Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lit Cred And Validation.

There seems to be a number of writers currently questioning the value of certain publications and e-zines. Over the past couple of weeks I've seen this subject rear its head a few times. And I think it's an important question for new writers. (And this is the category in which I firmly place myself.)

My views are no secret. I believe I could have a longer published bibliography, but I've been fussy about where I submit my work. And I believe that a few publications in quality markets are ultimately more valuable than many publications in any old market.

With the prevalence of the internet and the proliferation of POD, there has been an explosion in the number of publishers throwing together zines and anthologies. And as such, there has obviously been a dilution of the quality of published work. I'm 'old school', as you young folk with your zany rock 'n' roll music like to call it, and there's nothing like having a published 'paper' book in your hand. Not that there's anything wrong with online mags. But I do feel there's a certain quality control, checks and balances, when you've been paid a certain amount of money, and you have a professionally finished product that can be held.

I wrote something (as a comment) along these lines in response to a post by Alan Baxter a few weeks ago.  Then I discover that my crit buddy and friend, David McDonald, wrote something similar in response to the fabulous Jason Nahrung.

I suppose it all depends on what your goals are. I have a list of personal goals, a list of markets I'd like to crack, and I'm actively taking steps to achieve those.  Brad R. Torgersen, has listed an interesting set of goals on his website, and I must say I love those.

If you just want to say you've been published, then sub away, anywhere. It'll happen. If you want to achieve some kind of cred in this business, then make plans, take active steps to achieve them, and be prepared for a lot of rejections.

But when you do receive an acceptance, or receive some kind of recognition, it's amazing the confidence and drive that accompanies it.  Gitte Christensen, who has just been published in Ticonderoga's Year's Best Australian Horror and Fantasy, mentioned on her blog that I've been mentioned on page 22 of said book. Looks like a ploy by Ticonderoga to make me buy the book.

It worked. I'll be picking one up next week.

But when your friends and peers have some success, we rejoice together. I'm pleased for Gitte's deserved tastes of success, I'm pleased David McDonald has some new work coming out. And I'm absolutely thrilled that my long-time Tokyo-brother, Allan Tong, (he's the man who taught me to chase my dreams and grab opportunities, or to create your own) has just scored a huge success at the Toronto International Film Festival.  And I know these people are happy when it happens to me.

Speaking of which, keep an eye out for Anywhere But Earth in the coming months. It looks fantastic!

See you at Conflux.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


So you write some stories, polish them up until you're happy, then send them off alone into the wide world. Sometimes you hear back within a week or so that it's "not suited to our needs at the moment." Other times you hear nothing back for months.

My longest wait was 7 months for a rejection, not counting the one where the editor still hasn't gotten back to me after several polite enquiries. I suspect that 2 years and a week is now long enough to class it as a rejection. My longest wait for an acceptance has been four weeks, from the close of a reading period. But it did have a hold on it for about three months before that. There was another that had a rewrite request, but once again the request and then the acceptance were just on four weeks from submission.

But I still find waiting the hardest part. And yes, I listen to everyone's advice and go off and write more stuff in the meantime and send it out and so on. It's just that I'd love to find a home for some of these lost strays, but if they are out for 4 to 7 months at a time before being rejected, they can only be sent out maybe twice a year. And then it can be up to 18 months before they are published once they are accepted.


I guess it's all worthwhile when you finally get to hold the printed word in your hands. I might even admit to performing the odd little Snoopy happy dance, much like Alan Baxter does. I just don't know if I'll ever get used to the slow turning cogs of the publishing industry.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In No Particular Order.

Twenty-one great live albums that I love - and yes, I know there are plenty of others that could have been included in this list. Who knows? Like many of the other lists I make, this could all change by next week. Several had to be dropped from the list due to space, I only allowed one per band, and some simply didn't qualify as 'live' albums. For example, I desperately wanted to include Mountain's Flowers of Evil - but half the album is studio recordings.

On Tour (Delaney and Bonnie & Friends) - As a teenager I spent months trying to find this on vinyl, simply because L'Angelo Misterioso played guitar on it. Nobody local stocked this in 1978, so it took years for me to finally get to hear this band.  The friends, by the way, are Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, Leon Russell, Dave Mason, Bobby Keyes and Jim Price. Need I say more?

Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out (The Rolling Stones) - My introduction  to the Stones, along with Let It Bleed. Every track is incredible. Mick Taylor's guitar weeps during Love in Vain. The first guitar solo I ever tried to teach myself.  Sounded pretty good too. It was only much later I realised he'd been playing slide and I'd been emulating the whole things with bends.

Eighty Eight (The 77s) - This is the band that should have been. Signed to Island at the same time as U2, one of the bands became a household name and The 77s didn't. There are some live albums that transcend - a great recording on a special night - and this is one of those discs. Not a slack track on the album. Wish I'd been there. They're still playing, so I wish I could even just see them live!

Hendrix in the West (Jimi Hendrix) - The first Hendrix I ever owned. He seemed like someone I should listen to, and so I bought it over in Croydon. While the other kids were listening to Abba and the like, my mother was suffering through Voodoo ChileRedhouse and Little Wing are still two of my favourites from this disc. "A bit more volume on this one, Charlie. He's gonna need it."

Slade Alive! (Slade) - What do you do when you feel the technology won't record at a live venue as well as you'd like? You bring the audience to the studio and record there. (Couldn't they afford the Rolling Truck Stones Thing?) A wonderfully vibrant live recording with a great selection of mostly cover tunes. The band are relaxed and in fine form.

Recorded Live (Ten Years After) - I first heard this when I was 13 or so, and hated it. Within a couple of years, however, I came to recognise Alvin Lee for the gun that he was. Ranging from extended jams to 30 second ditties, this album has everything. I'm Going Home is superior to the version on Woodstock, and the whole of side four is worthy of multiple plays.

Under a Blood Red Sky (U2) - Ostensibly recorded at Red Rocks, a natural amphitheatre in Colorado, (but mostly recorded in Germany) this shows the band at their best in a period I consider to be their best. Moody and atmospheric (the video seems to be filmed at dusk on a rainy day - I believe the show was almost cancelled) the playing is tight, the selection of songs is great and the disc is far too short. I must get the newer upgraded version.

Live At The Apollo (James Brown) - The good Doctor introduced this disc to me, back when we were Tokyo brothers-in-musical-arms. And what can I say, except it's exceedingly short and leaves you wanting more. Brown is on fire here. It's 1962, in front of a Harlem crowd that's been waiting hours for the show. Listen to this. You won't be disappointed.

 Made in Japan (Deep Purple) - The classic Mark 2 lineup, touring on the back of the classic Machine Head album. This seminal live album loses nothing from being almost forty years old. And no, it's not over-rated. Even the drum solo is worth listening to. From Highway Star to Space Trucking, this album rocks. "Could we have everything louder than everything else?"

Alive, She Cried (The Doors) - Pretty much a mini-album, this is now out-of print. The tracks are available on other live discs, but this collection, in this order is the one that works for me. A fine selection of tracks played by a band in fine form. Texas Radio and the Big Beat, Love Me Two Times - even Little Red Rooster works well. "You can pick your teeth with a New York joint."

Modern Lover Live (Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers) - Not the Pablo Picasso era Modern Lovers, but the kitschy Modern Lovers of the late 70s. How could you not love Ice Cream Man, Little Dinosaur and I'm a Little Airplane. Recorded in London, it's a shame there hasn't been an expanded, remastered version of this released. I'd love to hear more from this show.

Rust Never Sleeps (Neil Young) - Recorded live, but released as though a studio album, for me this has always been superior to Live Rust. With one side acoustic and one side electric, opening and closing with variations of the same song, this is a complete cyclical album. It was, in fact, my first foray into Neil - apart from a teacher who used to play Harvest over and over again. (And no, I didn't 'get' that album when I was 13 years old)

If You Want Blood (AC/DC) - The only AC/DC album you MUST have. In Japan it's known as Guitar Murder, Guns 'N' Roses fans referenced it on their live mini-album, it has Bon Scott and Angus Young, as well as a killer rhythm section in complete control of what they're doing. I don't need to say anything else except, "Angus! Angus! Angus! Angus!"

Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads) - The album of the film. I had this for years before I finally saw the movie. The album builds beautifully, from lone Byrne playing Psycho Killer along to a recorded drum machine, to the full band and guests playing Al Green's Take Me To The River. Again, I bought this because Talking Heads was a band I'd heard of, but hadn't actually heard.

At The Hollywood Bowl (The Beatles) - Until recently, I hadn't played this for a long time, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good this album is. I thought I might be remembering it through rose-coloured teenage glasses. Actually taken from a couple of shows, it's the only official recording we have of a live Beatles show (not counting Star Club and the mish-mash of live tracks that made it onto Anthology.) Dear Apple Records, it's time to release this on CD, or another live Beatles show - please!

Briefcase Full of Blues (The Blues Brothers) - Yeah, they were a 'created' band, but Dan and John really loved the blues, and when you work on SNL and have a house band that is basically the MGs, you have to grab that opportunity. It was a tough call between this and Made in America, Both great recordings, this one just has the edge - it's a little less 'show' than the other.

Live in Concert (XTC) - Unfortunately this is the only live album we have from this under-rated band. Even though it's a great show and a much better recording, it's still not a patch on the Fab Foursome in Philly disc (Bootlegs will be left till another time). But don't let that put you off. Worthy of a spot in this list. Check out the double-barrelled powerhouse of Living Through Another Cuba and Majors and Generals.

Live Bootleg '82 (Daniel Amos) - Another band that should have been bigger than they are. It's frustrating that this is the only live recording they've released (from their post Horrendous Disc period). The recording is pretty much a raw soundboard recording, which is a shame, as a sonically crisp recording of this show would be amazing. Perhaps they'll record an album on their current tour. Check your archives, boys - release more live 80s DA. Fingers crossed.

Live at Last (Steeleye Span) - The band's first live release, and featuring new members John Kirkpatrick and Martin Carthy. They brought a new energy to the group, making this one of my favourite Steeleye discs. The accordion sits nicely amongst the other instruments and the band is in fine form. Check out Montrose, a 15 minute masterpiece.

Live 1966 (Bob Dylan) - The legendary "Royal Albert Hall" show, actually recorded in Manchester. "Judas!" yells an audience member, before Dylan calls him a liar and exhorts the band to "Play ***ing Loud!" The tension on the disc works in favour of the musicians. Another show that transcends. I had this in various bootleg forms until Zimmy decided to finally release it. A must have!

 Live (Johnny Winter And) - What an amazing album - featuring superb covers of Jumping Jack Flash, Johnny B. Goode and Great Balls of Fire. I first heard this when I was about 13, and I was completely blown away by the power of the guitars, the energy of the performance and the rawness of the music.  And the voice. Especially the voice. "I feel rock 'n' roll!"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pushy Salesmen Without Manners.

It was my wife's birthday a couple of days ago, and so we went out last weekend to buy her present. A new  notebook PC.

I'd done my research, and knew what I would buy if it were for me - but personal preference comes into play with items like this, and so the best thing was for her to be with me when I bought it.

I went into one store where the salesman was so rude he lost a sale for his company. In fact, I won't be returning there.

He approached me and asked if he could assist me.  The conversation was like this.
"Is there anything I can help you with?"
"No, thanks, I'm just looking."

"What are you looking for?"
"I don't need any help. I'm simply looking, thanks."

"And I asked you what you're looking for."
"And I said I didn't need any help."

"And I asked you what you're looking for."
"And I said I didn't need any help. I'm fine, thank you."

He'd been moving gradually forward with each question, and at this point he invaded my personal space.

"I'm just trying to be polite. What are you looking for?"
"You're not being polite. I don't need your help. Leave me alone."

"Some people," he muttered. "What is it you're interested in?"
I have spent a number of years working with IT, including a couple of years programming before this salesman was even born. so I knew what I was looking for, and did not need or want his so-called 'help'. At this point I considered saying something obscure, such as "I'm interested in a new table tennis table, which is why I'm looking at these PCs."  But I was good, and restrained myself. Instead I flipped the top of a laptop down to see if the finish was glossy or matte.  He then told me off for touching it. Other staff, seemingly senior, stood idly by and watched this almost surreal exchange.

And that was when I left, vowing never to return to that store in Nunawading. Not only did they not get a sale from me then, they've lost all future sales due to a pushy, teenage idiot with no manners. I have bought from there before and had planned on returning there shortly as I will soon be in the market for a few electronic goods.

Yes, I was polite the entire time (my wife was there with me) and I did not even raise my voice.

And despite their catchy Beach Boys' style jingles, I won't be going there again.