Feb 282015

…AKA well, would you look at that…

Turns out "Teratogen" earned itself a spot on the Aurealis Awards shortlist for 2014, in the category of Best Fantasy Short Story!

It's an amazing shortlist, and I'm chuffed beyond measure to have written something people consider worth mentioning in the same breath as any one of the other finalists, let alone all of them.

I'm late to the news because I've had my head buried in a desperate scramble to finish the last-minute edits/proofs on my Twelfth Planet collection — this book is due to the publisher in, um, less than 8 hours and I've still got three stories to wade through for final edits/corrections etc. Talk about running right to the wire, huh?


Luckily/unluckily, the final deadline landed at precisely the same time as I packed up my little family for a beach house holiday. Unluckily because no beach for me — luckily because it means lots of non-me supervision and activity for Squawk. So while Squawk and her dad and grandparents have rambled around the town, sightseeing and shopping and discovering fresh air, I sat here, and worked. Thank all that's holy for my trusty iPod to keep me company.

Feb 022015
Wrestling With Demons, by Luke Chueh

Whenever I finish working on a manuscript, I give myself free reign to abandon all discipline and consume instead of create. Books, TV, films, magazines, art, museum exhibitions, live comedy, music, podcasts … any and every creative outpouring from someone else's brain that even remotely takes my interest. And of course spending extra time with the friends and family I inevitably neglected during the deathmarch.

So, after delivering Cherry Crow Children, I gave myself the rest of December off. I figured an entire month, capped off with a gloriously deadline-free Christmas, would see me straight and I'd be able to start the new calendar year with new words. My goal for January wasn't productivity — I didn't want to be churning out chapters. Instead I wanted to play: to toy with possibilities, chase dead ends and dawdle over daydreams, and out of that would come new worlds on which to work.

Turns out one month wasn't enough. There's no lack of ideas itching for my attention. Yet, all through January, every time I sat down to any of them, I had nothing. The well was so empty the stones at its base no longer had any understanding of even the concept of wet.

I guess it isn't surprising. The longer a project takes, and the more it looms, the more it drains me. And refilling the well isn't so easy these days. Used to be I could tell everyone I knew not to phone, plant myself on the couch with a doona and a stack of books and movies, and let my mind recharge. Every weeknight and weekend for as long as it took, I could hermit myself away, or glut myself on friendships and social catch-ups. I spent all of January doing just that, when and where I could, but doing it in fits and starts, in between nappies and uneaten meals and sleep traumas, is a far less efficient path to medicinal gluttony.

And now here we are in February. I still have nothing, but I miss writing. I'm going to count that as progress.

Jan 172015
tppheader4 copy

It wouldn't be a proper book without a page of its own and the ability to pre-order, right?

Which is what "Cherry Crow Children", my Twelfth Planet collection, now officially has: Cherry Crow Children, published by Twelfth Planet Press.

In all honesty, I'm pretty sure said page has actually existed for a while now, because Alisa is an on-top-of-things kind of person. Thankfully. However! There is more: Cherry Crow Children will be officially launched by Twelfth Planet Press at Swancon 40, in April 2015. More details to follow as soon as I know them or have figured them out.

 Posted by at 11:19 pm
Jan 052015

After two years, today saw me return to the world of gainful corporate employment.

Last night, the prospect was paralysing. After all, the world at large hadn't been put on hold these past years, even if mine had. Would I remember how to do my job? Would that even matter, given the significant changes in the industry while I've been away? And why was I worrying about any of that, when I knew the whole of my first day would be spent re-attaining my door key and remembering where the toilets are and arguing with IT about when, precisely, they'd have my logins sorted out? (For the record, not quite yet.)

There was also the guilt. Worries that I'm abandoning Squawk (or rather that she'll feel I am); that I'll be too distracted and preoccupied by mothering to do my job justice and too overworked and time-poor to do my family justice. The bittersweet realisation that I have been with this child, night and day, since before she took her first breath, and now I must miss whole days of her life. And the fears, great and growling and relentless, about my ever-shrinking time for writing. Squawk already takes up my everything, and if I have to squeeze the corporate world into the spaces left behind…

But today, there were whole swathes of the day where, not only was there no one staring at me and mimicking my every movement and facial expression, there were people not even looking in my general direction. And when I saw some of my upcoming work, and realised I would get to spend uninterrupted hours not having to change nappies or argue with my tiny overlord of a daughter about whether and how much she and/or I should or could be eating right now…It's a heady thing, people.

And when I turned up to fetch Squawk home, I found her standing in the centre of a circle of rapt toddlers, singing Baa Baa Black Sheep at them. Yeah, she's gonna do just fine.

Jan 022015
The Queen Is Dead, by Luke Chueh

This Corpse is Full of Birds

The first was a fledgling, a Jacky Winter launched from the nest on new-found wings to snatch at an insect. His sole flight was a faltering plummet, yet it filled me with envy.

So I scooped him up, and swallowed him whole.

He sang his dissent all the way down, but his claws were tiny, his beak but a stub. His peeping breath tasted of spiders and sap. And then he was down, ensconced inside me, a kernel of sky to warm my heart.

I got a taste for it.

One by one I caught them, these creatures of flight and fancy. The hopping house sparrows; the swooping magpie; the diving butcher bird; the wattlebird who went down with an angry "chok-chok-chok!" Their talons scored my throat, but their feathers soothed the wounds and their song, dawn lullabies and midnight carols, bubbled up like a balm.

Now I'm filled with freedom — which is just feathered frustration.

With every bird I drink it down and my skin grows tauter, straining at the seams with their jostling. They sing inside me of horizons; of yearning; of racing hearts rupturing. They bring me the sky — and it's a vast and bursting thing.

 Posted by at 1:21 pm
Dec 102014

Sitting in the type of weather I perfectly hate: muggy, unmoving air, thick with plump mosquitos; and all I can think is: I miss Iceland.

Ice Littering jökulsárlón Beach

This is the black-sand beach where Jökulsárlón, the glacial lagoon fed by Vatnajökull, empties its iceberg shards into the Atlantic Ocean. The day I visited it was bitterly cold, hanging so low and thick I couldn't see more than a hundred yards off the lagoon's shoreline. There was no chance of glimpsing the glacier itself, but I didn't care. It was such a stark and startling environment, so utterly beyond Australia's purview. It cracked my mind open and shoved icebergs in there. Not book-learning, not a leap of imagination, but the kind of bone-deep knowledge only first-hand experience can give.

Looking back, I think my favourite aspect of Iceland were those beaches of black sand. I expected the sand to be rough or gritty, but it was always sinking-soft, an undisturbed sweep of shoreline, and perpetually wet. Ocean and rain and mist and fog clung to the beaches during our visit, keeping them empty. I liked to take Squawk toddling along them, lava fields on one hand and waves from Antarctica nibbling at the sand on the other. It gives the mind enough space to roam, a landscape like that.

Dec 012014
Calvin & Hobbes - Writer's Block

In the world of news (of me), my Twelfth Planet collection … is officially delivered.

A little under a week ago, in the bleary hours of the morning, with my eyes pointing in different directions and the room a little wobblier than I prefer it, I handed in a workable draft of the final story.

The collection is in no way done done, of course. I've the final edits to go on all the stories, but that's line editing1 and it won't involve the crippling doubts of never quite finding a workable ending.

But the stories are written. Beginning, middle and a hopefully cohesive end for each of them.

And if I'm going to be honest, that's something I completely lost faith in achieving this past year. Toddlerhood is not big on sharing.

Out of curiosity (and/or a morbid habit of giving my mind ammunition with which to punish me), I looked through my statistics spreadsheet and discovered:

  • The very first words on "The Wages of Honey" were written in 2007. 2007! Who was I then? I have no idea anymore. The story went through 6 drafts over 5 years (I was writing/publishing The Binding books during that point in time, so Wages of Honey kept getting picked up and put down again).
  • I started "The Briskwater Mare" in 2012. It, too, underwent 6 drafts; in 18 months this time (January 2012 – July 2013). Swift I am not. It clocked in at around 12,000 words, but over the 6 drafts I actually wrote 58,000 new words to end up with those 12,000.
  • "The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood" took 13 months, spread over 2 years, to write (July-November 2012, January-May 2013, and September-November 2014). I toiled through 7 drafts and wrote a whopping 102,000 new words to end up with a 22,000-word story.
  • "The Miseducation of Mara Lys" (aka Clockmakers) took me 15 months, spread over 2 years (May-November 2013 and January-August 2014) and 6 drafts. The finished story is 19,000 words, and I wrote 67,000 new words to find them.
  • In 2014, I have only worked on Cherry Crow and Clockmakers.
  • Counting only Briskwater, Cherry Crow and Clockmakers, since the start of 2012 I've written 227,000 new words. Only 53,000 of them were good enough to stay.2 Plaguey little blighters, words. Get in everywhere.
  1. holy papercuts, please let it be nothing more serious than line edits []
  2. I know now why I cry. []
 Posted by at 9:07 pm  Tagged with:
Jul 072014
Sesame Street Martians (radio)

Here's my new hobby: coming up with alternative — and representatively inclusive — verses of Baa Baa Black Sheep.

It all started when I learnt the lyrics to the second verse.1 Instead of the master, the dame and the little boy who lives down the lane, the second verse I learnt was about the jumpers, the frocks, and the little girl with holes in her socks.

Only in singing it for Squawk, I kinda messed up and said socks where I was supposed to say frocks. Oops.

Luckily, toddlers don't care about lyrical tangles, they just want the tune to continue, so continue I did, and what I came up with was this:

One for the jumpers, one for the socks,
And one for the little boy who likes to wear frocks.

Ahhh, inclusivity. That's what we like around these parts.2

Time to come up with more!

  1. I'm sure there's plenty of verses out there. I remember a verse about a white sheep and have you any cotton, once upon a time. []
  2. Because the second verse now features a boy, I've changed the first verse for Squawk to be about the little girl who likes to fly planes and/or drive trains, depending on my mood. []
 Posted by at 4:48 pm
Jun 102014

Today delivered a lovely reminder that hey, there was this thing I used to have time for, called writing

2014-06-10 20.14.38

My contributor copies of Cemetery Dance #71 arrived!

And the internal artwork for my story, "Teratogen", is awesome:

2014-06-10 20.15.10

2014-06-10 20.15.20

As soon as I put Squawk to bed tonight, I couldn't help but sit down and re-read my own story. Is that weird? It's probably weird. But there's something about seeing my own words typeset and professionally produced. I don't normally read the whole thing so much as thumb through it, appreciate the texture of the pages and the crispness of the ink against the paper, and just enjoy being published. For me, a story isn't finished, not truly, until it's published. (And not really even then. I mentally edited the story as I was reading it…) This one I truly read because it's short and because, well, I started writing it in 2004, put the finishing touches on in 2005, sold it in December 2007, and I've waited until now for it to see print. It was not unlike reading a stranger's work.

So, there you have it, I have a new (old) story officially released into the wilds.

May 132014
image courtesy of xkcd.com

In order to get Squawk to eat baked macaroni1, I have to eat it with her. At this point in the proceedings, in fact, I have to eat it for her.

I find I am entirely okay with this.

And because she's extremely cautious around food, I know I'm going to need to eat it for her about 10 times before she consents to taste it. And then I'm going to need to eat it with her another 10+ times before she decides she likes said taste. This means baked macaroni every night for the next 10+ days.

…I am entirely okay with this, also.

  1. Who doesn't simply stuff their face with this the nanosecond it's put in front of them?! []