Sunday, December 12, 2010
As someone wise once said to me (it may have been Mother Blog), 'getting old means not having to pretend that you like people' or, in this case, places.
Here I am on the Getaway Magazine Blog, whingeing away. Have a look and leave a comment (please).
Off to Botswana tomorrow, then Zambia - two countries with little or no internet connectivity for yours truly. Back in a week or so.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Killed by a lion? Shot by poachers? Carjacked? Car fridge breakdown? Bitten by a black mamba? Hmm?
Actually it's none of those things (well... car fridge breakdown is actually a show-stopper and if I got close enough to a mamba to be bitten I'd probably have a heart attack and die...)
No... it's a laptop imploding.
Yes, just as I was finishing off non fiction book number 3 and starting novel number 9, the laptop went and died on me. In between pulling out the battery and sticking it back in again I managed to save the aforementioned books and a few other gems, but we're now on the back-up plan. I am using Mrs Blog's laptop.
With two of us sharing the computer at the moment there is little time for blogging or other social networking. And I can't even enter things like "sexy ladies in gorilla masks" in google any more, as she would find me out!
(Actually, I don't really go looking for sexy ladies in gorilla masks, but I know at least on of you does. I've got a site meter on this blog that tells me how people have stumbled upon our little world here - ie: random googling or if you come here direct. I've used the 'sexy ladies in gorilla masks' line once before and, not long after, I discovered some interloper had actually found the blog by typing that very thing into his/her search engine).
So, it's nothing but work, work, work for me, on our shared computer.
I can report that I am finally making some headway with novel number 9 and before my computer crashed I had managed to write a couple more semi serious blogs for the Getaway website and South African Tourism. These will be appearing soon and, if Mrs Blog lets me, I will point to them from here.
Also, we're heading back into the wilds of deepest, darkest no-internet land next week for a couple of weeks.
Be good, and don't forget, you can buy all your friends and relatives in the UK a cheap copy of SILENT PREDATOR for Christmas by going online.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Racked (wracked, crookedpaw?) with guilt, I decided I would send you all some pictures, in the hope of keeping you from switching channels.
And so today, we have some images (I can only load five per post) of our recent sojourn to Etosha National Park.
Tough, ferocious, and usually elusive it's not often you see a honey badger (above) in broad daylight - especially not three metres away. The German tourist camped next to us in Halali Camp in the middle of Etosha (all tourists in Namibia are German, except us) had to ask me what this little fellow was.
"Honey badger," I said.
"Ratel," I tried, exhibiting my comprehensive knowledge of Afrikaans (koeksister, ratel, snot klap, lekker, renoster, voetsek).
Clearly I wasn't getting through. Mein neighbour proceeded to walk up to the honey badger with his tiny digital camera. When he was two metres away I called out "Stop-en-zee."
Clearly I had to talk louder to this man and resort to sign language. "Dangerous! Grrrrrr," I used my hands as claws for effect. "Scrotum!" I placed a hand on mine and mimicked extreme pain and severe blood loss.
"Ah!" said the man. Few (male) travellers to Africa have not heard of the honey badger's legendary modus operandi for bringing down prey as large as a wildebeest... they rip their victim's scrotum out. Something clicked in the neighbour's mind and he backed off.
Etosha Pan (in the background) and Etosha lion in the foreground. Enough words from me.
Etosha's a great place. It's very pricey these days and the camps are absolutely chockers (crowded). However, there are only the three camps and they're not all that big compared to, say, Kruger's camps. The park, on the other hand, which runs along one side of the gigantic Etosha salt pan, is very big, so you never really feel crowded out when you're out game viewing.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I've been meaning to post about my geekish affair with ebooks for a long time, but never got around to it. Fortunately my techno-savvy friend Joel, who is one of the editors at Pan Macmillan, has interviewed me about using my Kindle in Africa on his blog, here, so I can cross 'blog about Kindle' off my comprehensive list of things to do.
Just as well, as it's Mrs Blog's birthday today so I have a comprehensive to-do list today.
1. Check emails (done)
2. Blog about Kindle (done)
3. Do more edits on Book 8. (ummm, pending, due to birthday party)
4. Get drunk
5. Cook dinner for wife.
Maybe that should be:
4. Cook dinner for wife
5. Get drunk.
No, here's a better idea.
4. Get drunk while cooking dinner for wife.
Anyhow, all this list making is making me look very productive, as she sits opposite me, checking her birthday emails on her computer.
Joel's posting the Kindle interview in two parts, to add to the suspense. I bet you can't wait to see how it ends.
How about you, Legion of Fans (LOF), any ebook fans out there? I know at least a couple of you have dabbled in the world of digital books. Confess...
Monday, November 15, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
It's here on my Getaway Magazine blog : you know, the sort of serious one.
Leave a comment or two, so they keep the blog going.
Any UK readers yet? Make yourself known, and welcome, if you've bought a copy of SILENT PREDATOR, the first of my books to be published in the UK by the wonderful, lovely, wise people at Quercus Books.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Mrs Blog has been going through the pictures, picking out the best ones, and we just took delivery of a stack/span/hobo of good pics from our friend Annelien, who accompanied us on our recent trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Here's a selection, in no particular order...
(There's even a naked one, which should keep the anonymous commentators happy).
We came across this mean and nasty old lady not far from the Pandamatenga border crossing, from Botswana to Zimbabwe, on our way out of Hwange National Park after taking part in the 24-hour game census in the park - a highlight of our safari calendar. This lioness was in the Matetsi Safari area, which features in my book, SAFARI.
Incidentally, in the acknowledgements section of SAFARI, I mention that a rhino was shot by poachers during the game census,while I was busy writing SAFARI. This is where it happened, at Chingahobe. Apparently the people counting that year were close enough to hear the poachers chopping the horn off. Scary stuff.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Still resting up in Joburg while Broomas the indefatigable 1997 300Tdi Land Rover Defender is kitted out with some more gadgets (for those who are interested, it's a Frontrunner four-box drawer slide, and a rear fender mountd 40 litre fuel tank).
More travel tales and frippery here soon.
Dark Heart, due for release in November, 2012, in the UK and South Africa!
Friday, October 22, 2010
So, where to start? At the very beginning? No... too boring. Miles and miles of Botswanan nothingness en route to Hwange (Zimbabwe), via such uninspiring locales as Martins Drift, Francistown (might come back to that one, as we did have a tire slashed by would-be thieves), and Nata.
No, I've got a better idea. Let's start halfway through, at a good bit, where I'm drinking beer in a river in the Okavango Delta, the setting of my latest book, THE DELTA. (How's that for a seamless segue... seamless, I hear you cry/groan!).
It's amazing the people you meet in Africa. I came across these two fellow Aussies drifting down the Khwai River, which is, in actual fact, a tributary of the Okavango, in Botswana, and not the setting of an Alec Guinness movie, as I'd always thought.
These brave chaps were single-handedly navigating the Okavango Delta on floating lounge chairs with nothing but Castle Lager and Cheetah kill to sustain them (Cheetahs will run away if you threaten them, lions will kill you, as our heroine, Sonja, points out in the aforementioned novel).
I stopped these two latter-day Stanley and Livingstones and asked them if it was safe to be consuming alcohol in a river in THE DELTA.
I'd read an article in the authoritative SA 4x4 Magazine, bible of the modern-day beer-drinking African adventurer, a couple of years ago about this very place, the Khwai River Community Conservancy, which sits on the north eastern border of the Moremi Game Reserve in THE DELTA. The article promised abundant wildlife and camping at a fraction (about half, in fact) of the cost of staying in Moremi, just across the river. The local community would be uplifted by our money, and we would get to see lots of animals do all sorts of silly things that are banned in national parks - like swimming in the river.
That particular article featured a picture of some rather burly Afrikaner gentlemen sitting on lounge chairs, up to their necks in 'delta wine' (as the local waters are sometimes known), while supping on beers. The intrepid crew from SA 4x4 had been promised by locals that there were no crocodiles in the waterways in which they were reclining.
So I asked these two gentlemen, Barry Humphries (right), and Donald Bradman (left), what the situation was with crocs.
"We asked an African safari guide from one of the camps around here if there were crocodiles in the river," Barry informed me, over long drafts of rehydrating fluid.
"And what did he say?" I asked.
"He said; 'of course!'"
Armed with that information, what else could I do, but slip into my tatty Australian Army running shorts and reach for the Esky (cooler box/chilly bin, to foreign readers).
Just out of shot in this picture are two burly Land Rover Defenders which our party parked across the river to act as a crocodile barrier (like, I'm sure that would stop them). Just off to the left of this picture, about 300 metres back were a couple of lions that we'd earlier been watching sleeping off a big meal.
And people ask me if Africa is dangerous?
Monday, October 18, 2010
I've just been wading through a span/stack/heap of emails and noticed a couple about a Mr Damien Mander, former Aussie commando who was shot in Zimbabwe while working on anti-poaching patrols.
Thanks Anonymous and Naturesmark for mentioning this little incident in the blog comments. Geepers, it sounds a lot like my fourth book, SAFARI! Anyone remember that one (ex Aussie special forces soldier training anti poaching patrols in Zimbabwe)? Hmmm?.
All is well. Or, at least it will be after a few more beers.
I miss you all and will be back in more regular contact in a few days' time with tall tales and true from my travels when I get back into South Africa.
Much to report...
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Mrs Blog and I leave tomorrow (Saturday), for a month-ish long trip to Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia, all in the name of research, of course. Sort of.
In fact, I'm so busy editing the eighth novel and the third biography that I haven't even begun to think about what the ninth novel will be about. Hopefully inspiration will strike somewhere between game spotting and drinking. Yikes.
Internet connectivity will be somewhere between sparse and non existent on this leg of the trip, so take a break or, better still, get to work.
In the meantime, I can report that the weather in Joburg has been sunny and warm, the food and booze cheap, and the people as friendly as always. Crime is down, the vibe is up since the world cup, and Broomas our trusty new(ish) Land Rover is packed and ready for the road.
I've been invited by the good peolple at South African Tourism to contribute to their aussie blog, so when I get back in range I'll be posting the odd bit of news there, as well. I've written my first and it will appear in the very near future here. Keep an eye out for it and, please, when it appears, leave a comment so it looks like I have lots of fans.
There'll be big news next month when I get back from safari. I promise. In fact, there may even be some video, as I got drunk on the flight over and bought a teeny weeny HD video camera from the in-flight duty free catalogue.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
Mrs Blog and I leave for Africa very soon so things are mounting up (yikes!). Too much organising, too little time, and too little natural ability (on my part) to organise anything.
Anyway, as I said in the last post there will be more stuff for me to blog about once I'm back in Africa. I'll be resurectng my long-dormant blog for South Africa's Getaway magazine and, in news just to hand, I've also been invited by my new good friends at South African Tourism to contribute to their blog. So it will be blog, blog and blog some more for me, in between trying to finish off this biography and write a ninth novel. Phew!
My round (most of) Australia promotional tour for THE DELTA has now officially ended, so I'd like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone who came to one of my events. It was great to see some familiar faces and to meet some wonderful new people. I love youse all.
Ummm... what else?
Oh, yes, SILENT PREDATOR comes out in the UK in November. I'll be launching a special promo through my newsletter soon to drum up support for the launch of my books onto the UK market, so if you haven't signed up for the newsletter then do so (click on the button thingy somewhere off to the left). Pronto.
Sales of THE DELTA are going very well, thank you very much, and are nicely up on last year's figures for IVORY. DELTA was number 8 in the mystery thriller rankings last week.
And, in late, late breaking news, raise a shot of vodka in a big nostrovia: yours truly has just cracked the Russian book market! Yes, true. IVORY and THE DELTA are to be translated and released sometime in the near future in Mother Russia.
Dasvidaniye, for now.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I'm off to Orange Library next Monday, August 30, at 12.30pm for the last talk of the trip and I'll be at Viv's Travel Bug tonight (Thursday August 26) from 6pm.
Africa is calling... only a couple more weeks until Mrs Blog and I take off again. Expect fewer book reviews and more tales when we get back to the veldt.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Here's another review of THE DELTA, this time from the very astute Mr Jeff Popple of the Canberra Times (oh, and Jeff, if you think this one was a bit long, wait until you see Novel Number 8 - it's about 60,000 words longer than THE DELTA. Yikes!)
Thursday, August 19, 2010
This first one is a short review in Brisbane's leading daily newspaper, The Courier Mail (in fact, it's Brisbane's only daily newspaper, but I can't say anything bad about it because the Courier Mail carries excellent, incisive, book reviews written my very smart people. And my cousin works there).
This second piece was in The Weekly, and it's me telling y'all about some of my favourite books set in Africa. I'm often asked what books I read, so, if you want to know, read this... (and if you don't, get back to work you slacker). Click on the pic if, like me, you find that writing is getting smaller and smaller these days.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Next stop is Narellan Library, 6.30pm, Wednesday August 18. I'm looking foward to seeing a library at Narellan because when I was growing up in nearby Campbelltown the only two things at Narellan were the Gayline drive-in movie (what... theatre? cinema? parking lot?) and cows. I recall many a fond night sneaking people into the drive-in, and being snuck-in myeself, though we pretty much left the cows alone.
I also recall a rather dangerous night when a couple of mates and I went to see the original Mad Max movie at the Gayline in my XR Falcon. The end of the movie was like the waving of a chequered flag as a fleet of Fords and Holdens set about re-enacting key scenes of that seminal flick, as teenage drivers challenged each other with calls of "I'll see you on the highway, Skag," and "that Skag and his floozy are gunna dieeeeee." Or something like that.
But I digress.
Oh, and yes, we have a winner to the "tell-a-lie-about-how-I-ended-up-with-stitches-in-my-nose" competition. Lest you think that I am a tight a*rse (or tight a*s as the winner might say), who wouldn't cough up the postage to send a book to the US and A, or that winning a competition once precludes you from winning twice, the winner is your very own Karen Bessey-Pease, of somewhere USA. Karen, you have won the TP book of your choice, other than THE DELTA (because I don't have any copies left and they cost too much for me to buy from the publishers).
In other news, I spoke to a customarily large crowd of customarily lovely people at St Ives Library in Sydney last Friday. I do like St Ives Library, as they a good get a turn-out and the lovely librarian Penny knows the way to my heart (mini scones for morning tea and a bottle of booze as a present). Thanks to you all at the library.
Coming right up later this week, post Narellan, is Concord Library, at 1pm on Friday August 20.
The tour is drawing to a close and my departure to Africa is looming...
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Hobart, however, turned out to be quite a surprise on the weather front. Surprising on all fronts, in fact. And fun.
For a start, Monday was a postcard perfect day - cool, crisp and sunny with clear blue skies. I went for a run around the waterfront to Sandy Bay. I was staying at was perhaps one of the nicest hotels I've ever been to - the Henry Jones Art Hotel. It's in the old IXL jam factory or warehouse or whatever (remember the old commercials about IXL and Henry Jones? As well as making nice jam, Mr Jones pioneered the use of Text Speak - or txt spk as young people would say - by shortening his catchphrase "I Will Excel", to IXL. I think).
Anyway, Monday was free, so I spent the day exploring and had a smashing time. Monday night I spoke to a very good number of people at a book talk organised by one of my nicest readers, who lives in Hobart. She teamed up with local travel agency, Andrew Jones Travel, and we sold a lot of books, generally talked-up holidays in Africa, and made a tidy little sum off the book sales to send off to the School of St Judes in Tanzania.
Unfortunately, I soured my good relations with the Apple Isle by mis-spelling Launceston as Lunceston in the last post on the blog (which I have just corrected). Which leads me to the point of this blog post. Typos.
And now some bona fide news!
I am pleased to report, big head that I am, that sales of my new book, THE DELTA are doing very well. It is my publisher, Macmillan's best selling book this week. It is doing so well, in fact, that they have decided to do a second print run after just two weeks.
So, if any of you have read the book and spotted any mistakes or typos or whatever, then please let me know asap, by comments or email so I can make corrections in the second edition. (Crookedpaw, this is the chance for you to ante up on your remark about proofreaders).
Monday, August 09, 2010
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Fame, if not fortune, at last...
(PS: I don't know why none of my Youtube videos seem to fit in the blog properly anymore. I can assure you the original is not cropped like this, but you'll get the general idea)
Yes, it's really me, sans stitches and now sporting a fairly rakish little scar on my nose. On the road again. To paraphrase the Hoodoo Gurus, "I spend half my life in airports... and when the bar is open you'll often find me warming a seat." Pretty much sums up a book publicity tour.
But apart from drinking in airports I also talk at libraries - lots of them. And, it seems, I often get the start times wrong in my newsletter.
ATTENTION GOOD PEOPLE OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA....
My talk at the AH Bracks Library at Melville, on Wednesday August 4 is a 6.30pm for 7.00pm start, not, as previously advertised by me, a 6pm start.
After that it's Mandurah Library at 2pm on Thursday the 5th, and then on Friday the 6th the gala Painted Dog Conservation Inc charity cocktail party at 7pm for 7.30pm atthe Hyatt Regency, 99 Adelaide Terrace, Perth (booze included in ticket price - contact Ange at firstname.lastname@example.org to book).
I haven't forgotten the prize for the liars' competition below - just amusing myself watching the intercontinental ballistic banter between you members of the Legion of Fans (LOF). I love it when you talk dirty to each other.
And now, for your listening enjoyment, here are the aforementioned Hoodoos with a song which reminds me of Afghanistan, but that's another story.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
And now, some important announcements re the current book tour.
Friday July 30th (Goldcoast) - NOTE Correct time.
Angus & Robertson Southport event, Broadbeach Library Sunshine Blvd, corner Hooker Blvd, Broadbeach
Author talk, from 7.00pm (note this was previously advertised here on the blog and in the newsletter as a 6pm start).
Friday August 6th (Perth)
NOTE: there are still tickets available to the following event, so book now (please).
Painted Dog Conservation fundraiser. Hyatt Regency, Freshwater Bay Room, Cnr Adelaide Terrace and Plain Street, East Perth. Tickets $60 including drinks and canapes.
Author talk and charity auctions from 7.00pm for 7.30pm
Tickets: Angela Lemon, email: email@example.com
Click on the picture of me in uniform, on the left, for details of other events on my current book tour.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Click on the pic to enlarge.
Also, don't forget that the unofficial sneak preview launch of The Delta happens tomorrow (Saturday, July 24). I know a couple of you LOF-ers are coming (thankfully). Come join us... beer, rugby, books, me... what more could you want?
Saturday July 24th (Sydney)
Jacaranda Party (to raise funds for the Fred Hollows foundation) Greengate Hotel, Heritage Terrace Room, 655A Pacific Highway, Killara. Australia-South Africa Rugby Test screened live from Brisbane at 8pm on the big screen. Tickets: $40, including a drink and nibblies and donation.
Tickets available from firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the Turramurra Vet Clinic on 9988 0198
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Big night in Chez Park tonight, Legion of Fans, because if there is one thing guaranteed to get my pulse racing faster than a charging lion it is attractive ladies behaving badly... No, I'm not talking about Mrs Blog with a spatula, I am talking Australia's Next Top Model.
Yes, believe it or not this is my favourite TV show in the world, and no, I am not gay (not that there is anything wrong with that).
Yes, LOF, tonight is the premiere of ANTM, Cycle 6, with 16 thoroughbred fillies about to get down and dirty in the model mansion.
Spill the beans, Legion of Fans. What is your guilty pleasure, your dirty little secret (keep it clean, folks) that floats your boat out there in TV land? Confess! All of you, confess!
And for your penance I demand that you sit through this, the official trailer for Australia's Next Top Model, 2010. Watch it... it's expensive.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Warning: contains nudity and shameless self promotion disguised as self-deprecating humour.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Steve interviewed me for the website and you can read the full interview here.
So, if you have nothing better to do with your time, check it out but, more importantly, have a look around his site.
(See, I can be modest and self effacing when I want to be).
Monday, July 12, 2010
So, I was thinking the other day... why do people do stuff? Crazy stuff. I have two friends who have recently scaled or are about to scale Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak. To some people mountain climbing may not seem crazy, but to someone like me who has never (and will never) pay money to be cold, I think there is an element of madness in such pursuits.
I also have two bad knees, thanks to my service in the military. One is courtesty of a parachuting accident and the other is from falling while carrying a rather large Maori soldier on my back during a drunken piggy back race. Therefore the thought of trudging up and down a steep incline for days on end concerns me more than a little.
Curious about what makes people (blokes especially) do seemingly silly things, I asked occasional blog poster and regular TP reader Robert L-W why he decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. Robert did the climb with his sons, Sean and James, and nephew Justin.
It really was just a different African experience, to go somewhere we’d never been before. (Robert, like me, is a hopeless Africa addict - TP).
It was important I do it with Sean & James – the father and sons thing. Not sure I would have done it without them, but I probably would have. Nephew Justin was a bonus – I mentioned it to him and he was very keen to go. It was a totally different experience for him (only been to the US and Bali before).
Plus, having turned 50 in November, I guess there’s a question as to whether you are physically capable of doing something like this. I’m getting old and falling apart. I injure myself more at the gym these days. So it was a challenge that I wanted to give myself, but with an African flavour.
I get all of that, particulary the bit about being old (I am not far behind Robert). I also plan on having a different African experience on my next trip to the dark continent - only mine involves drinks with umbrellas in them on a beach on an island in Mozambique's Bazaruto Archipelago rather than freezing my bollocks off on a mountain.
In Robert's email to me explaining why he wanted to climb Kilimajaro he also mentioned wanting to see the different eco zones the trek passed through, heading up from the savannah, through misty jungles, and then up to the really cold bit. Clearly, from the photos he took, he was also angling for some free books from me, which he got.
I have done lots of crazy/stupid things in my life that seemed quite normal to me. I have bungy jumped, parachuted (though that was mostly with the army, which has an incredible knack of taking the fun out of things), abseiled face-first off tall buildings and various other adrenaline-producing endeavours.
When I joined the army we had to do a psychological test and one of the questions was, 'when you are standing on top of a tall building do you sometimes wonder what it would be like to jump off?'. Naturally, I ticked 'yes' because I had often had those thoughts. After the test, I remember chatting to one of the other recruits and we were going on about how lame some of the questions were.
"Yeah," he laughed, "like anyone would be stupid enough to say they wanted to kill themself by jumping off a tall building."
Gulp. I sweated on that answer for the week it took for the army to get back to me and tell me, yes, I was crazy enough for them to take me. I thought, at one point, of writing a letter to the psychological testing deparment telling them I had reconsidered my answer, and that if jumping off a tall building meant dying then that clearly wasn't for me. Of course, I soon realised later (or perhaps my mother pointed out to me), that only a crazy 17-year-old would even consider writing to the army to tell them they were not crazy. It was all very Joseph Heller.
Anyway, I passed and, not surprisingly, a few years later I found myself at the Army Parachute Training School at Nowra where I proved to be a keen, though not very good, parachutist. I passed and was recommended for employment as a paratrooper (as opposed to being recommended for future promotion to 'stick commander' or 'parachute jump master'). It was the Army equivalent of 'very good, dear'.
But I loved parachuting, until I hurt my knees one too many times and generally got a bit older. The fun of flying around for an hour or two at low level, experiencng air-sickness inducing lurches, followed by the chaos of being pushed out the door of a hercules by 30 other adrenaline-charged traps behind you eventually lost its gloss. Like I said, the Army can take the fun out of anything.
So do we do these things for the moment? For the rush, rather than the reality? I don't imagine Robert particularly wants to get a job as a sherpa (or whatever the African equivalent is of climbing up and down a mountain every few days). I asked him if making it to the top fulfilled his expectations.
Sh*t yeah. In hindsight, and without remembering the pain and discomfort, I’d do it again! It’s like childbirth! I probably won’t do it again, though, as I have other priorities. It was a huge physical and mental challenge, which I survived. Again, James & Sean were vital in this. We were the first three in our group up Mt Meru behind the guide, and we three overtook the guide to be the first three to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro. I had to show the boys that I was still up to it.
There are some things we all want to do before we die, just so we can satisfy our curiosity and craziness. I'm quite keen to try base jumping, although I have two reasonably valid excuses not to, namely: 1. It is illegal, and 2. From what I've seen of base jumpers I would have to get a mohawk and several piercings. I don't have enough hair for a mohawk and I wouldn't know what to pierce.
When I think about (legal) parachuting the things that turn me off doing it are the pain and the discomfort, and the fact that, well... I've done it, and don't need to ever do it again as long as I live (not for my army work, as I am quite deskbound in that respect, and not for sporting reasons because it wasn't that much fun).
But then just the other day Mrs Blog mentioned that her very young and fit personal trainer said he had never been parachuting and was keen to try it. "I'll take him," was my instinctive reply.
"Not you will not!" the small but vocal Mrs B said.
Which just made me want to do it all the more.
What about you, Legion of Fans? Do you have a mountain, literal or metaphorical, you have or would like to climb, or some other adrenaline-inducing (ie stupid) pursuit you have or would like to do?
Sunday, July 04, 2010
I haven't actually had a no-show, although my record at the lower end of the scale for attendances was five people at a libarary outside Darwin. This actually turned out to be quite a good night, as the librarians had taken the (optimistic) liberty of opening half a dozen bottles of wine before the multitudes arrived. I did my little talk, in record time, and the six of us proceded to get hammered. Great night.
And here I am, once again, just a few short weeks away from commencing my next (sort of) round Australia book tour, to coincide with the launch of my seventh novel, THE DELTA.
Some writers don't like book tours, but I'm not one of them. I mean, what's not to like? I get to talk about my two favourites subjects - myself and Africa - meet interesting people (some of whom have read my books), occasionally get sloshed on ratepayer-funded booze, and stay in hotels and raid the minibar. I mean, really... it's not like working, is it?
And so, without further adieu, I unveil the 2010 DELTA TOUR. There is something here for all tastes and budgets, as long as you live in Victoria, WA, NSW, QLD, Camberwell, or Tasmania. (note, if you are easily confused by dates and times, as I am, the event in this list appears just below the date).
Friday July 30th (Goldcoast)
Angus & Robertson Southport event, Broadbeach Library Sunshine Blvd, corner Hooker Blvd, Broadbeach
Author talk, from 7.00pm
Tuesday August 3rd (Central Coast - Sydney)
Erina Library, The Hive, Erina Fair, Erina
Author Talk from 3.30pm
Contact: Benjamin Hartley, phone: 02 43047499
Wednesday August 4th (Perth)
Dymocks Booragoon event, AH Bracks Library Canning Hwy (cnr Stock Road), Melville. Author talk from 6.00pm.
Contact: Ann Poublon. Email: email@example.com
Thursday August 5th (Perth)
Angus & Robertson event, Mandurah Library 331 Pinjarra Road, Mandurah. Author talk 2.00pm.
Contact: Debra Dearman 08 9550 3651
Friday August 6th (Perth)
Painted Dog Conservation fundraiser. Hyatt Regency, Freshwater Bay Room, Cnr Adelaide Terrace and Plain Street, East Perth. Tickets $60 including drinks and canapes.
Author talk and charity auctions from 7.00pm for 7.30pm
Tickets: Angela Lemon, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday August 7th (Melbourne)
Dymocks Camberwell event, at Ebony Quill, Shop 115/4 Burke Ave, Hawthorn East
Author Talk in the evening (please contact Henk at Dymocks on 03 9882 0032 for timings and bookings, or email: email@example.com
Sunday August 8th (Launceston)
Petrachs Bookshop, 89 Brisbane Street, Launceston. Author talk from 2.00pm.
Monday, August 9th (Hobart)
Meet Tony for an informal chat at a pub in Hobart, location to be advised, from 5.30pm. (contact me via eamail at tonyparknews(at)gmail(dot)com, if you are interested, and I’ll provide location and other details on request).
Friday August 13th (Sydney)
St Ives Library, 166 Mona Vale Road, St Ives.
Author Talk from 10.30am followed by morning tea & signing.
Contact: Penny Xavier on 02 9424 0453
Wednesday August 18th (Sydney)
Narellan Library event, Corner Queen and Elyard Street, Narellan
Author Talk from 6.30pm.
Contact: Elysa Dennis 02 4645 5039
Friday August 20th (Sydney)
Concord Library event, 60 Flavelle Street, Concord
Author Talk from 1.00pm, followed by afternoon tea & signing.
Contact: Claude Broomhead on 02 9911 6351
Friday, July 02, 2010
The official release date for my new novel is August 1, but if you would like beat the millions of people who will be camping out all night on July 31 outside the nation's bookshops, and have a beer with me, I have a better plan (it really is a bit cold for camping out, which is probably why people don't do it for my books).
Instead, I offer you this, Legion of Fans (LOF) - the promise of beer, rugby, doing good for your fellow man, and a chance to be the first person in Australia to buy THE DELTA (there's that name in caps again, just for those search engine robots).
Sneak Preview Function - Jacaranda Party at the Greengate Hotel. Saturday, July 24...
The Jacaranda Party is the brainchild of a mate of mine, Jim, who is The Turramurra Vet in the northern Sydney suburb of Turramurra. The Jacaranda tree is common to Australia, South Africa and Zimbabwe so Jim's idea is to get a whole bunch of Aussies, Saffies and Zimbos together to get drunk.
No... sorry, not get drunk... to raise money for the Fred Hollows Foundation and watch Australia V South Africa in the rugby. Entry to the party is $40 which covers a drink and nibblies, and a donation to the foundation.
I will be selling a limited number of copies of THE DELTA on the night, and all profits will go to the Fred Hollows Foundation (see, I am kind and generous as well as handsome and successful and modest).
The function will be in the Heritage Terrace Room of the Greengate Hotel, 655A Pacific Highway, Kilara. To book and pay for tickets, contact The Turramurra Vet at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (02) 99880198. The ruby kick off is 8pm.
I'll post details here soon of other events I'll be attending as part of my (sort of) around Australia book tour, which kicks off the following week.
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Just handed in Book 8 (catchy title, eh?) yesterday. 180,000 words and still you want more from me!
The pain, the pain, the pain...
I'm having lunch with Frank Coates tomorrow, so maybe he will inspire me to blog. (Or at the very least I can post a picture of us drinking).
Also, big news to come soon. The release of my next novel, THE DELTA is just weeks away and I have to get around to listing the events on my next (sort of) around Australia tour. This year I will be visiting Queensland, Victoria, WA and, wait for it... Tasmania.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
I met Malla for the first time recently at an author talk at North Sydney's Stanton Library, where she spoke about her new book, Let the Dead Lie, a sequel to A Beautiful Place to Die. She is an exceptionally nice person, so I urge you all to go out and buy her book (and a copy of my latest, WAR DOGS, while you're in the shop.
I'm very excited to see that Deon Meyer's new book, 13 Hours, has finally been translated from Afrikaans to English and can't wait to read it. You should read it, too, though if your budget's a bit tight, buy WAR DOGS instead.
Deon and I share the same literary agent and we have communicated via email. I hope to be braaing some wors and consuming some Castle with him some time in the future as he seems like a lekker oke.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Let me tell you Legion of Fans (LOF) if there are two words guaranteed to get me running a four minute mile in the opposite direction from the utterer, then those are them.
I can not stand it.
If you're a traditional dancer, then good for you... I respect you and your culture, but it's not mine. (If white Australian people had a traditional dance it would be chicks dancing around hand bags and blokes drinking beer.). So keep it to yourself and don't expect me, as a tourist, to sit through this thing that means nothing to me and then pay you afterwards. It doesn't happen when I'm in Africa and I wasn't about to let it happen in Asia.
After my in depth investigation of the girlie bars of Phnom Penh, it was time to me to do some different research in Thailand. I flew to Chiang Mai via Bangkok and got the hell out of that slightly dodge-like city (not really my cup of tea - a big city in the middle of nowhere, regardless of the country).
Together with a travelling companion and a local operative (this is a very top secretish non fiction book that I've been researching) we commandeered a car and set off for the Thai-Burma border. (That's me (above) overlooking the border, which is just beyond that first ridge of hills). Drug country. AK-47-toting bandit and warlike hill tribe country.
Well, at least it used to be.
The Thai government has had a major crack down on opium growing in this part of the world and the ethic hill tribes who live there have been encouraged to grow other crops (inclduing, as I was to find out that night, some very nice lychees. Not as mysterious and dangerous as drugs, but very nice, and more befitting a 45-year-old man).
Part of my book will be there, and a key part of story is the plight of the hill tribes who live in the area, particularly the La-Hu people. The La-Hu, I learned, I think, are descended from Tibetans who somehow found their way to Thailand (this all got a little lost in our host's translation, but I'll get it sorted in time for the book).
The La-Hu and other tribes span the border of Thailand and Vietnam and until recently they were put in the too-hard basket by the Thai Government and not afforded citizenship or access to basic government services, such as schooling and healthcare. That's changing since the crack down on opium growing, with the reward for co-operation being promise of citizenship and all that entails.
The grey area that La-Hu and other hill tribes occupied in Thailand's population also meant that their children were prey to people smugglers and sex traffickers. (There is another hint about what the book will be about).
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Sometimes people are a little embarrassed to tell me they've borrowed one of my books from their local library, because they think they're depriving me of income. Other people make a point of telling me they only borrow my books and never buy them, and these are the people I always ensure get the expensive shout when we're a the pub.
But the truth is that those people who think they're cheating me should not worry, and those readers who think they are pulling a swifty on me should eat pooh, because libraries are actually a win-win for writers and readers.
You may not know this, but I, as a writer of books, get an annual payment based on the estimated number of borrowings of my books. And, cheapskates take note, this payment is coming out of YOUR TAXES. HAHAHAHAHAHA.
For all of its sins, the Federal Government operates an excellent little thing called the Public Lending Rights (PLR) scheme. PLR works under the assumption that if a public library offers my books to readers for free then they are depriving me of the stupendous royalites I would have received if those books had been purchased. And, not wanting to infringe copyright, the Government pays authors an allowance to keep us happy.
We're not talking big money here, far from it, but with six novels in print I'm finding that my annual PLR payment is quite a tidy little sum, thank you very much. Today I received my annual statement, for the year 2009-2010, from the PLR people (and the promise of some cash, to be paid into my bank account shortly).
I won't go into the numbers here, but librarians I've spoken to tell me that my books are quite frequently borrowed. A would-be reader from Tasmania told me the other day that all of my books were on-loan from her local library, which was no good for her, as she had gone in search of them, but good for me.
What I can tell you from the PLR statement is which of my books was the most popular with library goers. It is (minor drum roll, please), AFRICAN SKY.
Yes, AFRICAN SKY. I was a bit surprised, too. AFRICAN SKY is my only historical novel (set during WWII) and it tends to polarise readers. It's the one people always want to tell me about, and not always for good reasons. This is the book that people either love most of all, or hate. Nothing in between. It also happens to be the book that is most published overseas. Go figure.
In case you are remotely interested, the order of most borrowed TP books to least is:
1. African Sky
3. Silent Predator
5. Far Horizon.
If you haven't read African Sky, don't worry about trying to borrow it from your local library, as it's probably out. (I did notice a few copies in Target, however, selling for a very reasonable $12.50 a copy).
I almost hate to ask this (given that I really don't care what the answer is, as I like all of my books and don't have a favourite), but do you have a favourite among my books?
Monday, May 10, 2010
Yes, I am a terrible blogger and yes, I have been neglecting the blog. But my excuse remains the same, that I am slaving away on the catchily-titled 'BOOK 8'. I'm nearly finished the first draft but by Friday afternoon of last week I must confess I was a bit over it.
So the words of another Australian who writes books about Africa, Mr Frank Coates, seemed even more appropriate than ever. "I'm sick of all this writing stuff - let's party" was the subject line of a recent email Frank sent to me, and last Friday night was time to do just that.
Frank, and I got in touch with each other when we were both invited to go on separate cruises for P&O to talk at their on board Chapters Bookclub. We swapped stories of our experiences via email but hadn't met until last week.
Whereas my books are mostly set in southern Africa, Frank writes books set in East Africa. He lived and worked in Kenya for a while as a telecommunications engineer for the UN.
Frank and his charming partner and the diminutive Mrs Blog and I met up in Manly, at the Manly Wharf hotel and then adjourned across the road for an excellent seafood meal at Garfish. Several drinks were consumed and there was much talk about Africa.
It's hard, sometimes, for me to explain what it is that attracts me to Africa and what I like about writing, so it was good to meet Frank in the flesh at last. We sat there all night nodding at each other's stories and each knowing exactly what the other one was going on about. He's a top bloke and we got on well and are already talking about lunching, which could be dangerous.
You can read more about Frank and his books at his website, Footloose.
In other news, the PR machine at Macmillan is racing along in high gear as we get ready for the release of my new non fiction book, WAR DOGS, which is due out very soon, on June 1. It's the story of an aussie explosive sniffer dog handler, Shane Bryant, who works in Afghanistan.
And I'm just reading through the proof pages of THE DELTA, my new novel, which is due out in Australia in August, and in England in February 2011 (I just had to say that last bit as I am still very chuffed about my UK publishing deal).
What else... um, yes, that's right.. I'm off to Thailand and Cambodia for a week at the end of the month to do some research for my next (Top Secret) non fiction book. Can't say too much at the moment, or I'd have to kill you all, but at least a trip to South East Asia will give me something interesting to blog about.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Steve's first novel, The Devil's Tears, set in East Timor, is in stores now and it is a cracking read. Steve's an ex Australian Army officer who has worked for a number of years as a military logistics contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan. We worked out, over a beer last year, that we were probably in Afghanistan at the same time, in 2002.
The Devil's Tears is the first novel that I'm aware of to be written by an Australian serviceman since our significant peace keeping operations in East Timor began in 1999.
You'd think a book by an Aussie about Timor would be full of lantern-jawed Aussie soldiers, pretty NGO ladies, loyal natives and perhaps the odd hot or hunky helicopter pilot. Not so, this story.
Instead, Steve's story focuses on the plight of a Timorese family torn asunder during the Indonesian military invasion of East Timor in 1975, following Portugal's relinquishing of its colonial possessions. The Devil's Tears looks at the long, bleak and terrifying years between 1975 and 1999 when thousands of locals died in a protraced guerilla war against the Indonesian occupiers.
Steve's depictions of the long struggle for East Timor's independence are graphic and confronting and it seems as if the family will never be reunited. Interwoven is the story of an aussie journo and photographer who travel to East Timor in search of evidence of an horrendous massacre of civilians. The journo and photograher dodge evil security forces and treacherous traitors to bring the truth to the outside world (and there's a bit of unrequited funny business going on between the two of them, which makes a nice sub-plot).
Steve is a fantastic writer and does an excellent job of combining boy-book action and chick-lit mushy stuff in this impressive debut novel. Even though it felt at times no one would survive this tragic story and the odds of a happy ending were perilously short, I was hooked from the first page and nearly missed my bus stop a couple of times while racing towards the conclusion.
As well as turning out a top yarn Steve is also an all round good bloke, so I urge you all to go out and buy this book and check out his website here.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
It's ANZAC Day here in Australia tomorrow, April 25, the day we honour servicemen and women past and present who have served, and in particular those who died in the service of our country.
If you've read the blurb on the inside cover of one my books then you might notice a reference to me having been in Afghanistan way back in 2002 on an all-expenses-paid six-month tour courtesy of the Australian Army. I spent most of my war behind a desk, which was just fine by me, and while the SAS guys from the task force were out on operations the whole time, we were very fortunate in that no Australian soldiers were killed during my time there.
The biggest risk I faced in Afghanistan was the Amercian Army D-FAC, (that's dining facilitity in English). According to Napoleon an army marches on its stomach and all I can say is that the American Army is very fortunate in these days of high technology and rapid transport that it doesn't have to do much marching.
The American Army's food (and, I must add things have changed in Afghanistan considerably since 2002) was disgustingly inedible. It was early days in The War Against Terror (as we used to call it) and the kitchens at Bagram Air Base, where I was stationed, were pretty rudimentary.
No, rudimentary is too kind. The kitchens were non-existent. In fact, all our food was cooked (and I use the term loosely) in Germany, then frozen, placed in insulated boxes, and flown by C-17 transport aircraft to Afghanistan. The 'chefs' (and I use that term insultingly) in-country then had the tricky job of heating up the food and slopping it out.
The food hadn't so much been cooked in Germany - more like mass-produced. The Americans were big fans of something called chunking-and-forming. We had chunked and formed pork chops, chunked and formed steak, and chunked and formed ribs. Chunking and forming involves mashing up meat (no doubt all the best cuts, and no brains, spinal cords or offal), mixing it with some kind of bonding agent and then squeezing out the resultant goo into a mold in the shape of a chop, a steak or a rack of ribs.
As well as being disgusting, this food was also cruel. I remember the first time I was served up ribs and it looked like they were, well, ribs. I could see what I thought were bones and I imagined gnawing away on them. Imagine my despair, then, when I went to cut off a piece of rib and sliced straight through the non existent bone.
Breakfast was powdered scrambled eggs and greasy bacon. The bacon, of course, had been cooked on another continent, frozen, transported, and re-heated. I think the Bagram cooks probably tipped some cold oily water on it after taking it out of the microwave just to give it that finishing touch.
We only had two hot meals a day back then, thank God, and lunch was a Meal-Ready to Eat per man. The MRE, also known as Meal-Rarely Edible and Meal-Rejected by Ethiopians, is the US Army's field ration pack.
In true American style it is bigger than our ration pack and contains lots of things that in conflicts past you could probably have swapped for sex with underfed members of the local population. There are brownies, crackers, tobasco sauce, M&Ms, jalapeno cheese sachets,Lucky Strike cigarettes and nylon stockings, as well as a piece of chunked and formed something. (I may have dreamed that bit about the Lucky Strikes and the stockings).
About the only thing I found edible from the MRE was the peanut butter and crackers.
As I couldn't face powdered eggs and slimy wet brown stuff for breakfast, and my body rejected anything that had been chunked and formed I was facing a bit of a dilemma. But Australia Post and the Australian Army and the small but perfectly formed (no chunking there) Mrs Blog all came to the rescue.
One very fine thing that the military in this country gets right is the free postal service for troops. Friends and relatives can send deployed personnel (which is what the military calls people) free post packages of up to 2kg. So Mrs Blog got busy putting together food parcels for me.
Pretty soon I was eating Weetbix for breakfast, peanut butter and crackers for lunch (I actually liked the gooey American peanut butter), and various cook-in-the-bowl instant Asian noodles for dinner. I was in seventh heaven and, with my supply of Caramello Koalas and mini Mars Bars, suddenly a popular man in the task force.
The American Army at the time had a rule against the consumption of fresh fruit (as well as alcohol and pornography, so all in all it was a very unhealthy environment for young men and women to be in) so I had Mrs Blog send me dried fruit.
By the time my first consignment of dried pears arrived I probably hadn't eaten anything in the ruffage family for about a month. I don't even like pears (though I didn't tell her this as I was so grateful to be eating something dried rather than formed) but I found myself salivating as I opened the packet. That night, as I did my duty as a watchkeeper in the headquarters tent, I consumed the entire packet.
I knocked off about 2am and went to sleep. At about 2.45 am I awoke feeling like my stomach was about to explode out of my skin, Alien-style. I thought I was dying as I rushed from my stretcher and out into the night in search of the nearest Porta-loo.
It wasn't all quite as bad as I make out. Our own little task force did have its own cooks and they were able to source fresh rations (actual meat, vegetables, fruit etc) on a limited basis from the British Army's supply chain. Our cooks delivered a slap up meal when the SAS squadron was sending patrols out, or if guys had just come in from the field. On those occasions we desk dwellers across the road in the headquarters would be invited for dinner or lunch.
I will never, ever say a bad word about Australian Army cooks. Call them fitters and turners or tucker f-ckers if you will, but I don't think we could have survived without them in Afghanistan.
But I did survive, and thanks to my diet of Weetbix, peanut butter and crackers, and instant noodles, and a complete lack of alcohol, I lost 20 kilograms in six months.
I put all that weight back on when I got home, as I had a lot of drinking and proper eating to do to make up for six months.
When consuming a drop of one of my favourite brews the other day I noticed on the carton that VB (Victoria Bitter - good Aussie beer) is running a 'raise-a-glass' appeal to raise money for Legacy, an organisation which cares for the widows and children of fallen servicemen.
I immediately thought, of course, that this was a cynnical marketing stunt but when I looked at the website I found it was full of poignant stories of fallen soldiers and tributes to them by family and friends. I'm not a crier (never have been), but I must confess a bit of a lump did come to my throat, and I needed raise a glass to wash it away.
Reading the stories and seeing the videos of widows and family members also reminded me just how proud I was of the way Mrs Blog soldiered on while I was away. I was in an interesting (if dusty and not very nice) place surrounded by some of the best blokes I've ever worked with in my life, but she came home to an empty flat every night after work.
I'll be raising a glass tomorrow, especially to those serving overseas now; to their families who wait at home for them; and to their mates who didn't make it back.
Me, c.2009. Plus 20kg and minus hair. Raise a glass with me.