The Black Hand, vol. 6
Well, I can hardly believe I’m typing this, but we have been in lockdown again.
When will all this be over? I do not know, nor do I have the capacity to predict the future (or hurry-up Australia’s supplies of covid vaccine). But I am really looking forward to the day when everyone in my country is vaccinated, and we can all meet up in person again.
Meanwhile, there has been some kind of worldwide competition to see who can make the best vaccination ad (the worst one was already released by my federal government), and I think New Zealand has won it with this one below, but if you think your country/county/state/territory/city has done it better, please @ me a link in the comments!
What I’m doing
The upside of lockdown is that I’ve had time to work on my edits. I’m currently in the weeds with the edits for Arlington Hall, and my deadline is 2 weeks away – wish me fair weather, friends.
While we’re talking about Arlington Hall – little birdies have told me that the book is about to get a name change, which is a thing that often happens in publishing ™. As soon as I have news about the new title, I’ll let you know. And cover drafts will be coming sometime soon, so that is going to be super cool – I love covers, and I can’t wait to see what LBYR and Allen & Unwin decide to do with this one.
The Final Girls Support Group by Grady Hendrix came out on July 13, and you’d better believe I was bouncing like a frog in a sock when that book released. But I’ve since also read Paperbacks From Hell which is like his analytical paean to the lurid covers and bonkers storylines of trade paperback horror from the 70s and 80s, and I almost enjoyed that more. I’ve now read everything Hendrix has ever released, and he never fails to disappoint.
Continuing my current lockdown obsession with horror books, I also read Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts, and I thought it was an excellent (and moderately scary) look at the intersection of demonic-possession narratives and contemporary media – what happens when a desperate, financially-insecure family is paid by a production company to film the reality-TV show of their daughter’s exorcism? Is their daughter possessed, or is it mental illness? This novel is epistolary (it’s composed of interviews, recollections, blog posts) and has enough meat on its bones to make it a really satisfying read, and also one of those novels that you Think Deep Thoughts About for ages afterwards. If I’m still thinking about a book a week later, that means the author has done their job, so kudos, Mr Tremblay.
Sweet Tooth, and it is delightful – I thought it would be all post-apocalyptic scariness, but it is not. There is a strong thread of hope running through it, which makes it uplifting. Like all things, ymmv, but I’m finding it fun to watch.
We are also watching The Last Dance – the doco about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, which is surprising me because I never thought I could get caught up in a documentary about basketball – and the Olympics (so much Olympics, my god).
None Shall Sleep won an Aurealis Award!
I know! I’m as shocked as anyone! I mean, I was really shocked – I have never been nominated for an Aurealis Award before, and I was just thrilled to get on the shortlist, ngl.
On the day of the award ceremony, I had been in Melbourne with my family and I was very tired. My partner suggested that I should maybe put on some makeup and look presentable before I Zoomed in (because I was sorely tempted to just jump into my pyjamas at the start of the evening) and I was very grateful I took this advice, because None Shall Sleep won Best Horror Novel!
And I had to make a speech. I had not prepared a speech (because I was truly not expecting to win) so my speech was mainly me going “Omg! Amazing! Omg!” but at least I remembered to thank my publisher, who was also in the Zoom audience, so phew.
I am still slightly amazed! An Aurealis Award is a big deal, and I’m so damn thrilled to have won, and I just wanted to say a massive thank you to the Aurealis judges, who do incredible work, and also congratulate all the other writers who won in their categories. If you have a moment, drop by the Aurealis website here, which lists all the shortlistees, who are also amazing, and you might like to check out their books and stories.
None Shall Sleep has also been shortlisted for a Davitt Award!
Which is really cool! The Davitts are the annual award by Sisters in Crime Australia for the best Aussie crime fiction by female-identifying authors in any given year, and I’m absolutely delighted to be on the shortlist for the YA section. You can see all the shortlistees for this year’s best books here.
The Weirdy Wordy
Okay, I found this in McKinley Valentine’s newsletter, The Whippet: it’s a delightfully bizarre newsletter from Mike V. who gives the most recent recaps of all the news from Oddland.
It’s the (fictional) township’s only newspaper, and you will find plenty of strangeness inside each edition, including the story about the hijacking of the local ferry (“The ferry has been captained by an old mysterious hooded figure who speaks in riddles and cryptic codes…”). Another story covers the news of how the Oddland Bunker and Birthday Surprise System was recently flooded with popcorn (“Several hundred pounds of chocolate rations also melted during the event. Also, three people died.”)
It’s amusing and eccentric, and you can check it out below:
This month, our bookclub returns (now that my website is back in action) with our August read, The Monster of Her Age by Danielle Binks. If you’d like to find out more about this title and join in the group read and discussion, feel free to come aboard anytime at the FB group.
Crime Fiction Writer’s Gun Course
Adam is the guy who compiles the Writer’s Detective newsletter and FB group, which gives excellent, up-to-date advice for authors about everything law-enforcement-related. He’s put together a great course, which I am signing up for, about guns – it’s incredibly useful for me, as here in Australia it’s really hard to get gun access and knowledge, which I often do need while writing crime fiction. If you’d like to join in, you can sign up to the course (which is paid, not free, but pretty good value) right here.
I recently showed this music video by Cyndi Lauper to my kid, and explained some of the controversy around how it was slapped with a Parental Advisory warning (all true!), and he was like, ‘Whut?’
Man, the mid 80s. What a trip.
How to Survive Failure
This poet and author and essayist, Stephen Elliott, has started a newsletter simply called SELF HELP and it’s full of meandering and delightful tidbits as a way of actively working out content for a new book he’s writing called How To Make Money: Financial Advice For Poets.
Some of his posts are satiric and some are actually helpful and some are just musings, so if you’re in the mood for a travelling monologue of whimsy and memory and semi-autobiographical poetic daydreaming, you can check it out here.
Serialized fiction from me
So I was pretty blown away by the response I got from last month’s newsletter, which contained an outtake from the original manuscript of None Shall Sleep, and I wanted to float something by you: what if I serialized a story (or even a book?) and posted it for subscribers?
I am genuinely thinking of doing this – I would have to charge for it, but it would be a low charge (I think the lowest I can go on Substack is $5/month, or a single-payment thing?). This newsletter would still remain free, and I would have a split-off thread for fiction. Would you pay $5/month for maybe two or three chapters a week, until you had a whole book?
If that’s something that interests you, give me a yell in replies (the button down below which lets you comment on these posts). Once I’ve had some feedback and a chance to think it out, I’ll let you know what’s going on, so stay tuned.
None Shall Sleep US paperback release
This is happening quite soon, and I am quite excited! The book will be released in the US in paperback in the first week of September, and you can find it wherever you buy your good books. I promise I’ll make an announcement on socials early next month, with links for all the relevant retailers, so if you’ve been holding out for the paperback, your time has come!
And that’s it from me for August. I hope you’re sailing well, wherever you are in the world, and I hope life is treating you very fine. Solidarity to everyone in lockdown right now – I’m feeling the most sympathy for students finishing their final year of high school, because that is really hard yards. I also deeply empathize with parents of young children, now stuck indoors, and with those who have family in care.
But it’s affecting each and every person differently. As a creator, I’m finding it manageable, but financially and emotionally taxing. It has changed my practice, and maybe more importantly, it has changed my mental focus - and maybe that’s the way it should be, if you’re living through a global pandemic.
To everyone who is working at their art during lockdown, my very best wishes – go easy on yourself. I was talking to another writer recently and saying there should be a giant writers’ get-together when covid is done, with awesome snacks and an open cocktail bar.
And to everyone reading this newsletter – writers, readers, fans and friends – I hope the day comes quickly when we can all gather together to talk books and enjoy each others’ company. Good luck to us all, and I hope to see you in person someday soon.
Until next time, stay cool, get vaccinated, and enjoy life.