Apr 212015
 

Something a little different today: (far past) time I introduced you to the cat, since cats are what the internet was made for, even if we didn't know it at the time.

Ani (short for Aniseed) came to live with us in January 2014.

I knew the moment we got her in the car home that we’d picked the right kitten for us:

A Perfect Fit

At the time, I wanted a cat because I'd lived too long without one, and I felt it was important to raise Squawk with pet/s. And I wanted a Burmese because I grew up with the breed and I honestly can't imagine having cats in the house without at least one being a Burmese. I've always loved the breed. Burmese owners will know why; those who have no knowledge of the breed will glaze over if I try to explain it and a cat's nature is always more than the sum of its parts anyway. Suffice to say: time and again I've seen Burmese win the unguarded affection of even people who staunchly hate cats.

Right from the start, she slept … as only the dangerously relaxed can.

ani sleeping

She's immensely patient with Squawk and her displays of affection, and whenever Squawk gets her way they do pretty much everything together:

fast friends

Up to and including bonding over their shared pining for Outside

trappedwaifs

Truth be told, I nursed a secret hope that Ani would help entertain Squawk and thus maybe free up a scant few extra seconds a day I could squirrel away for my writing. What actually happened was that Ani fascinated and enthralled Squawk and those "few extra seconds" snowballed into hours … all of which I had to use playing referee/lifeguard between the two. Oops.

In fact, it's fair to say the only contribution Ani makes toward my writing is to hinder and hamper it at every turn. From demanding cuddles whenever Squawk is in bed, and those cuddles having to be affairs where she burrows into my neck, thereby needing an arm to support her squirming weight until I get cranky enough to put her down; to climbing fly-screens and bookshelves whenever I dare approach the writing desk; to tearing up and down the corridors, yelling, for the sake of enjoying her own speed and noise, she is, unequivocally, crazy.

As I write this, in fact, she is sitting on the floor, glaring up at the top of the fridge with her tail lashing and her ears back, yelling at it for being too tall. (Burmese!)

a writer's kitten

But she is also the snuggliest, feistiest and friendliest cat I ever met, and I can't begrudge her a psychological tic or two, given the company inflicted on her.

2014-03-01 12.34.35

And she still sleeps like the dangerously relaxed

Seriously, Ani has an overactive chill gland.

A photo posted by Deborah Kalin (@deborahkalin) on

Apr 172015
 

The Wages of Salt

A quick note (while the evening is still young enough to leave me cogent) to say that I've been working, of late, on digitising a couple of stories from my backlist, since I have a handful of the critters which don't seem to fit any of the reprint markets and I don't see the value in them sitting there completely abandoned even by their author.

Last night I managed to publish the first of them: "The Wages of Salt" is now available on Smashwords.

Set in New Persia and featuring salt flats and chimaeras and archaeology, "The Wages of Salt" is actually the precursor story to my Twelve Planets collection, Cherry Crow Children. (Hence the title "The Wages of Honey" for the first story in the collection.)

Like the stories in CCC, "The Wages of Salt" tends towards the literary in style; unlike the collection, it's a younger, more forthright story. (And shorter. Distinctly shorter.) It was first published in Postscripts #18, but that is now out of print, so the Smashwords edition makes it available once again.

Apr 042015
 

It's official: today saw the launch of Cherry Crow Children.

launch_cherrycrowchildren01

I had Squawk with me during the launch, because of course I did. She may not have been around when I wrote and submitted "The Wages of Honey", but I fell pregnant with her while I was trying to write the three stories I'd promised Alisa, and she was simultaneously the reason the collection was late and the reason it exists at all, because without her and my experience of motherhood, I'm not sure I would have found the focus of this collection. Or I suppose it's better to say, without her, this collection would have had a different focus and been a different book. In my head, Cherry Crow Children is therefore very much entwined with Squawk.

She was sadly sick, and so wanted only her mum, because of course that's the way life rolls when you have stuff that needs doing and you also have a two year old — so I did my reading with her cradled in my arms, her hot little head resting against my shoulder while I treated the audience to a passage from "The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood" which I couldn't quite see over the ears of her beloved bunny stuffed up under my chin:

launch_cherrycrowchildren02

I meant and of course totally forgot to make any speech apart from my reading, so I'll put it up here:

Thank you to everyone who came to see this book let loose upon the world, and see this ambitious and momentous and worthy project of Alisa's concluded.

Thank you to all my friends and family who helped me along the way, even if it was just a kind word or a faith-filled smile.

And to Alisa, who stood by me and never stopped believing my promise that I would write those stories, I honestly would finish them, once motherhood let me, I offer my most heartfelt gratitude. I'm honoured to have your name alongside mine, and on such a beautiful book.

After the reading, Squawk helped me sign books (appropriate in its way, as this is how I wrote most of the book anyway) and I have it on good authority I managed to actually talk coherently to people, although I personally have no memory of it.

For those who missed the launch, this is the passage I read aloud:

Claudia and her mother were the poorest residents of Haverny Wood, having but a single aging she-goat to call their own.

…They had survived the summer on charity: Brynja Foth dropped around a modest stew every fortnight, and Ida Scult donated them a half-dozen ham hocks, the meat serving them a hearty few meals each and the remaining knuckle bones making good stock for more. And Nonkle Vigi, as generous as he was wealthy, always had milk and greens to spare.

But soon they must face the freeze, and on charity alone they’d not starve—but they might well prove too frail or poorly, come the thaw, to fend for themselves again.

So it was that, as even the memory of summer faded, there came a day—a little after the sporadic snows had begun to muffle the nights, but before the hunter’s moon promised winter’s final grip—when Claudia, just as her mother once had, did the unthinkable.

She risked venturing out alone.

#

She chose north because the registry indicated no one else had.

It meant being stumbled upon was unlikely, but the price was slim pickings: north was uphill, toward the tree- line, where the white sallee held sway and the silky topaz seldom blossomed. She faced, therefore, all the dangers of a prolonged hike; but balanced against it was her talent for gathering.

Foolish as it was, she couldn’t banish the hope her only problem would be answering (or evading) the questions put to her when she returned with a new-plucked topaz.

Slipping out unremarked proved simple enough: those not gathering or shielding were tucked indoors. Cosy sounds issued from the byrehallan as she passed: the stamping and bleating of goats behind the stone lower walls, and the muted chatter of their owners drifting from the wooden living quarters above. Only Nonkle Jochem saw her, when he reached out to draw in his shutters, and he merely gave her a hearty smile. The dear old man had never entertained a stray thought in his life.

The outermost byrehallan all faced inwards, with no weakness such as door or window presented to the wilds. A narrow span of open ground separated Claudia from the first of the trees, a row of wind-swept white sallee with here and there a grey stringybark. Fear prickled the length of Claudia’s back as she crossed that span, the thorned grass blades tugging at her trousers.

Then she stepped into the patchwork shadows of the trees, and the bush closed in around her—offering, for the first time in her life, true solitude.

Her skin crawled with it.

Despite the passage of months, the black of burnt things was still conspicuous, crumbling charcoal edges stark through the white clumps of last night’s untracked snow.

The fire-crumbled undergrowth shifted and crunched with her passage; the ghostly sallee and the stunted stringybarks alike all groaned of listing backs. Brushtails lurked in the empty branches, too hungry to sleep, beady eyes watching from their pointed faces.

And beneath the wind’s bluster, setting her nerves to twanging, came the crow-song.

There was no mistaking the liquid melody, calling of blood and slashed flesh, which warned of those red and black birds, small as a fist and swifter than sight. Most of the calls were distant, but that didn’t slow the drumming of her pulse. The cherry crows must be as hungry, these fading days, as every other forest dweller.

Following the closest call, with no warm and wary body at her back, set Claudia’s every sense on edge. She kept scanning the branches for silvereyes, since they were a sure sign no predators lurked, but their flittery little bodies remained unnervingly absent. Instead, the crow-song grew louder and the grey boughs began yielding up pockets of fine-shredded flesh stuffed into crooks or crevices.

…Each larder she passed brought her closer to the crows, the meat increasingly pink and moist, blood still dripping from some. At least there were no human eyes today.

Mar 292015
 
Sesame Street Martians (phone)

It's all systems panic over this way, as I desperately try to pack up a toddler and a cat for their impending trips, one to Swancon and one to a much-needed rest at the cattery.1 It's rather getting in the way of all the blog posts I want to write.

In the meantime, I've been interviewed over at Ellen Gregory's blog, where she asks questions that, innocent though they seemed at first, soon had me waffling at length.

Sparked!

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Mar 242015
 
Cherry Crow Children: Volume 12 of the Twelve Planets

Today I'm up on Kaaron Warren's blog, talking about the spark for Cherry Crow Children:

There's a distinction, for me, between ideas and Ideas…

I'd totally forgotten, but her post reminded me that I met Kaaron in person through a workshop we did together. At the time, I was workshopping what would turn out to be "The Wages of Salt" — which is set in the same world as my Twelfth Planet stories, and can be thought of as the genesis for the collection. Which, given it was written in 2006, means this collection has been a long time coming.

her self-esteem is through the roof

 asides  Comments Off on her self-esteem is through the roof
Mar 212015
 

Squawk has figured out her dad's first name, and when she wants his attention I'll hear this wistful little "Stuieeeee….!"


Often she'll get stuck in a loop, repeating his name over and over, but this time she immediately got distracted by Nanna. Who is currently over a thousand kilometres away, so I've no idea why that thought suddenly sparked.

(She calls me Beb, but not as often as she calls him Stuie. Mostly, these days, she calls him "Daddy Mummy", and I'm "Mummy Dad." No, I don't know either.)

(Actually recorded in December last year, which just goes to show the horrendous neglect I show my drafts folder.)

Mar 162015
 
Cherry Crow Children: Volume 12 of the Twelve Planets

Last week (or a bit more now? Time's been slippery, of late), I saw the introduction Kate Elliott1 wrote for Cherry Crow Children, and it utterly took my breath away.

A snippet:

Lovingly described landscapes turn out to be full of deadly treasures. [Kalin's] exquisite turns of phrase lull the reader, who then gets undercut by the jarring reality of death. Kalin's ability to combine beauty and dread astonishes.

…Loss and grief loom large. Disintegration turns to transformation. Truth leads to change. In Kalin's unflinching imagination, change can be dramatic and profound and its consequences are often unfathomable, painful and stark but, as she writes, always beautiful, even as you wince.

For the whole introduction, you'll have to grab an e- or hard-copy of the book itself. Don't worry, it's only two weeks more to wait. (Two weeks!)

I also saw the cover art, which I shared via Alisa on facebook but I want to put here as well because self-explanatory. I admit to sneaking glance after adoring glance at it, and I can't wait to see it printed.

CherryCrowChildrenCover200x329

Tulliæn spans a fractured mountaintop, where the locals lie and the tourists come to die. Try the honey.

Briskwater crouches deep in the shadow of a dam wall. Ignore the weight of the water hanging overhead, and the little dead girl wandering the streets. Off with you, while you still can.

In Haverny Wood the birds drink blood, the dogs trade their coughings for corpses, the lost children carve up their bodies to run with the crows, and the townsfolk stitch silence into their spleens. You mustn't talk so wild.

The desert-locked outpost of Boundary boasts the famed manufacturers of flawless timepieces; those who would learn the trade must offer up their eyes as starting materials. Look to your pride: it will eat you alive.

Sooner or later, in every community, fate demands its dues — and the currency is blood.

The book itself is going to be officially launched at Swancon 40, which is this year's Natcon. I've booked my flights over and I'll be bringing Squawk, who is simultaneously the reason this book was late and the reason its stories have any spine to them. She's very excited about our upcoming "ollie-day" and is planning to entertain you all by impersonating tigers and rabbits.2

Hope to see you there!

  1. YES, THAT KATE ELLIOTT []
  2. My money is on an entirely predictable bout of stage-fright which sees her burying her face in my shoulder, but when she warms up to the idea of a noisy party, you might get lucky. []

2014 aurealis award shortlist, featuring … me!

 announcements, cherry crow children, journal, teratogen, writing life  Comments Off on 2014 aurealis award shortlist, featuring … me!
Feb 282015
 
aurealis-awards-finalist-high-res

…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?

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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.