Hong Kong short story anthology

January 7th, 2019

I am happy to have had the opportunity to help edit the Hong Kong Writers’ Circle’s 2018 anthology of short stories (also featuring one by me). The South China Morning Post calls it “an emotional roller coast of a read… a well-written and tightly curated volume.” You can buy it online here or, if you are in HK, at any Bookazine outlet.

NZ’s National Flash Fiction Day

June 23rd, 2016

report-writingshort-1-638On the shortest day of the year, New Zealand celebrates its shortest fiction (https://nationalflash.org/). I am happy to report I managed to make it on to the long list. At 300 words or less, this fiction is starting to look long.  Some flash fiction publishers insist on less than 250. Still others are embracing ‘micro madness’, which requires less than 100 words.  Where will this brevity end?  I am predicting at two.  Will see.

The Rugby and the Hockey

September 20th, 2015

hockey skatesIf I needed a reminder that I’ve now been in New Zealand for four years, the Rugby World Cup would be it.  Never having seen a match before my arrival here, I can now attest to one live world cup match, a full day of the 7s, a good number of test matches on TV, and the odd live League game.  But, of course, the last of these is not rugby.  It’s League.  Rugby is Union.  But that goes without saying.  At least for Kiwis.  And I respect this distinction in words (even if after four years it still all looks like rugby to me).  Which is all the more reason whfield hockeyy it drives me crazy when I refer to hockey that New Zealanders get that quizzical look on their faces and ask, “Ice hockey?”  Sigh.  Hockey – of the variety you play on the ice, on skates, with proper-sized sticks – is a multi-billion dollar industry.  Meanwhile, field hockey – of the variety private school girls play in overly short skirts with overly short clubs – never earned anyone more than bruised shins and a sore back.  So when I say hockey, I mean hockey.

It’s Been a Long Time

September 4th, 2015

So I haven’t blogged since, well, eleven WordPress updates ago.  Not sure if I’m quite back on the wagon but before my last readers (what few regulars I had) give up on me altogether, here goes.

Living in New Zealand when considering making a phone call to friends and family around the world I often think of this classic exchange between Rick and Sam in Casablanca: Rick – “If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?” Sam – “What? My watch stopped.” Rick – “I’d bet they’re asleep in New York.  I’d bet they’re asleep all over America.”  And it’s true, no matter what time it is in NZ, they’re asleep wherever I want to call. But at least that led me to read some choice quotes from Casablanca.  The movie is chock full of them.  From the well-known, “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine” to the equally well-known, “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”  But personally I am more of a fan of this exchange: Yvonne – “Where were you last night?” Rick –  “That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.” Yvonne – “Will I see you tonight?” Rick – “I never make plans that far ahead.”  Humphrey Bogart, one of the original bad boys.


Doing it for Yourself

June 8th, 2015

The LowI have slowly overcome a prejudice against self-published work.  Like many, I used to the think of publishers, if not as purveyors of quality goods, at least as gatekeepers, shielding me from the worst of typos and clichés.  Silly me.  One need look no further than the Fifty Shade franchise to know better. (This condemnation, I note, is based on a reading of an excerpt.  I read no further.  Not because of the embarrassment factor – I do after all have an e-reader – but because I was cringing too much from the bad writing.)  My actual experience with self-published books runs the gamut over the three books I’ve read from ‘couldn’t finish’, ‘OK’, and ‘I really enjoyed that’.  But all this prejudice was ill-founded right from the start.  Back in the day when I was young and still went out, two favourite bands were The Lowest of the Low* and The Watchmen**.  Both terrific with big local followings but they never managed to break into the ‘big times’ for reasons that can nothing to do with talent.  Luckily, though, self-publishing had already hit the music scene and I can still enjoy their music today.  So keep at it, people – someone out there appreciates you.

* Wikipedia notes, “Their most successful album, Shakespeare My Butt, was later named one of the ten greatest albums in Canadian music history in three successive reader polls by the music magazine Chart.”

** Wikipedia notes, “During their peak years the band had three gold records (McLaren Furnace Room, Silent Radar, and Slomotion) and one platinum record (In The Trees).”

No, Really, How Are You?

April 18th, 2015
Creepy doll

Creepy doll

It took me a long while to get used to the grammar of “how you going?”, puzzling over it so that my response always took a tad too long.  Of course, why I would puzzle is not apparent since it really is no different from “how ya doing?”.  And it’s not like I didn’t always understand both to mean, how are you?  Neither requiring a considered answer.  This isn’t always the case for the “how are you?” substitutes.  In the year my honey lived in the States, he always racked his brain to respond to “What’s happening?” with a something authentic and interesting about what he’d been up to.  The required response of “not much, you?” seeming inadequate.  I can see “what’s the story?” or the more hip “what’s the script?” having similar effect, but the one that gets me is the British, “Are you all right?”  I immediately think that I mustn’t be.  That the person asking can see layers of woe that I had buried so deep that I had long since forgotten about them but were now showing on my face.  Or the asker is a doctor and is spotting the first signs of some horrible disease.  My response is always the same, a hesitant, wondering, “yes?”, and then I wait to be corrected.

Proper Names

March 23rd, 2015

deano-say-s-who-s-your-daddy-18228cI have blogged before about Kiwi words and expressions, but this time it’s about names, people’s names. Sure they have their usual assortment of Michaels and Olivias here, and definitely the default male name of choice is David, and if it’s woman between the ages of 30 and 50, Kate or Katie is a very good bet. But there are also a bunch of names here that I, on first hearing, thought were exotic but turn out to be quite common. Ever meet a Zeb before? Must have been in New Zealand. Or, keeping with the Zs, how about Zane? Not a description or even a nickname, but the moniker of many a man. And Bevon is not a misspelling of Devon but a name in its own right. And while not exotic even in Canada, I have never met so many Brents and Bretts before (which even the locals are prone to confuse). No matter the name though, exotic or otherwise, all are prone to shortening (particularly the male ones). Anthony too much of a mouthful for you? Don’t worry, Anth will do fine. Gav for Gavin and, somehow, Baz for Barrie. But wait, you say you have a one syllable name, Dean? Not in NZ. That’s when Os are added, Deano.

The Wordfalls of Building

February 22nd, 2015

There a lot of different Kiwi words to Canadian ones.  But the difference between ‘car park’ and ‘parking spot’ doesn’tfalling word normally result in communication breakdowns.  It turns out that differences in house or building related words, when you’re building a house, do.  Not all.  Some are endearing: splash-back for back-splash.  Many are neutral: cladding for siding.  Some are confusing: bench for counter (or countertop or kitchen counter) but also for the thing you sit.  Some I recognize as inexplicably Canadian: eavestrough for rain gutter.  But it turns out the seemingly innocent word ‘cupboard’ is the one that is downright dangerous.  It means all manner of things: cabinet, closet, built-in closet, and even, occasionally, cupboard.  As for closets, they are strictly things you come out of.  You would never hang your clothes there.  Meanwhile in Canada, nobody keeps their clothes in a cupboard.  Luckily I got to the builders just before it was too late.

It’s Catching

January 26th, 2015

How au fait!

We live, of course, in an age of viral cat videos.  Even the most clueless of us will at some point come across the latest meme, a contagion that spreads to even the most limited of internet users.  The means are apparent – the Facebook posts that automatically stream video, the Yahoo home page banner, occasionally still, emails (although, one indisputable benefit of Facebook is the near fatal blow to chain emails promising evil to those who don’t pass them on).  And so, not so slowly, knowledge – such as it is – reaches the echelon of “common”.  At work, it happens through meetings.  Here I am not just talking about the latest tidbit of gossip (which regularly fails to reach certain ears especially if it’s whispered), or information pertinent to the functioning of the organization (which seems to take longer to take hold) but rather, words.  The kind you use in conversation.  I recently experienced the contagion with “au fait”.  I heard it in a five person meeting at about 9 am, and naively thought, “now there’s an expression you don’t hear too often (at least in this part of the world).”  By the end of the next day, spread from meeting to meeting to water cooler to cafeteria and back again, everyone was saying it.  At least in the office.  I wasn’t privy how it may have infected my fellow workers’ homes.  A few though, I am sure, weren’t immune.  And, New Zealand, being a small, I wouldn’t be surprised if it spreads to the far reaches of the country.  So if you hear it anytime soon, let me tell you, I was there, ground zero.  Although, perhaps that was only the latest of a series of local outbreaks.

2014 in Review

January 5th, 2015

It’s that time of year, folks, when I review the best and worst of my experience of arts and entertainment.  All in all,eggs it’s been a disappointing year in the movies for me but a good one in reading.

Best movie: without question, my movie highlight for the year was August: Osage County.  I can be a sucker for talky, theatrical type movies and this is among the best, but no matter one’s tolerance for that type of film, the dialogue and acting in this one are untouchable.  My one criticism is a tag-on ending that went one beat too far, which, as it turns out, is not in the original play.

Worst movies: There is more than one – Boyhood and Interstellar.  Both are awful and both, particularly Boyhood, are on many critics top ten lists for 2014.  OK, sure, being filmed over the course of 12 years is an impressive commitment on the part of all involved but, let’s face it, many of those actors weren’t doing much anyway.  As for the kid, OK, sure, we get to see him grow up on film but most of us get to see kids grown up in real life, and in this case, the latter turns out to be a lot more interesting.  Really, this film is almost as bad as watching someone’s home movies.  As for Interstellar, I have a serious weakness for sci-fi flics and so it says something that this one makes the list. A peachy, self-important movie that takes itself very seriously but is, you guessed, oh so trite.

Best reads: The book that divided my book club between those who found it boring and those who found it moving and profound: Stoner by John Williams.  You know where I fell.  Also, The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton, so much better, I think, than her Booker prize winning novel.  A woman in my writing group described it as “fresh”, which about sums it up if the word didn’t have a perky connotation. It’s fresh in a quirky, insightful, intelligent sort of way.  Honourable mentions include anything by Tim Winton, my new go-to writer.

Best not-so-secret indulgent read: Wool by Hugh Howey.  I said I had a sci-fi weakness and this, originally self-published, novel hits all my post-apocalyptic buttons.

Worst reads: Normally I don’t have anything that falls into this category because I typically stop reading if it’s that bad, but being in a book club again, there was the odd book that I suffered through to show my book club commitment.  The standout in this crowd is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  Fine, maybe, if one were twelve but it is indeed targeted at an adult audience, which is enough to make me weep.