And he’s back!

In the last seven days I’ve flown to Shanghai, ridden a maglev train at over 400 kph, drank lacklustre cocktails in a bar with an incredible view, wandered through street markets, gotten lost, saw a cute baby nearly cause a riot in a department store, bought a bespoke suit and additional clothing items for practically nothing, witnessed a marriage proposal on the bullet train to Beijing, was turned back after entering the Forbidden City (ironic), nearly froze to death in Tienanmen Square, ate duck, walked on the Great Wall of freakin’ China in subzero temperatures and surrounded by impenetrable fog, read and then deleted a whole pile of ebook samples on my Kindle, explored the alleyways of the French Concession, paid my respects at the Jade Buddha Temple, got dressed up to drink better cocktails in a bar with a lesser view, sailed the MoonBoat, went to the world’s most amazingly shithouse chocolate-based theme park (complete with Harry Potter’s Murder Room I SHIT YOU NOT), walked out of a goddamn terrible restaurant, bought a friend a Godzilla onsie and flew the redeye for 10 hours back to Australia.

What have you been up to?


Me being me, I also spent some time thinking about what I could draw from the experience to use in my writing, most of which came back to my current theme of worldbuilding.

And I’ll make some posts about that, but not tonight. Because I’m tired.

So wǎnān, peeps – I’ll start throwing around the thinkwords again this time next week. Tonight I’m off to bed.


Open mike spambot night

Hmm? What? Who’s supposed to make blog posts twice a week?

…oh shit, I knew I forgot something!

Sorry, devoted readers; last week kind of slipped away from me for various reasons, and rather than make late posts and all kind of excuses, I just decided to take an impromptu holiday from the Blog Mines.

But now I’m back, and I’m ready to share poetry with you!

Oh good lord, not mine. Trust me, I don’t write poetry, and if I did I would scrawl it only in my private ShameJournal that will be burned after my death, if not before. Preferably long before.

No, these works come from unsung genius of the written word. I mean those poets who drop nuggets of gold in passing while trying to sell me ugg boots, viagra, pornography and SEO results – the spammers that give so much and ask so little in return. For in their vain attempts to wriggle into the comments section, they fill their bots with random jibber-jabber that, with only a few line breaks, becomes poetry so blank and dadaist it would make Kurt Schwitters swallow a live starling and take up automotive repair.

The following collection has been curated by Akismet, WordPress’ rather amazeballs spam-filter. I hope you appreciate all the work it does for the arts, not to mention bloggers too lazy to write their own Thursday night posts.

First, this heartfelt paean to God and architecture, using family drama as metaphor:

Word for word after I read this story later,
my heart can’t be calm once in a very long while, shock!
Why would like a son that like!
In BBS in horizontal network in my years,
from thinking any further can’t there any son can move me,
have never thought to come in sight of such ingenious and incomparable today
such a son!
The building Lord, is you let me deeply understand
the “someone outside the person, day outside have day”
profoundly this sentence. Thank nong!

Thank nong indeed. A little mawkish, true, but we’ve all mourned our sons in horizontal networks.

This one is short but very powerful:

I’m gonna watch out for brussels.
I will appreciate if you continue this in future.

I won’t lie, guys; I watch out for Brussels 24/7. BRUSSELS COULD BE UNDER YOUR COUCH RIGHT NOW.

When this next one is performed live, it’s done in a fevered rush on a single breath while a second participant plays a haunting theremin:

free big tit broads naked uncut frat guy shemale grace toronto kat young movie megaupload muscular dystrophy hardcore video ileana telugu actress video john c pleasant valley high school star gaysexs aquarius sex horoscope little girls pussy where to find movies uci cinema andria woman young boy NASA PICTURES

It’s a rousing performance, similar to that long bit in Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’.

This one is entitled ‘ee cummings and the global financial crisis no capslock no capslock’:

Circumstances wherein wipe is unexceptionally
individual’s libel may expert strategy.
injunction accumulated ways complete.
vulgar rate,
expert agencies are scour approaches most talented amongst issues
smear individual’s orchestrate is repaired advantage restored.
in the matter of credit,
the link.

The link, motherfuckers. You feel me?

From the same author (with some edits to remove links, as that’s just too experimental even for this forum)

Kinsfolk buttocks either dom weselny or spiffy tidy up agency.
Your skirt would upon dignify your public credit.
Type who are nearby ingenious agency.
enactment is surrounding client’s around an rulership
or view with horror generally repaired.
Robangelosi in the flesh
such regular could rumbling their team a few
Relations either impassion wesele or redress agency.

I believe ‘Robangelosi’ may be a TS Eliot reference. Intertextuality!

Last, this epic piece is… look, the recurring motif is the monopod, but surely we all know what that’s a metaphor for, right? Right?

Dicks. He’s talking about dicks. Like all the best poetry.

Another underhandedness stabilizing clever is constrain
camera link your over monopod completely exerting warm strap. Similarly, you butt
In exclude crush situations put in order
appropriately tripod bonus is shipshape and Bristol fashion
Forth you’ll masterly monopod about tripod, discourteous anyway.
They’re bonus thus carry. You oferty
them be required of repairs delirious away.
Record to hand scour subject,
disposed picture.

A-one Cooler

A Monopod

Harry contingency. Unfortunately,
despite the fact that you around you’d involving answer field,
you’d circulate Bedouin trader.
You unruffled camera gear,
balk carefully. Realize those alcohol cozies you around freezer.
Those determination your devoid of bringing
fraternize with temp close to cooler.
gummy atmosphere. clap you do.

supposing you’re slow up courthouse hinder op,
wind cups swing thicknesses,
be advantageous to stabilizing neat
muscles well.

Bedouin trader.
clunk home.

Neat as a pin Cooler

Working Far Sand

Snap your goddamn fingers, people. That shit be art.


This concludes our inaugural Akismet Open Mike Spampoetry Night.

Look out for a second one once the spam filter fills up and I can’t think of anything more interesting to share with you.










A soft reboot (with a chewy centre)

Folks, it’s time for a bit of a change. Spring is here (along with its cursed handmaiden daylight savings), the sky in Melbourne is a perpetual battle between gloom and glare, comics companies are releasing exciting new titles and I’m starting to think that my blog sucks.

Well, okay, that’s maybe overstating things (and trolling for compliments). Better to say that I’m not super happy with my posts over the last few months, particularly the weekend ones. Too many of them are rambly, waffly things about the theory of narrative, or the subtext of reading, or the veal parmigiana of Kindle or some other thing that only makes sense to me – and maybe not even than. I look back at some recent posts and think ‘I have no idea what I was trying to get at there.’

This is what crack cocaine does to you, friends. Take it as an object lesson.

Anyhoo, I think that this blog has lost its direction – or, perhaps more accurately, that it never really had one in the first place, other than as a place for me to talk about myself and how awesome I am. And I still want to do that – believe me, I never get tired of talking about myself – but I want to be clearer on how I go about that and to write posts that are more engaging/less boring for you, my faithful audience.

So in the spirit of the New 52 (but less shithouse) and Marvel NOW! (but less exclamationy), I’m doing a bit of a reboot of this here blog. Or at the very least a change in creative approach and supporting cast.

Things I want to focus on:

  • The craft of writing: More than anything else, this is the stuff I love thinking about and talking about. I’m not egotistical enough to think that there’s much I can teach anyone, but I think there’s value in putting up something practical and seeing if it resonates with people, or spurs discussion that can do the same.
  • Original fiction: More flash fiction pieces and downloadable short stories. I’ve just finished a run of those, but there’ll be more by the end of the year.
  • My own writing and ebooks: Like, duh. This probably goes without saying.
  • My publishing experiences: Again, I’m not saying I have any special insight. But I work in publishing by day and put out my own ebooks on weekends, so I’m in the thick of this pretty much all the time, and if nothing else I can warn y’all not to make the same mistakes I do.
  • Grammar and language: On the other hand, this is where I can maybe actually teach people things they didn’t know. Or at least rant about comma misuse SERIOUSLY PEOPLE THEY’RE NOT THE SAME AS SEMICOLONS DON’T JUST USE THEM LIKE SENTENCE GLUE.
  • Interviews: I’ve only done a few of these, but they’ve been fun and I think I should do more.
  • Cool stuff that people should know about: Links, reviews, heads-up about upcoming things… you know, stuff like that. Probably this will mostly be the fodder of midweek posts.
  • Batman: Let’s face it, folks, I ain’t never gonna stop talking about Batman.

Things I don’t want to focus on… eh, I’m not gonna bother calling them out. Boring stuff. Meaningless gibberish. Lemmings. All that sorta thing.

In the end, I want this blog to be useful, interesting and entertaining, both for long-time readers (both of you) and anyone else that stumbles across it and might pony up three bucks for an ebook find value in it. And when an idea for a post doesn’t meet those criteria, or is a jumble of ideas that doesn’t have a solid core, I’m gonna put to one side while I work out something else to say.

The new era starts this Sunday! Smell the excitement!


Far added agreeable

Some words of wisdom from a spam comment trapped lovingly by Akismet:

Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.

Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! However, how can we communicate?

Indeed. How can we communicate? If only we could add our agreeable, perhaps then our writeups would at last be truly auspicious.

I can but dream that one day we can come together, humans and spam, to make a better tomorrow.

But that day is not today, or indeed tonight, ‘cos I’m not feeling well.

So I’ll leave you with that thought – and with a link to the second part of my massive conversation about books and writing with Hugh Grimwade – and then go back to bed.


Look advanced.

reading Uncategorized

Legacy in blue


It’s a concept that used to be one of the pillars of the DC Universe – that a mantle of heroic action would be passed from one character to another. The Flash and Green Lantern of World War II inspired the Flash and Green Lantern of the silver age, who were then replaced by the Flash and Green Lantern of the modern age, with the promise of future heroes assuming that title as well… it was a thematic mainstay that propelled dozens of characters and hundreds of stories.

Well, like most good things in the DCU, the theme of legacy was abandoned in the DC Reboot, in which superheroes have only been around for five years, there were no heroes in WWII (there’s a wonderful sentence to contemplate) and characters operate without foundations or any kind of respect for what has gone before. Which is a goddamn shame.

But I’m not here tonight to whinge about the DC Reboot – that comes later in the month. Instead, I want to talk about one of the last, best examples of the treatment of that theme from DC, which also happens to be a fantastic, funny, smart and action-packed comic book.

And that comic is Blue Beetle.

So first, some backstory. The original Blue Beetle was a Golden Age character who bounced through a few iterations and publishers. Eventually he was bought and revamped in the 1960s by Charlton Comics as Dan Garrett, an archaeologist who discovered a magical scarab amulet that gave him superpowers (strength, flight, energy blasts, similar generic things). When that version proved unpopular, Charlton didn’t reinvent him, they replaced him – Garret died and passed the scarab on to his former student, inventor Ted Kord. Kord became the new Blue Beetle, but a very different character; he couldn’t make the scarab work, so instead fought crime with gadgets, inventions and intelligence.

Fast forward about 15 years and DC Comics bought the rights to the Charlton stable of characters, where Garrett became a minor WWII superhero and Ted Kord the modern Blue Beetle – keeping the legacy concept going, but stretching out the ages between the characters to fit DC’s timeline. During the late 80s and early 90s Kord was a major DC character and a mainstay of the Justice League, but eventually faded from the limelight to become another perennial C-list character in the background of crossovers.

And then came 2005’s mega-event Infinite Crisis, during which Kord uncovered a conspiracy and was murdered – but not before leaving Garrett’s scarab with the wizard Shazam, who then lost it in an explosion. It fell to Earth in El Paso, Texas, and was found by a teenage called Jaime Reyes, who used it to help Batman defeat… okay, look, this is all a really long story that is often not very fun, so let’s just skip the details and move onto the comic, alright?

So teenage Jaime becomes the new Blue Beetle, as the scarab responds to him by forming into a set of high-tech armour covered in bizarre weapons and manned by an semi-incomprehensible telepathic AI. People start chasing him, he gets into trouble, he tries to find out what’s going on… all of this has the potential to be a decent setup for a decent, unremarkable comic series.

Except that Jaime used Google to find out about Ted Kord.

And except that Blue Beetle was written by John Rogers, scriptwriter, producer and TV showrunner for the show Leverage (which I still haven’t seen but I hear is well worth watching). In his first comics work (he went on to write Dungeons and Dragons, which I’ve raved about before), Rogers stepped up to write like an experienced master of the form, creating a series packed with memorable, likeable characters, punchy stories and exciting revelations (none of which I’ll spoil here).

He was mentored for the first year by comics veteran Keith Giffen and accompanied by artist Cully Hamner, whose blocky, cartoony style I’ve always liked; his lines are blocky and dark but fun and open at the same time, and his design of the Beetle-armour is a terrific departure from the usual metal-and-geegaws style of super-battlesuits. After he left, new artist Rafael Albuquerque also bought a cartoony style, but one with a lighter, scratchier line, less bombastic and more expressive; it took me a little while to warm to it, but now I think Albuquerque is one of the best artists in comics, and Blue Beetle shows him constantly growing in skill.

But I’m not so much here to review Blue Beetle (here’s a review – it’s great) as to talk about the theme of legacy, which Rogers used as the spine of the series. As I said, Jaime read up on the previous Blue Beetle, trying to understand the connection to his scarab, and what he found inspired him – that Ted Kord, a man with no powers, could stand up for what was right and make a difference. Then he made contact with Dan Garrett’s granddaughter, who gave him more data on the scarab – and on Garrett’s time as a superhero, and the difference he made in the world. He realised that there is a legacy attached to the Blue Beetle, not just the scarab but the name itself, and he decided that he wanted to be part of that.

And a key element, I think, is that Jaime never meets either of the two previous Blue Beetles; they’re both dead before he finds the scarab. Nonetheless, he sees the value in what they did and what they strived for, he sees role models in them – he chooses to be part of their legacy, rather than having that legacy thrust upon him or just making his own way. And as Rogers’ overarching storyline continues, Jaime tries to embody the strength of Garrett and the intelligence of Kord, to take guidance from them while making his own way and finding his own place in the superhero community. To become something more than just a costume or a right cross, but a legend that can live on.

Rogers left the series after 24 issues (collected in the first 4 trades), having wrapped up his story. There was an attempt to keep the series going with writer Matthew Sturges, but it didn’t click – his issues weren’t terrible or anything, but they lacked the spark (and the cohesive thematic underpinnings) of Rogers’ – and the series ended after one last storyline. Blue Beetle continued to play a part in the DCU, joining the Teen Titans, hanging out with Booster Gold and appearing on The Brave and the Bold cartoon, and then the Reboot changed everything. There’s a new Blue Beetle series, but it’s heavy on the stereotypes and pointless fight scenes, light on the legacy (or any other kind of theme) and it’s all a bit sad and pointless now.

But there are four great trades (and one adequate one) of the original series, and they are a thing of joy, and they tell a great story with a great ending. And stories that end well are usually the best kind.

One of the powerful, story-generating tensions in the superhero genre is the clash between individualism and collectivism – it’s a genre where a single being can advance above all others and change the world but also seek to serve others and be part of something greater than themselves. The theme of legacy is one of the strongest ways to explore that tension and make a supers story more than just dudes in tights thumping each other. And Blue Beetle was a hell of a lot more than that.

You should read it. You should love it. It’s that good.


Welcome to the wonderful world of slack

Hi folks,

Going to have to pike on the usual Sunday night update – we have friends visiting from Brisbane and we’re going out for dinner with them.

Next Sunday is also probably not going to happen as it’s EUROVISION FINALS NIGHT, which as always takes priority.

…and midweek updates will be tricky as I’ll be spending time at the Emerging Writers’ Festival on many nights.

I am slack. I know. Will desperately try to find a couple of hours somewhere to talk to you about something soon, though. I promise.


I just flew in from New Zealand and boy are my arms tired

Hiya folks,

I’m back from New Zealand! It was a very busy business trip that involved stops in Auckland and Wellington, long drives on both windy mountain roads and endless grubby motorways and many, many meetings with teachers and authors. It was really productive, and it’s going to have a significant effect on what I do for my day job over the next year or two.

Which, of course, isn’t what this blog is about. So let’s move on.

The downside of spending all week working is that I had very little time or energy to work on The Obituarist, and as a result the release date on that is going to slip. With the other things I have to do this month – more on that in a bit – I’m just not going to have time to do more than a chapter a night, and this draft is still only at the halfway mark, so I need another two weeks minimum to finish it and then at least two more weeks to get it edited and take in comments from my crack team of Alpha Readers. So it’s looking like the end of April (if not later) before it’s ready for release.

Am I making excuses for myself? Um. Maybe a bit, yeah. If I really, really knuckled down on this book and did nothing else in my free time I could get it ready sooner. But I don’t want to do that, because it wouldn’t be much fun and because I don’t think the book would benefit by being rushed like that. Still, I should be trying to turn this around faster, and I will do what I can to speed things up, such as focusing on it over the 4-day Easter weekend. And getting a cover organised sooner rather than later.

So what am I doing this month? Going to the Comedy Festival, naturally. Not just because I like going out and laughing at things that are funny, although that’s a super-huge part of it. But I’ll also be writing reviews for The Pun – half-a-dozen shows at this point, and possibly more as time goes on. I’ll link to URLs once they’re written and up, which will be of little interest to readers outside Melbourne, I know.


I like writing reviews because it gets me out of my comfort zone and gets me writing in a different mode, and to a tight wordcount to boot. (I also like the free tickets, let’s be honest.) However, while in previous years I’ve also written mini-reviews of every show I’ve seen and posted them to LiveJournal, this year I’ll probably confine myself just to the Pun pieces. That’s partly so I can keep focused on The Obituarist – see, work ethic! – but also because of some conversations I had last year about reviewing and about comedy. There’s a critical vocabulary about comedy and its construction that I don’t as yet fully understand, and until I can really pull apart and analyse an act in depth, I think I’d provide a better service by writing a small number of reviews and giving each of them full attention than a large number of weaker reviews.

Gosh, so serious.

Plus, you know, I’ll be going to shows a lot because N. works at the Festival and I want to see my wife. She’s lovely.

The other thing that happened in NZ was that I got to give my new Kindle a heavy workout, burning through a large number of ebooks on flights and long car rides. That was excellent for a number of reasons, in particular the chance to see how different authors and publishers format ebooks and the way they use headings, different font sizes, bookmarks and other tools to make a more easily/usefully navigable text.

I also saw how easy it is for odd formatting errors and hiccups to creep into even the most professional of ebooks – blocks of text in the wrong font, strange indents, italics being interpreted as headings rather than emphasis and lots of other artefacts of the conversion process that sneak through because someone hasn’t gone through the finished file line by line. (Which, incidentally, would be easier if Kindle Store authors got free access to download their own titles rather than having to pay for them.)

So anyway, what I’m getting at is that as part of publishing The Obituarist, I’ll be doing heavy passes through all my existing ebooks (both on the Kindle Store and Smashwords) and more than likely uploading new versions of all of them that improve the layout and correct any formatting errors. Which will give me something to do while my readers kick the shit out of this draft.

Now, off to have a drink and see a show! And then to come home and finish another chapter.

Nose to the grindstone. Nose or arse. My promise to you.


Calling in sick

I know I’ve been very slack in the last few weeks about the mid-week/Thursday night updates.

And tonight will be no different. It’s 30 degrees, it’s been a long day at the publishing office and I’m sick as a dog with a bad flu. I’m going to bed at 7.30pm and there’s not a thing you can do about it.

Sunday will be better. I promise. And have I ever broken a promise before?


…those were non-core promises. They don’t count.


A short nuptial break

Hi folks,

Sorry, I didn’t get a chance to work on a blog post this weekend. I was too busy getting married.

More words about words later in the week.

Right now I’m going to go spend some time with my wife.