Sunday, April 26, 2015

HANGOVER BAY BIRD-DROPPING SPIDER?

 When travelling back from Jurien Bay, we stopped to have lunch at Hangover Bay (above) and came across these odd looking leathery egg sacs hanging on coastal vegetation. We actually didn't have the faintest idea of what they were.  A centimetre in diameter, they were suspended by strong springy spun threads in two groups of four. The 4 on the left of the photo were whitish, the other 4 much darker and more distinctly marked. The whiter ones had tiny holes and appeared to be empty.
You can see one of the tiny holes as a black dot.
Being one of the nosy naturalists that we are, I detached one of the empty ones and tried to break it open. No go. It was as tough as boot leather, and resisted being torn. We left the others as they were and I did some checking when we arrived home.

As far as I can see after a Google search, they are probably the egg sacs of the Bird-dropping Spider -- so called, not because it drops birds, but because it is a squashy, messy-looking fellow that resembles a bird dropping. We didn't see the lady guarding her eggs, so maybe her disguise was really good...

Bird-dropping Spider (Celaenia excavata)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

Over the past two weeks I have been asked by three different people:
                                  Where do you get your ideas from?"
If you are not a novelist, you probably have no idea how common that question is!

Answers vary from the tongue in the cheek ("At this quaint little curiosity shop in the lane behind the markets..."), to the more mundane ("From inside my head"). Only one of those is near true.

Even more truthfully, I can illustrate the answer to the question by the photo above, taken this week while with a group of naturalists from the West Australian Naturalists Club exploring the Mount Lesuer National Park near Jurien Bay, some 270 km north of Perth. If you look very carefully, you will get an idea of scale -- there is someone actually standing at the middle of the foot of that dark...thing.

Most people, coming across something like that, would look at it -- and after dismissing the possibility of an elephant rampaging around in the West Australia woodlands -- would decide that it is actually some kind of dead plant. In fact, a closer look would reveal a dead tree covered with a tangle of dodder, a kind of creeper (Cuscuda sp).


 But to  a writer?
Our brains work differently. We look at something ordinary, and think something extraordinary. In effect, we ask ourselves, "What if...?"

In this case:
"What if that was really an alien life form?" (A science fiction writer)
"What if there was a skeleton hidden in there?" (A crime writer)
"What if that dodder was a magic twine keeping an evil sorcerer imprisoned in its coils?" (A fantasy writer)
"What if that plant was about to take over the earth?" (A horror writer)
"What if it was the disguised entrance to an underground laboratory?" (A thriller writer.)

So the truth is that writers see exactly landscape as non-writers, but our brains use the mundane as the spring board for our imaginations. And that is where we get our ideas.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

When a writer hands in a manuscript....

They need a break.
Really, they do.
The book is far from finished. There are still revisions and edits, polish and condensing, expanding and inserting cutting to be done. But for a moment, there is a need to do something else.

Birding, for instance. 
So this is what I've been up to,
 around my area:
At Black Lake (above) and Creery Wetlands (below)
Above:  Four species, one photograph -- Great Egret, Australasian Ibis, Yellow-billed Spoonbill and Grey Teal.
Lake Goegrup at dusk
Pelicans on Lake Goegrup
Little Pied Cormorant
A Magpie goes birding
Osprey and Silver Gull
Must try this
Quenda (Bandicoot) at dusk

A Wecome Swallow from above










                  And a Welcome Swallow looks up:
Dusk at Erskine Lake
Osprey


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Oh, flowers!

Husband had the champagne on ice when I came home from Swancon. 
(He's a very special man!)
And today the Hachette Australia delivered flowers. Many thanks to Louise, Justin and Fiona.
Love my publisher!



Monday, April 06, 2015

SWANCON-NATCON 2015, AWARDS and...

Well, what a lovely day yesterday was.

SWANCON, the SF convention of Western Australia, was this year also the Australian National SF convention, which for a start is always fun. This year the International Guest was author and blogger John Scalzi ( an inspired choice!) and the National Guest was Kylie Chan (equally fabulous!). And I was sharing a hotel room with Donna M. Hanson, Canberra writer, con-organiser and longtime friend. So all those things = have a great time.

Lots of old friends, uncovered new ones. 
Yesterday I had a kaffeeklatsch with some of the attendees, which gave me an excuse to babble (and thanks for all who came to listen). In the evening, there were the awards, which included the Tin Ducks (for West Australian talent), the Ditmars (the national awards) and the A.Bertram Chandler Award for Contributions to Australian SF.

So what  could  be better than for me to win two awards and for Donna to win the Bertram Chandler (richly deserved, I might say, as there is no one who has worked harder than Donna in the interests of Australian SF). The Ditmar was shared in a tie with the lovely Trudi Canavan (who is touring in Europe at the moment). For my book to be up there with Thief's Magic is a huge compliment.

So there I am with not one, but two, especially crafted and totally gorgeous trophies and some very golden memories. The photo below is of Donna holding Trudi's award and me with my Ditmar.

Me looking as supercilious as possible
The presenter was John Scalzi, and that man is SO MEAN. We had been talking earlier on and I'd told him that I'd never won anything and so there was no way he'd be presenting anything to me that night, cos I don't win things.

When he announced the award, and realising that Trudi was not present, he said "And the winner is Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan!"
That presentation was made and I thought, 'Oh well, no surprise...'
 And that sneaky man then said, fixing me with a beady eye...  "Wait, there's more. It was a tie..."

 And here is me (cynically dubious of the depth of his contrition)  wondering if I should forgive him:


Of course no one wins awards without help. 
My beta readers are fabulous for a start. 
My editor at Orbit (Hachette), Jenni Hill, deserves a mention.
 And then there's all the folk at Swancon and Natcon who worked to organise the awards. And lastly -- and perhaps most importantly -- all those people who voted. 

Very hard to photogroph because they are clear!
You rock, one and all.




Saturday, March 28, 2015

SWANCON 2015 PERTH --


I shall be attending Swancon over Easter. Please come and say Hi if you are attending. I will be on at least one panel (with John Scalzi -- exalted company!) 

I am giving a kaffeeklatch as well (small group discussion over coffee/tea where you can ask me anything.) There will be a gift for everyone turning up to that -- books and other stuff. 


Most of the time I will just be hanging out in the bar or around the hotel. Please feel free to come up and introduce yourself if we haven't met.


I believe the Ditmar and the Tinduck Awards will also be announced during the convention. (And for those attending, have you voted yet?)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US & UK COVER

The one on the left is the UK cover.  The book itself is a smaller size and the cover is slightly bluer and darker. 
 The US book on the left has a tinge more green and is lighter.

The other difference is in the reader/reviewer comments on the back. 

UK has quotes from Elizabeth Moon and Karen Miller; 
US has Karen again (but a different quote), Publishers Weekly and RT Book Reviews.

I have no idea why there is a difference, 
but I suspect there is a reason!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Kind of Review...

 ...that every author loves.


Every now and then you get a review from someone who really "gets" what you, the writer, are trying to say.
Here is one such, from Ryan Frye at Civilian Reader blog.

Below is Ryan's summary, but you can read the whole review here.

Overall, The Lascar’s Dagger is a great read. The pacing is great, with plenty of action and swagger. While I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book, Larke left plenty of hints that there’s greater depth to the characters, the world and the story to be found in later volumes. If you are looking for a new epic fantasy series that will engage, entertain (and maybe even enthrall you) in equal measures, then Larke’s your author and The Forsaken Lands is your series.

Friday, February 27, 2015

NEWS! NEWS! NEWS!


THE LASCAR'S DAGGER 
has been shortlisted for two Australian awards for 2014.


One is the Aurealis Awards, which is a juried (juryed?) award. 
The book is up for the Best Fantasy Novel 2014.
The winner will be announced in Canberra on April 11th.

The other is the Ditmar Awards, which is a reader/fan-voted award
and it is up for the Best SpecFic Novel 2014.
This will be announced at the Australian National SF Convention over Easter (which is Swancon this year).

This is the eight time I have been shortlisted for the Aurealis, but I think the first time I have had a novel shortlisted for both.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

TODAY I HAVE A NEW BOOK OUT WORLDWIDE

The second book of THE FORSAKEN LANDS is out today.

If you haven't read book 1, THE LASCAR'S DAGGER, look here for reviews to see if it might interest you. To my intense pleasure, it made "the best fantasy of the year" for one SFF blogger, and featured on a couple of "best-books-read-in-2014" lists compiled by book bloggers.

So what is Book 2, THE DAGGER'S PATH all about? 

Well, half of it is set on the opposite side of the world, in the spice islands of the story. That's the Sorrel, Saker, Juster and Ardhi thread.

Back in the Va-cherished Hemisphere, those left behind (Fritillary Reedling, Lady Mathilda, Gerelda) have their own horrors to confront. 

Both sides of the known world are under threat, but the threats are very different ... or are they linked? The characters have been pushed by the dagger into confronting these dangers, but how they tackle them, and whether they find solutions -- that's up to them.

 
The world of The Forsaken Lands Trilogy





















Below are some photographs of some of things and places that inspired me. 

Much of the background of the story has its roots in South-east Asia where I have lived and worked  for most of my life
     -- only this time with buccaneers, unscrupulous merchants, battles, mystery, conflict and mayhem. 
A morning in tropical rainforest, Malaysia


Pulau Tiga (the original Survivor island of first show)

Sabah -- glorious tropical Islands
Sabah mountains








As part of the book includes the journey of getting from one side of the world to the other, I had to pay attention to sailing ships. I went on board every one I find, but the two which offered the greatest authenticity and were more appropriate to the period were two replicas found in Australia:  Dufken, below, from 1606 and the Endeavour from 1770.
 Below: officer cabins on Endeavour

Endeavour replica mess
Interior of the Duyfken replica - 1st European ship to Australia
Main crew mess of Endeavour


Monday, January 12, 2015

Perth, Western Australia

 The Swan River, Fairy Tern nesting area. Saw a pair of Ospreys from this beach too this morning...

Also teal, a stint, a rail and numerous pelicans, cormorants, seagulls and such.
 And fron near the tern nesting area, this is the view across the river to the city.

Friday, December 05, 2014

HOW TO MAKE AN AUTHOR HAPPY

It's actually very easy.

Give book tokens or books as presents.
Buy books. For yourself. As presents for others.

Any books. Books for babies and toddlers, so they'll grow up in a home with books. Books for kids who've just learned to read, to give them the feeling of accomplishment. Books for kids, books for teenagers. Fiction. Non-fiction. Picture books, eBooks, real books, graphic novels, how-to books. Biographies, thrillers, whodunnits, fantasies, science fiction novels, horror stories, cookery books, romances, literary novels.

Why would any of that make authors happy? Because it keeps bookstores going, it keeps the publishers alive, it keeps the industry healthy. And it fosters a new generation of readers, and keeps an older generation of readers happy.

Of course, if you want to make a particular author ecstatic, buy their books. 


If you don't have enough money to buy, then get their books out of the library, read them, blog/tweet/facebook/review them anywhere or everywhere. Tell your friends about them. In fact, we're actually very easy to please!

And remember: Book 2 of THE FORSAKEN LANDS 
will be out mid-January! It's called 
THE DAGGER'S PATH

Sunday, November 09, 2014

THE BURRUP PENINSULAR, PILBARA

Our Pilbara trip to the north of my state, June-July 2014, continued...
The first glimpse of the Burrup Peninsular, out of Karratha, is not all that prepossessing. There is, after all, a huge industrial complex there, see above. This is Woodside, the North West Shelf Project (which is natural gas). If you ever go there; do have a look at their public exhibition hall -- it is superb.
 
The centre includes replicas of some of the oldest art in the world -- nearby there are a mere 1 million or so examples spread over 88 sq kms! Forget European paleolithic art...it pales in comparison to what Burrup has to offer. 
These are etchings (petroglyphs) on rock, out in the open on the Peninsular and the 42 islands of the Dampier Archipelago. Because they are done on rock, it is hard to be precise about the age. 
Best guess, perhaps 40,000 years.
Above: Everywhere you look there are red rocks, many of them etched. 
With matching flowers...



Sturt's Desert Pea in fiery blazes of colour...


In the centre of the group above you can see etched bird tracks.
Below a marsupial of some kind.
The beaches of the Burrup -- in spite of the industrial complex -- still manage to be stunning!
The "sand" you see below is actually shells, not sand at all. Nothing but shells.
Below: a local walking his dog across glistening sands when the tide is out...
Note the clear water above.