Friday, December 25, 2009

MERRY JESUS-BIRTHDAY! to all of you, my patient fellow Sundergirdians*, or, as a soul might say in the Half-Continent, "Hale Thisgivingday!"

Time is inexorably moving on and not too soon we will be in the actual year of Book 3's publication (if not the month yet).

I want to thank you all for a year of great (though, I confess slow) blogging, of the ever excellent exchange between us. My hope is to regain some much needed energy over this festive (festy?) break to stride off in the new year with slightly more constant bloggingness (+ thoughts on a whole new story to embark, Lord willing). As always, we shall see.

May this be an excellent time for you all,


*a citizen of the Half-Continent.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good News & Bad News

Well, in the midst of completing the 3rd draft, I shall, with great trepidation, start with the bad - as is customary. There is no way to say it but straight: the release of Monster-Blood Tattoo Book 3 will be delayed until September of next year (2010).


Sorry, sorry, sorry. The fault is mine for the time I have taken to write it. Apologies to everyone for causing any consternation at such a revelation. A silver lining to such a cloud is that it gives it all time to be just that bit better (the flip side of this being, it better be pretty darn good now then, huh?); also it will give you more time, Ms Ventress, to get a Sebastipole costume ready *hopeful face*.

Okey dokey, on to the better stuff...

June next year (2010) is when my very first short story - The Corsers' Hinge (see your nearest explicarium for what a 'corser' is) - will be released here in Oz as part of an anthology called,

Australia's Legends of Fantasy

It will be published by Harper Collins, Australia. For you folks in other lands, I shall let you know closer to the date how you might (if you wish it) get your own far-away hands on a copy.

I am very chuffed to be included as a "legend" (who would not!) and some of the other genuine legends involved will be Sean Williams*, Kim Wilkins*, Garth Nix, Trudi Canavan, Ian Irvine*, John Birmingham, Cecelia Dart-Thornton, Juliet Mariller, Jennifer Fallon, and on and on... Quite a list, huh? When a cover image becomes available I shall post it so you know what to look out for.

*I have illustrated one or more of their texts.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Rossamünd Costume

Given today is October 31st, I thought a bit of costume action would be appropriate.

Ben, 10, the son of a friend of a friend of mine (the faithful and rather clever Sue-Ellen who gets me out of fixes with Latin and Greek) wanted to dress as Rossamünd for his school’s book parade this week.

... And so he did.

I think his costume looks rather splendid; I especially like the battered old backpack and the untied shoe lace. These images makes me realise just how small and vulnerable Rossamünd was when he first left the foundlingery.

I must say, I really dig all these Half-Continent costumes folks make. Thank you Ben... and his mum too, I reckon!

*[Images used with permission]

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I'm Allliiivvveee..!

Over at Bookface[TM] (where I am I think spending far too much time... maybe) Jane Hart Mason was good enough to ask me:

Howdy... I hope you don't mind if I ask you a quick question, and I promise not be hurt if you don't have time to answer, or if it is your rule not to or whatnot. I am working on a little story of my own (not really to publish, just for my kid), and although I know what happens next and so on, I just can't seem to get it done. It may just be writer's block, but I am wondering if you have any tips or method as to what you do when this (if this?) happens to you. I have heard some writers set aside time to work on their stories, and even if they can't get anything written, they force themselves to sit there and think about it at least. Have you ever had any success with this? Mayhap you are one of those who is able to just pour it all out without pause, and if so please disregard this query. (I wish! DMC)

... to which my answer was:

Dear Jane, Great question. It beats at the heart of every writer's journey/struggle. For me writing can frequently be like pulling teeth from my jaw = hard and very painful. Even when I am enjoying a story (like I am currently with a novella also set in the Half-Continent) I still have this crazy reluctance to write!!! Don't ask me why, I just work here...Making yourself just sit and write regardless is probably the only way "to get it done"; feelings are rebellious and fickle - only sometimes do I "feel" like writing. Unfortunately it will have to be like getting an injection, you turn up, face the pain, push through and get on with the good stuff afterwards, congratulating yourself for your courage.You might try setting aside half an hour or so with a goal of 100 words. Sounds a tiny amount perhaps, but in such a small, hopefully less painful quantity two things might happen: 1/ the story will get chipped away in little lumps (re: the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time) OR 2/ you just might find your flow and go on longer, writing more words and even get into the whole project again.Making a list of "beats" as I call them might help too, an extremely brief dot-point of each significant moment. I have just discovered this device in the latter stages of the 2nd draft of MBT Book 3 and it makes my head and the way forward so much clearer. Even if you reckon you know what is coming, this might make it even clearer and build some enthusiasm in you to press on to boot.How is that? Hope it helps. Unfortunately writing is not a magical process, it it the grind of getting the words down occasionally intersped with moments of inspiration, delight and relief. It is climbing a steep mountain on your own and when you are at the top, it is climbing all the way back down again. So, climb on, brave author.

Also, check the comments of previous post for answers to your excellent and helpful questions.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Who lives where in the Harthe Alle

In an as usually belated response to a continuing question about the inhabitants of the Half-Continent and beyond I have put this map up again but now with all new NUMBERS![TM] by which I intend to answer said query. So here 'tis:

1/ Southeastern tip of Nenin, in the continent known as the Occident = Oriental derived cultures;

2/ Western coast of Heil, called Tung and home to a peoples derived from Mongol/ central asian cultures;

3/ Heilgoland proper, an empire based somewhat on Russian/ central European cultures;

4/ I cannot remember what this area is called specifically but it is home to a wide group of wild folk;

5/ The somewhat mythic lands of Fiele, little is known of here but that perhaps its is a land of sedorners and many monsters;

6/ The (Greater) Derelands, original home of the Skylds (for those who recall the history of Ingebiarge), origin of greater derehunds (most excellent tykehouds) and home of the Hagenards and various other peoples based on Nordic cultures;

7/ Parthia, wide lands, home of wild Hun-like folks;

8/ The Brigandine States, home of the pirate kings;

9/ The very southern edge of the Principalitine States, based on Indian/ Moghul cultures;

10/ The N'go, spread with vaguely African-based cultures of various attitudes to monsterkind;

11/ Turkmantine Empire, the Haacobin empire's most constant foe, based on Ottoman culture;

12/ The Half-Continent, home of the Haacobin and Gott Empires plus minor free peoples, based on western European cultures;

13/ Lausid elector kings and Ing, the former based on Polish culture moving through Hungarian culture and ending in north central Asian cultures;

14/ Dhaghestahn = basically Persian in source.

I surely hope this does not ruin it for people, knowing my sources, my intent; the hope is to show my thinking and give you a sense that there is more to come (Lord willing) beyond Monster-Blood Tattoo.

Also, Magos Kasen asked...
I am not sure if this has been answered before, but are nickers and bogles hunted as sport sometimes? And are they edible?
Why yes, yes they are, especially by the wealthy sporting sets (and the wild kings of Parthis and eastern Derelands, the brave white-skinned souls of Heilgoland amongst others), and as to their edibility, that would depend entirely on the taste buds and squeamishness of each person, but in a general sense, yes, they are edible. That being said, to the goodly, civilised folk of the Half-Continent such an idea is abhorrent. Great question.

...and sorry that I have once again taken so long to post - too much bookface and getting lost in the writing...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Extra-curricular bogle action

These are by a fellow MBT-er, Ryan Kjolberg, or Kjolbergart as he is known here.

He is currently "studying to become a concept artist and wants to ultimately become a movie director" and has taken some time out to do us the honour of working up some bogles of his own.

As I said to him in reply, they are "absolutely spot on, the combination of fur and fleshy, snaggle-tooth jaws, the intensity of the eyes; it reminds me of just how damn scary a place the Half-Continent could be to live in and how people's fear and prejudice against monsters is in some way well-founded and fair." Thank you so much for these Ryan.

I hope you all like 'em too...
(These images are of course (c) copyright Ryan Kjolberg, and are used by his pernission)

Anyone else got things to share?

Also, please consider 'signing' the online petition saying No Parallel Importation of Books into Australia, if you have not already - for those who want to know more about this issue here is a starting point.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No Parallel Importation of Books into Australia

No Parallel Importation of Books into Australia

Yes, I am still banging on about this, and I need to...

For those who agree with me that the removal of Parrallel Imporation structures is a bad idea, please, 'sign' the petition linked above - and for those who want to know more about this issue here is a starting point.

As for MBT 3, I am currently drawing the last few chapter illustrations, which can be a joy at times and truly hair-tearingly frustrating at others. I have discovered that I am not as good as drawing hands as I used to be - too much writing and not enough sketching over the last 18 months has certainly made the old drawing muscles rusty.

Looking forward to the continuing adventures of Hesuimu and Somedood versus Borky the Coednedded Stanislaudian Giant Ant - my werazi cans are lined up and ready. (If this makes no sense to you than please read comments from last post - if you dare - they had me giggling... though I am wierd like that...)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Factotum 2nd Draft is DONE!

You'd better believe it!

The impossible has become the possible.

Explicarium and character illos to go...
(plus further correcting of a 3rd draft - here's hoping that will not be too great a task)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Digital v Analogue

Apparent Technology Luddite warning!
(though, in such a medium as a blog this is a nice irony)

One of the problems with digital is it is very hard to archive long term, which will bemuse future historians I think. We've had computers in the mainstream for how long now? Maybe 30 years tops; and how many operating systems have we gone through? My the original files of my old stories written on my parents Amstrad 664[TM] are gone, baby! The only version of them extant, printed copies.

One day - and maybe the youngest of us here will be alive when it happens, but I am thinking a couple hundred years time - they may well come to the conclusion that paper is the most advanced step for (especially long term) storage of information. I certainly think the complete digitisation of the world is not as necessary as the digitisers would have us think... but that is just me. No one ever seems to think it necessary to really ask "Just because I can, does it mean I should..?"

Having said that, if reading a Kindle[TM] is just like reading a real book, then I am ok with that.

New poll - all very off topic at the moment, hope people don't mind. Just shows we can function on a level other than the Half-Continent.

Also, for those of you who have not read it, please have a squiz (sp?) at my last post regarding the rather troubling developments in the world of publishing here in Australia.

Advice: Letting your porridge go cold then still eating it is NOT the best way to start the day...

Monday, July 20, 2009

2nd Draft Joy - plus, off topic: Parallel Importation Folly

I am feeling pretty good having just handed in the first 20 chapters of the 2nd draft of Book 3 (with about 7 or so to go) to my editor, Celia, here in Oz. This is a tunnel after all, not the ceaseless dark of endless night I feared. Phew! I was beginning to wonder there...

I am also feeling rather bemused because here in Australia our government is contemplating the abolition of Parallel Importation Restrictions in our country. This might appear as a good thing, yes? 'Restriction' is a bad word - we should get rid of 'restrictions', it sounds like they are impinging on our 'freedom'.

Yet the purpose of Parallel Importation Restrictions (and they exist in the UK and US as well) is to provide a frame work by which an author can make income from the licencing of the copyright of their story within the three major English speaking markets. So these 'restrictions' actually create clear boundaries by which the publishers in each country knows how to behave towards both authors and the others publishers' markets, and an author themselves has chance to licence their copyright to its fullest potential. So these 'restrictions' actually provide clarity and strangely, a kind of 'freedom'.

The oft-stated benefit of their removal here will be to reduce the price of books by opening our market to cheaper foreign editions. Its real effect, I am afraid, will be to seriously harm Australian authors' ability to make a living from their trade and diminish their access to a viable local publishing industry... and is unlikely to do much to revive people's interest in books, for it is interest in reading itself in this age of easy entertainment that is the problem, not the price of the material to be read.

Those lobbying for such a law are the Mr Bigs (K-mart, Target, Big-W, Coles & Dymocks, styling themselves the Coalition for Cheaper Books) seeking cheaper books, telling us with such genuine pleading concern for we the reading public that their main aim is literacy. They say that cheaper books will improve reading as more people can afford to buy them. (When corporations pretend care for people I see red flags going up all over the place.) What I hate most about this line of argument is that it seems such a cynical play for the higher moral ground, as if these corporations genuinely care for you and yours and need to defend your rights to a literate future. Shareholders and profit margins are their domains, don't be fooled folks.

What-is-more, it is not even true for two reasons, a/ it is unlikely that the buying public will see much bar a token reduction in book prices as the Mr Bigs simply pocket the increased difference, & b/they are called libraries, been around for a while now and books there are FREE there.

What I resent about all this is why it is I who should subsidise the bookselling industry here, if Amazon can figure a way to distribute books so cheaply, why can't our local sellers do the same? Industry reform seems a better option. It is not the authors' fault for bad business models in other parts of this whole book thing.

If there were no Parallel Importation Restrictions in place 6 years ago (2003) when I first dropped my notebook in front of Dyan Blacklock, my publisher and discoverer, there is little likelihood she would have given me the opportunity to write she did. She would have been unwilling to risk making Monster-Blood Tattoo happen only for it to be taken up by a foreign publisher and have those overseas editions being sold back here into Oz in direct competition with the Australian one.

Bizarre, huh... But that is what our government is contemplating.

The very real problem posed for me (and every other author potential or realised in this country) is if Parallel Importation is allowed to occur here in Australia, do I a/go with overseas publishers and forgo an Australian edition OR b/refuse to publish anywhere else but Australia in support of the local industry. Either way I lose income and someone out there in one country or another will find it hard to get copies of my books.

Far out! I would just like to write books and sell them fairly, you bureaucratical glaucologues (see Explicarium Book 2) - enough with the potential moral dilemmas already!

As you can see I am a tad worked up about this; why would I not be? My livelihood is at stake here.

But then again, why should I hope to make a living from this writing thing anyway? After all, that 'creativity' stuff is really just for children and grant-sponging hippie no-hopers isn't it? Surely I should grow up, cut my hair and get myself a real job...

An excellent article I have read on the matter is by James Bradley over at City of Tongues. (The comments are worthy reading, allowing him to expand his point)

It is important to note that neither the US or UK have any intention of abolishing their parallel importation legislation. I do not think the Australian publishing market could survive long as anything more than a discount warehouse for foreign importers under such an onslaught (and I am not sure the Coalition for Cheaper Books really cares if such a thing occurs - indeed, I have this suspicion it might actually play into their careful economic schedules).

So, regardless of my own left-wing opinions on corporations, if you value that someone like me (and you too, working away on your own masterpiece) can be given a chance to get their passion published and to make a living from that passion here in Australia; if you hold dear the existence and breadth of subject matter of your local independent Australian bookseller, then please, let your voice be heard (prayers, letters, blogs - you name it).
Here is a link to guidelines for writing letters to MPs on this issue (yes it is that serious) and their addresses at SAVINGAUSSIEBOOKS.

Here is an excellent article about the fiscal issues behind the current issue at SAVINGAUSSIEBOOKS.

Here is the website for the Australian Society of Authors (bless their cotton socks) that has many links to explore the issue further.

BTW, even folks in the UK (and Canada too) think it is a foolish idea.

Most of these links have been taken from SAVINGAUSSIEBOOKS, so I recommend you head on over there an explore a little further - and by all means, ask me more. Apologies if I have not made an ounce of sense.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Beyond the Half-Continent.

Here is a (very!) rough prototype scribble of the possible formation of landmasses about the Half-Continent, a fair part of the southern lands of the Harthe Alle (snazzed up a bit with fancy computer trickery). This is still an ongoing exploration for me, which keeps things fun.

The pallid areas are landmasses, the orange to glaucous the oceans (the colour shift representing climactic/temperature change = north hotter as you approach the 'equator', cooler the further south you wend). The solid red mass is the Half-Continent as revealed to you in the Monster-Blood Tattoo books and on the map site. The names in parenthesis are largely old even forgotten appellations for the regions at the time of the Phlegms.

Given the size of the Half-Continent already, I think this would make the whole 'planet' rather large indeed. I believe that though our earth is the optimal calibration for life, a much larger globe is theoretically possible, and even if it weren't, it is now.

And welcome to our 100th follower!... and our 99th, 98th, 97th oh, dang it! Welcome to you all!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rewriting... Or a Contractual Collision

What we have below is two page layout views of the first few chapters of Book 3 (those who know MS Word will know what this is, which is probably most of you). The first is Draft 1, the second Draft 2 with all the changes tracked in red.

ADDENDUM as of 1/7/9 ~

WELL... the above is what you would have seen, but a contractual issue back o' house has me now removing said images - though they were diagrammatic and illegible - from the public space.

For those who saw them and were edified by them, glad to be of encouragement.

For those who did not, well, wow, they were the most spectacular things you will ever behold in your span of years upon this planet... there was certainly a lot of red on them anyway. You will be able to see them again once Book 3 is out... in a little while...

Apologies to my publishers for my careless enthusiasm to share.

Sorry folks, more normal transmissions will resume in their usual erratic manner.

Happy New Financial Year, btw.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

After Thingy...

Almost two weeks on (!) I surface from the Sea of Words - the Pontus Logia - to say what a swell time I had at Conjecture 2009; met many amazing folk - organisers, readers, writers and editors alike - though no one from here (thank you for asking Portals). Apologies to you Klesita for not letting you know earlier, would have been great to meet you - I could have answered you questions that are still rattling about my noggin, directly... How about I do so now anyway.

The one most on mind is...

One of the things that intrigues me more is how Clementine, been so far away from everywhere and more over been so far inland, became a centre of power. Most centres of power become that because their position is strategic in one way or another. What is strategic about this place?

I must admit when I look at the placement of Clementine/Benevente on the map I do scratch my head a little and wonder how it got to be so powerful. Its strategic significance is not nearly as relevant in the current (MBT) period as it was at the time of Dido and her most immediate heirs when that central portion of the Half-Continent was full of refugee peoples from the arrogance and subsequent collapse of the Phlegms. Clementine's current significance is that it guards the only passage across the great rift the Marrow and is the historied home of Dido's line, preserved now more because it is convenient for the member states to have it that way rather than its actual strategic importance. Does that help?

Alyosha has a triplet of inquiries still outstanding:

1) Near the beginning of the first book Fransitart says to Rossamund, “Say yer prayers and clean yerself afore th’ meal.” Never after, however, is there any mention of prayers, priests, religious beliefs, etc. Are there religions in the Half Continent? Do folks worship the emperor, Roman-style, or do any of the claves have a religious character?

Do you know, this is the hardest aspect for me in the whole invention... To put it simply folks worship any manner of things: Providence (not very common any more), the false-gods, monsters, ancient and potent therimoir swords, the heldins, an idea (re: many of the calendar claves). The most prevalent "religious" position of most Soutlanders is like a humanistic atheistic cross with certain superstitious fears of monsters.

2) The patrolled portions of the Wormway are dangerous, the lampsmen regard the Ichormeer with fear, and even the far-traveling Europe has never followed the road past Haltmire. In your Explicarium you tell how the family of the Warden-General of Haltmire perished due to wandering just a little way along the Wormway into the Ichormeer. Does anybody actually travel through the Ichormeer from Haltmire to Worms?

Not very often, no. In fact it requires a concerted effort to effect a full traversing of the Wormway, and the passage through the Ichormeer was a great military undertaking, lead by Imperial Engineers.

3) The origin of the lahzars is shrouded in mystery; but, an origin there must be. One of the other mysteries you weave into your story is the sad, strange tale of Biarge the Beautiful, and I wonder if the two mysteries are related – if Biarge’s mad experiments to save Freyr are in some way the source of the dark knowledge that birthed the lahzar-creating surgeries?

Hmmm... I like where you are heading, sir...

Now to dear Headtrip Honey, niggled by a couple of questions:

You stated somewhere that you imagined Europe to be about 29. In Lamplighter, we learn that she and Lady Vey were at school together (the calendar-training one). And we also know that Threnody is around 13/14. So how old is Lady Vey, and how old was she when she had Threnody? Because their being schoolmates would suggest she is close in age to Europe (although I suppose it doesn't HAVE to be so), and 29 would be awfully young to have an almost 14 year old daughter.

I have revised my sense of Europe's age just a little since penning (and now re-penning) Book 3, shall we say somewhere betwixt 29 and 33ish. Either way, her contemporaneous attendance with the Lady Vey at a calendar clave does not automatically mean they were/are the same age. Claves are not schools - people from all paths join them - and even schools in the Half-Continent do not function the same way as we find familiar. As for her age when bringing forth Threnody into the world, the Lady Vey was quite young, though certainly not 15.

Her second question is much simpler:

How does one pronounce Threnody's name?

(capitals indicate where to stress the word - I can perhaps hear certain more North American folks possible calling her 'thren-OH-dee'; that is not how I hear it in my noggin or say it, but then again I am Australian...)

Please, keep "overthinking", ma'am...

Excellent queries (as ever). If I failed to answer one of yours, could I ask you to please ask it again...? Now, back to editing for me...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Conjecture 2009

I am surfacing from my Pit of Editing [TM] (cesspit, maybe...?) to let those of you in the Adelaide vicinity know that I will be doing a reading and what they call an 'author appearance' on Saturday 6th June (this Saturday!) at this year's Conjecture Spec Fic convention.

Details as follows:

Saturday 2:30 - 3:30
1st floor Holiday Inn, Hindley Street, Adelaide

...then at 5:30 at same venue I will be helping to launch Richard Harland's most excellent new truly steampunk offering, Worldshaker, a novel definitely worth your time to read (I liked it so much they put what I thought of it on the cover). Along with this book I cannot recommend highly enough Richard's WritingTips website. You can even download a .pdf of the entire document for free FREE FREE from the site. Richard is an absolute legend for producing it, so go see, please! It is an veritable mine on the whole process of this thing called writing, from getting going to getting published - I have certainly learnt a thing or twenty from it.

Lots of excellent folks will be there all weekend, so, please, if you are able, come along.

(Apologies for short notice & to those who are unable to come even if they wanted to because they happen to live in another city or country...)
... Oh, & I will get answering on your excellent previous post questions very very soon, honest.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The stages of editing.

I thought it would be simplest to show you the very beginning of Lamplighter. I will make some comment on each version but will let them speak for themselves - my hope is that when you click on an image it will show it at a better, more readable size.

Please, ask any questions you like.

As you can see my initial beginning was markedly different from what we now have in the book. My first thought was to start the very next day from where Foundling left off. I am glad that I did not. The where to begin a story is one of the big challenges in writing. Apart from this, other problems clear to me (now, at least) are a/ that Grindrod is unrealistically harsh & b/ the excessive use of capitals for his voice.

Next is the proper beginning to the story; it is bloated and clumsy - but that is the nature of my first drafts for you... The comments on it are made by the fair hand of my publisher, Dyan Blacklock.

The change from first to second draft is hard work but seeing the better, tighter story emerge from all the pain is a genuine joy. The scribble in green is my own hand as I continue to improve the text - all those little details and tweaks that feel make the tale a whole lot better.

This final stage is what are called pages. It is the properly typeset book printed out on ordinary A4 paper for me to go over for any final and usually small corrections. I, however, made some significant changes - as you can see by the highlighted text, which, if memory serves, was shifted and cut. If you get out your copies you shall see what I mean. This is not normal at this stage, of course, but most was agreed to by my editor (the purple penciled Celia Jellet), for it indeed made the whole work again that much better. (I paid for the re-typesetting, btw - 'tis only fair...)

There you have it! Just like that. This book writing thing is easy!

Also Gareth of Falcata Times asked me to point you all to their review of Lamplighter, which fits well with this post, the final end for this whole process: people reading it and even reviewing it. Thank you, Gareth!

For breakfast today I had porridge with sultanas and a cup of Irish Breakfast tea.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A poll for you...

Just put up another poll for your pondering (just scroll down a bit)... more substantial posting coming soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Still here! Still here!

Just in case you thought I had shuffled off somewhere, I am still about, honest, being very preoccupied about editing (actually a major rewrite - you should see all the green pen scribbled over each page, the inserted pages with even more green scribblings) and slack about blogging.

I heard once that you need to post at least once a week to be considered a real blog, so I don't know where that leaves us...

Just thought I would acknowledge that "clede" (a corruption of Mr Hranac's 'cledu' verificon word) meaning a country dance, and most likely "verger" (coined by Alyosha's daughter) meaning a builder of fortifications, might well have a place in the Half-Continent. 'Tis a bit perplexing about how such things work though; can I even have them to use? They are other people's stuff after all. I could sit here and just plunder you all and never have to come up with my own stuff - though where is the fun in that...! endless invention is entirely the point. It is just that some words are just right for the idea. Then again, there have been several times I have had to let some entirely perfect 'word' go because it is someone else's property, which just pushes me try again, to dig deeper, to slide sideways and get inventive. What I do not want is to be is a thief.

Back to the rewrite... (oh, and I will put up some old variants of bits of Lamplighter soon, to show what editing does for me -and you too, as the end users... did you know that you are 'end users'? Sounds a bit cold...)

Hope you all are well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Oops, no title!

monday comes bearing a "nosy personal question, Mr Cornish: I was just re-read Foundling again and am suddenly wondering if you have some sort of deep-seated, sweat-inducing terror of, when traveling, accidentally getting on the wrong bus/train/airplane. [I'm talking of course about Rossamund's incident with the Rupunzil and the Hogshead.] because i am a paranoid traveller myself, and that situation certainly struck a chord with me...did you have some sort of bad experience, or is it just the product of an over-anxious imagination?"

I think it is the latter, though now that I ponder it, I certainly have an at times morbid concern for missing my stop - may be that is it?

Ben Bryddia was wondering... "Since it's not socially acceptable to be abroad without a hat of some sort in the Empire, does Europe's refusal to wear one say anything about her personality?"

I reckon it does, yes... especially in light of her rather ironic observations of Rossamund's continuous loss of his own head ware.

He also went on to muse, "I was also wondering if fuses came in any other shapes than the simple poles described in the books. I have no idea how one would wrap a knobbly bastinade stick with wire, but the concept sounds rather interesting to my addled thoughts."

This seems a perfectly feasible and probably likely variation for some certain fulgars. Sets me on interesting train of thought...

Dear Master portals ponders, "I was wondering - with all the monsters, how is hunting in the H/C? I mean, everyone seems quite well fed, but I never heard anything about actually getting the food. I know Rossamund walks past pastures with cows, but he also eats venison. Maybe I'm missing something (probably, but ... yeah ...)"

Fair question. Hunting and rearing of such things as deer ready to slaughter for the table are very much alive and well in the Half-Continent - something you can just assume are occurring. They have not appeared especially in the books because there is only so much minutiae I can put in each one... and I reckon not every spoke of the wheel needs reinventing (just most of them ;).

The most excellent Perry Middlemiss over at Matilda has picked up on my previous enthusiasm for editing, but I can say now that yes, indeed, as Klesita suggests, editing is taking its toll... *deep breath* The second draft is bearing only some resemblance to the first - the journey is very different every time. Added to this, I just learnt today the Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the first draft of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde in 3 days (!!!!!) - I wish!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Agonies of Editing

Ahh noelle, it's not just fledgling authors who feel the dents of editorial comment. I am about to receive edits from my publishers and am getting myself prepared for the sting (as much as you can). "Don't they get it! How dare they say that! But I love that part!" might be among the thoughts you're having. I rant and rave and get all bothered and offended.

I find two things help with the post edit sting (actually three) a/ putting the edits down for a bit and mulling (or brooding -if you like) them over; b/ choosing the best "hills to die on" if you get my meaning - the happy medium between those things you are willing to change and those that must remain as they are, besides which, it is still your story, you do not have to make any of the changes an editor asks of you (though I would not recommend such action, a good editor will me you a better writer - I know that is true for me, God bless you Celia and Tim) c/ the healing balm of time.

Also, remind yourself that the editing stage is a team effort, AND the crucial first sharing with the beginnings of an ever widening audience. Though criticism is hard to bare, the excitement of the improved text gained through it is well worth all the struggle... well I think so, anyway.

My first drafts are L-U-M-P-Y, uneven, turgid and at times self-indulgent - folks don't have to be sad that they get edited down and words cut out; the words that are left are far better than those removed. Just for perspective I excised 25,000 words from the 1st draft of Lamplighter and oh how it improved. If anyone thought say that the journey from Winstermill to Wormstool dragged a bit in the final version of Lamplighter, just know that it went for a whole chapter longer in the 1st draft... even I thought is S-L-O-W when I came to read it over properly for myself. And now here in Book 3, Factotum, I have managed I think to prise 9,000 words (so far) out of the first 10 chapters and it is already a far better book.

So bring on the editing, I say, pain and all, a better book awaits (though ask me again in a week or so's time how I am feeling about it all...)

Alyosha, I really enjoyed your comment and though I have given cursory thought to engineers and masons and the like, I shall now think a little more particularly about such folks who tread the middle path between out and out adventure and staying safe behind walls. Concometrists come to mind a bit here, the measurers and the surveyors - but what of engineers? What should I call them...?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

CBCA 2009 - or, Back at last!

Sorry everyone for taking sooooooooo... long to post again, here I am at last!

Editing has me in its merciless grips; the first draft of Book 3 is far too long so cut cut cut, condense condense condense. One of my initial errors (which happened in Books 1 & 2 as well) is that I put in too much world detail - fascinating to me (and my mate Will) but not so great for a well flowing plot or more general reader interest. My second pass involves reducing this to something smoother and less thrombotic to read, some plot-extraneous matter being put into the back matter where it fits much better (thank you Lord for the Explicarium!) The balance for me is having enough detail to fully build in the experience of the Half-Continent whilst not over-indulging (well, too much anyway...)

To those who contend that MBT is self-indulgent and has too much world in it, I answer, what is the point of writing (not "righting" as I had carelessly had previously... you should see my drafts!!!) about a pretend world if it is only briefly touched upon and has no real impact on the story told? Having said that, I have still got to tell a good story - well, the best I can at least.

So, I suppose you could say, my contention has some merit for I learnt recently that Monster-Blood Tattoo Book 2, Lamplighter has made it into the 2009 CBCA Awards Book of the Year shortlist for Older Readers. Very very chuffed that it has been recognised in the same award that honoured Foundling two years ago. Brilliant!

The complete list is as follows:

EATON, Anthony Into White Silence
FRENCH, Jackie A Rose for the Anzac Boys
MARCHETTA, Melina Finnikin of the Rock
MOLONEY, James Kill the Possum
TAN, Shaun Tales from Outer Suburbia
CORNISH, D. M. Monster Blood Tattoo Book Two: Lamplighter
(Check me out with my egocentrically loooonnngggg book title... ;)

Brilliant for us all and all the Notable Books with us.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2009 Shortlist.

Delighted to be able to say that MBT 2, Lamplighter has been shortlisted in the 2009 NSW (meaning New South Wales for the uninitiated) Premier's Literary Award's The Ethel Turner Prize for a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry written for young people of secondary school level. The list of us all goes a little like this:

Dianne Bates - Crossing the Line
Michelle Cooper - A Brief History of Montmaray
D.M Cornish - Monster Blood Tattoo Book Two: Lamplighter
Alison Goodman - The Two Pearls of Wisdom
Nette Hilton - Sprite Downberry
Joanne Horrniman - My Candlelight Novel

I feel like a bit of an upstart occupying a list with such luminaries. VERY VERY gratified to be recognised in one the countries big awards, thank you so much to those that put me there. With all this good news I just might explode with joy... if, of course, my stupid character flaws would just stop getting in the way and spoiling the glee...

For all the shortlistings for the entire gamut of the NSW Premier's Awards for this year go here!

Monday, March 23, 2009

That Initial Story... or How Monster-Blood Tattoo came to be.

'Bout time I posted don't we think!

E N Reinmuth was pondering... "If memory serves me right it was your interview on either the Today show or Mornings with David and Kim that got me out searching for MBT-Foundling, (technically I saw the gudgeon design before Lamplighter was even published, whoot!) and you said that you had gone to a publisher for a different story, and upon leaving you had dropped your notebook which held details of the world of the HC, and in turn the publisher asked you to write as many words a week, etc etc, leading to Foundling. Might I ask what that initial story was?"

Yes you may! It goes a little like this...

'Tis a long story I shall attempt to make short. I trained back in the early 1990's as an illustrator in Adelaide, South Australia. In 1995 I moved to Sydney to pursue illustration work with magazines, newspapers and advertisers. In 1997 I began as a cartoonist at Burgo's Catchphrase working there and as a freelance illustrator until I followed adventure overseas to the US in 2003, before crash landing back in Adelaide again.

Looking for illustration work, I went to a local publisher - Omnibus Books, an imprint of Scholastic Australia - on the recommendation of a fellow illustrator friend, Cheryl Johns. At Omnibus, the publisher, Dyan Blacklock, gave me a cover to complete, then a whole picture book (Grannysaurus Rex written by Tony Wilson, which is that "different story" I mentioned).

I used to sit in her office and talk about life the universe and everything and one day one of my many small black notebooks fell out of my bag as I reached for some gum. The book had the number "23" boldly on its cover and snatching it up, Dyan immediately began to peer within, wondering (she later told me) where the previous 22 notebooks were. Inside she found my crabbed notes about a pretend world I had been scribbling about since about 1993 (hence the then 23 and now 32 - almost 33 - notebooks). Dyan tells it that she felt the hairs on her neck raise; she asked me if I had written any stories about this pretend world.

I said, "No."

She returned, "Do you have any characters from this world?"

To this I responded "Yes," and began to list some off, including Rossamund, a boy with a girl's name.

Dyan thought he sounded interesting and persisted, "Put him down somewhere in the Half-Continent and tell us what happens."

So I did... and here we are.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Nebula Awards(R) 2009

Very very delighted to tell that Monster-Blood Tattoo 2, Lamplighter has been shortlisted in the Andre Norton Award (the YA section) of the 2009 Nebula Awards. Given that some of my favourite authors have been past recipients (Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin, Orson Scott Card) amongst many of other lights of spec fic (Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Gene Wolfe, &c &c &c... including last years Andre Norton winner, Ms Rowling herself) I am most utterly astonished, gratified and thrilled.

It is my pleasure to also boast that Lamplighter was included on Locus Magazine's 2008 Recommended Reading List (as released last month), so happiness all round.

I shall stop showing away (again...) and get back to editing.

(Book 3 better be good, dang it! my fears cry)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Factotum 1st Draft is DONE!

Yes, just as the title says, it is true, finally (*rolls eyes*) filled with self-doubt and trepidation, I am finished climbing the mountain. Factotum MBT Book3 1st Draft is complete! Now all that is left is to climb all the way down the other side.

Now for some celebratory answers!

Sylvenger was wondering ... 'in the video from Youtube for Lamplighter, it pronounces Europe's name exactly like the continent "YUR-up". I don't know, when I read the books I just thought it would be pronounced with a little more sophistication, like "yoo-ROE-puh".'

Actually, when used ordinarily it is said "YOO-rup", though for more formal situations you will find it written Europa and said "yoo-ROE-puh".

Ben Bryddia was wondering "... how nearly the present editions of Books 1 and 2 match their original drafts. In hindsight, would you have written them very differently?"

The final volumes you all have read bear marked differences from the very first drafts, pace, detail, the fleshing out of a situation to enrich events and characters, the reduction or moving of detail to the Explicarium, the tightening of my language, refining refining refining have been the usual process for making a final draft of both of the previous two MBTs. Friends how have had the dubious 'honour' of reading the first and final drafts inevitably comment on the general air of tightness and little improvements throughout the final text. I am looking forward to the process of improvement for Factotum upon whose threshold I now stand.

We are getting there folks; thank you all for sticking in there with me and for you most excellent minds and your support.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I would just like to take this opportunity to correct the doggerel that Rossamund recalls of Swill early in Lamplighter. I got the metre all out o' whack and would like to offer to you a slightly improved version (and so let you in on my restless and constant polishing of the H-c)

Honorius Ludius Grotius Swill
Will saw off your limbs, but eschews the pill;
For coughs he takes fingers, a sneeze he'll take toes,
But fevers will cost you your ears and your nose.

So no its syllable count for each line is 11, 10, 11, 11 whereas before it was 11, 9, 12,11 - which does not sound like much but I like the rhythm in the more even structure of the new version better - sounds more lilting in my head.

If at this point you think I a little nuts, you just might be right...

To answer a couple o' questions:

Yes Jenny M, MBT will be a trilogy but I truly intend and hope to bring you other tales from the Half-Continent over the years in what, Lord willing, will be a long term relationship between me and you all, an ongoing expounding of this pretend place through story and reference, a picture book (cheers Differlot) maybe film, and what ever else can express it best. What the next book after Factotum will be, I can as yet not really say... I do have ideas though.

Kathryn I will be showing the little man's face in Book 3.

And right now Portals I am just about to finish the 1st draft of Book 3 (such as it is), and for most f this year shall be editing it (several times), drawing character illos, writing the Explicarium for Book 3 (which may need to be shorter to make room for the story), complete the cover for the US edition and tweak the ANZ cover, attend various public events, finish off the map for Book 3, finalise the Appendices for Book 3, make all necessary corrections to all of the above... And in the period between handing everything up and it going to the printers I will be taking a great big breath.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

European Refinement.

This is an updated, slightly more "polished" design version of a previous rough for Europe's final harness in Book 3.

That's all...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Quick Break & An Idea.

You might be wondering what the new poll asking about a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure [TM] style story is all for. Well, I was reckoning that when Book 3 1st draft and maybe edit passes are finally done we could embark on a project together where I write an entry upon a certain Half-Continent character, list a poll of options for their next action, give you a week or two or three to choose which way next, write that, give you more options to choose for the next bit and so on (am I making sense?) and maybe build story together. So I have put up a poll to start and we shall go from there.

Thoughts anyone?

To add a little spice to the entry I am also including some sneak peak appendices proposed for Book 3 (though constraints of book length might mean some do not make it in... we shall see) Until then, I hope you enjoy these.

If you find any errors (such as the one for "parry" on the sabrine adept image) don't fret, these have yet to go under an editor's scrupulous eye.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

And the Winner is...

Just back from Brisneyland (being Brisbane for the uninitiated) having attended the Aurealis Awards night where, if you'll recall, Lamplighter was shortlisted in the Best Young Adult Novel category. Alas alak, I have to content myself with the shortlisting for I can reveal to you all now that Melina Marchetta's (of On the Jellicoe Road and Looking for Alibrandi fame) first foray into the spec fic world, Finnikin of the Rock (Penguin/Viking) took the honours.

Congrats to her - I'd be lying if I did not admit I was a tad bummed, but I got over myself and and very happy to have Lamplighter on a shortlist.

The other winners of the 2008 Aurealis Awards by category were:

best science fiction novel
K A Bedford, Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait
(Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing)

best science fiction short story
Simon Brown, ‘The Empire’, Dreaming Again

best fantasy novel
Alison Goodman, The Two Pearls of Wisdom
(Harper Collins)

best fantasy short story
Cat Sparks, Sammarynda Deep’, Paper Cities
(Senses 5 Press)

best horror novel
John Harwood, The Seance, Jonathan Cape
(Random House Australia)

best horror short story
Kirstyn McDermott, ‘Painlessness’, Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), #2

best anthology
Jonathan Strahan (editor), The Starry Rift
(Viking Children's Books)

best collection
Sean Williams & Russell B Farr (editor), Magic Dirt: The Best of Sean Williams
(Ticonderoga Publications)

best illustrated book/graphic novel
Shaun Tan, Tales From Outer Suburbia
(Allen & Unwin)

best young adult short story
Trent Jamieson, ‘Cracks’, Shiny, #2

best children’s novel
Emily Rodda, The Wizard of Rondo
(Omnibus Books)

best children’s illustrated work/picture book
Richard Harland & Laura Peterson (illustrator), Escape!, Under Siege, Race to the Ruins, The Heavy Crown, of The Wolf Kingdom series
(Omnibus Books)

Peter McNamara Convener's Award for Excellence
Jack Dann

Well done to everyone (with an especial cheerio to Sean Williams, Richard Harland, Laura Peterson, Shaun Tan and Omnibus!) and thank you to the organisers for a great event.

And just to turn all the attention back to MBT for a moment, the paperback of the English language editions of Lamplighter will be released this year in May, which is something to loo forward to.

Answer time!

Probing questions from Differlot:
"[Do you] know what planet is the half continent?"

The world of the Half-Continent is called the Harthe Alle (at least by some) or the Alt Gird (though not so often). Tungolitrists (what we would call astronomers) name it Deuter Diana or just Deuter. Of course other races have other names, but these three will do for now.

"I wonder what Europe does in her free time, hmmm?"

Europe would not admit to having such a thing as we would call "free time" - her oppinion on the matter would be to use time as usefully as possible; "sitting about only makes for darkened and uselessly bedizzened thoughts," is how she would put it, I reckon.

"What happens if a wit or fulgar gets turned into a monster do the monsters learn how to use the artificial organs, or since they have been put in maybe they are dead and the monster only posses natural parts since it probably wont be able to take treacle till found by somebody. They might just die from not having any."

Now here's a question I'd not considered! Monsters would not ever become lahzars, and since the whole system of treacles and surgeons is a totally human system, so you are right, even if a monster could become lahzarine, they would die from lack of treacle and such things.

Also, for those of a praying persuasion, I would very much appreciate your prayers as I struggle to get the final two chapters of Book 3. Typically I tend to have a vision of what a scene will look and feel like, a sketch - if you like - in my head, from which I spring forward to actually explore and fill out with words. Right now, however, my soul is being very reluctant to cough up a clear view of the end.

Who'd be a writer, hey?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Time to get European.

Today being the last day before I trip off to Brisbane to attend the Aurealis Awards I though I would share a bit more of y process with you (how the two are related I do not know, but it makes for a beginning to a post, so I am running with it).

What I have for show and tell today are a couple conceptual sketches completed for Book 3, done to help me get a better "eye" for what Europe is wearing at certain occasions in the story. The first is for a more formal and fancy event.

This second sketch is me trying to get a handle on colour and style for a set of new-made harness for fighting in. Spotting that clipping from the fashion section of the local paper helped me greatly in fixing down the nature of the cloth which I had previously designated as read on the sleeves and blue-grey on the apron. I like the green with red florals much better, though the flowers on the cloth used for the harness would not look or be placed in quite so modern a manner.

Just goes to show how rough my sketches can be, but there purpose is ideation not polished illustration. I heartily recommend little sketches to help with "seeing" your writing.

If you are seeking even more European costuming goodness head over to Monster Blood Cult to see what Erin Montemurro is doing (really, go check it out, 'tis remarkable!)

An enormous grateful tip of the hat to Mr. Bennett Lovett-Graff (aka Polymath Paradise) for his thorough and heartily uplifting insights into MBT Books 1 & 2. For such as you and all the goodly folks here do I strive - such responses are the endeavour rewarded.

Here's a question for you: should I or should I not get a spot on Facebook?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cybils Fantasy/SciFi Shortlist 2008

Well, it is near two weeks since the peep of the year and have you heard anything from me..?!

I am very chuffed to break silence (as it were), do as others have done and post up a shortlist from the up and coming Cybils Awards in my own chosen genre, Fantasy & Science Fiction:

Cabinet of Wonders written by Marie Rutkoski, Macmillan
Graveyard Book written by Neil Gaiman, HarperCollins
Magic Thief written by Sarah Prineas, HarperCollins
Savvy written by Ingrid Law, Penguin USA
Airman written by Eoin Colfer, Hyperion
Curse Dark as Gold written by Elizabeth C. Bunce, Scholastic
Explosionist written by Jenny Davidson, HarperCollins
Graceling written by Kristin Cashore, Harcourt
Hunger Games, The written by Suzanne Collins, Scholastic
Wake written by Lisa McMann, Simon & Schuster

... and (*drum roll*)

Lamplighter written by some weird fellow surrounded by notebooks in a darkened room, Penguin USA.

A true and dare I admit astonishing honour - (watch for my over-use of this word in Book 3... :( - to be included amongst such lights. Congrats to us all, to the judges for hour upon hour of reading to get to this list, to anyone who dares attempt to write a book - shortlisted, awarded or otherwise - and to you most excellent folk who read! Thank you R.J. Anderson for pointing my shortlisting out to me; thank you Laini Taylor-Di Bartolo for you great summary and to you all for your continuing support.

Only a couple of weeks away from the 2008 Aurealis Awards too.

My head is so swollen at the moment I am having trouble fitting through doors and cannot drive my car. Of course, ego takes a big hit when confronted by the daily struggle with the English language, which often feels a lot like...

English language & Plot not doing what it ought to: 1 - D.M.Cornish: nil.

Never-the-less, we are getting there folks!

Klesita (welcome to you!) was asking... "Is it true that Jim Henson Co has the rights of the series? Do you still retain some kind of rights over the script that will allow you some control over the final product? It would be a shame if the movie trashes this beautiful/fearful/incredible world and its inhabitants..."

Yes, the Henson company does indeed have the rights to MBT; no, I think they have to right to make the story what they want it to be, and if I get any say in how it turns out it will be purely on the condescension of the director etc. I too am nervous of what the final product my morph into; I reckon at this very moment the Henson Company are probably nervous how I actually end the story (and me along with them) - so nerves all round.

Ben Bryddia ponders... "Do they have land mines in the Haacobin Empire? You know, big ceramic or porcelain spheres full of mordants, just waiting for some hulking unterman to step on, and crack open? Which makes me wonder, are there any poisonous potives of the gas variety?"

Not in the way we have landmines, no. More like buried or hidden bombs with long fuses, and with or without potives. There are devices known as belchpots (amongst other names): large cauldron-shaped pots of cheap iron or clay with a metal base plate and filled with black powder (sometimes called cannon char) and lots and lots of langridge (or langrage, read: shrapnel). These pots are then buried into the soil, their mouths pointed in the desired direction of the blast, and when needed are set off with a long fuse. Variable and messy, but very cheap and relatively simple to produce.

Most repellents and the like work on a rapid expansion in air principle, so it that sense much of a skold/legermain's arsenal is somewhat gaseous, if not to start with, certainly once "deployed". There are a few pure gas potives, but they are rare due to difficulties of storage (usually in a tightly stitched animal bladder of some variety).

Breakfast today: Apricot Fruity Bix