Another story up on Outlandish Voices!

I've just posted another story on the Outlandish Voices podcast site. It's a creepy little horror story by multi-award-winning writer Cat Sparks (yes, that is actually her actual real name) -- hope you enjoy it! Go here to download, and if you want to read Cat's bio and/or the submission guidelines, go to the Facebook page.


I hate this part.

Now that I have hacked and slashed my way through the first 50,000 (now first 40,000) words of my YA fantasy, its to-do list is topped by the need to sit down and do some serious world-building and backstory-coming-up-with. In my heart I know it's the right thing to do. "But that's no fuuuun," Laura whined. "Not like writing fight scenes and describing opulent interiors and penning witty banter. Those are fun. Hard work, intellectual rigor, and scrupulous attention to internal consistency are not."

Tough, Laura.


It is far easier to start things than to finish them.

Current works in progress include one full-length play, one YA novel, one podcast (ongoing; requires coaxing submissions, evaluating, producing the recording, posting the recording, publicizing the podcast, and monitoring its relative success), one short play in informal production (short being three minutes; production being an open-mic event here in Wollongong in a few weeks, but it's my directorial debut), one radio play in the very first stages of being produced, a half-dozen short stories on the boil, and a gigglingly tentative foray into performance poetry. Add to this the editing business, the lengthy and disheartening process of sending out stories (not to mention queries for one of my other novels), and the normal day-to-day things that everyone does.

I am keeping myself very busy. It works for me.


Richard Harland's Worldshaker

Yesterday was the launch of Richard Harland's 15th novel, Worldshaker. The afternoon was a blast (Cat Sparks's photos here); moreover, I picked up my copy, got it signed, took it home, and started to read it. Aussies, buy it now; Americans, Simon & Schuster (yes, that Simon & Schuster) will be bringing it out in due course; Brits, it's been picked up by a UK publisher the name of which I don't recall, but keep glued to Amazon.co.uk and I'm sure it will turn up there soon.

The first few chapters are terrific, and the world-building is the real star. Richard's done a great job setting the stage: social structures, aesthetics, moral systems, family dynamics, class conflict, and a heapin' helpin' of rich-and-sticky STEAMPUNK. Plus, Richard's a nice guy, so you should buy his book.


About barbecue and guest blogging

I'm guest blogging today and tomorrow — oops, it's already tomorrow. I'm guest blogging yesterday and today at Gillian Polack's Food History blog. It's about barbecue. And barbecue and writing. And barbecue sauce (a recipe!). And it's timed to coincide with the launch of The Lifted Brow #5, in which my story "Piggy In a Pit" appears. As you may recall, this story is barbecue-related. I'm seriously jonesing for some barbecue here.


Outlandish Voices the podcast: next story is up!

The next story is up: a ripper by the inestimable Rob Hood.

Warwick is crass, rude, thoughtless, and vapid. And those are his good points.

Download here.


Another young photographer

In the latest in my continuing series on talented young artists of my acquaintance, I give to you some photos by Margaret Dunleavy. (You can see more at her Deviantart gallery.


Terrific photo

Victoria, a young photographer, actor, and writer to whom I am privileged to be acquainted, took this shot of the Sydney Opera House:

She's posted some more of her work on her deviantart gallery. I think you will agree with me that her work shows great promise.


More memeness

Here are Jason's five words for me, and my reaction to them:

This could remind Jason of me because of my composer husband, or my wildly talented musical child, or even my own appreciation of Jason's demonically good blues singing. But I like to think it's because of that surreal night at Clarion South when a bunch of us went out and karaoke'd the night away. Ah, sweet memories!

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm a pretty good cook. And I love incorporating food and recipes and the mysterious alchemy of barbecue into my writing. (On July 18, in fact, I'll be guest blogging over at Gillian Polack's Food History blog on just that subject!)

One of the aching tragedies in my life is that I have no talent whatsoever as an actor. *Sigh.* At least I can live that dream out vicariously through my child, which is what they are for — and, less pathologically, I have had some modest success as a playwright. I love the theatre. I love rehearsals even more than performances. I love backstage, I love the light board, I love it all.

Just about the only place I love more than a theatre is a library. I grew up in them: first, because my wonderful mom took my brother and me to libraries all the time from our very first days, and then, after she herself became a librarian, because I used to help her out with some of the more menial library tasks. (I learned a whole lot about taxonomy by alphabetizing catalogue cards. Remember catalogue cards? Remember alphabetizing things by hand?) My one and only high-school job, which I held for years, was in the county library. My work-study job in college, which I also held for years, was in the university library. And no matter how many books I've bought over the years, libraries always have more than I do. They're the bestest places in the whole world.

I take being a foreigner very, very seriously. It's a heavy burden (although, in my specific case, it's lightened considerably since Obama's inauguration). I think a lot about what it means not only to be foreign, but to be my particular brand of foreigner. And what constitutes the feeling of home, the feeling of belonging. (I have a story coming out in an anthology next year on just that subject, and — surprise, surprise — it also concerns food. I'll post details closer to the release date.)

As ever, the fine print of this meme: ask me for words, and I will give you five that remind me of you. Then it's up to you to blog about what they mean to you.


In other news....

My story "The Name Thieves" — my one and only (so far) zombie story — will appear in Issue #42 (yes!) of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, due out in October (my birthday month; another coolness). You can buy it in PDF version online when the time comes, and of course I urge you to do so!

Springtime in Japan

Art is made of rice.
Art is where someone makes art.
Haiku's just a form.

See the whole story on this blog. (Originally found on boingboing.)


The first meme I've succumbed to in a long time

Here's the premise: my friend Gillian Polack said at the end of her iteration, "Reply to this meme by yelling (or any other form of writing) 'Words!' and I will give you five words that remind me of you. Then post them in your LJ [or other blog, one assumes] and explain what they mean to you."

Here are the words that remind Gillian of me:

I love this one. Language is my superpower. I love using words, and I've made my living at it for decades, one way or another. I was literally one of those kids who read the dictionary for fun. I pick up foreign languages more easily than I deserve, considering the really paltry amount of effort and diligence I put into it. Words are shining, scary, beautiful, beloved, magic things, and language is the power to use them to create meanings that loom like mountains and sound like storms and small, soft whimpers.

Interesting, because I do and I don't consider myself a dreamer. To myself, I feel quite practical, although I do have aspirations, and I don't deny a certain fondness for whimsy and bizarre works of the imagination. I guess you could categorize those as dreams.

Mmmmmm, soft, chewy, delicious naan. Especially Kashmiri/Peshwari naan, with the fruit and the coconut and the ghee and...mmmmm.... When I was pregnant with my daughter, I suffered dreadfully from morning sickness (how deflating to find out from my midwife that my agonies were only on the bad side of normal — and pity the women who really do legitimately suffer from it). One of the few things I could eat without courting disaster was Indian food. Margaret loves naan, possibly because of her earliest experiences of it. I've also shared naan with Gillian, and that creates a bond.

Ah. Gillian knows this about me: family is so, so, so important to me. Number-one important. It's something we share: joy in our families, in being part of a family, in remembering family members whom we miss because of distance, time, or loss. Family ties are sacred. Caring for those ties, and healing them when they're damaged, is a sacred calling.

Thought brings a lot of the other words together. It's the means by which I use language, it's the way I advance my dream, it's the tool I use to hone impulses and intuition into story. Clear thinking has always been just about the highest value in my family: you are admired if you think well and skillfully; less so if you are intellectually lazy or slipshod. Not sure how thought ties in with naan, except that I'm now thinking about naan and will not rest until I get me some. It may take days; it's not readily available in Thirroul, where I live. And I don't have the right kind of oven to make it myself. Thought is the bread of art. Or something.

And now, I in turn make the offer: Reply to this meme by yelling (or any other form of writing) "Words!" and I will give you five words that remind me of you. Then post them in your blog and explain what they mean to you.


Why the Sendout Festival must be extended

Okay, so, I had every intention of spending a fair bit of time this weekend sending out stories. But I did two things that were even more important: I met an editing deadline for a (paying) client, and — most important of ALL — I went camping with my daughter. It was Fourth of July weekend, after all — Independence Day — so Margaret and I had to celebrate our Americanness with s'mores and sparklers. (The s'mores were only approximations, graham crackers and Sta-Puf being unknown here, but they were close enough.)

As you can see from the photos, we have developed our own hybrid traditions: camping in the mid-winter chill amidst the wombats and kookaburras is not strictly American, but s'mores and Fourth of July sparkers are not strictly Australian, either. The location is a campground on the beautiful Shoalhaven River, and we nearly had the entire 125-acre campground to ourselves (except for the people in the private house a half mile from us who blasted their music all night; I tried to tell Margaret that that sort of thing is a Fourth of July feature all over America, but that made it no less annoying at one in the morning).

Note to Carolyne and Paul: the origami bowls work a treat!



Just in time for your Fourth of July weekend listening pleasure, I present to you the inaugural post on Outlandish Voices the podcast. It's a ripper little story by quite-successful author Richard Harland, and I recommend listening to it at your earliest convenience. Feedback welcomed — send to outlandishvoices@gmail.com.

If you want to keep up with all the Outlandish Voices news, you can join the Facebook group.


More stories in the coming weeks and months! Plus radio plays, poetry, sound art, whatever we get that is outlandish and Wollongong-based!


I had to post again; this couldn't wait.

The unbelievably fabulously named blog There, I Fixed It. is my new best friend.

Need a spoon? Duct tape and a zip tie:

Anxious about fashion violations? Duct tape is opaque.

Oh, what to do? Big gig tonight — need guitar! But can't afford new guitar until I get paid for the gig. I know!

And there are more! Of course, as you might expect, duct tape figures prominently in many of the posts. (You only need two tools, after all: WD-40 and duct tape. If it moves and it shouldn't, duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, WD-40.)

Originally found on boingboing.

News, miscellany, and a Writin' Rations™

First, Margaret was absolutely stunning at the performance night for her Music from the Stage class. That kid really can sing, dance, and act. God knows she doesn't get it from me.

Second, Al Franken wins. He's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, just enough of the voters of Minnesota like him. I'm relieved.

Third, the first post for Outlandish Voices the podcast is going up any day now — it's a great little story written and read by Richard Harland, very evocative and with some stunning characterization. And very entertainingly read, too! Watch this space for the official announcement.

Fourth, the Brits had this great idea with shepherd's pie, but they just didn't take it far enough. Make it with barbecue! I did. Big success. Here are 41 recipes, and not one of them mentions barbecue. Could I possibly be the first???

Fifth: a quick Writin' Rations™ for you.

Really Quite Good Couscous
1 cup couscous (dry)
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon cumin
4 cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 big handful of chopped-up dried fruit
1 tablespoon of butter
one half lime
1 big handful of pistachios

Put everything except the pistachios and the lime in a bowl and stir, preferably with a fork to separate the couscous grains, every two minutes or so until all the water is absorbed. If in doubt, let it sit another two minutes.

Pick out the cardamom pods — this is important to do before you put the pistachios in, because they look very similar!!!

Squeeze the juice from the half a lime over the couscous.

Add the pistachios and toss gently to combine.

That's it. Eat. And write good things.