30 September, 2008

Favourite bookshops

Here I am, wittering on at Stephanie Campisi's blog, about my favourite bookshops.

Bits, bobs and my significance and importance :)

booksandneedlepoint is lukewarm about Red Spikes. Well, technically, about three stories in Red Spikes, which is all she could stomach. :)

Mr Hornswoggler is shaping up to tackle Tender Morsels, and so is Colleen Mondor, who says of me:
...she is a very intense and sometimes disturbing author. But the thing about Lanagan is she is significant and important and pushing boundaries in how stories are told. I will read Tender Morsels but I don't know if I will like it—what might happen though is that I am moved by it, and sometimes that is even more important.
Bob is also
looking forward to TENDER MORSELS by Margo Lanagan. She surprises me every time. Her mind just thinks differently than mine and yet it all makes beautiful (and often) painful sense.
Rantin' 'n' ravin' Rob also has his copy:
Lanagan has written some acclaimed short stories and this novel looks like a pretty interesting tale.
It is, Rob, it is!

OF Blog of the Fallen has got through 50 pages, and says:
... this is a very promising start, as before I had read only her short fiction. It is shaping up to be one of those dark, brutal, yet touching stories, one that seems to address some very harsh and uncomfortable topics (for example, the lead character seems to be the victim of parental incest) that might make a few "critics" *cough*Truesdale*cough* eager to scream "pornography" to the high heavens. Needless to say, such people would have missed the beautiful pine forest for a few pine needles jabbed in their eyes and orifices.
Jeff VanderMeer is a third of the way through already, and he says it's brilliant.

Harriet Klausner has read the whole thing, and concludes, over at Genre Go Round:
This is an intriguing dark character study that looks deep at the human psyche through a lens of “two border worlds” representing the extremes of humanity; one side is abusive and brutal, and the other is caring yet boring ... Although the plot can turn overwhelmingly moody and introspectively slow at times, TENDER MORSELS is an engaging tale.
Finally, how nice is this? Kelly Link is interviewed about Small Beer's republishing Joan Aiken's The Serial Garden (personally I think they should have called their children's arm Small Bear Press), and she says:
Link, especially, would like to publish more of Aiken's work, since she regards her as one of three writers—along with Roald Dahl and Margo Lanagan—who have influenced her writing the most.
(at Publisher's Weekly, via Chasing Ray)

29 September, 2008

A low sort of person

A friend of mine (she's not the low one) found an uncorrected proof copy of Tender Morsels in a Newtown second-hand bookshop, for sale.

People, those proofs are clearly marked NOT FOR SALE. If you were sent one, if you no longer want to keep it, the proper etiquette would be to do one of the following:
  1. pass it on to someone else to read, with no exchange of cash involved
  2. even better, send it back to Allen & Unwin
  3. destroy it, or
  4. put it out with the recycling.
Giving it to St Vinnies to sell for $4 a week before the publishing date—hey, why not just come over here and smack my face with the thing?

Yes, and St Vinnies should know better too. Still, I guess at least someone benefited.

A note from the Island

Well, here I am looking out over the lawn at Joondoburri Conference Centre on Bribie Island, Queensland, Australia, The World. Sun is shining, magpies are stalking past, quiet conference-centre people go about straightening the chairs and wiping up the spilt wine-drops and cracker crumbs from where we all sat about last night.

It's the last day of the retreat, and I've well and truly retreated from real life; it's been the most amazing luxury to not only eat like a pig and drink like a fish every night, but to have all this uninterrupted time and quietness to catch up on my To-Do list and even, yesterday afternoon, get some sealwife story written. Having a bunch of mad writers to whinge to/share a desk with/indulge in piggery and fishery with/oh, there was some mentoring in there, too, has been a wonderful bonus. I wish we could go on for another couple of weeks. I would be the size of a house, my liver would be shot to pieces, but I would have those novellas in the bag.

I've been going on bike rides after lunch, exploring Bribie. There are very few nice old beach houses here, is all I'll say about the architectural heritage here. I aim to take pictures of all 5 of them for posterity on my ride this afternoon. There's only one road that goes right across the island, and unfortunately it's guarded by a very aggressive magpie, which will even cross to the other side of the road to swoop down on you. I have a bruise and two peck marks (upper beak and lower) on my left ear from the bugger. Nevertheless I'll bravely face it again today, to get my photos. Someone should video me pedalling furiously along the bike track, banging my helmet to frighten off that angry ball of feathers (and claws, and beak).

And now I must procrastinate no more, but go and write an article about short-story vs. novel writing.

24 September, 2008

Adjust your diaries...

...if you were thinking of coming to the Tender Morsels launch on 2 October at Berkelouw Books—'tain't on any more. It will happen a little later in the month, promise. New date to be announced soon.

Also, thanks for all the alcohol advice. Right now I'm back in Brisbane, staying with friends and preparing to go off mentoring to Bribie Island for a week, so you can imagine how many alcohol-free days I'm managing. Not a whole lot. However, I've been on a boat trip and my last panel (which went swimmingly—thanks, Sofie and Sue!), and walked around West End an awful lot, and wandered the Botanic Gardens and South Bank, and started reading Chris Cleave's Incendiary. And had some very nice wine.

Back to the critiques.

19 September, 2008


Back in Sydney. Where it's warmer than Brisbane was - how wrong is that?

I went for my aged 45–49 subsidised Health Check today. Visual acuity magnificent (except for reading, where I really need it), heart good, blood yet to be tested (have to fast for that), head okay, but of course there is Too. Much. Grog. in my life. She took her special doctor's pencil and circled 'Risky or high-risk drinking' on the list. Not risky as in might-fall-over-and-hit-my-head, or assault someone, but risky for Alzheimer's, heart disease, blood pressure.

I was, of course, totally stunned and surprised (not).

'How much does it cost you?' she said. 'Lots,' I said. 'You could use that money to reward yourself.' 'But I use alcohol to reward myself!' I said. She didn't seem to understand. Funny old doctor-people.

So is there anyone out there who likes wine as much as I do and has found a good method of cutting back on it? I mean, I know what to do, but stickability is a problem. Has anyone achieved a comfortable solution long-term?

18 September, 2008


BWF green room, 3.45 bulletin: James Frey has just left the room. I rubbed elbows with Helen Garner - well, practically. I met the hula hoop artist Judith Lanigan (yes, it's true!). I met James Frenkel - hi, Jim! Now there is only Jack Heath (he of the long autograph queues, not that I'm jealous or anything) and me with the very helpful volunteers up here. Oh, Li Cunxing just walked in. Such nice posture.

I have talked and talked and talked. Queensland school students are the best audience. Good senses of humour (i.e. they laugh at all my jokes), and always forthcoming with the questions, some of which can be quite deep/curly.

I'm so strong: I have not bought a single book, although I was tempted by Nam Le's The Boat and Kate Grenville's The Lieutenant. I've only been into the bookshop to take a picture of Tender Morsels on the shelves. I'm lurking in the Green Room partly to protect myself from buying anything.

My 3-hour workshop went like a dream yesterday afternoon - 15 hardworking women wrote their hearts out and didn't complain once. Plus, several of them bought the novel afterwards - the book of the workshop! (I'd tantalised them with a couple of readings...)

Off to do my last talk at QUT in 15 minutes; then it's off to the airport. It's been a big 2 days.

17 September, 2008

Brisbanites, duck over to the South Bank...

...and buy your copy of Tender Morsels - yes, today, two weeks before official pub. date! - at the Brisbane Writers Festival in the State Library foyer!

I had no clue it was there until a teacher at the Wordplay talk I did this morning brought a copy up to be signed! Wha? Huh?

Come by, come and buy!

PS: Sessions going well, thumping great workshop still to go, then Official Opening Party tonight. I will enjoy that fizz, I think.

16 September, 2008

Packed and ready...

...to fly out for two days of Brisbane Writers Festival, so things will be quiet around here until Friday. Sorry, I'm sold out (scroll down) for the Entertaining Fantasies 3-hour workshop, but I think there'll still be seats at other Word Play events, and the panel on Sunday. If you're in Brisbane, please come and heckle, or laugh at my jokes, or otherwise be lively.

The Green Man Review...

...says this about
Margo Lanagan's 'The Goosle,' a tragic but compelling 'Hansel and Gretel' redux, is a definite read for anyone interested in fairytale retellings. This one's dark, perhaps better suited to original stylings of fairy tales, before they were repackaged for modern consumption in a sparkly new world with all the sharp edges trimmed off. "The Goosle" retains its sharp edges. That's what makes it interesting.

Desert Writings 6

Raymond of Into The Blue sent out his newsletter today, and features a poem I wrote on the plane from Alice to Darwin, which was triggered by reading a review (well, just the title, really) of Bonnie Prince Billy's album Lie Down in the Light:
Lie down in the night.
Lie down in the star light.
Click off your head-torch.
Lay down your brain.
Still that wordy noise and wondering.
Lie quietly and let your heart
shift your warmth out into your wrappings,
lap you in life-blood,
busy on the floor of the silent room,
the high ceiling washed and pooled and spattered with star-milk.
That tree there is a great dark hand
With gleams between the fingers,
That one a many-horned spirit
with an eye pulsing and fading light-years away.

The day has been one story after another,
one face, one pair of boot-heels,
one step, one thousand steps, two thousand, ten—who’s counting?
Today has been all country, soaked in sorrow and stories;
today has made history, a day’s small measure of it,
today has made smells; strong bodies, herb-leaves faint with drought;
today has digested and deposited us,
like so much waste, so many castings-off,
in the sand, here one, there another,
flat-swagged in brown and green,
each with her city equipment,
each with her just-in-cases,
lumping beside her on the river bed,

but all in the dark,
all head-lamps now clicked off,
the fire sinking to slumber in its pit.
Up and down and across the invisible river
the walkers and the writers fall to sleep,
and the ghost of river water
rushes over them.
Now, just imagine the wonderful poems you'll be writing, on the plane back from Tasmania. Yeah. Think about it.

15 September, 2008

Tender Morsels launch(es)

Okay, get out your diaries.

There will be a Tender Morsels launch at the newly-refurbished upstairs bit of Berkelouw Books in Norton Street, Leichhardt (Sydney, Australia, The World) on Thursday, 2 October, at 7pm for 7.30. You are invited—yes, you.

There'll also be a launch, but more genre-y, at Conflux in Canberra at 1pm on Sunday, 5 October. Details to be worked out about that one, but anyone who's around there at that time is welcome there, too.

And there'll be something else, times and dates and format to come.

But you get the idea. By the time we've finished, this novel will be well and truly launched, like Hunter S. Thompson's ashes. Come along and join the fun if you're able to.

14 September, 2008

My mate Tansy...

...(i.e. she has to say nice things) says, of 'Machine Maid':
a beautiful, fascinating and of course (well, it is Margo!) and utterly horrible story of an alternative colonial Australia, exploring the relationship between an isolated wife and her robot maidservant. A definite weird tale of infidelity, murder and hidden hurts.
And of 'The Goosle':
a disturbing story of abuse and murder, tangled in a version of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. I liked unravelling this one, which I read in the wake of all the controversy (charmingly named Gooslegate by Margo's significant other). Grotesquerie and gore kind of has to be high art for me to appreciate it, and this story is clever and nicely crafted enough to be that for me. I think it's one worth further critical examination - there are few stories that I really think I could have a whole conversation about, and this is one of them.
We'll talk, Tansy. :)

11 September, 2008

On a more cheerful note...

...the 3-hour workshop, 'Entertaining Fantasies', that I'm running, up at the Brisbane Writers Festival (you wouldn't believe the wrangling about apostrophes that's been going on in the newspapers), is sold out, all 15 places. Glad to see some people have got their act together.

And I happen to know that participants are flying in from the Yemen, Saskatchewan, Mawson Base and Trinidad and Tobago for that one, so don't come crying poor to me.

Note: Yes, ironic too. Sigh.

What do you mean, you don't want to go walking in the dark forest with me?

D'oh, I must have jinxed myself, changing my blog profile yesterday—this morning Raymond Hawkins, the Into The Blue man, emailed me to say he's had to cut the Tarkine Fantasy trip, as there's been no response.

No response? What is wrong with you people? Here I am, a certified Queen of the Dark, the Icky and the Uncomfortable, offering to personally escort you into the Forest of the Giants, where we will face down your writing demons, or at least have a good wrestle with them, there in the mud amid the mushrooms and the mosses. How can you not want to be part of this?

Yes, I know, it costs money. Yes, I know, you have to pay your own way to Tasmania. No, I couldn't afford to go either, if I weren't being the facilitator. However, putting all that aside, this is a great opportunity you are missing by not whipping out your credit card and bunging down the $600 deposit. You know, the Tarkine may not be there for all that much longer. This is 'unprotected wilderness' we're talking about. '[U]nder Resource Security Legislation most of the rainforest and eucalypt forest could be logged,' they're saying.

And also, I don't like to say this, but I'm not getting any younger. And an aneurysm could take me at any time, just like that, and wouldn't you be kicking yourself that you hadn't sat around the campfire scaring the bejeezus out of yourself with what I helped you write?

I just don't understand it.

Note: The above is writ ironic.

09 September, 2008

What do you mean, you still haven't got The Del Rey Book?

J. L. Comeau at The Tomb of Dark Delights: 'Margo Lanagan’s “The Goosle” is a ferociously horrific continuation of a well-known fairy tale that, honestly, freaked me out.' As it should, J.L., as it should.

The review finishes:
Several of the stories [in] The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy have already been placed into award competitions; there will be winners, no doubt. You’ve just got to read these stories. Seriously.
And that's true, too.

Another star, at Kirkus!

It starts, 'Lanagan's debut U.S. novel after three spectacular short-story collections, including the Printz Honor-winning Black Juice, scintillates, titillates and altogether wows.'

I can't see the full review without paying, so the rest will have to come later. That's okay. I'm happy just to scintillate, titillate and wow for now. :)

Thanks, Anonymous, for alerting me to this!

Updated: Okay, here's the whole thing: *glows*
Lanagan’s debut U.S. novel after three spectacular short-story collections, including the Printz Honor-winning Black Juice (2005), scintillates, titillates and altogether wows. Her trademark linguistic gyrations bring life to this reimagined, utterly fresh take on “Snow White and Rose Red.” When an unknown power grants Liga her own personal heaven after she is first abused by her father and then gang-raped, she unknowingly ruptures the reality of St. Olafred’s. Weaving together multiple characters—Liga, her two daughters, several men transformed into bears by magic gone awry and more—this is ultimately a tale of how the finite worlds of experience bind the infinite worlds of possibility. The author creates worlds with a sure hand, incorporating magic as well as the mundane, ugly realities: jeering boys, poverty, gossip. Similarly, her characters are fully realized people who also fulfill their fairy-tale roles. By turns horrifying and ribald, witty and wise, this tour de force of a novel almost demands multiple readings to fully appreciate each of its layers. Not to be missed. (Fantasy. 15 & up)

08 September, 2008

Red Sparks...

...is the book I have to talk about for 45 minutes to Brisbane school groups next Wednesday morning. Better find it and read it, I suppose.

3rd star for Tender Morsels—from Publishers Weekly

...who say:
In her extraordinary and often dark first [tee-hee!] novel, award-winning story writer Lanagan creates two worlds: the first a preindustrial village that might have sprung from a Brueghel canvas [...] the second a personal heaven [plot recount here...] a dwarf or “littlee man,” in Lanagan's characteristically knotted parlance, slips in and out of her world in search of treasure [more plot...]. Writing in thick, clotted prose that holds the reader to a slow pace, Lanagan explores the savage and the gentlest sides of human nature, and how they coexist. With suggestions of bestiality and sodomy, the novel demands maturity—but the challenging text will attract only an ambitious audience anyway. Ages 14–up.
Let's just hope that ambitious audience numbers in the bazillions, eh. :)

'Night of the Firstlings' accepted

Look! I managed to sneak into Eclipse Two, with all these other splendid folk!

  • The Hero, Karl Schroeder
  • Turing’s Apples, Stephen Baxter
  • Invisible Empire of Ascending Light, Ken Scholes
  • Michael Laurits is: Drowning, Paul Cornell
  • Night of the Firstlings, Margo Lanagan
  • Elevator, Nancy Kress
  • The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm, Daryl Gregory
  • Exhalation, Ted Chiang
  • Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, David Moles
  • The Rabbi’s Hobby, Peter S. Beagle
  • The Seventh Expression of the Robot General, Jeffrey Ford
  • Skin Deep, Richard Parks
  • Ex Cathedra, Tony Daniel
  • Truth Window: A Tale of the Bedlam Rose, Terry Dowling
  • Fury, Alastair Reynolds
With this story from Fabulous February. (You remember Fab Feb, don't you? It came right after Jubilant January. They both contained spells of writing a story a day. Quelle luxe!)

Hotting up

No, not the weather - it's sunny but cold here this morning - just my schedule. Next week is Brisbane Writers Festival, for which I'm doing two jam-packed days Wednesday and Thursday (3 solo talks, 2 Quentaris panels and a 3-hour workshop) and one lazy Sunday. There's a wedding to come home for in the middle of that (no, not mine :) ), then afterwards a week on Bribie Island sharing mentorship duties with Sean Williams and working like a maniac, in the remaining time, on one of the novellas - haven't decided which one yet, Tinderbox or selkie. Better be selkie - that's looking a bit thin, considering its Christmas deadline.

Then after that it's back to the bank full-time (aaargh! - sorry, just ignore that little outburst), plus Tender Morsels will be launched not one but three times - there'll be a YA-ish event, a grown-ups' event and a genre event. They're not hammered into place yet, but I can pretty safely say that the YA-ish one will be at Kinokuniya, the grown-ups' one at Berkelouw in Norton Street, Leichhardt, and the genre one at Conflux in Canberra. Then mid-October the novel will be published in the US, and I don't know what will be involved in that besides me sitting here with my eyes squinched shut and my fingers and toes crossed, but I'm sure there'll be something.

This week is full, then, of preparing talks, of writing TM-associated articles, of tech. writing (at home, thankfully), of preparatory reading for the Quentaris panels. Slightly too many things to keep in my head at the same time, so I'm always forgetting at least one of them. Should keep a list nearby. And stop wittering on my blog and get some of these things done.

05 September, 2008

It's here!

Embossed title and author name! They'll be worn off by the end of the day, with all my patting of them.

It weighs 493 grams. That's nearly half a kilogram! This Australian edition is 362 pages long, all of them tweaked and typographically beautified by mine own man Steven Dunbar.

The cover artist is Ruud van Empel, and the cover design by Greendot Design. The cover quotes are from Neil Gaiman and Gary K. Wolfe. Inside, to start with, there are 3 pages of assorted quotes, for the novel and two of the collections. It has acknowledgments and a dedication and all the equipment.

The last novel I had published was half the length of this one, in 1996. I can't tell you the number of emotions that ran through me as I took this book out of the padded postbag. And here they are, the whole crew, Muddy Annie and Bullock Oxman and Teasel Wurlidge and all the bears and those three puzzled women at the centre of the tale, all still alive in between the gorgeous matte covers.

'A long-awaited novel', it says on the back. Oh, yes, indeed.

Bulk stock of Tender Morsels...

...has just arrived in the Allen & Unwin warehouse. One copy is being couriered over to me today. Oh my God, it's a Real Book. No going back now.

02 September, 2008

Tender Morsels review

Over here:
From its truly horrifying and brutal beginning to its satisfying but bittersweet end, this novel is mesmerizing. Language (characters speak in a country dialect that sounds both fantastical and utterly authentic) and tone remain consistent, whether the story is being told from Liga’s damaged but sweet perspective, from the perspective of one of the Bears who ends up in Liga’s heaven, or from those of any number of other carefully drawn characters. No one is perfect – all have flaws, some much more than others – but we can understand, if not sympathize with, each person. Often wrenching, at heart this is a truly tender story of healing, growing, and redemption.

Thoughtfulness about 'The Goosle'

From Richard Larson over at Strange Horizons, in the midst of a great review of The Del Rey Book... He finishes up his analysis of the story in the light of Gooslegate:
"The Goosle" is not an easy story, and Margo Lanagan is not a writer who makes easy choices. Aversions to certain pieces of fiction, however, should be based on the quality of the writing and the effectiveness of the storytelling rather than knee-jerk reactions to particularities of troublesome content, and Lanagan has imbued a straightforward narrative [...] with a significant amount of complexity. "The Goosle" is one of the strongest stories in this anthology, and to overlook this fact because of its exploration of abusive relationships (and, of course, the necessity of detail when explaining the nuances of those relationships) is, to my mind, a very unfortunate error in judgment.