Writin’ Right Along

Well, many moons have passed since my last blog entry (in fact, many moons have passed since I looked at my website at all), and I found that there was a plethora of comments waiting for me. My apologies for not addressing them sooner. I’ll admit, I tend to forget about everything when I’m writing. But, evidently, it is time for an update on all things Dan and Book.

Firstly, there’s been some interest in the progress of Book Two. I can advise that I (and the book) are progressing right along. Earlier in the year, I announced triumphantly that I had finished the first draft. I should clarify, however, that when I write, the first draft consists of me vomiting everything in my head out onto the page. It is a torrent of good ideas, mixed with, well, vomit. ‘Cause you never know where something might lead. And I am, in fact, the worst judge of my own work, so the filters that you might think would get applied by any right-thinking person aren’t applied at all. Instead, every idea, good and bad, gets put down. That’s the first draft.

Then I put it away.

And it sits, festering in the dark, while I do other things.

This festering is supremely important to the way I write. I don’t know about other writers, but I find it very difficult to look at stuff that I’ve written recently with an unbiased eye. It’s all too immediate. So I put it aside, and try not to think about it all. Of course, it doesn’t work that way, and new ideas occur to me, and I jot them down on bits of paper that I promptly lose, but I don’t look at the text itself. The more time I leave it, the better, but even a couple of days can be really useful.

Then I come back, and look at it, and snigger at some parts, and groan at others, and recoil violently from some ideas that could obviously never have worked, and what the hell was I thinking?

And I wade back into it.

In the case of this wading phase, however, I did something a little different. I went on a research trip to the UK and the Netherlands. Now, some might say that it would be best to conduct the research trip BEFORE I started writing, and I’ll concede that approach has some merit. But I didn’t do that for a number of reasons.

Firstly, in addition to writing novels, I have a day job, and I like it. I enjoy it a lot. But it takes up time. And there wasn’t a good opportunity to take time off until the middle of this year. Also, there were people I wanted to meet with and interview, and they weren’t immediately available. And then there were some events I wanted to attend that only occur at certain parts of the year. So, the research trip had to wait. But it was definitely worth waiting for.

It was great. I visited Cardiff and London and attended the horseraces at Royal Ascot. I went to Delft and Amsterdam and the Hague. I took several million photos. I jotted down copious notes and managed not to lose them. I came home with so many ideas that I wanted to put into the book – ideas that made it better, and cooler, and put a Checquy spin on some big things. So, now I am working my way through the manuscript, putting in new elements, tightening scenes, cutting dross, changing stuff. It’s how I write, but I’ve never done it with an audience before.

So, when will it be done? I don’t have a firm date for you, I’m afraid. I’m working as hard as I can on it, but I want it to be as good as it can be. I’m working with my glorious editor, and my magnificent agent, and when it’s done, it’ll be done. But sooner, rather than later.

In other news, I’m delighted to share with you the news that The Rook received the Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. The Aurealis Awards are Australian literary prizes, and I was really, utterly not expecting to win. Seriously. When they said the name of the book, I made peculiar noise that I’ve never made before, which sounded like a yodeller getting punched briskly in the stomach. Then I had to totter on weak knees up to the stage to receive the reward and something intelligent. I succeeded in one of these tasks. It’s just that I really didn’t think I was going to win.

Let this be a lesson to you, if ever you’re nominated for something, have some remarks ready, even if you really don’t expect to win. Because otherwise, you have to make a conscious effort from thanking the entire human race.

And that’s what’s happening at the moment. I shall endeavour to update more frequently, as things happen.

* * *

Update: My God, is it already 2013?

Greetings!

Behold, a writer who has completed the first draft of his second novel. Or rather, a writer who has completed the first draft of his second Checquy novel. (I’ve written first drafts of other novels, but this is the one that’s been consuming my time and my brain for the past plethora of months.) Yes, the Checquy Book Two has been poured out upon my computer screen, and even as we speak, my glorious editor is reading it and (I hope) liking it. I actually finished it, and mailed it off, at 3:30 AM Australian time on the 15th of January, and my brain has unclenched enough since then that I can begin looking at it again without hating it intensely.

You’ll notice that I don’t give its title. It’s just Checquy Book Two. It has a provisional title – in my mind — but I’m still brooding over it. For me, the title comes pretty late in the piece. Or rather, the final title comes pretty late in the piece. The Rook’s original title was ‘Namesake’, which came to me in the shower, and which I was convinced was genius. After all, Myfanwy Thomas is named after someone else (the original Myfanwy Thomas) and, well, trust me, it all seemed extremely profound when I was in the shower. However, then a book called ‘The Namesake’ came out, and did very well, and it was gently pointed out to me that another title would be a good idea. So I brooded and agonised for a while, and settled on The Rook, which, in retrospect, has worked out OK. Quite a few people have asked which chess piece the next book will be named after, but I am not convinced that I will go with that recurring motif. For one thing, it’s already been done, and for another, it sort of limits one to six titles. (And since the Checquy doesn’t use ‘King’ and ‘Queen’, it’s a bit tenuous anyway.)

I’m not entirely certain when Checquy Book Two is going to come out. Of course, the whole process is very different from the first time. The Rook took a couple of years to write, this one, about a year. My agent, Mollie Glick, and I did a lot of polishing before The Rook went out to publishers, and then my editor, Asya Muchnick, and I did a lot more polishing. This one, Book Two, has gone to both of them at the same time. And I’ll confess, I’ve already started making some strategic alterations before they’ve even gotten back to me. I’m really excited about this one, though.

A couple of people have remarked how long it’s been since I’ve done a blog entry. They are, of course, correct. I’ve just checked, and seen that the last one was actually in May 2012. My only answer is that Book Two had a due date, and it took precedence over many, many things, including blogging. I have a reverence and a terror of due dates that borders on the psychotic. But, a lot of things have happened in the intervening time – things which, when they happened, I thought “I should really write about this.” The problem is, I’m very averse to writing short blog entries. It’s the same with emails (and novels). Anyway, I’ve been keeping a list of things to include in the blog, and now is my chance to share them with you.

Firstly, The Rook has started coming out in different languages! Of course, it has been out in Australian English for a while (with HarperCollins Australia), but it only recently came out in British English with Head of Zeus. It is also available in Italian, incarnated at La Regina from Piemme with some very attractive Ferrari-red added to the cover. I shall put in a photo if I can figure out how (if I can’t, you can see it here: http://www.edizpiemme.it/libri/la-regina). Of course, La Regina translates as ‘The Queen’, but they have not changed Myfanwy’s rank in it. Nor, much to my relief, was it done because the Italian word for ‘Rook’ was also some sort of obscenity. Rather, it’s because they wanted a title that implied feminine authority and majesty, which is entirely reasonable to me.

There is also now the Czech version, which is titled, Hra věží, and which comes to us from Baronet (I shall also attempt to put up a photo of their very different, and very striking, cover. If I can’t manage it because I am incompetent, then you can see it here: http://baronet.cz/beletrie/hra-vezi ). I love it. My only disappointment is that my name remains the same on the cover. My parents became ‘Billu O’Malleyovi’ and ‘Jeanne O’Malleyové’. I expect that it’s a necessity for author-identification, and whatnot, but it would have been cool to see what my name is in Czech.

Now, way back in May, when I last blogged, I mentioned that Charlaine Harris, the creator of the beloved Southern Vampire Mysteries (known best to some via the television show True Blood, although they should read the books because they’re great) had spoken kindly about The Rook, both on her blog, and in an interview. Well, she ALSO spoke about it kindly on NBC’s Today Show! I first heard about this at work, when friends and relations in America began bombarding me with emails, and I was gnawing on my nails, because I try to keep Day Job and Writing separate. So, when I come home, I frantically trawled through the internet and found it. You can actually view the clip online at http://www.today.com/id/47981733/site/todayshow/ns/today-books/t/sizzling-summer-reads-charlaine-harris-janet-evanovich/#.USB_LRyaK6Y . Admittedly, the sizzling summer has passed (at least in the northern hemisphere – it’s still pretty toasty down here), but this is one of the most encouraging things to come out of The Rook’s publication.

Also, I had posted a link to an interview with Unwalkers, but it was in French. The English version also exists, and lurks on the internet, waiting for you at http://www.unwalkers.com/interview-with-daniel-omalley-vo/

I’m going to endeavour to keep the number of links to reviews to a minimum – it’s been eight months, and a fair few reviews. (Negative reviews can, of course, find their own forum to share their views.) I have cut myself off from looking at reviews and ratings on venues like Amazon and Book Depository. That way lies madness. But some reviews that I’m especially delighted about, and which I want to share with you, have accompanied the UK release of The Rook.

See, the two great concerns I had about The Rook were writing a female character, and writing a novel set in the UK. Since I am neither a female nor set in the UK myself, I was braced for some denunciation about whether I’d pulled it off. And I did get a couple of remarks along the lines of ‘that’s not how English people talk’, although those came from Americans, which I thought was a bit interesting. Anyway, some very heartening UK reviews:

James Buxton writing for The Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-2267614/FANTASY.html

David Brzeski writing for The British Fantasy Society: http://www.britishfantasysociety.co.uk/reviews/9507/

A review by Antony in SFBook Reviews: http://sfbook.com/the-rook.htm

And finally, Ani Johnson from The Bookbag: http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Rook_(The_Checquy_Files)_by_Daniel_O’Malley

In other news, I went weak at the knees when I learned that The Rook was selected as the 2013 fantasy pick for The Reading List. The Reading List is an award awarded by Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association. I’ll quote from their website for the description of the Reading List:

Established in 2007 by the CODES section of RUSA, The Reading List seeks to highlight outstanding genre fiction that merit special attention by general adult readers and the librarians who work with them. The Council, which consists of twelve librarians who are experts in readers’ advisory and collection development, selects one book from each of eight different categories. The eight genres currently included in the council’s considerations are adrenaline titles (suspense, thrillers, and action adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, and women’s fiction. However, the Council is constructed in such a way to be adaptable to new genres and changes in contemporary reading interest.

- http://www.ala.org/rusa/awards/readinglist

And by the way, am I the only person who is entranced by the prospect of Council of Librarians?

So, at this point, I’m waiting for the first feedback, and working on more writing (Checquy and otherwise.) And I fully intend to be updating this blog much more frequently.

* * *

Going Clubbing

One of the nicest things about having your book get published is all the interest and encouragement that your friends give you. People will go out of their way to tell you how much they enjoyed it (presumably those who hate it manage to keep it to themselves, much like the way friends won’t tell you that your baby is actually quite ugly, or that your voice grates upon their ears like someone is slaughtering a giraffe.) Friends will send you reviews from the other side of the world, or let you know that they have foisted a copy on someone else, and that the someone else has said they’ve enjoyed it. It’s really encouraging.

In the past few weeks, however, I’ve had the pleasure of a completely new form of support. Various friends have put The Rook forward for their book clubs to read and then invited me to come and talk about it. I’ve taken this as license to come and talk about myself, and eat whatever cake is available.

It’s actually very cool, whilst simultaneously terrifying. So far, the book clubs that I’ve been invited to have consisted of sophisticated and elegant older ladies (older than me, anyway). These ladies have all, withouth fail, been extremely kind. However, it has been clear that supernatural thrillers set in the public service are not their usual selection for bookclub. A phrase that I’ve heard frequently is ‘Normally, I would never read this kind of book…’, which is the kind of phrase that can either introduce lavish praise, or withering condemnation.

Of course, they were all too polite to unleash really withering condemnation, but it’s evident that for a few readers, The Rook was agony. Others, however, were bewildered to discover themselves enjoying it, which is very cool. In one of the clubs, they went around the room, and said if they liked it, or not, and why, or why not.

While I sat there, eating cake.

The process led to some very interesting and unexpected questions, but having someone flatly state that they couldn’t get into your book, and couldn’t get through more than a couple of chapters is always a little bit crushing. I expect it’s like being on one of those reality shows where you stand up in front of judges, and they candidly discuss your strengths and flaws while you smile weakly, and can’t throw your cake at them.

Anyway, we talked about the book, and where I got my ideas from, and the process whereby a book in my head becomes a book on your shelf. One thing that everybody was quite interested in was how the money works, so I thought I’d explain it to those blog-readers who aren’t familiar with the process.

So, I wrote the book. And then, after a few adventures, I got an agent (the incomparable Mollie Glick of The Foundry Literary + Media). And, after a substantial amount of work, Mollie decided that it was time to put it out on the market, and see if some extremely clever publisher with excellent taste would like to purchase it. Fortunately for me, one did. Little, Brown & Co (yesssss!) purchased the English rights to The Rook. This means that they have the exclusive right to print it in the English language throughout the world.

Now, a few people have asked after the royalty cheques that I get. This is the thing that people know about authors – they get royalty cheques. For every book that’s sold, the authors gets a bit of the money. True, enough. But, the book can take a while to sell, and so sometimes an author will receive an advance against those royalties. It’s some money that I get right at the very beginning, to keep me in comic books and bowler hats. Before I get any more monies, enough copies of the book have to sell and enough author-royalties have to build up to pay off the advance. Until then, I get no royalty cheques (I’m not complaining, let me hasten to assure you. This system works just fine for me.)

“But hold on,” I can hear my Australian readers say. “I purchased a copy of The Rook here in lovely scenic Australia, and it’s got HarperCollins on the spine. There’s no mention of Little, Brown & Co. What the hell are you trying to pull here? I should come around to your house, and steal your doormat.” And they make a good point.

Now, Little, Brown & Co. holds the worldwide rights for English. But, it may be that they don’t wish to publish it here in Australia, for whatever reason. They can then choose to distribute the book, or to partner with an Australian publisher to publish the title there. By doing this, they not only get an advance (which would go in part towards paying out my advance with Little, Brown), but they also give the book a chance to be ‘published.’ By which I mean that the book is not merely carried by the shops, but that an Australian publisher can use its local know-how and contacts to market and publicise the book, which gives it more visibility, which hopefully will lead to more sales.

So, Little, Brown & Co. sold the Australian English rights for The Rook to HarperCollins Australia, giving them the right to publish it here. Any advance, and the subsequent royalties from Australian sales, goes towards paying off my advance from Little, Brown & Co, bringing me closer to the point where I will see future little royalty cheques. Meanwhile, Head of Zeus in England has acquired the rights for that country. I don’t see that money in my sweaty little palm, but it’s doing me good. Like vitamins. Or democracy.

And, of course, there are all those other great languages out there in the world, each of which can be acquired by different publishers. For that, there is the glorious Stéphanie Abou, my foreign rights agent at the Foundry, who oversees foreign language sales. So far  (and I am very excited about all of these), the following publishers have brought The Rook into their family:

Leya in Brazil

Beijing Pengfeiyili Book Co. in China

Baronet in the Czech Republic

Super 8 in France

Piemme in Italy

Azoth Books in Taiwan

and April Publishing in Turkey

With attendant advances, and future royalties (he says hopefully.)

And that’s how the money works. Pretty much. Of course, there’s also taxes and agent commission, both of which are entirely worth it, the former because your taxes (and mine) pay my day job salary (and buy us all some civilisation), and the latter because without the agent, The Rook would still be sitting on my hard drive, and not in your hands.

 

In other news, a friend of mine surprised me with a formal heraldic description of the crest from The Rook cover:

Arms of The Rook

Lozenge rond en soleil gris, quarterly sable and argent; first pot du thé argent, second tower sable, third cephalopod sable with six arms guardant, fourth lapin argent sejant; supported by lions gris rampant and surmounted by Spanish crown argent.

I rather like idea of being a cephalopod sable.

 

And in even more other news, there’s some new reviews of The Rook floating out there. But so that you don’t have to trawl through the internet, I have the links for them right here.

 

Talk Supe gives it four cauldrons (it’s not clear out of how many, but the official verdict is ‘loved it’, so I am going to assume that it is out of three cauldrons.) http://www.talkingsupe.com/2012/05/rook.html

 

Hit the Road Jacq gives it a short, sharp, whip-crack of a review. Very bracing. http://www.hittheroadjacq.com/Review.php?Title=The+Rook&Author=Daniel+O%27Malley&Publisher=Harper+Collins+Publishers+Australia&ID=399

 

The Goatfairy Review Blog gives The Rook 10 out of 10 cheesewands, an accolade that I have added to my professional curriculum vitae, and the draft epitaph for my tombstone. http://goatfairyreviews.tumblr.com/post/21444489723/the-rook-by-daniel-omalley

 

Crimespree Blog dissects the book at http://crimespreemag.com/blog/2012/04/the-rook-by-daniel-omalley.html

 

I talk about my dog, the peerless Sally O’Malley, at ‘Coffee with a Canine’. She looks much better in the photos than I do. http://coffeecanine.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/dan-omalley-sally.html

 

Buried under Books gives a charming review at http://www.cncbooks.com/blog/2012/05/09/book-review-the-rook-by-daniel-omalley/

 

And finally, a fun story with a happy (if somewhat belated) ending. Periodically, I will get a note from someone at one of my current publishers (Little, Brown & Co. or HarperCollins Australia) letting me know that something cool has happened. And this time, it was extremely cool. At Shelf Awareness, which publishes two newsletters (one for general readers and one for booksellers), there was an interview with Charlaine Harris, creator of the terrifically entertaining Southern Vampire Mysteries (now captured on deathless celluloid/silicon as the True Blood TV show). You can read the interview at http://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=1732 , and in it, Ms Harris describes herself as an evangelist for The Rook by (ahem) Daniel O’Malley!

Naturally, I was overcome with excitement. However, in the back of my skull, I couldn’t help but think “You know, ‘evangelist’ implies you’re singing its praises, and maybe wearing a robe, with a choir in the background.” So, I googled ‘Charlaine Harris Daniel O’Malley’, and I was led to this blog entry from waaaaaay back in February: http://www.charlaineharris.com/bb/bb230.html . Read it, and you will find that Ms. Harris wrote really nice, encouraging things about the book, and I never even knew.

This is like founding out that several months ago you were crowned the King of Switzerland, but that no one bothered to tell you.

* * *

On the Air, Live and Alive

It’s been an adventurous weekend, beginning with my first-ever live radio appearance. Now, I’ve done a couple of radio interviews before, but they were always pre-recorded, with all the assurances that any obscenities or demented faux pas would be edited out. At least, in theory. However, this was live, which meant that, as far I knew, there would be no safety nets. If I was suddenly possessed by a demon, and began spewing forth threats against everyone who walked under the sun, well, there would be no escape.

The interview was to be on my local ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) station, 666 ABC, at the uncivilised hour of 7:10AM on Saturday. Which meant that I would, inevitably, not be at my most alert. I have many sterling qualities, but being a morning person is not one of them.  And I can recognise this about myself, which is why the previous evening I spent some time thinking up possible lines to use, and also grimly contemplating the likelihood that I would forget all of my planned lines, and produce naught but several minutes of dead radio air, broken only by the incredulous chortling of the radio personality. This was my nightmare.

However, when I woke up, at the ungodly hour of 6 in the morning, none of those concerns was in my mind. I shambled from bed to shower to car, and only really assumed full consciousness when I was halfway to the radio station. When I arrived at the ABC building, the shadows were still lying long, and there were barely any cars on the roads. There were no lights illuminated in the windows, and I began to worry that I had drastically misunderstood the situation. Or possibly come to the wrong building.

I leaned on the ‘after hours’ telecom button, and eventually a member of the staff emerged from the corridors, and cheerfully ushered me in, guiding me through the darkened bowels of the building to the broadcasting room, and delivering me into the merciful hands of my host, Greg Bayliss, a man whose voice I recognised immediately. We howdied, and shook, and then he and the producer bolted off to make some toast and stretch their limbs, leaving me alone with the control room. I briefly – briefly – gave thought to cutting into the newsfeed and reading some pages from The Rook, but sanity prevailed, and I wandered around cautiously, peering at the control boards, and keeping my hands behind my back.

Eventually they returned, and failed to congratulate me for not declaring the creation of Pirate Radio Dan. Instead, they supplied me with a cup of coffee, and I sat down in front of a microphone. Although they told me I didn’t have to wear the headphones, there was no way that I wasn’t putting them on. After a few minutes’ chat, we were thrust onto the air, and I manfully resisted the urge to holler ‘Good morrrrrrning, Canberra!’

Instead, we talked about the book, and last week’s literary festival in Jindabyne, and why on earth I had an American accent when I was born and raised in Canberra. I almost completely forgot that I was on the radio (apart from preventing myself from dropping any swear words into the dialogue), and had a blast. This very blog got mentioned, and I talked a bit about writing, and what I’m working on at the moment, and it went just fine.

Since the interview, a few friends have told me they heard it, and assured me that I sounded okay. (Although one work colleague let me know that I use the word ‘absolutely’ too much. So I set him on fire.)

In other news, there’s a few reviews and articles and interviews for your reviewing pleasure.

I chat with Marshal Zeringue at ‘Writers Read’ about the various outstanding books that I am currently devouring. You can read it at: http://whatarewritersreading.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/daniel-omalley.html

Also, The Rook is subjected to the rigors of The Pg. 69 Test, wherein the sixty-ninth page of a book is dissected, and reviewed according to the extent that it represents the book, and whether it might draw a reader in. It’s actually quite merciful, because they let the author do the testing. The diagnosis is at http://page69test.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/rook.html

Julika reviews The Rook at BookVenturer’s Musings at http://bookventurers.blogspot.de/2012/04/rook-by-daniel-omalley.html

And although yesterday’s radio interview is not yet available, you can hear a podcast of me talking to 4ZZZ’s Bookclub on the 29th of March. I have reviewed it, and I don’t think I say ‘absolutely’ that much. There’s quite a few ‘uh’s’ though. You can hear my gravelly tones at http://www.4zzzfm.org.au/podcasts/culture/daniel-omalley-interview

* * *

A Jaunt to Jindabyne

Dear You,

I have returned from the Snowy Mountains, where I was attending a literary festival. This was a festival of first-evers. It was the first-ever Snowy Mountains Readers & Writers’ Festival ( http://www.snowymountainswritersfestival.org/ ), but it was also my first-ever literary festival. I was thrilled to be a guest, but also a trifle nervous. I really had little to no idea what to expect. But, only mildly daunted, I packed my little car, and drove on up, over the hills and through the valleys, ascending towards Jindabyne.

Jindabyne is a charming mountain town, and a popular holiday destination. It’s the gateway to the snowfields, and for those unfamiliar with the Australian ski industry (or those unaware that there is an Australian ski industry), I can assure you that it’s big. Thousands and thousands of people ascend to the mountains when it’s snowy. Actually, they also ascend to the mountains when it’s not snowy, as I can attest, because they were all driving in front of me, and most of them were taking their sweet time.

It’s a very nice drive, despite the sweet-time-taking drivers, and if I had any sense, I would have taken photos along the way. Gorgeous landscapes, with the yellow grass, dark mountains and gigantic sky that always makes me feel incredibly patriotic.

Now, I hadn’t been to Jindabyne in forever. Not since I was a little kid, and I had only the vaguest of memories of the place. But when I arrived, I was completely. The town slopes down to Lake Jindabyne. In point of fact, the original town was under Lake Jindabyne. By which I mean that there was a valley, and a town of Jindabyne in it, and then they flooded it, and moved the town.

Not necessarily in that order.

Anyway, I drove through the town, acquainting myself with the lay of the land (that’s how I know it sloped down to the lake), and eventually found my way to Snowprint Bookshop ( http://www.snowprint.com.au/ ), which was one of the sponsors of the Festival. In addition, the bookshop is owned by Shaaron Ellis, who was one of the creators of the Festival, and with whom I had enjoyed several conversations on the phone – the sort of conversations where you begin by talking about business and arrangements for an upcoming literary festival, and then start chatting, and then abruptly you realise that your entire lunch hour has evaporated. So, it was great to finally meet her in person.

The next day was the opening day of the festival, with a very nice Welcome to Country (a custom in which representatives of the local Aboriginal people open an event with a speech and/or presentation, in their role as traditional custodians of the land), and a recitation of The Man from Snowy River (which is a classic Australian poem by Banjo Paterson – some (including me) say that it is the classic Australian poem. It is printed in microtext on the Australian $10 note as a security feature. It’s also been made into a rather good movie, with some outstanding riding scenes, and, bewilderingly, Kirk Douglas. You should read the poem.)

And then it was my first appearance! I was on a panel of Canberra Writers, with Marion Halligan, Peter Rees, and Karen Viggers – all of whom I read, but none of whom I had actually met before. And it was chaired by George Negus, who is a well-known journalist. And really, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to having people look at you while you try to sound interesting about writing. The audience was terrific, and the other panelists were great, and I think we brought a good spread of perspectives to it.

Also, as evidence of the interconnectedness of all things Canberra, even though I had never met any of these people before, it turned out that Marion Halligan was very good friends with a lady who used to live around the corner from me, and one of my friends at work has Karen Viggers as her veterinarian. I’m sure that if Peter Rees and I had gotten the chance to talk some more, we would probably have turned out to be long-lost brothers or something.

That evening there was a literary dinner, and I was tremendously excited because speaking at it were Rosamund Burton (who wrote Castles, Follies and Four Leaf Clovers, which is a great travel story in Ireland) and Sandy Mackinnon. The O’Malley copy of Mackinnon’s book The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow has pretty much fallen apart from repeated re-readings. So, I took along a recently-acquired fresh copy, and awkwardly asked if he would inscribe it for my Mom. (I wasn’t really certain of the etiquette when it comes to asking other writers for autographs, especially when they’re having dinner at the other end of the table.) Mr Mackinnon very kindly obliged, and he and Rosamund Burton then proceeded to give the dining audience some terrific stories from their adventures.

And then it was Sunday, a key feature of which was a presentation by Daniel O’Malley entitled ‘Dr Who and Harry Potter Stand Aside.’ Now, I would like to make clear to you, O Reader of This Blog, just as I did to the audience that day, that I absolutely did NOT come up with the title. My mum called me from Canberra, asking me if I had written that title, and if I was insane. I thought it was going to be my ‘more popular than Jesus’ moment, with an outraged audience rising up and tearing me to tiny pieces, but they accepted the grandiose title as the product of someone else, and thus I commenced my first-ever solo author appearance in front of an audience who weren’t mainly friends and family.

I was only marginally petrified.

I told them a bit about who I am (had to explain the American accent, despite being born and bred in Canberra, Australia) and then I talked about the book (astoundingly), and how I’d come to write it, and the process by which it had gotten published, and I finished my speech, and then realised that I still had about half an hour to go. So, I asked for questions.

As an aside, if you ever go to an event where someone is speaking, come with a question. Or formulate a question while you’re there. It is greatest service you can ever render to someone. You will build up great merit.

And rest assured, there was a substantial amount of merit laid up in Jindabyne that day, because the good attendees absolutely plied me with questions. And they were such good questions too, ones that allowed me to ramble on for another half an hour. All of those attendees have comfortable seats reserved for them in heaven. Or they’ll be reborn as wealthy aristocrats who are straight of limb and keen of eye, depending on their religious beliefs, and personal preferences.

After me was Sulari Gentill ( http://www.sularigentill.com/ ), who writes an absolute torrent of works, but the ones that interested me most were her Rowland Sinclair mysteries, which are set in 1930’s Australia. Her presentation was terrific (her adorable sons asked her questions, including the plaintive “When will you stop writing?”), and I was so taken by her talk that I ducked out immediately to get the first book in the series, so that I could get her to sign it. I cannot wait to dive into it.

And then it was suddenly today, and I was packing up and driving home (with all the other motorists once again taking their sweet time), and now I’m back, getting everything in order. I mowed the lawn, I updated twitter, and I found a very nice review by Coffee and a Book Chick, which you can read (and agree with) at http://www.coffeeandabookchick.com/2012/04/rook-by-daniel-omalley.html

In fact, there have been a few reviews released upon the world since the last time I updated this blog, and I shall provide links to them for your convenience, and viewing pleasure:

The lads from 5 x 2 provide two reviews of The Rook, which you can view and compare at :

-       http://5x2blog.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/513/ and

-       http://5x2blog.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/reading-week-2-the-rook-by-daniel-omalley/

Susan Tunis gives a review at her blog In one eye, out the other

(http://inoneeyeouttheother.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/i-can-admit-when-im-wrong.html

And there’s a review of The Rook in French at Unwalkershttp://www.unwalkers.com/the-rook-de-daniel-omalley-rookie-of-the-year/) .

Now, some of you may recall that, in a previous blog posting, I described the mysterious teddy bears, which had been nailed to a succession of trees along the road from Canberra to the coast. Various theories as to the origins and reasons for these bears abound, but one of my readers (who shall remain nameless in case she didn’t want her name out in the internet) has informed me that the bears serve to mark the route to a nudist colony. I’m sure there’s a play on bare/bear, but given the deteriorating condition of the bears, it’s a disquieting idea, if it’s true. But thanks for the scoop.

Finally, my colleagues at work have not permitted me to forget the fact that, on the 18th of March, The Sunday Territorian (a newspaper based in Darwin) had an article on The Rook, entitled “Dan’s Fighting the Forces of Evil.” Duplicates of this article now adorn my deskspace. I’m secretly rather thrilled, and would kill for a copy of the actual newspaper.

Books Purchased at the Festival

1. The World from Islam by George Negus

2. The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow by A.J. Mackinnon

3. A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

4. The Beijing Conspiracy by Adrian d’Hage

* * *

In which I calmly prepare for a TV interview

You read before you the words of a man who is beginning to feel the first nauseating twist of panic in his stomach. Tomorrow there is a television crew coming to my house. And it is not one of those shows where they clean up your house, and do some redecorating, and maybe give you a free TV. No, this is the local branch of the ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation), who wishes to do a little segment on me and The Rook. I am simultaneously thrilled and nervous.

To begin with, I am a decidedly unglamorous writer. There is not an elegant chamber that I retire to, no artistically cluttered desk that I sit at. I generally write on the couch, with my feet on the coffee table. If I am feeling particularly self-indulgent, there may be a cup of coffee nearby. There may also be an action DVD playing on the TV. This is not the young artiste in his writing salon. This isn’t even the young artist in a garret. This is dude on the sofa, pausing in mid-sentence because it’s the part of Willow where Madmartigan does some sword stuff.

Meanwhile, the house is getting cleaned within an inch of its life. A biblical amount of vacuuming is taking place, and I am trying to figure out how one cleans the stuffed head of a wild boar. (I should add that my house is not filled with trophy heads, Trevor is the only one, and in Australia feral pigs are an alien species that wreaks havoc upon the delicate fabric of the et cetera.)

So, that’s what’s dominating my thought processes at the moment.

In other news, earlier this week, I did a Facebook chat thing for HarperCollins Australia’s ‘Summer of the Supernatural.’ A Facebook chat thing is a good time, but also kind of odd. You keep hitting ‘reload’ on the screen, and you’re never entirely certain if anyone is actually there. Then you’re relieved when someone writes a question, and you want to write a marvelous answer, but you’re also aware that for them, it’s just dead time. So, frantic typing ensues. But, I hope everyone had as good a time as I did.

The Facebook chat thing is available at http://www.facebook.com/summerofsupernatural , just scroll on back to the 13th of March.

Also, I just found a very interesting review of The Rook on Thirteen O’Clock. http://www.thirteenoclock.com.au/the-rook-by-daniel-omalley-review/

Okay, I must go scour some more.

 

* * *

Interviews, Reviews, British News, and Teddy Bears from Hell

 

The weather in this part of the world has been a trifle more damp than is usual. Which is to say, that there have been torrential rains, and much flooding, and the dams are all overflowing, and the rivers have all burst their banks, and the roads are all slick. None of which was sufficient deterrent to prevent me from embarking on a road trip down to the coast, to stay with friends in the beach town of Ulladulla. The drive from Canberra to the coast is one I have made many, many times.  There is a selection of important landmarks:

-       You always warily eye that gigantic doll outside the antique shop in Bungendore (the thing is like two storeys tall, and has wheels coming out of its dress. It is the stuff of nightmares).

-       You always stop in Braidwood for something from the bakery.

-       You always pray that your brakes don’t fail on the switchbacking road down the mountainside.

My favorite, however, is the long stretch of highway that is characterized by a multitude of teddy bears that have been nailed to trees along the side of the road. There are many rumours about why they are there (they show the route to a teddy bears’ picnic, people nail up a bear when they get married, it’s set up as something to entertain children on long car rides), but the fact remains that those bears have been out there, in the elements, for several years. They’re beginning to look increasingly weathered. And fungal. And ominous. One gets the feeling that they have been placed there as a warning, but for whom?

In any case, we counted fifty of them on the way to the beach.

Fifty evil, rotting teddy bears.

Down in Ulladulla, my hosts and I had various adventures, but the best thing was that we went to the Milton Show (for my non-Australian readers, a show is like a county fair.) And it was excellent. We checked out the livestock (I was tempted to buy a goat, but didn’t) and poultry (there were two roosters that gave me the evil eye. They were ready to bust out of those cages and shred me like a toilet roll.) We admired the handicrafts, and plotted how to break into the glass cabinets and steal the cakes.

On the book front, various pieces of extremely exciting news. Firstly, I get to announce (because it’s already on the internet) that The Rook is going to be published in the United Kingdom. The publishing company Head of Zeus has taken me under their wing, and the British Isles will be receiving its own edition of The Rook. For more details (although not many more,) take a look at http://www.thebookseller.com/news/cheethams-head-zeus-lines-launch-list.html .

Also, I was on the bus the other day, and I saw a complete stranger reading a copy of The Rook! At first I wasn’t sure if it was actually my book, so I spend a good ten minutes subtly craning my neck to try and see if it was. Then, finally, the guy stood up, and I saw that familiar black cover and red spine. It was an important moment. This was a person I don’t know. He wasn’t obliged out of good manners to buy the book. I resisted the urge to introduce myself, and snatch the book out of his hands to sign it, but it was pretty hard.

And I got invited to chat with a book group, in my old college town of East Lansing, Michigan. It took us a little time to work out schedules (the 14-hour difference always makes things confusing), and then Skype and the Google-phone-thing failed to work, so I ended up chatting with them on Facebook chat, which made for some confusing moments when conversations diverged, and then typing mistakes got made, but it was very cool, nonetheless. I was especially interested in hearing about the theories that everyone had had. Their ideas about Gestalt, Ingrid, and Wolfgang really took me aback.

Since the last blog update, there have been quite a few new Rook-related things released upon the web:

At http://www.stellarfour.com/2012/02/interview-with-author-daniel-omalley.html ,  you can read an interview with me by Stellar Four.

Austin Grossman asks some probing questions about secret organizations and which games make for the best motif at  http://www.mulhollandbooks.com/2012/02/24/austin-grossman-interviews-daniel-omalley/  .

Wired magazine’s GeekDad interrogated me at http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/02/the-rook/

And the newspaper at Michigan State University (which both of my parents and I attended) interviewed me, although really, they were much more interested in interviewing my Mom. http://statenews.com/index.php/article/2012/01/msu_alumnus_novel_the_rook_receives_top_recommendations

 

Also, there have been some nice reviews put out in the world, and my Mom has put them up on the fridge. But since you can’t see the fridge, I shall make them available here.

The Dallas Morning News: http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainment/books/20120127-book-review-the-rook-by-daniel-omalley.ece

Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing: http://www.adventuresinscifipublishing.com/2012/01/review-the-rook-by-daniel-omalley/

The National Post:

http://arts.nationalpost.com/2012/02/03/book-review-the-rook-by-daniel-omalley/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Fantasy Book Critic:

http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/rook-by-daniel-o-malley-reviewed-by.html

A Wall Street Journal Review (The Wall Street Journal!):

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204661604577187092718976850.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

The San Antonio Express News:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/entertainment/books/article/Review-The-Rook-3356836.php

My Awful Reviews:

http://myawfulreviews.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/rook-by-daniel-omalley.html

Also, I was featured in the Public Service News.

http://www.psnews.com.au/Bookreviewpsn3021.html (This review got more commentary from people I work with than the Time.com and the Canberra Times articles combined.)

* * *

Launching, and being a Guerrilla Marketeer

It’s a lazy summer Sunday, perfect for lounging around dreamily. And I have been lounging around, but I don’t get to do it dreamily because I am working away feverishly on a multitude of projects. And it’s been an extremely busy week, with lots of Rook-related occurrences occurring.

To begin with, on Wednesday the wonderful owners and staff of the Dymocks bookstore (http://www.dymocks.com.au/) in Civic (which is the city centre area of Canberra) were kind enough to host the Australian launch of The Rook.

Now, I had been quite anticipatory about this, because ever since I shyly announced to the world that I had a book which was going to be published, the immediate response of many of my friends and acquaintances was to say brightly, “Invite me to the launch!’ And I didn’t know anything about launches. I’d never attended one. I suspect that they hadn’t either, but they seemed to have quite set ideas about what such things involved. And I didn’t quite dare ask, for fear of looking ignorant.

Thankfully, the Dymocks staff are well acquainted with book launches, and they were able to take me firmly in hand, and make sure that the event involved everything it needed to. They supplied the food, and the drink, and the multitudinous copies of The Rook. All I had to do was show up, say a few things, and sign whatever was thrust in front of me.

I was petrified.

The nerves started building up a couple of hours before the launch. It was becoming increasingly clear that this was going to be an Occasion. My parents would be there. Various friends were going to be there. Members of the public were going to be there. My glorious editor from HarperCollins Australia was going to be flying up from Sydney to attend. And I had to speak.

Now, I’m not a shy person, as anyone who has met me will attest. But this was going to be different. This was a life event, like a christening, or a wedding, or a birth (although I don’t know how many speeches get made at those.) And I was fully prepared to believe that some malignant muse would possess me, and I’d spew forth a selection of epithets and obscenities before collapsing in a seizure onto the cheese platter. Such a development couldn’t possibly good for sales.

But, in the minutes beforehand, I found myself feeling a lot better. People I knew kept flowing in, and I got to chat with them, and embrace them, and blush a little when they pointed out the book that had been shelved in various different locations around the store. My glorious editor, Anna Valdinger, stood up, and with her delicious English accent made a really nice speech, and then I got up, and saw all these faces, and it was all people I knew, and loved. And a couple of complete strangers who’d wandered in, but they were smiling at me as well. And I gave my little speech of thanks, and answered a few questions, and torches and pitchforks weren’t produced.

And then I commenced the signing. Lots of signing. The whole thing is a blur of little tailored messages for people, and the alarming evolution of my signature (over the course of the evening I developed an entirely new way of writing the letter ‘M’ that I am very pleased with.) Now, since I am left-handed, of course my hand was smeared liberally with ink, and I agonized a little that various people’s precious keepsakes would be smeared, but I consoled myself with the fact that they would at least be authentically smeared by the author, and that would probably add some value to it.

Afterwards I went out for dinner with Anna the Glorious Editor, and Jodi who is my earthly representative from HarperCollins Australia, and it was great. I fell into bed that evening, replete with very good Indian food, and satisfaction.

And then the next evening I got to do it all again at Impact Comics (www.impactcomics.com.au/web) , which is the comic-book shop that I patronize, and to which I have been coming since I was twelve and it was Impact Records and was contained in a different location. So, when I wandered in, and saw that they were handing out laminated Checquy security passes (which can later be used a magnets!) I almost had a nervous breakdown of joy. I was interviewed by Ryan K Lindsay, Renaissance Man (http://www.stinkbrown.org/), and then did yet more signing. Great evening.

Meanwhile, other cool things have been happening. Most recently, if you skitter on over to the fine website of Suvudu (located in the classy neighbourhood of http://sf-fantasy.suvudu.com/2012/01/new-release-interview-the-rook-by-daniel-omalley.html ), you will find an interview with me, in which I talk about various things, including the gestation of a sequel to The Rook.

Also, there have been some very nice reviews released upon the world. Parade Magazine (which, for the non-Americans among you, is a Sunday magazine that is distributed in more than 500 newspapers, and is the most widely read magazine in the USA) put forward The Rook as one of its Parade Picks!

Laura de Leon’s blog I’m Booking It gave her top ten reasons for liking The Rook at http://blog.imbookingit.com/2012/01/24/the-rook/ .

At http://thebooksmugglers.com/2012/01/book-review-the-rook-by-daniel-omalley.html , The Book Smuggler says (among other things) that ‘if you’re looking for the antidote to the same old, lackluster, run-of-the-mill UF, look no further. The Rook is awesome. I can only hope for more Myfanwy in the future.’

And also my hometown newspaper, the Canberra Times, featured a review of The Rook by Colin Steele, a man of letters who, for decades now, has figured prominently in my personal pantheon of heroes. And he finished his review by saying “The Rook is certainly cool.’

And life was good.

But the adventures don’t stop there. Yesterday, I engaged in a bit of guerrilla marketing, thought up by the aforementioned Glorious Editor. For those of you who haven’t read The Rook, it’s characterized by a series of letters that explain the world of the book. Anna’s idea was to print out a copy of the first letter from the book, on official-looking letterhead, and then leave them in places where people would find them. They’re already opened, and addressed ‘To You’, and it was thought that finding such a letter might pique people’s interest, and lead them to the book.

Anna had given me a couple of them while she was down in Canberra to make her speech at the launch, and I cautiously took a couple along to CanCon, which is the local annual gaming convention. I thought I’d place the envelopes cunningly, with all the suave insouciance of a Checquy agent. I hoped that someone would pick it up and look around, bewildered. Maybe they’d catch a fleeting glimpse of me in a crowd, my eyebrow raised, and that, when they chased me down, like that, I’d be gone.

Of course, it turned out less immediately cool than that.

To begin with, the place was crawling with people. And there were remarkably few places that one could just leave an envelope. I didn’t at all like the idea of sandwiching it between some of the stacked boardgames at the stalls. These were other people’s places of business, after all, and I don’t want to interfere with their livelihoods.

Then there were many, many tables, but all of those were taken up by people playing board games, or else they were covered in those vast, compelling replica landscapes that people build for their miniature soldiers to do combat on. I’ve always found those things fascinating, but I walk even more carefully around them than I do around museum exhibits. My hands will not bring themselves out of their pockets if there is a reproduction battlefield nearby, for fear that I will knock over a fortification, or inadvertently smear a tiny Napolean, or impale myself on a spire. So that was out.

The laser tag arena didn’t strike me as the sort of place where people would stop what they were doing to pick up an envelope. And if they did, I thought it might get handed in to the guy running it.

In the end, I casually sat down on a handy bench, smiled casually at the young lady who was sitting at the other end with her child, and then casually pretended to read my book while casually sliding the envelope onto the bench, and then casually sauntering away.

I was totally braced for a helpful call of ‘excuse me! You’ve casually left your envelope behind!’ In which case, I was either going to return shamefacedly, or pretend innocence and confusion (“that envelope? Why, it’s not mine. What does it have inside?”), or else bolt away, which I like to think would have added a touch of mystery to the whole thing, but might also have resulted in security getting called in.

But, no helpful calls came, and the convention was not evacuated because of a mysterious open envelope. I wandered around for half an hour, buzzing a little from my awesome deployment of guerilla marketing techniques, and then I casually wandered by the bench, only to see that the envelope was still there, untouched. Rather deflated, my friends and I left, but I do hope that someone picked it up eventually, and that is wasn’t just a member of the cleaning staff who threw it automatically into the garbage.

* * *

The Return

I have returned! I am nestled back safely on my couch in Australia, with my dog panting on the floor, and the sun setting over the mountains. During my sojourn in Japan, I saw many glorious sights: temples, skyscrapers, centuries-old castles, decades-old recreations of castles, and lots of stone Buddhas wearing little knitted hats and scarves. I strolled through museums, and wandered through pachinko parlours. I have ridden upon the bullet train. I have peed upon the bullet train. Which is to say, I have peed whilst riding upon the bullet train. It was great trip, but it’s good to be home.

And, of course, while I was away, on January 11, 2012 Anno Domini, The Rook was unleashed upon the United States of America.

I think that, when your first novel comes out, it’s probably a good thing to be in a country where the book is not going to be available, and you don’t have a phone that will let you obsessively check your e-mail every five minutes. Why, I would say that whole hours went by when I didn’t try to find some opportunity to check the internet. And, as luck would have it, there are astoundingly few temples and castles which provide you with facilities for checking the internet.

But despite my lack of constant observation, lots of stuff kept happening. In fact, it’s been an extremely busy three weeks.

Firstly, a few items were released upon the world wide web, to accompany the release of The Rook. And I shall provide you with links to see them. Behold:

On John Scalzi’s website, at http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/01/12/the-big-idea-daniel-omalley/ ,  there’s an interview with me regarding the ‘big idea’ that spawned The Rook.

At the website Largehearted Boy, located on the internet at http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2012/01/book_notes_dani_6.html , you can read my playlist for The Rook, and coming up with that was a unique experience.

And there have been some nice reviews, which is great.

CNN identified The Rook as one of its Hot Reads for Summer, putting it next to two of my absolute heroes, William Gibson and Bernard Cornwell. Upon seeing this (at http://edition.cnn.com/2012/01/13/living/hot-reads-january/index.html ), my brain exploded with a sharp detonation, prompting complaints from the cleaning staff of the hotel.

MTVGeek described the book as ‘Downton Abbey with superpowers’ which is a phrase that I am going to insist be inscribed on my tombstone. (http://geek-news.mtv.com/2012/01/10/the-rook-is-downton-abbey-with-superpowers-book-review/)

Monsters and Critics said some good things at http://www.monstersandcritics.com/books/science_fiction_fantasy/reviews/article_1685891.php/Book-Review-The-Rook

And the IE Mommy at http://www.theiemommy.com/2012/01/08/the-rook-a-novel-by-daniel-omalley/ made me blush with satisfaction.

There have been some other very nice reviews, but I shall have to bring them to the next blog, or this will just be a list of reviews, and I want to tell you about exciting stuff that has been happening in Australia.

To begin with, there were extracts from The Rook published in The Herald-Sun and The Adelaide Advertiser, both prominent newspapers for those of you who don’t live in Australia. And, on iTunes Australia, The Rook was the book of the week!

And stuff keeps happening! Tomorrow, my excellent local bookstore, Dymocks in Civic, is hosting a book-launching event (http://www.dymocks.com.au/LiteraryEvents/Default.aspx?s=2) . This is my very first public appearance as an author! I am only mildly petrified, but it will help me work out all my panic-impulses, which is very good because the day after tomorrow, Impact Comics, the store I have haunted since my childhood, is hosting a signing event (http://impactcomics.com.au/web/ , please RSVP if attending.)

* * *

2012

Happy New Year! It is 2012, the Year of the Dragon, the year of the Aztec apocalypse, the year of (dare I say it?) The Rook! The book is coming out in about ten days, and I have already received extremely exciting e-mails from various friends, advising that they have received e-mails from various quality-book purveyors, and that their copies are already on the way. So, copies of The Rook are actually in transit at this very moment, gliding their way through the system. They are out in the world. And soon they will be in people’s hands.

I, however, won’t at that point be seeing them in people’s hands, because on the fateful day, I shall be in Japan, attending a friend’s wedding and then touring about the country. And I have to admit, I very nearly wasn’t going to be. Two days ago, one week before I mount the silver bird, I realized that my passport was actually expired.

A few brisk nervous breakdowns ensued.

As one of my friends brightly remarked, “At least there’s no weekends or public holidays between now and th — Oh. Oh dear.” Once I’d been resuscitated, I was on the phone to the Passport Office (twenty minutes before they shut for a long weekend), making some frantic arrangements and apologizing profusely. Tuesday, I go in for my passport interview and pay the (idiot’s) fee for the expedited processing. I will pick up the renewed passport on either Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. Friday evening, provided the gods of travel are looking upon me kindly, I shall be off to Japan.

Now, will I be posting blog entries from Japan? That rather depends on Japan, because I am one of the most computer-incompetent people you will ever encounter, and getting on the internet may prove too much for me. It may be completely simple. It may be impossible. But I shall do my darnedest. And I am leaving behind sufficient tweets to take the @RookFiles twitter feed up to the fateful day of the eleventh, and a trusted representative will be posting them.

* * *