Refreshing the Wells today by listening to as many variations of “Gloomy Sunday” as I can bear. This song really does sit like a weight on your shoulders after a while.
Archive for June, 2016
I’ve always loved Ben Peek’s stories. He has a truly individual voice and way of seeing the world, and this shines through in his work. So with the arrival of his novels The Godless and Leviathan’s Blood in the mail, I was spurred to ask him how he refreshes his wells, because everything I read from him is fresh, bright and new.
Ben said, “When I am not writing, I read, mostly. It is terribly boring of me. I write and I read. Between the two, I talk about books, and every now and then, I think I should take up something worthwhile. Perhaps I should work with refugees, or learn how to be a doctor. A medical doctor, that is. But in the end, I go back to reading, to writing, to my quiet obsessions.
A few years back, it occurred to me that I could count how many books I would read before I died. It was an estimation, of course, but still, it was not too difficult. I keep a list of the books I read in a year. It is roughly between fifty and sixty, a book or so a week. In ten years, I realised, I might read five hundred books, maybe six hundred. I am thirty-nine, now. If I live another fifty years – and let us assume, for the sake of argument, that I will – then I will read anywhere between 2500 and 3000 books. Then, hopefully in a spectacular event involving recreational drugs, beautiful people, and a cruise ship, I will die, and be buried at sea. Perhaps. But regardless of how I exit this life of mine, I will not have read a lot of books.
So, I read.
I read anything, by and large. What I don’t like, I give up. It’s the numbers that haunt me. Because of them I have been left with little tolerance for books with flawed craft. Bad pacing, bad words, a lazy thought process. You can learn these things. An author should. I have no time for the author who approaches their craft with an anti intellectual stance that rejects this crafts. Just as I have no time for small minded, xenophobic works. Nor am I interested in books that are cruel for no other reason than to be cruel. I also, and perhaps this is the most peculiar habit of mine, will not read books where pets are killed. Of all the things I mentioned, it is this one that I have broken only once as an adult, and that was for László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango.
Otherwise, I read anything. I read for the beautiful constructions such as J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace. Or for the consistently excellent and personally fulfilling Usagi Yojimbo by Sam Sakai. I read the intelligent fury in Kathy Acker’s body of work. The beautiful language of strange in Fritz Leiber. For the world view I take from Salman Rushdie. I read because it introduces me to fabulous people – to Hilary Mantel, Lavie Tidhar, N.K. Jemisin, Matt Kindt, Octavia Bulter, Avram Davidson, Hilda Hilst, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and more and more – and to the fabulous things they make.
And then I return to the work I have, which is inferior, yes. I try to equal those people I admire, to create works that someone, out there, will read in their limited amount of time to read in this world of ours. I hope it means as much to them, as others do to me.”
By the way, there’s a Goodreads giveaway for The Godless.
Ellen Datlow and I embarked on a project we call “The Tool Series”, where she sends me a photo of one of her amazing old tools and I write a story about it.
Here’s an interview we did with Smokelong Quarterly, an online publisher of flash fiction.
You can see the tools and read the stories here, on Ellen’s Facebook page.
You know what would be interesting? If an artist continued the chain; drew a picture having read my story but not seen the original picture! Then someone writes a story based only on that new piece of art. I wonder what we’d end up with?
To celebrate the release of Alan Baxter’s Alex Caine Series in print edition, I resurrected my Sparks series and asked Alan to tell me about where the idea for the books came from. Alan brings all the knowledge and experience of his two careers together in the books, creating something quite unique.
Alan: Kaaron asked me to write about the spark that led to the sprawling bushfire that is The Alex Caine Series. It’s actually a very simple thing but it took a long time to come around. My first novel was RealmShift, originally self-published in 2006, then acquired by Gryphonwood Press in 2010. The main character in that book and its sequel, MageSign, is a guy called Isiah. He’s a powerful immortal with an unenviable burden, and he’s also an accomplished martial artist. After all, you can get pretty good at something when you’re immortal.
Because of those books, among other things, I got a reputation for writing good fight scenes. Given that I’ve been a martial artist for over 35 years now, and my day job is as a martial arts instructor, it’s no real surprise that I was writing what I knew there, and apparently doing an okay job of it. For a long while I’ve been running workshops on the subject, helping other writers to put together more realistic and compelling fight scenes.
And then I got to thinking. I’ve written lots of characters who happen to be capable martial artists. But I’ve never written a character who was a career martial artist. A practitioner and competitor, happily living his martial arts life, who then becomes embroiled in a story. And that was the spark for the character of Alex Caine. Caine starts the story as a successful underground cage fighter, making good money in illegal MMA matches, until he runs afoul of mobsters and magic. I’d also been noodling around with this evil book idea, a subverted fantasy quest idea (set in our time, our world, with dark and horrible occurrences involved) and it all slammed together and Bound, the first book in the Alex Caine trilogy, was born.
Books 2 and 3, Obsidian and Abduction, were quick to follow. And Alex Caine’s life as a fighter at the top of his game must seem like such a distant memory to the poor bugger by now. But he’s certainly had the opportunity to put an awful lot of his martial arts training to the test.
Here’s Alan’s bio: Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s the award-winning author of several novels and over sixty short stories and novellas. So far. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.
Here’s Alan getting excited about his books. I love that such a well-published, award-winning writer still gets excited by it all!
For those of you in Sydney or nearby, you should definitely got to the launch of these books. Alan in conversation with the amazing Garth Nix, who is both wise and funny and knows how to pour a glass of wine.
Some recent anthologies my stories appear in. In my Backyard rather than the Wild, but still!
“All Roll Over” is a very vicious story, inspired by an old mattress I saw on the side of the road. In Your Face is edited by Tehani Wessely and published by Fablecroft Press.
“68 Days” was inspired by a news article I read that said life expectancy in long distance space travel was 68 days. True of not, it got me thinking about how you’d ensure knowledge could be passed quickly from one person to the next.
Tomorrow’s Cthulu is edited by Scott Gable and C. Dombrowski, published by Broken Eye Books.
“Working for the God of the Love of Money” is a reprint story. I wrote it in response to watching a kid asking for coins in Sydney years ago, and the way people acted towards him.
Street Magicks is edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books.
“Dead Sea Fruit” is the story reprinted here. The story of the Ash-Mouth Man and the skinny girls who love him.
The Humanity of Monsters is edited by Michael Matheson and published by Chizine.