31 January, 2008

Jack came home...

...safe and sound, only a little bit scratched in transit. He's unpacked, showered, and gone to bed in a fabulously cleaned and tidied (by Steven, over several days) bedroom. Managed to tell a couple of fairly hairy stories before he faded out, but it's amazing how much more bearable they are when he's here intact in front of you.

Another stinkingly sticky day here. After (not-very-)strenuously sorting some papers at the kitchen table, I was so hot, sweat was dripping from the tip of my nose.

Red Spikes gets 5Q in VOYA

Which is the highest rating they give. Here is what Joe Sutliff Sanders has to say:
In ten sharp tales, Lanagan pushes the short story form and the genre of fantasy to their limits.

The secret of Australian Lanagan has been out since her last collection, Black Juice (HarperCollins, 2004/VOYA April 2005), was a Printz Award Honor Book, and her new work shows no drop in quality. Lanagan excels in her trademark ability to synthesize a kind of fantasy that reaches into the dark corners of human life and love without becoming jaded. These stories are turgid with love, loss, hope, despair, and the sense that there must be more to the world than that which can be touched with hands. Such rich emotional content gives the stories broad appeal, but they are written with such a keen sense of craftsmanship that they also offer a rewarding challenge to advanced readers. Each story has a steep learning curve, as Lanagan drops the reader into a fully developed situation with as little explanation as she can. The reader learns, after two or three such stories, to read the opening pages carefully, with no assumptions about protagonist, plot, or even genre. The result is stories that unsettle and explore. They are a pleasure at every level.
Aww, thanks, Joe!


Yesterday: Walk: Petersham Park. Work: revising 'Living Curiosities' (the dwarf-maiden story); checking UK Red Spikes proofs. Other: 15-y-o survived first day of school. Hot and sticky day.

Today: Walk: Cooks River. Work: maybe I'll get to finish revisions; definitely I'll finish the proof checking. Other: doctor's appointment (just for maintenance purposes) at 1.30 (the more I talk about it the more likely I am to remember it). Return of 19-y-o from overseas adventures any minute now. Should try for more exercise today, too. Like, something properly aerobic.

30 January, 2008


Not everyone loves my Click chapter! Rita the Bookworm says she 'just read the most wonderful little book', of which almost every chapter moved her close to tears, but:
I was disappointed by the last two chapters though. The second-to-last took a bizarre twist for the science fiction. It was written by Margo Lanagan, who I’ve never heard of. I had a very hard time understanding what was going on in her chapter at all though. Some of it was a different twist on Nick Hornby’s chapter, but I didn’t like it.
The Maguire chapter comes in for a serve, too, though, so I'm not the only dud. And she still recommends the book—just stop at the end of the third-last chapter, people.

In other news, a certain teenager must return to school this morning, so no mucking about with selkies or dwarf-maidens before 8.30.

28 January, 2008

Even more virtuouser...

...than my Lab performance, this morning I started compiling the information for our 2006–2007 tax. I've now reached the point where I should stop for the day, for the sake of the family's well-being.

Speaking of family, Jack comes home from the Big Asian Trip on Thursday, just after breakfast. Steven's doing some emergency organisation to ensure Jack will be able to find his way to his bed when he arrives...

Striking through

Having just learned how to do strikethrough text, here is my achievement list for the Summer Writers Lab. I wanted to start work on the following stories, which are listed in due-date order. The crossed out ones are the ones I've made good progress on during the Lab:
  • a Sunburnt Realm story
  • a sideshow story
  • a steampunk story
  • a GLBTQ story
  • a modernised fairy-tale
  • a beastly-bride story
  • a unicorn story
I aimed to write 35,000 words and I wrote 34,554, which can be conveniently rounded up so that it looks as if I reached my goal!

Trying to keep up the Lab momentum,

I started a new story this morning. It's called 'Sea-Hearts' and it's about selkies.
Along we went, in a bunch-ish, because of the witch. She sat halfway along the distance we needed to go, and exactly halfway between tideline and water, as if she meant to catch the lot of us. She had a grand pile of weed that she was knitting up beside her, and another of blanket she had already made, and the knobs of her iron needles jittered and danced as she made more, and the rest of her was immovable as rocks, except her swivelling head, which watched us, watched the sea, swung to us again.

‘Oh,’ breathed James. ‘Maybe we can come back later.’

‘Come now, look at this catch,’ I said. ‘We will just gather all up and run home and it will be done. Think how pleased your mam will be! Look at this!’ I lifted one; it was a doubler, one sea-heart clammed upon another like hedgehogs in the spring.
All the mams are selkies. It's a very sad story—surprise, surprise.

An Aura of honour

Hey, look. My story 'She-Creatures', from Jonathan Strahan's Eclipse One anthology (also puffed in the Washington Post) got an honorable mention in the Aurealis Awards! The judges said:
Typical of Lanagan’s work, ‘She-Creatures’ was well-written and sustained by a distinctive voice throughout. Traditional colonial/gothic horror tropes were well utilised and highlighted the male paranoia regarding female sexuality as related through the faerie encounter and supported by the protagonist’s relationship with his wife. The use of humour and interior monologue carried the suspense to the end.
Colonial? Hmm, been a while since Devon was colonised, I think.

27 January, 2008

Look-a-me, look-a-me...

...over in the Washington Post, where Paul Di Filippo reviews Red Spikes. He questions its being pitched at readers 14 and up:
Aside from the fact that many of the protagonists herein are youths, I'm not sure about the need or accuracy of pitching Lanagan's complex, resonant, mature fables in this fashion. True, any bright, sensitive teen will immediately latch on to these emotive tales like a free-falling person snatching a parachute. But these are the kind of high-quality stories that will vibrate the nerves and heartstrings of readers of all ages.
And he-says-he-says:
Lanagan is one of those rare writers of miniaturist intensity who is forging a name and career solely on her short fiction. A novel from her is much anticipated.
Novel's on its way, Paul.

26 January, 2008

The last story for the Lab...

...is 'The Great Olm'. This is a fantasy story (woman becomes olm) that I drafted three times from the point of view of the housekeeper, thinking it would go into Red Spikes. But the voice didn't seem to be right, and the logistics of the transformation, involving three generations each time, got too complicated, so I put it aside—'Winkie' went in instead.

Now I have 4800 of redraft from the point of view of the husband, and with added daughter-kidnapping, but still, the voice is not working. I think I may have made the young father a bit dim. Also, the names are wrong—Frankland, Alexia, Claire, Dorothy, Elena—and partly because of them the tone has gone off. I like all the different scenes, but the shallow person at the centre of them is keeping them earthbound.

Still, I've got more to work on than I had before, and there is not a tight deadline on this one—which may be why I haven't pulled it together so well. My subconscious seems to know when I don't have to work so hard.

Last Lab meeting tomorrow. This will mark the end of the new-story-every-2-or-3-days routine, although Jan's Draft Busters workshop will start again in February, and I'll need to establish a big goal for that. Plus get two of the new stories completed and sent off in the next week. Plus do tax and other paperwork that's fallen behind. End of holiday mentality. Sigh.

23 January, 2008

'A Thousand Flowers'

I finished the first draft of the unicorn story today, and I'm very pleased with it. This despite the fact that it's definitely too long (9700 words), and made up of 3 internal monologues, one after another. There is bugger-all conversation, but lots of pictures, Alice. Here's one, where the midwife is sneaking up on the unicorn, not yet realising it's a unicorn:
At a certain point my breathing quieted and the night breeze eased to the point where the low noise issuing from my lady’s [tower] window reached me. That rooted me to the meadow-ground more firmly, her near-inhuman singing, her crooning, broken now and then with grunts and gutturals, something like triumphant laughter. I have often been thought a witch myself, with my ugly looks and my childbedding, but I tell you I have never evoked any such magic as streamed off that fine horse in the night, fainting me with its scent and eluding my eye with its gleams and glitters, the shifting and shivering of its muscles under its moonlit hide. I have never cast such a spell as trailed out that window on my mistress’s, my charge’s song, if song it were, that turned my bones to sugar ice, I tell you, my mind to sweet syrup and my breath to perfume.
And the ending just fell out, beautifully paced, and making my (3rd) narrator blossom in several different directions.

Happy day.

(Pic snuck from here.)

21 January, 2008


in the third and last week of the Summer Writers Lab, I've got 5300 words of unicorn story, with more to come, oh yes, the darkest and strangest part of the story. Brrrr.

19 January, 2008

And the rain came down...

And one of our babies came home (the Tamworth one). And Nathan's book was launched (look over here). And the Summer Writers Lab clinked beakers and blew things up. I started my lesbian-teen story, then, when it wasn't lending itself to dramatic scenes and our Lab homework was to write a dramatic scene, I started the unicorn one instead, and now I have a plan for that, and probably about half of that first, dramatic scene. I was worried my unicorn might turn out like this:

but luckily, I've managed to think up a thoroughly nasty plot, with a dead-sexy unicorn in it. And lots of blood and death. And a princess. Bwa-ha.

16 January, 2008

Here's a useful thing to think about...

...when next you happen to be stuck in the middle of writing a novel:
For me, a book—whether I'm reading it or writing it—needs to do something a little different as it approaches the halfway point, to up the ante and subvert some expectation I've developed along the way. I can feel a writer spinning his wheels, building fake suspense (or sticking slavishly to some preconceived outline) and the momentum deflates, leaving me high and dry with a book I couldn't give a shit about. I'd always rather have the writer seem to go a little mad at the midway point, seeming to risk more than is actually advisable, and when this happens I feel a familiar thrill of recognition. As a writer I've been there plenty of times, that moment when your toes no longer touch the bottom and you actually panic a little before heading instinctively toward what's next. It's the books that hug the shore and do what's expected that I usually end up letting drift away...There's just too much out there that I'd rather read.
(From The Scary Parent.)

Oh, and I have 7300 words of steampunk that I didn't have two days ago. And yes, it does need to go a little mad somewhere, but that's often the case with my first drafts.

14 January, 2008

And now...

I've got 97% of a draft of the sideshow story, which is called 'Living Curiosities', and here's a small chunk:
‘And up goes the window and the wind comes in, smack!, straight from the South Pole I tell you, Nonny, and a little thing like Tasmania was never going to get in its way! It took the breath out of me, for certain. The room was an icebox like that.’ She snaps her dry fingers. ‘But you would think it was a…a zephyr, a tropical breeze, for all it stops Ashman. I will fly! he says, I will fly! And he pushes the sash right up and he’s hands either side the window and his foot up on the sill. With the greatest of ease!

Here Dulce stops and looks crafty. ‘And now I must fill my pipe,’ she says calmly.
Today I spent researching the steampunk story, which is more clockwork than steam at this point.

11 January, 2008


I now have a full draft of the Sunburnt Realm story and a half-draft of the sideshow story.

08 January, 2008

Busy, busy

Went to the first Summer Writers Lab yesterday. We talked, we meditated, we wrote (5 pages!) we scrawled story plans on big bits of paper, we made resolutions, we were released into the wild.

Borrowed Murray Bail's Notebooks from Jan's stack. Fascinating, in a creepy sort of way. A bit like hanging out your psychological underwear in public—not filthy underwear or anything but just, you know, clearly not brand new. Grey, in places. Some of it is very much the sort of notes I make myself. Other bits are so far off I almost have to check whether I've got the book the right way up.

This morning I kept almost to my resolution of writing 2 hours in the morning (1.5 hours—4 pages!), but then we had guests for breakfast (which I'd forgotten when I wrote the resolution) so I had to stop. The other resolution I made was: If I feel like a nap in the afternoon, I must go and do some form of exercise instead.

Therefore, I must now go and do some exercise.

02 January, 2008

Publications: 2007 wrap-up and 2008 plans

I'm doing this here mainly so I can refer to it myself, because I'm losing track of the short stories. But also to skite; 'tis the season to skite. Also to announce intentions for the year ahead. Everybody's doing it. And I didn't make a list of books-I've-read-this-year or books-I-liked this year, so...

In 2007, I had the following work published:
  • The Lost Shimmaron 2: The Singing Stones, ABC Books, September
  • Red Spikes (US) Knopf, October 9
  • 'Reflecting Glory', Foundation 100 (UK)
  • 'She-Creatures', Eclipse One, ed. Jonathan Strahan, Night Shade
  • Chapter 'Afela' in Click: One Novel, Ten Authors Scholastic/Arthur Levine (thanks, Yennie!)
In 2008, I'm pretty sure the following will be published:
  • 'An Honest Day's Work', The Starry Rift, ed. Jonathan Strahan, Viking
  • 'Heads', Candlewick war anthology, ed. Patty Campbell and Marc Aronsen
  • 'Ferry-Man', Firebirds Soaring, ed. Sharyn November
  • 'The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross', Dreaming Down Under 2, ed. Jack Dann and Janeen Webb
  • 'The Goosle', The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, ed. Ellen Datlow
  • Tender Morsels, Allen & Unwin (Aus.), Knopf (US), David Fickling (UK), October
And in the next few months I'll be working on:
  • a Sunburnt Realm story
  • a sideshow story
  • a steampunk story
  • a GLBTQ story
  • a modernised fairy-tale
  • a beastly-bride story
  • a unicorn story
I think that's it for actual obligations. If I promised you a story and it's not in this list, squeak now.

I'd also like to write an identifiably YA novel, and start another one for the crossover audience Tender Morsels will appeal to, but so far I have no idea what would be in either of those. I'll see what's left when the dust clears from those seven stories I owe people.

01 January, 2008

First day of the year

And a warm, sunny, cicada-ish day it is, too. It's 10 a.m., late to get up, but then, we were up late seeing the new year in with a small bunch of friends. And, there are no novel revisions to do—a fact that still gives me pleasure and relief, after two weeks of freedom.

These are the books I bought myself for Christmas, and I'm having a hard time not reading all of them at once:
  • Paul Park, The Tourmaline
  • Eileen Gunn, Stable Strategies and Other Stories
  • Jane Yolen, Once Upon A Time (she said)
  • James Tiptree, Jr, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
  • Susan Palwick, The Fate of Mice
  • Justine Larbalestier, Daughters of Earth
  • Ursula Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind
I've read most of the Eileen Gunn, about half of Once Upon A Time, and last night and this morning I let myself to read some of The Wave in the Mind.

Books by writers about writing—I can't get enough of them. And I have to own them, so that when I'm prowling around at 2 a.m. feeling like a complete freak of nature I can take one off the shelf and reassure myself that, well, at least I'm not the only freak of nature. These books are my company when I'm up to my ears in revisions and feeling marooned inside a mess of a world of my own creating. And I've got two, possibly three, new ones (I'm guessing Justine's book will provide this sort of company too, perhaps less directly than Le Guin's and the bits-about-writing in Jane's anthology, which is a treasure-chest of poems, stories and articles)—a gorgeous great trough of stuff, and I get to be the pig!

What prompted me to start this post was reading a poem in The Wave in the Mind called 'The Writer On, and At, Her Work', which is a wonderful, extended meditation that I feel like having tattooed on me, particularly as the essay before it is all about writing as bodily knowledge. 'Her work', she says at one point:
is with letters,
with secret letters.
Letters that were not written
for generations.
she must write them
over, and over, and over.
And then there is this part where she reworks that Frost poem in a way that, were I a punching-the-air type of person...
I came to a place
I couldn't see well in the darkness,
where the road turned
and divided, it seemed like,
going different ways.
I was lost.

I didn't know which way.
it looked like one roadsign said To Town
and the other didn't say anything.

So I took the way that didn't say.
I followed
'I don't care,' I said,
'I don't care if nobody ever reads it!
I'm going this way.'

And I found myself
in the dark forest, in silence.

You maybe have to find yourself,
in the dark forest.
Anyhow, I did then. And still now,
And this is how it finishes, after having talked a lot about waking up in the morning and starting to have ideas and put words together:
The Writer On Her Work:
I see her, too, I see her
lying on it.
lying, in the morning early,
rather uncomfortable.
Trying to convince herself
that it's a bed or roses,
a bed of laurels,
or an innerspring mattress,
or anyhow a futon.
But she keeps twitching.

There's a lump, she says.
There's something
like a rock—like a lentil
I can't sleep.

There's something
the size of a split pea
that I haven't written.
That I haven't written right.
I can't sleep.

She gets up
and writes it.
Her work
is never done.
*snort, wallow*

Starting off the year wonderfully, I had an email from my editor this morning subject-lined 'Tender Morsels—cooked to perfection' which started off, 'Well, you can sweep off home now on your fine mare; your work here is done.' And I felt that corner of my brain that, although I was just relieved to have got the revisions done and away, has been all curled up, hiding under the bed waiting for some kind of storm to break, begin to relax, and crawl out. Obviously part of me is very metaphor-starved, judging by this post so far...

I've been working, just a tiny bit, in between some serious loafing. I've been researching the four short stories and the short book I have to get written before May. And a couple of mornings ago, when I woke up and found a lentil in the bed—I did lie uncomfortably on it, pretending to sleep, for two hours first—I got up and wrote 8 pages of one of them.

Happy New Year, everyone. Health, wealth, happy reading and happy writing to you all. Oh, and peace on earth would be nice, too.