Thursday, December 30, 2010

Summing up the year and three more reviews

What have I accomplished this year? Well... I had a disappointing fragment from a short story published in a student magazine that, given the opportunity, I'd probably remove, although I'm sure no one even noticed it in the first place. Now, I guess I sound like I'm being an ungrateful shit, and I know at one point, I would have thought, a publication's a publication, that's an accomplishment in itself. I guess from last year I've made more of an endeavour to send my writing out to more magazines, to more competitions, I've just had no results that I'm actually proud of. I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple more things, but it's been a while and I have serious doubts as to whether they will go anywhere. I would probably say that I'm a writer who hates compromise, yet I love the challenge to be quirky and unusual and different. That's something I'm not sure your stock standard literary magazine caters for. However, I'm still waiting to get feedback on my latest reject from a couple of months ago, so I'm just guessing. But I think it feels better to think that I've been rejected based on personal tastes, rather than general incompetence/lack of talent, however bitter it is, still, to be rejected over matters as trivial as personal taste. But I guess I should just buck up and move on.

As this year comes to a close, I think I've got a lot to boast about in terms of my academic accomplishments. If I continue studying like I have this year, over the course of the next year and a half, I'll be right on target for graduating with honours a year after that. And the creative writing classes I've taken this year have really allowed me to open up my writing into media I wouldn't usually write in. In addition to the short stories I've written this year, I've written a small collection of poetry, toyed around with some theatre scripts, and fucked around with zines, spoken word poetry, novel writing, novella writing and the bones to a short film script. Some of my more ambitious projects will (hopefully) push onward into 2011, where the stuff I've completed will potentially work their way onto submission piles belonging to various magazines. And, of course, everything works as a learning curve. I'm always looking for new ideas, new perspectives, interesting new techniques and styles to mess about with and just create. I'll probably keep up the spoken word poetry here and there. The Perth Poetry Slam competition is on in February and I'll probably put my name down for that.

So I guess I've got a pretty clear picture for what I want 2011 to hold for me. First semester at uni should be a breeze. I know it's not ideal to adopt that mentality, but I'll be in my third year, and my first semester consists of two first year courses and two third year courses, one of the latter is external, so there'll be a lot of self-taught material, which I'm more than ok with. But on the same page, I'm also looking forward to plunging right into the heavy stuff in the second semester. I've got my creative writing supervised project then, as well as three other third year units. But I guess my two main goals for the year are to get my first book published and to make my film. Both are not easy tasks. I've been sitting on both ideas for a while now, and I've taken tentative steps forward with both of them. I've had a brief word with the publisher I'm looking to go with, and my next step there is coming up with a workable 25k word draft. The film is a little more involved. More collaborative, I mean. The more I think about it, the more difficult it seems, especially since I'm one of those people who likes to aim high and either produce something top quality, or not do anything at all. I often get caught half way between, so I guess that's not really an accurate depiction of my creative juices at play, more so a mentality than anything else.

But anyway, so many things, so easy to get bogged under. I'm glad that I've been able to read as much as I have over the past few months. I think over the past six months I've read about 23 books. Maybe more. Short books, but books, nonetheless. I've ordered a few more that should hopefully be arriving shortly into the new year, but for now I should probably catch up to date with my reviews.

Fishy Fleshed, by Carlton Mellick III:

I read this in a couple of days. By now, I've read a few of Carlton's books. I can see four on my bookshelf. This one grabbed me with the immediacy of Satan Burger. It's got a strong narrative style. It's narrated by a simple, yet complex minded individual. In a vastly different society in the future, a group of scientists try to go back in time to find Jesus. It's weird and crazy, and while I would use those two words to describe the last Mellick book I read (and probably most, if not all of his books), this book really comes into its own with its written style. The narrator is someone to really connect with. His illustrations are utterly incomprehensible, but it builds up a sense of otherworldliness that the main character is most definitely not in sync with our society. And he's not in sync with his society either. I would say that Mellick has crafted something genuinely unique and special with this book. It's not as crude or violent as some of his other books. It's still got that bizarro vulgarity to it, but it's a bit more... sophisticated. Like a bizarro sci-fi version of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time'.

Shatnerquake, by Jeff Burk

This book, at about 80 pages, is a bit of an afternoon read. It's not ground breaking or thought provoking stuff. It's a fast paced action about William Shatner fighting a bunch of characters he's played. It's short, it's energetic, it's a fun read. There's not really much more I can say about it other than it's not a bad book. It's something you might read to kill an afternoon. It's got some really killer moments and the plot is unusual and compelling, and when I finished it, I wasn't sure if I wanted more or if I was all Shatnered out. But yes. It's an entertaining read.

Jack & Mr. Grin, by Andersen Prunty

This book took me a while to read. Considering it's only about 170 pages long, it took me a while to read. I think it was the cover that disturbed me most. It was either that or the fact that it's the first bizarro horror story I've read and I wasn't sure of what I was getting into. I should mention now that the cover on my book is different to the cover pictured. I was a little disappointed to be honest. But after I got into it I just felt even more disturbed. This Mr. Grin guy is one pretty sadistic son of a bitch. It took me a while to decide whether I liked this book or not.

It wasn't until I could see a feeble light towards the end of this dark and tortuous tunnel that I picked up my reading pace. I found that, yes, I did like this book. It was sick and twisted, sure, and it made me feel uncomfortable. But I think that sometimes that really makes a book work. Goosebumps is child's play, this stuff is not for the squeamish. It's also wild and surreal, yet oddly logical. And it didn't have a cop-out cliffhanger ending that a lot of horror  books/films do, so I feel like Mr Prunty was offering me his heartfelt congratulations by the end of the book, and I felt that, despite the torment (well, mild discomfort) he put me through, I really quite enjoyed this book. It was a bit touch and go for a while, but when things got rollin, there was no turning back.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sex and Death/King Scratch

I've decided I'm not going to rant and rave in my book reviews as much as usual. These two books aren't at the top of my recommendation list. I've heard a number of times of people who are really into the bizarro genre that it can be a bit hit and miss. While I wouldn't go all out and say these are the worst books you can find in the genre, I guess I'll just go right ahead and say that I've read better. It's just a little unsatisfying that I read these two books one after another.

Sex and Death in Television Town:

A weird western. Hermaphrodite gunslingers. People with televisions for heads. A stegosauras woman assassin with fortune telling ejaculate. There are some parts of this story that I really like. The surreal scenery, the television people, the changing landscape, the colour mill. There are parts in this story that I would love to see extrapolated upon or described in more detail. Instead, I feel what could be a really interesting and entertaining story is brought about to senseless sex and violence (thus the title, admittedly well thought out, considering characterisations and plot), and so at times it feels like a casual romp of hedonistic extremities for the sake of extremities. It's graphic and violent and fast paced and fun, but I guess, hypothetically, I would have done quite a few things differently. Not a bad read, but I think Carlton Mellick has more to offer with titles such as Warrior Wolf Women or Punk Land.

King Scratch:

After reading Squid Pulp Blues, I thought, this author has a real knack for writing genre bizarro. Squidly crime noir that was fascinating and disturbing at the same time. King Scratch runs along the same vein, and the bare bones of the story are really good. A guy involved with running moonshine comes across a horrific secret that will tear him down in one short, brutal night. But (to me, at least) it lacked the style and pulp that made SPB so enjoyable. It's dark and disturbing and perverted, and I got to a point where it all seemed to skip like a broken record. It's overflowing with unnecessary body fluids that chunk up what could very well be a gripping story. It reads as though it's trying to pack as much sick shit into every page that it's leaving my desire for plot direction to go starving. It's disturbing and perverted for what feels like the sake of just being disturbing and perverted. I read it this afternoon, and upon finishing it, I felt that it would have been much more effective to strip back all the piss and shit and vomit and keep the weird squidly oddities specked about the place, but mostly keep the plot moving forward with a build up to a twist that is far more horrifying than body fluids streaming about the place at every opportunity. It felt like the plot twist (which was a genuinely shocking one) would have benefitted more if it hadn't been watered down by the previous stream of shocking events.

However,  I'd hate for anyone to write these two authors or these two books off purely because of my comments here. They are both talented writers that I regard highly, and rest assured, I'll be reading more of their stuff as they continue on their writing careers. And, if you'd like to check out King Scratch for yourself, Jordan Krall has been kind enough to hand it out as a free download, which you can find here (temporarily, and for how long, I don't know): King Scratch

So, there, you can make up your own opinion. And yes, I feel like a prick for criticising a book I read for free (don't hate me Mr. Krall!)

And over the next few weeks, I'll hopefully be brainstorming for my own bizarro novella as well as reading titles such as; My Fake War, Fishy Fleshed, Starfish Girl, Blankety Blank, Zombies and Shit and the Flappy Parts. I'm particularly looking forward to the Flappy Parts, Kevin L. Donihe's poetry collection, as I have a soft spot for poetry, and I'd love to get at some weird, surreal shit.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brainwashing

Well, more brainstorming but, whatever.

I haven't written very much on the Pilgrim since I last updated. I think I've probably written less. I did six rewrites on chapter one before it felt right enough to continue to chapter two, and I've done three rewrites of chapter two that still don't feel quite right, but I think I'm getting there. And I think after the first complete draft is finished the first two chapters will just be one chapter. It happens. Right now, I'm not pushing the wordcount, but instead I'm doing what I probably should have done earlier. I've been brainstorming and fleshing out my ideas.

What I've been doing is writing within the laws of the bizarro world I've constructed, trying to make the plot fit in that way, but I feel I should be outlining the plot and then letting the laws run rampant. I've got my key bizarro elements down, and I've been working on extrapolating them to make the narrative wild and exciting, and I've been working on fleshing out the main characters, figuring out their purpose in the story, their personalities and actions/abailities, and I think I've got some really good ideas going.

At the moment what I need to work on is how I'm going to flesh the journey out and build it up, how I can keep it interesting and keep it really crackling along at an exciting pace. I'm having a week off work over christmas to go back home, and I'll be without a computer over that time, so I think it'll be good to just figure the bare bones of the plot out to the details on pen and paper so that I've got lots of fresh new ideas when I get back. I'll probably end up pushing self-enforced deadlines back further and further for the sake of quality, but at this rate, I'm going to aim for a finished first draft by the end of January and, hopefully, a more polished draft finished before uni goes back.

Now, obligatory blah blah about my own writing aside, here's another lovely review of a book I just read:

Washer Mouth: The Man Who Was A Washing Machine, by Kevin L. Donihe

A quick little side note before I get right into it: Mr Donihe is the editor for the Eraserhead Press' New Bizarro Author Series imprint, aka the guy I need to impress with the Pilgrim to get it published. So I figured it would be to my advantage to read some of this guy's work.

Washer Mouth is a story that looks like the sorts of books I would read in primary school. The concept is strange yet light-hearted, so I went into this book expecting a light, surreal, comical bizarro novel similar to the books I would read about intelligent cats or unfortunate toads. Of course, being bizarro, I knew it was going to be weirder than any of those children's books. However, I didn't quite expect those moments of dark, expicit sexual conflict or violence. It somewhat reminded me of Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero. It's all fun and games and good times and then holy fucking shit what is going on? A change of tone, a change of pace, a change of clothes, and I must say that reading this book feels somewhat like rolling about in a washing machine. It goes through cycles and spits me out. And I love it.

Donihe breathes life into every one of his characters, such that no two washing machines are the same and no two celebrities are the same. The protagonist, Roy, and the antagonist, the Dark Washer, are both childishly oblivious to the world, but Roy is propelled by his love for the soap opera, Sands of Eternity, where the Dark Washer is propelled by a fascination (and sexual attraction) towards violence and aggression. People react differently to these bizarre, alien characters, recently transformed from washing machine into human form, and the washing machines' character developments are, I believe, what makes this book so captivating.

Some may find it hard to know what goes on in a washing machine's mind, or what goes on in the mind of a man recently transformed from a washing machine, but Donihe pulls it off so well, I doubt I'll be able to look at washing machines the same again. It's a brilliant and entertaining read, and I'll definitely be picking up more of Donihe's work (I'm eager to check out his poetry collection just recently released). Clever, humorous, a dash of completely fucked up, this is a must read for all fans of the strange and surreal.

Now, if only I could shake the thought of hot dogs being made out of long part...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Behemoth/Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland

I haven't done a lot of writing over the past week or so, mainly because I've been doing a lot of reading. The last two books I read I kind of just... devoured... in a matter of days. So I haven't got anything new on the writing front, but I've got a couple of reviews.

The first book was Scott Westerfeld's steampunk adventure, Behemoth.

It's the second book in his Leviathan trilogy, and, when I bought the book last week, I recieved a copy of the first book as a part of some promotional giveaway they had on the second book. So I've wound up with a second copy of the first book which I've already read.

Anyway, the last book in the trilogy is scheduled for late next year, so there's a bit of a wait until I can finish reading this thing. It's a bit of a bother because it's not so much three self contained novels that follow a sequence and a general overarching narrative (like, for example, I read the third Harry Potter book first and still managed to comprehend it properly), it's more like one large novel broken up into three parts where there's no chance in hell you should read the second book without having read the first.

Behemoth continues the narrative of Leviathan, which is set in an alternate history WWII where Alek, the only son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, flees the Germans long enough to see the war out and take his rightful place as the ruler of Austro-Hungary. His story intersects with Deryn, a girl posing as a boy to serve in the British air forces abourd the Leviathan Airship.

It's 480 pages long, but is quite a quick read considering. Large font, short chapters, and illustrations pad the book out nicely, but it is also scattered with quite a number of fast paced action sequences around all the war and political contexts. Now, when I say steampunk, and WWII, I should clarify that Westerfeld has taken many liberties to put his own spin on the steampunk genre. The allies are labelled "Darwinists" for using war machines fabricated out of living creatures (eg, the Leviathan airship is a giant hydrogen-breathing whale) where the Germans, Austrians and that mob are labelled "Clankers" for their mechanical inventions. So it's very much a battle of technologies, and it's quite interesting how they play out in the series, and particularly, in Behemoth.

Having said that, it's an entertaining book that the teenager in me thinks is totally awesome. It's got elements of teen/young adult fiction, with the plots of the two main characters, both are struggling with their identities, trying to retain secrets, while bearing the burden of the loss of their parents. And then there's the whole, you know, war thing. It's got lots of adrenaline. If you like steampunk, or if you like reading about teenagers trying to come to grips with their identity, I'd say, it's well worth the read. But if you're after something more sophisticated and mature, you won't find that here. Hopefully I'll have a review for Cherie Priest's steampunk novel, Dreadnought, shortly. I sense that she tends to handle the genre with a bit more poise.

Anyway, the second book I finished this week was Carlton Mellick III's Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland.

Yeah. No typos there, that's the title of an actual, physical, published book. I'd say the same thing about this one in regards to it being a quick read. Large font and illustrations and lots of action. This time, the author did the illustrations himself. And a number of them resemble nightmarishly hideous furry porn.

And if that hasn't sold you on this book, wait till you hear about the chainsaw wielding mutants! Yes, this book has pure liquid fucking awesome dripping from every page. If it were made into a film I'd want Peter Jackson to direct it because, quite simply, it is completely bizarre and completely epic at the same time.

The book is set in an apocalyptic future in one of the last few remaining civilisations on Earth. The city is called "McDonaldland" and is run by total assholes. It's got the totalitarian vibe of Punk Land with a beefy injection of hyper-consumerism on the side. And you get fries with that.

In this society, sex turns women into wolves. And the food turns men into mutants. To uphold the image of perfection, all wolves and mutants are tossed outside the city's 300 foot tall steel wall and turned loose to fend for themselves.

Despite being a fast paced bizarro clusterfuck of sex and violence, this story pays close attention to character development, and sculpts the plot carefully around that. I'd love to get even a brief glimpse into Mellick's brain, because, quite simply, this colossal rampage of a novel, in all its oddities and its twisted logic, is surprisingly touching. Like a good narrative should, there isn't a single character in Warrior Wolf Women that I don't love. The novel resonates through all the disturbing shit with much thought spent towards the ideals of family, freedom, sacrifice, and yes, even love.

Even if bizarro is not your cup of tea, the sick shit isn't entirely overflowing from this book, and while it is one of the weirdest books you may read, it's definitely worth it.

And hopefully, I'll have a few more bizarro books arriving in the mail soon, so even if I don't have a whole lot of new writing to talk about, at least I should have some tasty, quirky reviews.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Novella Challenge + Squidly Review

So, now that NaNoWriMo is over I'm working on my novella and the plan is to do it by the end of December. The target is 25,000 words. Not too difficult, and at the end, I plan on having a decent quality story out of it.

At the moment it's been very stop and start. Write. Pause. Rewind. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. I've rewritten the opening scene so many times it's not funny. But each time it's getting better and better, and that's definitely going to help with setting the scene later down the track. It's like a living, breathing organism. Feed it and it will grow.

The plan is to work chapter by chapter. I've got an outline of events/chapters in place, I just need to execute them. I'm also hoping to wrangle a few writer friends into reading it chapter by chapter to see what they think before I go back and edit and send it to the publishers. Yeah, it's a big goal, but I think I need to take big steps like this if I want to eventually get somewhere with my writing.

Anyway, onto the squidly review:

Squid Pulp Blues, by Jordan Krall.

This book consists of three novellas, each are roughly 60 pages in length, and each of them set in the strange town of Thompson. Without going into too much detail, I'll say that each story sort of interconnects with the next, from the Little Bing Bong comics to the disfigured war veterans known as "the longheads" to the midget prostitutes to the many many squid related objects. Ashtrays, drugs, drinks, and even entire living squids.

You can probably gather from the title and cover that it's a squidly bizarro pulp-ish crime/noir book that is weird and dark and gritty and violent and brimming with style. That's a pretty accurate portrayal, really. And I must say that I love, love, love Jordan Krall's style. There's the distinct impression of multiple intersecting storylines, like of a series of short stories converging at one climactic point. Each of the three stories occur like this. There's something. Then something unrelated, and something else unrelated, and they work their way in to the dark and disturbing focal point. It's like if Quentin Tarantino were a surreal author this is the sort of thing he'd write.

Yeah, it's three stories that work independently of each other, but really, you need to read them all in series to get the full impression of what Krall has accomplished here. It's brilliant. And I'd love to get my hands on his other books and devour their squidly goodness. This man makes his mark giving the bizarro genre his own patented style. If you like noir and you like pulp then you'll love this. I don't even think you need to be a fan of the bizarro genre to enjoy this. It's weird, but in its own universe, it runs so squidly smooth and picks up the pace early on and packs a squidly punch that's so strange and disturbing I found it impossible not to love this book.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Thirty

So this is it, done with another year. Once I hit 50k I couldn't be bothered writing any more. Which kind of sucks, but, eh, I kind of got bored of the pointlessness of my novel. I don't think I'll be finishing it any time soon.

At the moment I'm trying to write a novella that has spawned from some of the ideas from within the novel. The Pilgrim is a story that is constantly changing each time I go to work on it. It probably won't even be called The Pilgrim for much longer. Anyway, it's about a teenager who is orphaned when a gang of Deaths come and murder his parents. He takes to the streets, hiding from the legions of Deaths that fester about the towns, and with his pet spider, Stinky, and his television, Telly, he searches for the last remaining humans and a means to overcome Death.

And while I'm here, I'll drop a couple of reviews for the latest books I've read: Punk Land, and Shark Hunting in Paradise Garden.

Punk Land, by Carlton Mellick III:

I really enjoyed this story. It is awesome. It follows a mutated punk called Goblin, a couple of characters from Satan Burger and a Shark Girl ninja assassin as they try to overthrow the organisation that is trying to redefine the term "Punk" and dispose of all the people who fail to adhere to their standards, or who don't have enough "punk points". It's gritty, violent and entertaining, with political overtones running throughout. It's a step up from Satan Burger. It's still random as fuck, but it's a lot more cohesive and engaging.

If you've read Satan Burger, and you liked it, Punk Land definitely won't disappoint, but while it's a sequel, you probably don't need to have read Satan Burger to understand it. It couldn't hurt, but I don't think it's necessary.

Yeah, the book makes for a good read. It's pretty wicked, and the illustrations are quite fun too. It was a quick read for a 280 page book, but I feel that it by no means falls short on substance. It's fast paced from start to finish, and if you're a fan of the strange, violent, and at times, the sexual, if you're impartial to being grossed out now and again, you'll probably get a kick out of this book. It's got me excited for the next two books of his I've got on order: Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland, and Sex & Death in Television Town.

Shark Hunting In Paradise Garden, by Cameron Pierce:

As with Mellick's Punk Land, this is the second book I've read of Pierce's. Although, this is the first book he's had published. Now, I don't mean to sound harsh, but you can tell it's his first book. It's wild and random and bizarre and strange, and with giant fucking flying sharks in the garden of eden? You can't really go wrong there. However, I felt like I wanted more out of it than just the strange descriptions that were each one more strange and outlandish than the page before. I loved his short story collection, his second publication, Lost in Cat Brain Land, and I think what is missing from this book is a sharpness of imagery. It's so strange it's hard to picture what everything must look like. I want to really get in there and check the place out, but once Pierce briefly describes one thing, he rushes off to describe another. I suppose you get that with a book that's only just over 100 pages long.

It was a good book, having said that. It's got a lot going on, and subverts a lot of expectations, it really messes with religion and the image of god and that sort of thing. It doesn't really cram any religious themes down your throat or anything, but it does rewrite the beginning of humankind in a really, really, really strange way. It's about a bunch of religious priests from the future, weird and demented and magical, who travel back in time to go shark hunting with Adam and Eve. What they find is a shit load of sharks and weird trees and robots and stuff. It's super messy hyperactive stuff, and while I did enjoy it, I hope Pierce's other works (I'm thinking of going for Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island next) are a bit more cohesive and well rounded.

If you like fast paced and weird books, maybe Douglas Adams knocked up a notch, you may enjoy this book. But I'd suggest checking out Lost in Cat Brain Land and making a decision from there.

Monday, November 22, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Twenty Two

Yesterday I hit 50,000 words. I've still got a long way to go in the novel, but I think I'll take it a bit easier over the next few days. Last night I started working out the story I want to write for Eraserhead Press' New Bizarro Author Series. I'm taking two characters from Comarama, The Pilgrim and his pet spider Stinky, and I've started writing a story about those two characters in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I picture it as sort of like a bizarro version of The Road, but I'm still working out how I want the plot to play out within this setting and with these characters. For the most part, I don't want it to be hilarious. I don't want it to be so strange it's funny. What I want is to be so strange yet through the story you grow attached to the pilgrim. I want you to read it and find yourself attached to a man whose best friend is his pet spider. I don't want to feel like I'm ripping off The Road too much, so I think the main challenge will be making the distinguishing features that bring my own story into fruition. I like the idea of maybe a disease spreading throughout the earth and killing everything.

It should be an interesting challenge. For starters, there is only one main human character, so there is very little need to talk. Of course, I'm going to go into the backstory, of the pilgrim living on his farm with his wife and child. Switching between that and his journey to find any sort of human colony yet unaffected by the disease and helping them rebuild society. At the moment it's not sounding incredibly over the top bizarro, but I've got a few elements planned out nicely that won't fall into the category of "weird for the sake of being weird" but will be weird to serve a purpose that progresses the story and has its own weird logic to it. I don't want to go into details too much at the moment, partly because I'm still working a lot of things out, but also partly because I don't want to reveal spoilers of those really intense plot-shifting moments that I hope I can properly execute.

Basically, out of this NaNoWriMo has come a jumble of chapters that are connected to some form of loose plot, although sometimes just doing things for the sake of it, and now, I'm thinking of refining it, and one of the stories that has come bits and pieces from NaNo has been The Pilgrim. Travelling through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the pilgrim searches for one of the last surviving colonies on earth.

I'm undecided as to whether there will be zombies or not. As with The Road, I think there needs to be clear-defining moments of something drastic happening. And I should stop now before I depress myself. I'd hate to think I'm just doing a Bizarro Road rip off. It's more like The Road meets Jack and the Giant Beanstalk maybe with some punk ass mother fuckers along the way.

So, yeah, finished NaNoWriMo in 21 days. But the novel is far from finished.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Twenty

Today is going to be a slow day. But that's ok because the last few days have been very productive. At the moment, I'm 44,000 words in and I'm on chapter 11. Still not yet half way there. My dream sequences are starting to revolve around the more popular characters and having some sort of flow. Still doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's fun and easy to write nonetheless.

Tomorrow is Sunday and I have nothing planned for tomorrow, so I'm planning on hitting 50,000 words tomorrow. Today will be slow, so it will balance things out. And after that, it becomes all about keeping on writing, getting as far as I can go, and working on The Giant film script as well.

I sent an email to the Eraserhead Press author, Kevin Donihe, a few days ago and I heard back from him yesterday. It was pretty much all just details for the New Bizarro Author Series he's organising/editing/publishing, so hearing back from him about that is really encouraging. I'm looking forward to post-NaNoWriMo writing, I'm hoping to get my dream sequences together and figure out which one(s) would be best to extrapolate into a bizarro novella.

Aside from that, there's not a huge amount of stuff going on. I'm still just writing, writing, writing, and occasionally I stop. I work, I go out. I went to the WA finals of the Australian poetry slam, which was really good. Entertaining, thought provoking, and sometimes, just totally weird. But it was a lot of fun.

And "I will touch you in the end."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Eighteen

I'm almost at 40,000 words and I'm ten chapters into my novel. Ten out of twenty eight. At the moment I'm feeling really good about that. I'm still having a lot of fun with it, and I think I know why. So every second chapter is a dream sequence. I can basically make up anything I want, it can be as ridiculous as I like. My last dream sequence was about my main character Cliff going with his travelling companion The Pilgrim, and The Pilgrim's pet spider Stinky, going into Toyland to meet with The Child.

Then came the real world chapter that somehow needs to compete with that? I feel like I should have written more for that chapter, and for some of the other real world chapters, but I think I ended it short (not too short though) because I wanted to get right onto the next dream. And now I'm there and I brought back Stinky and The Pilgrim. Honestly, I'm fond of those two. And I decided to be sneaky and steal the first hudred and something words from the previous chapter to get it starting in the same place. But basically, what I'd like to do with this dream sequence is give The Pilgrim more of a soul. The last one he was serving the purpose of The Child's dream, where this one I'd like to expose him as more than that.

Anyway, in traditional dream sequence fashion, I've made the plot of this dream about Cliff and The Pilgrim travelling into the mountains to go to the big cheese fountain and trade the lords of the cheese board some magic beans for a cup of cheese each (a saucer for Stinky) so that they can gain divine super powers. It should be a real hoot. And maybe something goes wrong and had a super sad ending.

So, yeah, it's all blistering along, nice and ridiculous. In the real fictional world, there is a book called Crazy Mother Fuckers, a B-grade horror film called Corpse Man and a hypothetical avant-garde film called Man Eats Breakfast. Oh, and in this place that is Perth but isn't Perth, there's this underground second hand shop in the city that sells some REALLY WEIRD SHIT.

So I'll just keep on writing, and letting things get weirder and weirder and I'll probably reach the 50,000 words quite soon ish hopefully. And then next month I might read back through it and wonder where all this crazy junk came from.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Seventeen

Last night, I finished my final essay for uni for the year. I also finished reading Satan Burger yesterday too. I didn't write all that much on my novel though. However, now the only thing that's holding me back is work and a social life. Over the next few days I plan on catching up to my 2,500 word a day goal, which is at the moment 6,500 ahead of me, although I expect to most definitely have that well under 5,000 by the end of tonight.

Also, now that uni has finished, I'll be bringing a couple of projects back onto the table to finish before the end of the year. One is the film script for 'The Giant' which will eventually make its way into becoming an actual film. And other short stories for various arrangements, which I probably won't get right into until December, but they're there on the table nonetheless.

So where I am now in the novel is chapter eight, dream sequence number four. It's not as outlandish as the last dream sequence, I probably wouldn't go so far as to call it bizarro, however, it's got elements of the bizarre that could be explored further, perhaps post nano. And it stands to connect with the first dream sequence in that, yes, it will actually progress the plot along in some form. 33,000 words in and my story is finally beginning to go somewhere.

So, yeah, still writing strong, recovering from the hiccup of yesterday's unproductive novelling, and I'm glad I still managed to write something down, even if it was only about 700 words. Keep pushing forward, keep writing, and hopefuly I'll have that 2.5k a day target pegged down soon enough, and maybe I'll even hit the 50,000 word target by November 20. I would be thrilled to achieve that.

Now, on to a brief book review of Satan Burger.

The book is really hard to explain outside of "this shit is fucked up" but I'll try anyway. It's got something to do with God and Earth being sick of regular human beings, so heaven's closed and this portal, the 'walm' has opened up and is feeding on people's souls, turning them into soulless, boring creatures that do little but stand around and stare at walls and shrug. In addition to sucking people's souls, the walm allows strange alien beings onto Earth, and these beings are loved by God and by Earth because they are much more interesting. They're sexual, they're violent, they're very full on. In other words: STRANGE = GOOD. So Satan starts a burger joint to collect people's souls, and the main characters work there so they don't lose their own souls.

It's an entertaining read, no doubt, but it's also got some interesting ideas going on as well. It's quite a clusterfuck, but it ties up some good plot points that initially seem like they're there just to be strange. I'm probably not doing a good job explaining the book, but really, there is so much going on it's really difficult to give an accurate, concise summary without just reading the blurb. I'm not surprised it's a cult classic. It's full on, disturbing, amusing, and occasionally thought provoking stuff. A few basic spelling and grammatical errors slipped through the editing process, but for an underground literary movement just beginning to blossom, I'm more than happy to nudge those little inconsistencies aside and say that this Carlton Mellick III certainly knows how to tell an entertaining story. I am hesitant to recommend this to too many people because it doesn't hold back at all, but if you like being disturbed in strange new ways, I recommend giving it a read.

I've also bought Mellick's sequel-of-sorts, Punk Land, which I'm waiting to arrive eagerly in the mail.

Anyway, back to novelling I go...

Monday, November 15, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Fifteen

Day fifteen, the halfway mark. I'm already almost 5,000 words over the 25,000 words, so whatever I have at the end of today I plan to at least double that by the end of the month. However, I have to write my last essay for uni some time over the next two and a half days, so that should slow me down a bit, hopefully not too much.

I have finished the bizarro story that I dropped into the novel as an extended dream sequence, and it turned out to be a 13,000 word long chapter. So I'm pretty happy with that, for four-five days writing. I've got a few other strange dream sequences lined up, which hopefully should be just as fun to write.

I've also sent an email out to the guys at Eraserhead Press regarding their New Bizarro Author Series, because they're looking for young, up-and-coming bizarro authors to publish novellas and short stories and things. So I sent them an email to find out if I'm eligible to get in on that. I would be seriously so amazed and thrilled if they'd be willing to put me into print in book form.

So now my novel's back into the realm of the real, and I'm still managing to roll along with the plotless narrative and still actually have stuff happen. Although I think a few more chapters in, I'll have to start developing the comarama narrative of Cliff seeking the coma kid, but there's plenty of time for that later. At the moment it's sort of turned into a twisted romance novel between the two social outcasts, Cliff and Zelda, and their struggle to resist the social norms. It's a sort of hauntingly sentimental undertone that runs parallel to all the strange things that happen in the novel. I think, as things stand at the moment, no one thing is more important than the other, things just happen and Cliff rolls with the punches and keeps going against the grain.

I haven't plotted out the second half of the real world story yet, but I've got an idea what I want to happen. However, I'm only 7 chapters in, and it'll be another 7 before I reach the half way marker in my novel, so it may be that I only make it half way through my novel over the course of November. Which is both really exciting and disheartening at the same time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Thirteen

I've just woken up, so no writing just yet. As of last night I was 3 days and 5,000 words ahead of the 50,000 word target and 2 days and 5,000 words behind my 75,000 word target. But yeah, as things stand right now, I am over 25,000 words into NaNoWriMo, aka over the half way mark by day twelve. The past three days I have written about 9,000 words and It's all part of the one chapter. I'm 10,000 words into the ice-popsicle dream sequence and I think it's not going to go on too much further. Maybe another 5,000 words. Then he'll wake up and continue with the story like nothing happened.

But yeah, as things stand right now, I'm 6 chapters in to the novel, which is 28 chapters long. And it's only really this one chapter (and I suppose the chapter before it) that's making the book seem long. A ten thousand word chapter alongside a five thousand word chapter alongside four two-to-three thousand word chapters will feel like stretching the novel out a bit. But hopefully the rest of the novel should be quick writing. The original plan was a chapter a day, making each chapter around 2,500 words, but with three 3,000 word days on the one chapter, maybe longer chapters is just something that's naturally fitting to this book. I mean, realistically, a 10,000 word chapter is not outrageously long. I think it's around the 20-30 page mark. Considering most of my other chapters are around ten pages and under, well, I dunno, I'll just have to get used to it.

I'm thinking maybe, once I'm done with the first draft, the direction I should take with the novel should be to play it up as a novel of short stories, playing up the real world chapters as micro stories in themselves. And maybe if I go all out making the whole thing disturbing and 'bizarro' enough I could pitch it to eraserhead press, maybe. We'll see once I've written this thing. I'm probably going to get in touch with them some time this month anyway, just to see what sort of stuff they're looking for and if I'm eligible at all.

So yeah, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited about this. These past twelve days have been really exciting for me. And I'm a little nervous at the moment as I'm about to hit roadblock number two, aka my final uni assignment for the year. And then all that's stopping me from reaching my goal is a couple of parties. But it should be good, break up the constant novelling, see what this whole 'outside' thing is that people keep telling me about.

And on another note, I got a couple of books in the mail on Thursday: Lost in Cat Brain Land, by Cameron Pierce, and Satan Burger, by Carlton Mellick III. I read Lost in Cat Brain Land in the one day and I'm getting into Satan Burger now.

Lost in Cat Brain Land: Where to start with this, where to start... It's a completely shitting all-consuming mind fuck of a book that is disturbing and brilliant and disturbing and awesome and disturbing and mother fucking Mr-T (that's a Satan Burger reference by the way) and that's pretty much all there is to it. Have I mentioned how disturbing it is? Well basically, it's a collection of short stories, it's not a long collection at 136 pages of large print. So it's easy to read, but the thing I really love about it, is that you have no idea what you're going to read from one page to the next. The blurb on the back gives away a lot, and there was one thing it mentioned that I was wondering where it was in the book and if I somehow glazed over it, but no, it comes down to the very last page. So yeah, it's completely weird and outlandish and full of surprises and quirks that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. But, having said that, Pierce writes this shit like a conventional author. He'll inject human emotion into a slab of meat that is apparently some guy's son, or he'll make the motherless housewife grow desparately affectionate for the thing that crawled up the shower drain. It's stuff you can't really pack into a summary of the book. If you try to describe the book, it'll turn into a clusterfuck of things that make no sense. But it's most certainly not about weird things that happen for absolutely no reason whatsoever. It's about weird things that happen that we find ourselves strangely interested in and attached to. That, and Pierce switches from first person perspective, to third person to second person between stories so effortlessly, it really turns this book from just another random shit-fest into something else. I highly recommend it for people who like random and disturbing. This guy makes Douglas Adams look like a fuzzy white rabbit that does not talk. Sorry, Mr. Adams, I've tried reading the Restaurant at the End of the Universe twice now, but I found myself asking something that I never once asked myself whilst reading Lost in Cat Brain Land. Why do I care? Weird things need to happen for a reason, and I think that making this the cornerstone of bizarro fiction will set the truly great apart from the lackluster.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Ten

So I'm at a point in my novel where I've decided to just drop in a bizarro novella of a dream sequence in there for no reason whatsoever other than to make things quirky and interesting. However, upon closer inspection, it's coming out sort of like what Cormac McCarthy's the Road would be like if it were written by Carlton Mellick III or Cameron Pierce.

What's basically going on is that the main character and three others are all that remains of the ice-popsicle people that live on the great travelling giant's back. All the others have melted away over the years, leaving them to walk the desolate town north, hoping to reach the giant's head and turn him back north before the spring heat turns them to puddles.

I'm only part of the way through the story, but they've run into a couple of giant ass-tumours trashing the local supermarket. As they go on, searching for shelter by day, walking and walking and walking by night, will they reach their destination in time? Can they turn this monolithic beast around in time? And what other dangerous creatures will they run into, whilst walking up Rupert's great spine?

I'm six chapters and almost 18,000 words into my novel and I'm probably around a quarter into the narrative, if that. Which is really promising for actually giving this novel some real substance, something last year's novel was severely lacking. I figure, the worst I can do is stop writing at the end of November around the 50,000 word mark and leave the novel unfinished, in which case I'll have a bunch of dream sequences which would make for interesting short stories on their own.

Anyway, I was planning on writing a considerable amount more today, so I'll get back onto that, and hopefully I'll be well into my 20,000s by tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Nine

I've got two essays due over the course of November. The first one was due on Monday, and I'm glad I'm done with it, even though it's not exactly the best essay I've ever written. The next one is due next Wednesday and hopefully, I should be able to throw it together a little easier. For starters, it's not a research essay, so no scrounging around for silly little references.

What this means is that I've got plenty of time for writing that novel what I'm writing and all that, yes. I'm currently a little over 15,000 words, which is not too bad, considering I was planning to have quite a bit more written by now, and to be quite a bit further into the narrative. No matter. I'm still right on track for reaching 50k, even though I'm only just starting my sixth chapter out of twenty eight, and it's going to be a long one.

Compared to JulNoWriMo, the narrative aspect of my novel feels a lot better. My chapters are coming in at around the 2-5k word mark, as opposed to just hitting 1k with very little substance. I guess I normally have this problem because I'm not a very elaborate writer. I usually keep things as short and punchy as possible, which usually means I make happen what I want to happen quite quickly, with very little messing about between.

But this time, I'm making things more about the characters. It's good to get them to just sit around and talk with little else happening. I've been able to develop a lot of interesting ideas. And while I'm really enjoying how my writing is coming out, I know that I will have to change a lot when it comes to editing this mother. While the chapters are a lot larger and fuller than I'm used to, it's still really short and undeveloped. Things happening then other things happening with very little connection or relevance between the two.

So yeah, while I'm still stuck in wreckless first draft writing mode, I know that at the end of it I'll really have to sit down and nut out how I want to seriously approach this. There'll be plenty of time for that later. Right now I'm catching up on all the slacking off I did over the past few days when I was working on this annoying little essay. Oh well, I've got the next two days off, and I'm hoping to get well into the 20,000's by then. I'm hoping the writing doesn't dry up by then.

Friday, November 5, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Five

I didn't write much yesterday and I've only got a few days until a major research essay is due for uni. So the next few days are going to be pretty full on. But disregarding that for a moment, I'd like to talk about the subject matter of my novel for a moment.

It's completely and utterly fucked. I knew that it would be, to some extent, going into this thing. Basically, I think the entire thing is going to be about death. I could go chapter by chapter and say what is wrong with each, but so far, four chapters in, there's pedophilia, attempted murder, a ghost that convinces people to commit suicide, amongst other things, and I'm yet to really get into the swing of things.

Needless to say, I think I've really hit the ground running, come out swinging, cue action montage. Sure, it's hard to write some of the things I do, but for the most part, I think my main character is a likeable antihero, and thus, he's not completely cruel or lacking any form of morality just yet. Although I do believe that my novel sounds much more grim and unsatisfying when lining the themes up alongside eachother. In reality, the second chapter is quite charming and the ghost in the fourth chapter is likeable in spite of his wanting you to jump out that window. I think it's this that is making the novel really fun to write. It's all about death and ugly themes that relate to death, but it handles it in a black humour sort of way. Like people jumping out of buildings, the things that go splat in the night. That's Hunter, the ghost in the hotel. :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day Three

Ok, progress on my NaNoWriMo novel is coming along great, despite minor annoyances, such as having a cold and uni assignments and all that. I've finished two chapters and plan on getting well into my third by the end of the day. I'm keeping on top of the 1,667 words per day target quite comfortably, although I'm a little behind on my personal target of 2,500 words per day. No matter, things should run a lot faster once these last few assignments are done, I'll really kick things up a notch about half way through the month. I've still got a lot of planning to do for the last 2/3rds of the novel, I'm not exactly sure what will happen there, but I'm only really working off loose outlines anyway, putting a larger emphasis on language and characterisation to drive the novel along. I'm still planning on having a bizzaro novella dream sequence in the middle somewhere but that still won't be for a while. I'm currently over five and a half thousand words in, planning to write quite a bit more this afternoon, so we'll see how that goes.

I think that it's definitely turning out better than last year's novel, and my JulNoWriMo attempt. Hopefully, the finished product will be somewhere around the 70-80,000 word mark.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Inferno: Does not computer

I'm going to keep pushing my zine because at the moment it seems it's just my literary peeps who have checked it out, and partly because they had to.

Anyway, I recently finished reading Inferno. Dante's Inferno. Part one of the divine comedy, which I'm sure you've heard of at some point in your life. Not bad for something written around 700 years ago. Something like that. Now, I think it'd be cool to write reviews for books, music, movies, that sort of thing because I think people don't really know how to do it well.

I felt kind of hypocritical reading Inferno because for a book so well known as a 'classic', I really hated it so, and I couldn't exactly figure out how it sustained its status for so long. However, I feel compelled to define 'why' I hate this book so, and I think I've got it all figured out.

For starters, it is translated from Italian. I recently read 'If On a Winter's Night a Traveller' by Italo Calvino, which is also an Italian translation, but that book, on the other hand, was brilliant. The translation is a problem because Inferno is an epic poem written in the 14th century, and not a postmodern novel written in the '80s. In the popular penguine copy I read, the original Italian was written on the left pages and the translations on the right. I could see skimming down that the Italian side rhymed, where, understandably, the English side did not. If you can read Italian, by all means, give the book a chance, I don't know, it may be infinitely better in its original language.

Now, I don't know whether this is limited to the popular penguin edition, or whether all translations into English bare this fault, but the wording is painful to get through. No one speaks like that, no one writes like that, it just doesn't follow any logical grammatical progression (which I should point out, is pretty basic stuff for a classic). So it could well be that the person that translated the text was some form of poetic babboon, but if there's large chunks of dialogue where you don't know who is saying what, then you have a bit of a problem.

My copy of the book also comes with an extensive introduction and an extensive chunk of notes at the end. I don't really fancy going through all of that to make sense of the jumbled catastrophe that is Dante's descent into Hell. Really, if you take away the introduction, the Italian version of the poem and the notes, you have a 150 page book padded out to over 500 pages. Fuck that.

And while I must admit, there were a few short bursts of decent imagery, it just wasn't enough to maintain the interest of my 21st century brain. Which brings me to my final point. I think the book is terrible (note: "I think") because I'm reading it in the wrong century. I am most certain that the book gained popularity in the 14th century was because it was the sort of thing people enjoyed reading back then. But not now. It's a classic because it was a defining and cutting edge piece of literature for its time, as is pretty much most classics. Which is why I think that people may often be disappointed by the classics. Yeah, they were brilliant for their time, and some may still be brilliant today, but some just can't keep up with our radically changing tastes and fall limp. Still remembered, but not enjoyed as they once were. Sorry Dante, I was born 700 years too late to enjoy your divine comedy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An all-consuming black hole

If you haven't already, please download my zine 'Splinters'. I'd really appreciate it. And thanks to those who have already downloaded it and read through it, and even exchanged a few words with me about it.

Right now, it seems there's an endless black hole of a 'to-do' list hovering over me at the moment:

Tomorrow I'm performing in the WA heats of the Australian poetry slam, link here.

At uni I have a 20 minute stage play to write (which is coming along fantastically, I must admit, of the 4-5 pages I have written), 2 essays and 2 other little reflection/report things.

After that I'll get right onto wrapping my head around writing a 20 minute film script to eventually produce with a friend.

And of course, the start of next week is the start of November is the start of NaNoWriMo, in which I'll be trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

So that's what I'm busy with at the moment. But it should be a lot better in about two week's time where my goals list will be about half the size. I would, however, like to focus in on a couple of things on that list.

NaNoWriMo, there's always 1001 things I can say about it. But I take sympathy on you and will try to keep things brief. This year I'm going postmodern lit fic. Takes place over two weeks, with one chapter for each day (reality) and night (dream) of my protagonist/anti-hero's tragic little life. So it's basically a chapter a day, which I'll probably write in Stream-of-consciousness to make it easier to slip into the 'anything goes' mindset of NaNoWriMo, but also to really sink into the character and be strange/postmodern.

I'm doing a couple of things to warm up, to get ready for NaNoWriMo this year. I've started doing a flash-a-day thing, where I'll basically write a flash fiction piece, usually a sentence or two that hints towards something that needs context to mean something. That's something I'll be looking to maintain over November and beyond. And the other thing I'm doing is typing up Fight Club into my computer. I figure, taking the time to write the words up will give me time to absorb what they're doing, and how it's all set up. I don't know yet if I'll just do a chapter or two and move on to another book or something, but I'm thinking, come November, I might use it to warm my fingers up before I start working on my own novel.

And another thing I'd like to talk about is the books I've read recently. I've been meaning to talk about them, but just never got around to it. You can see on the side there, a list of "currently reading" and "recently read" books. Strangely enough, those lists correspond to books I am currently reading and books I have recently read, respectively.

"Haunted" - by Chuck Palahniuk
Where to start this one is to say that it's not for the faint-hearted. If you get grossed out easily, you probably won't see the appeal in this book. I, for one, loved it. It's dark, it's brutal, it's cringingly funny, I found that while I was reading it I was thinking, 'is this guy for real'? It's a strange and uncomfortable journey, and while there is some doubt whether it's just some elaborate hoax put out by Palahniuk purely to revolt his readers, there is an interesting theme that underlies the narrative, and that is how people transform at the prospect of fame.

The novel (I guess you could call it a novel) consists of a series of short stories and poems brought together by an overarching narrative. Basically, a group of people respond to an ad regarding a writer's retreat. They find themselves locked in an abandoned theatre and the situation turns into a sort of reality tv type scenario, where the writers turn against each other in search of the story that will bring them more fame and glory than the person before them. I highly recommend it if you're not easily grossed out or offended.

"Wild Surmise" by Dorothy Porter
I read this, as I did 'The Monkey's Mask' within a very short time frame. It's the second verse novel of hers that I've read, and it follows a scientist (a biological astrologist? something like that) as she searches for signs of life on Jupiter's moon, Europa. Of course, that's juxtaposed with her domestic life, and the sexual conflicts with her partner and her lesbian colleagues. It's a good read, and she really is a master of metaphor, but I felt that it didn't quite have the edge that 'The Monkey's Mask' did.

"Fahrenheit 451" - by Ray Bradbury
It took me a long while to get into this book, especially considering how short it is. And I'm not sure if I finished it so quickly because I was truly fascinated by it or whether I just wanted to reach the end. It's a dystopian novel about book burning, and the censorship of ideas. The content was really good, but I can't help but feel that the execution was lacking something. It wasn't as richly involving as I'd have liked, it was very narrowly focused on the main character and it ended quite abrubtly. It's a good dystopian novel, I feel I should really get on to reading 1984 and Brave New World so that I've got more to compare it to. At the moment I can only really compare it to 'A Clockwork Orange', which I have to say, there really is no competition. A good book? Yes, definitely. But it's certainly no masterpiece.

"If on a Winter's Night A Traveller" - Italo Calvino
I was really excited to read this book. It didn't take me too long to read this one, and, like with 'Fahrenheit 451' I finished it in much of a fluster. However, I finished this one so fast because I was compelled to read on, I was fascinated by this book.

It's told in the second person, which, I know, will immediately put some people off. However, Calvino has tackled it from a really fascinating perspective, and as the book progresses the "I" character who is posing as the author distinguishes the "you" as a character known as "the Reader", as opposed to the "you" that is actually reading the book. As such, he plays around with the narrative style, and calls to question a number of writing techniques he uses throughout the novel. It's a very clever story, and it's very playful in the way it goes about telling the story. I'd imagine even if you're not a fan of the second person point of view, you'd be able to see the charm Calvino's invested into the character.

The narrative itself follows the Reader as he tries to read the book 'If on a Winter's Night A Traveller', only to find a printing error, which leads him on to the rest of the book. So it's made up of 12 chapters referring to the character trying to find his books, and 10 chapters of the starts of the books he finds but can not finish. It's very clever and very entertaining, and sometimes utterly perplexing, but if you like reading books that make you think then it's most definitely worth the read.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Splinters: Now available

Yep, right at this moment, I'm uploading 'Splinters' in e-zine format. It's 28 pages long, as opposed to the 32 pages of the printed copy that is my assessment. The main thing that's missing is a second person stream-of-consciousness piece which I can't technically 'publish' because it's in the Wet Ink short story competition, and would otherwisebe breaching the terms and conditions of that competition.

And the upload is done! You can download the e-zine here, and enjoy its literary goodness. It was a lot of fun to make, and now that I'm done with it, a few possibilities remain:

Should I try to reproduce the zine physically also? To sell?

Should I make another issue? If so, I doubt it would be anything like the original, simply because I was spending hour after hour, day after day messing about with shit trying to pull it together. It was quite exhausting, to be quite honest. I'd like to imagine that further issues would be more organised, less 'experimental', and probably as a result, less aesthetically pleasing.

And with that, I was wondering, should I go on to make another issue, should I keep it just to my own work, or possibly include writing/artwork of friends? That's if they'd be interested, of course.

But at the moment, I've just got the one issue, done, the .pdf available to you. And I'd really love it if you'd care enough to download it, give it a read, and maybe even let me know what you think. And while it's been exhausting, it's also been a lot of fun. And it's good to have something to show for my work, good for my confidence, really, heading into NaNoWriMo, with a ton of assignments and other assorted projects in the works.

I suppose I should probably also mention the sort of things you'll find in this zine. Mostly, it's poetry and prose poetry, some flash fiction, a bit of amateur DIY art, and the first part to the verse novel I started writing a while ago. It's a bit of a literary mixed bag, hopefully there's at least one thing in there you'll enjoy.

So yeah, zine, download, enjoy.

Thanks.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Curiouser and curiouser...

Honestly.

Honestly.

I. Don't. Know.
I just don't know what the fuck I'm doing. I've done a lot of work on my zine over the past few days. I've been messing around with the artistic appearance of the zine, turning some of the pieces into visual poetry. I've got four poems and four flash fiction/prose poems all up eight pages. It's about 1,300 words in, and I've got 3,000 words to play with. I'm thinking of putting the prologue of my verse novel-in-progress in the zine as well, which is nine poems and about another 800 words. But the more I scan images into my computer, the stranger it gets. It started off with a picture of a tree drawn with coffee and cordial and the printer ink alignment page that I accidentally left in the scanner. Then a tomato-sauce fingerpainting of the colour of mars. My main piece (which I'll leave out of the pdf because of pending publication issues, if/when it's rejected I'll put it back in) is just columns of the story cut out and stapled back together, although I've broken it up with other micro stories stealing parts of the pages. Then I wrote a poem backwards on my hand, scanned that and reversed it, scanned my jumper, inverted it and wrote a collage poem I pulled from my IKEA catalogue (the poem's called "IKEA catalogue". And then I scanned in the random doodles off my pencil case and put that on the cover.

So really. Honestly. I don't know where this zine is going to end up, what it'll look like when it's done, my guess is as good as anyone else's. But yeah, I'll have a few more poems, a few more flash fic pieces in the mix, and I don't know, should I put the prologue to my verse novel in there too?

Whatever, I'm having a blast just messing around with whatever I can get my hands on.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First page of my zine


I've mentioned a few times before on here about 'Splinters', the zine I'm creating for my experimental writing class. I've basically got a whole bunch of poetry, prose poetry and flash fiction that I'm going to compile into a zine.

Well, the idea is to bring it all together in a way that not only reads in an interesting way, but also looks interesting from an artistic perspective. Right now I'm just messing around with it, trying to find what will work and what won't. I've got my first page done, and I thought I'd post it up here to see what you guys think. If it works out right, you should be able to click on the image and see it at its full size. Here I've got two poems, 'Poem of Ten Lines by Ten Syllables' and 'Porcelain Doll'. I drew the tree on paper with coffee and green cordial then scanned it into the computer. The lines and stuff on Porcelain Doll were just the scanner's colour alignment test page I forgot to take out of the scanner the last time I changed the printer cartridge, so I just messed about with basic colours and effects and stuff.

So yeah, just having some fun with it, trying to be quirky and interesting.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Comarama: NaNoWriMo 2010

It's getting towards that time of year again, my second turn at NaNoWriMo. In the months approaching, I've had quite a lot of ideas buzzing through my head, and at one point I decided to work through bits and pieces of all of them. And then I developed a few ideas for one piece more than the others, and I think I've whittled it down to the one novel I'm going to write over November: Comarama.

In the grand plotting and scheming of things, there is a lot of progress to be made, especially since I want this story to triumph over last year's very basic novel. And considering my JulNoWriMo attempt was just a free for all, make it up as I go along sort of thing, and that it just sort of fizzled out, the plan is to come prepared for something a little more intricate than a stock-standard hero's journey.

Basically, Comarama is a story of two alternating plotlines. The "night" plot which occurs in the narrator's dream world when he's asleep, and the "day" plot which occurs when he's awake. Simple enough. So the concept with the dream aspect of the story is that he's gradually learning that he's tuning in to the bizarre and surreal dream world of a child in a coma. Meanwhile in the real world he's looking for a sense of purpose. The story starts when he takes a two week holiday to get away from his work, his family and his friends. He tells everyone he's heading east, but while he's looking to escape, he's not going to find what he's looking for in another city. He parks his car at the airport and catches a taxi to a hotel in the city, where he hopes he'll find some perspective viewing his hometown as a stranger, a tourist. What makes this place so frustrating? So difficult?

I don't know yet, but I've got until the end of October to really flesh my ideas out before I start writing. At least now, I feel there's some sort of drive in the two plot lines, and clear indicators that somewhere down the path they will intersect. I expect these next few months to be quite interesting.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sterile

This is the poem I performed at the Cottonmouth open mic on October 7:

Sterile

Ladies and gentlemen, do not be alarmed,
but airborne dust particles are killing your children.
They're killing your brothers and sisters,
your mothers, your fathers,
killing your family pets.

Do not be alarmed, but the invisible dirt monster is the black plague of our time.
All the AIDS, the cancer, the influenza pandemics throughout history,
they are nothing to the dust mites in your carpet.
The bacteria that manifests on your doorknobs.
The germs that spread on your money, passed from hand to hand
like coughing cultural cancer directly into your wallet.

Ladies and gentlemen,
the great dirty germ plague is the nine eleven of twenty ten.
This war on bacteria is a war for all that is good and pure and sacred.
And it is as they say, cleanliness is next to godliness.

So we fight this war,
we are the soldiers, we are the warriors of this great OCD war.
We spend forever washing our hands of dirt and disease.
And we fight for our future, for our children,
for our children's children,
and our stories will be told for generations to come.

And we take our buckets and mops in arms,
our rubber gloves, our germ-proof armour.
And everything is a filter on a filter on a filter,
and dynamite Johnny is manning the control board,
waiting for the ok from HQ to fire the hydrogen peroxide bomb.

The invisible flying particle monsters,
they don't stand a chance against our diligent scouring of the earth.
Against our toxic cleaners that obliterate everything in their path.

Ladies and gentlemen, do not be alarmed,
but this is not a war without casualties.
Dust and dirt is breeding in your public toilets.
Germs are hiding in your clothes, in your hair.

Do not be alarmed, but the bacteria is everywhere.
Under a black light, this world is one massive pathogenic swamp.

We are host.
They are master.

And you can wash your hands before and after everything you do.
Wash your hands. Rinse and repeat.
Because washing your hands brings you momentary cleanliness
brings you momentary godliness.

And after you kiss your children goodnight, take a steaming hot bath to kill their diseases.
You don't want to catch the cooties, the collywobbles, the snot-goblins.
And you keep the anti-bacterial hand wash under your desk at work
because you don't want to catch the Monday-itis that's currently going around.
You hide behind a filter on a filter on a filter,
and you wash your hands and wash your hands and wash your hands,
and you scrub your hands to the bone.

And tonight, ladies and gentlemen,
I stand before you as a mad man with a death wish above my head that reads:
“I do not live in fear of these germs.
I want to keep the common cold common,”
do not be alarmed, when I cough and sneeze, but instead, celebrate my immune system
that has sacrificed so much for me to be here tonight,

but these airborne particles, these dust mites in your carpet,
that are killing your children, and your children's children,
these are the nine eleven of twenty ten.
And tonight, I stand before you as a dying man at the gallows, waiting to be hanged,
waiting for the executioner to pull the lever
and wash his hands,
and walk away.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

First time for everything: Performance poetry

Ok, so tomorrow night I'm going down to Cottonmouth to try my hand at performance poetry. I haven't done performance anything for about three years. Not since Country Week in year twelve, speech and monologue. I used to hang out with the drama/music crowd a bit at school, but I was never all that flamboyant or self-confident.

So I guess I'm doing this open mic thing for a number of reasons. I'm definitely not doing it to launch a career in spoken word poetry, that's for sure. The way I see it, I'm getting out there, having my work seen and heard, rather than in the occasional uni magazine, which people may or may not just skim right over. I wrote a poem for Cottonmouth three days ago, I think. And I rewrote it two days ago. And rewrote it again last night. I'll probably iron it over a few more times before tomorrow night just to make sure it's all running smooth.

From what I've heard there's going to be a number of familiar faces from my experimental writing class there, so that should hopefully ease the nerves somewhat. And it's definitely helping me to actually go through with it. I think the more people that know what I'm doing, the easier it is for me to come to terms with getting on stage and doing it. I'm still shitting myself at the thought of it, but I think it's normal for me. I just need to do it. And the more people I know who are there tomorrow night, the better. So come on down to the Rosemount hotel tomorrow night, $5 entry, and watch me take to the stage for the first time.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The finer things club

I imagine a lot of authors start out with about a bazillion ideas for their books. Maybe a bazillion and one. And the process from there I imagine is somewhat like gold panning. Sifting through countless grains of muddy earth for the little nuggets of ideas that will move people through the bookstores.

I feel like where I'm at right now is at the beginning, wondering where to start looking to find my nuggets. And I feel like I've been grabbing handfuls of dirt and sifting through them that way, maybe finding something, maybe finding nothing. And each handful is all over the place. One over here, one over there, and each little nugget is a story, an idea. But I think that perhaps, for the scale I'd like to go for, that my scope is too narrow, that I'm starting small and then packing up and moving to a different location and trying my luck there. I need to broaden my horizons and really open up my ideas, to bring them together, to let them work to my advantage.

This all comes with practice and refinery. Efficiency. Gradually working outwards. I start with a couple of handfuls of dirt and sift. I work outwards, more, sifting dirt for nuggets of gold, I start with a small handfuls of ideas, and gather a few more, but nothing remotely close to a bazillion.

Or maybe, as a young writer, with lots of experience still to gather, I'm dwarfed by the many success stories out there, how these people must work so hard on one thing for so long until it appears so refined and effortless and genuine, 24 carat gold bullion.

I have ideas, I don't think that's a problem at all, but I think the real trick, the real illusion comes in putting those ideas into motion.

On an unrelated note: On my frequent passing across the internet, I've noticed two titles that have recently come into print that I am looking forward to getting my mitts onto. The first being "Dreadnought", the second novel in Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century steampunk series. The first novel, Boneshaker, was simply amazing. I had to order it in, and while I hope Dreadnought will be more easily accessible, I'll order this one in too if I have to. The second is Scott Westerfeld's "Behemoth". Sequel to Leviathan. It's another steampunk title, set around the first world war, and while I found Leviathan to be less captivating than Boneshaker, it's more of a book you read for fun, for entertainment. I guess I'd say the Leviathan series is to Steampunk as Harry Potter is to fantasy. Sort of. Whereas the Clockwork Century is set in an adult's world, dealing with more mature issues than you'd expect from reading the blurb of the books. It's got me sort of back into the excitement of steampunk, if not as much as last year, but I'll probably have a few more words to say when I read the books, but after my last year's NaNoWriMo steampunk novel, I doubt I'll try anything like it again for quite a while.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Splinters: An experimental new zine on the horizon

So, for my final experimental writing assignment, I've chosen to create a zine. And, as the title suggests, it's got fragments of lots of stuff. The central focus is on poetry, prose poetry and flash fiction, and at the moment, I'm just under half way to the word limit. Most of it is one stream-of-consciousness prose poem, and the rest is short poems or flash fiction ranging from about 10-100 words. Some of it I wrote a while ago, some of it is real recent, some of it's just made up on the spot. But I'd like to think each piece has got its own charms.

What I've got so far:
Poem of ten lines by ten syllables (poem)
Mars (flash fiction)
Mr Goody Two Shoes (prose poem)
Waste-Paper Basket (poem)
Facebook Status Update: 23/09/2010 (flash fiction)
He Don't Live Here (flash fiction)
Brains (poem)
Linear Haiku (poem)
Someone told me... (flash fiction)

It's nothing really profound. Most of it's just little quirky stuff that's just good for a laugh. I'm also currently playing around with writing a poem called "Drunf" (in which I replace every instance of the letter 'k' with 'f' for no particular reason) and a story called 'A story I stole from a friend while they weren't looking', which isn't stolen, or based on anything anyone's written or shown me, more so it's just an opportunity for me to write something purposely bad and pretend I didn't write it. I was considering something along the lines of Twilight fanfiction, but I'm not sure yet.

But, as you can see, I'm not concerning myself with writing something amazing or brilliant. I'm just focussing on these quirky little stories and poems, and actually having fun with it. I've got a poem or two (I think it's just one at the moment) on facebook (brains) but I don't know, I may post some more things up there or up here, or just email what I've got to people who are interested in having a squizz. I'd like to put it up online when it's done, maybe, as an e-zine, I don't know, but again, that's if people would want it. Anyways, back to the random writings...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Some kind of method

I never really thought of myself as a writer with a set moethod. I just do what I do, and it just 'is'. I like trying to blur the line between prose and poetry, however distinctly different and polarised my prose and poetry may seem.

I think, with poetry, it needs that strong core idea to begin with, as my poetry tends to be quite short. It needs presence, an idea, something specific that draws meanings and imagery from the text. I've found death is a good theme to work with, but I don't usually start on death until my poem's taken form. To me, poetry needs to really sink in. There's just no use having everything all out in the open. It would be boring. Easily dismissable. I recently wrote a poem about a terminally ill man whiling away the last of his days in an airport bar. I like to play with structure or sound, and sometimes I just feel like writing whatever, cutting out whatever lands on the page and letting it find its natural harmonies. As I'm having to think more and more about performance poetry recently, the more I feel compelled to define my poetry as primarily text-based. Sure, I'd like to write stuff that sounds nice, but I think you can fit more meaning onto a piece of paper than you can in air.

I feel like my prose is more liberating. It can start anywhere. It can end anywhere. It can mean whatever it wants to mean. Yes, ideas are good, but to me, short stories are something to mull over, to really let sit in the brain until new elements decide to reveal themselves. I feel like poetry is something best captured in the moment, whereas prose is a journey that takes the reader places. I feel like I can chop and change my mind with my short stories, and often enough I find myself bursting with excitement when I figure out a new idea that unlocks so many new ideas. And it can sometimes work as a chain of unexpected events, sort of like a Rube Goldberg story-writing-machine you could say. My last story was about a haunted blues club that drives a man to a violent madness. My current story is about the archangel, Gabriel turning his back on God and being reincarnated as Lucifer's brainchild; which then brings about a catastrophic apocalypse, with angels falling from the sky as Gabriel and Lucifer convert the world to Nihilism. Or something like that.

A lot of the time I try to tell people what my stories are about, and I find it difficult to say. Sometimes they're not about anything significant just yet, and I can't really define it, and sometimes I can't really say what it's about until it's finished.

Sometimes it feels painfully chaotic, sometimes it feels utterly hopeless. My collective writings are a real mess. But I think my method is one that works well for me - I play around with ideas until they feel right. I play around and try to have fun with it. Sometimes have fun with it. And I think that people see that I'm trying to do something different and interesting, and all I can hope is that they enjoy what I do. Not that my audience is all that large or anything...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Existential rambling: Salt

I started working on a new short story last night. I started again this morning. And I'm starting over again, for the third time and I think I've got the opening I want. I figured, might as well post the ramblings of my second attempt here:

We are a generation of people afraid to ask the hard questions. Put the chips in the deep fryer for five minutes. Burger bun. Meat, sauce, cheese, salad. Wrap it and bag it. Salt on the fries. Salt of the earth, it's not. Salt of your enemies rubbed into your eyes. Take it with a pinch of salt. Coke water, lollywater, take it with a pinch of salt. Generation of people who can't form questions beyond the point of fries; yes or no. Yes or no. Do you believe in God? Backs arch up like stray cats protecting their turf. We don't take kindly to your kind around here. Take your God talk and haul it off a cliff with some bricks. Forget faith, talk fries. Run your mouth over with a cheese grater and then tell me what you think of God.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Splinters of everything

So I finished writing my short story draft for dotdotdash's 'Jukebox' issue. And I really hope once I send it off they pick this one up.

It's about a haunted blues club on Esperance's coast. That's the easiest way to describe it. It also plays around with nested narratives, changes between first and second perspective, past and present tense, occasional splashes of almost stream-of-consciousness, and moments where I break the fourth wall.

I need to tidy up and tighten a lot of thing, but I think it's one of the most uniquely structured stories I've written, and it goes to a lot of strange places in such a short amount of time. I really hope dotdotdash pick this one up.

Over the next few months I'll no doubt be working on more short stories, a play, a performance poem, and maybe I'll come back to my verse novel which I haven't touched in quite a while. I don't have any assignments due for uni for the next two weeks, so I should have the chance to just relax, to write at my own pace, and enjoy it.

I'm also reading Ulysses at the moment, and really enjoying it. Really ripping through it.

Oh, and I'll get my results back for my first experimental writing assignment tomorrow, which I felt like I did really well in, so, fingers crossed for that. It's the unit I'm most confident in this semester, so I really want to do quite well with it...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A clusterfuck of genres

I've never been particularly warm towards the concept of genre. It's a label, a definition, a category of something that just is. I've said before that I like gothic horror and sci-fi and postmodern literature. But it's so broad. I like stories that fit into those genres, but I probably won't like every sci-fi story under the sun. It's just not the way things are. I'm more genre-neutral when it comes to music, but literature, I usually prefer nontraditional or contemporary genres and styles. Like the multiplicity of 'punk' genres. I've written steampunk and dieselpunk before, and I'm attracted to ideas of splatterpunk and bizarro fiction. Sometimes I find it difficult to figure out what genre I'm writing in. It's usually pretty obvious if something's sci-fi or young adult or romance, but personally, I like to play around with generic, sneak humour in to horror, make a real disaster out of it all.

I like to think I take after Chuck Palahniuk. I like to think I share his taste for chaos and almost nihilistic anarchy. I've heard the term 'transgressive fiction' used to label his work. But I'm not Chuck, I do things different. I'm a different writer. Would I write 'transgressive horror' or 'transgressive gothic' or 'transgressive bizarro'? You could probably argue for or against any of those titles and pitch at least half a dozen more. I could probably claim my latest work was a circuspunk story, although I think, within the confines of the punk genre, it is certainly a narrow sub genre. I think at the moment I'm hovering somewhere between transgressive fiction and bizarro fiction. I want to coin the term 'pickled punk' as a literary genre. They're the fetuses you find in jars of embalming fluids at carnival freak shows. Personally, I think it fits my current style pretty well. It's a somewhat removed and transformed version of reality, not so bizarre that it has very little or no grounding in reality, but bizarre enough that it makes your stomach turn.

Could it work, could it catch on? Probably not. But it's that sort of perverse attraction towards the horror, the grotesque, the fetus floating in the pickle jar, a sort of fantastical horror that allows me to say, "hey, sure, this may be pretty sick, but now I have your attention, here's a metaphor that relates to real world character/issues of morality." So, I guess, for now, I have a genre. And it starts with the Pickled Punk monologue, from 'the Giant'. I'm thinking of turning it into a prose poem and putting it up for publication.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Like a wrecking ball

I hang, suspended from a yellow crane, waiting for the eventual destruction.

For me, writing is all about buying time from my brain. Someone said something at uni today about their brain often working too fast to type down the flow of ideas. The formation of language on the page often becoming a fragment of the brilliance once envisioned, momentarily, then, gone as though it were simply never there at all.

It's like I've got a wrecking ball in my skull waiting for the words to form there, allowing the ideas to ferment (okay, maybe I've actually got a brewery in my head) before I knock them onto the page.

I've only written the one page of my stageplay, and while I plan on writing more tonight, to have a somewhat decent working draft to bring to class tomorrow, I've got a decent idea of how the story's mutated since I last wrote that page. So now I'm wondering, is this the same building that I knocked down the other day? It certainly looks different. Truth is, I don't really know.

Sometimes those spontaneous clusterfucks of words spilling onto the page without premeditative thoughts can be a godsend. Sometimes they can be fantastic filler while you think of the real juicy, real punchy words you want to throw on the page.

I'm writing an experimental short story for dotdotdash. It's linear (hmm... should I fuck with continuity too?), but the plot is something I find difficulty in putting into words. Something about a blues club and a haunted jukebox and nightmares folding in upon themselves. I've got stories within stories within stories, which sit alongside story fragments tossed about for good measure.

It's one of a very few stories that I've written that actually takes place in a real location in the real world. Sure, I made up the blues club, it doesn't really exist somewhere along Esperance's coastline, somewhere way down an old dirt track. But it does take place in a fictionalised Esperance, which you can find on a map, and the road along the cliffs and coast, that's there too. I can't recall exactly what the beaches over that side of town are like, but there are some beaches like the one I describe in the story. And, through some divine inspiration I've found myself taking the story in the most unlikeliest of places, Turkmenistan. And I'm currently about the point where I want to insert an author's note to suck the reader right out of the story to make them think about what they're reading. Like a wrecking ball, come back to reality, the fourth wall comes tumbling down.

I'm thinking of maybe making a zine out of it for my experimental writing assessment. Maybe formatting it to really flip things around. Maybe messing with typography and aesthetic apearance, or something along those lines. I guess it's sort of a natural progression from the stuff I've been writing lately. I'm usually pretty focussed on my narrator's subjective stance, playing around with language there. Now it's more layering in different voices, playing with tenses and perspectives, juxtaposing the surreal with the real, dreams commenting on reality, imagined characters commenting on real characters, authorial intrusion commenting on the narrative, blurring the lines of the story and splicing them into a multiplicity of meanings.

And the wrecking ball, swinging back and forth in my head, smashing my brains onto the floor, fragments upon fragments upon fragments that I cannot possibly pick up.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The onion metaphor

I'm sure you're familiar with the metaphor. Ogres are like onions because they have layers. Simple enough.

But really, the world is full of onions. People are layered. Objects are layered with meaning. Language is layered. They're all like onions.

So what has this got to do with writing?

Come back to people. People are layered. We enjoy reading because we like it when the characters surprise us. Their minds work in ways that we don't see. I hear often enough that characters are not real people. While this is most certainly true, while characters are subjective creatures of the author's narcissistic whatever, I find it helps to pretend they are real. You need to plant them, the little onion seeds of your characters in your fictional onion-layered world, with a brownish French onion sky, and you need to pretend these characters are real within your world and they are layered with characteristics and personalities that even you haven't met yet.

I find this separates the good stuff from the bad stuff, not just in novels and short stories, but in films and in TV shows. I get sick of Mr Predictable Action hero guy because he's superficial, he's filled with shit. He's butter through and through, he's spread thin with sameness and blandness.

I recently read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, which takes place in a god-infested America with so many archetypal gods it could have been so easy to go 'herp derp zeus throw lightning hurr', but rather it moulded these most basic of characters and ground them so deep into his world that their layers ran much deeper than our expectations.

I've recently warmed to the idea of the 'nested narrative' setting stories inside stories to comment on the original story, to mutate it, to change its meaning, to give it layers.

I think it's always good to show a few layers of a story, the characters, the layers of the narrative, and while it may be as simple as questioning the nobility of your protagonist, and while you don't need to peel through every layer that defines your character and defines your story, I think it's essential to always have something else going on, some layers to give your stories depth.