Or the rest of the staff here who are wonderful. I’ve worked with some great booksellers over the years but the guys feel like family – and not one of those bickering families – there’s a reason why there’s such a low staff turnover. Honestly, these guys are the giants of bookselling and one day I will look back and think of my time here and think I can’t believe I got to work with such talented, wonderful people.
This book is about fathers and sons, thanks Dad for your faith in me, and your pride, and for being a good man. And thanks to my family, and Diana’s family too, who put up with the vague writer who works Sundays.
And thanks to all the people who’ve supported me, listened to me, nodded over the years as I rambled on, or critiqued my work.
Finally, thanks to everyone at Text and in particular Mandy Brett who was my editor and who had faith in this book and me, and who let me find the logic in the fever dream that was the first draft I sent her.
Now, for one last moment, sorta, kinda, this book and I are still connected — Think of the Odd Couple (I’m Jack Lemon, of course) — We’ve bickered and fought, we’ve shaped each other a bit, but it’s time that we let each other go.
So I’ve written it a letter. Not a very formal one. But still, letters have a formality, I guess, like book launches.
I loved you heartily, and made you a little in my image, and what flaws you have you may set at my feet.
Please don’t be bitter.
I hope you find your readers, and that they find you, and that you get to hang out and do stuff.
I also hope that you send me the occasional picture. I know that you don’t like selfies all that much, and you contain the odd hard word about social media, but I would appreciate it if you indulged me. I am fond of pictures from buses, or of cranes (mechanical or animal), and the odd cityscape, and I don’t mind artfully framed shots of beer … or the other alcohols.
So, farewell, dear book.
I will miss you.
But I guess we’re both a little sick of each other.
And yes, I will be seeing other books. But you will be seeing other readers (some of whom might write sternly in your margins).
Look after yourself. Go and be read and delighted in, and despised and all the things that books endure because they are much harder and sleeker than their writers and they can handle it.
Dear book, I loved you, really, unambiguously, and without irony. Think of me sometimes.
Most people don’t like to think of themselves as vain. Not really.
But when half your face stops moving and just sits there slack over the bones, and your right eye won’t close – and you’ve had forty years of everything working fine – its lack hits you.
And you realise how vain you are.
It’s your face, but it isn’t any more.
It’s not just how you look, but how you sound. Your words slur (two and a half years later they still do when I am tired). And it’s not just how you sound but how you feel. Bell’s is painful: and it’s a constant pain. There’s a knot of pain behind your ear – where the nerve that controls that half of your face has been killed – your eye burns because it can’t produce tears. And then all the tendons and muscles ache on that side of your face, and, in my case, your teeth ache too. Half your face becomes dominant, and the muscles twist and pull to accommodate that. You stop smiling because it feels weird and looks weirder. (I still hate getting my picture taken because people inevitably ask you to smile and you end up looking all crooked.) And you cry when you eat – that one never seems to go, I go through a lot of napkins.
Seriously, there are so many things that are far, far worse than Bells (a stroke for instance). But it hits you all at once. And it takes a long time to recover and it never quite does (I still feel pain in that side, the vision of my right eye is slightly impaired, and my bite’s all over the place). It messes with your head.
I was back at work the day after it happened. And I was kind of OK with it until I could see the worry in my friends’ and customers’ faces (It doesn’t help that it is impossible to pronounce Bell’s Palsy when you have it, and everyone wants to know what’s wrong). Several times I quietly walked into the staff storeroom and cried. I had a bad case it was pretty obvious within a week that I was going to be stuck with this for some time.
But there was nothing to do but get on with it. Other than my face I was hale and hearty. The semester started a few weeks later and I was lecturing and tutoring (well, mumbling. Oh my poor students! I don’t know if they could understand a word) on novel writing. And, more importantly, I was writing Day Boy.
And here’s the thing – writing that novel, finishing that novel was such a glorious escape. My face may have been all over the place, but I still had my fingers, and a book that I could fall into.
That year was an exhausting one for so many reasons – I wasn’t the only one who got sick, but that’s not my story to tell. But it was a wild and wonderful year too. I learned a lot about myself, and my limits, and the comfort of words.
And I learned about friendship too, and love – well, was reminded of it. And we always need to be reminded of the primacy of those things in everything we do. I wrote Day Boy because of the people around me, not in spite of them. And you can see their names in the acknowledgements of the book. This book wouldn’t have been written without Diana – who went through her own kind of hell, that year, but, again, not my story – and my dearest friends and workmates.
I finished the first draft on Day Boy in April. Sophie Hamley sold it to Text Publishing in August, and here nearly two years afterwards I’m holding the book in my hand. There was a good deal of slog between then and now – Mandy Brett is a fabulous and patient editor (who’d probably tighten up this post considerably, but here you have me: warts, errant commas, and all).
I don’t know how Day Boy’s going to go. I don’t know if people are going to like it.
It’s a book that exists because of success and failure. I wrote Day Boy like every author* writes a book, while they are living and working and experiencing all the exhaustion, agony and delight that their life provides. There was nothing inevitable about it. There never really is.
*every author lucky enough to have the space and time to do so. Not everyone has those things: not even close.