2010 Wrap Up

December 18, 2010

I thought I’d blog a bit about my 2010 reading and writing journey, as much for myself as anyone reading this.

READING

Books I read:

1. After The Fall by Kylie Ladd

2. Scary Kisses by Liz Grzyb (ed.)

3. How To Be Good by Nick Hornby

4. A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin

5. Look At The Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut

6. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

7. The Kingdom of Four Rivers by Guy Salvidge

8. The Best Thing by Margo Lanagan

9. New Ceres Nights by Alisa Krasnostein and Tehani Wessely (eds.)

10. 2012 by Alisa Krasnostein

11. Siren Beat / Roadkill by Tansy Rayner Roberts / Robert Shearman

12. Angel Rising by Dirk Flinthart

13. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

14. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

15. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

16. Steamed by Kate MacAllister

17. Whalesong by Robert Siegel

18. Power and Majesty by Tansy Rayner Roberts

19. Worlds Next Door by Tehani Wessely (ed.)

20. Liar by Justine Larbalestier

21. Sprawl by Alisa Krasnostein (ed.)

22. Bleed by Peter M. Ball

23. The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer

24. The Company Articles of Edward Teach / The Angaelian Apocalypse by Thoraiya Dyer / Matthew Chrulew

25. X6 by Keith Stevenson (ed.)

26. Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

OBSERVATIONS:

58% are either written or edited by women. This was my reading goal for 2010 – to be conscious of a gender balance in my reading. Goal achieved!

58% are either written or edited by Australians. Probably representative of the love affair I’m currently enjoying with my local speculative fiction scene.

The majority of these texts would be fairly new – not more than two years. Again reflective of my current interest in a very fast moving local scene. There isn’t much time (for someone who is only reading 26 books a year) to go back to older boks.

This represents a significant decrease in my typical reading levels – at roughly a book a fortnight, I’d say that this is close to half what I’d normally read (typically around the 50 per year mark). I’m guessing this is due to a) a new job, and b) doing more writing than I’ve ever done.

Books I didn’t read (bought this year but haven’t gotten to yet) AKA ‘Summer Reading’:

1. Dead Sea Fruit by Kaaron Warren

2. Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter

3. The Girl with No Hands by Angela Slatter

4. c0ck by Keith Stevenson (ed.)

5. The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

6. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

7. Australis Imaginarium by Tehani Wessely (ed.)

8. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

9. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

10. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

11. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

12. Glitter Rose by Marianne de Pierres

13. The City and The City by China Mieville

On top of this at the beginning of the year I identified about 60 books from my bookcases that I wanted to finally read – didn’t touch any of them!

WRITING

All the details are on the blog in various places, but in a nutshell, my writing year went:

1. A short story and a poem were published in the Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre Anthology ‘An Alphabetical Amulet’

2. Shortlisted for the inaugural Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre ‘600 competition’ (flash fiction)

3. Shortlisted for the Katharine Sussanah Prichard Speculative Fiction Award (second year running that I have placed)

4. Published in ‘Soundzine’ (and recorded the story as well)

5. Published on ‘Parenting Express’ website.

Doesn’t feel like much when I look at it like that, but I have also written a number of pieces this year (some of which are still in the submission process) that I think will find homes somewhere, eventually. It might be that they need refining, but I have probably half a dozen pieces to tinker with next year. I think I have improved as a writer as well, which is another goal I can tick off.

Another way to look at it: 2010 saw 33 submissions for 5 acceptances (of sorts), 25 rejections, and 3 still pending.

OTHER STUFF

1. I recorded a story – The Guardians – for Tehani Wessely’s Worlds Next Door website.

2. I wrote a review of Galactic Suburbia (podcast) for Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus.

3. I had my WIP novel professionally edited.

4. I started this blog… to date I have placed 29 pieces of flash fiction up (See TOC here), and since starting in February 2010 I have had 4,685 views – not including YOU, intrepid reader!

2011 GOAL

To finish my work in progress novel by July 1st 2011.

To polish my existing short stories and find a home for them.

Thank you to everyone who comes to read, everyone who comments, everyone who joins in the competitions, and everyone who has supported me with books as prizes, or advice, or help!

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First Place “The Ballard” by Guy Salvidge

December 1, 2010

The Ballard

by Guy Salvidge

Cale sat hunched over his dusty desk at the science fiction and fantasy bookstore, watching the city street outside drain of people as evening turned to night. In another five minutes he could close. Cale had an errand to run before getting on the Currambine train at 8.15. His copy of the newly released J G Ballard: The Complete Short Stories had arrived. He’d have to leg it from here on the corner of Wellington and William over to the Dymocks on Hay Street, buy the book, and make it back to the train station in a little under 15 minutes.

At 7.58, Cale turned the sign to ‘Closed’ and locked the door. He had just started cashing up the till when someone banged on the glass window at the front, behind which the new releases were on display.

“Harry Potter,” an obnoxious female voice cried. Despite the thin glass between speaker and listener, the words were unmistakable. Cale’s eyes shot up to the prominently-displayed hardcover editions of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which had only been out for a couple of weeks.

Obnoxious Teen was joined at the window by Intractable Father. The former begin knocking on the door.

“I’ve closed up,” Cale said from his desk, unsure if they could hear him. He gestured to the ancient till.  The pleading and knocking continued for a matter of seconds, before dying away. Cale balanced the day’s take, subtracted his pay and, in time honoured fashion, put the remainder of the money in a paper bag under the till’s plastic tray.

The phone rang. It might be the old man checking to see if he was still there, so he answered it.

“Supernova Books, Cale speaking.”

“Hello? My daughter and I were just there. We want to buy a copy of the new Harry Potter.

“I can’t sell you a copy now,” Cale said. “We’re closed.”

“I’m just around the corner,” the man said. “It won’t take a minute.”

“Sorry, no. We’re open from nine tomorrow.” Cale hung up the phone, gathered his things, and padlocked the door. He’d lost a little time but maybe if he ran he could still make the 8.15.

Cale wasn’t super fit, even at his spritely age of twenty-one, but he wanted that Ballard so badly that the thought of it spurred him on. He thought of the Ballard stories he adored: “The Drowned Giant”, “The Terminal Beach” and his favourite of them all, “The Voices of Time.” The drowsy protagonist Dr Powers, the inscrutable Kaldren and the girl Coma. The cosmic numbers ticking down until the end of the universe. The first time he’d read the story, he’d felt his mind dissolving.

It was barely 8.05 when he rounded the corner onto Hay Street in the direction of the familiar maroon sign. Sweating now despite the cool evening, he went up to the desk and told them he was here for the Ballard. The shop assistant brought it out from under the desk: a chunky white tome with the great man’s form silhouetted on the dustjacket in silver. He handed over the $70, nearly as much as his day’s pay, and tucked his prize safely under his arm. It was 8.08 and he knew he could make it to his train.

“You,” a familiar voice said. Cale turned and saw Intractable Father walking toward him from the F&SF section. Obnoxious Teen followed closely behind, a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in her grubby paws.

Cale considered the two of them, the shop assistant, the Rowling in the girl’s arms and the Ballard under his own. “It’s $10 cheaper here anyway,” he said. “I did you a favour.”

He ran down the street for his train.


2nd Place “We’re all Stories in the End” by Matthew Rogers

December 1, 2010

We’re all Stories in the End

By Matthew Rogers

Like all libraries, the one run by Grant had the floors blanketed with a harsh silence. No noises aside from the familiar squeals of chairs moving or the heavy footsteps that struck the solid hardwood floor were made. Silence was needed to give each reader time to absorb every word that was written, which was why a well maintained library could be seen as a safe haven for those who dedicated their lives to the written word.

As Grant and his co-worker Kelly worked the checkout desk, using the small lamps that had been installed years ago to go over notes that they made themselves, there was a simple noise that could be heard; the sound of someone sobbing. Every few seconds there seemed to be a small shaky rasp followed by a wheeze which echoed among the walls. This made the librarians look at each other, then down the rows of shelves that would eventually lead them to where they knew the person was.

There was only one other person in the entire building, so they were worried. Grant sighed and slowly stood up from his chair, running a hand through his thinning gray hair as he walked out of the checkout desk and toward the noise. Kelly started to rise, mostly to go and help Grant if he needed any; but the man raised his hand to stop her, as someone needed to be there if anyone else came in. Besides if he needed help he would just call out for her, no harm no foul.

While the sobbing grew louder as he walked, Grant looked at each shelf briefly and smiled to himself. Each held leather bound books, all still in good condition as each was made with care before finding their way to his library, though his old eyes would grace a book that had a new cover instead of leather. All in all Grant accepted any book, his library would house them without complaint and they would reside in the building with the rest of their brethren.

When he came across the reading area, Grant paused as he looked at the man who sat at the table. A book was in front of him, normal sized hardcover instead of leather bound. While the book was opened in front of him with one hand, the other was pressed against his face, scrunched up as if he was in pain, tears running down his cheeks as a small gasping squeak was emitted from his mouth.

“Sir?” Grant’s voice caused the man to turn his red face toward the librarian. Another noise was made, this time of surprise as he forced the chair back, almost slamming into the shelf behind him. Grant was glad the man had some restraint. He would have been quite upset if any of the books fell to the floor.

“Sir, are you alright?” The question did not have the effect Grant was looking for as the man placed his face in his hands again and made another noise. But this time Grant heard something, and when he moved a little closer he could hear, “It’s not how I remember…”

The head librarian raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

The book was pushed across the table, open and on the beginning of a chapter. The man quietly said, “The first paragraph…”

Grant, still puzzled, walked up to the table and took the book. ‘Eric raised his fist, looking down at the woman who was laying at his feet, her eyes wide in fear as she knew what was going to come next. Without another thought the fist came down, striking the woman across the face, a hollow crunch could be heard when his knuckles met cheekbone…’

“Page two-hundred and two…” Was mumbled and Grant flipped to the page.

‘“Get out of my house you faggot!” Eric screamed as a man in his twenties walked out the front door with another man, hand in hand.

“Eric please…”

“No Natalie, I will not accept that sick crap, he is not my son anymore!” Eric could not hear the sounds of his wife’s pleas over each breath he took, his fists tight as he could feel his heart thud hard against his chest.”’

And finally, “Page two-hundred and ninety.”

Eric sat quietly at the bar, his head bowed slightly to his chest as he held the mug with one hand. His eyes quickly glanced up to see himself in the reflection of the barroom mirror, a mesh of wrinkles, light gray stubble and dull hazel eyes behind a pair of thick plastic glasses. A moment passed before he turned back to his drink and took it all in one gulp, and when it settled firmly in his stomach he called the bartender for another.’

Grant settled the book on the table as pity graced his thoughts. He knew there was more, but he didn’t need to see the rest. “Sir, it’s time for you to go.”

The man raised his face to Grant but instead of wanting to ask for the book back, instead of pleading to stay, the man mumbled, “Alright,” and slowly rose from his chair.

Soon Kelly saw both men return to the checkout desk, yet the man continued on, leaving the library without second thoughts as he pushed open the doors and walked out into the sunlight. Grant on the other hand sighed as he made his way back to his seat and sat down, putting the book aside before picking up his pen once more.

“Why do they do it?”

Grant paused before turning to Kelly. “Do what?” he asked quietly, his wonder peaked by her question. She was looking at the book the man had, her fingers running over the title imprinted on the cover.

“Why do they choose the books that would bring them pain when they have others to choose from? I mean we have plenty of books where the reader could find out the reasons and wonders they’ve always dreamed of!” Kelly stared at the shelves that littered the building; all Grant could do was sigh.

“My guess is they want to remember, to see if they could find any meaning. But their hopes are usually dashed when given the truth, which they are now only words and pages, shelved among many others and no one cares about them anymore.”

Kelly frowned as she looked down at the book, the words Eric Lockerby, February 7th 1944 – October 1st 2010 were stamped on the cover in gold print. “I’ll go put it back.”

Grant nodded as he turned his back to Kelly, who was leaving the desk with book in hand. “Remember, it goes in the new wing.”

Kelly’s answer came in her footsteps that echoed through the building. She knew it wouldn’t take her long to find the 2010 – 2020 section. At least she had the wonderful view of all the books before her, and the rows of shelves that stretched on into infinity.


3rd Place “A Book’s Citation” by Nicole Waddilove

December 1, 2010

A Book’s Citation

By Nicole Waddilove

You creep in with bated breath

Eyes searching the gloom

Panic grows with every step

Skulking further into the room

You feel my compelling call

Nearer, nearer, heart rate rises

I have your mind enthralled

Tears spell at the crises

Wearily you turn on the light

And I’m waiting on the chair

Smile, relief it will be alright

Freeze, a footstep upon the stair

You pick me up with care

The door opens with a thud

She frowns, her eyes glare

Look away, notice all the mud

You should be cleaning that sty

Glancing down, pages turning

Bravely ask your mother why,

Reading she finds disconcerting?

Angrily she grabs and shoves

Till we enter through the door

Scattered are hats and gloves,

Clothes, books and more …

Darkly she puts me in my place

You sigh and mutter to yourself

Mother dearest, her steps retraced

Hurry, pull me from the shelves

A moment reading won’t matter

I absorb your attention, time has won

Till you hear clang and clatter

For dinner is cooked, served, done

You drop me on the bed and spin around

In a flurry clothes fly under the bed,

Lost things suddenly found,

Breathing deeply as you hear her tread

You know she’s come to check

But all you won’t to do is read

Dam it! Dam it all to heck!

She insists you must feed

I wait with anticipation

My plots in full flower

Bolt back in fascination

Curse it! You have to shower

Finally back into it we delve

Angels, demons, heroes, twits

The mother comes in at twelve

Not fair! Were up to the best bit

Door closes, light goes out

Scramble to find the torch

Reading fast, I begin to pout

As you jump from port to port

Relieved as you fall asleep

The silence slowly builds

Paragraphs you curtly sweep

Ignoring the underling guilds

I have a story to tell

Under all the action

I pray you read me well

And understand the prose attraction

Soon you’ll be done, let me be

But when finally I am put away

I hope you’ll come back to me

For, I have so much more to say

A Poem by Nicole


“Book Love” Winners!

December 1, 2010

We have winners!

First Place went to Guy Salvidge for his story “The Ballard”.

You can see Guy’s story here and find out more about Guy himself here. Guy wins a signed copy of Angela Slatter’s Sourdough and Other Stories – and $25 kindly donated by Amber from WebLiterate.

2nd Place went to Matthew Rogers for his piece “We’re all Stories in the End”.

You can see Matthew’s story here. Matthew wins a signed copy of Marianne de Pierres’ Glitter Rose – kindly donated by Alisa of Twelfth Planet Press.

3rd Place went to Nicole Waddilove for her poem “A Book’s Citation”.

You can read Nicole’s poem here. She wins a copy of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Sketches from a Nameless Land.

 

Thanks to everyone who entered!