Archive for the ‘Featured Post’ Category

A short story for a tall tree

When I was small (and indeed, even now, when I am much less small), some of my favorite stories that my mom would tell me were about her childhood summers in Michigan. She was an only child (still is), but she was friends with a large family, and every summer they would gather up their children, and my mom, and go up north to a lake where the large family had some cabins, and spend time there. Years later, when I was in university at Michigan State, I was startled by how many people had family cabins ‘up North’. Apparently, it is a very Michigan thing.

There’s a similar thing here in Canberra, Australia. We are situated about two hours’ drive from the ocean, and quite a few people have houses down the coast. I believe that in the 80’s, my parents were offered the chance to go in on a ‘beach shack’, a proposal that died as soon as my mom heard that it featured an unattached dunny (basically, an outhouse.) Still, I was always mildly interested by the idea of having some other house that you sometimes spent time in, but mostly didn’t.

All of this is by way of saying that it’s been a few years since I’ve blogged, or done anything with this website, and I always rather think of it as like owning a beach shack. You don’t necessarily spend time there, but it’s yours, and its existence is always in the back of your head. You pay the annual fee (like a beach house mortgage), and guiltily think that you really ought to get more out of it. But then I think “Would you rather have a blog post, or get some more novel written?” and I ponder the question for a moment, and then I proceed to write some more novel.

However, it has been quite a while since I last checked it over, and quite a few things have happened since then. I had a second book come out, and a mini-series was made of The Rook, and I’m resolved to do more regular maintenance of this site. And luckily, I had a good adventure this past week, and thought I would write about it.

It does require a bit of backstory, though.

Now, you may recall that at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, there were some rather gigantic and terrifying bushfires in Australia. Bushfires are a thing here, they’re never good, you never take them for granted, but these were out-of-their-mind big. They didn’t come too close to Canberra (although quite close enough), but the valleys here were filled with smoke for days on end. The sky was orange. Everyone was wearing masks before it became a thing, and air purifiers were invaluable (we did not have one – we kept the windows shut, and sweltered.)

New Year’s Eve

When you live in Australia, you can’t help but absorb a goodly amount of bushfire lore. You’re always well aware that sparks can carry on the wind for miles and miles, glowing softly in the air, floating on a hot breeze, before settling happily on something flammable and starting a new fire. So, even if you’re a long way away from the fires, you’re not safe by any means. Everyone was always on edge, checking the latest news and speculating constantly. When I went to the movies with a friend to see ‘Little Women’, we both kept checking our phones throughout, just in case our houses might be burning down. My house backs on to a nature reserve that has already had some exciting fires in my lifetime, so we made plans for what might happen and what we would do.

If fire DID spring up around us, our plan was to stay and fight for as long as seemed wise and winnable, and then, if it ceased to be wise or winnable, we would get out. This seemed a realistic plan since, although there’s the reserve directly behind us, it is uphill from us, and we’d mowed the nearby grass down short. Also, we do live in suburbia, in the middle of the city, with lots of roads and alternative routes.

So, the first part meant planning for the fight, if it came. The bath tub was filled, and kept filled (although we’d dip water out of it to water the house plants.). Other preparations were made. Apparently, one of the favourite places for bushfires to ignite houses is the rain guttering. It makes sense since, although they’re metal, they tend to gather up leaves and twigs and stuff, all of which get baked by the Australian summer sun until it is ideal kindling.

So, you’re advised to block off the downspouts, and fill the gutters with water. When I researched HOW one blocks off the downspouts, they suggested tennis balls (which we did not have), OR you could make little sandbags out of your socks and sand. So I collected a bunch of odd socks, took them down to the lake, and spent a few happy (if smoky) minutes troweling sand into my socks and knotting them, and musing how many orphaned socks I’d had in my sock drawer. By the end, I had eight little sausages made of sock and sand.

As my mom remarked, “How nice, you’ve made a set of miniature coshes!”

Then, we set about planning the escape, if it came to it. I purchased some little walkie-talkies for the two cars, and put a twelve-pack of bottled water in each trunk. Our initial plan was that we would head to the local playing field, and camp out there. Back in 2003, when we’d had to evacuate our horse off the local paddocks because of… you guessed it… bushfire, my mom and her friend had taken their horses to the local playing fields and spent the night in the cricket nets (it all worked out quite well, until the sprinklers came on at 3AM and soaked them.)

I wrote up our bushfire escape list, all the things that we would want to take with us. This is especially important, because when you’re confronted with immediate evacuation, it’s apparently difficult to think calmly and strategically. When I watched the documentary ‘The Biggest Little Farm’, there’s a scene when they have to evacuate their farm in the face of wildfires, and when they look at what they grabbed to take with them, it’s an array of odd things. A Yoga mat. A book that they hadn’t read in years. That sort of thing.

Of course, the book they hadn’t read in years was entirely something we would take – the O’Malleys do not do well without something to read – but we at least wanted to be strategic about which books we would take. In fact, it was decreed we would each be allowed to take only a single box of books. Of course, then you ask yourself if you take the books that are most expensive, the books that would be the hardest to replace, or the books that you want to read next. I opted for the books I wanted to read next (I was working my way through all of Jonathan Hickman’s work at Marvel Comics, and would remove books from the ‘save’ box as soon as I’d finished them, and replace them with the next book in the To-Read Pile).

But it wasn’t just books, of course. We each had a go bag with three days’ worth of clothes, and important documents (passports, etc.). Also, a list of things we’d want, ranging from a copy each of my novels, my dad’s dissertation, photo albums, dog food, dog bed, toiletries, dog, phone charger, laptop (I’d already emailed my latest manuscript to myself, so that Google would look after it), hard drive, medications, etc. It wasn’t that much stuff, actually, and the plan was that once it was loaded in the cars, we’d put the back sets down, and layer in as much art as we could fit.

In the end, we felt pretty well prepared.

And of course, it didn’t prove necessary in the end, not for us. Fires came close, but they didn’t reach us, and the only lasting problem for us was my discovery that they hadn’t been odd socks, and that since I was unwilling to dismantle my mini-sandbags (they’re still draped lumpily over the ladder in the garage), I would need to wear mismatched socks for months on end.

During that time, however, I had been glued to the Facebook feed of my friend, Sulari Gentill. Sulari is also a novelist, we met years ago at the Snowy Mountains Book Festival, and I really enjoy her stuff. My favourite is her ‘Rowland Sinclair’ series of historical murder mysteries beginning in late 1930’s Australia. Sulari and her family live on a farm just outside the mountain of Batlow, in New South Wales. Batlow is famous for its apple orchards (and for Sulari), and it’s really a nice place. It climbs up the slope of a mountain, and you can look across vast valleys to see mountains, on the other side of which is my home town. I had visited there previously for the Batlow Literary Festival, which was masterminded by Sulari, and liked it very much. But the fires were a nightmare there. At the same time that I was filling socks with sand, there were gigantic conflagrations that consumed vast swatches of bushland and pine forest.

Sulari’s husband and one of her sons are volunteer firefighters, and while they were defending the town, the fires were roaring towards their house. At one point, there was word that the house had been consumed – it later turned out that the observers had been deceived, that it was the sheds by the house (and I mean RIGHT by the house) that had gone up in flames. The house survived, shielded by chance and by trees that bore the brunt, although their guttering bubbled from the heat. The whole thing was a nightmare, but they came through it.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/09/world/australia/fires.html

A few months ago, Sulari and I were chatting on the phone, and she asked if I’d like to be involved in a project for the Pilot Hill Arboretum. Founded in the 1920s, and nestled in the Bago State Forest, the arboretum came through the fires with only some damage. That may sound facile, but the area around it was utterly blasted, including the Sugar Pines Walk, which has been described to me as ‘a magnificent cathedral of trees.’

The arboretum’s survival was practically miraculous, and in order to celebrate it, and to commemorate the anniversary of the fires, there was to be an Arbor Festival, which would include art installations among the trees. Sulari was overseeing one of the projects, and would I be interested?

You bet I would.

The project was this: A selection of writers would each be assigned a specific tree in the arboretum. They would write a short story for the tree, about the tree, and a local performer would record the story. Then, if you’re visiting the arboretum, you can use the appropriate app to hear the tree tell you the story. I knew some of the other writers, including Robert Gott, Karen Viggers, and Kaaron Warren.

I was given the arboretum’s Sequoiadendron giganteum, also known as the Giant Redwood or (and this is my favorite) ‘Big Tree’. I had about three thousand words in which to tell a story, which was a bit difficult for me because (and you may have noticed this) I do tend to go on a bit. Plus, while trees are beautiful, they don’t necessarily lend themselves towards being the most dynamic of protagonists. Still, I hammered out something I was rather pleased with, and sent it off to Sulari. Later, I got word that the whole thing has been installed successfully, and was very happy with the idea of people sitting by a Giant Redwood and having it tell them a story of discovery and violence and hate and magic.

And then Kaaron Warren, who also lives in Canberra, and I met to catch up and gorge on Chinese dumplings. Kaaron writes all sorts of great stuff, but I really enjoy her horror – it’s genuinely frightening. In between soup dumplings and the fried combination, we remarked how we should go descend upon Batlow (or ascend, I suppose, since it’s up higher than Canberra), and bother Sulari, and check out how our stories played in the wild. The Australian Capital Territory (Canberra’s little Vatican City of a territory that is held entirely inside the state of New South Wales) was (and currently is) free of Covid, and so we would be able to drive to Batlow without any problems.

So we made plans, warned Sulari, and a few days later I filled the car’s tank with petroleum distillate, my mom made us a bag of snacks, and we set off out into the New South Welsh countryside.

Thanks to Covid, this was my second time out of Canberra in over a year (the other had been to the city of Goulburn, which is about an hour away). The key to any successful road trip, of course, is to set down the arrangements beforehand. Kaaron and I agreed that we would stop if either of us needed the bathroom, wanted a beverage, or saw anything that we wanted to investigate more closely. Fortunately, we share a very similar taste in things that needed investigating. We paused in the (according to Wikipedia) ‘locality’ of Jugiong and, as one, agreed that we should check out the cemetery, which really does feel like a place of eternity. Lots of beautiful old tombstones, sometimes showing multiple generations of the same family, and some enclosures with the wrought iron fences rusting away under the blinding summer sun.

Jugiong Cemetery

One recent grave had a feature I’d never seen before: a pair of hashtags, so that visitors were directed to a Facebook page about the deceased person. I like the idea, and I enjoy wondering what future archaeologists (whatever species they are) will make of them.

Driving up the hills and into the mountains towards Batlow, we could see signs of where the fires had been. It’s been long enough that the grass is recovered, but coming out of the green, there were acres and acres of burnt dead trees. We also saw unburned apple orchards, with hundreds of square metres of white shade cloth spread over them.

Batlow was looking good when we passed through it. I was especially glad to see the very handsome Batlow Literary Institute building, which I knew from the Literary Festival. I don’t know if all small towns have a literary institute – I certainly hope so – but it’s a wonderful thing to be there.

We fell upon Sulari with open arms, and in short order, she was driving us out to the National Park. We could see more signs of the fires – the eucalypts that had survived were practically bursting with greenery which had erupted all up and down their trunks. Sulari explained that it was ‘panic growth’, and wasn’t necessarily a sign that the trees would live.

Panic growth

When we came to the Park, it was heartbreaking. I’d looked it up previously, and what had once been forest was open, now. Like we’d seen before, greenery covered the ground, but it was like an old battlefield, with the dead trees piled about where they had fallen. There were stands where scorched tree trunks, months dead, still stood in rows.

Periodically, we would pull over to the very edge of the rough dirt road when a gigantic truck hauling tree trunks would approach, throwing up a massive cloud of dust.

When we came to the arboretum, it was startling to see living, green, lush trees. Some of the trees had been painted with a thin strip of gold paint as part of the festival – an installation designed to evoke ‘Kintsugi’, a practice in Japan of repairing cracked items with gold dust and resin, to acknowledge the history of the item.

The trees didn’t stand in their own little isolated plots like a museum – they were part of the forest, and you needed to find their little plinths with plaques to learn what you were looking at. Otherwise, it was exotic trees folded almost secretly into the scenery.

With folding chairs, and wine, we tromped over to the tree that Kaaron had been assigned – the Japanese larch – and opened the app to hear the tree to tell its story.

Now, I’m not generally one for being read to. I read very quickly, so being read to doesn’t work for me. And I also read while walking (which has only occasionally led to disaster), so audio books aren’t something I partake of. But sitting back and staring up at a tree as a story of that tree is told to you is a very engaging experience. And if it’s a scary story (as this one is), then every call of a bird, or creak of a trunk in the background, serves to send that extra shiver up your neck.

From there, we moved to another tree, and listened to the story written by another Canberra-based novelist and friend, Karen Viggers. Let me tell you, Karen knows how to write a story about the Australian landscape.

And then we came to my tree – Big Tree. And if you think that name is a little simplistic, well, it is undeniably a very big tree.

Big Tree!

I don’t want to talk too much about my story, but I’ll give you the opening lines:

I wasn’t always planted here.

And I wasn’t always a tree.

I will say that the lady who performed the story did an outstanding job, and really brought a very vivid interpretation to it. I was delighted.

From my tree, we ambled on up to the elm, which was undeniably the most beautiful tree we saw. This was the one that had been assigned to Robert Gott, who I had met at the literary festival, and whose books I promptly devoured. Robert writes murder mysteries with a wicked sense of humour, and so I had taken care to find out which tree he got, and then made it the villain in my story, which I thought he would approve of.

I don’t recall what type of tree Sulari had written for, but she had bagged an extremely majestic one, and then written it a story that tied in crime, love, the bushfires, and the history that the tree had witnessed. Really nice.

Unfortunately, we did not have enough daylight (or wine) to listen to every tree. However, the installation is going to be present for an entire year, so I am returned to resolve, and listen to the rest. And I would recommend that you do the same, if you get the opportunity.

Of course, there’s lots more to talk about, and I’m sure that you may be wondering about the progress of my next book, and if it’s a Checquy novel.

Dog included for scale. Both document and dog are double-sided.

It IS progressing, and it IS a Checquy novel. Work is still being done on it, but as soon as I have a release date, I shall broadcast it from every avenue. And in the meantime, I’ll be endeavouring to be a more frequent blogger.

All sortsa news!

Oh, so many things to talk about!

Stiletto

“Where are we with Stiletto? “ I can hear you say.

Well, I can assure you that things are moving right along with Stiletto. The story is DONE, the words are down on the screen, saved (and safely backed up in two separate locations, because ever since I lost the first couple hundred words of The Rook for 24 hours, I’ve been very careful). I received the copy edits this week, and am going over them with a fine-tooth comb and a fair amount of chagrin at my own horrific ignorance. My copy editrix, Tracy Roe, is a genius, with an astounding eye for detail. It is she who gently points out that I’ve used the name ‘Louise’ a lot (I have no idea why I did that) and that rather a lot of characters have surnames beginning with the letter M (again, completely unconsciously). She has tactfully pointed out that I don’t know how to spell innoculate (still don’t, apparently) and she has laboriously de-Australianised the spelling for the American audiences (removing the u’s from colour, neighbour, honour, etc; replacing s’s with z’s for various words, and so on).

Rest assured, this is not a case of de-Britishing the language. We’re not replacing ‘bogies’ with ‘boogers’, or ‘mum’ with ‘mom’, or ‘takeaway’ with ‘to go’ (I once had a long, mutually incomprehending discussion with a cashier at a Michigan McDonalds who could not accept that when I said I wanted the food takeaway, I wanted to take it away). The book is set in the UK, but this particular version is getting published in the USA, and it seems entirely reasonable that they’d like to have things spelt their way. Spare a thought, though, for the Australian and British editors who are going to have to go through it and change it all back. And because Tracy does more (much, much more) than simply turning pyjamas into pajamas (which I never knew was a spelling), it’s not just a case of using the original text.

Anyway, I should be done with copyedits in the next week or two, and once it’s done, it gets slotted into the release schedule cycle, and as I understand it, all the English-speaking countries will be releasing it in June 2016. I have yet to tell my local bookshop about this, because last time I checked, they thought it was coming out in April, and I’m afraid they’ll refuse to sell me any more fiction if I deliver bad news.

Death List

“My wife says you’re on one of those death lists,” a colleague remarked blithely.

As it turned out, he didn’t mean a list of people to be killed, but rather one of those lists of things you should read/watch/visit/eat/drink/smell before you die. And, as it turned out, it was Amazon.com’s 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime, (http://www.amazon.com/b?node=12661600011) , which is tremendously exciting. It’s a list selected by the Amazon.com editors – people who spend their professional time thinking about books and reading – and it’s incredibly cool to see The Rook being named alongside so many authors and titles that I love and respect. Plus, it was very diplomatic of them not to list the books in any particular numbered order.

The TV Show

And then there is some more big news, news that broke out upon the world and went absolutely insane for a while.

The Rook is to be a television show!

Of course, the wheels have been moving on this for a while, but I resisted the urge to talk about it (very uncharacteristic of me), partially because these things do take time to reach fruition and partially because, well, it wasn’t my project to announce. Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series and producer of several films, is producing it and she is working with Lionsgate. The show will be showing on Hulu and on a British network.

http://ficklefishfilms.com/2015/11/the-rook-on-hulu/

I am, of course, completely over the moon about this. I think it will be extremely cool.

My own involvement is pretty small (other than lobbying strenuously to play the part of ‘guy with condor on head.’) I’ve talked with the writers, Samantha Holcroft and Ali Muriel, who are brilliant, and they have emailed me with some questions. They tend to be questions about elements of the Checquy-world to which I have never given any thought at all, and so I sit and ponder, and then get back to them.

And so the television series gestates!

My Favorite Author

My favorite writer passed away earlier this month.

I am talking, of course, about Sir Terry Pratchett. If, as seems scarcely possible, you are not already acquainted with his works, then I regard you with simultaneous horror (because everyone should have read his books, they are the essential element of any household, before one buys a stove or a mattress) and envy (because you have a whole lot of really outstanding books ahead of you.)

For me, it began in year 7 with Truckers. Our English class took part in a scheme in which every week we got to pick a fresh novel from a selection. For some, it was hell on earth. For me, paradise. The first week, the librarian gave a thumbnail description of all the novels available, and while there were many that sounded awesome, I was drawn to the one about the hundreds of tiny people (nomes) who live in a department store. For them, the store is the whole universe. Then, new nomes come from Outside, and they learn that the store is going to be destroyed. Their only way to escape? They have to steal a truck.

It’s quite, quite brilliant.

I wanted that book with all the want that a twelve year-old is capable of. It burned within me. I was utterly focussed on it. Since I was, like, the third in the queue to pick a book, I was certain it would be mine. It was destiny. The universe had placed me upon the earth to read that book, and who was I to question the will of the universe? It almost killed me when this kid Andrew picked it before me. I was half expecting the universe to smite him for his crime.

To make matters worse, the next week, the second kid picked it before me. When I finally, finally got my hands on that book, I tore through it. I inhaled it. It was funny, and clever, and I loved it. It stood apart from most other books. And then I learned that Pratchett had written sequels, and others, many others, including a bunch in a series called ‘Discworld.’

I was always a voracious reader, but I absolutely devoured the Discworld novels. I didn’t always get all the jokes (at twelve years old, the idea of death as a skeleton with a scythe had somehow not entered my consciousness), but that only made it all the sweeter when I finally did get them. Reading those novels was tremendously exciting – not just because the stories were exciting, but because of the writing. The writing was cool, and clever, and hilarious. They were the first books I’d met that prompted me to go to my parents to read parts out loud to them. I read them, then I re-read them. When a new one came out, I implored my parents for it.

When I found out that Terry Pratchett was actually coming to my local bookshop, I approached him with (highly uncharacteristic) awed silence. I could just about whisper my name before putting down a stack of books for him to sign. He concealed his horror well and signed them all.

In my last year of high school, I played Mort in a production based on his novel.

When I went to university, I took several of his books with me. They were my favoured gifts for people (although the American covers always seemed profoundly wrong to me. Josh Kirby’s work was burned into my mind as the Discworld art).

When Terry Pratchett announced that he had early onset Alzheimer’s disease, it seemed incredibly unjust. This was a man whose intellect and wit burned on the page and ignited in my imagination. He was the kind of writer I wanted to be.

When The Rook was going to be published, the publishers asked me if there were any authors to whom they should send the manuscript, to ask for a blurb or a comment. Of course, Terry Pratchett was at the top of my list. His books meant so much to me, and had inspired me. Word came back that it wouldn’t be possible – his illness and his schedule meant that he couldn’t commit to reading new works. I was disappointed, but it made sense. His work was always boiling with ideas, I could imagine that every spare moment he had would be dedicated to getting new work down on paper. And I still devoured every new book of his that came out.

And now he’s gone. Even though we knew it was coming, it’s been terrifically sad. I’m so grateful that he existed. I’m so grateful that his books exist. His work made such a difference in my life, in the way I look at the world, and the way I think about things.

Thanks a lot, Sir.

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.)