Updated: Jul 22
If you missed the first one, that’s cool, it was only a test run - this is the first issue of the real thing! There’ll be a new issue every three to four weeks, with things like updates on where you can buy the book, prizes or giveaways, readings I might be doing soon, bits edited from the final book (they're really good!), writing tips and book and/or music recommendations. So here we go!
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So what have I been up to lately? Lots of things! The biggest thing was an online course on increasing my “author platform”, ie online presence, with the Australian Writers Centre, and it’s definitely recommended. This blog, the new emailing list and my site’s name changing from chickensameducktalk.com to ashegbrom.com, and me being more active on Instagram and Twitter (although I've done bugger all on twitter so far) were some of the biggest changes. So in short, over the past few months since the book’s soft launch at the Wesley Anne in Melbourne, I’ve been out there in the cyber world increasing my, as they say, “discoverability”.
Updates on “Chicken Same Duck Talk - Diary of an Australian in China”
A few things have happened - she (my book’s a she) is now available at Paperback Books, and will soon be available at China Books in Melbourne, and, later, in various Readings stores in inner and outer Melbourne (watch this space!). She’s also part of the Newcastle Writers Festival, with a 45-minute event at the Press Book House, 462 Hunter Street, Newcastle, saturday 4th April, 1.30 - 2.15. I’ll also be doing a short reading at Passionate Tongues poetry night, at The Brothers Public House, 42 Johnston St Fitzroy in Melbourne, Tuesday 18 February, with the night starting at around 7.30. Books will be available on the night. Be there!
Also, very excitingly, she’s been getting reviews on Goodreads, all of which have been amazing - including my first review from a Chinese reader, which is very important. She loved her!
Every issue, I’ll give a book and an album recommendation - the album is there because music is pivotal to my life, and essential to get my crative juices going.
The first album is the soundtrack to the 1984 film “Dune”, by, believe it or not, pop group Toto (yep, the one that sings “Africa” and “Rosanna”). Why director David Lynch chose them is beyond me, but the result is, I think, one of the most utterly unique soundtracks ever recorded - epic, dreamy, hypnotic. Also features an incredible track from Brian Eno.
The first book I’ll recommend is The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, which is a 12-week course to awaken your creative self. I did it many years ago, and some of the basic ideas - especially the “morning pages” I still do today whenever I can. Many thoughts in my book - and my upcoming one too - came from them. It might be a bit too "spiritual" for some readers, but if you have an open mind, there's a lot of great ideas, no matter how secular you are. I always enjoyed the "artist's date". Just make sure you finish what you start!
Cutting Room Floor
Welcome to the Cutting Room Floor! If you’ve read even just the intro to my book, you’ll know that she was originally 327,000 words, and needed to be whittled down to a third of that. Therefore, there’s TONS of good stuff waiting to be put in this section. These were just chopped out wholesale, not edited at all. They were sometimes chopped because of potential contentiousness, but more often just because they didn’t “contribute to the narrative”, to quote the advice from Bruce Dickinson.
So here’s three pieces that didn’t make it in…enjoy!!!
OK, two random yet very cool things. I’ve told you that many – if not all? – cities in China have changed their names over the years, and I’ve found an example of a name change that is particularly worth scribbling about, Wuxi (无锡). As you might remember, this name translates as “no tin”; well, I thought that was a pretty strange name, so I asked my students to find out if there’s any reason or story behind this curious name…apparently, around the Qin dynasty, its name changed to Wuxi from Youxi (有锡) which means, as you might be able to guess, “have tin”. According to some academics / theories / evidence, Youxi used to have tons of tin, but, after that, I’ve heard two theories (one from English websites, one from Chinese)…the cooler one is that tons of armies and looters ‘n’ stuff were constantly raiding Youxi for its tin, and the Emperor changed its name to “no tin” to get people to stop attacking it (that was from Chinese sites), and the other, more pedestrian, one is that the tin was simply mined out, and so Youxi suddenly became, whether it wanted it or not, Wuxi. Pretty funny. There’s other theories, though…remember, if you believe it strongly enough, the moon is made of cheese [originally in Chapter Eighteen]
a quick Chinese expression or two…lao niu chi nen cao (老牛吃嫩草), literally “old cow eats young grass”, referring to old men getting young girls. Another is Xiang Gang jiao (香港脚), or “Hong Kong feet”…apparently this has a historical background. When the English colonisers first came to Hong Kong, the unfamiliar weather and conditions made their feet full of fungus ‘n’ stuff, and they stunk. Therefore, these days, this is a common expression meaning putrid-smelling feet. An expression that means “unique” or “one of a kind” is du yi wu er (独一无二). One that I find incredibly curious, in terms of etymology – “flea market” tiao zao shi chang (跳蚤市场), translates as exactly that. Going by Wikipedia, the generally accepted origin of the term is from France, from the expression marché aux puces, literally meaning “market where one acquires fleas”. Why and how and when the Chinese adopted it – or maybe they had it already by means of a reasonably big but not totally impossible coincidence – I don’t know. That’s your homework, dear reader. A last one that I found pretty cool…one of my private students asked me about the word “bullshit”, asking why bull? His question arose because the common Chinese phrase meaning “garbage” or “nonsense” (as is our “bullshit”), isn’t a bull, nor shit…it’s gou pi (狗屁), or dog fart. There you go [originally in Chapter Eighteen].
I’ll introduce some of the music that I’ve found. As I’ve told you ad infinitum, Chinese people like pop, and therefore I don’t like the vast majority of their music. Having said that, I have found a couple of songs and artists that are worth checking out. First, Han Hong (韩红)’s song “Tian Lu” (天路), or heavenly road. It’s a pretty standard troop-rousing number, clichéd, unashamedly theatrical, but very well done. Another is a guy/girl called Li Yugang (李玉刚)…I say guy/girl because, in his most famous song, Xin Gui Fei Zui Jiu (新贵妃醉酒, or “the new drunk concubine” or something), he sings, extremely well, a guy/girl duet where he plays both parts. I first consciously heard this at CPU, tutoring someone in this little milk tea place that I spent many hours in with Zoe, Eva and the occasional third or fourth party (I have really fond memories of that little place, really cozy in winter). I was genuinely surprised when they told me that it was the same singer; the guy is doing a pretty normal crooning kind of vocal, and the chick in the chorus is doing a bona fide Chinese opera performance. On top of that, it’s a pretty well-written song, and on top of that, the guitar behind the girl/guy hybrid in the chorus actually crunches – it’s one of the best examples of mixing western and eastern musical styles that I’d ever heard – no wonder I heard it in a thousand shops and cafés for the next year [originally in Chapter Nineteen].
…I hope you enjoyed those…there’s plenty more where that came from!
Wrapping this up
I hope you've liked this issue of SEXY APOSTROPHE - remember to subscribe to future issues here, grab the book here, and join me on Instagram and Facebook. You'll hear from me in about three weeks - next issue I'll have some more hints about my second book, a science fiction...get excited...as Yoda said, there is another....
'til then, have fun!
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