Monday, May 20, 2013

On reading old books and being far away

I don't think I've read a book written in the last thirty years for two months now. I can't even think what the last one would have been. Oh, yes I can. A few Mills and Boon Moderns last week, because it's comforting to read romance novels when it's too wet to go out. But mostly there's been a lot of Jane Austen and the Brontes and Wodehouse and Neville Shute. The Shutes are particularly enthralling as the characters are Brits who come out to Australia and go back to London on slow boats or bunny-hop through Asia or the States to get here. Letters are send by air mail and take a week, or by sea mail and take months. The odd telegram is sent too, but you get the impression that they were terribly expensive.

These days I don't review books so I read what I like, which is the best way to do things, I think. So I wander over the Italian Alps with Emily St Aubert, not much caring that I should be "keeping up with the industry". I'll be in the mood for new releases soon I'm sure. But why am I liking these old books so much? I think it must be because I'm far from home. If a man who's lost his legs in WWII can't find a Naval Wren and chases her all over the world for years only to discover she's opted out with a bottle of sleeping pills the day before he finds her (thanks for the laughs, Neville Shute), I can't really be sad for being twenty-two hours or a Skype call from home.

I'm not a melancholy, homesick person, and I like being out of my comfort zone. I needed to be out of my comfort zone. What self-respecting writer hasn't moved to another country? Read their autobiographies in the back of their books: "Hazel has lived in Vladivostok, Tangiers and briefly in Yemen, which makes her pretty cool and smug, don't you know. No wonder she's written a bestseller based on her experiences and has a proper grip on metaphors."

But when your brother gets engaged and everyone's there at the party but you, in the house you used to live in, you might like to read a few comforting old books where they didn't even have Skype and shed a few untimely tears into your boyfriend's jacket on the main street. It was lovely to know that three of my dear friends, Shona, Megan and Ben, where there to represent me and drink plenty of champagne in my stead.

In a serendipitous booking, last night Tim and I went to see Alan Davies in a stand up show in an Islington theatre. Just love him. Tim was in tears at one point and I couldn't stop cough-laughing. (Back-to-back spring colds. Worth the extra coughs.) Cheered me up no end. Today I'm reading Rosamunde Pilcher novels from the 1970s, and this one's set in London. I'm sure it'll end up in Scotland at some point because what Pilcher novel doesn't? It opens with a girl getting a letter from Ibiza a month late saying her mother is dying. So Melbourne isn't very far away after all.

Stiff upper lip and all that. Spirit of the blitz. What ho and pip pip.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

“I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, though since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.”

Who knew anyone could improve on Austen? That one line is just toooooo romantic. Do you know where it's from? The 1986 adaptation of Northanger Abbey. It's 80s-tastic with all the perms and the sax-offending soundtrack, but I adore this silly adaptation of Jane Austen's silliest book. The acting is awkward and some of the supporting cast are downright weird, but Peter Firth is the perfect quirky Henry Tilney and Katherine Schlesinger is a lovely big-blue-eyed-and-naive Catherine Morland.


*happy sigh*

I'm obsessed with books about big dreary old castles at the moment. I'm reading The Mysteries of Udolpho (halfway, but the audiobook is bugging me so may switch to an electronic edition) as well as The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Meanwhile, say it again, Henry. Please!

“I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, though since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.”

The thing is, that line is not in the book. But it ends this TV movie perfectly.

Watch it here:


Sunday, April 21, 2013

London, and Some Thoughts on Being Rescued

I've been pretty quiet on the blog, and I'll be able to tell you why very shortly. It's been a deliberate silence and nothing to do with my books and writing. I have been doing a *lot* of writing, and loving it. London is absolutely gorgeous. I've become a history nerd. The V&A, the British Library, The Wallace Collection at Hertford House, Fulham Palace and Southwark are just a few places I've been exploring in the last few months. I love it here. And now it's spring I love it even more.

Now, some thoughts on being rescued. There's a scene in Blood Song which you may remember (and spoilers if you haven't read it -- and if you haven't you can no matter where you are in the world now -- hurrah! Quick plug: the ebooks are already out for both books and the paperbacks are out in Singapore and Malaysia, on May 10 in the UK and in September  in the USA) when Zeraphina is "rescued" by Rodden in Lharmell. The thing I love best about that scene is while Rodden has every intention of getting Zeraphina and taking her back to the safety of Pergamia, it is a rescue that backfires on the him. Zeraphina's first emotion upon seeing Rodden is annoyance, because it means he's a good guy after all and she did so enjoy detesting him. And her second thought (after Rodden elucidates a few things) is absolute refusal to go home. Rather, she insists they press onwards. And I rather like her subversion of the damsel in distress trope.

It never occurred to me at the time that that was what I was writing. It just seemed to me what Zeraphina would do (the stroppy thing, any excuse to argue with Rodden, right?) But when I read a review that complained the heroine was *actually rescued OMG laaaaame* or words to that effect, I felt rather surprised. Most of my reviews have been glowing, some middling and a very few absolutely flaming. But none of the flaming ones got to me because I absolutely condone the right for someone to dislike a book. It's being misconstrued that makes me indignant.

But my indignance aside, the idea of a hero aiding a heroine is important to me. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Not something a feminist should say, right? Well, bully to that. Because conversely, there's nothing wrong with a heroine helping a hero. When two people fall in love, or set about falling in love despite the path being littered with obstinate parents, blood-sucking creatures and class divisions, they should above all else be equals. They should be stronger together than apart. Add to each other. Be a team. And that means relying on each other from time to time. And I hope that's what I demonstrated in Blood Song, and will continue to demonstrate through all my writings. Zeraphina would have been pretty stuffed if Rodden hadn't shown up, but they would have both been stuffed if she hadn't put her foot down and insisted they go on and not go back.

As for Blood Storm, well that's a bit trickier, isn't it? Because we can't talk about Blood Storm without talking about Blood Queen, and if we talk about Blood Queen you'll want a release date and I still, STILL can't give you one. I wish I could, with all my heart. But it's out of my hands for now. FOR NOW. A tiny bit more patience and it will all be worth it, I promise.

(FYI, I know some authors get annoyed when they're asked by fans when the next book will be out. I can't think of anything more ungrateful. Ask away, I'm flattered you care enough to write and ask.)

And if you see another book from me before Blood Queen, that will only be a good thing, right? I hope you'll be excited for it as much as you are for Blood Queen. Nothing is confirmed as yet (I seem to say that all the time as an author. I wish I didn't but things take an awfully long time behind the scenes). Don't be alarmed if the title sounds a little like Blood Queen, either. It's a different book and hasn't superceded the Lharmell books or anything like that.

TTFN!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

From the Road: Kep, Cambodia

I meant to do aaaaaaaaall these "From the Road" posts. From outback NSW, from Singapore, from Malaysia ... but travel in strange places means staring out the window, not writing, right? Bad writer ...

Tim and I had plans to travel overland, no flying, from Singapore, up through Malaysia and into Thailand, through Bangkok then down into Cambodia. It wasn't the amazing cultural adventure I was hoping. It didn't suck, but of course there are always unexpected problems while travelling. I didn't think I'd say this, but SE Asia is COLD. Not in the streets, right, but in the goddamn trains and buses! What the frack! Sitting 4-6 hours basically motionless under mandatory and constant cold air just shuts down my circulation. I do not like the cold at all. Hence relocating from Melbourne to the tropics! So, I did what any new traveller would do. Got the flu.

Malaysia does not hold many pleasant memories for me. Partly the flu, and partly several dirty hotels. Sorry Malaysia :( I did enjoy the museum and historical buildings in George Town, Penang very much indeed. I am certain I'm going to set an historical novel there one day. Suffolk House is highly recommended for a visit if you're ever in that part of the world. The only Georgian Mansion in SE Asia. It's shocking to see how run down it was in the 90s, but now its been lovingly restored.

Ah, Thailand. Last time I came it was the islands. This time it was Krabi and Phuket. We decided to fly out of Phuket and linger a little in Thailand as I'd missed so much holiday time being sick. Krabi and nearby Ao Nang are lovely, packed holiday spots. We rented a scooter and buzzed about seeing temples and waterfalls. Then I lost another day to food poisoning ... thank you Lae Lay Grill, the supposed best restaurant in Ao Nang. It was safer sticking to hawker food.

I can see why people flock to Phuket. It's freaking gorgeous. The beaches are just beautiful. On our last full day we spent the day on Karon beach. Or was it Kuta? Anyway, lovely. But I had just one more piece of bad luck: got stung by a jellyfish all up the back of my legs. OW. Hurt like a mofo for an hour, then started to subside. Bad luck comes in threes, so I'm glad that's over with.

We've been in Cambodia about four days. I'm loving it again and Tim is being won over. He can't believe how low the cost of living here is. We've already rented a flat. Such an uncomplicated business here. We called an agent and he promptly came to get us from our hotel on his scooter, and we hired a tuk-tuk to follow him to various flats. The first two ... hmmm. I have to say I'm not loving the Khmer architectural design. We were also warned that Khmer windows can't be shut as they have vents. Cambodia can be a noisy place, so we passed on those. Also, I can't say I am fond of 80s peach, rose pink, beige tile and dark wood decor.

The third place was the shiz. Four flights up and no elevator, but they are demure marble steps, not monolithic metal structures to be traversed one painful step at a time. Beautiful and bright with large windows in the kitchen and bedroom and double doors in the lounge that open onto a large balcony. Big marble tiles throughout (the landlord is a tiler) in beige, but not a scrap of pink or peach to be seen. Most rentals seem to come furnished here, so all Tim and I need to do tomorrow morning is sign the papers and lug our suitcases in. I am, of course, so excited.

But as I said above, right now I'm in Kep. It's on the coast, and we are staying with half a dozen other peeps in a gorgeous private villa. My friend organised this weekend and I'm so glad we made it to Cambodia in time to come.

The villa in Kep, set up for a house party

More anon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

South East Asia Travel Prep

It's going to be 38 in Melbourne today. Which has got me thinking: there's not going to be a lot of weather once Tim and I get to Phnom Penh. By that I mean it's going to be the same forecast, every day, all year. Phnom Penh is quite close to the equator which means daily temps have a lower and upper of about 22 to 34 degrees Celsius. All year. The only difference seems to be the amount of rain that falls and whether there are mangos in the markets.

I've got just three weeks of work left, then it's Christmas in Melbourne, New Year's in Tasmania with Tim's family and friends (first time meeting everyone--I hope they like me, I'm taking their baby/buddy overseas and away from them) then back to Melbourne briefly to collect Tim's car and our suitcases. Then we're driving to Sydney via Benalla, and stopping overnight there to visit my dad who's in town for a gliding competition. We have two nights in Sydney seeing more family and friends, then we fly out to Singapore on January 8.

Every time I say Singapore to myself I get a little excited. I don't know much about the city, but what I've read and seen sounds a) delicious (Singaporeans love their food. Hey, I love food, too!) and b) beautiful. It would be nice if we had the money to stay at the Marina Bay Sands with their infinity pool on the elebenty-eighth floor, but it's the cheap and cheerful Geylang district for us, with its claypot dishes and Happy Smile Hotels. For more on Singapore, particularly the food, I recommend Anthony Bourdain's 'Singapore: The Layover' episode of No Reservations.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel, where Tim and I will be staying in Singapore.
 HAHAHAHA. Kidding. But dammit I am going up to the rooftop for a cocktail. 

Travel preparations are going ... along. It feels like we're barely doing much to prepare for living in another country, me for the first time ever. Tim's lived in LA and Indonesia, owns two t-shirts and five computers, so his pre-packing is non-existent. I've taken bags and bags of clothes and boxes of books to the op-shop. I'm being ruthless, keeping only a few winter essentials to store in Melbourne, and just two bookcases of books. My brother and his girlfriend, whom I live with, are going to mind my things, which is so very wonderful of them as now I don't have to find storage for my bits and bobs and furniture.

We've had our first round of shots. I wholly recommend The Travel Doctor on Little Bourke Street. Dr Sonny Lau was lovely, and the nurse Jo gave me three of the least painful shots I've ever had. Only two more rounds to go! (Ack.) My mother has been sending me articles about dengue fever, which I'm dutifully ignoring. I know what you have to do to try and avoid getting it, but there's no sure-fire prevention and if you get it you just get it. I don't need to read about stage-four haemorrhaging. Worry isn't prophylactic.

On the bookish side of things, my publisher Zoe has set up a meeting in Singapore for me and my distributor there to meet up and also visit some booksellers. I'm looking forward to going to Kinokuniya for starters.

And what I'm looking forward to the most? Putting 'Writer' on my immigration forms for the first time. Oy vey. Five weeks to go.

Friday, November 9, 2012

It's my birthday, and I'm buying the presents!


The worldwide release of Blood Song and Blood Storm falls within two days of my twenty-eighth birthday, so what better way to celebrate than a giveaway.

It's a Twitter comp, so see the tweet here on how to enter.
***10/11 EDIT*** 
The worldwide release of books has been held up due to a technical glitch at Random House. I will reopen the comp in a few weeks when they will be available.



On another note, Tim and I bought our tickets to Singapore yesterday! We fly out on January 8.

*zooms around making aeroplane noises*

It's a one-way ticket. Super scary and exciting.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Big News

Actually, there are several bits of news. Many newses! And they all make me very excited and happy. There is book news, professional news and personal news. Not too personal. We don't want to get all TMI here. But these bits of news are all INTERRELATED. I don't know where to start. The news that affects you guys the most? The romantic news? (No I'm not getting married; nor am I pregnant. Ew. Sorry, parents.) The newest news? Perhaps I should begin at the beginning, continue until the end and then stop, as the caterpillar said. Or was it the walrus...

As you can imagine, especially if you're a writer or other breed of creative person, working full time and creating in your spare time is not a big maker of the happies. Waking up with an idea for a longform journalistic piece examining people's perceptions of free speech and the legal ramifications when high profile murder cases are discussed on social media and then having to put it aside because you have work and a novel and yet more novels to work on can bring tears to your eyes. I'm not using hyperbole here. I actually did well up.

I said a long, long time ago in my Dear Agent posts in 2009 I spent as much time learning how to query agents and then subsequently querying them as I did writing Blood Song. And since then I have spent that time writing the novel over again doing publicity work. Ergo, the time I have for writing these days is only spent in actual writing about a third of the time.

Gosh, this is coming out as some sort of mega whinge. What I'm trying to do is paint a picture about why I've made a certain decision.

But first.

When I started seeing my adorable, gorgeous, wonderful partner nearly a year ago (happy anniversary for the 29th, sweetheart) I said straight out that I wanted to live overseas in 2013. At that time my intention was to move to Edinburgh. It is a UNESCO City of Literature, like Melbourne is, and I could see myself in some grotty little garret, immobilised by sleet and rain and wind and social deprivation, glued to a laptop and pounding out delicious chapters. The brief respite of he the Scottish summer might--between showers--bring about some frolicking. But then it would be straight back to the laptop.

Fast forward through some squishy couple stuff, the oh-my-you-want-to-travel-toos, the where-could-we-be-happy stuff. Edinburgh was quietly put aside. (A friend of a friend ranting at me at Horse Bazaar at 2am about how goddamn depressingly awful Scotland is and what was I THINKING may have swayed me a tiny bit.)

I spent my time off this year with a girlfriend in the islands of Thailand, and then visiting another girlfriend who has settled in Phnom Penh with her French boyfriend and had a baby. (How's this for a pedigree: little Jaya is French-Canadian-Japanese. He is stunningly adorable and will probably be fluent in six languages by the time he's out of nappies.) I love, love, loved Phnom Penh. More on that in the coming weeks.

My first piece of news is ... I quit my job this week. My last day of work will be December 28.

My second piece of news is  ... I am moving to Phnom Penh with said partner. He's spent quite a bit of time travelling through SE Asia, but he's never been to Cambodia. Nevertheless, he's agreed to give it a try with me. How awesome is he?

And now some book news. That's what you've all come here for, right?

This news concerns people living outside Australia. From November 11, the ebook version will be on sale everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. If you want it in English, it's all yours.

Did I say the ebook version? I mean BOTH ebook versions. Blood Song and Blood Storm will be available electronically in all territories, courtesy of Random House Australia.

But wait! There's more. If you're in Malaysia, Singapore or the UK, hard copies will be appearing shortly too. And if you're in the US ... well, the most I can say is soon.

How soon?


AND. If you're in Singapore or Malaysia, I'm going to be travelling through there in January and I plan to get to, at the very least, Kinokuniya, and try to sign copies.(Not all bookstore let you sign copies. Readers Feast in the city has two copies of Blood Storm by they remain, sadly, unsigned.)

A huge thanks to my publisher Zoe at  Random House Australia for taking on the distribution for the Lharmell books. Now when I get emails from far-flung corners of the globe I will be able to reply YES. Yes you can read the books!

TL;DR?

Blood Song and Blood Storm have overseas distribution; I've quit my job and I'm going to SE Asia to write for a while. I KNOW. I can't believe it either.