Teddy Bears from Hell

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


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

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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:


Fantasy Book Critic:


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


The San Antonio Express News:


My Awful Reviews:


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.)

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