Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hooray! Breathe is...

in stock at Amazon, because today is its launch date. If you are an American and you happen to wander into a bookshop today and you noodle over to the Rs in young adult and you see it, can you telepathically project the moment into my brain? Then buy the book :p

Sunday, January 28, 2007

On deadlines

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

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Chapter Outlines

I have never sat down and prepared a chapter outline before writing a novel. I tend to write my way into a piece, usually with an idea of the ending and of the basic structure (all three of my Undine books have a central shift, that changes the direction of the narrative and I always know from the outset what this shift will be) but I make up the rest as I go. It's not necessarily an efficient way to write, Breathe and Drift both went in very different directions at first and I had to do a lot of deleting. I think it is quite an organic process which leads to quite satisfying character development and in a way it's kind of a chaotic system because one line when I'm writing, one observation or image, can lead to a whole subplot or affect the character's destiny, much like those butterfly wings in Japan.
I found this, which is a very interesting article about how Australian fantasy writer Garth Nix plans and writes his novels (in longhand!!). I have a vague idea for a fantasy trilogy (yes, i know, I am sure I swore I would NEVER write a trilogy again), which I can't start for a year or two because of other obligations. So I was thinking I might try keeping a visual diary for it, jotting down thoughts but also sticking in images to help give shape to my vagueness. Will let you know how it goes.
And I am writing a chapter outline now for a chick lit novel I might be writing for A&U. It's interesting solving all the plot problems at this stage! I am actually writing it in first person, it's the only way I could get the story to come alive. So if the chapter outline is accepted and I proceed with the book, I'll let you all know if the outline made it easier to write and if I think the loss of spontaneity affects the writing process (I'm deeply curious to know myself!)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fe and Me

I have started taking iron supplements and 2 weeks on I can't believe the difference. I thought it was just my lot in life to feel like crap but apparently not. Not exactly up to bear wrestling or mountain hopping but I have a spring in my step and my head doesn't feel like it's filled with cotton wool - so that's a bonus.

Modern medicine. Who knew?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

News 'n' Chews

(That was the name of the newsagent my dad and I stopped at every day on the way to school when I was in grade two. My dad was the principal of Glenorchy Primary and I went to that school with him for one year, leaving Mt Nelson Primary and then returning to Mt Nelson in grade three when Dad was transferred to Blackman's Bay. Dad got News, I got Chews...it was a very satisfactory arrangement).

Anyhoo, this post is more about news than chews...

1. Breathe comes out in One Week in the US. Hope you've got your skates on and copy preordered at your neighbourhood bookstore (look, I can speak American!).
2. I'm working through the very final stages of Drift, so in a bit over a week, barring grave misfortune, it will be off to the printers. Hurray!
3. It would appear I will be signing a contract with another, very well known Australian publisher for a wee novel currently pencilled in for August. Very exciting. More news when it's all signed, sealed and delivered (well signed anyway).
4. Una had a smashing first day at creche yesterday, not a tear in sight and terribly excited when we came to pick her up, wanting us to look at everything in the room. What a relief. Though she is a bit naughty for not pining at least a smidgen. Martin hung around for a while until Frederique furtively requested that Martin go home, because Fred was Quite Capable of looking after Una thank you very much and Martin was cramping her style.
5. I think I may have mentioned there was a possible trip to India this March with Kate Constable (so we can be writerly ladies with suitcases and hats on an expedition and world adventure). Well, not to be (I wussed out, because Una still seemed a bit little for me to be in another country that soon), but now we are hoping for another overseas jaunt, maybe Kyoto in August. Maybe elsewhere. If anyone knows of a really great kids book event taking place in the world, please do let me know!
6. I have put a new tantaslising quote from Breathe in the right hand margin so you will all go, oh my goodness, I must read this great work (though of course you have already, but you might feel inspired to buy some extra copies just to decorate your home with) and added a nice little note about supporting independent booksellers. Independents are very important in the bookgame because they often support new authors in a way that the bigger chains won't. Bigger chains market what sells (and that is their way) and smaller sellers promote what they think is good and worth reading and should sell. So while I have no problem with the big chains (because often they will pick up books that have been successful with the independents and propel them into superstardom), and I think they play a very important role in the whole publishing cycle, it's the smaller players who need us to love them. Even if they are surly and antisocial Well, not all booksellers are like that, but I have met many a one who seem to find customers an inconvenience at best. But you don't have to be their friend. Just buy books. My books. And tell them how wonderful they are as you do so. Even if all you get is a frown or a grunt or a big lecture about how my books are actually TERRIBLE because Undine says crap and there's a bit of naughty business and well...just read the books and you can fill in your own angry bookseller rant. And really, most booksellers are actually very very nice people. Some of my best friends are booksellers. Well they're not, but they aspire to be. I myself was almost a bookseller on many an occasion.
7. The Taste of Lightning by Kate Constable (beautiful title, isn't it? I helped with one word) is out in February. So run don't walk. Seriously. I have my copy and have read the first page many times though I am banned from reading it till i finish Gilead. Only Kate Constable could write a book with 'cake of scented soap' and 'boot-blacking' on the first page. The Taste of Lightning is a spin off from Kate's Tremaris series but it stands alone, you can read it first and then buy the rest of the series. Ah, the flexibility.

And (for now) that is all.

Chews must be supplied by you and can include any of the confectionary, nut or biscuit families, fruit at a pinch. No sandwiches. I am not all for this wanton consumption of sandwiches at any o'clock. You can ahve them for lunch or for tea (high tea that is). And if you have them for tea they must be cucumber or asparagus rolls or maybe egg (but only if they are little triangles). Possibly chicken, but then you must cut them into fingers.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Jiggety jig

So we're home again. It's nice to be back.
Boat was hugely successful and it was great having our own car packed to the brim with stuff while we were down there. Girls slept well and so did we for that matter. Camping improved too, we had an overnighter in Cockle Creek which was beautiful but a bit damp and cold, which made the morning hard (Una slep badly and then in the morning we couldn't put Una down anywhere and Fred woke up cold and cranky), but then at the end of our two weeks we had four nights in Bridport. By then we'd bought a sheepskin for Una for nights, and a thermal top for Fred, and the weather was milder anyway overnight, and with this sorted we all slept well and the days were relaxed and fun. Both girls loved swimming in the sea every day. We went to Piper's Brook and checked out the swanky golf course which is rated one of the world's best - Barnbougle. Amazing sense of place. For some reason I haven't really spent much time in Tasmania's North East but we'll be going back, the beach at Bridport is just amazing.
In Hobart we did the usual - mostly eating, a trip to Salamanca, hanging with Fred and Una's Grandma and Grandad and we also visited Zoe and Dan (who were holidaying there) and Zoe's parents, John and Penny Smith. It was the first time Martin had met them, which was some kind of strange anomoly, and the first time Fred and Una had met them too. Fred was naked within half an hour, running around on the deck and shouting 'I'm in the nude!' So I think she felt at home. I kept half expecting to see mine and Zoe's childhood ghosts playing in the bush around us.
So it was a great two weeks. It's nice to be home, but it was a good holiday nonetheless. I didn't read all my books, but I did get through Magic Lessons (not Magic or Madness...that'll learn me for not checking before blogging) - a great read, though I think I should have read M or M first, and I'm most of the way through The Gilead, which is extremely absorbing - one of those books you continually partly reside in the whole time you're reading it, I think it will stay with me too long after I finish.
Anyway, off to do something sensible, like work. Boohoo. Bye bye holiday.

Friday, January 05, 2007

reader's reviews

(okay so we don't leave till 9pm and I'm bored. And hot.)

I just found some fantastically positive reader's reviews on the Harper Collins site for Breathe, which comes out NEXT MONTH in the US!!! How exciting, I'd actually almost forgotten. In some ways I think Breathe is a more sophisticated book than Undine (it's my personal favourite anyway) but it got a bit lost here for some reason (or maybe it just felt that way because Una was born the same time it was released and because Undine was so widely reviewed). So I am very excited to see how it goes in the American market.

Spirited Away

Us that is, on the Spirit of Tasmania, which is a big boat that will take us for a two week jaunt to visit family and do some more camping (eek). I am taking the following books:
*Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier (which I am letting myself read as a reward for finishing Drift - I was a bit scared of it because the blurb sounded like there were some similarities in theme to the Undine books and I wanted to make sure I didn't inadvertantly nick anything)
*The Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which I am very excited about because I loved Housekeeping.
*The Poetics of Childhood, in preparation for thesis writing this year.
*The Sweet Herafter, which was a stunning film and is an incredibly absorbing and fascinating book, a much deeper exploration of the characters than the film medium allows for, though the movie has strengths over the book too because of its medium - such as a strong sense of the power of the landscape, and it has to be one of the most successful book-film adaptations that I know of.

By the way Martin has been updating Lightning Bug, adding some exciting new features, including some lesson plans and a bookstore powered by Amazon, both so he can recommend appropriate books and hopefully to help fund the site (which so far has just been a side project), so he can continue to develop it.

See you all in Tassie (where I will probably continue to post, albeit infrequently).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Writing and kids

In response to Justine Larbalestier's post on her blog about things that make people better writers, I wrote:

Having children definitely made me a better writer, but it’s not necessarily a great reason to have kids, because it makes all those other things hard (like learning a language, working in a bookshop and travel) and writing itself becomes an exercise in logistics. But you learn a lot more about people, character, psychology and personality when you see a person grow from nothing and it also helps you identify more with your characters’ parents if you write YA. Seeing language develop at that level too makes you really think about the way language works and how the world is made up. Babies also make you see how everyone is connected to everyone and it makes writing feel important again, because it’s an act of humanness and vulnerability. You notice dust in the air again, you watch insects and birds with new eyes, in some ways you experience the fantasy of being able to be a kid again knowing everything you know as an adult. Nothing is ordinary or taken for granted. Plus you get to fingerpaint.

And it's all true. Sometimes I get frustrated at the limitations having kids puts on me as a writer, like not being able to write in sustained bursts for days at a time, or being able to travel in order to develop an idea or sense of place or just to challenge myself. Sometimes I miss moving solo through the world, not having to slow down for someone else, or stoop to lift them, or have my head physically turned in the direction they want me to look (children are not gentle). But being a parent means you live a different kind of life. In some ways you slow down. In some ways you miss out. But in other ways you have a window into the heart of the universe, into what makes life matter and it's constantly fascinating. And of course it's often very funny; humour is such an essential part of being human. Maternity and domesticity brings you back to this essential kind of living - much in the some way travel does. You live in the moment, your needs are simple and basic - toilet, eat, sleep, play. But instead of living for yourself, you're living for a community, you're facilitating others as well as your own needs. And in the end that too, that enforced selflessness, will make you a better writer because you're no longer only concerned with your own experience, your own way of seeing the world. Through new eyes, you've learned to see.