The Mini-burger

FanFic in the Birmoverse

We Few, We Brave Few, We Band of Cheeseburgers …

This is the last surviving collection of the Lost Burger Files™ held on the original JS fileserver and recovered after the first JS meltdown.  They cover the period May 2005 to September 2005.  Unfortunately hundreds of comments have been irrevocably lost but it’s interesting reading. Only 4 years ago but now … historic.

Inching along

posted 09/28/05

Just had an email from my new editor. He seems a decent chap and was also cut up about my last editor getting chopped. They were friends. I’m going to take a couple of extra weeks with the book manuscript while he gets settled in, polish it up some more.
The essay is taking up most of my time at the moment. I’m just about finished the narrative section on the battle of Shahikot and will probably switch over to discursive tonight. The battle story took much longer to write than I anticipated. That’s the problem with non fiction. You have to get it right. I’ve been using Sean Naylor’s ‘Not a Good Day To Die’ as my primary reference. It’s an awesome piece of research and writing.
Targets is selling well and getting good reviews down here, although I haven’t had time to chase them up. Less than a month now until it’s out in the US and UK. Time pressures should ease off soon and I’ll be able to post longer entries and spend a bit more time hanging out here. I have very much enjoyed slipping a few of you into book 3 as cameo characters. Corporal Murphy, Trooper Alcones, Lieutenant leRoy – and others, with their real world names that I won’t mention here. Good work, all of you. Keep it up.
Also, just got word there’s a new season of the play based on my first book coming up in Brisbane, which is cool. We’ll just get back in time for the closing night.





Would you believe…

posted 09/26/05

I fired up the Mac this morning to get to work, opened my web browser, and was greeted with the very sad news that Agent Maxwell Smart is no longer with us. Time has claimed him where KAOS failed.
It’s like a chunk of my childhood just broke off and floated away.



Unutterable shame 2.

posted 09/22/05

Here in deadline world certain things go by the by. Dress sense for instance. When you roll out of bed and walk three metres to your desk, why bother putting on a suit, or shaving, or changing out of your scungy old track pants.
I’ll tell you why, because your wife will give your five year old daughter the power to approve or disapprove your clothing choice for the day.
This is the situation I now find myself in.




From SFMurphy on 09/23/05


I think a father should come with the ability to place an “IGNORE” function on certain subjects. A daughter’s judgement of the father’s fashion sense is one of them.Least you are not sitting around in a pair of skidmarked boxers, or better yet, sans clothes period.

Northtown, Missouri



Onwards and upwards.

posted 09/21/05

Hey there. Thought I’d pop in for a little updater. I just received a box of the reprints of ‘Designated Targets’ this morning, including many of the little changes you guys suggested, but I didn’t unpack them. We’re moving back up to Brisbane in December and I figured it’d be a waste of time cracking the carton open, only to have to seal it up again for the movers in a few weeks.
I’m trying to ignore the musical chairs at my publishers and get on with the double deadline. Both book and essay are progressing well, but it’s a heavy work load, hence my continued absence from blogworld.
I’m hoping to finish the first part of the essay, detailing the Battle of Shah-I-Khot, this evening in the university library. It’ll probably end up running to about five or six thousand words of narrative, after which I have to shift into discursive mode for the rest of the piece – say, fifteen thousand words.
For the novel, I’m currently writing a scene set in the Kremlin, at one of Stalin’s infamous drunken debauches. I’ve been reading Simon Sebag Montefiore’s fantastic book ‘In the Court of the Red Tsar’, as part of my research. It’s a magnificent piece of work and really nails the idea of what a foul bunch of psychopaths Stalin and his henchmen were.

Anyway I’ve still got a way to climb before I reach the top of Mount Deadline, but at least I can see the summit now.





Lost editor.

posted 09/15/05

I just got an email from my American editor, who’s leaving Random House. Or maybe being pushed, it’s hard to tell. It’s very upsetting. He’s a great guy and he invested an enormous amount of time and effort in my books. He was a delight to work with. This really sucks. And now I have to go back to the manuscript I was planning on sending him next month. I’m not sure who’ll be editing it or whether we’re still working to the same schedule.
Big fucking sigh.



Some good news, very briefly.

posted 09/08/05

Just had a call from my publishers. They’ve already hit the presses on the first reprint of Targets. Woo-hoo. It means I can splice in a few of your suggestions.
Thanks to all, now I gotta get back to it. Prince Harry is about to rescue Colonel Brasch from the Gestapo in a Paris brothel!




At the bottom of the deadline pit.

posted 09/01/05

Hey ya’ll.
Just thought I’d drop in to give you an update. I’ve been hammering the keyboard like a champion these last few weeks and the manuscript is starting to look pretty good. There’s some real heft to it now. I’m just about to reach the point where I begin to worry about the house burning down and destroying all my work so I’ve started backing up to zip and storing the copy off site.
I should say hello to everyone who pops in to check out the ol’ Cheeseburger, having seen the address in the bio-note for Designated Targets. If you’re new to blogging feel free to hang around, put your feet up, stay a while. Some of you have already sent me your notes on Targets, for which I thank you. I’m clipping them into a special file and will incorporate any corrections in the mass market version of the book next year.
If you have questions – such as “Did you make Kennedy’s boat the PT 101 on purpose? (yes I did) – you can leave them in the comment section. If you’re worried about giving away some major plot point, send me a private message which you can do from my profile page.

My regulars will be wanting to know what I’ve been doing, and will be doing the next few weeks while I continue to hide out. Basically I’ve been writing every spare minute I get. The kids have had quite bad colds the last week or so, which has chewed up some work time, but I’ve been compensating by going to the main library at the Australian National University. It’s open until eleven at night. I’m aiming to finish the sequel to Targets (and the last book in this trilogy) by Oct 17.

I’m gonna do a couple of quick visits to Sydney and Melbourne to promo the book, but I don’t think there’s any public gigs scheduled. It’s all media. I’ll send another update when I do those trips.

Of course I still have a 20 000 word Quarterly Essay due on Oct 17 too, so although I can see a dim glimmering light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a long way off. Or it seems so. I guess it’s only six weeks.

Holy shit!

I’d better get back to it.




I’m back, just briefly

posted 08/22/05

Hey ya’ll.
I’m still on deadline and I’m still missing all my JS buds. I’m just dropping in to leave a quick note because I have a book due out in OZ this week. It’s Designated Targets, the sequel to Weapons of Choice and the author bio has this blog as my web site.
So this is really just a howdy to anyone who calls in here looking for me.
If you read the entry below you’ll see that I’m way ahead of you. I’m buried in the sequel to the sequel you’ve just read. When I’m finished I’ll be happy to answer questions, engage in arguments, take your vile abuse etc at greater length. But that won’t be until October 17 at the earliest.

If you have something you’re just burning to talk about, re Targets, can I ask that you don’t leave any spoilers here. It’s not due out in the US, UK or Canada for another two months. You can send a private message if yr a member. Sign up if yr not.

To my JS regulars, big hugs, cold beers, whatever gets you thru the day. Like Douglas Macarthur, I will return.

(in deadline hell).




I am just stepping outside. I may be gone for some time.

posted 07/27/05

Murph and Alcones are right. I can’t waste any more time here. This will be my last post until I get the manuscript finished. I’ll be back in November. Until then I wish all of you the very best. I hope you see your dreams come true, your hopes fulfilled and your hearts mended if they need it.
I’ve enjoyed spending time with all of you and am very much looking forward to catching up at the end of the year. If you leave me on your faves lists I’ll let you know when I’m back. Murph, I hope those stories sell. Alcones, keep writing. Pad Thai Princess, dress well and party hard. Feathers, be of strong heart my friend. Amansha I will miss your good sense and amazing profanity.
There’s about thirty more of you I should say something special to, you know who you are. But the deadline. The goddamn deadline. It looms like a black wave of destiny.
Until November.






posted 07/27/05

There is a great post over at Murphy Ponders this morning, on technobabble and Hard SF.
For the geeks amongst us, I recommend it. (Because I agree with him of course).
As I said in Murph’s comments, incomprehensible technobabble isn’t just an SF matter.
A lot of military fiction and police procedural books are also unreadable in parts because the author wants to show off their inside knowledge. A little dusting of this through a story is a great thing, lending credibility. But any more than a sprinkle and it becomes narrative razor wire.
For anyone thinking about writing a novel, can I just put my vote in for plain english? I didn’t read my maths or physics texts in high school. I’m sure as hell not gonna start now.





Deadline hell.

posted 07/24/05

Just finished a chapter of ‘The Last Good War’. Just started the next. This will go on and on and on until I’m done. Then I’ll have a little lie down.
So the posts will be a bit thin for the next two or three months. Although I’ll probably write something from Byron Bay when I’m up there for the festival next week.
I did take a few hours out in Mackay to watch Sin City, however. That was cool. I particularly enjoyed it because i’d read a review where the critic had taken a dump on the film for it’s neanderthal gender types. I suspected he was talking through his arse. And he was. It’s a noir film. What did he expect?
Anyway, here we go.

Deep breath.






Home again.

posted 07/24/05

Just got back in from the tropics, where it was cold and wet for the most part. The festival, as I posted b4, was very busy. I didn’t realise until just before I arrived that it was a kids’ fest, run by a school. I don’t normally do a lot of school visits because some of my books aren’t that appropriate for a younger audience.
This gig was being run by an Anglican high school. There were thousands of kids in attendance, and it was pretty cool. There were nine writers and illustrators performing for kids from first year thru to the senior class. I worked entirely with the seniors and had great fun, although I had to censor my usual routines pretty heavily.
The place where it all happened was Mackay, a sugar town on the mid north coast of Queenland, sort of near the start of the Whitsunday Passage. Think the lower bit of the Great Barrier Reef if you’re from the US or UK. I’ve been there b4, as a mate of mine runs the town’s art gallery. We were all staying in a hotel out on the waterfront, which was cool, except for the weather sucking a bit. And unlike normal festivals, we all had to work for our keep, doing talks and classes.
I don’t think you can teach much in an hour, which was how long they gave us with each group, so I just had my kids writing up an outline for a Simpson’s episode. And they rocked! Some of the stuff they came up with was every bit as good the scripts tunred in by the pros on the show itself. I was in stitches, they had me laughing me so much.

Anyway, friday night i had to do the keynote speech to the festival dinner, which was a challenge because it was a very mixed crowd. Small town conservative for the most part, but not entirely. Still, my story of how i got my first published piece out of a visit to an illegal casino and brothel seemed to go down well, and the only complaint was that it wasn’t ruder.

There’s no pleasing some people.

One of the kids asked me after a talk, what my favorite Foo Fighter’s track was, because i’d just bought the double album, In Your Honor. I said i’d post the answer here when i’d had a good listen to the latest CD. I still haven’t taken it out of the shrink wrap yet but tomorrow I’ll play it while working, so the answer to that, Lucas, will come in a day or two.





Busy busy busy

posted 07/21/05

Sorry for the lack of posts. I’ve been working like a dog at this literary festival. I’m in a library now surounded by hundreds of munchkins. Will file later.


From Anonymous on 07/22/05


I was one of them too


Beer and remembrance.

posted 07/19/05

I’ve been writing my essay about Sydney, the one that should have been about hotel rooms, and it took me back to the bar where I used to drink. It was an RSL Club at the north end of Bondi Beach. RSL means Returned Serviceman’s League. In the Olden Days they were run exclusively by and for blokes who’d fought overseas. As the old blokes have faded away the clubs have morphed into community facilities that anyone can use and mine was about two minutes walk from the front door of our apartment.
It sits right on the beach, with these booming views across the bay. The entire front wall is made of sliding glass doors which open out onto a wide deck. When I was home looking after the baby I used to pop in there for a revivifying ale when Jane got back from work. It was magnificent. The beer, the surf, the sand. The whole thing.
For a while we had a friend living nearby, a poet from the Czech Republic and we took her down to the club for a drink one evening. Now, there is a touching moment in the daily life of every RSL club, at six in the evening, when they still light the Eternal Flame and everybody stops drinking and stands to recite the prayer.
“They shall grow not old, as we who are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.”

It’s a quite beautiful interlude. Surfers, party girls, sand punks, hard nuts, everyone stands and recites the prayer to the fallen. It’s such a part of the everyday ritual at any RSL that you forget how odd it must look to an outsider. Like a Czech poet for instance. The first time she saw it Dominika was absolutely floored. Her eyes teared up as she cast around taking in the sight of all of these beach bums and drinkers paying their respects to generations of soldiers who never got to come home to the beach.

Anyway, don’t know why I’m telling you this. The memory just came back is all. And made me a little teary too.





On the toe.

posted 07/18/05

Well, the Beazley profile is done. It ran about 1500 words over but that’s an extra 1500 bucks i can charge so I won’t complain. The sports column went off at about ten to  six this morning and I’m just waiting on the pdf to come back so I can check it. (It’s a completely biased and unreasonable attack on bike riders. We’re expecting some violent hate mail. I’ll post the worst of it here for Feathers to enjoy.)
I’m finishing the anthology essay this arvo (this afternoon in US speak) and hoping to write a couple of hundred words on my quarterly essay tonight.
Wednesday I fly north for a festival and won’t get back until saturday. It should be fun, although they’ve actually got us working quite hard this time. Cheeky bastards. I’ll post something from the tropics when I get in and settled.
Almost walked right into a huge mob of kangaroos this morning when I was walking the dog up in the hills, but luckily she was distracted by sniffing some poo, so she didn’t notice.

Think I might take her up again now.

‘On the toe’ btw, is australian slang for travelling.





So very tired…

posted 07/17/05

Man. I wrote about 16 000 words last week. And then we had visitors on the weekend and I had to sleep on the floor, which was fun cos it was in the lounge room which was like camping out with cable and wide screen. But i’m wrecked. There were five kids to wrangle. It was cold and wet. I’d love to just drink a few beers and watch the star trek line up on TV1 tonight, but i’ve got a sports column due in the morning and a rewrite on my political profile.
On that last, here’s a tip. Even when you double check your tape recorder and use new batteries for a really important interview, you still need to take notes. I chased Kim Beazley, the Opposition Leader here, for maybe three weeks, finally getting an interview on friday. I did my usual obssessive double and triple check of the recording equipment. And then when I’d finished my rather excellent Q&A, I sat down to feed the answers into the profile I’d already half written.
And his voice was nowhere on the tape. Mine was. But not his.
I would have brain snapped, but luckily I had taken notes. Just In Case.

Let this be a lesson to you.





Yes, a whiskey, that’s a good idea.

posted 07/14/05

Flatstacey suggested yesterday that I need a scotch on the rocks. Which I did. But it’s a dangerous precedent to set when looking after kids.
However, she’s right in that my drinks cabinet is bare of a good whiskey at the moment. Or even a bad one. Whenever I’m on a long deadline, for a book or a major essay, I like to work late into the night. And when I’m doing that it’s my habit to take a drink at about ten in the evening.
Beer is too bloating, and as I’ve explained to Murph, will just keep waking me up when I do finally get to bed with the need to empty my bladder. Wine is too easy to keep drinking, and it makes me sleepy anyway. But a good stiff whiskey wakes me up and doesn’t bloat the old tum.
I could, however, be convinced to try a good bourbon. A favorite publisher once gave me a bottle of Makers Mark for launching a book and it was a revelation. A completely different drink to Jack D or Jim Beam, neither of which grabbed me. However, is there some fantastic top shelf sour mash that I’d like even more?

Suggestions anyone? Here’s a chance to improve the US balance of payment by about a hundred and fifty bucks. Otherwise it’s going to Scotland for a 25 yo bottle of Highland Park.






posted 07/13/05

A brief halt has been called to deadline hell for a couple of hours while I descend into childminding hell.
It’s raining here and I have four pre-schoolers under foot as I try to finish the two essays, write a thousand words of The Book, and prepare for visitors this weekend.



How many times am I going to fall for this?

posted 07/13/05

Well, I’m still buried by competeing deadlines but things eased up a bit today. After hammering out about six thousand words yesterday and looking at having to step up and do it again today I discovered this morning that yet again I’d swallowed a False Deadline, and the 10 000 word essay can wait until 1 Aug. Jeezus! How many times do I have to get suckered like this before I remember that there is the deadline and then there is the ‘Omigod it’s the fucking DEADLINE deadline’.
Yes, it got me moving, but it meant that i put back a different piece with a real deadline of today when I could have been….
But wait… Is the real deadline today or is it…

Okay. I can see I’m losing it here. I’ll leave you with a thought I posted in Fridgecriminal’s blog a while back.

A signficant proportion of the injuries which present in hospital emergency rooms involve lonely men, alcohol, nudity and vacuum cleaners.





Read the goddamn contract!

posted 07/12/05

Remember that essay I was supposed to write which has been hanging around like a fart in a telphone booth? I was going to write about my love of hotel rooms for an anthology of travel writing but in the way of these things it kept kept getting shoved onto the back burner while I dealt with boil-overs on other jobs; essays, columns, overdue books etc.
Anyway, the editor found me last week and put the blowtorch to the belly so I had to perform. I cranked out my essay, about three thousand words, in a day. And it was pretty good too. In fact, it rocked. She said so.
About five minutes after I got her email acknowledging recipt of the copy I got another panicky email asking where the rest of it was. She wanted ten thousand words. I’d done three.

I was like, holy shit! If I’d known they wanted that much I would never have taken the commission. Now there’s a gun at my head because we go to production in a few days and I’ve got to spin up another 6000 or 7000 words out of NOTHING. The ed said, didn’t you read the contract? But I think it went to my old address, like most of my Random House mail no matter how often I update them. So no. I didn’t. In my usual slap dash half arsed doofus of the month way I just agreed on a nod and a handshake to give her some copy.

Big sigh.

Complicating this, I’ve got a political profile to finish by tomorrow on a guy who refuses to be interviewed, another twenty thousand word essay deadline looming, and of course The Book, due in mid October.

My head hurts.

Let this be a lesson to all the baby writers out there dreaming of fat commissions from multiple publishers. Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.





Snow report.

posted 07/11/05

We had a blizzard up in the mountains over the weekend. We were staying on a farm down in the foothills and still caught about eight or nine inches of snow, which the kids loved.  Winter in the Australian Snowy Mountains is a weird, contrary thing, with kangaroos hopping through the drifts and wombats snuffing around the beers we’d piled up outside the front door. (It was much colder than the fridge out there).
We had some friends staying with us, who brought another three littl’uns, which made for quite a crew sledding down the hills in back of the homestead. The one off-key note was a power failure which meant we couldn’t watch the rugby test on Saturday night. Had to drink red wine in front of the log fire instead. Bummer.
Anyway, back to reality today. I have an essay to file by close of business this afternoon. Another one to start when that’s away… oh, and a book due in three months, too. Better do something about that.




Off to the snow…

posted 07/08/05

Well, the anthology piece was all but done when I discovered I was working to a false deadline. It’s not due till next week!
Oh well.
In about half an hour Jane is going to swing by the library and we’ll drive up to the snow country with the kids for the weekend.
I’ll be off line for two or three days.

I hope you all have a safe and happy weekend. My American friends might enjoy imagining the blizzard which is due to hit later tonight.

To my english readers, my sympathies for London. I’m afraid we’ll all see a lot more of this before we’re done with bin Laden and crew. But one day, we will be done with them.

Oh, and I wouldn’t get too cocky about the cricket either.





And ANOTHER thing…

posted 07/07/05

Just heard that London won the 2012 Olympics, which is nice for them. But of course the best part is that the French lost…
Childish I know, but I just can’t help myself.
On professional matters, the editor who wanted me to do the hotel room piece finally tracked me to my mountain top lair. She got through the multi-layered defences by disguising her phone number. Damn!
Anyway, long story short, this is not a hassle I can avoid by going to sleep for a couple of days and waiting for the print deadline to pass. I’m going to have to produce.


We decided the hotel thing wasn’t working, so we’ve switched completely. The anthology is called ‘long distance love’. I’ve decided to do a piece about how i’ve effectively been banished from Sydney now that I have children. (I imagine it’s the same for all new parents living in big cities).

I pine terribly for my old apartment at the beach.

It’s a long bow, but it’s all I got.

Deadline tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

I’m going in………..


Just heard the bombing news out of London. This sucks.





Quiet day.

posted 07/05/05

Had a quiet day in at National Library today, reading the Peter Fitzsimons biography of Kim Beazley. He’s the Labor Party leader here and I have to profile him for a magazine next week. Pete’s book is great. I’m having dinner with him in Byron Bay during the festival next month and will tell him how much I’ve enjoyed reading it.
Beazley’s  office is trying to get me an hour or so with the big guy but his schedule is tight. We’ll see. We’ve met before and we both love sea stories so I might start him off on that tack if I get access. I think I’ll have to fly over to Sydney to do the interview, so I’m hoping to get to the new Haigh’s chocolate shop when I’m there. There’s been something like a dozen luxury chocolatiers open in Sydney recently, but Haigh’s are still the best IMO. Although Lindt are pretty cool too.
If I fly to Melbourne instead I might visit my brother and his family if there’s time. And they have a Haigh’s there as well. Not that I’m obssessed or anything.
Better get back to the laptop.






posted 07/05/05

I don’t know why they chose me. I guess they were desperate. The call from the bookshop came late on the afternoon of the gig. A first time author was doing his very first public appearance; a reading at Gleebooks, a groovy independent outlet, and the support act had dropped out at the last minute. Could I possibly give them a hand? Just a quick warm up to get the audience settled in for the newbie. That was the extent of my mission brief.
Well, they do a nice spread at Gleebooks, with lots of booze and Turkish pizza, so I figured sure. And anyway, these readings are always a great way to catch up with a few mates who’ve also put their heads in for the nosh up and the free grog. I guess I should have asked a few questions about this guy I was helping out and the audience he was bringing with him.
Thing was, when I got there, I didn’t know anybody. Not the author. Not his publishers. Not a soul in the surprisingly well-to-do audience. A kindly bookseller pushed a steadying ale into my hands and I figured, what the hell. I grabbed few more from the cooler and settled in to prepare for my performance. It was a pretty dour crowd. I could see they’d need some of my best jokes to get ’em rockin’.
The moment came soon enough, and fortified by the beer and – jeez, I dunno, two or three dozen successful readings of this story in the past – I leapt onto the stage. The piece I was reading involves too much dope smoking, too much tequila drinking, unresolved lust for three Tasmanian hotties, some masturbation, and two former housemates setting their hair on fire.

Champagne comedy, right?

I didn’t get a laugh. Not a giggle. Not even for the big finale when I dropped my pants. So I’m standing there, nuts swinging in the breeze,  completely perplexed. I pulled my pants back up, thanked them, and shuffled off. I may have a heard a coyote howling in the distance.

The ashen-faced star of a the night, the virgin author, stood up shaking and looking confused, as I took my seat amongst the glowering audience to listen to his bit. I confess, I don’t recall the exact words he spoke next, but they went something like this: “My own journey into my family’s Holocaust tragedy began when I visited Auschwitz…”

I have never wished to be somewhere else so much in my life.





From AliAsksWhy on 07/05/05


I REALLY feel for you. I am so sorry.

I had a very semi-related event happen at my Grandma’s 80th birthday party a few years ago. I had written up some HYSTERICAL anecdotes and stories, but got so nervous when it came time to recite them and got a panic attack, which caused a ringing in my ears and me to not hear what I was saying, so the more I talked, the less I heard of what I said, so I would requestion if I was even speaking at all. People started talking and not listening – it was awful. And, afterwards, a few relatives even said, “what are you pursuing out in L.A. again — comedy?!” They scoffed. It was MORTIFYING. And the worst was, my brother got it all on tape and always suggests watching it at family gatherings and everyone laughs (at the mere thought) all over again. So I DO empathize. At least you don’t have to see them regularly like I have to… Thanksgiving, here I come.


Old school.

posted 07/04/05

I’ve been having a bit of a chat over in Murphy Ponders about the use of venerable old writing gear like pens and pencils. Almost one hundred percent of my work is done on either my laptop – an ibook – or at the desktop – a g4 mac hooked up to a screen that, while not exactly as big as Texas, is somewhere in the neighborhood. New Mexico maybe.
But every now and then when I get jammed up in a section – not blocked you understand, I never get blocked, oh no – when I get jammed up I like to get away from the tech and go back to basics. A piece of paper, a pen, a vacant look. It almost always works, leading me to wonder whether a different part of the brain is involved.
Of course, Murphy does it because chicks dig that whole Byronesque thing he’s got going. He should probably use a quill. 😉




Independence day.

posted 07/02/05

A happy fourth of the seventh to everyone in the US.


From Stevie on 07/05/05


“The Yanks” huh? LOL! Thank you! 🙂



posted 07/01/05

I was just over at Alanf’s journal, a regular port of call for me. He has a long, deeply felt piece about a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. I wasn’t sure whether he was personally involved, but he was certainly ticked off and worried that his response was going to upset a lot of his female readers. (I wouldn’t think so, big guy.)
Anyway, it’s his issue to tell you about. I was pondering a small part of his post, an alleyway he chose not to walk down, the issue of anonymity. I’ve lived a public life for nearly twenty years now, since I began writing professionally. The beauty of writing as opposed to, say, acting in movies or for TV, is that you can retain a high degree of anonymity even if you become a little bit famous. Or even very famous. I doubt most people would recognize Dan Brown, for instance, if he sat next to them in McDonalds.
Does writing a blog like this erode that happy situation? I don’t think so. It’s true that readers, fans, whackjobs and angry loners can find you at your blog. They can even attempt to harass you there. But, and correct me if I’m wrong, the blog format does give you a certain amount of control over who you let into your electronic life. And even if they shift online identity to avoid your blocking them, they risk inflaming the ire all your blog buddies.
I guess we’ll see at the end of the year. I’ve asked my US and Australian publishers to include the Cheeseburger’s address in the bio at the back of my next book. If nothing else, it should give some of you an insight into the sometimes scarifying world of fandom.




One degree of separation.

posted 06/30/05

I’ve just been playing with the Random Journal entry and it’s fascinating. It has sent me to parts of JS i’d never seen, with people who’s favorites lists are a foreign country to me. It makes me wonder whether we tend to play in a limited circle of friends, whether the jump from Feathers to Murphy is but one fave’s list away.
I imagine if some uber geek could write a bit of code to demonstrate the linakages it wouldn’t be a random at all, like a ball of string. it’d be more like a package of neurons, with thick fibres running from high traffic hubs like About Humbert to others like Nocturne.
Just a thought.




Less than one hundred things about me.

posted 06/28/05

1. I am just over six feet tall, but sometimes think I’m getting shorter.
2. I am just over 40 years old but sometimes my mental age shrinks to just over 14.
3. Some people think I look like Kevin Spacey.
4. Some people think I look like Bob Geldof.

5. And at least one film critic thinks I look like Jean Reno.

6. But these guys look nothing like each other!

7. I am a dog person.

8. But I have two cats.

9. And a dog.

10. I don’t smoke dope any more.

11. I’d like to, but I fear it has wiped out vast swathes of my brain.

12. And anyway my wife is a lawyer and it’s not fair to her.

13. I really did have 96 housemates.

14. I prefer living in the city.

15. I am a terrible procrastinator.

16. I am lazy, but I can work for twelve hours a day, for weeks on end when deadlines loom.

17. Everyone wishes I wouldn’t.

18. I have an unnatural love for my big screen TV.

19. I almost never finish my video games.

20. Except for Daiblo 2, Lord of Destruction, which I have played over and over again.

21. I have only worked a normal job once. For ten months when I first left university.

22. I liked to think I was a spy.

23. But I wasn’t.

24. Well not much anyway.

25. Since I started writing about pro-sports, I lost interest in them.

26. I get a little depressed whenever I finish a book.

27. I probably got a little depressed when trying to finish that book, too.

28. Otherwise, I’m pretty pleased with myself.

29. I have a picture of my wife in my wallet and she is the prettiest girl you ever saw.

30. Honestly, the prettiest.

31. The personality traits I struggle hardest against are selfishness and laziness.

32. But I lose that struggle every goddamn day.

33. I got bitch-slapped at my very first book launch by literary novelist’s wife.

34. I was once very poor.

35. Spiders give me the willies.

36. But not as much as dentists until I discovered The Gas.

37. I didn’t eat in a restaurant until I was 21. And even then it was just a pizza hut.

38. I am a frisbeetarian. I believe that when you die your soul flies up on the roof and gets stuck there.

39. I learned to drive at the age of 39.

40. I once got a sympathy date by telling a girl my best friend had been killed in the middle of the desert in a giant gas station explosion, but during the date I got a leg cramp and nearly kicked the table over.

41. I didn’t realize I was supposed to kiss her at the end of the date.

42. Big sigh.

43. I once hired an actor to play Evil Bob from Twin Peaks while taking the Scientology personality test, so I could write up the results for a magazine column.

44. I have some disgusting habits.

45. I worry that no matter how much I go to the gym, this damn gut is here to stay.

46. I’m not to be trusted serving your meal.

47. I guess I’d take Maryanne over Ginger.

48. I have a debilitating need to be liked.

49. When religious nuts come to the door I like to answer in my undies.

50. Unfortunately it doesn’t always get rid of them and then, you know, you’re stuck there. In your undies.

51. Two friends have reason to hate me. But only one does.

52. I once read that some Chinese guy said if you stand by the banks of the river long enough the severed heads of your enemies will float past.

53. This is one of my most treasured beliefs.

54. It worries Annie, my publicist.

55. Nazis came looking for me once, to beat the crap out of me. But I was too smart for them.

56. Stupid Nazis.

57. Think I’ll just stand here by the riverbank a while and wait for ‘em.

58. Eating bugs when you’re drunk doesn’t impress the ladies.

57. That’s been my experience anyway.

58. Pastries are not my friends.

59. I can drink two or three cups of espresso and still go to sleep.

60. Sleep is my natural state of being.

61. I was going to do a hundred of these, but I can’t be bothered.

62. It’s bedtime.





From gjson on 09/10/06


Seriously Birmo, you are freaking me out. I thought I was the only guy in the world like that. Except I like Command and Conquer 3 instead of Daiblo 2.


From tim52 on 01/16/07




From MaggieJ on 02/08/07


I just read through these and giggled myself silly. My receptionist came in to see what I was doing. It reminds me of a time I wrote an email to the man I have lived with for 5 years telling him 101 reasons why he SHOULDN’T get involved with me. I did get to 101 although he claims some of them repeated using different words. Methinks I should read some of your writings.



From andyf on 02/20/07


…. hang on, in that religion, is there a Dog?


The hills are alive with the sound of Skippy.

posted 06/27/05

I’ve been working to a stopwatch these last few days. Not letting myself get away from the keyboard until the mandated writing block is up. Today however, I did take the dog for a nice walk at lunch time. We live on the edge of settlement down here and there is a line of hills just outside the front door. There’s nothing but wilderness beyond them. We climbed up there, dropped over the ridge line and the sounds of the city fell away. (Okay, it’s not much of a city, but it does have some sounds.)
US and British readers might be intrigued to know that it does have kangaroos too. A lot of tourists expect to see them in the streets of Sydney and go home disappointed. But they are all over Canberra. They sneak down from the hills overnight and eat the front lawn. And they drive our Labrador pup Sophie wild when I take her walking through the bush.
There was a big mob up there today, about fifteen or more, and you can get to within about twenty feet of them if you’re dumb enough. (There’s a lot of mass in a big roo and it will make a mess of you if it slams into you.)
Sophie was going wild. She could smell these things, but because she’s not a big dog and they were in the long grass, she couldn’t see them. It’s a pity, because she’d love to get off the lead and chase them, but it’d be like one of the old Sylvester the cat cartoons. She’d lose. Badly.

So with the snow clouds piling up and a hard wind blowing we beat a tactical retreat.

Maybe next time, dog.





Lets never talk of this again.

posted 06/25/05

Just got back from the gym. Feeling a little better about the custard disgrace now that I’ve burned off those calories.


Bad, bad, naughty food critic.

posted 06/24/05

I have to get my final edit of ‘Designated Targets’ back to New York this weekend and I’ve got a few last annoying little checks to make. Like whether Idlewild airport was actually called Idlewild in October 1942.
It’s one of the few jobs you can do while looking after kids though, because when you’re checking line by line you actually don’t want to get a head of steam up, and get swept along by the story. That’s how you miss things. So I’m going to sit at the kitchen table with the kids while they draw thunderbirds and fairy castles. I figure they’ll interrupt me every two to three minutes, which is just about right.
On a completely unrelated matter, I was just over at Murphy Ponders, reading Steve’s review of a local taco joint and it put me in mind of the first restaurant review I ever did.
I was in Noumea to give a talk, and a magazine, I think it was Marie Claire or something of that ilk, asked me to review the island’s top restaurant. Noumea is a French colony so you got to figure it’ll be a nice feed. And it was.

I dined with the head of the island’s Tourist Bureau and of course, since I was from MC, they rolled out the red carpet. I was absolutely plastered on fine French wines by the second course. So plastered in fact, that my notes the next morning were completely unreadable, except for one line.

“Steak – good”.

It was years before I was asked to do another review.

But for anyone who’s interested, it’s here





nutterable shame.

posted 06/23/05

I just caught myself eating pouring custard from a cardboard carton with an extra long spoon.
What life paths have led me to this?
I think I need to get out more.




From deleted_member on 06/22/05


If you tear the carton down the side you can lick the insides and it gets on your nose and your hands and you get sticky all over.

Surrender to it!


My landlord does not want me to meet these deadlines.

posted 06/21/05

The day’s half gone and nary a blade of work done. Well, not paying work anyway. We’ve got a rental inspection tomorrow, and for those of you who don’t live in Canberra just let me say, thank whatever god you pray to.
Canberra real estate agencies are where fugitive Nazis escaped to at the end of the war. Even hiring cleaners, carpet shampoo guys, gardeners and window washers to help out, I’ve spent the past two days getting ready for tomorrow’s inspection.
It’s done now, but it hasn’t put me in any kind of mood to write, except for this entry to bitch about the situation.
I’m planning on taking the kids out tonight, then chaining them to their beds when we get home so they can’t disturb the home beautiful ambiance. Or perhaps I should let ’em sleep outside with the dog. Tempting, but it’s going to drop below zero tonight, so maybe not.

And anyway i’m not in the mood to do the dog any favours. I had to spend an hour in the rain this morning hunting for wet dog turds in the back yard.

I’m so looking forward to moving back into our own place again.





How to finish a book.

posted 06/20/05

You know the secret of meeting your deadlines? Even competing deadlines?
A stopwatch.
You divide whatever time you’ve got for writing into manageable time blocks. I go for two-hour blocks with a five minutes break at the halfway point.
Then within that block you work on the line and the paragraph in front of you, and think of nothing else. Not the next chapter. Not a competing deadline. Not the fact that the publishers haven’t replied to your last query. You focus on the par in front of you. That’s all.

At the end of your two-hour block you need at least a twenty-minute break AWAY from the computer.

If you have multiple deadlines, assign them blocks of time according to priority.

It’s very unromantic but that’s how it’s done.





Lazy whining writers.

posted 06/19/05

Still looking after the kids and it’s still cool. No major disasters yet. Just finished some research for this week’s sports column, but now I have to wait now until the last games in this round of the AFL are played out. Then I can finish up and file.
That won’t be until late this evening so I’m going to have the kids help me make dinner this arvo. It’s cold and wet here, with a wind like old knife blades slashing at you if you’re dumb enough to go outside. I figured we’d do a deboned lamb roast marinated in garlic, rosemary and shiraz with baked sweet potato, honey glazed carrots, corn on the cob and baby peas.
Gotta love that anglo-saxon stodge when the winter closes in.

While that’s cooking the kids can watch a video since they’ve been running around all morning and I’ll try get another fifty or sixty pages of manuscript checked. I might even get it in early, god help me.

Jane’s been having a good time at Noosa, which is only fair. We both travel with work, but she actually works when she gets to the other end. When I’m doing festivals, I might have one or two panels a day, which involves about ten minutes of off-the-cuff chat, a bit of Q&A and then some book signing.

You can’t really call it work. Most of the time I can be found in the festival bar with the other writers – which is why I don’t understand why so many of them bitch and moan about the festival circuit. Sure, it’s mostly pointless, but you get flown everywhere, booked into nice hotels, paid a generous per diem, and fed like a goddamn potentate. Complete strangers hang on your every word and you only have to ‘work’ for about half an hour a day. What’s not to love?

Stupid writers.





What to do, what to do?

posted 06/18/05

Jane’s away having a few days break with her friend rachel, leaving me to look after the kids for a bit. That’s cool.
I’ve got some time of my own off tonight though, and i’m wondering what i should do. See a dumb movie? (Mr & Mrs Smith seems dumb enough) Have dinner with the neighbors? (they cook real nice) Have dinner on my own? (I’ve done the odd restaurant review that way and it’s great fun to freak out the wait staff) Or go to the gym, like I promised writergrrl?
I guess I should exercise first and decide the rest on the fly.
Then tomorrow it’s column time, again. And Monday I finish the final edit of Targets. In my pre-parenthood days i’d have marked that occasion with Manuscript Drinks, to celebrate officially taking my hands off the beast for the last time. I’d have gathered twenty or more friends together and gone to a  groovy bar and drunk grown up drinks and nibbled finger food.

Now, I’ll probably just put the kids to bed and, jeez, I dunno, collapse or something.





Getting your pound of flesh.

posted 06/17/05

I was reading Alcones’ stuff the other day and was ticked off to see that somebody was ripping him off. I don’t know what work he was doing, but it’s a surprisingly frequent occurrence when freelancing.
There are some magazine’s, big name mags, who have an unwritten policy of hanging onto their money until you’re just about to drag them into court, or of just not paying at all.
The now defunct Australian edition of Playboy was one such shabby outfit.
Unfortunately, a lot of younger writers, and there are A LOT of younger writers around because of all the college courses, will bend over and take this kind of abuse, because they are so desperate to get their bylines published.

A word of advice, my little grasshoppers.

If you are good enough to get published, you are good enough to be paid.

You think those advertisers got to put their glossy adverts in said publication for free? You think the readers get to walk out of the store with the magazine for nothing?

No. They paid. And you should be paid.

God this ticks me off.

It ticks me off so much I went though a period of acting as a de facto debt collector for some less aggressive friends who were getting stiffed by a music mag a couple of years back. (Not Rolling Stone. They don’t pay as much as you’d imagine, but they do pay).

I kind of enjoyed it actually. The staff didn’t know me, partly because this outfit didn’t pay their staff very often either, so there was a high turnover. I called myself Jack Podesta and said I was from the Neverfail Debt Collection Agency. I’d roll in wearing a bad sports coat and carrying a form guide for the gee-gees under my arm. Then I growl and grumble and pound the desks and threaten to come back with the sheriff to take all of their computers by way of payment.

It worked.

Was fun too.




My beach. My beautiful beautiful beach

posted 06/16/05

If you want to see where I used to live hop over to baborama’s blog, Where Chicken’s Fly. I’m afraid i gushed a bit in the comments section.


How to be a writer.

posted 06/16/05

Okay. This is bizarre. The post came back all by itself. So the post below (Big Trap For Young Players) is actually the more recent. Go figure.
Lets just pick up from here and never speak of this again…
I was going to tell you about my first paying story.
Warning. Sensitive poets should stop right here.

I was about 24 years old. I’d quit my job as a researcher with the Defense Dept and ended up back in Brisbane, sleeping on a couch in a share house. I was living with two students, one of whom was in his mid 30s. He had a terrible appetite for commercial sex. We were always coming home and finding pimps sitting on our front steps, waiting for their girls to finish up with him.

That’s just a bit of back story for you.

Anyways, we throw this party for a couple of friends we know, these chicks who were about to take off traveling around the world. It was a huge keg party and we rocked like monsters. It wrapped up around mid evening, however, because the girls had to get away and we’d started drinking before lunch.

So then it’s just Jimbo, myself, and this whoremonger called Hackett. He’s just received a six thousand dollar student grant for his ancient history Phd, and he wants to spend every last cent of it on hookers and blow.

Now, I got no ethical problem with that. I’m not a judgmental type. But he was going to spend a significant whack of our rent and food money, which is a practical problem of the first order. He’s as drunk as a lord, on the phone to all the escort services, ordering up a sexual fucking smorgasbord for home delivery. And Jimbo and I are like, whoah! How are we gonna pay for food later this week.

But there was no stopping this guy. He’d plugged himself into some black engine in the basement of his soul and he was away.

I discussed it with Jimbo, while canceling yet another phone order and we decided that if we took him to a strip joint, we could probably get him so drunk he’d pass out. It’d cost a coupla hundred bucks, but that’d be way better than wasting the whole six grand.

We put this idea to him, tell him he’ll be paying for everything, and he was like “Strippers! All righty! Fantastic! Lets go!”

So thirty minutes later we find ourselves in this club called the Word By Night and Hackett is throwing down lethal numbers of tequila laybacks. (That’s where a topless waitress drops one boob on each shoulder, you throw your head back and she pours two shots of tequila into your open gob. It’s a class act.)

Unfortunately before we can paralyse this idiot with alcohol The Fabulous Tina appears on stage and Hackett launches himself at her. Tables go crashing. Chairs upended. Tina kicks him in the face. Bouncers rush in and we’re out on our arses. Hackett thinks this is a great adventure and sets off at pace for the next installment, which is a bordello just up the street called The House of Rising Sun, a white stucco palace with a lot of friendly women lounging around on the verandahs.

Jimbo, myself and two army guys we’d found somewhere, are racing along behind him. We pile into this place, drink it dry of complimentary hooch, and then try to leave. But the management has posted guards at the door who are like, “No fuckee no leavee.”

What were we to do?

I’m afraid that six thousand never made it home.

I woke up on the floor of this dump the next morning. It was about eight-thirty and it felt like a dragon had shat in my mouth. Traffic was roaring past and the temperature was climbing towards 30 degrees (or a hundred, if you’re in the US).

I’d left the house with a buck thirty or so in my pocket and I still had it. My very first deadline was due that day, a review of some cafes for a student magazine. Instead of that I wrote up the story of our night on the skids. They published it and paid me fifteen bucks. And that was it. I figured you couldn’t find a better way to make a quid and I never looked back.





Big trap for young players.

posted 06/16/05

I spent most of yesterday doing research at the War Memorial and the National Library. Well, really, I spent most of the day banging my noggin against a couple of very high brick walls.
I’ve taken on a commission for a twenty thousand word essay, due in mid-October and I wanted to get a running start. Did a few hours very useful googling, which made me happy. But then I returned to the world of real things and it all just seized up. I forget sometimes, what it was like working with paper archives in the days before online searching.
I was after details of the Battle of Shah-i-khot in Afghanistan in early March of 2002. The was an Australian SAS group which was heavily involved in protecting some US personnel who’d gone down after their chopper was hit and had been surrounded by Taliban fighters.

There’s been a bit written about it in America, but not much here, and the government doesn’t like to release details of Australian special forces operations.

I’ll get the information I need in the end, but the trick is not to invest too much time, given the looming deadline. The Shah-i-khot section of the essay will account for 10-15% of the word length, so I can’t allow it to consume 50-60% of the research time.

We’ll see, I suppose. It’s a mistake I’ve made before and one I can’t afford this time because I also have a book deadline in mid-October.

On other matters, the party question drew some interesting answers. I particularly liked the idea that spontaneous parties are best because there is no expection or pressure. It’s like they happen because they are supposed to happen.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I had great nights which I had no idea were coming, and of course the number of times parties that were supposed to rock, didn’t. When you think about it, if a good time spins up out of nothing, like some sort of butterfly effect, it really was meant to happen. On that particular night, at that particular place the universe lined everything up just right. The people, the space, the event or the lack of one. The right drinks, perhaps a frisson of sexual tension, and a sparking of compatible perosnalities. Then, bang! You’re rockin’ da house…

In a way, the story of my first published article grew out of a night like that. Jane is having a little time away this weekend, so if the kids give me a spare quarter hour I will repost it. And this time, I promise, I won’t delete the goddamn thing by mistake.




posted 06/15/05

A big sorry to all those sleeping journaleers who missed the temporary entry on my first published piece. I just deleted it by mistake! And now I can’t justify the time to rewrite it.
I’ll try again on the weekend.
Until then, I’ll leave  a question for you. Why is it that the best parties are always the unplanned ones?

The dentist is your friend



posted 06/14/05

I’m off to the dentist in a few minutes and, call me sick, but I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve programmed some tracks on the Ipod for my time in the chair and I’m going to make sure i suck up every last molecule of happy gas that is coming my way. Being a responsible parent and all, it’s been a long time since I was able to get bent and listen to music.
And then this afternoon, because I won’t be able to think straight enough for real work, I’ll see about posting that story that Murph is hanging out for.




From deleted_member on 06/14/05


ok, that’s a totally different perspective on going to the dentis. good luck, and enjoy!


And ANOTHER thing…

posted 06/12/05

I’ve had reason to dwell on rejection of late. Not romantic rejection, but the professional kind.
(Although, you know, just off topic, as I get older and more wrinkly I come to understand what a complete doofus I was as a youngster. I had this whole brooding lone wolf routine designed to pull in the babes. But then because I was, like, a brooding lone wolf I’d ignore ‘em and eventually they’d go away. I took it as rejection. Of course, I was an idiot.)
Anyway, two of my favorites have caused me to ponder the other kind of rejection. Steve Murphy has just sent a manuscript away, and Feathers has been wondering about paths not traveled because some twit in a publishing house turned down her manuscript some years ago.
I don’t hold with the Gore Vidal thesis that a little part of us dies when our friends are successful. It’s a delightfully bitchy idea, but not necessarily true.

I’d really like Murphy’s piece to get up somewhere and it’d be cool if Feather’s could go back to her novels. But it’s hard to offer any useful advice beyond personal anecdote and whatever you might draw from that.

Rejection is as much a part of writing as opening your eyes is to getting up in the morning. And it’s not just the creeping horror of putting your first book out there and waiting for the world to shred it.

I’ve been writing for a living for nearly twenty years now, and I’m still getting rejected. Not so much by publishers nowadays, but more directly, by some readers.

The process of writing remains solitary, but the act of publishing exposes the ego, and for some people the soul, to damage in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

Readers who hate your stuff can and will tell the whole world about it. And not just in places like journalspace, but more dramatically at the shop counter. Scanning your 1-star reader reviews on Amazon, for instance, can be one of the most lacerating experiences you’ll ever undergo. (On the other hand if you’re feeling down, you can also check out your least favorite writers’ bad reviews. And that’s a beautiful thing 😉

What can I say? Nobody likes getting their teeth kicked in. Far as I can tell, most pros don’t bother reading the really scabrous assaults on our dignity. And naturally we ALL read and enjoy the five star blowjobs. But in my experience the most useful review is a kind of graduated rejection. A 3 or 4 star review where the reader forensically and accurately dissects the mistakes you made. You can learn a lot from that sort of rejection.

On the other hand a straight out bitch-slapping will teach you nothing and you’d be best off ignoring it… and using the reviewer as a character in your next novel. For instance as a poison dwarf with a giant suppurating boil on his or her face.

On another matter. I’m on deadline as of today. I have two major works due in the next couple of months so I’m going to try restrict myself to shorter posts here. After I’ve told the story of my very first non-fiction publication.

It involves strippers and tequila and a brothel called the House of the Rising Sun.

I’ll get back to you with it later.






Darth Vader’s love slave checks out.

posted 06/10/05

Just got back from AngiePangie’s blog which, COINCIDENTALLY, (thanks Feathers), I’d just listed as a favorite. Only to find that she is moving on!
Is it possible to miss somebody you don’t even know?
I think I’m going to miss her posts, even though I’ve only been reading them for a few days. I went to her notable entries and read the story about how she became AngiePangie after the miscarriage. It was very affecting. But I guess it’s not sad. It’s a happy day that she is moving on to a brighter place.




The moldy sandwich incident

posted 06/09/05

That last post reminds me of a strange, sort of shameful experience I had a few years back. I was about two years into researching “Leviathan”, the big history of Sydney I wrote to cash in on the Olympic Games and to escape the gravitational pull of my first book, “He Died With A Felafel in His Hand”.
I was trying to figure out some arcane factoid like who was responsible for outfitting the First Fleet. I had two stacks of references which said two different things and I couldn’t reconcile them to save myself. It was driving me nutso. I was living by myself at the time. Jane was based in Newcastle, about three hours away.
She came down to visit and found me in a sort of crazy-haired, bug-eating Unabomber frame of mind because of my inability to answer this fairly simple question.
So she suggests a walk on the beach. (I was living at Bondi then, about two minutes from the surf).

Okay. Good idea. I hadn’t been out, except to get pizza and beer for days, and I was becoming authentically mad. Thousand yard stare. Underpants on head. The whole deal.

We’re walking down the street, and I’m trying not to be a freak about it all, but when we’re about a hundred yards from Campbell Parade, the beachfront strip, I see this weird looking guy. He’s bouncing around like the healthy leper in the Life of Brian and he’s got this stick with flowers wrapped around it.

And in my dark-side-of-the-force, Anakin-Skywalker-gone-bad way, I can just tell this idiot is going to hit me up for money. And I haven’t got any on me. I was just going for a walk on the beach, so why bother.

At that moment, our eyes lock, and we do that thing. I can tell he’s gonna hit me up, and he can tell I’m going to try escape and we each begin to maneuver to give the greatest effect to our strategy.

He wins.

I try to walk around him, my eyes cast downwards in a furious glare, but he bounces, and I mean BOUNCES, right into my personal space and holds out this moldy sandwich.

“Hello,” he says jauntily. “I am going to give you the chance to save me from eating this moldy sandwich.”

And I’m like, oh, nice one guv. As if you’re gonna eat that nasty piece of crap.

And here’s the thing. On any given day, if he’d just asked me for a buck. I’d have given it to him. But not this day, and not because of this ridiculous pantomime.

So, with Jane frantically trying to get me to disengage, I’m like, “As if, sandwich boy.”

And this guy, who does not look like a street person at all – he’s fit, well fed, and smells better than me – this guy takes offence.

“You don’t think I’ll eat it?”


“I’ll eat it.”

“Go ahead.”

And he’s getting the blood up too. The testosterone madness is kicking in and the whole thing is starting to spiral downwards into a real ugly confrontation.  Voices rise. Sinews stiffen. Harsh words are exchanged. And then he takes a bite out of the fucking thing and spits it at me. I lunge at him. He raises the flower stick and I’m like, “Oh yeah, hit me with the flower stick and see what happens.”

We were honest-to-God about to beat each other to death when the sniggering of about a dozen yuppies dining al fresco a few feet away brought us both up short.

Those bastards were enjoying the show.

It sort of punctured the moment and we were both able to step back. But since then I’ve always made it a rule never to lock myself away for too long, even under the worst sort of deadline pressure.





Back to the salt mines.

posted 06/08/05

Hi y’all. I didn’t get a lot of writing done while up in Brisbane so I’ve been concentrating on racking up some paying time at the keyboard this week. Plus I just finished the last read-thru of the Targets manuscript this morning.
A tip o’ the fez goes to Steve Murphy for helping out with a few last minute questions, although I must say fact checking with him put the zap on my head because it made me realize, yet again, how hard it is to get a long manuscript to the point where it doesn’t collapse under the weight of errors and typos.
By the time Designated Targets starts clogging up shelf space at your local airport bookstore, it will have gone through the hands of at least eight or nine editors, and then been checked by me after each of them has finished with it… and still I know that within one or two days of publication I’ll be getting emails from readers along the following lines.
“Loved the book, JB. Loved it loved it loved it. However, can I just point out to you that you appear to have set one scene in a bar of the Moana Hotel that was in fact CLOSED to the public forty-eight hours BEFORE your characters sat down with their Mai Tais and thus the story as you wrote it COULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED.”

At which point I usually think, jeez dude, you didn’t quibble with an aircraft carrier battle group getting sucked through a worm hole why would this bother you?

But it does, and no doubt I am going to hear all about it, or about something like it later this year.

On the other hand, it means that by the time the mass market edition comes out, the book has been fact checked by thousands of pedants and I do get the chance to fix up my most egregious mistakes. Like having a character in Weapons refer to a ‘laser’ years before the term had been coined.

I left the bar scene as it was though.

Ah jeez. The bell just rang. Having only just finished the final read thru of Targets for Pan Mac, I’ve got to repeat the performance for Random House now. Their manuscript just turned up by courier.

Oh well. I guess I can forget about that 2000 words I was going to write this afternoon.




interesting day. (At least in the Chinese sense of the word).

posted 06/05/05

Well, the master class starts in forty-five minutes. Ten embittered unpublished thriller writers and I’ve got all weekend to explain why things are likely to remain to so very bitter. Ye Gods!
I’ve had a quick scan of the sample manuscripts and it’s just depressing. I feel some of them are wasting their money, but maybe that’s being harsh. Maybe they don’t dream of clogging up up the shelves of airport bookstores all over the world. Maybe they don’t see themselves consigning Dan Brown to utter oblivion. Maybe they just want to amuse themselves. That’s how I got into the thriller game, after all.
Maybe it will be okay.

We’ll see.

Stay tuned.


Well, I did the class and it didn’t suck at all. A couple of them even surprised me. Not with their writing chops, but with their ability to generate ideas. There was one woman, Jeanette, who could get work in Hollywood. She      ed out ideas like a goddamned sausage machine.

I’ve got the advanced class on today so I’ve been reading their manuscript samples over breakfast and there is some pretty good stuff there. The copy itself is a bit clunky every now and then, but whose isn’t?

After yesterday’s class I walked a block back to my hotel and collapsed for an hour before going to see Star Wars. Like everyone I thought it was the best of the second trilogy and I very much enjoyed it, although I found the Anakin to Vader transformation a bit, I dunno, blah.

(Spoilers to follow)

I thought Lucas let the story down with the whole ‘slaughter of the younglings’ scene. We didn’t need to see any more of the atrocity than we were shown, but it should have had a LOT more emotionally destructive effect on Anakin. I’d have thought that it would have been the thing that tipped him right over into the Dark Side, but all he did was shed a tear and tell a fib about it. I don’t think we can just pass it off as a bad acting problem. It was a writing and directing issue.

Still, I’ve never made a blockbuster and never will, so who the hell am I to complain.


Well, I’m in the Virgin Blue Lounge now, waiting for my flight home. Been missing the kids and Jane a lot this trip.

The second class was good. You had to have finished a significant piece of work to enrol and it really showed. They were a lot more advanced than yesterday’s group and I didn’t have the same concerns about today’s students blowing their money.

We worked through basic techniques. How to write cliffhangers. How to create a sense of threat. I dunno if I any of them will ever be published, but at least I could feel they got something out of the day.

Now to my favorite bit. Sending the invoice!






Yoga Is Evil

posted 06/03/05

I’m flying up to Vegas again to run a master class on thriller writing this weekend.((Shudder))
I’ll report l8r on that particular teddy bears picnic.. Till then I wrote this up a while ago for a local magazine and it upset so many people who should know better that I thought I would put it up here for posterity.
It might seem some days that pro sport is about to die screaming under the carpet-bombing effects of sex and drugs and rock n- roll (think Brett Lee’s rock band, or even better, don’t.) It might appear that corruption and match fixing and salary cap shenanigans are all hungrily chewing away at the public’s respect for their on field heroes like a big hungry flesh-chewing thingy. And it may even be that George Bush is to blame. Or advertising. Or perhaps Hollywood, for creating a culture that reduces the status of women to something akin to one of those free cheeseburgers you can score with a tear-off voucher from a McDonald calendar.
But if you really believe that, you’re making Tim Blair’s job too easy. There is only one reason why international professional sport is plummeting to earth, dinosaur-killer asteroid-style, and that my friend is yoga.

Yoga kills. Yoga is evil. And yoga has been slipping it’s long, octopus-like poison sucker studded tentacles around the throats of our top athletes while the White House has been diverted by the search for non-existent WMD in the deserts of Iraq.

It’s no coincidence that Saddam Hussein practiced yoga, or at least knew of the practice of yoga. It’s an established fact that top Nazi Adolf Hitler, whom Hussein certainly admired, was a declared vegetarian, which is almost synonymous with being a yoga guy. Just as it’s no coincidence that no self respecting, sausage loving sportsman of the Old School would find himself, anywhere near a yoga class, not even to get laid – in fact especially not to get laid, because in real life, as opposed to Hollywood, yoga chicks look a lot less like Sports Illustrated swim suit models and a lot more like ropy, gimlet eyed sandal wearing fanatics who, lets not forget lads, tend to be quite censorious and unreasonably demanding about all that vegan tantric nooky rubbish.

Am I the only one who thinks that Al Qaeda supremo Osama Bin Laden looks a lot more like a yoga guy, you know, with the kaftan and the beard and the silly hat, than he does a legendary rugby league hard man such as Tommy Raudonikis? How many times do we have to see footage of Bin laden sitting, lotus style, on the floor, before our so-called intelligence agencies make the connection?

And do not imagine that the dark forces sitting at the centre of yoga’s increasingly global web will be content with ensnaring a couple of dupes like the Sydney roosters, who have been embroiled in the yoga-for-sports-stars imbroglio by using the very same yoga teacher as the Bulldogs. No. Like Scientology with it’s high profile movie star recruits, the yoga Nazis plan to seduce our kids by parading their converts as though they were normal people.

And just as certain western companies were willing to profit from helping noted yoga personality Saddam Hussein build up his nonexistent WMD program, certain respectable sporting goods retailers who shall remain nameless such as Rebel Sport, have thrown in their lot with the yoga conspiracy.

If you misunderestimate the importance of this, just examine Rebel’s most recent sportswear catalogue for women, which featured absolutely no foxy boxing or mud wrestling outfits. Instead innocent bystanders were subjected to page after page, for two pages, of advertisements for yoga related products such as karmically correct natural fibre drawstring pants and ‘Asana’ mesh ‘action’ singlets.

I think it’s bad enough that we have to put up with soccer players and racing car drivers passing themselves off as sportsmen, when they’re doing nothing that’d challenge the skills of your average fat Greek cabbie. But to have our national foxy boxing stars and even the hard working if less attractive netballers squeezed out of a mainstream sportswear catalogue by yoga chicks… well it’s the dizzy limit as granny used to say.

Next thing you know they’ll be handing out Olympic gold for lumpy jumper wearing, or roughage muffin eating or marathon sessions of subtitled film watching – with mandatory exclusions for late night Europorn and Southpark, which I can guarantee your uptight yoga Nazis probably would not approve of.





Beer is not a performance enhancing drug.

posted 06/01/05

I forgot to tell you about the other gig I had in Vegas. (That’s Brisvegas for anyone out of OZ).
It was a reading at the Irish Club. (I did a bit from ‘Designated Targets’. This way cool fight between Prince Harry and Colonel Skorzeny).
There were four of us doing our thing, all thriller writers in one way or another. It was okay but you really need a smaller, more intimate venue for that sort of night to really take off. You want the punters rubbing up hard against each other, a bit drunk, a little raucous and threatening to get out of hand. But the Irish Club is this huge echoing cavern. Doesn’t matter how many people you pour in there, it’s never enough.
The old venue in South Brisbane where they used to do this event is closed though, whether for good or just for renovations I dunno. So, we end up in Limerick Land.

We all did our bit, and I gave the beers a nudge even though I was last on and it’s my habit not to take a drink until I’ve performed. That’s a lesson that was learned the hard way, I tells ya… (Shudder.)

Anyway, the Writers Centre girlies had built this mock gunboat and we had to destroy it at the end of the night. At first they were talking about actually blowing it up with explosives or something. And I’m like, you gotta be joking. Is anyone here even vaguely qualified to pull that off without maiming or killing half the audience?

No, as it turned out.

So we ended up bashing this thing to pieces with fence palings and hockey sticks. I thought it was going to be craptacular but it was actually kinda cool. And Marianne de Pierres got in the biggest hit of all. Chopped it in half before the boys could even get to it. Very Kill Bill.

Since I had to wake up early and fly home I made certain not to get too trashed. Last time I was away I got completely wasted at the Orwell Awards and then had to face up to a couple of toddlers the next day. Never again.






God bless jet travel.

posted 06/01/05

Just back from the airport. Gave a talk to a narrative non-fiction class in Brisbane yesterday afternoon. It was cool. They asked really good questions and I hung around so long hogging the mike that I missed the sound check for the stage gig I had to do later that night.
But who cares?
I love doing those talks because I didn’t get the chance to listen to any when I was a baby writer.
Anyway, gotta whole heap o’ copy to get in before I fly back to Brisbane to run a couple of master-classes this weekend.

I’ll post something more interesting l8r.

If any of the students from Kelvin Grove pass thru here, feel free to pester me with more questions. Karmic debt and all that, you know…







posted 06/01/05

I was just over at Alanf’s journal, a regular port of call for me. He has a long, deeply felt piece about a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. I wasn’t sure whether he was personally involved, but he was certainly ticked off and worried that his response was going to upset a lot of his female readers. (I wouldn’t think so, big guy.)
Anyway, it’s his issue to tell you about. I was pondering a small part of his post, an alleyway he chose not to walk down, the issue of anonymity. I’ve lived a public life for nearly twenty years now, since I began writing professionally. The beauty of writing as opposed to, say, acting in movies or for TV, is that you can retain a high degree of anonymity even if you become a little bit famous. Or even very famous. I doubt most people would recognise Dan Brown, for instance, if he sat next to them in McDonalds.
Does writing a blog like this erode that happy situation? I don’t think so. It’s true that readers, fans, whackjobs and angry loners can find you at your blog. They can even attempt to harrass you there. But, and correct me if I’m wrong, the blog format does give you a certain amount of control over who you let into your electronic life. And even if they shift online identity to avoid your blocking them, they risk inflaming the ire all your blog buddies.
I guess we’ll see at the end of the year. I’ve asked my US and Australian publishers to include the Cheeseburger’s address in the bio at the back of my next book. If nothing else, it should give some of you an insight into the sometimes scarifying world of fandom.






posted 06/01/05

I was just over at Alanf’s journal, a regular port of call for me. He has a long, deeply felt piece about a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. I wasn’t sure whether he was personally involved, but he was certainly ticked off and worried that his response was going to upset a lot of his female readers. (I wouldn’t think so, big guy.)
Anyway, it’s his issue to tell you about. I was pondering a small part of his post, an alleyway he chose not to walk down, the issue of anonymity. I’ve lived a public life for nearly twenty years now, since I began writing professionally. The beauty of writing as opposed to, say, acting in movies or for TV, is that you can retain a high degree of anonymity even if you become a little bit famous. Or even very famous. I doubt most people would recognise Dan Brown, for instance, if he sat next to them in McDonalds.
Does writing a blog like this erode that happy situation? I don’t think so. It’s true that readers, fans, whackjobs and angry loners can find you at your blog. They can even  attempt to harrass you there. But, and correct me if I’m wrong, the blog format does give you a certain amount of control over who you let into your electronic life. And even if they shift online identity to avoid your blocking them, they risk inflaming the ire all your blog buddies.
I guess we’ll see at the end of the year. I’ve asked my US and Australian publishers to include the Cheeseburger’s address in the bio at the back of my next book. If nothing else, it should give some of you an insight into the sometimes scarifying world of fandom.






posted 06/01/05

I was just over at Alanf’s journal, a regular port of call for me. He has a long, deeply felt piece about a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. I wasn’t sure whether he was personally involved, but he was certainly ticked off and worried that his response was going to upset a lot of his female readers. (I wouldn’t think so, big guy.)
Anyway, it’s his issue to tell you about. I was pondering a small part of his post, an alleyway he chose not to walk down, the issue of anonymity. I’ve lived a public life for nearly twenty years now, since I began writing professionally. The beauty of writing as opposed to, say, acting in movies or for TV, is that you can retain a high degree of anonymity even if you become a little bit famous. Or even very famous. I doubt most people would recognise Dan Brown, for instance, if he sat next to them in McDonalds.
Does writing a blog like this erode that happy situation? I don’t think so. It’s true that readers, fans, whackjobs and angry loners can find you at your blog. They can even  attempt to harrass you there. But, and correct me if I’m wrong, the blog format does give you a certain amount of control over who you let into your electronic life. And even if they shift online identity to avoid your blocking them, they risk inflaming the ire all your blog buddies.
I guess we’ll see at the end of the year. I’ve asked my US and Australian publishers to include the Cheeseburger’s address in the bio at the back of my next book. If nothing else, it should give some of you an insight into the sometimes scarifying world of fandom.




Busy week (and some more on the potty mouth).

posted 05/30/05

I can feel the ground shifting under me as the year gets old. When you have to submit at least one manuscript every twelve months, by the time June rolls around, you’re generally in over your head. I have to finish the last of the Weapons trilogy in draft form by September. There’s a collection of reportage I’m editing which is also due. And I have a new mainstream thriller I need to get to my agent early next year. Plus journalism of course. There’s always a column or a feature due somewhere.
Today I’m going to try knock over a 1200 word profile of a government minister. Then I’ll write about 2000 words of The Last Good War. And there’s something else which needs writing too, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what.
Oh well, I guess some angry editor will call me after deadline.
And to think I got into writing because I thought it’d be an easy way for a lazy slug like me to pay the bills….

Ah! Just remembered. The goddamned hotel room essay. My own personal Vietnam war.

Well, I’m traveling interstate a bit this week so I might write my hotel room essay from my hotel room. Maybe that will help.

Now, did anyone notice my use of the modifier ‘goddamned’. I took a suggestion from Ahmed Khan and rather than typing ‘my fucking hotel room essay’ (which is what I really wanted to do), I chose the milder term. It works I guess. But it doesn’t accurately tell you how much I don’t want to write this thing.

I was surprised by the response to my original ‘potty mouth’ post. I didn’t think anyone would care either way. It led me to do some ponderin’ on the topic. In my professional writing I work for a lot of different magazines and newspapers. Some of them, like Rolling Stone (Australia), have no rules that I’ve been aware of. Pretty much anything goes. Others, such as the metro daily newspapers, have loosened up just a little bit, so that if you absolutely have to use a word like ‘shit’, and you can make your case for doing so, they’ll let you. And some, of course, just say no.

My books are my own, so I make the rules there.

But the web is a whole new space. Odyssey makes the point that one day his kids are going to read his journal and that imposes a rough rule of self-censorship. I can well understand his point, but I’ve already crossed that Rubicon, as anyone who’s read Dopeland, or Tasmanian Babes Fiasco, or He Died with a Felafel in His Hand, would know. One day my kids will read those books and I am going to have some explaining to do

If you were familiar with my published work you’d be astounded that I had any hesitation in letting loose here. But I do, and I’m not sure why. It might be because of FM radio.

I rarely listen to music radio at night nowadays, but I had reason to a while back and was stunned at the low grade, low brow filth that the DJ used to fill in the spaces between tracks. As someone who uses foul language to full effect in novels and magazine features I could tell this idiot had no idea what he was doing. He was like a school kid who comes home for the first time with some bad words and wants to give them a workout just for the hell of it. There was no real shock value after the first few seconds because his swearing was completely banal, even though he obviously thought it was totally cool.

It was kind of sad, really.

I guess, in the end, I just don’t want to sound like that jerk.

So occasionally I might let rip, and if that offends, then I’m sorry.

But for the most part I’ll try to curb my natural tendency to foul mouthed gittery just in case that pony-loving Christian girl should happen to pass by this way again.

Anyway. Time to get down to some paying work.

Talk to you later.






My God, I have such a potty mouth…

posted 05/26/05

I was just reviewing the last entry and I suddenly realised what a foul mouthed git I can be when there’s no editor riding shotgun.
Is this what I’m like in real life? Perhaps I should set my spellchecker to scan for obscenity.


Bottom of Form


Ah, that’s better.

posted 05/26/05

Who would have thought that a blueberry danish was the cure for a fucked-up shoulder? I couldn’t move my head at all for about three days, which meant I couldn’t type. I could read if I held the copy directly in front of my face, but that was about it. Then it loosened up some, just enough to let me stop in for a coffee and a pastry at my favorite bakery, while  I made a phone call to the physiotherapist to book an appointment.
Call made, I finished my snack, got up from the table and – holy shit! – everything’s back to normal. The physio said he’s going to get an espresso machine in and start stocking bakery items.
Anyway, it let me get back to the keyboard at last. I get kinda nervous when injury or illness keeps me away from work for too long. One of the things you have to think about if you want to write for a living is that nobody is going to give you sick pay. You either get the copy in on time or you go hungry. It’s a great motivator but it does get a little hairy sometimes. When the publication date for Weapons of Choice was put back for a year I went for that whole period without the income I’d budgeted on. Fugly. Very fugly.
I’m still wrestling with the hotel room essay. I don’t want to write it so there’s always another piece getting bumped in front of it on the to-do list. Yesterday I wrote the opening battle scene for book 3 of the ‘Weapons’ trilogy. It was great. I’d been dicking around with the thing for ages, not really sure of how to approach it. I’d spent a few weeks doing my research and pretty much knew what I had to get done on the screen, but when you’re starting a book it’s like you’re standing at the foot of a mountain. You got a looooong way to go.

After trying a couple of different angles of approach I settled on the idea of using a new Point-of-View character to introduce some information about an existing player, one my faves, in fact. It’s hard to talk in much more detail because book 2 isn’t even out yet. It should be released in the US come August/September, I think, and in OZ a month later. So writing about book 3 raises the real possibility of spoilers for 2, ‘Designated Targets’. I’ll think about how to handle this and get back to you later.







Enter your comment below. Play nice.

Bottom of Form


Damn shoulder.

posted 05/23/05

Can’t write much now. Injured shoulder. Got column finished but at what price I ask you? What price???





Damn column.

posted 05/21/05

Hmmm. Sports column still not written I see. Oh well. No biggie. It woulda been nice to get the thing wrapped up a couple of days before it was due, but then that almost never happens does it? Mostly because if you do that, by the time it’s published it’s no longer current. Although that’s not a factor in this case.
I’m thinking of doing something on the three ages of sports broadcasting. I was originally going to comment on the great Footy Show imbroglio, but I watched it for the first time on Thursday night, hoping for a vicious catfight when Rebecca Wilson came on, and of course it fizzled. The producers tried to play it funny, and the crew made a fist of being grown up and all. But if you looked closely, their grins were very rubbery and their eyes were glassy with the effort of being nice to each other.
It was vaguely interesting, in an excruciating sort of way for about ten minutes, then I flipped channels. And also, I didn’t get the video dubs that Melbourne was supposed to be sending of their last few episodes. That ain’t surprising. They really didn’t want to hand them over. Figured they were in for a kicking, I guess. Funny thing is, I only asked for the tapes because my editor suggested I needed to broaden the story out to a national base. Whatever I wrote would have been completely gratuitous and anodyne, but now I’ve got reason to look a lot more closely at them. If they ever turn up.
(My apologies here to anyone outside Australia who has no idea what I’m talking about at this point).

Anyway, I’ll come at the whole thing from a different angle. See if I can shake some life into it by Monday morning.

There’s another short term deadline hanging around like a fart in a telephone booth too. It’s a story for a collection Sarah McDonald is putting together for Random House on long distance relationships. I agreed to do an essay on hotel rooms, but I’m sort of buried in it now and feeling the cold, clammy hands of ennui wrap themselves around my throat every time I open the file. It might be another candidate for a bit of radical thematic surgery before it’s finished. I don’t know when that’ll be. It seems every time I start writing, my three year old wanders into my study to discuss the Thunderbirds movie. And you know what? That’s way more interesting than my hotel room essay, so I get distracted.

Maybe we should go watch the DVD again.

Talk to you later.








Oh, you know, stuff.

posted 05/20/05

Hey. I write for a living. Have for nearly twenty years now. I started filing copy for street magazines and student newspapers. Thousands of words for about fifteen, twenty bucks a pop.
Now I write books and magazine and newspaper articles full time.
My last book was an alternate history gunfest called “Weapons of Choice”. My first was “He Died With A Felafel in His Hand”. It was about share housing. Roommates, if you’re American. I had about a hundred of them and I kept notes.
I wrote that book as a commission job. I had no interest in writing books back then. All I wanted to do was work on magazine features. It suited my itinerant lifestyle. You have to sit still for a long time to write a book, but once you get up to speed you can crank out a five or six thousand word article in a couple of days. If you’re getting a dollar a word, it adds up.

Not for me though. I was lazy. I’d crank an article then take a few months off. Surf. Play videos. Smoke a few cones. It was cool.

Now I lose count of the number of publishers and media groups I’m into for work. So I gotta write every fucking day. God only knows why I’m writing this. Nobody’s paying me. You’re getting it for free. I should stop now, before I wreck everything.

But what the hell?

If you want to follow this I’ll tell what I might do. I’ll write about writing, about the job, about the industry, or the part of it I’m in anyway. I’ll try not to gossip too much. Anybody who’s looking for advice, I’ll do the best I can. I was very lucky when I started writing. I had some grizzled old bastards who did me some favors I can never repay. But I can lay off my karmic debt to them by helping out younger writers.

I might settle some scores every now and then. If you decide to write for a living you’re gonna quickly find out that every pinhead and sucktooth who’s stealing oxygen from the general populace feels perfectly comfortable sharing with you their fascinating fucking opinions of where you went horribly wrong. Mostly I just ignore it, but from now on I guess I’ve got an outlet if some egregiously cheeky fucker pisses me off.

I’m not going to write thousands of words a night. I already write thousands of words a day and it’s too fucking much. So I’ll keep it brief. I’ll give the copy a quick check, but it’s gonna be dirty with typos and shit. Too bad. I don’t have time to write the most beautiful blog in the world.

And I don’t have time to write much more now. I’ve got a sports column to finish, and every word I waste here is one I have to find there.

Talk to you later.













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