Last year I was fortunate enough to be awarded a PIP residential fellowship at Varuna House, to give me time to do the final edit on the young adult novel I’ve been working on. I’ve been meaning to post about it for ages, but work, study, family and life in general have all been clogging up my time, as usual, which was why I was so grateful to get the fellowship in the first place.
Varuna house is dedicated to writers, and it’s completely geared towards giving the five writers in residence an opportunity to concentrate completely on writing. No family commitments. No distractions. No schedule apart from showing up for the lovely dinner that has been cooked for you each evening. And four other writers to chat to in the evenings over a glass of wine. What more could you want?
I was lucky enough to be allotted Eleanor Dark’s garden studio to write in, although it was a bit daunting to sit down each morning at her actual desk. Writing young adult science fiction seemed a very long way from ‘The Timeless Land’. But, inferiority complexes aside, I had an amazing and very productive week, and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the Eleanor Dark Foundation and the lovely staff at Varuna House for making it all possible.
The first book in this series won the Aurealis Award for best science fiction novel. Marriane’s a great writer and Angry Robot has an excellent track record for publishing new and exciting science fiction. The company has recently changed hands, so hopefully their philosophy isn’t going to change.
And now for some shameless promotion…
Check out the cover of MYTHMAKER, book 2 of Marianne de Pierres’ Aurealis Award winning PEACEMAKER series. Joey HiFi has created artwork that brilliantly foreshadows the story:
Virgin’s in a tight spot. A murder rap hangs over her head and isn’t likely to go away unless she agrees to work for an organisation called GJIC with Nate Sixkiller as her immediate boss. Being blackmailed is one thing, discovering that her mother is both alive and the President of GJIC is quite another. Then there’s the escalation of Mythos sightings, and the bounty on her head. Oddly, the strange and dangerous Hamish Burns is the only one she can rely on. Virgin’s life gets… untidy.
I have to say, spring is my favourite time of the year. Everything is growing like mad and all the foliage is bright and fresh and new. You can sit out on the deck in the evenings without needing to wear three layers and the mosquitos and european wasps have yet to put in more than cameo appearances.
Having said that, here are my…
TOP 3 HORRIBLE JOBS FOR SPRING
Picking the shield beetles off the citrus– There’s no decent organically friendly way of killing these little buggers, at least not that I know of. They fly and they squirt stinky stuff into your face if they get the opportunity. I’ve taken to putting on a glove, grabbing them and drowning them in a bucket of water. I heard a story once about someone who sucked them up with a vacuum cleaner, needless to say, his partner wasn’t very amused.
Picking the cabbage-white caterpillars off the broccoli and kale-
we have lots of broccoli and kale at the moment, which is a good thing, because half of it is being consumed by caterpillars. I’ve tried organic control methods for these little bastards without a lot of success, but I’m going to give the sprays another go, because very few things are more revolting than picking them off one by one and stomping on them. Last year I didn’t know they were there until I found them, nicely cooked, at the bottom of my vegetable steamer. Yum.
Hunting molluscs with a torch in the rain– okay, maybe I’m getting a bit obsessional, but I confess to having been out there with a set of tongs and a heavy pair of boots on various wet evenings. For the record, ringing your baby plants with eggshells or coffee grounds doesn’t work. I tried the whole beer trap thing only to go down one night and find I was running a free bar for enormous slugs, who were all busy slurping away at the beer while very obviously not falling into the trap. Now they just get grabbed and mashed and I save the beer for more worthy purposes.
I should really have put this up a month ago, but I’ve been slack.
‘One Small Step, An Anthology of Discoveries,’ edited by Tehani Wessely (Fablecroft Publishing) was the joint winner of the 2013 Aurealis Award for best anthology. Congratulations Tehani for putting together such a great book. I’m really thrilled to have a story in there.
This is a sulphur crested cockatoo. It’s awfully pleased with itself right now because its EATING OUR CHESTNUTS. That wouldn’t be such a problem apart from two things. Firstly, we only tend to get chestnuts at the top of the tree. We don’t have a nearby cross pollinator and that’s the only place that gets any that the wind brings in, so there aren’t that many chestnuts to go around. Secondly, it’s never just one cockatoo. They travel around in packs of twenty or more, eating pretty much anything in their path. They’ll pick the seeds out of every lemon on the lemon tree, eat your wooden balcony railing and even gnaw on your actual house if they decide they’ve got a taste for it. Oh, and if you ever make the mistake of trying to handle one, they’ll have a pretty good go at biting one of your fingers off.
We have a collection of tennis balls on the back deck that regularly get lobbed at the little buggers as they shred various bits of our garden. Our cat is waiting enthusiastically for us to hit one. Given my aim, he’s going to be waiting a while.
Well, this is the book for you. Thanks to the lovely mainstream cover and title, everyone on the bus or train will think you’re reading something noble and literary. Your credibility will remain intact and you’ll get to dabble your toes in the wonderful world of speculative fiction. It’s a win/win situation, so go on, give it a try. You know you want to.
Or you could just use an ebook reader and bypass the whole issue. You’ve been doing it for years with paranormal romance, haven’t you?
Now that I’ve got that out of my system…
When a review copy of M.R. Carey’s ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ showed up in the mail (my husband’s the reviewer in the family), I couldn’t resist. I have a bit of a soft spot for zombie apocalypse novels, even though the science that makes the premise possible is almost always highly dodgy. Lets face it, any disease process that transforms a normal person into an almost unkillable, mindless (yet responsive) predator in a matter of minutes is always going to stretch the limits of physiological credibility. But hey, that’s what suspension of disbelief is for, isn’t it? Carey’s got a set of strong, believably flawed characters, the pace doesn’t let up for a moment and, lets face it, we all love reading about the end of the world. So what are you waiting for? This is a good book. Go out and read it.
I couldn’t resist posting a picture of these little guys, who came into work on friday, umbilical cords still attached. Unfortunately their mum was killed, but they’ve now gone to a WIRES carer and will hopefully go on to live long, happy lives.
Blue tongue lizards are the largest members of the skink family. One of their favourite foods are snails, so they’re generally very welcome in Australian backyards.
This is a yellow tailed black cockatoo. Cute isn’t it? Hmm.
We have several enormous pine trees at the bottom of our garden. They’re at least four storeys high. At the moment they’re covered in immature pine cones which look like this.
Black cockatoos love pine cones. Unfortunately they don’t always hang onto them very well as they busily tear them to shreds. So every now and then a large, hard object bigger than my fist comes hurtling down from the top of the trees. I’ve started walking about with the compost bin lid held over my head. The compost bin lid is covered in enormous slugs. Needless to say, I’m not amused.
This is a king parrot, snapped by me doing one of the things the little bastards love to do best; eating our apples. And they don’t even do it politely. They take a few bites, decide they can’t be bothered any longer, lob the apple onto the ground and move on to the next one. It drives me crazy, so crazy that this year I’ve resorted to this.
It’s amazing what you can do with steel rods, electrical conduit, netting and garden ties. I’m not looking forward to getting it off again though.