Tuesday, December 29, 2009

T'was The Night Before Christmas...

...and all through the house, 
Not a creature was moving,

Except for my son who, on Christmas eve, decided that it was time to start walking. There we were, down at the lovely little beach house we'd hired for the week, and suddenly Toby is strolling across the kitchen. Literally like that. One second he's crawling and cruising around the furniture  just like always, and the next he's standing in the middle of the room looking at us all and wondering what all the fuss was about.

And since then, he's been on two feet as often as possible.

So now we have a toddler. For real.

It's really strange - yesterday while tidying my study I was looking at some photos from a year ago, when he was just a tiny little squidglet of a baby, and it's hard to believe that this little fella toddling around and getting into everything is the same person. I've been looking forward to him walking all year - looking forward to the independence and increased interactivity that it brings with it. But now that it's happened, there's also something ineffably sad about it. I hadn't expected that at all.

So... on to other news. We had a lovely week down at the coast. It involved beaches, swimming, lots of reading and sleeping and playing games and eating. Christmas day we cooked a nice lunch, and called families, and just generally had a mellow time. Our internet access was basically non-existent, which was a great excuse not to even think about work. The dog got to go to the beach, which she loved. Toby came to like the beach, although at first he was a little reluctant about the entire experience:


But he soon came around:

Now we're home again, and have another week until work opens again, which I intend to use to get a few outstanding jobs done around the house. I've also got vague plans to do some writing. I've got the first five thousand or so words of something new done, and I'm hoping to make a real dent in it over summer. It's tentatively called 'Orion: The Hunter' and it's a high pace, just a little silly, action adventure mystery - really different to my last couple of books, and is proving a lot of fun to write. I'll post a few more details as it progresses.

Anyway, the boy is awake, so now my day begins in earnest. Hope you all had a lovely festive season. 


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Random bits of News

Happy holidays, everyone! A bit later today, our little family is off to Tathra, on the south coast, where we'll be spending the next week keeping to a vigorous schedule of surfing, eating freshly shucked oysters, catching up on reading, playing with the dogs on the beach and generally just kicking back. I've also got grand plans of really getting into the writing of a new project which I've been waiting for an opportunity to launch into for about six months now. I may or may not, depending on the vagaries of Optus mobile broadband, have internet access, so this may well be my last post for a week or so.

So - writing news first. I'm finally, and utterly, done with  Daywards. After a fairly mammoth effort this week, I got the final proofs back in the mail on friday afternoon. Hopefully this means that I'll never have to read that book again. Not that there's anything wrong with it, you understand - actually I'm really proud of it, and really happy with it as a conclusion to the trilogy but, as all the writers out there will know well, by the time I'm done with the final read through of any of my books, words cannot describe how completely over it I feel. Either way, it's done now, and on time, too. 

Next bit of news - we got a new family member for christmas. One of these:

For the uninitiated - it's a Roomba. A vacuum cleaning robot. I think I might be slightly in love with it already. We call her Betsy. She's awesome. If you, like us, have a toddler and the only dog on the planet disinterested in cleaning up under the high chair, then I cannot recommend one of these enough! Basically, this was Min and my christmas present to each other. The only problem with it is that it's supposed to be a labour saving device; just set her going and get on with other things. This idea falls down, though, because once Betsy is in action, it's just about impossible not to sit there watching - it's so damn hypnotic. And clever, too. Climbs small steps, goes around corners, table legs, untangles itself from carpet tassels etc... Actually, it makes me feel slightly inferior, intellectually. I got a little worried when she started following me around the house shouting 'EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE', but Imogen tells me that's a normal part of her programming...

In any case, have yourselves a merry little christmas, if I don't get a chance to post again before then. Hope yours is filled with family and friends.

Cheers
t

 

Friday, December 18, 2009

And, because it's nearly holidays...

Here are the muppets. Singing Bohemian Rhapsody.

Relegated to Parent Class

Got back from a few days in beautiful New Zealand on Tuesday. This was a holiday that Imogen won during her maternity leave, when she took to entering lots of competitions. We took Toby and my sister-in-law, Kate, who is both an awesome 13 year old, and an awesome baby sitter.

Which led to some interesting new experiences.

Mainly, watching people try and work out how our 'family' fitted together, given that Min is a bit younger than me. This was amusing. Especially when people started asking thinly veiled questions to try and piece us all together.

It was also the first time I actually realised that Min and I, whether we like it or not, are now members of 'parent class.' (During our trip to the U.S earlier this year, Toby was still young enough not to be too much of a problem. Now he's a wriggling, wilful, and quite impressively strong 1 year old, things are a little less... passive)

So, I hear those of you without kids ask, what's parent class?

Parent class is what you get when you show up anywhere with a one-year-old and a teenager. (Though in all fairness, I think the one-year-old is the kicker, here...)

It means we automatically get the back seats on planes. Literally the last row on the way over to NZ, and the second last one on the way back. With all the other parents. And babies. Crying, screaming babies.

It means that when we arrived at the hot springs that we'd driven an hour to get to, only to be told that they have a 'strictly no-body under 14 policy' that all we could do was smile and get our evil hellspawn children out of their relaxing environment as fast as possible.

It's not all bad, though. Turns out that for the most part, NZ is a really kid friendly place to visit.

Being in parent class means that we didn't have to join a single airport queue once we left Australia - every time we reached a line of people, within seconds a nice official would pull us out of the line and pop us right through; customs, immigration... everything.

We had a lovely experience one night at the hotel restaurant, when we left Kate in the room with the sleeping baby, a DVD and room service dinner, while Min and I went down to the restaurant for a 'date'. We were greeted by the restaurant manager who'd noticed that we'd only booked for two, and realised that - in her words (and accent) we'd managed to 'Dutch the kuds for the Evening', and gave us free champagne in the lounge in celebration. This was followed by a lovely meal, including possibly the *best steak I have ever eaten*.

Parent class is good in that, when your child launches himself across an airport gate lounge, grabs the wheely luggage of a complete stranger, and starts pushing it around in circles, people generally just smile and give you sympathetic looks.

All in all, travelling in parent class was a lot of fun.

Can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Walk by Sydney Harbour

Last friday, I travelled up to Sydney for a meeting, and took the opportunity for a rare walk beside the sea. (well, harbour.) Like all good tourists, I took a few photos...

Standing amid the bustle of Circular Quay is one of my favourite places in the city. The business of the ferry terminal, the underscore of restless water, the rumbles, groans and growls of the ferries, the mutter of indifferent traffic on the Cahill expressway all bring this little corner of Sydney to life.

As you walk towards The Rocks the Opera House keeps vigil across the water . Even though it's the most touristy act in the country, it's impossible not to stop, stare, and spend a moment or two revelling in the sweep of those curving roofs.

Further around the point the Harbour Bridge looms over The Rocks, throwing its morning shadow far up the waterway, a dark band stilling the sparkle of the harbour.

Monday, December 7, 2009

And, in Review...

I had an exchange of opinions on Goodreads recently, over a review of my friend Karen Brooks' new book Tallow - and it's got me thinking.

Firstly, I'm not at all proud of my initial response to the review. Partly because I've always tried to maintain a strict policy on not commenting on books I've been involved in, and also because the reply I posted was snarky, pompous and more than a little unjustified. And the reviewer in question was nothing but gracious in reply, which she certainly didn't have to be.

It bought to mind this discussion over Adele's review of Wings some months ago. I also weighed briefly into that one, but not so stridently, this time in defense of the reviewer (and looking at it now, the antagonist of that particular discussion has deleted all his posts, which isn't overly helpful...)

All this has got me re-considering the whole notion of authors and reviewers, and the relationship between the two.

It's a vexed issue, obviously. For me at least, when I finally complete a book, I always try and have a moment where I very consciously 'let go' of the work; Usually when the first completed books arrive on the doorstep. I'll open the box, take out a book, leaf through it quickly, turn it over a couple of times, and then very carefully put it on the shelf with the first copies of all my others. At that point I'll think something along the lines of: "Okay. It's out there now, and there's nothing I can do about it, so there's no point caring." And from that moment on, I do my best to adopt an attitude that nothing which happens to that particular book - either good or bad - matters.

If it doesn't get shortlisted for an award? Doesn't matter. If it gets hammered by the reviewers, or not reviewed at all? Doesn't matter. If someone on Goodreads or Amazon etc... gives it a 1 star review and doesn't bother to explain why? Doesn't matter. For that matter, the corrolory also applies: if it does get shortlisted, or even wins an award - doesn't matter. (It's nice, of course, and always an honour, but in terms of my own opinion on the value of the book, and on the quality of the writing it just. Doesn't. Matter.)

In part, this is a defensive position to take - if it doesn't matter, it doesn't hurt. Given the enormous amount of both physical and emotional energy that goes into the writing of a 100,000 word novel, it's good to cautarise any potential scars before they occur.

In part, though, it's also pragmatic. Or logical, if you prefer. By the time I put a book out there, I know I've toiled over every single word in it. I know I've lain awake at nights unknotting problems in the plot and characters. I know that I've done everything within my power to make the book work for me. If it doesn't work for someone else, then at least I know that this wasn't for want of effort on my part. Therefore to a large extent, other people's opinions of the book just don't matter. Makes sense, really. If a book I've written gets pasted by a reviewer, it's not going to make me like that book any less, or regret the time and energy I put into it. Similarly, if it wins an award, it's not going to make me think that work is 'more worthy' than anything else I've written. (or, for that matter, anything else written by other people.)

When I do my little 'letting go' I remind myself of the fact that there are books I haven't liked. There are books I've hated with the passion of a thousand burning suns. Books I've failed to complete, despite the recommendations of people I respect.

I remind myself that this is what reading is all about. It's part of the deal you make with the reading public - and that as a writer you have to respect the right of readers to dislike your words, and to express that dislike, in whatever medium they so choose.

At the same time, it's also important for reviewers to separate the work from the creator in their reviews and most reviewers are very careful to do just this. It's also just as important for reviewers not to hold back, to be honest about the work, and to be specific in their objections or praise.

I remind myself that, just as writers owe it to their readers to 'let go' of the work, reviewers owe it to their readers to be honest. And again, most reviewers I know and respect are very careful to do this.

I remind myself that we live in the age of web 2.0, where opinion is everywhere, and where everyone has the opportunity to put their feelings on just about everything out there. Hell, here I sit, blogging away my opinions in what is, I realise, a horribly self-indulgent manner and medium. In a few moments, I'll hit the button at the bottom of the screen marked 'Publish Post' and in doing so, I'll accept all the responsibility that term implies

So I remind myself that I shouldn't be surprised when, every now and then, though, the guards slip down - often with no malice intended, and I remind myself that the battle lines between writers and reviewers can be quickly drawn. A wry observation here, an unprocessed sentence there, all sent out into the emotionless, text driven world of the internet and then - pow - the rules go out the window.

I remind myself about a couple of well known examples:

Earlier this year, writer Alice Hoffman had her say about a review of her most recent work.

And then there's the now infamous Anne Rice Meltdown on Amazon.com (You may need to scroll down to find the bump of this post. My understanding is that Anne Rice's identity as the author of the post was confirmed as authentic)

While my post over at Goodreads wasn't me springing to the defence of one of my own books (I haven't gotten to that point yet, touch wood) it has nevertheless made me reflect upon the position that authors are expected to take in regard to open forums like Goodreads and Amazon. Certainly, the best and safest response is to say nothing at all, and to respect the rights of people to express thier opinions. After all - when you put something out in the public eye, you have to accept that it's now open to criticism.

That's why I adopt my 'letting go' policy and remind myself that 'it doesn't matter.'

Except, of course, it does. Always. Deep down inside, there's always a tiny little bit of you that wants everyone to love your story just as much as you do. That wants people to know how much of your mental energy this thing absorbed. That wants people to acknowledge that just the simple act of writing down a story of any type is an achievement in and of itself. Even if it's badly done. Even if it has sparkly vampires in it.

For most writers, for most of the time, it's easy to keep this little bit of you down there. Pushed aside and disregarded, or perhaps occasionally bought out to play in the company of other writers after a glass or two of something red. Every now and then, though, it gets off its leash, and the results are never good.

Never good, but understandable, I think.

So thanks, Paulette, for your very measured and gracious response to my unnecessarily snippy comments. And for your very thoughtful revision of your review.

Because it does matter. Really.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's 11 in the Morning, The end of Movember *

So, final day of Movember, today. Tomorrow, I can shave this thing off my face.

And thank God for that, I say. It's incredibly irritating.

But, it's also been kinda fun. And for a really good cause, so all worthwhile. I didn't get it long enough to wax the tips up, but I always thought that was a little ambitious.

And the good news (from my perspective, at least) is that while the donations hit a very healthy $490 (as of this morning), they didn't get to the magic $1000 mark, so I don't have to walk around tomorrow with half a moustache on my face. Phew.

For those interested, here's the final product:


Not entirely attractive, but not a shabby effort either, even if I do say so myself.

Thanks so much to everyone who so generously donated - given the number of men who die each year from both prostate cancer and depression-related issues, this is a really worthy cause, and a really effective means of raising both funds and - equally as importantly - awareness.

*with apologies to Leonard Cohen

Saturday, November 28, 2009

One year down...

In a few hours, Toby's first birthday party starts. It won't be a huge affair - just family and a few friends around for a BBQ and a couple of beers. Actually, the party's as much for us as it is for him - celebrating the fact that we've survived our first 12 months of parenthood. 

During the last year, the mantle of parenthood has settled on us like a heavy cloak; sweeping, swamping, and covering every moment of our lives. Every waking moment, every thing we do or think about, Toby is there in the background. Everything we plan, Toby is the first factor we have to consider. He's filled our lives to the point where, when I remember myself 18 months ago, it's like thinking about a different person. Like remembering someone I used to know from a long time ago, but have long since drifted away from.

Parenthood has, without a doubt, been the hardest journey I've ever embarked upon. The exhaustion, the fear (I've never in my life been scared driving before, but whenever I've got Toby in the car, I drive like a grandmother), the emotional ups and downs - we've had plenty of both - and, oddly, the dawning knowledge that part of your life - the part that didn't involve you being completely and utterly at the mercy of someone else's needs - is irrevocably behind you.

I've worried that the lack of time and the constant fatigue would mean the end of my writing - in the past I've been able to set aside months at a time and use them obsessively to write, at the exclusion of all else. That's not an option any more. Now, between parenthood and my new job, I write when I can squeeze in an hour here and there. And in many ways, I think it's making me a better writer.


If all this sounds rather down -it isn't. As well as being the hardest 12 months of my life, this past year has also been the best. Imogen, Toby and I have been learning to understand one another, working out how we're going to make our lives mesh into one another's and building our little family. And even now, in these early, early days, it's a family I'm so proud of. 

I love walking down the street with Toby in his stroller. I love taking him places he's never been before and watching his reactions. I love the look on his face when he tries a new flavour for the first time, or when he's doing his best to climb on top of the dog. I love the way he pokes his tongue out when he's concentrating really hard. I love the fact that he's already trying to play the piano. I love it when Min and Toby and I get on a plane together. Or travel somewhere as a family, or just kick back at home.

During the last year, the mantle of parenthood has indeed settled upon us like a heavy cloak. But it's the warmest, best cloak ever.  

Happy Birthday, Mate.





Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Future Caffeine addict.

Since the day he was old enough to crawl, Toby has been oddly obsessed with our coffee machine. Largely, I suspect, because it's shiny, has lots of lights and buttons, and makes loud hissing noises.

This morning, I made him his first babycino - (Pure milk foam, for the uninitiated)

It went well...

 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Half a Tree...

... is a really odd looking thing. Imagine how strange I'll look with half a moustache.

Then donate to my Movember campaign, here.

Remember: $1000 by the end of November is what it'll take to make me look like a total goose for 24 hours. Current total: $300, which is a good start, but not enough to purchase my dignity.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Black Mountain Peninsula, 9.23am, Thursday

Photograph taken on Sony Ericsson Videophone, using panorama mode

Today it will be 37 degrees. Already Canberra is tinderbox-dry; the rich greens of spring have given way to unrelenting yellows and browns. The grasses wilt and wither, the clay is baked hard beneath your feet. On mornings like this, there is restlessness in the air. The lake, mirror calm, reflects a hazy sky; On Black Mountain, the tower gestures towards the sun and on Parliament house the flag hangs limp and listless.

On mornings like this, the early cool is just an overture.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ever wanted to humiliate a writer for a Good Cause?

All right then -

Here's the thing. I'm doing (as most of you already know) Movember. For anyone not in the loop, this is a facial hair festival which raises funds to support prostate cancer and men's health research. At the moment, I'm going on three weeks in, and have (if I do say so myself) a very respectable little Mo going on.

And I've got a few donations, which is great. Just passed the $150.00 mark today, which is fantastic. Even if one of the donors is my wife (How's that for supportive?).

But here's the thing. It's as itchy as hell, it catches food and it's generally a pain in the arse. Additionally, Mum is flying in to town next week for Toby's first birthday, and I know she'll give me all kinds of crap over my facial growth. She's not a fan of the facial hair, is mum.

Don't worry - I'm not about to shave it off and do my dough. Like I say - this is a very worthy cause here. Au Contraire, I'm about to up the stakes a little to make this experience truely worth while...

If my movember donations hit $1000 AUD by the end of November, then I pledge that at midnight on December 1st, I'll shave off only the left hand side of my moustache, and wear half a moustache around for a full 24 hours. I'll get lots of photos and post them here at Musings... Promise.

Is this a desperate bid to up my fund raising? Perhaps. But, let's face it, half a moustache is Funny, people.

So, if you decide you want to take part in this strange little escapade, then click here, dig deep, and help humiliate a writer. It's all going to a good cause, after all...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Helping Dad at work...

I've always thought I deserved a personal assistant at work and now, thanks to a childcare shortfall today, I have one...


So far he's re catalogued my lowest bookshelf (it used to be alphabetical, now it appears to be arranged in order from most to least chewed), emptied the contents of the bin onto the floor, pulled a pair of scissors out of a drawer (Until 5 minutes ago, I didn't even know I owned scissors,) and almost managed to unplug my computer.

Aaahhhh... parenthood....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Movember - Week 3


Taken with a silly hat, on the crappy little webcam in my office. But at least you can see it, now. And as of this morning, it's long enough to be trimmed with scissors!

You can donate to my campaign here... And if not, then I'll thank you not to mock my Mo.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Romcom Review - Julia and Julia


Julie and Julia: Is it technically a romcom? Well, it's directed by Nora Ephron, whose pedigree includes our benchmark best-romcom-of-all-time When Harry Met Sally, (mind you, she's also responsible for the execrable Sleepless in Seattle* - which, despite the title, ended up on top of the Empire State Building in NYC, go figure) and a number of other Romcom crimes, so you can make your own mind up on that one. (*you're probably wondering why that link? Anything, and I mean anything is better than Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks...)

I'm calling it a romcom, though. There's romance. There's comedy. If it looks like a duck, and it sounds like a duck...

Julie and Julia is an odd film. The tagline declares that it's 'Based on two true stories.' Technically, this isn't quite accurate: it's really based on:
  • The seminal cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.
  • The vaguely autobiographical book Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell, which is in turn based on;
  • Her blog The Julie/Julia Project, in which she documented her efforts to stave off a nervous breakdown by cooking her way through the entire 500+ recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking during a 12 month period, in the tiny kitchen of her small, dingy apartment in Queens, NYC.
  • Julia Child's biography My Life in France
Can you say 'Metafiction', boys and girls?

From this, you'd think the film would have the potential to be a mishmash of ideas and stories.

And you'd be right.

Here's the odd thing, though - Ephron is a clever director and storyteller, and I initially walked out of the film (which we saw last saturday afternoon) declaring 'I really enjoyed that!' And I did. It was good brain candy. We'd won free tickets to see it, too, so the price was about right for the film.

In the five days since, though, a few little things about the film have started to retrospectively bug me. Little things - the somewhat overworked layering of the two protagonists' lives onto one another - the implication being that Julie Powell's life very nearly mirrored that of Julia Child. The bizarre 'where are they now' titles at the end of the film which - apart from being the worst kind of Deus ex Machina device for wrapping up a plot - also include perhaps the most utterly mindless caption I've ever seen: "Julie Powell's book was turned into a film" Well, duh. (Hint to Nora: Metafiction works best when you don't have to point it out to the audience.)

Does this make it a successful or unsuccessful film? Not sure.

Certainly the 'Julia' part of the film is beautiful - set for the most part in 1950's Paris, teaming Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci (Last seen together in The Devil Wears Prada - though in a *slightly* different relationship), and operating against the background of the McCarthy witchhunts, this story alone would have made an effective biopic. Julia Child was, by all accounts, a remarkable woman, and her husband too. Had Ephron focussed her considerable filmmaking talent solely on this side of the story, the film could have been a real groundbreaker. (Also in this storyline, and in a piece of genius casting, you'll get to see Glee's Jane Lynch playing the role of Julia Child's 6"2' sister - I kept waiting for her to declare "and that's how Sue sees it!")

The 'Julie' part of the film - less successful. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with it, and Amy Adams is a competent enough actress to fill the role but at the same time there's nothing intrinsically interesting about it either: A woman hates her job, has a shitty apartment, cooks a lot and blogs. Good for her, but when juxtaposed against Julie Child navigating the minefield of the French culinary establishment during the 1950's while her husband was persecuted by Senator Joe McCarthy, it just doesn't really hold a lot of interest. And yet, to my mind at least, this seems to be the story with which Ephron was most invested.

So is it a successful film? Yes. And No. It's worth seeing, if just for Streep and Tucci's performances, and the glorious scenes of Paris in the 50's. The food is good too. (A warning: we'd planned to have takeaway Chinese for dinner on the day after we saw the film. We ended up going home, digging out our copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and making Boeuf Bourginon. And it was gooooood...)

My Score: .68 WHMS

Monday, November 9, 2009

Today is the day...

When, if all goes well, I'll finish the final rewrite, of the final draft, of the final book of the Darklands Trilogy.

Of course, if all doesn't go well, then I'll probably just have to re-post this tomorrow...

Friday, November 6, 2009

For Those Who are interested in the breeding habits of Caterpillars

...Here's mine: Movember 5 days in.


Not pretty yet, I'll admit. Actually looking at it here, it just looks like I forgot to wash my face. It actually reminds me of (showing my age here) of this episode of the classic 80's sitcom Family Ties.

If you're interested in supporting my facial hair growing efforts for this very worthy cause, then my donations page is here.

Now, back to marking. Yay.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Capital! Capital!


Last week, former prime minister Paul Keating (who, apart from this particular little stuff up, has always been one of my favourite Aussie ex-PM's) decided to engage in a little bit of Canberra Bashing.

Getting stuck into the National Capital isn't exactly a new sport. Ever since Canberra was built as the nation's capital, it's become somewhat de rigeur in Australian conversation to express regular and loud dislike of the city. I suspect that part of the reason for this is that the four main industries in Canberra are Government, Public Service, Defence and Tertiary Education and all of these tend to be rather transient by nature - the fact that a big percentage of people who come to Canberra do so knowing that their time here will most likely be temporary makes them, I believe, maintain something of a distant relationship with the place: You're better off not to really like a place that you're just going to have to leave in a year or two, after all.

Now, I'll admit, I've been guilty of this myself. Hell, when we moved here, going on 3 years ago now, I wasn't a particularly happy little camper. I'd always thought Canberra to be a cold, sterile, dull and contrived little place, and wasn't about to change my opinion any time soon.

But here's the thing - Canberra won me over. Pretty damn quickly, too. To the point where I now get mighty pissed off when people can't resist the urge for a cheap shot or two at my adopted home town. Then I blog about it.

But let's not get all negative. Here are a few:

Things I like about Canberra.
(or, Paul Keating can kiss my arse on this one)

Right, to start off; Canberra isn't a big city. It's basically an overgrown country town, and I'm the first to admit that this won't be to everyone's taste. It suits me, though. There are places here where you can drive between cattle paddocks, while still in full view of Parliament House. I think that's cool. (I also think it's cool that the ACT govt actually employs cows to graze alongside the roads in some parts of the city, in order to keep the grass down for bushfire management purposes. Don't see that in Sydney now, do you Paul Keating?)

But - and here's the good thing - owing to the close proximity of a lot of Senior Public Servants and Pollies to Canberra, we also have pretty much all the facilites of a major city - good cinemas, nice restaurants and so on. We also have Sydney a mere two hours drive up the road, which for an ex-Western Australia boy is just like a trip to the mail box.

But that's all general stuff. Here are some specifics...

This is Black Mountain Tower:
When it was built, there was a fair bit of controversy about it. A lot of people didn't want a big, concrete spike on top of Black Mountain, but I love it. Just about wherever you are in the city you can see it. One of the things I love most about it is that whenever you're driving in to Canberra, from any direction, you can see it from about fifteen or twenty kilometres out - it's generally the first sign you get that you're nearly home. When we did our big drive over from Perth, after six days on the road, the sight of Black Mountain Tower there just a little down the highway was a really welcoming one.

Next: Parliament House:
(Actually, this picture shows both the old Parliament house in the foreground, and the new Parliament house in the Background.) Another former PM, Malcolm Fraser, used the same booklaunch as Paul Keating to suggest that the new Parliament House should never have been built. This makes me sad. If you get to Canberra, take the time to visit NPH - it's an iconic building, a masterpiece of architecture and design, and despite the fact that it's now over 20 years old, it doesn't look at all dated and, according to an interview I heard on Radio National recently (but can't find a link to) is still one of the most functional parliamentary buildings in the world. It's also layered with meaning, which appeals to me. The lawns that you can see running up either side were a deliberate aspect of the construction, designed so that the public would have free and open access to the 'roof' of the parliament at any time, day or night - this was to symbolise that in Australian democracy, the people would always be above the politicians. It's a lovely piece of symbolism that was ruined only when the Howard Administration, sick and tired of all the terrorists who were driving their explosive-laden 4WD's up on to the roof and blowing up the parliament, installed chain link fencing and concrete crash barriers to effectively block off the roof to anyone not prepared to go through a full security check. Thanks, John.

That aside, Parliament house is a seriously beautiful building.

Okay - now the bibliophile in me:


This gorgeous looking building is the National Library of Australia. Words cannot express how much I love this place. I wrote all of Into White Silence and Nathan Nuttboard Upstaged at a desk in the main reading room. It has the most incredible resources for any writer, reader, or just general book fanatic. It also looks out (as you can see from the photo) across Lake Burley Griffin, and has the most gorgeous view of Mount Ainslee and, (naturally) Black Mountain Tower.

Other fantastic National Monuments:

The National Gallery and new National Portrait Gallery are both great to walk around in. Seeing Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles hanging on its wall in the NGA is a must. The National War Memorial is a moving and at the same time fascinating museum of our involvement in international conflicts from the Crimean War onwards

Okay, now just a couple of more prosaic things I like about Canberra:

In Garema Place, in the middle of Civic (kinda like Canberra's CBD) you'll find this Historic Merry Go Round:
It was originally built in the early 1900's and for years operated on the St. Kilda Forshore in Melbourne until it was put up for sale in the mid-late 1970's. The people of Canberra all put in and purchased it, restored it to full working order and installed it in Garema Place, where it's been ever since. When, as a 12 year old, I visited Canberra with my family, one of my enduring memories of the entire trip was a ride on this merry go round which was The Best Merry-Go-Round-Ride Ever! (It was the middle of winter, about 3 degrees, and the operator didn't want to come out of his little office and turn the ride off, so we got about a fifteen minute ride). I love that the ride is still here, and a couple of months ago, we gave Toby his first ever merry go round ride on it:


Other things - out at the showgrounds there's a weekly Farmer's Market that has to be seen to be believed. Everything from fresh, locally grown truffles, to all the usual fruit and Veg is there, all grown in the immediate region, all bought direct from the growers and producers, all very, very yummy. One of the lovely things about living here is the proximity to lots of fresh, top notch produce.

There's the fact that the Snowfields are only an hour and a half drive south. Probably the only capital city in Australia where it's feasible to go skiing for a day.

The coast to the east is similarly easy to get to, and just as gorgeous. Bateman's Bay, Tathra, Eden - all stunning and easy to pop down for a weekend, or a summer camping trip.

I could go on... but I won't. This blog entry has already taken up too much of my day as it is. I guess the point I'd make is that Canberra is a place it's easy to mock, especially from a distance, but it's also a place where people live, work, play and have made their lives, and as such has a lot going in its favour, too. I'm probably being defensive here, but it'd be nice if that was remembered, some times....


Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's Movember!



Happy November, everyone! Personally, I'm just glad to have October behind me.

It's going to be a big month this one, for a few reasons:
  • Toby turns 1! (More on that, no doubt, in weeks to come)
  • My parents are visiting from Perth in a couple of weeks
  • I'm going up to Sydney a couple of times.
  • I've still got an insane marking load to get through
So, on top of all that, I've decided to do something else fun. I'm doing Movember!

(I'd toyed, very briefly with the idea of doing NaNoWriMo, like a lot of other people I respect in the blogosphere, but decided that growing facial hair was probably, on balance, less work and something I was much more likely to actually get finished.)

Why Movember? Aside from the fact that facial hair annoys mum (or at least, it used to. After my blue-hair thing earlier this year, I think she's adopted more of a resigned perhaps-he'll-grow-up-one-day approach to these things), my main reason is that it's for a really good cause. Money raised from Movember goes towards Prostate Cancer research. My Grandfather on Dad's side suffered from this disease in his later years, and there's a strong hereditary link, so it's something I'm going to have to watch out for. Aside from the fact that when Granddad was alive there wasn't nearly the awareness of prostate cancer that we have nowadays, I've also got something of a vested interest.

So, this morning after my shower, in accordance with the rules, I shaved my face clean and away we go. The first week or so will pretty much just involve growing foundation hair, but then I'll have to make some tough decisions: what style am I going for with this?

My first option was to go the Nick Cave:

Sadly, Imogen used her first veto on this one. (I didn't realise she even had veto's, but apparently this is the case.)

Instead, I suggested the Boonie:

Which drew out Min's second Veto. She then counter-offered with this:


I pointed out that I only have a month in which to grow this thing and, even at my hairiest that was probably a little ambitious. Then, things just got silly:


Finally, after several minutes of tense negotiation, we decided that I'd have a bash at something 'classic'. The chances of me actually growing one of these in all (or even a small portion) of it's glory are pretty remote, but what the hell. By the first of december, if all goes well, I should look something roughly like this:


I'll keep you all posted on my progress. In the meantime, if anyone would like to support me in this very silly, but also very worthy endeavour, feel free to pitch in at my Movember donations page.

Now, I'm off to moisturise my upper lip...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Falling in idea-love

I'm in the lucky position at the moment of being on the cusp of wrapping up my next book: I got the final MSS of Daywards back from the copy-editor the other day, and apart from a few tweaks to fill in some small gaps - probably less than half a day's work - it's pretty much done and dusted. This is one of my favourite times in the whole writing process, not because it's near the end of a job well done, but rather because the job in question finally gets the hell out of my head, making space for me to even contemplate new projects.

And oh, the projects I've got in mind!

I don't know how it is for other writers, but with me, by the time I finish a book like Daywards, which is the better part of 100,000 words long, 350+ pages of TNR 12 point font, and has taken most of the last 2 years to get done, I'm usually not in a particularly positive headspace about the whole writing thing. Cynical, I guess you'd call it. "This is the last one." I usually tell myself at least a couple of times.

But then, at about this point, the magic happens - with the book about to be put to bed, new projects and ideas start presenting themselves: the horizons which, just a month or two ago seemed impossibly clouded with obligations to the current book are suddenly clear for miles. And then an idea - possibly two - make that little writer chip in my brain go 'click' and I start to get excited!  I mean, really, utterly excited! Not just about the idea, but about what I can *do* with it. Excited about the actual writing of it.

And this is one of my favourite parts of the whole process. Just contemplating the possibilities.  The endless ocean of possible stories out there for me to dig into.

At the moment, three ideas are vying for supremacy. They're all very, very different from one another, and I'm equally excited about all three. I won't go into too much detail, but suffice to say that one is a really fun sort of action thriller for younger readers, the second a kinda cool YA idea, and the final one would probably be adult or crossover fiction. At this point, I've got journals for all three, and I'm sketching down ideas every chance I get. I'll probably write the action one over christmas, because it's the most fully realised of the three already.

Right after I finish all my marking.

In December.

Which is a pain, but at least it means I've got something to look forward to.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gainful Employment...

I got the job!

Woot.

A proper, grown up, full time job, nonetheless...

This makes me an assistant professor of creative writing. Which sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is. Actually, it's pretty much the same thing I've been doing this year, which is good, because I love my job.

And, thanks to Lili Wilkinson (who suggested tweed), Margo Lanagan (Who threw a goatee into the mix), Leonie Tyle (wire rim glasses) and bad photoshopping (on my part...) , here's what I expect to look like in a couple of years time...

Who said style was dead?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Introducing: Romcom Reviews...

From time to time, I thought I might stick up a review of a film, here. Not too often, though because:

a) This isn't a film review blog and
b) Since Toby came along we get to watch on
average one film per year. And even then we generally fall asleep for the last half of it.

But it occurred to me this morning that I haven't really read enough reviews, by guys, of romantic comedies. Possibly because this is a particularly dicky film genre, or because romcoms are generally horribly contrived and commercial, or possibly just because nobody cares. But I care. A few disclaimers, though:
  • Even though I care, I don't care all that much, so don't go expecting insightful research or anything.
  • It's possible that I'll be reviewing a film I slept through most of. This won't stop me reviewing it, though, which gives you some sort of idea of the ethical stance I'm taking with regard to this whole exercise.
  • In my opinion, the best romcom ever made was When Harry Met Sally which I first saw in 1990, when I was in first year uni, during a particularly awkward evening in which I thought I was on my first ever date, but my date didn't. That's beside the point, however. The point is that WHMS is the benchmark against which all other romcoms I review will be assesed - on the basis that WHMS is romcom perfection, and therefore would score a 1.0 on the WHMS scale. Other films will be unlikely to surpass this. A really good romcom, for example, might score 0.8 WHMS.
With me? Okay, let's begin...


To kick things off, here are my thoughts on an odd little thing we watched last night called:


Okay, basics first - I don't remember this film coming out at the cinemas, but it's a 2009 film, so it could well have slipped under my radar (see point (b), above). Either that or it's gone straight to DVD. You can tell its a romcom, because it has Matthew McConaughy (henceforth to be known in these reviews as ROMCOM GUY) in it, which by default sticks it straight into the romantic comedy genre, and at the same time loses it 0.2 WHMS's. It also has Jennifer Garner, and the girl who was the little kid on Party of Five, which I never watched and so don't know her name.

The plot is simple. ROMCOM GUY plays a prick, who is a famous fashion photographer who idolises his dead uncle (a Hugh Hefner-esque creation played by Michael Douglas, who looks increasingly like his father except without the charm...) and as a result treats women like objects. (Boo...hiss...) It's finely nuanced and subtle characterisation, the same as you'd expect to find in a Rob Schneider film (I'm fishing for a nasty letter to Variety with that one...) ROMCOM GUY's character is opposed to the whole concept of marriage.

Vehemently so. And so he destroys his little brother's wedding. In my opinion, this wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as the little brother in question was getting married to the neurotic, insipid and frankly annoying character played by Pary-of-five girl. (Though later in the movie, ROMCOM GUY does punch her father unconscious, and thereby saves the wedding, so that's okay...)

During the course of the wedding weekend, (Here's where it gets a little odd...) ROMCOM GUY is haunted by (In a bizarre Dickensian twist) His uncle and the ghosts of his past, present and future girlfriends. This involves a long and convoluted subplot involving Jennifer Garner, and which I really can't be arsed repeating, but suffice to say that at the end of the film, ROMCOM GUY has seen the error of his ways, saved the wedding through violence and the wanton destruction of his dead uncle's car, and hooked up with Jennifer Garner.

So it's sort of Mills and Boon meets A Christmas Carol meets Ghost

Here's the weird thing, though - even though the various elements of this film have train-wreck written all over them, when all is said and done I actually kinda liked it. It kept me awake until the end, for one thing. It drew a couple of laughs, for another. It was also (I'm fairly certain) shot for the most part in the same mansion that they used for the awesome Cruel Intentions. Basically this is good brain in neutral on a saturday night material.

MY RATING: 0.65 WHMS

Friday, October 23, 2009

Oh, what a beautiful morning...


So, I'm awake. Imogen is still asleep, but - more to the point - Toby is still in bed, fast asleep and it's 7.45 in the morning! This is unheard of; generally he starts crying at around 6.00. In fact, I got up because when I woke up at 7.30, I looked at the clock and my first thought was 'Oh crap, something must have happened to the baby!'

But no. He's just asleep. And as a result (shock, horror) I feel almost well rested.

Of course, while I've been writing this, he's just fired up,

Probably becuse some stupid idiot went into his room with a camera and flashgun...


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Excuses, Excuses...

Okay, I know I've been even more lax than normal this week. In my defence, by November 24 I need to have read, processed, marked and provided detailed feedback for:

1 x 100,000 word Doctoral Thesis
3 x 30,000 word honours thesis
66 x 3-5000 word creative writing portfolios
66 x 1500 (ish) word reflective discussion posts.

Plus, any day now, the final revisions for Daywards are going to land in my letterbox, and these need to be back no later than two weeks from now in order to actually get the book out on time.

So yes, I'm a bad blogger.

For what it's worth, here's what's been on my mind lately:
  • Picturebooks. I like these. I have a MSS for one tucked away on my hard drive where it's been sitting for the last six years. I really should do something with it. It's called Brightwing. It's about a bird.

  • Parenting. I'll be honest and admit that the entire Jessica Watson sailing around the world thing has been bothering me a little. Not that I don't believe she's capable of doing it, or that 16 year olds aren't capable of turning their hand to pretty much anything - hell, just look at what Steph Bowe's achieving at the moment - she's just doing awsomely. And I know a lot of other teens who are just as brave, adventurous, talented and skilled, that's not an issue for me, either. I'm just not sold on the whole concept of parents sending their little girl out into what (and I know this from personal experience) is a shit-scarey and very dangerous ocean, for the most part completely out of reach of assistance (Both physical and emotional). It doesn't sit well with me for a number of reasons, which I won't go in to. I hope she acheives everything she set out to, though - don't get me wrong about that - and that she comes home safely.

  • UFO's. This is another shameless plug for Imogen's Blog

  • Christmas. We've booked a house for the week of Christmas at my current favourite-place-on-the-entire-planet: Tathra and I am just *hanging out* to get down there, surf for a couple of hours every day, read all the books that I'm not getting read at the moment, and (hopefully) start writing my next project, about which I'm rather excited, but won't say any more about at the moment.
All right. That's that. Now I have to go and teach my final class for the year, and then I'm going home.

Have a nice day everyone.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Cover Story

In keeping with my weekly posting routine, this is my first post in a little under a week. But you know that already, don't you? Truth is, at the moment (and just for something completely different) I'm horribly behind in just about every aspect of my life. This wasn't helped by last week which included:

a) The aforementioned job interview (no word on that, yet. Fingers still crossed, and cramping slightly...)

b) Me delivering my first ever academic 'Work-in-progress' paper to the rest of the faculty (or at least those who turned up). This was almost as nerve wracking as the interview, though I managed to avoid any Monty Python moments. I talked about the stuff I've been doing with current directions in YA fiction. I've blogged a lot of this already, so won't repeat myself here.

c) An all day symposium on friday on the topic of creative practice led research. I'm thinking of putting together a paper on this, too, so I won't bore you with the details quite yet. It was an awesome day, though.

In the middle of all that, I received something I probably should have posted here. It's sort of proof that I actually *have* done the final Darklands book. (Which, by the way, I finished editing and sent back to UQP about a week ago - only eight days late, which is something of a record for this particular work...)

It's this:Yep. That's right. An actual cover! And a damn awesome one, too (even if I do say so myself) Greg Bridges, the artist involved, has done his usual stellar job of this. I was absolutely blown away by his work on the first two books in the trilogy, but this one just takes the cake. I cannot wait to see it wrapped around a book. And John and Stella Danalis have done (as always) a brilliant job of the design. It looks fantastic alongside the other two covers, too.

So on that cheerful note, I'm going home.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Possibly the best, most irritating song ever...

Our American friends introduced us to this. It's a children's book by writer and illustrator Sandra Boynton. It's also a song - as are a lot of her books. Actually it's a pretty neat exercise in cross-marketing; the books are gorgeous, the songs quirky and sung by a vast array of interesting people, but that's all beside the point.

This song, however Personal Penguin has seriously got into my head. Toby loves it - he dances - so it's on high rotation in our house at the moment. It's fun, cute, and sung by Davey Jones (of the Monkees fame). Also, for what it's worth, it's something of a tribute to that perennial piano duet Blue Moon.

It's also possibly the most effective earworm I've ever come across. It's been going around in my head for days. (Displacing Elton John's Benny and the Jets, the previous resident...)

So be careful when (if!) you decide to hit play. I'll leave the decision up to you...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

This morning I sat for my first job interview since 1994. (Which, co-incidentally, is why I haven't managed to get much up in the blogging department during the last week or so...)

I have no idea how it went.

But I can share some advice on how not to kick off an interview:

***

Interviewer A: So, Tony, thanks for coming in. Can you start by telling us why you're interested in this position?

Me: Three reasons - firstly, because I feel I'm uniquely qualified for... actually four reasons, come to think of it. Firstly because... Oh God, this just turned into the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition thing, didn't it? I'm sorry...

(Then ramble for the next two to three minutes, covering god knows how many peripheral and only vaguely related issues before wrapping up with:)

Interviewer A: So, did you cover all four reasons? I can't remember.

Me: Me either.

***
Okay, so I was nervous. I wish I could say this didn't happen, or that I was exaggerating. On the bright side, the interview only improved from there...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nerves and Pimping

2 Things currently making me *very* nervous:

1. Job Interview. You might remember a while back I was in the process of responding to selection criteria. Well, with a bit of help from my friends, I obviously got them right, because next wednesday morning I have a job interview. For a real job. Here at the University. Full time. For at least seven years.

I'll be honest; I'm crapping myself.

The last time I sat a job interview was in 1994. That consisted of a ten minute chat with the principal of the school I'd applied to, a firm handshake, and a tour of the college. This one'll consist of a 'panel' of persons unknown. God knows what they'll ask me. Hopefully they'll ask about my current research, because that bring us to...

2. The research 'Work In Progress' paper I have to deliver to the faculty here next Thursday Afternoon. That's right. The day after my interview. It's on the research I've been doing into Y.A fiction, specifically the reconception of adolescence in the Australian YA marketplace. I've got the research all done, no worries, but have to pull it into some sort of coherent form, and then present it for an hour or so. I've never done this sort of thing before and, frankly, I'm terrified. So I keep putting it off. (Don't ask - that's just how I work, for some reason.)

Pimping: If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me mention my Wife's brand new blog I'm very jealous of this idea, as it's something nobody else seems to have done, and I think she's going to have a *lot* of fun with it. She's into magazines, is Imogen, but has decided to diversify her reading somewhat for the next 12 months or so. It's off to a really fun start, I think, and she's got some great ideas in mind.

Why am I blogging? I should be writing my paper, or reviewing the University's operations policies. AAAAAARGH

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

So.... Did you miss me?

I'm back! Two weeks in the good old U.S of A, and now here I am, back in my little office at Uni, having just spent the last four hours working through a frankly frightening backlog of marking, and with the half-edited draft of Daywards sitting on the corner of my desk, glaring threateningly at me.

So it occurs to me that I *really* should post something about the trip, but the further I get from it, the harder it becomes, so here's a sort of edited highlights package. Kind of like the 'year-in-review' package that you get at the end of the evening news every new years eve...

Highlight One: Meeting my nieces. Okay, one of them - Meri - I did actually met about 18 months ago when she was 9 months old, but the other - Katie - she's a relatively new addition to the family. And, oh boy, is she gonna keep her parents busy during the next few years... They're both gorgeous.

Highlight Two: Seeing my sister and brother-in-law. They're witty. They banter.Not much good at board games, though... ;) Catching up with Sue and Rob was lovely, as we don't get to see them nearly as often as we'd like . Toby had a ball playing with his cousins and, as an added bonus, we got to visit Houstin, Texas, which leads me to...

Highlight Three: Watching a 9-year-old girl get measured up for her first gun in a shop at the local outlet mall. I am not making this up.

Highlight Four: Meeting a bunch of nice folks who, until recently, were just names on a computer monitor. For some years now, we've been online friends with a whole range of people we initially met through the web forum of a particular author we all enjoy reading. When we announced that we were going to visit with them during our trip, and even stay with a couple of them in their home, people were skeptical. Hell, if I'm being honest, we were a little uncertain about it ourselves. But in reality, it turned out to be a lot like meeting penfriends. Without exception, everyone we met in the states turned out to be just like we'd expected them to be: warm, welcoming, and perfectly normal. We got to see Minneapolis, eat Bloomin' Onions at the Outback steak house (don't ask...), eat home fried chicken on the most gorgeous back lawn you've ever seen, and eat awesome Kosher food at an L.A. Deli. (Eating turned out to be something of a theme in our trip. For some reason, this tends to happen with us...) Along the way we cemented some firm friendships, and made a few new ones.

Highlight Five: Experiencing the best that American domestic air travel has to offer. (ie: Delayed and missed flights, a 16-hour re-routing, lost bags, unhelpful / incompetant ground staff.) On the bright side, we did get a completely unanticipated trip to Vegas (for about 15 minutes, but that's okay - they have pokies beside the departure gates in the airport...) and fly over the Grand Canyon. We also got to go shopping for clothes at Target in LA, and send the bill to the airline.

Highlight Six:
Coming home on the new Qantas A380 Airbus. Okay - I'll admit it, I'm the aeroplane equivalent of a trainspotter. But, damn it, this is a *very cool aircraft*. Big, too.

Highlight Seven: Clearing customs and Immigration at Sydney Airport. This wouldn't be a highlight except for the fact that it took two frigging hours! Welcome to Australia, folks - now please excuse us while you stand by a baggage carousel for 45 minutes, and in the process miss all your connecting flights...

Of course, there's a lot more I could write about: Seeing Sarah Jessica Parker in the lobby of our LA hotel (Small, kinda thin. Looked like a well-groomed stick insect) Visiting the Alamo in San Antonio, Driving our rented car (which was roughly the same size as our kitchen back home) on the Houstin Freeways. Eating Brazillian BBQ in Texas, finally discovering how to make a Starbucks coffee palatable (smallest size, triple shot, double sugar), slapping baseballs around in the batting cage, the lovely people we met at a Houstin Astros game... and so on.

Unfortunately, though, my marking pile isn't getting any smaller, and my book isn't editing itself.

see y'all later...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't *Ever* Fly Northwest or Delta.

Just Don't. That's all for now. Details later, when I'm less in the mood to strangle someone.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2 Major Disappointments...

1. I was really, and I mean really looking forward to flying on the new Airbus A380 - we booked our flight especially after checking to make sure it would be the A380. And then we got to the gate in Sydney, and it wasn't. It was a fairly clapped out old 747.

But, even more disappointing:

2. Standing in the immigration queue at LAX, surrounded by homeland security officers with guns and grim expressions, I look up and see Kyle Sandilands standing at the head of the queue. Just my luck that the only time in my life I'm likely to be in a position to chuck something hard at Kyle Sandilands occurs when I'm in possibly the only place on the planet where it would get me arrested on grounds of national security. Sigh.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Holidays! (and meeting strangers you already know)

So tomorrow morning at 0900, Imogen, Toby and I get on a plane to L.A. (well, technically we get on a plane to Sydney, which will then connect with the plane to L.A, but you get the general idea...) We're off to visit my sister and her husband and two little girls (one of whom we've never met, and the other of whom is my goddaughter) in Houstin, Texas. This should be awesome.

We're flying on the new Qantas A380, which probably doesn't mean much to a lot of people, but which - to an aviation geek like me - is worth the price of the trip just on its own.

We're also doing something else which (I think) is rather cool - we're also going to see a bunch of people who we've never actually met in person before, though we've been in touch with them for years. (since, I believe early 2003, when we all met through the website of a particular author we all like...)

Yep. We're meeting our internet friends.

In person.

For the first time.

Some of them are doing fried chicken, which is never going to be a bad thing, in my opinion.

This should be equally awesome. (Meeting our friends, not just the fried chicken...)

So if my blogging isn't quite as frequent during the next week or two, then I beg your forgiveness. Don't give up on me, though - I promise to post when I can. With pictures.

In the meantime, I should probably start packing, and get some sleep in preparation for the impending 14 hour intercontinental flight with a nine-month-old, teething toddler.

Have a good few days, everyone.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Move over Gorgon Gas... here's a bigger Chinese trade deal

The Girl In The Cave has just been released in Chinese! I discovered this when two copies of the Chinese edition arrived in the mail today. This actually proved to be the perfect end to a very surreal day, which included (among other things) me keeping a sick parrot in a box in my office for several hours. But that's beside the point.

The funny thing is, TGITC is the only book of mine not to have done all that well here in Australia (It's still on its first print run, six years after it was originally published), and yet it's also the only one of my eleven books to do at all well (ie: anything) overseas - first in France, and now China. C'est tres strange. So I'm really pleased about this. I've got a soft spot for this book - it's very Roald Dahl-y (my favourite author as a child, and probably of all time) and is based rather loosely upon the stories my father used to tell me when I was a little kid, so it's sort of a sentimental favourite, and I've always been a little disappointed that it didn't pick up much attention here at home. 

I've also always wondered what my name would look like in Chinese. I still don't know, because I've got absolutely no way of reading the cover, but I'm assuming it's the tiny letters in the top right hand corner.

Either way - thanks, China!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spring has sprung, the grass is Riz...


There's a scene in Douglas Adam's The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul where his character, Dirk Gently, is too scared to open his fridge, as it's been six months since he last did so, and he's afraid of what might have grown inside. In the end, he just dumps the fridge and buys a new one.

Unfortunately for me, you can't just dump a backyard, and so today, metaphorically speaking, I opened the fridge...

And, trust me - not fun!

I'll explain.

Since Toby came along, it's funny, but a few of the things I used to get done regularly have sort of... slipped. Take mowing the backyard, for example. Generally I used to get this done about once a month. Not a difficult job, takes about half an hour.

But the arrival of son#1 has meant that I've been finding much more enjoyable things to do with my weekends and spare time. Playing, for example. In short, our backyard hasn't been mowed in nine months.

And boy, has it flourished. Day of the Triffids style. Apart from a couple of well worn game trails where the dog runs up and down and gives anyone on the walking path over the fence a hard time, we'd reached the point where you wouldn't want to venture into the middle of the yard without a map, compass, tent, food and an up-to-date last will and testament. Our yard had become the sort of place you'd expect to bump into the Victorian minister for water. Things came to a head last night when I discovered a guy calling himself Mr. Walker* living with a tribe of pygmies in a skull-shaped cave underneath the ornamental plum tree.

Add to this the fact that this is our dog's territory. And, like all dogs, Chelsea creates... byproducts. As a general rule, these get picked up and disposed of every couple of days, but with all that verdant forest to hide in, it was pretty obvious that, at some point during the course of the next mowing, the shit was, quite literally, going to hit the fan. So, like all such problems, I ignored it.

Note to self: Bad idea.

Anyway, push came to shove, and with our impending overseas trip looming, and a housesitter expected, it was decided that this afternoon one man and his dog would indeed go to mow a meadow.

Step 1: Start Lawnmower. This took fifteen minutes, half a can of WD40, a new spark plug, three of the knuckles on my right hand and one smashed pot plant. About normal, really.

Step 2: High level mowing. This took about an hour. Took the top layer off, using the lawnmower on its highest setting, in order to reveal the hidden delights below. Discovered: Large amounts of dog byproducts. Five dog toys. A bourbon bottle (most likely thrown over back fence, probably at dog.) Three mouldering bones. Four feet of rope and (oddly) a dirt-crusted squeaky toy I had never seen before in my life.

"This is exciting! I thought. Kinda like archelology, except without all the Nazis"

Step 3: Remove Dog byproduct. The less said about this, the better.

Step 4: Low level mowing. Blades close to the ground. Whirling around, really fast. You'd think that after 20 minutes and 3 shopping bags I'd have managed to remove all the dog byproduct, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong.

Step 5: Shut down mower. Start whipper snipper. (See step 1, above, except with more swearing.)

Step 6: Trim edges, fenceline, tree bases, toes, dog.

Step 7: Remove dog from yard.

Step 8: Restart whipper snipper. (See steps 1 and 5, above)

Step 9: Finish yard.

So that was my afternoon. Fun in the yard. On the bright side, I learnt a valuable lesson about yard maintainance, and we managed to get rid of those damn pygmies...

(*for the ghost who walks)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Melbourne Writers Festival, Day 3:

I'm sitting in the greenroom at the MWF. Outside the rain is falling so heavily that it's difficult to make out the other side of Flinders Street. The State Emergency Service was on the news just before I walked down here, pleading for commuters to leave work early and get out before the front came through. They're forecasting 120kph+ winds to hit the city at around about 6.00pm. Plus hail. Plus possible snow down to 500 meters

There's a mass exodus happening out there at the moment.

I have a panel session at the festival at 6.30.

In a venue that seats about 500.

Should be interesting.

Other than the fact that we seem to be warming up for the end of days out there at the moment, Today's been really good, if more than just a little hectic. Started with a radio interview at 0900 this morning, and haven't stopped since. (The interview was fun, even though my inner-arts lecturer reared his ugly head, and I accidently described my book as 'postmodern', which is never a good idea on local a.m. radio...)

1100 saw me and Scott Westerfeld talking about the way we plan and use setting in our writing. This seems to be something of a hot topic at the moment, as I seem to find myself discussing it all over the place. He had cool illustrations from his next book (Called Leviathan, out October) and photos of the Alps. I had photos of my trip to Antarctica. Lots of ice, all round...

After that, it was a dash down Flinders Street, via a greasy HJ's burger (that's Burger King for our American friends) to talk at a teaching conference about good books to use in the classroom. This turned out to be something of a nerve-wracking experience, as I'd planned to talk (among other things) about how I use the works of Morris Gleitzman to teach tertiary level creative writing. Nobody bothered to tell me that Morris would be SITTING IN THE FRONT ROW! He didn't throw things, or look pissed off, though, so I think I got away with it.

Then another run up to the State Library, to meet the lovely Erin, who'll be chairing my festival session tomorrow, then back to the hotel for a brief bit of down time, and now here again. Phew.

After this panel, (which is, oddly enough, on the use of setting for VATE exam students) I'm off to dinner with a whole bunch of other Aussie YA authors, including the excellent Kirsty Murray, and my friend Julia Lawrinson (who I think is one of Australia's most under-rated writers..)

After that, assuming I don't get all Mary-Poppinsed away during the walk back to the hotel, then I'm going to bed.

And this time tomorrow, I'll be home again. Woot.

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