29 October, 2005

SciFi Wire interview

There is an interview with me over at SciFiWire.

The out-takes are here at John Joseph Adams's blog.

24 October, 2005

Orf to Melbourne

I'm flying out tomorrow at dawn for the Centre for Youth Literature Booktalkers talks, and to meet with A&U about Little Peach and to have dinner with Mum and Dad, so there will be no more posts until Friday.

I have now read:
Nina Kiriki Hoffman, A Stir of Bones
and Sharyn's Firebirds anthology,

and Harry is suggesting that Gary Paulsen's Hatchet: Winter should be next on my list. It would be nice and light for the plane trip, it's true.

I have no brain today, after being awake (for no reason - no caffeine, no crisis, no nothing) from 12.30 to 5 a.m. this morning. However, I did have a very good short story idea yesterday. It's provisionally titled 'Clay Mate' and it's about a changeling. I haven't quite decided whether it should have a happy or a creepy ending, despite giving it lots of night-time thought.

See you Friday.

20 October, 2005

If a short-short story is 250-1000 words...

...then I just wrote the longest short-short possible.

Well, technically, it's three words shorter than the longest short-short possible.

It's about two schoolgirls who fail to avert the end of the world. They die, of course (but off-screen).

I also worked on two other short stories for Red Spikes. There is nothing like (a) rainy weather and (b) [drastically, pant, pant...] limiting your alcohol intake the night before, for a productive day's writing.

The reason I don't answer...

...questions like this bunch over at Sharyn's

1. were you a picky eater as a child?
2. did you eat dinner nightly as a family (with every member at the table)?
3. did your parents ask you what you wanted for dinner? or did they tell you what you were having?
4. if the former, did they have different food themselves?
5. if the latter, and you detested it, what happened?
6. if you have kids now, how do you manage dinner?
7. did one or the other of your parents cook more than the other?
8. did you go to restaurants a lot? or not at all?
9. are you a picky eater now?

...is that I sit and look at them and watch my whole autobiography ravelling into place around them. Some people seem to be very efficient, yupping and nupping and don't-make-me-laughing through them. I know that if I start, I'll be there for an hour, explaining and over-revealing and embarrassing every family member in sight, including myself. Best just to answer in my head, and move on.

Also, Sharyn's comments section won't let me in. But she reads this one occasionally, so she'll see (Hi, Sharyn!).

18 October, 2005

Bog near Parnu

Another poem about watching television. Parnu is in Estonia, and was featured on 'Getaway' last night. Non-Australian (or non-TV-watching) readers may need to look up the Daddo brothers.

The white plank path winds through the bog.
Some idiot's standing on it - one of those Daddo boys -
But even he, compulsorily mouthing,
knows he's hit upon beauty.

Even the editor -
Where is the camera?
Hanging like a hawk, it seems.
None of the trees here are tall enough;
you couldn't get a cherry-picker in;
you have to put boards down to stop
just people sinking, let alone a vehicle.
Even the editor knows

and does that thing, so corny
but today it works:
the Daddo walks away
along the white boards
between the trees,
which are slim and small, with sketchy foliage
across the carpet of bog-flowers (woven,
as he told us, having stepped wrongly,
up to his thighs in bog and laughing
of all these tiny plants, he said, and we cut to them.
Like this pink one,
that eats flies!

The Daddo walks away,
fades out at the first curve,
fades in rounding the second
(no longer a Daddo; only a figure, now),
fades out, fades in again far away,
fades out, so that we can see
the green bog without him,
the tentative, hopeful trees,
the wooden path delivering
its silvery invitation to our feet.

Big news

Today I'm allowed to tell you that I've been awarded a two-year Fellowship by the Literature Board of the Australia Council, to write the next two novels I'm planning.

This means that for 2 years from February 2006, I'll be a full-time writer. Having been a full-time writer before (but, like, a really, really poor one) I know that this is not necessarily a perfectly wonderful lifestyle; but I'm hoping that I can do it better this time and make sure I exercise, eat and drink right, and regularly interact with real people so that I don't blow either myself or my family apart.

I am very, very pleased.

16 October, 2005

At Galaxy today, I bought...

  • Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Complete Fairy Tales - ha-ha, 210 stories to knock off!
  • October Locus

Then I moved on to Abbey's and bought Judith Beveridge's Wolf Notes, because for some strange reason I need poetry right now, and poetry that doesn't read like cryptic-crossword clues.

The Grimm is introduced by Padraic Colum. The first sentence might have been saved from snortoverable incomprehensibility by a single comma:
In the place where the storyteller was the coming of night was marked as it was not in towns nor in modern houses.

Then again, perhaps not. It continues:
It was so marked that it created in the mind a different rhythm. There had been a rhythm of the day and now there was a rhythm of the night....[sic the four-dot ellipsis] The storyteller seated on a roughly made chair on a clay floor did not look unusually intelligent or sensitive. He certainly did not look histrionic. What was in his face showed that he was ready to respond to and make articulate the rhythm of the night. He was a storyteller because he was attuned to this rhythm and had in his memory the often repeated incidents that would fit it....[sic second four-dot ellipsis] These notions were in the present writer's mind once upon a time when he sat in a cottage where the tradition of storytelling was still in being.

I thought to myself, 'Someone must have translated this from the French - someone who didn't know about punctuation.' Gawd. The twee sloppery of it.

And who's this male storyteller? The commentary at the back doesn't mention a single male person from whom the Grimms obtained stories. Do your homework, Padraic.

Fortunately the stories themselves seem OK.

Misreadings at Galaxy that might be useful:

  • 'Four and Twenty Blackheads' - sorry, Cherie Priest
  • 'The best book about cleaning ever written' - oops, sorry, that was 'cloning'

Story ideas:

I know, I went crazy. Sometimes you just have to.

Slightly less self-indulgent things I did today:

  • Booked myself in to do the [shorter, flatter version of the] MS Sydney-to-Wollongong bike ride on 6 November.
  • Taught myself to make bullet lists - oh, you noticed?

Kids' Night In 2 Out

Kids' Night In 2, an anthology of writing, drawing, recipes and general goodness for children, compiled to aid War Child, has just been published.

The other of the 2 poems I wrote this year, 'Tintinnabula' is in it.

Buy a copy for a child near you this Christmas - or for yourself. It's all good fun. Except the sad bits. Which are still good.

John Banville on writers

And it must be true, because he's so rich and famous now and stuff. :)
We are not priests, or shamans; we have no greater wisdom than anyone else. We look at things and capture the details. We write it down. The result can be magical sometimes, but there is no magic involved in doing it.

The novel

As I said, I knew it wasn't finished, not really.

But no matter how well you know, deep inside, that it's not finished, you still want someone to pop out of the woodwork and say, 'It's perfect! Don't touch a word!'

Rather than that there are 'some vital things to be worked out' still. Big things. Aaark. I knew it, I was just holding off feeling sick and tired until someone else told me.

I'm to go to Melbourne and talk it over. Which will be very helpful, I know. I'm looking for clarity of thinking around this small monster of a project, and other eyes on it can do nothing but help. But I can't shake this feeling of being called to the principal's office. Or this big, irrational fear. If I had an Evil Monkey it would be on my shoulder, pulling really hard on my earring and hissing, 'What makes you think you CAN finish a novel properly? What's this, the FIFTH unfinished novel of the past decade? Who are you trying to fool?' Margo: 'Come on, there was Treasure Hunters of Quentaris. Give us some credit.' EM: 'And remember what your own Dad said about that one? [He said, very gently: 'It doesn't show you at your best.'] Besides, it was so short, it hardly counts.' Margo: 'I know. I know. Pass me those wrist-slitters and let's be done with it.'

But that quick visit to Jeff Vandermeer's blog was nice. Go over there and read Ann's love letter to Australia. At least I'm living in the right place, even if I can't write long, eh.

Word verification

I've put word verification on the Comments of this blog, just to stop the auto-spam that comes through on every new post. Just for the record, I don't want my penis enlarged, or feel too fat to go out walking in public. When I do, I know perfectly well how to Google for help all by myself. Thank you and goodbye.

Big news coming...

But it's 'embargoed from public discussion' until Tuesday.

Can you guess? (But I can only hum and look at the ceiling in reply, of course.)

What's Your Style? - Centre for Youth Literature

Before I remembered (duh!) that it's smack in the middle of Jack's HSC exams, I committed to the following part of the program for the State Library of Victoria's Centre for Youth Literature:
What's Your Style? 25-26 October, 2005

There will be three Booktalkers for Teenagers sessions and one Booktalkers for an adult audience. What's Your Style? aims to illustrate the diversity of writing and reading available for teenagers. It is an opportunity to explore your style, to let people know about the kind of writing you are passionate about. What kinds of stories do you find yourself drawn to? Is it important to write in a certain style or genre? Do you ever fear being pigeon-holed? Do you read styles of work that you don't write? Your presentation of 15 minutes could explore any or all (or none!) of these points.

That's from the letter Mike Shuttleworth sent me. This is what the program says:
When there is a whole world of reading out there, why limit yourself to just one kind of book? Four writers marking four distinct points on the literary compass, talking it up for gritty realism, speculative writing, non-fiction and spoken word poetry. each one offers something unique - what's your style? Phillip Gwynne, Margo Lanagan, John Nicholson and alicia sometimes take you on a brief tour of the four corners of writing.

So this is where the four events will be:

Tuesday, 25 October:
Booktalkers for Teenagers, Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University, Clayton, 10am-12 noon
Booktalkers for Adults, Vision Australia, Kooyong, 6.30-9pm

Wednesday, 26 October:
Booktalkers for Teenagers, State Library of Victoria

13 October, 2005

Eyes looking in different directions...

...from looking at my own writing for too long - and see how much I over-use the word 'looking'? I don't know how those writers who Write Every Day do it without shooting themselves somewhere around, say, the 12th week.

This week I started 2 new short stories, both of which people have dibs on. This is both better and worse than them just popping out of my head because they must, they must, something is driving them.

The first is a horrible aftermath-of-Hansel-and-Gretel story called 'The Goosle', and its first sentence is:

‘There,’ said Grennan as we cleared the trees [psst - and saw the gingerbread house]. ‘Now, you keep your counsel, Hans.’

The second is called 'The Free Church' and is about a church on a string that gets reeled down to earth for people to worship in. Its first sentence is:

As soon as I saw it, I knew and I ran.

In both cases, the second sentence is such a dog that I won't repeat it here. But they pick up after that, honest.

Neither of these stories is for the collection Red Spikes, which is my most pressing commitment. However, I started 'The Goosle' thinking it might go into Red Spikes, but then it started giving off seriously non-YA vibes. And while I don't necessarily want to make the collection a YA collection, I want it to be salable to YA-oriented markets, so no, I still have to think up the elusive tenth story.

09 October, 2005


I finished 2 books! Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Scott Westerfeld's Midnighters 1: The Secret Hour. I'm also browsing the Datlow/Link/Grant Year's Best (favourite so far, Chuck Palahniuk's 'Guts')

Which novel next? I'll let you know when I've stopped dithering. Too soon old, too big To-Be-Read pile. :)

First ever meme participation

The first lines of current works in progress:

From Little Peach, the novel:

"Once—was it at Lyzzy’s wedding feast?—Runy had overheard two uncles talking:
     Look at that Anamato, one had said.
      What of him?
     He has a gift, doesn’t he? When he talks to you, the way he looks at you, you feel as if you’re the most important person in the world.

Assorted short stories:

"Our Hannimanni was sick. We were all jumpy as fleas."

"I don't hold with folk-godliness in any form. I don't know what I was doing on that train in the first place."

"'You always have to go through stuff,' said Barto. 'Why couldn't somebody have made a road?'"

"'Well, at least it's a fine, clear night,' said Mother.
     She looked enormous and queenly herself, but mostly that was bedding she'd gathered up in haste before hurrying out of the hut. Her hair, coming undone from its night-time tail, was a shock of silver on her shoulders."

"Diammid leaned against the chest-high rock and gazed into the Vale. It was dark down there among the trees, and not just from shadow."

"I arrived in moonlight; it wasn't hard to find the way. The place was just as it had been left, down to the shit on the newspaper floor, black and white glisters with their own shadows. I sat and waited. There was no water, and something was wrong with the food from being so old. So I waited, mostly sleeping."

"'She must be one of they Moohammedans,' said Grandpa under his breath.
     The lady looked like a dark-robed ghost hovering in the slid-open Casualty doorway."

05 October, 2005

Short story commitments

I decided I really ought to write down, in a single location, all the promises I've made to either write or just think about short stories, for anthologies and magazines.

It turns out that I've promised to write 7 short stories (including a novella), and to think about 3 others, between now and mid-2007.

This on top of finishing 10 short stories for Red Spikes by the end of November this year.

And I was thinking about writing another novel next year, as well.

And I thought I'd do a con or two, too.

Must check how that cloning research is going...

Continuum 4, me, GoH

I will be Guest of Honour at Continuum 4 in August next year. If anyone has any ideas about a suitable subject for a GoH speech, please let me know.


I've sent the Little Peach revisions off, not because they're absolutely complete in every detail but because I really needed not to look at the book for a few days.

Which means that I don't have that lovely rush of relief and lightness and freedom you get when you do the job properly. Bugger. Just a temporary respite.

A&U will be sending comments next week, so I should try not to think about the thing until then, and come back to it fresh.