Thursday, June 23, 2016

SUPANOVA WEEKEND!!

When it comes to the Supanova Pop Expo and Comicon, I am an unabashed fan.

Sci Fi and Fantasy, costumes, gaming and geeks -- who can resist. And it's great to see the creators, the actors, the filmmakers, the writers, the directors all celebrated by the public.

And I will be there, this weekend, seated behind a table with a lot of other writers... I'll be giving out vouchers for free eBook.

Come chat! Bring your books for signing! Show us your cosplay outfit if you have one!

See you there....

SUPANOVA WEEKEND!!

When it comes to the Supanova Pop Expo and Comicon, I am an unabashed fan.

Sci Fi and Fantasy, costumes, gaming and geeks -- who can resist. And it's great to see the creators, the actors, the filmmakers, the writers, the directors all celebrated by the public.

And I will be there, this weekend, seated behind a table with a lot of other writers... I'll be giving out vouchers for free eBook.

Come chat! Bring your books for signing! Show us your cosplay outfit if you have one!

See you there....

SUPANOVA WEEKEND!!

When it comes to the Supanova Pop Expo and Comicon, I am an unabashed fan.

Sci Fi and Fantasy, costumes, gaming and geeks -- who can resist. And it's great to see the creators, the actors, the filmmakers, the writers, the directors all celebrated by the public.

And I will be there, this weekend, seated behind a table with a lot of other writers... 

Come chat! Bring your books for signing! Show us your cosplay outfit if you have one!

See you there....

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

RAINBOW DAY

As a country grapples with the idiocy that enables the mentally ill and/or the terrorist easy access to weapons designed for killing as many people as possible in war-time, and that country contemplates -- yet again -- the horror of civilian deaths at home as a consequence, this time in an Orlando gay nightclub, I'm putting up this post. 
It won't help the dead or the grieving, but I'm going to do it nonetheless, for all my LBGTI friends. Rainbows are beautiful.

 We were travelling south along the country highway between Busseltown and Pemberton last month and and a soft spring shower was misting down. As a consequence, we had 200 kilometres of incredible rainbows, nonstop. There were even rainbows in the air along the road verges where cars had sprayed up water. Everywhere we looked, rainbows...


And this one is a rainbow seen from our loungeroom window.

Vale



Saturday, June 04, 2016

ARE FANS TOO ENTITLED??

When I first started writing there was no such thing as the internet. It was difficult to get feedback on my writing through snailmail, and it was tough (and expensive) having to send off a physical manuscript to the other side of the world (I was in Asia at the time), and exasperating to wait for comment. 

Even at the time I was first published, the internet was still in its infancy, and a fan writing a letter or email to a writer, or putting up an internet review, was relatively rare. 

So nowadays, I just love what I get -- GoodReads, Amazon reviews, emails, discussion boards -- bring 'em all on! And yep, I read them. Sure, I'd block someone who's abusive at the drop of a hat, but I've been lucky. I've blocked a mountain of spammers, but only one single person who was (rather mildly) abusive. (I don't think harsh criticism or one star reviews of my work are abusive, even if the issues raised are factually incorrect).

Why do I love the feedback enough to read both the good and the bad? 
Because it makes me a better writer. I learn from it.  
Because I know that there is no way a creator will ever please everyone.  
Because I'm old enough to take the bad without it leaving me in a heap of crying insecurity with the blankets pulled over my head. (One of the few advantages of ageing -- you learn to distinguish what really matters from other stuff, especially nasty stuff, that doesn't*). 

Anyway, let's consider the idea that fans can be too entitled. Or not. There's a blog post here at Huffington Post that has a good coverage of pros and cons. 

I tend agree with this:

Not having dialogue, ignoring fan response, and stubbornly sticking to "a vision" isn't necessarily the only true way to create great and pure art, though. Art doesn't have to be conceived of as such an asymmetrical concept, a gift passed from all-knowing creators to receptive and docile audiences. It can be the product of collaboration, symbiosis between different parts of a community, and a healthy dialogue.  

 However,  I also think that fans "demanding" creators write something the way they want it is a little naive and a bit rude. 

A book, a film, a TV show, an art work -- it's the creators' baby, and how they dress their child is ultimately their decision. Fans are welcome to say what they'd like in the future, they're welcome to criticise what they've already been given, and ultimately they can vote with their wallets. 

I will listen, and I hope I'm always open to learning, but in the end -- and this is all important! -- I can't make a good job of creating my work if I'm not following my own vision.
--------------------------------------------------------
*Of course, I do live in a country where screwballs sending death threats tend not to wander around with guns looking for ways to go out in a blaze of glory.

Friday, May 13, 2016

STABBED IN THE BACK?

HOW LONG SHOULD COPYRIGHT LAST?
At the moment in Australia, it lasts for 70 years after an author dies, which I will agree seems a tad excessive.

There is apparently something called "the Productivity Commission" in Australia, which is looking into the intellectual property rights system for the Commonwealth Government. Unfortunately, it appears to be leaning towards a recommendation that creators really don't need rights to their own work after 15 years (or possibly 25 years)*. It also quotes the finding that "the commercial life of most works is less than 5 years", which might be true for some, but which I would absolutely dispute as far as I am concerned. 

LET'S GET PERSONAL
Let's put that in perspective as far as one writer is concerned, namely: me.

 For my first published book, HAVENSTAR, I signed a contract in 1997 for the princely advance of  about $AU 7,000. Sounds nice, doesn't it, but you know what? I was paid that amount over the two years after signing the contract in 1997. That particular publisher never paid anything more. Not much to live on, is it?

Fortunately, in 1999, I sold the same book to a German publisher for 3,500 Euros. And then a Russian publisher bought it for $US1,000. 

Many years later, an Australian publisher paid a small advance to re-publish HAVENSTAR, is still selling it and is now paying me royalties. And I've brought it out as an eBook as well, so that novel is earning me money that way too. Not much, but every little helps.

WHAT WOULD 15 YEARS COPYRIGHT DURATION MEAN TO ME? HAVENSTAR was first published 17 years ago. The Productivity Commission appears to indicate that anything more than 15 yrs copyright is excessive, that after 15 years a book should be up there for grabs by anyone who wants to sell it in whatever form they like without me getting a cent or having any say in anything about its production. Nice.

What does it matter, you may ask. After all, it's only earning me a few hundred dollars a year.

But that's the whole point. Very, very few writers actually make a living from one book. When we finish one, we start another. And another after that. Finally we might earn enough to live on, obtained in dribs and drabs from all our books combined. A book of mine published in 2009 is earning more for me this year than the book published just over a year ago. So much for the idea that books are economically defunct after 5 years.

After twelve years of being a published writer, I actually started to earn enough from my writing to support myself in 2010. Not enough for an average family of four, mind, but enough for me.

Another couple of years after that, I could have supported my husband too by my writing, if necessary. I was able to get by without my day job, which was just as well as I was ageing and the work was physically too taxing. I even earned enough to actually pay a little tax. Success!

And the reason I was earning that much? Because I had published a number of books. And each of those books (now up to 13 of them) is STILL giving me an income. 

The Commission hints that if it had its way, then I'd have already lost automatic copyright to Havenstar. In 2018 I'd lose those rights to my second book. In 2019, another book would fall into public domain. And so on, every year, one book less to earn me money unless I publish it myself -- in competition with anyone who wanted to do the same without paying me a cent.

Okay, so you might say: go write some more books. 
I am. 
But I am also now 71 years old. I have physical issues that make sitting at a computer pounding the keys for hour after hour difficult. My concentration is not what it was either. 
I'm slowing down.
I don't even know if I can publish my next book in the traditional way. I don't have a contract. And since my agent died, there is no one working to sell it, either.

CONCLUSION I can tell you what will happen to my commercial productivity if the Productivity Commission gets its way on a 15 year copyright: I'll be on the Old Age Pension instead of supporting myself. Perhaps the Commissioners can comfort themselves with the thought that their personal taxes will help pay for my pension. 

Thanks, guys.


----------------------------------------
*Draft Finding 4.2 
(on p29 of draft report):
"While hard to pinpoint an optimal copyright term, a more reasonable estimate would be closer to 15 to 25 years after creation, considerably less than 70 years after death."  
Draft Recommendation 5.2
(onpage 30 of draft report):
"The Australian Government should repeal parallel import restrictions for books in order for the reform to take effect no later than the end of 2017."

If you want to find out more about this, here are some links:
What Jackie French has to say:  
https://twitter.com/AusPublish?lang=en

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

THE FALL OF THE DAGGER IS OUT!!


A review from a book review site:

Taken as a whole, the Forsaken Lands trilogy is very good. Easily the most fun and engaging series I’ve read in a handful of years. Larke delivers the goods on all fronts, and has written a series that deserves a widespread readership. There’s something here for fantasy fans of every ilk, while feeling fresh and new.

Highly recommended.

--From Ryan Frye at Civilian Reader

You can read the whole review at the link above.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Times Sq/Theatre District NYC

I've been in Times Square before. Several times. The first time would have been back in the 1980s. What surprised me this time was how much more digital screen advertising there is compared to just a few years ago on my last visit -- they have SWAMPED the place. 

Screens loom down on you in garish colours from every building. The result? Over-saturation. Quite frankly, I would be happy never to go there again, at least not to see the actual environs...

To see a show, though -- that's another matter!
We went to see "An American in Paris" 
(a matter of what tickets we could grab at short notice. There were a great many better things to see if we'd been able to plan ahead.)



Wait, wait, there's also...
Family.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Chinatown ... is Chinatown

I have left NY, but am still catching up on photos.

One of the distinctive things about Manhattan is the way it is divided up. Every big city has its CBD -- but Manhattan has a financial district district from the commercial district, an then its neighbourhoods: African-American, Hispanic, a Little Italy, a Chinatown, a theatre district,  then areas that seem to specialise in atmosphere -- funky, or upmarket, or jazz, or arty.

It doesn't seem to matter where it is, Chinatown looks pretty much the same. Except for the thickness of the clothing, and the external fire escapes, this could be in Kuala Lumpur...




 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Some random photos from Downtown Manhattan

Below: random street corner...
 Below: the corner of the Amish Market which extends down the street...
 Below: street on Easter Sunday -- hence the pink ears.
 Below, the spines of the communication centre at the WTC site.

 Below: so-called FREEDOM TOWER, or 1WTC, built where once the Twin Towers stood
 Below: St Paul's chapel that escaped the destruction of the Twin Towers by a whisker.
 Below: photo taken from the portico of the St Paul's Chapel
 BELOW: American Stock Exchange building 
and the graveyard of Trinity Church. 
Also -- Spring!!

The green street sign on the lampost in the middle of this photo says simply "People With Aids".

Friday, March 25, 2016

This has got to be the best moment of my writing career...

I WON THE SARA DOUGLASS SERIES AWARD
for THE WATERGIVERS aka STORMLORD trilogy

I don't even know where to begin.
  • For a start, Sara was one of my author heroines.
  • Secondly, this is the inaugural award.
  • Thirdly, the award covers series written over a number of years, as long as they were completed between 2011 to 2014 -- so it covers an awful lot of years and an awful lot of books... (Pity the judges!!) You can read more about the award here.  
I am so honoured.
So chuffed. So breathtakingly amazed. Especially considering that the shortlist included Juliet Marillier, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Michael Pryor, Marlina Marchetta and Rowena Cory Daniells.

No, that's not me...but my name is on that trophy!!
Unfortunately, I couldn't be there, owing to the arrival of a brand-new member of the family in New York, but I was prevailed upon to write an acceptance speech just in case, which you will find at the end of this post. It was delivered for me by a fellow writer, Donna Hanson (above), at the Aussi Natcon 2016 in Brisbane. And I believe there were celebrations...see photo left.


There were a lot more things I could have said in the speech -- how much I owe to the then Voyager Australia editor, Stephanie Smith, for example. How much I owe my beta readers for making me a better writer and making those three books better works. How much I appreciate the work put into the awards by the Australian Spec Fic community and the judges.

But here's what I did say:

When I first read Sara Douglass’s Battleaxe back in the 1990s, I was blown away, not just by the story, but also by the idea that an Australian author could publish a fantasy novel worldwide and find acclaim on a world stage.
At the time I was looking for a publisher for my first book — and Sara’s success was an inspiration. And of course, Battleaxe was just the first of long line of Sara’s groundbreaking novels.

I was delighted to hear that a series award was being created in her name, to acknowledge her pre-eminent position in Australian speculative fiction history. The fact that judges had a massive job of reading the number of series up for the award is a tribute to the present health of Speculative Fiction writing in Australia, a wave of creativity of which Sara was the forefront.

To have been short-listed by the judges for the inaugural award was a breath-taking compliment. The other works on that list are so impressive that I certainly don’t believe, as I write these words, that any work of mine could win. I just love the validation of being on the shortlist though, and I thank everyone involved.

Most of all, I wish you were here, Sara, still with us and still writing.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Romantic Times has nice things to say about Book 3

Every author waits with trepidation for the very first review of a book about to be published.  And I am happy to say, that the first for THE FALL OF THE DAGGER is very positive!
THE ROMANTIC TIMES HAS THIS TO SAY: 

Larke seamlessly blends various storylines together to create a satisfying end to The Forsaken Lands trilogy. Her world building shines, as always...

This is a series for any reader who loves lush worlds, complex plots and characters to root for...

YAY!

Friday, March 18, 2016

A walk through Tribeca to Pier 25

 Manhattan is impressive, no matter which way you look. It is also battered by time and usage... So even if there are ultra modern buildings, they can be surrounded by crumbling roads and pavements. It's an odd juxtaposition sometimes.
 Yesterday was a lovely spring day -- blue skies no matter which way you looked. But even so, the haze of human activities never leaves. You can see it there in the dirty pinkness of the distance...
These shots look across the Hudson River to New Jersey, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to the left. That flash of white is the sun catching the window of the building
I miss the greenery around where I live back home...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Manhattan snaps...

I must say that there is nothing so stunning and awe-making than the Manhattan skyline from a distance, especially at night. One of the most memorable views I ever had was from a plane, just after sunset, with the island lit up against the glow in the sky...

However, if you ask me about Manhattan, I could also say that viewed from other angles, it is an incredibly ugly and noisy blot on the landscape. Ugly architecture, dirty pavements, potholed roads and dilapidated walls, bits and pieces of the city always being dug up/repaired/refurbished/rebuilt... Or I could say that it has one of the most beautiful urban parks in the world. Or that there are little corners of delicate beauty or flamboyant artistry. It throbs and hums and thrums, never still, never quiet. I would hate to live there. And yet I love to visit.




Here's a building that -- I assume -- was one day subject to new laws that necessitated fire escapes to be built and there was nowhere to build them except across the facade. So someone then decreed that they would make sure those ladders and landings were as beautiful as they could make them...

Look at the lovely wrought-iron scroll work below.


A playground, cemented and hemmed in by iron fences -- and overlooked by Charlie Brown.
A Mamak  coffee shop. Back in Malaysia, we just loved to have breakfast at one such. (Mamak means Malaysian Indian Muslim and their food and beverages have a distinctive cultural mix of tastes). 

It was a real surprise to see one such here, using that word!
One of the many murals that decorate the city, this one by Nickolai Khan, painted on a roll-up security door.

This is a Muslim Centre -- with a minaret! (Can't help thinking that it looks more like a lighthouse)







And below, for those who'd like a free-standing home of their own in Manhattan instead of a highrise apartment: how about buying a place like this one? A totally delightful and ridiculous rip-off a Loire castle, built in the 1890s as a firehouse...
ALL PHOTOS TAKEN BY DR. SELINA NORAMLY

Friday, March 11, 2016

Where I was yesterday... 40,000' up.

These photos were taken from 40,000' over Labrador, Canada.
The first sight of that snow-covered, desolate land (seen through the plane window) was ice-fringed, the floes floating through a brittle skin of transparent ice ...(above)

Then (below) the land itself -- snow-clad outlier islands caught in a plain of ice, apparently abandoned by mankind to a cold, lonely wilderness -- still wearing, though, the scoring of an ancient icy past in the form of deep scratches.

Then the first sign of mankind: a straight line, much wider that any ordinary road, blugeoned somehow through the wilderness to make a snow-filled line of epic proportions (remember, this was taken from 40,000' up). Whatever ploughed this furrow mostly ignored the contours of the land as if  oblivious to them. 
An oil/gas pipeline? A road for giants? A firebreak? 
(I'm an Australian. A firebreak is what we think of first, actually...)
Framing this gigantic ditch: scratch marks from the ancient fingernails of ice sheets and glaciers.

Finally, below, a slightly warmer sight: a flowing river not far north of the St Lawrence River.
And so on, to New York.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Where I was this morning....

Just a kilometre or two from where we live, along the Serpentine River. Husband went fishing. I went for a walk.
 Met an Australian marsupial  

The quenda (Isoodon obesulus fusciventer) is a subspecies of southern brown bandicoot that is only found in southwest Western Australia. Remarkably, quendas can still be found in remnant bushland across suburban Perth. See more here.

Little Pied Cormorant (left) drying its wings. There's also a Darter in this pix if you look closely.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

What the state's newspaper had to say...

You an see the original article by Ben Anderson here, from the West Australian newspaper, about all the West Australians who were shortlisted for the awards.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

SARA DOUGLASS SERIES & AUREALIS SHORTLISTS ANNOUNCED TODAY


THE STORMLORD series (aka THE WATERGIVERS)
is on the Sara Douglass Award shortlist.

This is the inaugural award, in honour of one of Australia's great fantasy writers, who made it huge on the international stage, and died far too young. It is really an honour to be one of the first writers to be considered for the award, and -- win or not -- I am truly humbled.

My latest book 
THE DAGGER'S PATH
(second book in 
THE FORSAKEN LANDS trilogy), 
 is on the Aurealis shortlist for the Best Fantasy Novel (as well as on the Ditmar shortlist, as I mentioned on Monday). The difference between these two lists? The Ditmar is a reader voted award, and the Aurealis is a judged award.

This is my ninth shortlisting for the Aurealis for the Best Novel -- without ever winning -- which I suspect is some kind of record!

In short, this has been a terrific week for me. Will I win anything at all? I doubt it, as the books I'm up against are truly a wonderful selection by the best of Australia's many talented writers (and in fact, there were many others who missed out, who could so easily have been chosen). It doesn't matter. To know that judges and readers have loved my work enough to put them on a shortlist is the best compliment I could  have. 

 I would love to be there, to applaud the winners. Unhappily, a very important family commitment/celebration means that I will be unable to attend the awards ceremony, and I really do regret that the two occasions clash.