Monday, June 30, 2008

Stop it Mr Blog, this is getting embarrassing.


No, I can't.... I can't help myself. What is the point of a blog if you can't be self-indulgent and use it as a thinly disguised means of self promotion?


I mean, come on, let's get serious here.


Number One, Legion of Fans (LOF). Numero Uno. This is the first time I have been number one anywhere.


OK: Reality check. I am number one at Collins Booksellers in North Sydney and this may, quite possibly, have something to do with the fact that they were the official bookseller at my recent drunken book launch, so their sales are skewed by some 60-odd copies.


However...


A one is a one, and coming hard on the heals of my ranking as the second highest selling Australian fiction author last week (and that, LOF is from the exceptionally hunky-dory computers of Nielsen Bookscan), let us just say that Mr Blog is finding it hard to negotiate doorways this week, such is the size of his overinflated cranium.


But I am under no delusions of grandeur, LOF (well, not too many). As Bon Scott once said (in fact, as Bon Scott continues to say on an almost daily basis on Vega 95.3 FM, earning royalties in his grave), "it's a long way to the top". Except in North Sydney. And for that, I thank my very good friends at Collins Booksellers and, of course, your good selves.


Incidentally, my charming, witty, attractive, Grace Kelly-lookalike (when GK was alive and young) publisher, C, has taken to addressing me as "Number 2" in her emails. Which is a very nice way of bringing me down to earth, in a very nice way.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The big Number 2!

No, I'm not talking about pooh, LOF, I'm talking about me!

Shameless self-promoter that I am, I cannot contain the news any longer. According to this weekend's Sydney Morning Herald my new book SILENT PREDATOR is number two in the top 10 bestelling Australian fiction books this week.

At number one is 'Breath' by a Mr Tim Winton, of the charming state of West(ern) Australia, and while there is probably a gap of, like, 500,000 book sales between the number one and number two possies, I am there, LOF.

So, tatenda shamwaris, which is to say thank you, my friends.

I heart Perth

Had me a fine time way out west, Legion of Fans (LOF). Yep. I do like Perth. Heart it, in fact.

Why? Well, I'd be lying if I said it had nothing to do with the fact that lots (yes, lots) of people came to hear me speak about Africa and my new book, SILENT PREDATOR. Sure, it's got a nice climate (well, in fact it was raining when I was there), friendly people, an agreeable river and (somewhere) nice beaches, but more importantly there seems to be a sizeable number of people who buy my books.

Of course, I don't want you to think this is all about money, or my personal quest for fame, LOF. I was lucky enough to be able to help some very nice people, from the Painted Dog Conservation organisaiton to raise a not inconsiderable amount of money for endangered Painted Dogs in Africa.

Regular readers will recall that the noble bum-sniffing, bum-scratching, pooh-rolling Painted Dog is one of my all time favourite creatures of the wild.

I spoke at a packed (and I am not exaggerating here, LOF) fundraising dinner at Zebra's African Steak House in the Perth suburb of Bicton. The Painted Dog people auctioned off the naming rights for two characters in my next book, which goes by the catchy title of BOOK 6 at the moment.

I probably shouldn't disclose exactly how much the names went for (I'll leave that to the Painted Dog people should they chose), but let us say, LOF, that the words "shit" and "load" come to mind when I recall the final figure.

The owner of the restaurant told me that he was literally turning people away from the fully-booked event, and I know this to be a fact because I met two such people the next night at Melville City Library. Lovely to meet you both, by the way.

At Melville Library 60 people came along to listen to me spruik, LOF. A new record for one of my library talks has been set.

I visited many book shops and spoke to a charming crowd at Mandurah (pronounced Man-jra) Library, and ended my stay in the western capital with a very nice and very drunken dinner with my good friend and old army buddy, Herr Doktor. We minorly disgraced ourselves in a very nice Indian restaurant by laughing ourselves stupid over a very dirty story from our war days that is far too disgusting to repeat in these cross-generational pages.

Arriving back in my hotel in Perth I had one of those great moments of drunken reasoning. The toilet in my room had been broken when I'd left and was still not functioning when I returned. While the kind staff had organised me another room, in my befuddled mind it was too much of a hassle to pack my bag and move to an adjoining suite. Instead, I packed my bag, got on the phone to Qantas and booked myself on the red-eye (the 12.15AM flight from Perth to Sydney).

Tired and emotional I somehow managed to hail a cab, get through security at the airport without losing my laptop, convince the lady at the Qantatas Club I was sober enough to order two more cans of beer, and get on the (right) plane home.

Several people have asked me during my round-Australia (except South Australia) book tour if I tire of life on the promotional circuit. To which I reply invariably: "I get flights, food and booze provided by my publisher and all I have to do is talk about myself and meet interesting people. It's not like I'm working". And while this is true I was a bit weary by the end of week three, and I was developing a cold.

So it was that I snored, sniffled, teeth-grinded, burped, and repeated vindaloo and garlic naan, all the way home on the late night flight. (My apoligies to the gentleman in 20a who had to put up with all this).

Mrs Blog was curled up in bed, still asleep when I arrived home at 6.45am. I slipped into bed and she said; "You smell of garlic, curry and beer" and a lot of other soppy stuff (ie: she said a lot of other soppy stuff, not that I smelled of a lot of other soppy stuff).

And I thought, LOF, that while it's fun on the road, it's also nice to be home.

Off to New Zealand this week - land of Steinlager, DB and mussels - for more shameless self-promotion.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Come hear me... please

Cos it's embarrassing when no one shows up.

After three days of resting my vocal chords, following the (dare I say it) success of my Victorian tour, I will once again be talking non stop about my books, myself, and my love of Africa in Western Australia (or is that West Australia) and then in my home town of Sydney.

Come one, come all for free cheese and bickies and my limited repertoire of jokes at:

West(ern) Australia:

Wed June 25, 6.30 pm – Dymocks Booksellers event, Civic Square Library, Melville.
Thurs June 26, 2.00 pm – Mandurah Library Event, 331 Pinjarra Rd, Opposite Centro Shopping Centre.

New Zealand:

Thurs July 3, 7pm Howick Library, Howick, somewhere in New Zealand

Sydney:

Sun July 6, 2.00pm – Penrith City Library Event
Tues July 8, 12.30 – Willoughby City Council Library Event
Tues July 8, 7.00 pm – Ku-ring-gai wide library event at Gordon Library
Thurs July 10, 6.30 pm – Warringah Mall Library Event, Level 2, Warringah Mall, Brookvale.
Tues July 22, 6.30 pm – Campbelltown H.J. Daley Central Library Event, Hurley St, Campbelltown.
Thurs July 24, 10.00 am – Bowen Library Talk, 669 Anzac Parade, Maroubra
Thurs July 24, 6.30 pm – Hornsby Central Library Talk
Fri July 25, 10.00 am – St. Ives Library Talk
Tues July 29, 6.30 pm – Lane Cove Library Talk

Thanks to everyone who attended the events at Knox City in Melbourne, and at Sale and Bairnsdale.

In summary: Crookedpaw, nice to meet you; JR good to once again solve Africa's problems with you; Trevor and Liz, see you in Africa; Duncan and Di, sorry about Aunty Vi's antique chair and the person who got locked in the lavatory. Will post more details, subject to legal approval.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Newsflash: SILENT PREDATOR is "better than average"

Rare praise indeed, Legion of Fans (LOF) from last weekend's Sydney Morning Herald, which described my new book, SILENT PREDATOR as a "better-than-average airport thriller".

The reviewer actually said a whole lot more nice stuff and you can read it here in full on my fabulous new website, if you have nothing better to do.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Overbelly

No, it's not the latest expose of Melbourne's sordid underworld, it's a technical term for what happens when you go to lunch in Lygon Street and forsake the pair of running shoes and shorts you foolishing packed in your carry-on bag before embarking on the great round Australia (except for South Australia) book tour.

Beef cheeks and farfalle (which I learned is the correct term for the little bow ties) pasta is as deadly as it sounds, Legion of Fans (LOF). Guaranteed to pusha da paunch over the belt.

Arrogant Sydney-siders (like myself) be advised... Melbourne is actually quite nice.

There. I've said it.

Pleasingly plumped after lunch, even the wonky architecture was growing on me (OK I made that bit up) as my hard-working publicist, J, chauffered me from interview to interview, from bookshop to library, to cafe.

But, as always (and I am not making this up) I'm finding the best thing about being on the hustings is meeting people. Today I put a face to Crookedpaw - regular commenter on this blog and occasional reviewer of my books - and his lovely partner, S; and to Mr Trevor Himstedt of Radio Sport 927 (AKA 2k wireless to NSW readers) who has been interviewing me by phone for the past four years.

I signed some books at Dymocks, Doncaster, and rounded out a pleasant day with a talk to a very pleasant group of patrons of the Knox City Library in the evening. Special guest star at this event was another regular blog commenter, JR, better known as the (partial) inspiration for Mike Williams, the lead character in my first book, Far Horizon.

We talked African politics and drank beer and went for a ride in his immaculately restored Series IIa short wheelbase Land Rover (not necessarily in that order).

And they call this working?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Steve Bracks... Australia's Nelson Mandela?

"So," I says to the audience at Hume District library at Sunbury, the night before last, "I can't think of another politician other than Nelson Mandela who had the grace and humility to actually leave politics while he was ahead in the polls - without being forced to quit or voted out in shame."

"Steve Bracks," says a very nice chap in the audience.

I do love me a good political debate, Legion of Fans, and the man in the second row scored a nice point off Mr Blog on that one and reminded me that I am, indeed, in another state - Victoria - and that I should stick to what I know (which is African politicans rather than Australian politics - Steve Bracks, for the Africans and New South Welshmen among us - was a former Victorian Premier and apparently an all round good egg, just like Madiba).

The whistle stop tour of Australia (except South Australia) chugs along and one of the things I like about it (as well as talking about myself) is meeting the people who take the time to come and listen to me spruilk about me, Africa and my books (not necessarily, but usually, in that order).

I love meeting people who have read all my books (or even one of them), but I also really like meeting people who have never heard of me which is, let us face it, the majority of Australia's population. So I have a lot of people to meet.

In the former category, at Sunbury, was a young lady who I will call K, who informed me that she wanted to go to uni and study Zoology, travel to Africa, and, if possible, kill some poachers. Keep going like that, K, and you will end up the heroine in one of my books.

Seriously, though, folks, I've had a great couple of days in Melbourne, not only in Sunbury, but also tonight, at Newcomb, as well as meeting assorted pleasant booksellers, journalists, and bartenders. The room service drinks waiter at the stately Windsor Hotel in Melbourne and I have also struck up a strong friendship.

And Melbourne is growing on me, though I am still quite fearful of trams and right hand turns from the left lane (what is that all about - it's safer driving in Johannesburg); and I am still not sold 100 per cent (not even 10 per cent, in fact) on what I have dubbed the 'wonky' school of public art and architecture in this otherwise charming capital.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to come out and meet me. I am as humbled as I am grateful (is that correct grammar? If not, you know what I mean).

Saturday, June 14, 2008

There is only one thing I can't do now that I could do when I was 19...

Recover.

Book launch on Thursday night. (Groan).

You'll see every part of me in Victoria

Well, almost. I will, in fact, be clothed, but the heading to this post is a rather lame take-off of Victoria's current tourism marketing campaign.

I shall be setting off, with my enormous ball of string, and unravelling it across country dale and down city street, dodging trams, wonky public art sculptures, AFL fans and black-clad (why does everyone in Melbourne wear black?) Victorians from June 16 to 19 during the next phase of my round-Australia (except for South Australia) book tour.

Come see me, LOF, at any (or all) of the following locations, because there is nothing worse than showing up to your own book signing event and finding you are the only one there...


Mon June 16, 6.30 pm – Collins Booksellers Event, Sunbury Library, Macedon St .

Tues June 17, 7.00 pm – Newcombe Library Event, Centro Shopping Centre, Cnr Bellarine Hwy & Wilsons Rd.

Wed June 18, 12.30 – Dymocks Signing, Westfield Shopping Centre, Doncaster, Melbourne

Wed June 18, 7.00 pm – Knox City Library Event, 425 Burwood Hwy, Wantirna South. Contact Borders for more information.

Thurs June 19, 12.30 – Collins Booksellers Literary Lunch, Melbourne - contact Collins Melbourne for more information

Thurs June 19, 6.30 pm – Collins Booksellers Literary Dinner, Bairnsdale – contact Collins Bairnsdale for more information

Sunday, June 08, 2008

South Australia, I am sorry

Now, I'd be lying if I didn't equate South Australia with serial killers (and thank you, Redcap, for reminding me of this in a comment on a recent post), but that is not why I'm not visiting your fair state of churches, grapes and... well, serial killers.

I will be visiting just about everywhere else in Australia in coming weeks to promote my new book, SILENT PREDATOR and the dates and places are here.

In fact, I don't really know why I'm skipping SA on the round-Australia book tour, except, I suppose, for the fact that I'm just not famous enough.

WA has the African diaspora (and I should add, at this point, that I'm making this all up in an attempt to make a rather lame defence for my publishers, who are organising the tour), Queensland has lots of my friends and relatives, Victoria has lots of... um... my publicist's friends, and, well....

Buggeration, LOF. All I can say is that if there were millions more of you South Australians, half the white population of South Africa and Zimbabwe living in Adelaide' many hills, then you might have the critical mass required to ensure at least 20 people showed up to a library talk.

Rest assured, Redcap, Louise and the other members of the South Australian cohort (that's probably you, Grant, Carole and Diana), that I have passed on your concerns to all those concerned.

Dare I suggest a petition (no, not even I am that big-headed).

One thing I will assure you, South Australia, that the next time I am in Adelaide to visit my good friend the Recently Retired Colonel, that I will post details here. I will name a time, a place, and a phonebooth (near a pub) where we can all get together for a drink.

How's that? Might not be until I get back from the next trip to Africa, though.

In the meantime, I have composed (with the help of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Madonna) a little ode to you all. It goes a little like this:

Don't Cry For Me South Australia

(My edits are in brackets, like this)
It won't be easy, you'll think it strange
When I try to explain how I feelThat I still need your love after all that (my publishers have not) done
You won't believe me
All you will see is a (boy) you once (almost) knew
Although (he's) dressed up to the nines (in safari gear)
At sixes and sevens with you
I had to let it happen, I had to change
Couldn't stay all my life down at heel
Looking out of the window, staying out of the sun
(Whatever that all means)

So I chose freedom
Running around, trying everything new (and every library in Australia except Adelaide's)
But nothing impressed me at all (except the meal in Wagga Wagga)
I never expected it to
[Chorus:]
Don't cry for me (South Australia)
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence (touring libraries of regional NSW)
I kept my promise
Don't keep your distance
And as for fortune, and as for fame
I never invited them in (though I would like a bit more of both)
Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired (true)
They are illusions (no, the money is real)
They are not the solutions they promised to be
The answer was here all the time
I love you and hope you love me
Don't cry for me South Australia
[chorus]
Have I said too much? (without a doubt, as usual)
There's nothing more I can think of to say to you. (spot on)
But all you have to do is look at me to know
That every word is true (well, almost)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Come hear me rant!

Come hear me rant about Gibbons and Rhinos and shamelessly promote my self and my new book SILENT PREDATOR at any (or all, if you're a stalker) of these places.

Shocking Asia

So, there I was, Legion of Fans (LOF), feeling pleasantly merry after stuffing myself at the Africa House steakhouse in Koh Samui, strolling down the main drag with the Big Kahuna and his brother, fending off the unrequited attentions of effusive young ladies when I saw something that really pissed me off.

(To recap, Mr Blog is currently taking the waters and the cheap beers on the Thai island of Koh Samui as part of protracted significant birthday celebrations for his former employer and current comrade the Big Kahuna. Being Australian tourists in Thailand we see nothing wrong with flying several thousand kilometres to an exotic Asian destination and eating at an African steakhouse).

Anyway, back to the story.

A young Thai man said to me, as I passed him; "You like photograph, sir?"

Thinking he may have wanted to sell me a polaroid of his sister, or something like that, I was about to completely ignore him when I saw something move in the region of his chest.

I'd missed it at first, but when I stopped and looked at him I saw that a baby black and white gibbon was clinging to his neck. He wanted me to stop and have my picture taken with the little fuzzy primate.

I was speechless.

I wanted to punch him in the face.

I wanted to grab the gibbon and set it free.

I wanted to berate him and explain to him that there was absolutely no excuse for this sort of exploitation of wildlife to be happening in an otherwise progressive country such as Thailand or in such a booming little tourist economy in the case of Koh Samui.

If I was a character in one of my books I would have done all of the above. In fact, if I was a character in one my books I probably would have drawn my trusty nine millimetre Glock 17 and shot him (the man, not the gibbon, as my lead characters don't shoot dogs or any other wildlife).

However, I'm a middle aged Australian male on holiday, so I just gave him a filthy look (that I hoped conveyed my desire to shoot him with my non existent gun) and walked on, with fists clenched, muttering obscenities.

I let my anger grow and the Big Kahuna heard me out. "He (the bloke with the gibbon) wouldn't be here if stupid tourists didn't want to get their picture taken with it," the Big Kahuna said, voicing my own thoughts by then.

After a couple more Singha beers I decided that what I really should be doing is punching/shooting any stupid tourist I see who stops to have their picture taken with the gibbon.

A few years ago - the last time I was in Thailand - Mrs Blog and I went to a gibbon rehabilitation centre near Phuket with Richard Gere (not his real name, although he does bear an uncanny resemblance to that other famous wildlife fancier) and his wife. Here was a place that looked after orphaned gibbons whose parents had been killed so that their babies could be exploited like the one I saw last night. It was a popular tourist attraction. I haven't had time to really think about this, but isn't this just a perpetuation (is that a word?) of the same problem.

Mother Gibbon killed so baby can be exploited. Baby rescued by do-gooders and put in rehab so that it can become a different kind of tourist attraction. No. Hold on. If the rehab sanctuary really is about rehab - and it not just a low rent zoo - then this is a good thing. Right?

Who's most at fault here? The person who kills the mother gibbon to get its baby? They guy on the street corner with the baby? The tourist who stops to have their pic taken, perpetuating (that is a word) the trade? Me, for just getting angy and no actually doing anything?

Answer: All of us.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Come see me in Brisbane next week

Tues June 10, 5.00 pm – Dymocks Evening Event, Cnr Edward & Queen Sts, Brisbane.

Wed June 11, 12.00 noon – Grand View Hotel Literary Lunch, 49 North St, Cleveland. Contact Books’n’Art bookstore for more information.

Mid air disaster

The great SILENT PREDATOR book promotional tour has taken me to Thailand, Legion of Fans (LOF), and I look forward to meeting as many of my Thai and international fans as possible during my whistle-stop visit to public libraries on the island of Koh Samui.

Actually I am in Thailand (Bangkok airport right now) for a four-day celebration of a significant birthday of a friend of mine, the Big Kahuna. He surfs, but he is no Hawaiian.

Anyway, I have only one thing to report so far, and it is a tragedy of such grave seriouslness that a lump comes to my throat as I type these following words.

British Airways, Flight BA10 from Sydney to Bangkok... June 3, 2008, a date that will live in infamy...

Ran out of beer four hours into the flight.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Viva Brisvegas... and other points south and west

The blog road show continues apace (is that a word?), Legion of Fans (LOF).

Hot on the heals of well-attended (if I do say so) speaking engagements in the very south of New South Wales (at Albury and Wagga) and the very north of Victoria (Wodonga), I can now release more dates of the SILENT PREDATOR tour of libraries, bookshops and pubs of Australia.

A short word of thanks, if I may, to the Northcott Society’s Wagga branch and its charming honchos Graham and Jenny; the delightful Magpie’s Nest Restaurant; the very friendly people of Albury and Wodonga; the excellent chef and attentive staff at the Quality on Olive Hotel, Albury; and my very good friends at Collins Booksellers in Wagga and Albury.

And now, without further ado, I bring you my next engagements. Come one, come all, because Mrs Blog needs to one day be the wife of a rich and famous author (and I’d like it to be me)…


Brisvegas…….

Tues June 10, 5.00 pm – Dymocks Evening Event, Cnr Edward & Queen Sts, Brisbane.

Wed June 11, 12.00 noon – Grand View Hotel Literary Lunch, 49 North St, Cleveland. Contact Books’n’Art bookstore for more information.


South of the border, down Victoria way…

Mon June 16, 6.30 pm – Collins Booksellers Event, Sunbury Library, Macedon St .

Tues June 17, 7.00 pm – Newcombe Library Event, Centro Shopping Centre, Cnr Bellarine Hwy & Wilsons Rd.

Wed June 18, 12.30 – Dymocks Signing, Westfield Shopping Centre, Doncaster, Melbourne

Wed June 18, 7.00 pm – Knox City Library Event, 425 Burwood Hwy, Wantirna South. Contact Borders for more information.

Thurs June 19, 12.30 – Collins Booksellers Literary Lunch, Melbourne - contact Collins Melbourne for more information

Thurs June 19, 6.30 pm – Collins Booksellers Literary Dinner, Bairnsdale – contact Collins Bairnsdale for more information


West Australia (or is that Western Australia – I can never remember)…

Tues June 24, 7.00 pm – Painted Dog Fundraiser Event, Zebra’s African Steakhouse, 1 Point Walter Rd, Bicton, WA, $60 for three-course meal. RSVP Angela at lemonj@ozemail.com.au

Wed June 25, 6.30 pm – Dymocks Booksellers event, Civic Square Library, Mieville.

Thurs June 26, 2.00 pm – Mandurah Library Event, 331 Pinjarra Rd, Opposite Centro Shopping Centre.


And, closer to home, in my city of Sydney…….

Sun July 6, 2.00pm – Penrith City Library Event

Tues July 8, 12.30 – Willoughby City Council Library Event.

Tues July 8, 7.00 pm – Ku-ring-gai wide library event at Gordon Library

Thurs July 10, 6.30 pm – Warringah Mall Library Event, Level 2, Warringah Mall, Brookvale.

Tues July 22, 6.30 pm – Campbelltown H.J. Daley Central Library Event, Hurley St, Campbelltown.

Thurs July 24, 10.00 am – Randwick Library Talk

Thurs July 24, 6.30 pm – Hornsby Central Library Talk

Fri July 25, 10.00 am – St. Ives Library Talk

Tues July 29, 6.30 pm – Lane Cove Library Talk