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.