Monday Notes, 19 December 2016

A black-and-white photograph of traffic by Woolloongabba stadium, with all the lights on.It is Monday morning and I am sitting on my balcony, listening to the trains and watching the greenery sway in the breeze and letting Brisbane warm up to its crazy Summer weather. There is a storm coming. Christmas is almost here, which means my local cafe will soon shut down for a few weeks, and I will be forced to eat breakfast at home like a monster. This would bother me less if my talent for coffee was better, and I had the patience to shave my own beetroot to go on my avocado on toast.

It’s not the war on Christmas that bothers me. It’s that those fuckers on the Christmas side refuse to capitulate.


I have not blogged regularly for a long, long while. I spent a good chunk of last night stuck in traffic, waiting for the crowds to disperse around Woolloongabba stadium after the cricket was done, and I kept coming up with things I should probably mention while I started drafting this in my head.

And so I’m going to cram a lot into this one. Personally, I blame sports.

Things I am involved in that I should probably mention:

The Things You Do When the War Breaks Out went live over on Daily Science Fiction, should you wish to see the kind of story I write I’m trying to weave together dinosaurs, space trains, the moon, and Kathleen Jennings’ post-it illustrations that occasionally roll past on Twitter. The link to the original image didn’t actually get posted on the Daily SF site, so I’ll quietly link it here for anyone who is curious. The post dates on that link bewilders me. In my head this story took forever to write, on account of doing most of it on Google Docs on my phone over months of lunch breaks and morning commutes.

One of these days, I’ll get around to finishing the story about the flying crocodile…

GenreCon 2017 has been announced over on the Australian Writers Marketplace website, running November 10-12. Tickets won’t go on sale until the middle of February, with guest announcements taking place early in the year, but it’s out there for anyone who wants to include it in their 2017 calendars. I’ll also stress to everyone that while I’m involved this year, I am not the best point of contact for details about the conference – I basically show up for meetings and give advice, while the QWC/AWM team do the bulk of the heavy lifting in terms of making things happen.

The Queensland Health blog is live, which means the stuff I’ve been writing for the past couple of months is starting to get rolled out at pretty high speed. Working on this stuff for Queensland Health has been incredibly satisfying on a lot of levels, since getting paid to just sit down and blog is pretty much my dream job. Getting access to a bunch of content experts who well tell me to pull my head in when I’m talking shit is even better, particularly given there’s the space to start looking at all sorts of default health advice and pulling apart why it works rather than just taking it as given.

Not technically a project yet, but…well, this morning I hit accept on a scholarship offer to go do a PhD in writing at the University of Queensland next year. This one’s the culmination of a bunch of set-up that was done through 2016, and I figured it was a long shot given my history of…well, not finishing a PhD. Fortunately, my proposed supervisor was enormously supportive of my application and I published a whole lot of creative work and articles about writing in the ten years since I walked away from my last thesis.

I’m also considerably more excited about this topic:

One of the central concerns for writers working on a series is the dual state that the text must inhabit: each story must satisfy as a stand-alone narrative, as well as a part of a larger whole, regardless of whether a reader brings with them prior assumptions about the text or is coming to the series for the first time. This duality presents a unique set of challenges for a writer, particularly when filtered through Jauss’ theory that all readers come to the text a “horizon of expectations” that affects their assumptions about the way genre’s operate.

If the reader’s relationship with a text is productive, rather than passive, and their horizon of expectation can be informed by previous engagement with the work and characters, how do the expectations of readers potentially influence subsequent narratives in the series? How do the demands of continuing or shared story structures change how each novel or story is written?

Things I am not involved in that I would like to mention:

The inimitable Kathleen Jennings has launched a Patreon for some of the artwork projects she puts together, with the bonus of getting some free glimpses of works in progress and discussion about creative process. This is all kinds of awesome and you should totally throw money Kathleen’s way – there are three people I will basically sit down and talk process with any time I see them, and Kathleen is one of them. If you’ve got a few bucks to spare every month, I fully endorse spending them here.

I went to the bookstore to pick up the first book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series, ‘cause this year has basically been twelve months of people talking about that book in earshot of me and I eventually hit the point of wanting to make sense of the conversations. The bookstore only had the last book in the series, or book three of four, so I picked up a copy of Forever so I didn’t have to start reading at the tail end of a series. It’s a goddamn pretty book. The cover design is incredible and the interior is damn pretty.

I start reading. Forever doesn’t read like the first book of a series. I’m not entirely sure what tips it off for me, but I suspect it’s the speed with which we cut back-and-forth between characters.

I hit Google and search out some details, and lo, Forever is book three in a four part series.

So that goes back on the to-read shelf until next year.

On the list of things I have read lately:

These Old Shades, Georgette Hayer
I started reading this for an upcoming meeting of The Georgette Heyer Book Club I belong too, but illness meant the session where we were going to discuss the book got cancelled and December meant that it hasn’t yet been rescheduled. So I’ll talk about it here, to keep my notes fresh, and to save me re-reading the bits I do not care to re-read when it’s time to discuss things in person.

To get it out of the way: I adore Heyer. They were my introduction to romance and really got me on-board the genre. There’s a reason I’m a part of the book club. About half of These Old Shades is composed of all the things I really love about Heyer’s work, which is basically watching the interplay between reprehensible Corinthians, the women thrown into their orbit, and the sparks that tend to fly in ways that aren’t what you’d expect. These Old Shades is basically that particular Heyer trope mixed in with a liberal dose of Twelfth Night, and the beginning is just glorious. The bits where its separates its protagonists isn’t quite so interesting, largely because it follows the less interesting of the options for the bulk of the time.

What really interested me this time around, after reading a Heyer book a month for the last half of 2016, is starting to notice the way that Heyer deploys friendships as a means of getting you to like otherwise awful people. When we first meet the Duke of AVon in this book he is basically referred to as the Devil, determined to manipulate a young woman to take revenge on an old enemy, and purchases someone fro their brother. There’s a level of charm to mitigate that – in Heyer’s world, you can always be awful and still remain likable if there’s enough charm – but his friend is the otherwise formal (and not-quite-so-charming) Hugh basically lets you know that he’s not so far down the road as to be deplorable.

It’s not the best Heyer I’ve read (hello, Cotillion) or even one that I’d normally recommend people start with (hello, Vinetia), but I think I settled down on the side of being a fan of the story despite my misgivings.

Right. That’s a blog post then. See you all anon.

  3 comments for “Monday Notes, 19 December 2016

  1. 19/12/2016 at 9:36 PM

    I was ambivalent about These Old Shades and am still undecided how much was the book and how much was the fact I read it off the back of 70+ books for uni genre guide and reviews. I do think it falling after the previous book it made me more cranky, but unlike The Grand Sophy, I did read more of but will admit to a version of library reviewing/skimming from about the two-thirds (I think, could’ve been earlier) and then reading it intently in the final few chapters.

    Another HUZZAH re the PhD. Ah, the joys of referencing are yours too 😛

    If Forever is part of the Shiver series, I couldn’t get into it. Raven Cycle otoh totally read them down in two or three days (I’ve learnt to like sleep). I also didn’t mind The Scorpion Races – a stand alone (and apparently in works for tv/movie – can’t remember).

    • 20/12/2016 at 4:11 PM

      Yep, Shivers. But I will read I, because werewolves.

      • 20/12/2016 at 5:40 PM

        Be curious to know how you go. I also have read the fairy, I think, duo – leans more to the Shivers than the Ravens imho but was readable (uncertain if it was meant to stop or it was stopped – you know what I mean…I hope).

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