New system: I'm keeping an up-to-the minute blog on Wordpress, at http://richardharland.wordpress.com/.
Easier for me, using my iPad, and just doing it once instead of many times over for different websites.
I'll transfer the content across here every few weeks.
HIGHLIGHTS HARKING BACK
Lewis Morley creates my steampunk guitar: 28th July, 2013 and before
Winning the A. Bertram Chandler Award: 10th June, 2012
Supanova guest at Gold Coast & Sydney: 24 April, 18th June, 2012
Paris fortnight at Montreuil Book Fair, 12th December, 2011 and before
Big French Award, 'Tam Tam Je Bouquine': 7th June, 2011
Sixth Aurealis Award: 22nd May, 2011
Post Office Hold-up While Posting Liberator MS: 17th Feb, 2011
Book Tour of US & UK: 2nd July, 2010 and before
20th Oct, 2013: Reader's Cup, Sunshine Coast
Got back yesterday from the Sunshine Coast, where I was the author/presenter for the Reader’s Cup. What a great concept – and apparently it’s starting to take off everywhere. You have a team of four from each school, and they’ve all read the eight texts (which this year included Song of the Slums). The teams have to write out and hold up their answers to questions about the books – it’s like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire or Trivial Pursuit. And some of the questions were so difficult! I couldn’t have answered some even on my own book (like, What was Astor’s home address when she was growing up as a child? Answer: 26, Shoe Lane, London Town) But the students were brilliant, and it was so much fun, first the heats, then the finals.
I did a talk between the heats and finals, and presented awards to all the finalists at the end. I meant to have some photos taken of the event, but I forgot – so I’ll have to wait till I receive some that other people took. The only photos I took were of the view from the hotel where I was put up, the Ramada at Marcoola.
Sign of the Times!
My soon-to-be daughter- in-law posted this on facebook- a nice bit of signage at the front of St Francis College in Crestmead, Brisbane! I'm heading off up to Queensland for the next bit of touring tomorrow, after Orange-Bathurst-Lithgow last week and St Benedict's in Oran Park. This will be my second visit north, unplaneed until Bec and Chris announced they were getting married. So my visit to St Francis is next Friday, the day before the wedding!
( travel up with stops at Grafton and Lismore, then back by way of New England)!
At Oxley College
At last, a photo where you can see the light on my steampunk guitar in action - see, the globe of blue-ish light? (ignore the red eyes)
It's really more spectacular than that, with moving lightings like something out of a Frankenstein movie. Amazing in real life - usually it doesn't come out in photos at all.
The pic was taken at Oxley College, near Bowral in the Southern Highlands. Great day - but cold out of the sun … made me realise how cold it'll be in the morning next week, when I'm out west visitng Lithgow, Bathurst and Orange
Nowra Anglican and St John the Evangelist College, Nowra
A piccy of some of the English and library team at Nowra Anglican College, from yesterday (Tues)
From left to right: Mary Owen, Shelley Middleton, Keturah Jones and Rachel Pickering.
And here's today's school, St John the Evangelist College, also at Nowra (south of Wollongong, south of Sydney) -
The Prize Awarded at St Josephs
Here's the giving away of the free copy of Song of the Slums, as snapped at St Joseph's in Albion Park (Year 8s). First the handing out of cards - then checking the card to see who's got the winning one - then the presentation to the winner -
Steampunk Takes Over!
Another week of schools - including Henry Kendall High in Gosford, where Laura Morrigan turned up, wearing steampunk costume. And Worldshaker (from the time of my last school visit to Gosford) had helped convert her!
How cool is that pointy-tipped parasol!
Meanwhile, a great Song of the Slums review in Saturday's Heral-Sun (Melbourne), that said -
From the unlikely premise of a steampunk rock'n'roll band becoming instrumental in a 19th- century
revolutionary plot, Harland has spun a tale of music, love and youthful triumph. It opens as feisty Astor Vance is abandoned by her family, forced to become governess to three of the most appalling spoilt children to grace fiction. Her former servant Verrol stands by her, but Astor struggles with her change of station, and with Verrol’s mysterious past. HH
More reviews of the novel on the reviews page.
I missed getting pics of St Ignatius, Riverview and St Marys, Wollongong, because I forgot to charge my camera. But here's Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts (Wednesday), Smiths Hill (Thursday) and Holy Spirit at Bellambi (Friday)
So many more schools coming up - I'll put them on my News & Blog page. But these are the first of the new term, so they can sit here for a while!
28th July: At last - the amp!
Finally, I got my amp/speaker to go with the steampunk guitar. After chasing a Vox mini - but the producers were changing factory, no new deliveries till after Xmas - I settled on a Peavey. Doesn't have all the sound effects, mainly just overdrive, and it's bigger than I wanted for carrying round in the car. But hey, the advantage of size is that it also has a bigger sound. I've been playing it at the schools I've visited this week, just to show that the guitar can really do it! Weird for me, because I only ever played acoustic in the past - so now I'm playing an electric guitar like an acoustic guitar. (Confession: I was never that great anyway!) But I'll learn properly when this touring's over.
First reviews of Song of the Slums now coming in, from the West Australian and Viewpoint magazine. Here's the instant link ...
The Steampunk Guitar - after!
Lewis beat every expectation! An amazing creation! I collected the guitar from him two weeks ago at the start of my Queensland school tour, and couldn't post anything on my websites because my iPad doesn't have the software. So now, tarahh! tarahh! tarantarantarrrahhhh!
I bought a secondhand guitar and took it to Lewis Morley, who's worked on models for movies like The Hobbit, the Matrix movies and two of the Star Wars movies. With laser cutter and sheer imagination, he created this beauty. All sorts of bits and pieces, cogs and guages, handles and doodahs.
Here's a close up of the Instructions Plate!
And here's me reading from the book while wearing the guitar, and Lewis displaying the guitar in Sergeant Pepper costume!
I'm looking forward to getting an amp and speaker by the end of this week, because then I can play the guitar for real. Just have to make up some songs to go with the book. (Songwriting was my only talent in my old music-playing days - I was never much good at playing the guitar - but then I never had an electric guitar. I'm going to have fun with this one! All the funky sound effects!)
Did I mention that the globe on the guitar lights up at the flick of a switch, and multicoloured lightnings flash around inside it? Can't really capture it in a photo, but it's specatacular.
The Steampunk Guitar - before
Yes, I'm going to have a steampunk guitar by the time of the Queensland tour. I bought the guitar a couple of days ago from Wollongong Music Centre, a nice little black solid body number, just asking for cogs and pipes and doodahs! The maestro who'll perform the steampunk transformation is Lewis Morley, a man who's worked on creating items for countless well-known movies. I took the guitar up to him in the Blue Mountains today, and I'll collect it from him on the way up to Queensland. Can't wait to see what he does! Unrestricted creative licence! It'll be spectacular, that's for sure. Only pity is, I won't be able to put up an image on this site, which needs Dreamweaver and therefore my laptop - but I'm only taking my iPad on the tour. I'll put photos up on my Wordpress blog on Sat 4th or Sunday 5th --->
and also on my Facebook author page.
In the meanwhile, I've put up a pic of the guitar in its BEFORE state - see, just an ordinary, black, 21st century, electric guitar.
Also here's Lewis, artificer and transformer.
I won't be able to play it for real on the tour (only a bit of miming) because I don't have space to carry amps. But I'm looking forward to getting back into it - as never in the past, because I only ever played acoustic guitar.
3rd August, 2013
Visiting schools up north - at least, as far north from Wollongong as Newcastle and the Central Coast. I started out with Terra Sancta in NW Sydney. Lovely school – and I now own a Terra Sancta golfing umbrella. How’s that for different? Here’s Ludi, the teacher-librarian, introducing me at the start of a presentation -
Then on to Morisset, where I stayed at a brilliant, hidden-away little B & B called Montifmor. Next day, Avondale College -
Made the mistake of staying the night at the Hotel Jesmond – as bad as Montifmor was good. I was being nostalgic, because Hotel Jesmond was my local pub and the Jesmond Centre was my local shopping centre when I used to live in Victory Pde. Hah! the shopping centre had changed to a Stockland, and the pub had been re-coated in a sort of grey plaster. Worse – the disco music downstairs kept me awake until midnight, and I had to sit on the stairs to make the wifi connection work!
I was at San Clemente College the next day, in Mayfield, enjoyed it a lot but forgot to take photos.
Those were all schools I’d never visited before, but on the last day, in Gosford, I went to two schools I’d visited two years ago – Henry Kendall High, then Kariong Mountains High (doesn’t that sound poetic?). It was very gratifying to be so well remembered, and to discover that so many people had since read and loved Worldshaker and Liberator. Great feeling, to know you’ve had an impact – and made some steampunk converts too! None more so that Laura Morrigan, who came in to the Henry Kendall presentations dressed in steampunk costume -
Check out that parasol!
School Visits Coming Up - Queensland tour
It all starts on Monday 6th May - or Sunday 5th for me, when I head north to Queensland, preparing for the big tour for Song of the Slums. I opted to give first refusal to schools I'd visited before - it was nice to hear of so many rapid acceptances.
Monday's school is Aquinas College, Southport; then Marymount College, Burleigh Waters on Tuesday 7th; Coolum State High on Wednesday 8th; then in to Brisbane for MaryMackillop College, Nundah, on Thurs 9th, and Genesis Christian College, Bray Park, on Friday 10.
Relax over the weekend ... Aileen flies up to join me, and we'll be visiting Chris and Bec and the grandchildren.
Another busy week to follow - slightly mucked up by the NAPLAN, which not only cuts out Years 7 and 9, but knocks out every school's organisation from Tuesday to Thursday. Still, I get to take advantage of the only day I miss out on by staying over at Dorrigo with Ian Irvine - a long-planned visit that's never seemed to fit in before.
So, my school for Monday 13th is Kimberley College, Carbrook; for Tuesday 14th, St Laurence's College in South Brisbane. Then south of the border to Xavier Catholic College at Skennars Head for Wednesday 15th. Interlude at Dorrigo ... then last day, Friday 17th, at St Paul's High School in Port Macquarie.
Home Friday night - but back up to Sydney for the Aurealis Awards on the Saturday. (I'm not up for anything, but I've been asked to present one of them.) Phew!!
April 27th, 2013: Launch of Song of the Slums
It happened at Rydges Capitol Hill in Canberra, as part of the Conflux convention. Allen & Unwin had supplied me with a great roll-up banner and we did the launch in the foyer. It was a convention of many book launches! Terry Dowling, one of the most respected figure in Australian figures in Australian Speculative Fiction, did the honours as launcher, and Rob Hood introduced Terry. It was specially great that Terry could do it, because the novel's about rock music and the experience of being in a band - and Terry and I used to play music together (in a threesome). Hearing him re-live some of those times was a nostalgic treat for me.
Then we did a short reading from the book - well, actually quite a long reading, but no one seemed to mind. Terry took one of the ex-soldier's voices, and Aileen chimed in with a couple of lines spoken by Astor. All great fun!
Lost in Translation
My French editor just sent me an email. Seems there's a problem with the name 'Verrol' in French - it woud be pronounced like 'vérole', which is the French word for pox. I had to agree it needs changing - not at all the right associations for the romantic male lead!
Conflux launch for Song of the Slums
My new steampunk/gaslight romance novel comes out in May, and we've arranged an advance launch at Conflux on Saturday April 27th. Conflux is the National Scence Fiction and Fantasy Convention in Canberra. The top part of the invitation looks like this >>
Song of the Slums is set in the same steampunk universe as Worldshaker and Liberator, but at an earlier time, when the world is blanketed with smog and pollution after the Fifty Years War. It's the story of how Astor discovers her talent for playing the drums, and how a new kind of music with a driving rock beat arrives and conquers the world - in the middle of the Victorian 19th century!
Song of the Slums - the final cover
Here's the cover of Song of the Slums! I love it! Here are Astor (with the copper-coloured hair) and Verrol (with the steampunk guitar) hurrying down an alleyway. Might be in Brummingham or might be in London - both cities feature in the novel. So Victorian-looking! Plus an airship hovering in front of the moon …
Here's the story about the alley. Cathy picked a Melbourne alley for the photoshoot - it had been raining but there was only a puddle of dirty water left in the middle of the alley. However, she was determined to get all the stones glistening and wet-looking, so she and the photographer got down on their hands and knees, scooped up handfuls of dirty water and spread it all around. There's dedication to art! And Cathy - it was worth it!
Here's the back cover blurb typed out -
What if they'd invented rock 'n roll way back in the 19th century?
What if it could take over the world and change the course of history?
In the slums of Brummingham, the outcast gangs are making a new kind of music, with pounding rhythms and wild guitars.
Astor Vance has been trained in refined classical music. But when her life plummets from riches to rags, the only way she can survive is to play the music the slum gangs want.
Charismatic Verrol, once her servant, is now her partner in crime … and he could be so much more if only he'd come clean about his mysterious past …
And underneath, a quote from Kate Forsyth:
'I loved the music, the syncopated rhythm, the dark, smoky atmosphere, the call to arms, the love story …this is gaslight fantasy at its best.'
The back cover shows the same alley after Astor and Verrol have gone (or before they've come). I can't make it big enough to show the writing clearly, but you can see the wet. glistening alley in its starring role!
We have a title! Long live Song of the Slums!
It's decided! Everyone's signed off on it! The title of my next steampunk fantasy will be Song of the Slums.
I've run through 3 titles already, forever immortalised in my computer files as the name of my first draft, the name of .my rewrite and the name of my revised rewrite. It's like Worldshaker all over again, which started life as 'Leviathan', then became 'Juggernaut' before it finally turned into 'Worldshaker'. This time, though, was even harder - I thought I'd run out of inspiration for titles, I was expecting the final title would be a compromise that I could go along with but would never really love. And instead, I came up with my very best title yet!
It's just like Worldshaker, which now seems to me the title the book was meant to have all along. I feel the same about Song of the Slums. It fits the novel in so many ways, and has a really nice sound to it at the same time.
Welcome to the world, Song of the Slums! I've just finished doing all the last corrections (except for another little problem with names inside the book). Can't wait to see what Cathy Larsen's done with the cover design!
This is another steampunk novel set in the same world as WORLDSHAKER and LIBERATOR, but going back a bit in time. New characters, new story - I think it's a wonderful idea, and of course I'm totally unbiased and impartial!! I must start dropping teasers ...
It's due out in May next year. I wish it was right now, but we still have to get the cover and all the incidental stuff like blurbs, etc.
28th July, 2012
Busy lately! Just a writing hermit, that's me! But I got social enough to do a post on the great e-debate going on around Isobelle Carmody's latest publishing venture - bringing out a novel, <em>Greylands</em>, as an e-book with no print publisher involved. Of course, she'd have no trouble with getting a print publisher - but she wants to experiment with this form of publication. A great many authors are watching with interest - and a great many authors have also entered into the debate about e-books. I put up a piece as a guest poster earlier, followed by a whole lot of interesting (and helpful) conversation about e-readers ... also commented on a few posts by later guest posters.
The site address is http://greylands.theslipstream.com.au/. Check it out!
10th June 2012: A. Bertram Chandler Award
I couldn't believe it when I got a text from Jack Dann to tell me I'd won the A. Bertram Chandler Award, and he'd presented it to me at the Melbourne Continuum Natcon - only I wasn't there! Jonathan Strahan graciously accepted it on my behalf. I think everyone just assumed I'd be there, because I've hardly missed a Continuum over the last six years.
It's a huge honour. The A. Bertram Chandler Award (named after Australia's first significant SF writer) is a lifetime award for contribution to SF/fantasy in Australia. I don't know how I came to deserve it - especially looking at the list of previous awardees! Here's a pic of the engraved glass plinth, bowl and framed citation that came with the award.
18th June, 2012: Sydney Supanova
After the event:
The Steampunk panel was fantastic. We had a full house - and so many people came in amazing steampunk costumes. The camera focused on Michael and I when the panel was running, then everyone in costume got a brief cameo in front of the camera afterwards.
Here's a few - a very few - of the costumes on show:
This was the special 10th anniversary celebration Sydney Supanova, from June 15-17th at the Sydney Showground, Olympic Park. It turned out to be the biggest Supanova crowd yet.
Some of the star guests were Harmony from Buffy and Angel, Victor Krum from Harry Potter, Clare from Heroes - I mean, the actors who play those characters on the screen! And that's just a few of many. (Check out http://www.supanova.com.au/ for the expo, and http://www.supanova.com.au/guests/ for the guests)
The overseas author guest was Christopher Paolini, of Eragon fame, and there was a great list of Australian author guests - Matthew Reilly, Garth Nix, Kate Forsyth, Marianne de Pierres - plus the steampunk duo, Michael Pryor and me! We had a great time at the steampunk panel!
Left: yours truly with Maureen Flynn of InkAshlings.
24th April 2012: Gold Coast Supanova - steampunk makes waves!
I had a ball at Supanova, signing Worldshakers and Liberators, and doing a joint presentation on steampunk with fellow Australian steampunk author Michael Pryor. Best of all, there were so many steampunk costurmes there! In fact, there were more the second day than the first - because people had bought steampunk gear from the stalls around.
Oh, yes, we're arriving big time!
On the left, some classy steampunk costuming from Michael (not the author), Angela and Cherie - plus me, not quite so classy because my shirt is hanging out. A realVictorian-era gentleman would probably die of shame to be seen with his shirt hanging out.
And here's Michael and me in our top hats and togs -
My hat got a lot of comments ... I almost had to stop people running off with it!
PS I almost forgot to mention - I've just got serious about my Facebook page. Check it out for more Supanova photos. It was my first ever Supanova, but I've been told there are always a million amazing costumes. And there were! I was also told that a couple of years ago, there were hardly any steampunk costumes. Now, well, my photos hardly begin to skim the surface.
Audio Book Worldshaker and Liberator
Now out in Australia - Worldshaker and Liberator out on casette from Bolinda. I really like the reading voice, and I'm fussy about good readings!
Sydney Writers Festival Gig
I'll be doing a day workshop in the Sydney Writers festival from 9.00 to 3.30 on Tuesday 22nd May. It's oriented towards younger writers, focussing on how to get readers really living the experience of the characters in a novel as if they were there.
Liberator comes out in the U.S.
Because the Simon & Schuster edition of Worldshaker came out first in hardback, then a year later in paperback, it's taken a while to get on to the hardback edition of Liberator. But now it's out!
The cover matches the US paperback cover for Worldshaker - same porthole, which has a glossy texture like glass, compared to the matt of the surround. Now it's not Col but Riff looking out!
The inside flap blurb reads like this:
"Col Porpentine has come a long way from being the pampered future leader of Worldshaker. Just a few short months ago he helped Riff free the Filthies from generations of servitude, and created a new balance on the massive juggernaut, newly christened Liberator. Now the Filthies command Liberator, and many Swanks, former members of the upper class, have remained to teach them how to operate the juggernaut, and to build a new society together.
But all is not peaceful on Liberator. A rising anti-Swank sentiment among the more fanatical Filthy factions grows increasingly violent and dangerious. And an anti-Filthy saboteur is loose aboard the ship. Even the one thing Col thought he could always depend upon--his friendship with Riff--is beginning to crumble.
As tensions run high and the coal supply runs low, Liberator is on the verge of a crisis. Col and Riff are faced with their most challenging task yet; unifying a divided people ... before it is too late.
Richard Harland returns to the world of WORLDSHAKER with a heart-stopping sequel that will take readers on a ride to places they've never imagined."
My New Hat
Specially for the Supanovas, I decided I needed a new hat! I've been lusting after this hat for ages - and I finally found a good reason for buying it (not cheap!)
Supanova Gold Coast
I've just finished the first draft of the next steampunk novel (same world, different characters) - now it's time to get out and about again. I'll be a guest at the Gold Coast Supanova convention from Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd of April. It'll be a ball - especially because Michael Pryor (The Laws of Magic series, and The Extinction Gambit) are teaming up to do a presentation on steampunk. Costumes, clips, readings - it's going to be awesome!
Supanova news is at http://www.supanova.com.au/category/news/ - check it out, there are so many great guests! My Supanova page is at http://www.supanova.com.au/guest/richard-harland/
Two months later, I'll be a guest at the Sydney Supanova.
And now we're on to the fifth US reprint of the paperback Worldshaker. Seems only a couple of weeks since the fourth!
Another US reprint
Just heard that the US paperback edition of Worldshaker has gone into a fourth reprint. Yay! 3 reprints in Australia and 3 reprints in France - but America has taken the lead! I hope this race goes on and on forever!
The Paris booktour
What a buzz! Loved meeting fans at the Salon de Montreuil (the Montreuil Book Fair). And what an ego-boost, when they had about eight groups of young readers 'defending' their favourite books of the year - and two of the groups chose Worldshaker! Then there was another group of fans that put on a performance, acting out their best scenes from Worldshaker in tableaux! Here's a photo of me wearing the steampunk goggles I bought at a Paris fleamarket (well, actually, Austrian army goggles, probably for snow - but very old, probably around WW I)
I blogged it, with photos, on: http://richardharland.wordpress.com/
Start of the Paris trip today, yippee! The 26 hour plane flight will be murder, but it'll be great after that! And I have free time to saunter around Paris with Aileen, apart from Book Fair, bookshop and interview duties. Just think of all those pastries and sidewalk cafes! Can't wait!
Here's a photo of the cat who gets left behind. No Paris for Habibi! But Michelle will be living in and feeding him, so he'll probably be as fat as butter by the time we get back.
I'll be blogging the whole trip on http://richardharland.wordpress.com/
More on Paris
I fly out on November 23rd; then there's a meeting with readers at the Salon de Montreuil, signing days on 3rd, 4th and 5th December, an a meeting with the Cercle de lecture de la médiathèque de Montreuil, who have been great supporters of Worldshaker and Liberator.
And that's just for starters! Can't wait! Here's a photo of the team at Helium, my French publisher, who are flying me over and arranging the tour. (Aileen took this photo when she and I were last in Paris, taken out for lunch in the Rue Mouffetard. Aileen will be coming with me again on this trip too.
Paris in November!
My French publisher, Hélium, will be flying me over to Paris for the Montreuil Book Fair plus some book signings! Yippee! An apartment in Paris for a fortnight, and Aileen coming with me. Whoever said that writing's a tough life? (OK, I did, but I can take a lot of this sort of toughness!)
Meanwhile, a review in the heavyweight French jounal, Le revue des livres pour enfants, starts out by describing Liberator as 'Even better than the first volume, if that's possible' and ends by speaking of it as 'un coup de maître'. Whew!
In the US, the latest news is that the paperback edition of Worldshaker has gone into its third printing. Not bad, when it only came out in June!
Apparatus for the Repatriation of Tears
I just have to put this on show- a tear collector! I'm being interviewed at Wollongong Art Gallery in relation to an exhibition - which is very very steampunky (even if the artist, Anita Larkin, doesn't know it!) So here's my favourite work in the exhibition, called "Apparatus for the Repatriation of Tears". At the top, you can see the leather strap that fits around the head of the subject, then, in metal, the two eyeholes and the collecting channel below ... leading to the distillation cylinders and the purification valves and finally the taps for discharging purest essense of tears! Actually I made all the last stuff up - but don't you just love the artist's image and the idea?
If you want to check out more of Anita's works, go to www.anitalarkin.com. She's represented by the Defiance Gallery, whose website is at www. defiancegallery.com.
Ghosts by Gaslight anthology now out, containing "Bad Thoughts and the Mechanism"
The international supernatural/Victoriana anthology, Ghosts by Gaslight, ed. Jack Dann and Nick Gevers, came out this month from Harper Voyager. It contains stories by authors like Gene Wolfe, Robert Silverberg, Peter S. Beagle, James Morrow, Jeffrey Ford, Lucius Shepard, Margo Lanagan - and my own story "Bad Thoughts and the Mechanism". Phew! I'm in such amazing company, it's almost scary!
The cover is really cool ....
Another Sale for Liberator
'dtv', the German paperback publisher for Worldshaker (different to the hardback publisher) has now snapped up the paperback rights for Liberator too. They moved on it very fast this time!
7th June 2011: On a French roll!
Whoo-eee! My French publisher at Hélium just accepted on my behalf the Tam-Tam Je Bouquine award for best novel, ages 10-15 - for Worldshaker. It's just about the biggest YA award in France, and specially nice because it's decided by a jury of young readers. I'll put their comments up on the review pages.
And no sooner did I hear about that than I heard that Worldshaker has picked up another French award--only I've just removed the name of it since I was told it's still confidential! I'm on a French roll! with mustard!
I've put up the judges' comments for the Tam-Tam Je Bouquine award on the Liberator reviews page.
Aurealis Award for "The Fear" - Best Horror Story
Great night at the Aurealis Awards! My short story, "The Fear" won the Aurealis for Best Horror Story. Wow and triple wow! It's a long short story, first printed in Macabre, and just recently reprinted in Ellen Datlow's US anthology, Best Horror of the Year #3. Which reminds me to put up a cover of the US anthology.
Here's me and a bit of the back garden and the award - very handsome (I mean the award, not me ... what ever happened to my hair?
Meanwhile, a reviewer of Best Horror of the Year #3 had this to say:
Richard Harland’s “The Fear” also deserves special mention. This selection has the feeling of an old fashioned Victorian ghost story that manages to incorporate elements of horror fan culture and the documentarian aesthetic of films like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity. As Harland builds toward the big reveal at the end, the story becomes increasingly chilling.
Nice! The full review is online at http://tinyurl.com/5rw9exn (The Monsters We Deserve: 'The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 3' from W. Scott Poole 8 June 2011)
First Reviews of Liberator
The first reviews are starting to appear - I'll put them up on the reviews page. Here are a few quick extracts: -
THE SATURDAY AGE (Melbourne)
This fantastically fun novel is quintessential steampunk at the same time as being entirely accessible, with a compulsive plot, strongly drawn characters and plenty of humour.
MAGPIES (review of children’s/YA literature)
Followers of steampunk will delight in the intricacies of the giant [juggernauts]. Liberator and the other moving cities, each displaying idiosyncratic architecture. The chase up the escarpment and the final battle have moments of heroic proportions; the imaginative array of weapons is awesome, as is the carnage inflicted in the great battle.
READINGS (review newsletter of Readings chain)
Liberator ... is an exhilarating exploration of what can go wrong (and right) in the search for equality. Like the narrator, the reader feels giddy at overcoming the horrors of the past, but is nervous about the excesses of the present.
Filled with epic battle scenes, beautiful and bizarre descriptions of a moving iron city, and filled with big personalities, it is sure to appeal to history or fantasy-buffs.
The first French review describes it as a Suite a dévorer - a sequel to devour! And Aurealis Express says 'The King of Steampunk triumphs again!
Check out the full reviews on the reviews page!
IT'S LIBERATION TIME!!
Yay! It's come at last, the 1st of May and therefore the official release date for LIBERATOR in Australia. It's so weird, after having copies for more than 2 weeks already - what makes one day THE day? And I nearly missed it because I was thinking today was the 31st of April (I must've skimmed over April when I recited the rhyme).
I can't wait for the reactions--this time, I really believe I've written a second book that outdoes the first. Not in originality, since the world is already created, but in the size and scope of the story. This book is BIG!
The launch will be at the Continuum convention, in Melbourne in June, and Jack Dann has agreed to do the launching honours.
The French edition is about to come out at the same time, then the UK edition in June, then the German, then the US early in 2012. And the Hollywood interest has just moved forward a few notches--be still my beating heart!
I've just put another extract on this website- the chapter where the Imperialist juggernauts turn up.
I've also put up the video clip from Allen & Unwin, for the Australian editon.
I'm doing a whole heap of school visits to promote the book. Next week, it's Springwood, Bathurst and Orange; the two weeks after that are far south coast of NSW, Gippsland Victoria, Melbourne and Northern Victoria.. Then more NSW and Canberra, then Queensland, then ending off with Perth at the end of August. Must put up a list of which schools when, as they're finalised.
US paperback Worldshaker
The American paperback version of Worldshaker came out from Simon & Schuster in June. It has a different cover - an amazing effect that won't come across on a website. There's a circular bit of clear plastic inside the porthole that makes it look as though Col is peering out through clear glass.
It costs US$9.99.
Novelettes and Novellas
Here's the front cover of The Wilful Eye, which is the first of two volumes of Tales from the Tower, edited by Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab.These are two anthologies of novelettes by Australian authors retelling traditional fairytales. In the first volume, my retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" is there alongside Margo Lanagan, Isobelle Carmody, Margaret Mahy, Martine Murray and Rosie Borella. We all stay a bit closer to the traditional in this volume--I know my aim was to make "Beauty and the Beast" even more fairytale-ish! With contemporary relevance, yes, that came in naturally, but without losing any of the original magic of my favourite fairytale!
Here's the book's blurb. (I didn't write it, so I didn't say 'great'! I don't think I've earned that title yet!)
In this bewitching collection, six great writers choose a classic fairytale and cast their own spell upon it.
Characters transgress, they yearn, they hunger, they love, they hate and, sometimes, they kill.
None of the resulting tales belong in a nursery: these are provocative stories of enchantment, jealousy and deception, as well as courage, daring
Other news: I just finished the copyedit for a novella, "Bad Thoughts and the Mechanism", which will be coming out soon in the anthology Ghosts By Gaslight, edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers. The full MS of the anthology was sent to me, so of course the first thing I did was run my eye over the Contents page. My, oh my! It's like a rollcall of all the authors I most admire--and big, BIG names too. For example, Gene Wolfe, Robert Silverberg, Peter S. Beagle, James Morrow, Jeffrey Ford, Lucius Shepard- and more! (Plus Australia's own Terry Dowling, Garth Nix, Sean Williams, Margo Lanagan … and little old me.)
Liberator: the cover
Anthony Lucas, the film director who did the cover for Worldshaker, has done an even more wonderful cover for Liberator. Love, love, love it! Here it is on the left - just look at that and gasp!
Meanwhile, here are the covers for the UK and France >>
17th February, 2011: Armed Robbery at the Posting of Liberator
Yesterday I went to post off a copyedited MS of Liberator, the sequel to Worldshaker, and got caught in the middle of an armed hold-up! It was the copyedit for America, and I went to a local post office to send it off. Keiraville post office, a tiny, quiet little place in a tiny, quiet shopping area. I went to the counter and was given the international form that has to be stuck on the front. and I’d just started filling it out. The only other people in the shop – it’s so small, it could hardly hold a dozen customers at once – were an old couple.
Then suddenly these two guys burst in, wearing hoodies, face masks and gloves, one of them toting a sawn-off double-barreled shotgun. About 20-25 years old, I’d guess from their voices, though the one who stood guard over me and the old couple hardly spoke. The one with the shotgun jumped up on the counter, shouting like a character in a gangster movie – threatening, cursing and trying to sound as violent as possible.
The ugliest moment was when shotgun guy accused the post office guy of pressing the alarm button – which he had. The elderly lady was breathing and gasping and shaking, on the verge of a panic attack. I put my arm round her and said we’d be OK. It turned out she had a heart condition – luckily she had an inhaler spray with her that she used the moment they were gone.
They made the post office guy open the till, and shotgun jumped down and scooped up what was there. Then back on the counter, ordering the post office guy, but not us customers, to get down on the ground. There was something more they wanted, maybe access to a safe, but they decided not to hang around any longer. The post office guy told the cops afterwards that they’d got away with $1000-2000.
Anyway, they rushed out and took off in an off-white car that had been parked in the drive next to the post office. We got the number plate, for what that’ll be worth. The post office guy rang the cops who turned up pretty smartly, viewd the CCTV footage and took down our details.
Funny thing was, it didn’t seem particularly scary at the time – maybe because the shotgun was almost always trained on the post office guy, with just a flourish or two towards us. And the elderly lady did enough panicking for us all – I was more worried about her state than anything.
And now the key question you must be wondering – did they get away with the copyedited MS of LIBERATOR? No, they didn’t even realise the treasure right under their noses! They just rushed out with the money – and I had to go to a different post office to send off my parcel.
I never imagined it was such a dangerous life, being an author!
Worldshaker goes the full Brazilian
Another contract for Worldshaker - it's now being translated into Portuguese and coming out in Brazil. The German translation of Worldshaker has now been onsold for paperback publication by dtv. Jacoby & Stuart brought out the hardback and now dtv will be bringing out the paperback.
Meanwhile, all the original publishers of Worldshaker have contracted for Liberator - a very good sign, my agent says.
Now all I have to do is complete the structural revisions on Liberator. Deadline is October 31st, and I'm going to squeak home just in time. It's like a matter of pride to me - I haven't been late for a deadline in my 13 years as a full-time writer, so I want to maintain my record!
September 15th: Worldcon
Working frantically on two lots of revision at the same time - Liberator (I'm up to Chapter 35 of 80), and a steampunk/supernatural story for an anthology. So I still haven't written up Worldcon. Here's a quick version …
It was a total buzz, a schmoozefest, way too many things to do in too little time. I got to say hi to almost everyone I wanted to say hi to, but I didn't get to talk long to anyone. I didn't help myself by being on so many panels and other events, but hey, I enjoy doing things. One thing I did was a joint reading with Jack Dann - we both thought we were on at the same time, which was a failure to understand the programming, but we decided to read extracts alternately - and do voices in each other's readings. It was huge fun, and it worked for the audience too … people have even described it as one of the highlights of the Con. I don't know about that, but it was a highlight of FUN!
Another thing I wouldn't normally do was chair a panel on a topic I'm totally ignorant about - but I was asked to fill in on as MC for a panel on visual art in spec fic with Shaun Tan and D.M. (David) Cornish. Two great artists (and both writers too, but we were set down to talk about the art) - so I just prodded them along with questions, and they ended up having a fascinating conversation. So many revelations about the way artists work!
I can't remember a panel I didn't enjoy - I think I must've been on about eight - but one of the most interesting to me was one on steampunk, where Jay Lake was one of the panellists. (If you haven't read his Mainspring books, I highly recommend them - mind-blowing concept!) I was on another steampunk panel too, and also gave a half hour talk on steampunk - I'll type out thre main ideas and post them on this blog, or in the Steampunk pages.
Other events included booklaunches, parties, drinks, and the fabulous Nightmare Ball (organised bythe Australian Horror Writers Association). I got to meet a whole lot of people I wanted to meet - all the biggest names were there, from Bob Silverberg to China Mieville to George R. Martin to Kim Stanley Robinson. Here's a piccy of Aileen and me at the Nightmare Ball -
I'm the one in the mask. Oh, well, work it out for yourself …
I’m typing this at Worldcon, which is also Aussiecon 4 in Melbourne. Having a great time here! I’m keeping very busy, with a heap of panels and other events. Yesterday I got to talk to Jay Lake, who’s one of my steampunk heroes, author of the mind-blowing Mainspring. Then other panels, MCing, and a co-reading with Jack Dann. When we found we were set down for successive half hours, we did turn-about readings, and filled in voices for each other. It was tremendous fun. As Jack would say, we did great shtick!
I did a talk today at MLC Burwood, a Sydney girls' school - and was amazed to find that so many of the Year 6 students had read Worldshaker, and one whole class was actually studying it.
I'd already learned that, although it might look more of a boys' book at first glance, it actually works just as well for girls. But I've still been thinking of it as a High School book - now that's proved wrong too!
Now here's the best bit! The class that was studying had extended into so many associated activities! One student had made a model of Mr Gibber's classroom - with tiny Geometry and History books on every desk, and his lessons up on the board - the Noah's Ark lesson and the lesson on right angles versus obtuse angles versus acute angles.
Another student had made a doll of Sephaltina - perfect, because she's so doll-like already! There were all kinds of illustrations - they'd gathered every clue on the characters' appearances - and costume requirements, etc. And a preliminary blurb for a film of the book, with Daniel Radcliffe cast as Col and - oh help, I've forgotten - someone else for Riff (Lesley Anne Taylor? a name like that?).
The film angle is getting close to the truth, as Hollywood interest moves from vague to very focused. Meanwhile, the students are going to produce posters for the movie. Some are also going to produce a bottle of Ebnolia's perfume and advertising copy for marketing it! Wonder what they'll call it?
The projects aren't finished yet - but they've promised to send me photos when they are. Watch this space!
A nice confidence-booster yesterday! I did a gig for 'Youth Reviews the Shortlist', a videoconference between a number of High Schools. I did an author presentation, but the main purpose was for students to review and then vote on the CBC Shortlist for the YA Best Book of the Year.
So the students reviewed and voted, then the Chair opened an envelope and read out the actual winner as announced that day. But the best bit for me was when the Chair took a 'popular vote' that included Worldshaker along with the shortlist (since the students had all read Worldshaker too). Yippee! Worldshaker was way ahead as first choice!
Today in Australia, it was like the first day of Spring. In Wollongong, anyway. Real heat in the sun, a glorious bright warm day. We've turned the corner and left Winter behind.
I feel like I've turned a corner too - since yesterday. I've been struggling to get back into the writing after the overseas tours, struggling over a particular story for a steampunk anthology. Now I know what I needed - I needed to make a start on revising LIBERATOR, the sequel to WORLDSHAKER. I've had all the comments in from US, UK and Australia, and I'd been baffled and boggled over how to integrate all the different revisions. All I needed to do was make a start and launch into it - and already I'm excited about the improvements.
It must have been part of the same mood that yesterday I also saw exactly what I have to do with my steampunk story. I rough-drafted the last quarter - it's almost novella length - and all the parts fell into place. I got a handle on the 'voice' too, which has been giving me problems all along. Four separate starts, and never quite getting it right - but now I can!
Yippee! Like the sap in the trees, the creative juices are flowing again!
I still haven’t come up for air! The backlog of emails and other work just keeps hanging over me. I heard from my German publisher today – the German edition of Worldshaker comes out at the end of this month. The cover looks like this, very nice -
She (my German publisher) is reading the first draft of Liberator too – so far, all my good feelings about that book have been confirmed!
I spent this morning planning what can happen next after Liberator, and it’s all starting to come together. Wish I could just stop the clock and take time out for planning for a few days.
Meanwhile, I’ve been getting some very affirmative emails from bookstores in the US and UK. They’re giving Worldshaker a good push and it’s starting to move. Word-of-mouth is on my side!
Back home, and I ought to be recovering and relaxing after 6 weeks away. Some hopes! I’m overwhelmed by all the email and jobs that need doing – everything left hanging for the last 6 weeks. I feel like I’m being submerged and I’ll never get through it all.
Oh well. Take a deep breath. No panic – just work through it slowly and steadily. Getting back into writing mode seems like a distant dream right now!
‘Reset body clock to correct time zone’ – huh! Got that wrong! Aileen’s body clock is ticking along just fine with Australian time, but I woke up at 2.30 in the middle of last night and stayed awake for the next 3-4 hours.
(Maybe it’s a punishment for not being respectful towards John Howard)
Anyway, there was one compensation – I had the story idea I needed for an anthology I’ve been asked to submit to.
July 2nd, 2010
So strange to come home to Australia and find it so cold. After the last three weeks of hot sunny weather in England and Europe, how can Wollongong be so chilly?
We made it back in spite of last minute attempts by crazed cyclists in Amsterdam to mow us down (hordes of em, zooming at you from all angles out of nowhere), and in spite of Malaysia Airlines’ attempts to feed us to death (they did everything short of putting a pipe in our mouths and forcing food down our throats).
Guess who we ran into in Sydney airport as we staggered away from customs through the entry hall? There was John Howard, no less, surrounded by reporters who wanted to know what he thought of not being elected vice-president by the International Cricket authority. Huh! Aileen said they should’ve swung the cameras on me, since I was the one who had a successful trip overseas, not our poor ex-PM (second time unelected).
So now we’re back home recovering from 30 hours flying time between Amsterdam, London, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, plus getting up in the middle of the night and missing 2 regulation sleeps. Funny thing is, we haven’t had jet-lag at all. A couple of hours sleep before leaving Amsterdam, a nap on the plane to Kuala Lumpur, a nap on the plane to Sydney, then a full night’s sleep back in Wollongong – and somehow our body-clocks have ended up set perfectly into the correct time zone.
Not the correct email zone, though – I’ve got a time lag of about six weeks there. I now have a mountain of email to wade through – and if you’ve never waded through a mountain, believe me, it’s really really difficult! (I just answered an email from someone at one of the first book events I did at San Diego, and it seems to have happened in another world in another era.) I expect to be suffering cyberlag for about a week.
Here’s a visual flashback to the start of the tours – my first event in San Diego, the first piccy in my camera:
That was me in one of the Borders bookshops in San Diego.
Here it is, alas, our last evening overseas. Yesterday I resisted the blandishments of the ladies of the night, even though they posed in windows and doorways in the most negligent of underwear. On the other hand, Aileen bought a bodice of a deep blue colour and black lace – how could they compete?
I’m typing this at an internet cafe just round the corner from our hotel – half the price of yesterdays (probably because it’s a real internet cafe and not a dope shop masquerading as an internet cafe). I feel as if we’ve hardly explored the area, hardly settled into our neighbourhood – not as we did in Bruges. Instead we’ve been playing the tourists.
Today we did the 2 obvious tourist things in Amsterdam – we went for a canal ride and visited the Rijksmuseum. Dutch gabled buildings must be old, gables from the 17 & 18th Centuries, but they don’t LOOK old. Maybe it’s the Dutch habit of keeping things v clean and tidy, or maybe it’s because all the windows seem to have been replaced with modern frames and large panes of glass. (Though maybe neat and tidy has got left behind recently – garbage and grafitti all over the place – the new laissez-faire since they discovered dope?)
Canal ride piccy -
The Riksmuseum was great, but I’m getting to the stage where I enjoy buying (amazingly cheap) posters afterwards, knowing I can look at them more comfortably back at home.
Packing is almost done. By some miracle, my big case now weighs only 18 and a bit kilos – which is a relief, since Malaysian Air only allows 20. Actually, the miracle has a scientific explanation – I rolled my used clothes up v v v tight and packed them into my carryon luggage, which weighs a ton. Well, probably at least 12 kilos, and Malaysian Air only allows five. I’m hoping they won’t check.
Today was the train trip from Bruges to Amsterdam. First half to Antwerp was ok, only we had to move from 1st class to standard, where it wasn’t air-conditioned. Antwerp was a nightmare, the platform was crowded with people (all young, hippyish, holidayish) and they made a rush for the carriage doors before we could make our rush the carriage doors. We had to fight our way on board, literally the last ones in, when every seat was taken, every aisle was full of people standing, and the open spaces at the end of the carriages were choc-a-bloc. We had to push people out of the way with our big suitcases – and most everyone else had cases and bags too.
So we travelled standing, squashed on every side. People trying to pass had to climb over bags. I vowed there and then to travel first class next time. We got out of that train hot and sweaty and reliieved to breathe fresh air again.
So now we’re in the Amsterdam, close to the railway station – we’ll need to do a quick take off by train to the airport day after tomorrow. Close to the railway station is also the red light district. Many many little glowing red lights in all the side streets, and the young ladies of the night are just starting to take up their position in the windows.
I’m typing this at an internet cafe that’s also a hash cafe. Just like old times, when I visited Amsterdam at the end of the 70s. There was the hash and dope menu, all laid out on the counter, different costs for about 50 varieties.
Though 50 varieties doesn’t begin to compare with the way Belgians drink beer. Last night we went to the same brasserie, called ‘Cambrinus’, where we had out first dinner in Bruges – and chose another few beers from a selection of over 400 possibilities. The beer menu weighed a ton, divided into separate categories like Special Beers, Abbey beers, trappiste beers, fruit beers, lambic beers.
Here’s the menu, an inch thick between wooden covers, about 40 pages for beer and one page for food -
I mostly experimented with abbey and trappiste varieties – my favourites – but had a lambic beer too last night. Totally different, sort of sharp and refreshing. Maybe one day I’ll go back to Bruges and work my way through the other three hundred and eighty odd.
Weather is amazing, we’ve had over a fortnight of sun and blue skies. Almost too hot today, at least for walking around as a tourist. Must be still about 30 degrees now. We wandered as far as the beguinhof – the nunnery. Aileen talked to one nun who’d been a novice for 46 years – ‘I’m very happy with the life I’ve chosen’. The beguinhof sums Bruges up in a way, like a quiet retreat from the world. Lots of Godshuises too – which means almshouse, I think, but they’re like little oases of quiet tiny old buildings around courtyards. If I didn’t have so many novels left to write, I could easily contemplate a quiet meditative retirement in a Bruges Godshuis.
Forgot to mention one funny event from yesterday – or was it the day before? see how time has stopped flowing? We went to look at the Basilica of the Holy Blood – they were in the middle of a mass, but since Aileen’s a catholic, we went in and sat down, and Aileen took communion. Here’s how it looked inside -
But this was no ordinary service – this was the one time of the week for the Procession of the Holy Blood, when a long vessel like a gold-encased tube is presented for the special prayers of the devout. (Liquid blood or dried blood? and where was it obtained? I’ll have to google when I have time0
Anyway, Aileen joined the queue to pass before the relic, touch it and make a prayer – but realised too late that you were supposed to make a donation – and not subtly, not discreetly, but right on the steps going up to where the priest sat with the vessel virtually in his hands. So she went through with it, geneflucted, touched the vessel, made a prayer – but whereas everyone else got a card, no card for Aileen!
Somehow I donùt think the nuns in the Beguinhof would have understood the less than charitable spirit of that!
Had a great birthday dinner for Aileen last night, sitting by a restaurant window overlooking a canal. With swans swimming, of course – maybe you can just see them in the canal in the background …
Oh well, maybe not, but I know they were there.
Today we went on a boat trip around the canals of Bruges. Very different to Venice, v calm and quiet, with overhanging trees, and swans taking their cygnets on morning outings.
Afterwards we went to a Saturday flea market – drove us crazy, all the things we wanted to buy and couldn’t because of luggage limits on the flight home. Every kind of knickknack at ridiculously cheap prices – including fabulour brass candelabra (we really want a nez candelabra). I bought a leather helmet, medieval soldier style – - I always wanted one, don’t know why – and even more out-of-character, I bought the Livre de Mobilisation that belonged to a Belgian soldier at the end of the 19th century. I am so much NOT an antiquarian, but it fascinated me, the worn pages with all the details of Private Van Hoolenbeck’s enrolment, duties and requirements for a soldier in the Belgian army – even a separate folded paper with his final discharge – and all in an old goatskin binding. A real treasure for just a few bucks – I had to have it.
What else? We’ve learned to adapt to a shower recess so tiny it would challenge even an astronaut in a space capsule.
We bought some evil-smelling black drawing ointment for Aileen’s toe. Tonight is Aileen’s belated birthday dinner night, this afternoon we’re just listening to the canal waves lapping outside our window counterpointed by the loudspeaker voices of multi-lingual commentary from the canal tours going by.
Only 3 more days left after today, alas!
Just in case you thought travelling abroad was easy, here’s the score so far. Aileen: one swollen puffed-up toe and one v stiff neck (from carrying backpack). Richard: one sore throat (needing frequent doses of rum to keep it in check) and one bad back (thank you, Paris Metro with your lack of escalators). But we’re still having a ball – even if shuffling as we dance along.
Bruges is the perfect place for taking it easy, rambling along narro cobbled streets and green dreamy canals, drinking Belgian beer (the best, and v strong and v cheap), sampling Belgian chocolates. Did I mention before that our bedroom window looks out on a canal? Like this -
Meanwhile, what’s been happening back in Oz? We turn our backs for a couple of minutes and the whole political scene changes. Kevin out and Julia in? When I left 6 weeks ago, the worst for Kevin was a couple of bad opinion polls!!!
Paris was wonderful! Just the perfect weather, blue skies shining down on the leafy boulevards, and our hotel was in the perfect area – the south end of the Latin Quarter, near the Rue Mouffetard.
So our hotel – near the publisher’s offices – was in an area of typical Parisian buildings, with the balconies and angled dormer roofs. Rue Mouffetard nearby is a wonderful narrow cobbled street winding up through markets and fromageries, epiceries, every kind of old-style shop, along with a million restaurants.
The journey across Paris by Metro was hell, and ditto the journey back today. No problem when we went by Metro to the Seine and Notre Dame – because then we weren’t dragging suitcases. But heavy suitcases on the hot packed Metro – and all the steps to carry them up and dozn. The escalators – of which there are hardly any anyway- never seemed to be working in the direction we wanted. And today, the rail workers were having a go-slow, so I stood in a queue of about thirty people and took over an hour to get to the front.
But those were the only bad bits. Paris itself was, well, just so Parisian. We sat drining beers at little round tables in the sunshine, we had soupe a l’oignon and red wine, and cafe au lait and croissant for breakfast – for a couple of days there, we were Frencher than the French.
There was also lunch with the people from Helium, my French publisher. We ate at a restaurant in Rue Mouffetard, of course. Great people, and for once I remembered to take a photo – that is, Aileen reminded me. That’s been the problem – she hasn’t been there to jpg my camera arm before.
From left to right – Gilberte, Gérard, Valérie (translator), yours truly, Sophie (publisher) and Sandrine.
It was good to hear that the French edition is going into reprint.
I’ll blog about Bruges tomorrow, now I’ve got internet access again.
The last couple of days have been great – except for the travel part. I’ve grown so used to having everything taken care of – plane and train tickets provided in advance, cars and taxis booked, times all worked out, nothing for me to worry about. Now suddenly it’s all up to Aileen and me – queuing for tickets, finding out where to go and what to do. Travelling from Dorking to Brighton yesterday, everything went wrong – trains going from unexpected platforms, trains cancelled, me waiting in the wrong places, everyone assuming I knew how things worked when I didn’t. But apart from that, the last couple of days have been great.
First of all, there was the meeting up with relatives at cousin Kit’s place in East Croydon. I couldn’t hire a car to drive round to see people – not enough time in the schedule – but instead almost everyone managed to come to Kit’s. Not only Kit and Alan but also Vanda and Anne, also Andy and also Terry and janet. That’s all the cousins I grew up with – and they hadn’t seen one another for a long time either (especially Terry’s family) so it was a great get-together for everyone. Floods of nostalgia, rivers of reminiscence! So much to catch up on – and so many half-forgotten memories unearthed.
(No photos – I’m ashamed of myself.)
Aileen and I stayed overnight with Kit, then headed off from East Croydon railway station – Aileen straight to Brighton where she met up with a friend, me to Dorking, a one-time small market town, now an outer part of the London conurbation. Home of my UK publisher, Templar. I met up with Phil, my publicist, again, and Emily my editor – at last, I now have a face to go with so many emails. Also Mandy and Ruth and many more. Templar is an expanding publisher, but still has a great ‘team’ feel.
Emily had already read Liberator. Although I’ve felt so confident about that book, there’s still always a moment of apprehension – no need in this case, she loved it! We talked about some v small possible improvements.
Went out to lunch with Emily, Mandy, Ruth and Phil – v relaxing, under a sunshade at the back of a restaurant. I can remember a time when I was frozen stiff in the presence of publishers – but all my publishers and editors are such great people, it’s become like chatting with friends.
Later, after the hell ride to Brighton, I went over to meet Ian Miller at his house, not far from our hotel. Ian is the illustrator whose work I’ve admired for decades – and who created a wonderful cover for Worldshaker. I half expected to be in awe of him, but no, I just LIKED him. (I hope he’s not reading this.) He’s as old as me – groan! wheeze! – but he’s like a breath of fresh air, so funny, so sharp, so unpredictable. Mike Jolley from Templar was there too, and Ian’s wife Jenny – we sat in a sort of bower of greenery in the back garden, then gathered in the parlour, then had a dinner when Ian’s son Danny arrived. The whole house is a fabulous collection of art-inspiring oddities. I can’t explain ‘art-inspiring oddities’ – I nean, bits of stone, wood, toys, figurines, amazing stuff that Ian has collected (and you can see elements of them creeping into his pictures).
So anyway, we talked and talked and talked – it was a fantastic evening. And of course I drank Ian’s favourite tipple, organic cider (and bludged a cigarette off Mike). I feel sorry to be leaving England behind …
Last talk yesterday at the Borders Festival (the Borders area in the south of Scotland, not the bookshop chain). I’ve enjoyed the UK tour so much, and I’m sure I’ve generated a lot of interest in Worldshaker. But this last talk wasn’t a highlight – the kids attending were around 9 years old, a bit on the young side for a YA novel like Worldshaker! No matter – can’t expect everything to work out perfectly. And the festival as a whole was great – white marquees set up in an old garden with the sun shining. It was cucumber sandwiches on the lawn weather, a lovely holiday feel.
Earlier, Aileen and I went around Melrose Abbey, a grand ruined Cistercian abbey church and cloisters. I realised this was my first bit of true sightseeing on the whole trip so far.
Today I re-organised my suitcase so that all the stuff I use for presentations – clothes, displays etc – went to the bottom. Now it’s holiday clothes at the top!
We’re now in Melrose in the Scottish Borders country – home of a famous ruined abbey and also a writer’s festival. We arrived yesterday, staying at a delightful guest house nearby. Yesterday evening was a reeception and sitting around talking – I was a bit daunted in advance, because of course everyone knew everyone else, and Aileen and I knew noone. But everybody was very friendly and welcoming, so we soon got over that.
The UK tour is rushing to a close – I do a presentation today, travel to London and catch up with my relatives, then travel south to have lunch with my UK publisher, on further to Brighton to meet Ian Miller – then the next day is back to London and over the Channel to France. I mean, UNDER the Channel, by train and Chunnel … very appropriate, since WORLDSHAKER history begins when Napoleon digs HIS tunnel under the English Channel to invade England.
I ought to be tired with all the travel and presentations, I MUST be tired – but right now I feel as if I could keep doing this for weeks and months non-stop!
I love it when kids get carried away with questions – when more and more of them put their hands up, more and more enthusiastically. That’s what happened today at Altrincham (pronounced Altringam) Grammar School.
It took me back to the school I went to in England, long long ago, when all-boys grammar schools were far more common than now. The students even wore a uniform similar to Sudbury Grammar – green jackets with red piping round the edges. Ours was more a carrotty red, and we had caps too. (Imagine, requiring schoolkids to wear caps – isn’t that a surefire way of getting caps pinched off heads, thrown, chased, hidden – guaranteed chaos!) There was a traditional feel about the school in general – in a good way. Or maybe it was just nostalgia on my part.
This morning I counted numbers of socks, shirts, undies, pants. Getting towards the end of the trip – only 2 weeks left! – and I’d hate to do more hotel room washing than I had to. Funny how some things work when tested under travel conditions and others don’t. Like my microfibre shirts and pants – they dry so fast. And my washing line for hanging above the bath, my whisky for gargling after doing talks. Other things that weren’t worth the bother – like my tailcoat and top hat, which I’ve hardly used, my steampunk cap and vest are much better.
I always think I’ll remember and plan and pack better next trip, and somehow I always forget.
Sunshine and blue skies! And they keep staying blue (mostly) and sunny (85% of time). Last few days in Edinburgh, the wather was wonderful, and now it’s actually hot in Manchester.
This afternoon I chatted with a bookshop reader’s group of kids who’d already read Worldshaker – the ultimate treat for an author.
In my shcool presentations, I’ve said similar things so often, I’m now wandering and varying and adding new bits.
Yesterday was a long, long day! Up before 5 am., then a double train trip (four and a half hours) to the north of Scotland, and a first visit to Gordonstoun, which is the private school that Prince Charles attended. I’m really spreading the steampunk message far and wide! That was fun – then on to Buckie High School in the same area. Whereas the US tour was mainly bookshop readings and signing, the UK tour is mainly school visits. I didn’t get back till 9 pm yesterday.
Today another couple of school visits, including an interview for Teen Titles magazine by the students of Liberton High. Aileen had to take over as my ‘escort’ today – escort and publicist.
We’ll have another dinner at another amazing Edinburgh pub tonight.
Then on to Manchester tomorrow. Another day, another city …
After Newcastle, we trained across to Workington, where Aileen’s surviving relatives live. We had a sunny day! I was amazed when we had an hour’s wait for a change of train at Carlisle, and I had a Guinness – out of the fridge! A chilled guinness, just like Australia. I bet they wouldn’t dare in Ireland!
This morning we went around all the different houses where Aileen’s family had lived. A lot of houses for different branches of the family at different times -yet all within a small area of half a dozen streets. Amazing how families used to hang together – at least, until they left to find work in places like Australia and South Africa, and then hardly saw their families again (in the days before jet travel).
(Here we’re standing in front of what used to be Uncle Ernie’s sweetshop)
Later today we head back to Edinburgh and the same hotel. Monday is going to be my hardest day of all – getting up to catch a train at 5 am, then 3 school presentations, and not getting back to the hotel until after 9 pm. No blogging tomorrow!
Now in Newcastle, where I did a workshop with a class of kids who are doing a steampunk project, building an old-fashioned-y steam-age construction. Such a treat to talk to converts!
While I was doing schools in Scotland, I learned one important lesson – don’t talk about my early life growing up in ENGLAND. (Or at least, don’t mention that it was in England.) There’s no great love of the English in Scotland, ever since the days of Maggie Thatcher. (I can understand why.)
The weather has turned sunny after a cloudy morning. Not warm, exactly, but really pleasant. A sort of brisk summeriness.
Right now I’m borrowing the computer at the hotel reception desk, no way can I do more than a brief blogette.
Hi! British internet at hotels has gone into swift decline. At London, we had our own internet computer in the room. At Bristol, only a hotel computer to use, and expoensive. In Edinburgh, no computer in the hotel – no access, not even for the laptop I haven’t brought. It’s a fair trek to the nearest internet cafe, but here I am.
What the hotel has is an incredible location facing the towering Walter Scott Memorial on Princes street, this amazing 19th Century gothic structure, as black as if charred by fire.
That’s the view from our bedroom window – and we look out on the skyline of the Royal Mile too -
Our bedroom window looks out onto that and also the whole skyline of the Royal Mile, very dramatic.
Edinburgh is brrrr-ugh – very cold. Lots of fine drizzly rain, which we had in Bristol too. Now, for the moment, the sun has come out – but wait till the next time I look out the cafe window. Can’t trust any weather to hang around long.
We met up with a friend of Aileen’s on Tuesday evening and went to an amazing pub – only the local, but it had stained glass windows, a coffered many-coloured roof and tile pictures, framed like oil paintings. All of this stuff is just standard in Edinburgh – or not very unusual, anyway. The whole city is old and sandstone-y. We haven’t eaten haggis yet, though it’s on many menus – we’re going for the less traditional form of Scottish cuisine known as Indian.
Schools are interesting – I’ve done 2 primary schools, but primary goes a year later than Australia.
Very quick blog while waiting for plane from Bristol to Edinburgh. Did two school visits yesterday – really good kids. Bristol area is West Country – lovely accent, all green fields and on-off rain to keep it that way. I met Philippa, who’s been doing a wonderful job organising the tour.
Here’s Phil (Phillipa) on the left, and Pam, school librarian, on the right
This morning Aileen and I wandered around St Nicholas Markets – old bric a brac and everything. I saw a metal steampunky construction I really craved, but couldn’t have managed the weight for plane flights. Got Aileen an amazing art nouveau style necklace for birthday instead.
Aileen arrived this morning … but not the tall and elegant version of Aileen, more of a wrung-out dishcloth version, after 36 hours without sleep. So good to see her (in any version)!
The hotel we’re in is between the Houses of Parliament and the Tate Gallery. It’s a much-touristed area – which is good for shops/cafes/restaurants staying open all weekend. I can’t help wondering if all the traditional red phone boxes and blue phone boxes and red postboxes are natural, or whether they’ve been gathered up from far and wide, and re-planted here. I can’t believe there could be so many in one area.
(Red shirt to colour-coordinate with red postbox)
We went walking today – checking out pubs for a pub dinner tonight (an amazing congregation of very traditional pubs in this area too!), getting a UK SIM card for Aileen’s mobile, then later strolling along the Embankment beside a very muddy low-tide Thames, surveying the Houses of Parliament and London Eye ferris wheel – and even the Gherkin in the distance.
Wish I had more to say – the one time I have an internet computer in the room, but nothing much to tell except the dramatic phone call from Reception when Aileen arrived at 7.30 this morning. I’ll take my camera and get a photo in the pub tonight.
I’m now at a hotel with an internet access computer in the room- in London – so now I can put up some piccies, going way back through this blog – a selection of the piccies I took but couldnt upload through hotels’ business centre computers.
Here’s a photo of me at a bookstore – trouble is, I can’t remember which one when —-
I’ve just been indulging in English memories, sitting at the computer with a pork pie, a bottle of Hobgoblin real ale (better than beer ever was when I lived in England), some ciabatta-like rolls, some French brie – and for dessert, marzipan. (Okay, maybe not so English after all – but I dote on marzipan).
New York was a blast – the high point of the US tour. There were high points all along the way – but, I mean, I know I can do readings and talk up my latest book. I love doing those things – but New York meant meeting the people at Simon & Schuster, and I felt honored when everyone who’d been involved in the book’s production or marketing gathered around the oval table in the main suite just to meet me. Must’ve been nigh on 20 people from the vice-president down, and they were so enthusiastic, so happy about Worldshaker and the way it’s been selling. Which was a great feeling for me – plus, I was impressed by the high morale of everyone there . I’ve seen publishing companies full of backbiting and grudges and factionalism, but here they had a really strong spirit as a community and a team.
It was great to put faces to names – Navah my editor, Taryn my publicist, Paul the director of publicity, Catharine the steampunk afficionado – and of course David my publisher. All so full of energy and enthusiasm. I just wish I could remember everyone’s names – Justin, Anne, Mary … no, I can’t do it.
I had lunch withDavid afterward at a great little Mexican restaurant. Australia has many great cuisines, but let’s face it, Mexican isn’t one of them. Whereas Mexican is hugely popular in the States – every level from solid cheap fare to the to-die-for delicious. My two best Mex meals were this one in New York and one in Phoenix. The Phoenix place did guacamole and enchiladas and the classic Mexican standards brilliantly; the New York one opened up whole new possibilities beyond the standards.
I was sorry to leave the States. Maybe my waistcoat felt the same, because it managed to entangle its buckles with Navah’s pendant chain just when a taxi finally pulled up. (The same waistcoat as in the photo above – part of my standard steampunk costume) The cab driver nearly gave up and took off without me.
Flying to London was a drag, as flying always is. Did I ever mention I was flying with Icelandair, since way back before the volcano erupted? Anyway, it didn’t blow its top. Iceland is as bare and windswept as it looks in “The Eagle’, the TV series.
Now I’m in London, at a hotel near the Tate ggllery. Aileen joins up with me tomorrow, yippee!
Hi! Now I’m in Cincinnati, on the other side of the Ohio River. Woke up this morning and turned on the tap – nothing. Tried all the taps – no water. The front desk told me that a water main had burst overnight and no room had any water – not even to flush the toilet. I had the choice of staying in the Hyatt and showering at the Millenium Hotel over the road, or re-locating to the Millenium. I chose the latter – and of course the Hyatt took care of all expenses, in fact they probably won’t even charge Simon & Schuster for the two nights. I made the changeover in an early morning blur – I guess it was lucky that the rooms were available and so close. The hotels are almost exactly the same standard.
Did some meeting and greeting and signing at bookshops this afternoon – taken from place to place by my escort. People in American bookshops seem very busy – they wear intercoms so messages are always flying around the store – but when they have time they really give you their support. Nothing more important than recommendations from a bookshop person!
Another reading/signing tonight, then I get up at 5.00 am, fly to New York, another signing and – most important of all – I get to meet my publisher and editor and publicist at the Simon & Schuster offices. It’ll be great to meet in person after so many emails. Then, late in the evening, I fly to London via Iceland. (The volcano is being nice and quiet at the moment – touch wood)
Next post will be from the London hotel!
Still in the Hotel Seelbach. The ‘grande old dame’ of Luisville. I had to go dress up in my full steampubnk regalia, just to have a photo taken coming down those stairs.
Did a reading and signing last night at a Borders store – no tornado, not even a storm. The Borders chain is flourishing fine in the US, stores everywhere and big ones too.
Afterwards I had a true Kentucky dinner – fried catfish and fried green tomatoes. Both rolled in flour and cornmeal, and deep fried. Now I know where Colonel Sanders (another famous resident, along with Mohammed Ali) got his KFC ideas from.
Mass stock signings this afternoon, then on to Lexington, then Cincinnatti this evening.
Phew! It’s like Wollongong in the summer here in Louisville, very warm and very very humid. There are storms forecast for later, and even the chance of tornadoes. (First thing I noticed when I arrived at Louisville airport was the tornado shelter.)
I did some walking around today, and then discovered the trams, which, apart from being wonderfully airconditioned, are all shining brass and woodwork, like San Francisco’s cable cars, but without the cables.
My hotel is on Muhammed Ali Boulevard – I’d forgotten, in his Cassius Clay days, he was nicknamed the Louisville Lip.
Another reading and signing this evening – it may have to be a v loud reading if there are tornadoes blowing!
So cruel! This morning I had to part from my two plasma TVs - just as I was just getting used to surfing screen number two while screen number one was having an ad break. Now I’m back to just one – but I love this new hotel, the Seelbach Hilton, which is a grand old building from WW I. The staircase is sheer Gone With the Wind – gilding and mahogany everywhere. This tour is like a tourist trip around all the best that US hotels can offer!
Another plus, it’s right in the centre of town. Town being Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby and bourbon and paddlewheelers on the old Ohio. Instead of a half mile to the edge of the hotel grounds, as at the Biltmore, now I step out, turn to the left, and I’m in the middle of pubs, discos, restaurants, the works. Must’ve been the thought of the UK part of the tour coming up, because I went to The Pub and had beef stew and mash and beer (Texan bad, Boston good).
I started browsing a shopping catalogue on the flight from Phoenix. Americans love gadgets – and so do I! Very appropriate for a steampunk writer, and the truth is I always wanted to be an inventor. How about these for some wacky gadgets? -
An underwater pogo stick (the World’s One and Only) for hopping about in the swimming pool? And for company while hopping, what about a Kaleidoscopic Pool Cruising Fish (only $99) that waggles its tail to swim round your pool at random flashing out a continuous show of multicoloured lights for up to 8 hours?
For the financially-minded, there was a Front pocket Wallet, not rectangular, but specially curved on one side to fit in the shape of the male front pocket. Also, a Stainless Steel Wallet, more than normally durable and also prevents identity theft by anyone secretly scanning the credit cards through your jacket.
One of my favourites was the Solar-Powered Mole Repeller – you plant it in your lawn, and it uses the power of the sun to send a vibration through the ground that moles just hate. Or, also for the garden, a simple means for aerating the ground to encourage oxygen into the soil. Why use expensive machinery, when you can use Strap-On Sandals equipped with Specially Long Spikes! Don’t the say that all great inventions have the genius of simplicty? Make your own aerating holes by walking around – and you can replace the spikes at half the full cost when they wear out …
I won’t even mention the Peaceful Progression Alarm Clock that wakesyou gently over a 30 minute period with growing light, delightful arousing smells and a choice of one of six soft Nature sounds before the buzzer cuts in …
I’m going to go off now and dream up a device for preventing lint in bellybuttons or opening chip packets or something that humanity really needs. It’s all about ingenuity!
I’m now at the Hotel Biltmore in Phoenix. My rooms (and I mean rooms – even my bathroom has rooms!) have two plasma TVs, two sundecks.
It’s a taxi ride just to reach the edge of the hotel grounds. Everything in Phoenix is unbelievably spread out. I ordered some milk when I arrived, evening before yesterday, and a two litre bottle arrived in an ice bucket at a cost of US$22. It hurt, even though it all goes on expenses. Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned here – but they tell me it’s gone upmarket since then …
Here’s the particular wing I live in! Naturally we have our own courtyard, swimming pool and spa -
I’ve since set myself up with a couple of bottles of red wine (I’m impressed by Californian wine, Trent – still loyal to Australian, but this stuff is good and cheap – from the supermarket), sourdough bread, provolone and ham – now I can nibble lunch on (one of my) my sundeck(s) without having to walk all the way to the hotel’s various restaurants. I feel like Crocodile Dundee – I want to make a little camp in one corner of my main living area, light a fire and feel all cosy!
My first evening in Phoenix was a book reading and signing – supported by the Brose Brothers as my backing act. Unbelievable steampunk costumes, as good as I’ve ever seen anywhere, and they’ve been dressing up steampunk style since way back, long before it became a fashion. Phoenix is not the obvious home of steampunk, but these guys were sensational.
Yesterday I did a school visit to Magnet Traditional School. Talking to large audiences, I’m having to get used to doing readings with a mike. One great thing about American students – they’re never backward in asking questions!
Did a bookshop panel followed by a reading yesterday evening, at the legendary Mysterious Galaxies bookshop in San Diego. Great guys there, who really know their SF/fantasy.
(Me in my steampunk cap, Megan alongside)
Then dinner with Larry, who’s been escorting me round for Simon & Schuster. Had my first Californian wine – have to admit, pretty good. (Not that I’m going to back down on the supremacy of Australian wine in a hurry!)
Had to get up at 4.45 am this morning – blurgh! Made it to the airport, caught my flight to San Farancisco, met uyp with my San Fran escort, Frank – but it was all a blur until I got to the school I was visiting, in Berkeley. Very different to any Australian school. I did a presentation that tied in with their career day (writing as a career? you’d have to be mad … but I talked about how very very fulfilling it is – especially when you’ve just written WORLDSHAKER!)
I’m now in San Francisco near Union Square – just a couple of blocks away from where I stayed 2 years ago. A hotel with great character – the Rex. A long soaking bath to wash away the weariness, then maybe I’ll go out seeking further experimentation with Californian wine.
Third day in the States. Yesterday I went round the USS Midway – huge decommissioned aircraft carrier. Big navy vessels send a shiver down my back – even though none of them match up to juggernaut size. But down in the tiny bunkrooms, in among the engines and machinery and wiring – it all had the juggernaut feeling. Plus that unmistakeable smell of lead paint. I have photos, but using hotel computers, I haven’t found a way to post them on this blog yet.
Now I have – here’s a glimpse of the Midway
Last night I did my first reading and signing at the San Diego Borders. Vast store – and to start with, a small audience. I was nervous until I got going. Then I did my readings at full store-filling volume, and suddenly the audience grew much bigger. Sold and signed a fair few copies, and gained some good friends, including the store manager.
I’ll be more confident next time. I guess you always wonder how you’re going to measure up in America … so far so good.
Today, I had the morning and afternoon off – went to the San Diego zoo, which is the biggest in the US. Highlight was a polar bear, so cute. Eating his/her vegetables, then playing with a ball underwater – bouncing it against the glass. What a show-off!
Tonight’s event is a panel at Mysterious Galaxies.
Hi! Just a quick blogette – nothing much has happened. I feel I’m settling in to the States – I’ve got my cell phone (I don’t even think ‘mobile’ any more), my Ralph’s discount card, etc etc. I foresee a major conflict looming between the American habit of serving food in huge sized portions, and my deeply ingrained training of never leaving anything on my plate. This could mean problems.
This afternoon I’m going visiting the USS Midway, a de-comissioned aircraft carrier you can walk around. It’ll be my first visit to an aircraft carrier since the one in Plymouth (UK) when I was 6 or 7 – when I freaked out with claustrophobia or something. Not this time!
Here I am, in West Hollywood! A bit of luxury after the long endurance of the flight. I had to transit in Fiji, and got a full body search for my troubles. On the Fiji-LA leg, I discovered I was in a seat next to a woman who started coughing – ‘I’m going to be like this the whole way,’ she warned me, and she was right. Every 10 seconds, cough, cough, snort, splutter, cough, cough. In the end I escaped and found probably the only empty seat on the plane – except it wasn’t. I was between an old Fijian guy and a young guy who must’ve been his nephew or something – and a steward told me later, the old guy was actually one of the wealthiest businesmen in Fiji – business class had been full, so he’d booked 3 economy seats side by side. So I unintentionally took the middle one.
But he was real nice about it, no problem And the special service he got from all the stewards and stewardesses sort of came my way too.
Tonight, I plan on having a long long LONG sleep.
Here it is, the last post. TRAA-RAAAH! From now on, I'll be blogging on http://richardharland.wordpress.com.
All going well - except the weekend trains to the airport, normally very handy from where I live, are totally stuffed up with trackwork, so not handy at all. Aileen will drive me in instead.
Aileen's birthday falls round about the time when I'm travelling (Icelandic volcanoes willing) from New York to London, so we'll be do birthday dinner out and birthday presents tonight. I'm trusting that nothing desperately last-minute-y comes up, because there won't be any time much tomorrow morning.
Here's a photo of my suitcase. Looks so small and innocent, doesn't it? But it weighs a ton - exactly 23 kilos now.
Wish me luck! This should be fun! Next post will be on
Today, the preliminary packing. Collection of items to pack, ironing clothes, folding clothes, putting everything into the suitcase and weighing. Why are they so mean with baggage allowances? My main suitcase came in just under 23 kilos, my carry-on case weighted exactly 7. It's those wheels - half the weight is the weight of frame and wheels.
OK, so I can fly to the States with that, then maybe lose a kilo from the carry-on luggage for the flight from New York to London (allowance 6 kilos). But coming back with Malaysia Airlines - they only allow 20 kilos of checked luggage and 5 (five!) kilos of carry-on. I'm going to have to shed things along the way - shed and definitely not accumulate. Where does the weight come from?
Hmm … I remember asking that same question apropos of something else. But I reckon I'm shedding personal kilos with all this packing business. Can't wait to just get over there and start touring.
Here's a mystery - why do trains in the UK alternative between cheap and dear prices? First a cheap one, then a dear one, then a cheap one, then a dear one ... and so on all through the day. What's the explanation?
Time to watch the telly, veg out and unstress for a while ...
Today was the day of collecting stuff to pack and discovering what I haven't got. Not much, it turns out. I've sorted out my pharmacology, my socks, my underwear … okay, that's probably all you need/want to know. I've arranged to meet up with Ian Miller in Brighton at the end of the UK tour - he did the cover for the British version of WORLDSHAKER, and he's absolutely my favourite SF/fantasy illustrator of all time. I'm expecting an evening of organic cider - if it lives up to his claims, my health will be perfect for the next 20 years.
Meanwhile, Aileen and I have been booking hotels for that last part of the trip after the tours are over. Here's Aileen being glamorous (with brother-in-law Bob)
Turns out that the offices of my French publisher in Paris are in the Latin Quarter very close to a flea-bitten hotel where I used to live when I sold newspapers (Herald Tribunes) to American tourists in Paris. The area must've changed - from bohemian to upmarket and ultra-fashionable - but maybe I can find the soup kitchen where I used to eat (well, a charitable institution serving cheap meals to the down and out!), the bars where we used to drink and argue, the bookshop where we used to lounge around reading entire books.
Ah, strange times, exotic memories. Right now, present reality is calling me back to sewing trouser cuffs that have come unstitched. (One of the things about glamorous wives is you have to do your own sewing ...)
Back from Bundaberg. Had a great time, one day of workshops, one day of panel and presentation, hotel on the beach, got to talk with writer friends I hadn't seen for a long time - but already it seems a hundred years in the past. I fly off to the States in just 4 days time! Agggh!
So much preparing and packing still to do. Why do I always leave things till the last moment? Maybe it’s what I do in my novels – must remember that real life doesn’t need to be so stressful!
I just rang up Icelandair – guess who booked their flight from New York to London going by way of Iceland? But they said, not to worry, there’s far less problem over Iceland than there is over the rest of Europe. Smart people, Icelanders – they know which way the wind blows!
I think I’ll be wearing my tailcoat as everday dress on the tours – it’s very heavy, and I can’t afford the baggage weight of another jacket. Either I’ll convert the world to steampunkery or they’ll throw eggs and tomatoes at me.
Now i think I’ll just go off and have another panic attack followed by a packing attack.
I’m just back from the first of 3 trips. Flew down to Melbourne a few days ago to catch up with Jack Dann and Janeen Webb on their farm, just north of Wilson’s Promontory. Beautiful country, all green hills, and their house is on top of a ridge, so that you can look out towards the ocean and promontory on one side, and on the other side a whole panorama with a lake and cows. 360 degree views, and 360 kph winds. No, I’m kidding, but even it's calm , the wind still gusts and tries to knock you over. Apart from the wind, the weather has been very Victoria, moving from sun to shower to overcast to sun – and round and round and round at 5 minute intervals.
This was the totally relaxed trip, with good friends and nothing to do but chat and chill out. (Can Jack cook up a storm in the kitchen!) Next week, it’s the Bundaberg Writing Festival – workshops and talks. Wilson’s Promontory. is the furthest south in mainland Australia I’ve ever travelled and Bundaberg will be the furthest north.
That's all just a warm-up for the big one the following week. May 22nd is when I fly off for the overseas tours for Worldshaker – first 2 weeks travelling around the U.S., then on to the U.K. for another two weeks travelling around England and Scotland. After that, a bit of holidaying and a visit to Paris and my French publisher. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also panicking. So many things to prepare!
Being on the farm with Jack and Janeen was the perfect relaxation - there was nothing I could do about anything, so I had 3 great days of admiring the green hills and cows and non-stop weather, chatting and eating and drinking. I was so relaxed that I started overflowing with ideas for the book to come after Liberator. I've been a bit worried to have so little planned at so late a stage (remembering that I'm usually planning years before I start writing) - suddenly it all clicked into place.
I've just finished revising/re-writing a modern version of "Beauty and the Beast" for an anthology edited by Isobelle Carmody. Or maybe not so much modern as newly traditional - I aimed to make it even more fairytale-ish than the original! I'm very satisfied with the way it's turned out..
I'm clearing the decks ready for the overseas tours, as in NEWS next door. Before I fly off I have to do some days of teaching and talking at a Writing Festival in Bundabeg, then a workshop in Sydney, and also visit Jack Dann in Victoria. I'll hardly have time to pack my socks ...
My big news is that I've just finished the first draft of the sequel to Worldshaker! I was contracted to have it done by December 2010, and instead I've finished it already! I'm amazed at myself - never ever ever have I written a book so smoothly and easily. I still have to hear back from my editors - and my sample readers - but I feel very very confident about this one. I want to call it The Book That Can Not Be Put Down.
At any rate, it was a book that its author couldn't put down! My favourite part of writing is always towards the end of a novel, the last sixth or so, approaching the climax. If everything has been planted right and put into place, that's where the book starts writing itself. The story and characters know where to go, and I just have to hang on for the ride. With Liberator, that started happening from about a third of the way through, and I've been hanging on for the ride ever since. Whoo-eee!
Maybe there's a reason - because this is a book where the climax really does start before halfway through - and just keeps on rolling and building all the way from then on. I like big rolling climaxes, I always try to make them a feature of my novels, but I've never known anything like this before.
Liberator was always a story just bursting to come out. It got held back because there was so much promo work to do on Worldshaker, and when I was ready to write it, there was a sudden change of plan. I'd been working out everything that needed to happen in Book Two so that there could be a Book Three, but then I was persuaded to produce a duology, where the second volume would be even bigger and better than Worldshaker, rather than a stepping stone to Book Three. I was tearing my hair out, because I'd spent so much planning time on the old Book Two - but when I started thinking of Liberator as the wrap-up book of a duology, it all started to come together. The events from Book Two and Book Three started to impact on one another, so that the end product is far better than any two books could have been separately. Liberator will be a bit longer than Worldshaker - I'll have to trim it in the second draft - but it's definitely turned into one single super-story.
I am so-o-o-o-o pleased with it!
How much to give away? Spoiler alert! At the end of Worldshaker, the Filthies plan to change the juggernaut's name and Riff likes the sound of 'Liberator', so that's what the newly liberated juggernaut is called. But now, three months further on, the Filthies' revolution is moving into a new phase, more violent and extreme. Col and other Upper Decks people who have stayed to help on the juggernaut are viewed with suspicion and hostility. It's partly because of the mysterious acts of sabotage that keep happening, and it's also because the Imperialists are massing against them. When Liberator calls in at the coaling station of Botany Bay, that starts a confrontation which eventually involves the Russian, Austrian, French and Turkish juggernauts. In the Revolutionary Council, moderate voices are drowned out and extremists take over. War is approaching!
I'd better shut up before I start revealing who the saboteur really is! I'll just say that most of the characters from Worldshaker reappear in Liberator: not only Col and Riff, of course, but Gillabeth, baby Antrobus, Quinnea, Orris, Septimus, Professor Twillip, Mr Gibber … they're all back, as weird and wonderful as ever. (I've really enjoyed watching them all grow and develop more sides to their personalities.)
German Worldshaker Out Soon!
Just heard that the German edition of Worldshaker will be out in the shops by the start of August. Jacoby & Stuart have created a great cover - see the image just below. I ran out of time in Europe and couldn't fit in a trip to Berlin, but I'll definitely be calling on Nicola at Jacoby & Stuart next time I'm over.
MORE COVERS FOR WORLDSHAKER
The French edition from Hélium appeared in April; the American and UK editions in May/June; and the German edition at the end of July. It's all happening, and very very exciting!
Worldshaker shortlisted for the Ethel Turner prize
Review in famous French newspaper Le Figaro
Story "A Guided Tour in the Kingdom of the Dead" in the Tor anthology, Year's Best Fantasy #9
Now I have two steampunk costumes! One is my Victoriana costume, with tailcoat and vest and fob watch and cane - as worn for the launch of Worldshaker at the steampunk convention in Melbourne and the steelworks launch at Wollongong. The only change is that I now pin one of my bits of steampunk jewel to the front of my top hat.
The steampunk jewellery came from a shop called In Visible Light in Newtown, and so did the new bit of copper jewellery that goes with my leather cap. Don't ask me why a leather cap, I just think it looks sort of steampunky. I wore it at Swancon in Perth, and got really fond of it. Very comfortable - maybe I'll take to wearing it all the time.
Along with the cap and copper thingy, I wear my steampunk vest, with amazing brass buckles. God only knows what it was for originally - I found it in a second hand shop and thought it looked interesting. It was only after wearing it to a Regency dinner at a Canberra convention that I thought, hey, this could belong in a steampunk costume too.
Memo to self: must get a photo of my gas mask! Such as might be worn by intrepid 19th century balloonists when flying through heavy industrial pollution. Or World War I soldiers, or whatever … steampunk knows no boundaries! (or if it does, I try not to find out about them)
THE WRITING TIPS SITE goes American, British and Australian
The writing tips website - all 145 pages of it - is now in 3 different version: Australian, US and UK. Click on the bar at the top of any page for Australian version; for the US and UK versions, you need to go to
And Le Figaro says …
This tickled my fancy - a review of Le Worldshaker in the French newspaper, Le Figaro. I don't know much about French newspapers, but I know Le Figaro is about top of the pile. The reviewer describes the book as "une reflexion intelligente sur le totalitarisme" and "un vrai roman d'aventures, riche en rebondissements". I think that means 'an intelligent reflection on totalitarianism' and 'a true adventure novel, pakced full of twists and turns.' The final sentence says it's not lacking in piquancy "comme un bonbon anglais". Like an English candy? I think that has to be praise, but I don't know what an English candy's supposed to taste like! Maybe sweet and sharp? (That would fit Worldshaker …)
Worldshaker isn't really the kind of novel you expect to feature in literary-oriented awards. It has its serious side, but it's also very obviously a page-turner. (Well, if it isn't, a lot of people have been fibbing to me!) So it's a great honour and very surprising that it's been chosen on the shortlist for the Ethel Turner Prize in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. That is, chosen as one of the 5 best YA novels by Australian writers in any genre. Blow me down with a feather! I don't think I have a hope of winning - though I wouldn't mind the $30,000 prize money - but I count it as a coup for fantasy/SF to have even made it onto the list.
Worldshaker has also been chosen as a Notable Book in the Children's Book Council of Australia Award. And in the US, even before publication, as a Selection of the Junior Library Guild (which doesn't involve prize money, but does kick off sales with about 5,000 copies)
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