Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spooky tales....and pink hair

Happy Birthday Geneva - my little Halloweenie :) Looking forward to giving out treats to the best dressed who knock on our spooky door this evening.

The Half Life of Ryan Davis is now out in print and can be bought here. I still have a copy to give away.

I have been at the Armageddon Expo over the weekend at the Pear Jam Book Stall.  The Expo hosts a wide variety of fans who love all manner of things from Fantasy, Sci Fi, and Military, to Anime, and Manga, Steam Punk and tech. There were a wonderful array of costumes including Where's Wally, Star Wars Characters, Star Trek characters, Manga characters, Super heroes and lesser known Heroes, Ghouls, Zombies and Space Tarts.  On Saturday I got a little carried away and/or inspired and dressed up as you can see above. T'was very pleasing to hold my latest baby in my hands and feel its shiny cover. Hope those who went away with a copy enjoy the story.

Monday, October 24, 2011

hey it's another competition!! Win a print copy of The Half Life of Ryan Davis or The House That Went to Sea

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, by now you will be aware that the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup on Sunday night. YAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!! And if you are hiding under a rock you probably aren't reading this so I will assume I am talking to the informed. It was torture to watch the final. Finally France played like finalists - much respect to them. However you cannot dismiss the All Blacks response. They played defense as if their lives depended on it. Despite injuries, quality All Blacks kept rocking up to take their compatriots places. If I found qualities in Piri Weepu that I would like to emulate, after Sunday I think the whole New Zealand team showed the kind of determination and commitment that get results. It was not their best game but they had played a tournament's worth of cup winning rugby. Mentally we all played that final, our hearts pounding in our chests.

I read this post with great interest. It's interesting to compare it to this. Why do we do what we do? I must confess sometimes the desire to be published can be overwhelming. Perhaps not to the extent that it was for Ms Whipple. But I respect her advice. Step back. Write the stories you want to write. Take your time. Ok, maybe I can't do the last thing on that list. I don't think my impatience will ever be cured. Everything is still too slow. I don't want to take my time. I will always want things to happen now. But as months and years have passed, things I never thought would happen have happened. I guess the treatment for impatience is never giving up on anything because the things that are only now coming to fruition make up for those things I'm working on now that just aren't happening fast enough.

I am giving away a print copy of The Half Life of Ryan Davis and one of The House That Went to Sea, and I will post them anywhere in the world. All correct answers to the following question will be eligible for the draw. Please advise which book you would prefer.

Question - why is Halloween extra special in our household?
(update - I will accept incorrect answers to this question if they are very creative and make me laugh)

And for those people who would like to see how our eldest is doing here is a photo taken last week

Friday, October 21, 2011

A lot we can learn from Weepu...

Watched an interview with All Black Piri Weepu on TV last night. There is a lot an author can learn from Piri. He had some dreadful blows to his rugby career; being dropped by Coach Graham Henry before the 2007 World Cup and then breaking his leg in horrible fashion during a game last year. Both could have been career ending if he'd let them. They weren't the only things interfering with his position in the All Blacks but Weepu hung in there. He learnt from his mistakes. He wanted to come back. He got match fit. He demonstrated he deserved inclusion in the team. And look at him now! He's a bit of a star. And he's handling it well. Life is what happens while we're making other plans, so John Lennon sang. We have to deal with what life hands us and make the most of it. Weepu obviously had the raw talent that made him a contender for the best rugby team in the world. But he purposefully did what he needed to do as well and kept faith in himself. Go the All Blacks - good luck for the game tomorrow night.

My head and heart dropped a little when I read this in the NZSA's newsletter yesterday

The Society of Authors has unofficially learnt that "He meomo├ža he ohorere / While you are sleeping / Bevor es bei Euch hell wird” is the slogan under which New Zealand will present itself as 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair’s Guest of Honour. The New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which is dedicated to preserving the national heritage of Aotearoa, views the country’s selection as the Guest of Honour for the Frankfurt Book Fair as a unique opportunity to present the cultural diversity of New Zealand. The announcement was made at a media conference in Germany, as part of this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. “New Zealand’s role as Guest of Honour in 2012 is an unprecedented high point for our writers, publishers and artists. The opportunity to share our creativity and unique perspective with Germany and Europe at the Frankfurt Book Fair is a once in a life-time opportunity and we are excited to bring our voice to you next year,” says Tanea Heke, Project Leader.

This is such a wonderful opportunity for New Zealand. As we sit, small and discrete, way down here at the southern end of the Pacific it is hard to grab the attention of Europe all the way across the other side of the globe (unless its about rugby). Here is our chance to show what we are made of to the Olde Worlde. I hoped one of my books might make it in to the catalogue but I missed out. I would love to be a part of this opportunity. When I saw the slogan I thought of my as-yet-unpublished picture book manuscript While You Are Sleeping which has done the editorial dance several times but been unable to jump the final hurdle into publication. It is out on submission at the moment. If only ...

"... While you are sleeping…

Rain may fall, and winds may blow,

Clouds come and go,

And the stars get their chance to shine ..."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I am glad they know what they're doing

Yesterday Head of Pear Jam Books, Jill Marshall, suggested a 'class trip' to the printers to watch our books become paperbacks. This was a rare opportunity. Not too many books are printed in New Zealand. And it was exciting and fascinating to tour around the facility and see how it all happens. It is a complex and technical business, overseen by perfectionists with an eye for detail - as it should be. They print large sheets on both sides with multiple pages to be cut and bound in correct sequential order. If you have a flair for geometry and origami this is the career for you. Of course the upshot of all this is that The Half Life of Ryan Davis will be available in print form by next weekend. Pear Jam Books will be at Armageddon in Auckland selling books. Come check it (and us) out next weekend October 28th to 31st!

I have also been testing gingerbread recipes and doing some experimenting for another book. I think I have come up with a winning formula and I have sent the resulting recipe off to the publisher.

Tonight the Rugby World Cup's Bronze final (playing off for third and fourth place) between Wales and Australia is being played down the road at Eden Park. There is a general consensus that Wales was robbed last weekend, losing to France who will be playing the final against the All Blacks on Sunday. Although I have hidden in bed with the covers over me for the other games (honestly, last Sunday you could have cut through the tension with a knife and served it up on a plate), I am watching the last two games. Funny thing is as I have hidden in bed over the last few weeks I have heard the cheering down at Eden Park (it's maybe just over a kilometre away?). Between the cheering and the noises from my other family members watching the game in the living room, I have had a fair idea of how things are going anyway. Tonight I want Wales to win as they have consistently punched above their weight. It will be an interesting contest either way. I won't talk about Sunday in case I jinx it but I am making French Toast for dinner :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Best in show...

I do not understand this at all. I cannot begin to imagine how Lauren Myracle is feeling, but I also now wonder whether the remaining finalists wish they too were on another planet. What a mess.

What is it with awards at the moment?  Have all the changes in the publishing world made people's brains melt. Or is it a case of too many egos spoil the broth. It loses sight of the fact that the best books – the books that last – are born of necessity, not just of the need to fill a gap in the market and give us an easeful few hours. Book prizes should be about writers, not readers. I agree. Book awards should be about writers, not readers. Book awards should be about ego. There should be prizes for what writers consider the best of their breed (smart tail, balanced stance, ideal muzzle, glossy coat, best in show). Readers already get to elect their favourites everyday and the winners are those authors who sell the most copies and reap the most royalties. While some readers will check out finalists and winners of book awards, they aren't standing by not purchasing anything in the meantime. Sometimes the two (best written, best read) coincide, but this should not be the expectation. Debate and disagreement is healthy. Of course some years it will be harder to select a clear winner than others as the book experience is the result of the unique relationship between author and reader. We should not have it any other way. Sometimes a book is so breathtaking every reader is touched and concensus is easy and the writers can't help but agree but that too is a miracle. Debate and disagreement raises the profile of all those titles discussed. As Oscar Wilde said "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."

Thank (optional deity ) for this post which had me laughing til I cried. I would like this tattooed on my body as a permanent reminder of the sanity that lurks out there on the internet.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If only it were that simple

Thought for the day: I don't not know why the word 'procrastinate' starts with the prefix 'pro' which seems to suggest something positive. It should be 'anticrastinate or discrastinate.

Very interesting guest post over at Nicola Morgan's blog - Help I Need a Publisher - about self publishing ( Catherine Ryan Howard makes some good points about promoting your work (stop whining, do you want to sell books or not?) and about the realities of publishing decisions (it might be a great book, but traditional publishing may NOT be able to make money out of it). Promotion is a smart move if you would like to help your books sell. There are no guarantees and as she says you can sit back and do nothing and sell 5000 copies or bust a gut marketing your work and sell 5 copies. But the risk is greater in the not doing. And I get the financial arguments behind the decisions to publish. Whether you agree or disagree with a publisher's decision, they have a bottom line. Get over it.

And a very interesting post by writer pal Maureen Crisp about the possible 'demise'? of blogging ( over on her blog Craic-er. A day doesn't go by without someone sounding the death knell over some aspect of publishing or another. The thing that irks me about the industry people 'lecturing' about blogging is that they can only imagine someone would want to write a blog or read a blog if there's money to be made from it. The numbers they are talking about hurt my head - 15k visitors a month? I guess with a population of 312 million plus people in the US those numbers aren't completely nonsensical and down here in the Antipodes that number might be sensibly revised down somewhat (even though the internet is global and there are technically no borders, of course things will be different here). I don't write my blog to sell my books (although I'm not opposed to anyone buying or reading my books as a result of visiting my blog). I don't read other peoples blogs to find new writers to read (although I have bought and read books because I've read about it on a blog). I write and read blogs to join the shared understanding of what constitutes the book industry round the world. I have learned much from blogs I have followed, I have made writery friends, and I have shared my personal experience and things I have learnt with others through my own blog. Writing is an isolating business, more so than many other endeavours. Blogs have saved my sanity more than once. I think people sometimes find value in the things I have written about here. If agents and some other bloggers can only see the dollar signs, shame on them.

And if you wonder whether there is a conflict here with me agreeing with Ms Howard about the necessities of promoting/marketing on the one hand and pooh-poohing of those hectoring blogsperts on the other, to me there isn't. My primary goal is to write good books for children of all ages. My secondary goal is to keep doing it, which means selling sufficient books. Blogging is about connecting with the community I belong to which happens to be the book community. Is there an overlap? Sure. Am I aware of that overlap? Sure. Do I hope that overlap might have positive spin offs? Sure. Will I keep blogging irrespective of any spin offs? Sure.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Don't drive tired....

this post is for a friend. A friend who is feeling like the car battery is about to die as she inches forward on the dark road toward book publication.

The road to the town of Publication is perpetually in darkness with leaning lamposts hit by drunk and overconfident drivers leaving the rest of us to crawl forward with our headlamps on full. No wonder we go through car batteries so often. No wonder the fuel doesn't last as long as it should. How many miles have I walked with a gerry can that needs refilling and so often at exorbitant prices. And even when we arrive the town is not quite like we imagined it and our real destination is still further on, along an even darker road filled with potholes, hazards that loom out of the gloom and treacherous fantasy creatures who want to suck our blood or chirpy skippy little animals that try to lure us with promises of easy money. I might stop along the way but I always get back on the road and keep going forward to a destination I cannot see and am not sure of.

So why do we do it? It took me a while to figure out that I could never really give up because my writing is like politician Don Brash - it refuses to go away. I can shun it, and throw things at it, but even a flame thrower wouldn't put paid to my desire to write and my desire to succeed at writing. I have given in to this awkward dark twin that shadows me wherever I go. Sometimes we are better friends than other times. There are battle scars. I have plotted terrible things against it but it will only die when I die. So I don't give up anymore, but I respect my need to stop at that roadside motel sometimes and watch bad tv and let the twin observe the locals. Even though it seems like it sometimes, my twin is not the enemy and we both benefit from a break. There are places to recharge the battery. And to refuel. Never drive tired ... especially in the dark. And sometimes all we need to hear is a friendly voice, from a fellow traveller.

Some road rules to prevent you from crashing
1. Its okay to stop and see the sights on the way. Even though its a delay and your destination will take longer to get to, its good to make the journey more enjoyable.
2. Take the time to talk to fellow travellers - they understand the journey and its good to share information about any shorcuts to where you want to go
3. Don't let the twin boss you around. You are partners on this trip
4. Don't burn any bridges. Just cos you've been over that bridge, doesn't mean you might not need to go over it again
4. Stay in the flasher hotels sometimes, with the bigger choclates on the pillows, and bigger pillows, and a lifeguard at the pool.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why art and culture?...

Here is part of a children's story of mine that I am rather fond of

The Man Who Grew Flowers

A long time ago, after we were cave men, but quite a bit before we were like we are today, men and women would go out and look for good things to eat. They tested out the fruit that hung from trees and if they were really smart, first they watched to see if animals ate it.
Sometimes they weren’t that smart.

They checked out the roots of some plants and the fruit that drooped from vines and bushes of others. If the fruit had been there all summer long sometimes they had a party afterwards.

They figured out what was good and what wasn’t. And then the very clever ones worked out how to grow more. The seeds they spat out on the ground sometimes sprouted and the old roots grew new roots and made a new bush which fattened the new roots up until they were good to eat.

The people who grew things had something to eat when there were no animals to hunt. And they could serve up a pretty nice, well-balanced meal if someone did bring home the bacon. Soon it was the in-thing to do.

Except for one man. He liked the cherries but thought the blossoms were amazing. He enjoyed the passionfruit but marveled at the passion flower. And even though he knew some fruit was no good to eat he couldn’t help admiring their flowers. He collected their seeds and planted them. How happy he felt when the flowers popped out when the weather warmed.

But his friends frowned.
“You cannot eat that,” they protested. “That is a waste of effort.”
“If I am hungry there are fruits and vegetables growing wild that I can gather and animals that I can hunt. But I like the flowers. They make me happy, so it is not a waste.”
“What will you do when the ground freezes and the herds go south?”
“I will be hungry, but the memory of the flowers will keep me going until they return.”...

And congratulations to Jill Marshall, author, publisher ( ) and superwoman, Arts and Culture category winner in the 2011 Next Magazine Woman of the Year Awards!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Doing a little happy dance...

Another sweet review for The House That Went to Sea turned up in the Wairarapa Times Age - (Google Alerts keeps me up to date with who is saying what about my books where - if you aren't using Google Alerts you should). I have posted off another completed assignment (only one more to go - doing a little happy dance here). I think I may have found the solution to the problem I had with one of my current WIP. It was a big problem. The solution seems to satisfy all the complicated requirements that had emerged. I am going to try it on for size. Keep your fingers crossed that it fits.

Yesterday I finished reading a most beautiful book - A Monster Calls. Written by Patrick Ness, based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, and with haunting illustrations by Jim Kay this is a stunning read. I would say it is more a children's book, but then I would not like to discourage adult readers. Just like adults would have regretted not picking up John Boyne's The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. I do not want to talk about the plot of A Monster Calls at all, because I fear it would be too easy to spoil the book for you although that is not because the plot is easy. Believe me when I say it is wonderful writing. Effortless and powerful, I defy you to be unmoved by this book. I was overcome by a fit of jealousy as I read, wishing I too could write like this. My envy was only assuaged by Ness's overuse of the word 'thick'. It is comforting to know that all authors can suffer from this overuse syndrome. My favourites are 'just' and 'ultimately' and i am sure I have others. Maybe an editor should have picked that up, but then I can understand that an editor might not have wanted to change a thing in case they somehow broke the magic.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A winner!!**!!

UPDATE: We now have a second winner - congratulations Angela! Your e-book will be with you soon. The competition is now CLOSED but watch this space as there will be another competition soon.

Folks, we've had a correct answer! Congratulations Kath for getting both questions 1 and 2 right. Please send your email address to me at and Iwill arrange for your e-book to wing its way to you.

I still have one more copy to give away, so have a go. One correct answer will qualify you. If you do not have an e-reader do not despair as the e-book can easily be read on your computer.