An Empty Coast

An Empty Coast
My latest novel

Saturday, June 27, 2009

On tour - but I ain't afraid of no pig

Honest, Legion of Fans (LOF), it's not the risk of swine flu that is keeping me away from Victoria.

Newsletter edition two went out yesterday (if you aren't receiving my newsletter, please drop me a line at tonyparknews (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll put you on the list) and already I'm getting some forthright feedback about the lack of any speaking engagements in the fine state of Victoria on the forthcoming Shameless-self-promotion-of-my-pirate-book-IVORY tour.

Yes, Mexicans (which is what people in my state call people in the adjoining state to the south), as things stand at the moment it does not look like I will be venturing south of the border down Melbourne way... In case you didn't get the newsletter I will, however, be appearing at:

New South Wales

St Ives Library - July 31, 11am
Camden Library - August 12, 6.30pm
Belrose Library - August 25, 4pm
Lane Cove Library - August 26, 6pm
Ingleburn Library - August 27, 7pm
Viv's Travel Bug, Bowral, August 28, 5.45pm. Phone 4861 3433 to book.
Gordon Library - August 30, 2.30pm
Hornsby Library - September 3, 6.30pm

Save Foundation Black Tie Ball - September 5, 7pm at the Hunters Hill Sailing Club to raise money for the African Rhino. Two course dinner and South African beer and wine for $90 per head. Bookings essential, contact theafricanqueen@bigpond.com

Queensland
Toowoomba City Library - September 7, 6pm

South Australia
Marion Cultural Centre evening, Adelaide - August 3, 7.30pm. Bookings essential, phone 8375 6855.

West Australia
Dymocks Bookseller Event - August 5, 7pm at Tompkins on Swan Function Centre, Alfred Cove. Welcome, non-alcoholic drink and finger food for $15 per head. Contact Dymocks Garden City on 9364 7387.
Mount Claremont Library - August 6, 7pm, Mount Claremont Community Centre next to the library.

Painted Dog Conservation Inc Fundraiser - August 7, 7pm-9pm in the Gershwin Room, Hyatt Hotel, Perth to raise money for the endangered African Painted Dog. Drinks and canapes included at $50 per head. Bookings essential, contact lemonj@ozemail.com.au

Petition?

Here's the deal - if there is anyone other than Crookpaw and Trin from Victoria who would like me to come down to Australia's hippest, trendiest and coldest capital city (except, I supposed, for Hobart), then I will present your collective case to my publishers.

Normally, I will go to the opening of a door, so I don't need any convincing to go to Melbourne.

In other news... just finishing off the edits to my second non fiction book, which is due at the publishers this week. Hope they like it.

And, in truly important news, Adelle was voted off this week (predictable, but sad nonetheless), leaving only willowy Clare, the petulant and painful Cassi, and the thoroughly delightful Tahnee. I know who my money is on. Speak out, fans of Australia's Next Top Model (ANTM)... I know you're out there and I share your anguish at every elimination.

My reality television weakness is, quite clearly, ANTM. (Yes, I'm a guy, and that sounds a bit gay, but what's not to like - attractive young ladies behaving badly in lingerie?) What's your most embarrassing TV fixation, LOF?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

To faff or not to faff...

Isn't faffing a good word, Legion of Fans (LOF)? Not heard of it? To faff means, well, to appear to be doing something, but not actually achieving anything at all.

Faffing is a way of life for me when I'm in between books, and I quite enjoy it. I could faff for days, weeks, perhaps months on end. In fact, when I worked as a government media adviser circa 1988-1992 I faffed for virtually the entire time (well, that's not entirely true, but I may as well have been faffing for all that I achieved).

With the catchily titled Book 7 having been accepted by my charming, witty, intelligent, Grace- Kelly-lookalike (when Grace was alive) publisher, and while I await some edits for my second (mysterious) non fiction book to come back to me, I technically have nothing to do.

Of course, I have a list of chores to do (organise junk in garage, write another newsletter, vacuum flat, clean bathroom floor, trim hairs in ears) but when I'm in Faff-mode I find it hard to do anything at all. The less busy I am, the lazier I get.

As an example of Faffing, I'm writing this blog, about nothing, instead of dilligently going through a stack of emails I've received about dates when I'll be speaking at various events and engagements following the release of IVORY. If I'd done that, I'd be able to post dates and places here, which might have been of some use to y'all.

Yet here I am, taking the time to write about nothing. I appear to be busy, tapping away on the laptop, but I am achieving zip.

That's Faffing for you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tony on tour.... gulp

Tour dates nearly ready to be released for my whistle-stop-round-parts-of-Australia tour, in order to shamelessly promote the release of my new pirate book, IVORY, post August 1.

Good news is... South Australia is definitely in (after being missed-out last year), as is NSW (of course), Qld (limited stops), and WA (lots of stops), but Victoria.... Well, let us just say, "Trin, do you have any frequent flyer points saved up?"

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Paradise lost

We resume normal transmission, Legion of Fans (LOF). Mrs Blog and I have returned from the South Paficic with all body parts intact, having escaped being eaten by cannibals and (more realistically) food poisoning at the hands of the "chef" (read chief-defroster) at the Nukualofu International Airport Hotel.

Had us a great time, LOF, of that there was no doubt. I'd never fancied myself a cruise ship passenger (at least not for another 40 years or so), but I tell you, after a week aboard the Pacific Dawn I certainly had my sea legs (or was that the copious amount of beer I was drinking in the Lido Bar in between speaking engagements?). My favourite spot on the ship, however, was the poop deck, where Mrs Blog would lounge in our deck chairs in the sun and barely have to raise an eyebrow to attract the unifromed drink waiter's attention.

It was very, very relaxing. And WARM. Bloody hell, LOF, who turned off the heater in Australia while we were gone, eh?

I learned a new saying on Tonga: "Island Time". Island Time is remarkably similar to something else many of you will be familiar with - "African Time". Let us just say that unlike the snappy ship-shape service on the Pacific Dawn, things happenned ashore at their own pace in the Friendly Islands, and rarely without being asked for three or four times.

But how could you not be laid back and blissfully uncaring of interlopers' concepts of time and service when you lived in paradise? The people of the South Pacific (if one were to generalise) remind me of the good people of Botswana (if one were to generalise again). They live in a very nice place, run their own show, and don't much give a fig if tourists arrive late, early or not at all. I have to admire them for that.

Another similarity between the islands and Africa (apart from questionable and variable adherence to the rules of the road when driving) was the ever present spectre of times-past. I saw several charming old colonial homes and administrative buildings in Tonga and many of these had been allowed to go to rack and ruin. Why? Who knows. People don't have the time, inclination, or threat-of-flogging to keep the walls painted and the grass mown, I suppose.

The coast of Mozambique, I noticed (warning, warning, self-promotional segue approaching) is similarly studded with once shining touristic colonial jewels that are in dire need of a dip in coca cola or a scrub with the toothbrush.

In my soon-to-be-released sixth novel IVORY the lead character and modern-day pirate King, Alex Tremain, is trying to restore a once grand, but now run-down hotel on an island off the coast of Mozambique. Alex was born on the island, the priveleged son of the hotel's owners, but he and his family were forced to flee Mozambique when the Portuguese left en-masse in the 1970s.

I based Alex's hotel and the ficitious island where he lives on a number of similar old hotels and beautiful locales on the coast of Moz, from Xai Xai in the south, to the Bazaruto Archipelago, where I travelled extensively in search of inspiration and tax-deductions.

I had a pretty good idea in my own mind of what Alex's hotel must have looked like in its heyday, and how it looked these days. However, truth always being better and more interesting than fiction, I was de-socked to open an email from my ex-Zimbo friend Viv, and find this series of pictures which shows the Grande Hotel in the coastal city of Beira during the olden days of Portuguese rule in Mozambique...


...and then this pic which shows what the exact same hotel looks like these days!


And here's the swimming pool, circa Sasha Distelle...


... and today, where's it's still in use as a mosquito and malaria breeding facility.

So, if/when you pick up your copy of IVORY post August 1 and you want to get an idea of how things were/are in Mozambique, you could do worse than referring back to these amazing pics.
I spent some time in the coastal town of Vilanculos while researching and writing IVORY and was interested to see that its local concrete palace, the Hotel Dona Ana, was undergoing frantic restoration. Mozambique was devastated by civil war for many years and tourism is playing a key role in rejuvenating the country's economy.
It's a funny thing... part of Mozambique's attraction at the moment is that it is relatively quiet and low key in some places (outside of South African school holidays) and the infrastructure (or lack thereof) is keeping out mass tourism. I'm not looking forward to the day when I have to arm wrestle some Teutonic tourist for a sun bed and umbrella by the pool, but another part of me hopes that one day more of these grande olde monoliths will once more be gleaming with white wash and brimming with people in sandals and socks.
The very fact that so many of these colonial hotels are still standing on the coast is a tribute to the Portuguese colonialists' appreciation and mastery of the art of concreting. They mightn't be as attractive as a low-key, eco-friendly burres made of palm fronds and rafia work, but they do stand up to the odd cyclone and the test of time very well.

African Time and Island Time are all well and good, LOF, and I'd hate to sea the Indian Ocean coast of Mozambique built-out from north to south, but there's room on the beach and in the market for a few more of these concrete colonial casas and their snappily-attired and snappily-moving drinks waiters to make a come back.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Castaway!

Captain'f log, June 11th,

After running out of jokes and storief about the dark continent, and refufing to dreff appopriately for the Outback Hoe Down Lady Blog and I were forced to walk the plank in Tonga and were caftaway from the MV Paficific Dawn.

Although chriftened the 'friendly ifles' by Captain Cook, the good people of thif island nation alfo have a penchant for cooking hapleff castaways, according to Mr Grant Hyde Efq in hif excellent book, Lordf of the Pacific.

Today we learned that we were, in fact, marooned in Nukualofa af our flight home, on Pacific Blue, was cancelled. We currently await our fate in an encampment near the airport.

At thif moment the only thing going according to plan if the free wireleff internet acceff. Lady Blog'f complementary meal just arrvied stone cold. A cannibal'f cooking fire would not go astray right now - at leaft we would get a hot meal.

The drumf, Legion of Fanf, the drumf...

The nativef are getting restleff.

There are worfe placef to be shipwrecked, LOF, but I can alfo think of fome better onef.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Lord of the Pacific

“Some people dream of a lonely island… stuck in the middle of a lonely seeeeeeeea.”

And I found one, Legion of Fans (LOF), Amadee Island. Amadee is actually French for sea snakes and expensive beer, but it was as pretty as a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical and an extremely agreeable place to spend my first shore leave from my arduous duties as Commodore of the MV Pacific Dawn’s inaugural book club.

(If you’ve just joined us, I’m on a freebie, acting as the guinea pig for P&O’s first on-board book club, spruiking my books and delivering an arduous program of lectures – three in six days, if you must know).

And what better place than L’isle de la sea Serpente et Bier Extravagante to start reading LORDS OF THE PACIFIC by new Macmillan Australian author Grant Hyde.

My oh my, LOF, if this isn’t a cracking yarn then you can call me Frank Co…. Enough of that.

Grant, who I have yet to meet but look forward to stalking, is a former first grade Rugby League player (Roosters) who has had all manner of career changes before ending up as a part time author and full time Qantas baggage handler. All true. Well, the man can write and although I’m only a third through he is putting LORDS OF THE PACIFIC long and high and it’s currently heading straight between the posts.

LORDS OF THE PACIFIC is set in the 18th Century in the South Pacific, with much of the action taking place on Tonga, where Mrs Blog and I will sadly be disembarking our cruise and then flying home.

The book’s a bit of a cross between Bernard Cornwell, Patrick O’Brien and vintage Wilbur. Damn good stuff, and I am learning heaps (like how the Tongans used to cook people alive and then eat them. Really looking forward to getting to Tonga).

I should point out, here, that I would have been reading the exceptionally nice Katherine Howell’s first thriller, FRANTIC, if Mrs Blog hadn’t snaffled it early on in the Cruise. She’s loving it.

Apropos of LORDS OF THE PACFICIC, I’m actually living a bit of a Lord Jim life meself at the moment, shipmates. The Filipino staff here on Pacific Dawn have an endearing habit of referring to male passengers as “Sir”, followed by their name.

So I am “Sir Anthony” to the barman on the Lido Deck and “Sir Tony” to our charming stewardess who looks after our cabin. Normally I wouldn’t brook such familiarity, but our stewardess has done such a champion job I shall continue to allow her to refer to me in the diminutive form.

All jokes aside the service on this ship is superb and the food is excellent and I’m not just saying that because I’m on a freebie.

I do believe Mrs Blog and I are getting into the whole cruising thing. It’s been a perfect opportunity to unwind from my normal busy schedule of traveling on country library buses and attending important lunches.

Fortunately, the inaugural book club meeting was held on the coldest, wettest day of the cruise so far. There was no question of shuffleboard or hot-tub socializing, and as the book club meeting was scheduled immediately prior to the daily Bingo extravaganza I had an excellent roll up. To make sure the crowd was paying attention I would occasionally interrupt my monologue with “Eyes down… legs eleven!”

Seriously (once more) it was a great roll up and lots of people bought copies of SILENT PREDATOR (lest you think I was being too generous plugging Grant’s book, this blog is, after all, all about me) from the ship-board boutique.

I fielded lots of very good questions about books and writing and now I know I am going to have to think very hard to come up with something worthy and sensible to say in the next two meetings.

Until then, I shall continue to immerse myself in the Pacific of yore.

I had another dose of South Pacific history last night when the onboard movie channel screened a remake of THE South Pacific. It was filmed in Australia – on the Gold Coast if I’m not mistaken, and starred the very elderly Glenn Close as the supposedly young and na├»ve Nurse Nellie Forbush. Odd.

The male leads were all equally aged and much more heavyset Australians (Jack Thompson included). Odd, LOF, very odd. I love the original (how gay is that) and the music, but this remake looked like the handycam-recorded performance of the Surfer’s Paradise Amateur Dramatic Society.

Still, I did sing along with every track, much to Mrs Blog’s consternation as she lay beside me with a pillow over her head.

Ah, bless her. “There is absolutely nothing like aaaaaaaaa daaaaaaaaaaaaaaame.”

Thoughts, Legion of Fans? Have I been at sea too long? Trin, Les, stay tuned to Cruise Cam as I may be doing my rendition of ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ on the poop deck later this evening.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Something for you to read in case I get captured by pirates...

Bags are packed.

Hawaiian shirt - tick
Sunscreen - tick
Bermuda shorts - tick
Book: How to Win at Shuffleboard - tick
Last Will and Testament - tick.
Book: Assegai - tick (may come in handy as a life raft a la Leonardo and Kate in Titanic in case of icebergs).
Sketchbook and charcoal - tick.

We're good to go, Legion of Fans (LOF). Hopefully I'll soon be beaming to you live from Bali Hai and other points of the South Pacific, but just in case, as promised in an earlier comment, I thought I'd direct you towards some very talented and thorougly nice lady authors who I met duirng my recent drunken stay on the Gold Coast.

As we say in the South West Pacific Theatre of Operations, "there is nothing like a dame", so here are three grande dames (note drawn-out and un-PC segue, not one of my best) of the Australian literary scene, whose works I commend to youse all:

Katherine Howell: writer of Aussie crime novels and perhaps the nicest person ever to put finger to keyboard (she sent me an email the other day telling me she thought my blog was funny, so Katherine gets extra points). I sneaked a peek at the first three pages of her first book, FRANTIC, the other day, and I fear ASSEGAI may be doing a bit of time as the door stop in the cabin on this trip.

Katherine's a former ambulance paramedic and so is one of her characters - got my pulse up to 180 over sixty (or whatever they say) in the first page. More valium, stat... I have have an appointment with a deck chair. Katherine also hands out free chocolates at her book signings to shame people into buying her books... errr, I mean because she is so nice.

Sydney Bauer: writer of legal thrillers set in Boston, US & A. You know, after meeting the very charming Sydney I almost said to her, "say, how come an Aussie is writing books set in America?" when I suddenly remebered the 3,429 people who have asked me, "say, how come an Aussie is writing books set in Africa?".

Mrs Blog is going to be reading ALIBI on the boat, errr ship, errr whatever in between posing.

Kathy Webb: writer(s) of chick lit. Now, this is complicated... Kathy Webb is an amalgam (right word?) of two people, Kathy Wilkinson and her sister, Mrs Webb. They write their books together. I met Kathy Wilkinson and she was as thoroughly nice as Katherine and Sydney. Now if you think this whole sisters-writing-together-and-joining-names thing sounds complicated, you should try having it explained to you at midnight after too many drinks.

Well, that's enough promotion of other people, back to me.

Ooops, sorry, don't forget my good friend and flood victim Peter Watt.

Also I met a top bloke at Literati who is a seller of books and aspiring writer, Mr David Hibbins. David has just started a blog called bookblog in which he is inviting members of the public to review selected books, and offering cash prizes for reviews! Trin, Les, and all the rest of you out... pens and pencils out and pop over and say hi to all my writerly friends while I dash off for welcome cocktails with the Captain, and lifeboat drill.

"Another Mai Tai, Isaac, and don't go easy on the umbrellas this time, my man!"

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I'm the king of the world!

Leonardo di Caprio eat your heart out... here I am, Legion of Fans (LOF) on board the magnificent, luxurious and totally virus-free MV Pacific Dawn, doing a quick brush up on my fifth book, SILENT PREDATOR so I can sound like I know what I'm talking about when I address the ship's first ever on-board book club.

Gulp.

It could be a bit embarrassment sitting around with people discussing my book. Oh well, if the worst happens and no one fronts for the book club I can always console myself with Pina Coladas on the poop deck.

I'm looking forward to my SIX-DAY CRUISE TO TONGA, LOF. And why wouldn't I be? Flu-shmoo, who cares. When the opportunity presents itself for a passage to some exotic south sea island, together with the promise of drinks with umbrellas and the opportunity to wear my Hawaiian shirt in public, not even the Bubonic Plague could keep me ashore.

I was hoping to have all my work done before embarking (as we say in nautical circles) but unfortunately I'm still doing the first edit of my second non-fiction book. You know, the one about....

Still, it will keep me out of mischief for the first few days and keep me away from the Karaoke Bar (rest assured, I will get there) for a short while. Mrs Blog will be pleased.

So, I'm about to set my course for adventure, my mind on a new romance (romance scene that is, as in for a future book, not a new romance, as the small but perfectly formed Mrs Blog will be joining me on this cruise). We look forward to leaning out over the pointy end, dancing with the poor but happy folk in steerage, and perhaps even finding a Model T Ford stowed away somewhere in the cargo hold.

As well as discussing the deep and inner meanings of SILENT PREDATOR (what did happen to Tom Furey's jag when he left England for Africa?) I also intend on heavily spruiking my forthcoming book IVORY which is, in case you didn't know, about MODERN DAY PIRACY.

Poor old Pacific Dawn. After her run of luck this week wouldn't it be terrible if she was set upon by pirates?

Ahhhh, but think of the free PR for the new book!

Pipe me aboard, number one, for it's time to weigh anchors, arc up the Karaoke machine and break out the drink umbrellas! Come on pirates, take your best shot across our bows (please? I need the publicity).

What about you, LOF? Cruise fan or not?