Writer Fuel

Mmmm, cooking. I like it a lot. I sometimes have to force myself to remember that.

So this week I took a picture of dinner every night, and now I show them to you. THIS SUSTAINS THE WRITER BRAIN.

Fettucine with carrots, corn, and peas, pesto, toasted pine nuts, parmesan and black pepper.

Baked and grilled chicken breast which I marinated in some Portguese packet marinade (next time I think I’ll just make it up myself) with yoghurt, and chickpea wat with potato, red onion, peas, and carrots that took freaking forever to cut into little chunks on naan. I cut the already wimpy spice ratio by halving the cayenne and doubling the cumin, so lovers of authentic Ethiopian cuisine are staring at me in disbelief right now, but I don’t care, it was delicious.

Wild mushroom and asparagus pizza from Crust. This is actually breakfast the next day, because I forgot to take a picture at night, on account of the lovely Alaya was fascinating me with her lovely company. She rightly pointed out that anything with button mushrooms on it ought to lose the right to call itself wild.

Leftovers night! Half a marinated chicken breast, the last of the wat, some carrot sticks and hummus and a mini croissant with brie. Drink is a chocolate orange martini, book is a Nora Roberts one from the Stars of Mithra series, regrets are non-existent.

Stirfried red onion, oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms and broccolini in a big omelette.

Steak, bean and corn salad in a cumin and lemon dressing, with oven wedges flavoured with rosemary and sea salt.

Exactly the same stuff in the omelette, but this time on brown rice! I love brown rice, so awesomely chewy.

So that was My Week In Food, internets! Not gonna lie, it was pretty great.

Cumulative donations for Reviewathon: $35
Hours I will be reviewing: 6
Donations needed to make me review another hour: $29

Reading for Christchurch

Internets, I am going to do a Fundraising Thing for Christchurch.

Now, before I go into the details, I want to say something. The Christchurch earthquake was terrible by any measure, and many people have been left homeless and traumatised. The city still experiences aftershocks, and the hardship is real. However, New Zealand is a developed nation with a reasonably okay welfare system, a viable infrastructure and some money in the bank.

If you have a limited charity budget, I would far rather you donate to appeals in Pakistan, which is a humanitarian disaster on a much wider scale, and where lives are still very much in danger. But if you have some spare cash you were going to throw at, I don’t know, a new hat, and not charity at all, then people in Christchurch would appreciate it. And that hat will be out of style next season anyway.

Karen, charity money, you say. Got it. I’d like to help! What are your plans?

I am going to run a reviewathon in the style of the Penny Arcade Child’s Play Desert Bus for Hope appeal. Except instead of driving a bus in a video game for days on end, I will be reviewing books from my extensive backlist of Books I Keep Meaning To Review.

In-depth surveys inform me my crazed reviews are something many of y’all like.

How long will I be doing this? Why, that is up to you! For I will review as long as you pay me to.

Of course, I am not insane. We will be working on an exponential scale. The first hour of review will cost one shiny dollar in cumulated donations. The second hour will cost $2 in cumulated donations. Third hour? $4 in donations. Fourth hour? $8! And so on and so on.

How do you go about this?

1) You make a donation, to the New Zealand Red Cross, selected because they are largely secular, on the ground right now, and available to international donations.

2) You forward me the email confirmation of said donation to karen@karenhealey.com.

3) I add your contribution to the cumulative total.

You can start donating now, and anytime up until the end of the reviewathon, which will begin at 10 a.m., 24 September, Melbourne time. That is this time for you.

There will also be PRIZES for donators given at random times. Prizes like personally signed copies of Guardian of the Dead! Or a chance to name a character in my next book! Or your choice of one of the books I review! Or a future ARC of Summerton! Or the recipe for my famed lemon yoghurt cake! There may be SPECIAL GUEST REVIEWERS!

Internets, I think you can agree this will work out well for everyone, except your correspondent, who will be weeping into her keyboard come about hour five. SO HARD TO MAKE JOKES, she will sob. FUNNY CHARACTER DIALOGUE, SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS. BOOKS, I LOVED YOU ONCE.

Young ladies in pain; the very essence of charity. Give, give give!

THE SHATTERING Announcement

You guys, I have another book coming out!

I know, you’re all so surprised, I’ve only been blogging about editing it for a month. But I haven’t made an Official Announcement, and now it is well past time I did.

THE SHATTERING

If you want to find out who murdered your brother, come with me.

Summerton is perfect. A town in the isolated and stunning West Coast region of New Zealand, it is blessed with gorgeous weather during the most crucial holiday period, a huge music festival every New Year’s Eve, and hordes of tourists, who helpfully pick up and go home, leaving a lot of money behind them without ever trying to move in themselves.

But Keri is immune to her hometown’s charms. Her older brother has just killed himself, without warning or explanation, and left Keri shattered with grief and too many unanswered questions. So when her childhood friend Janna and tourist Sione offer answers, Keri is keen to listen.

Janna and Sione’s own older brothers died in suspicious circumstances. Sunny Summerton has dark secrets. And as they investigate, the answers to their questions become more bizarre. Shattering the secrecy of Summerton may open the trio to dangers they never knew were possible.

Can they save Summerton’s next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?

A young adult supernatural adventure, THE SHATTERING will be available in September 2011 from Allen and Unwin (Australia/New Zealand) and Little, Brown (USA).

A few things to note:

1) The Shattering is a standalone, not a sequel to Guardian of the Dead. I would love to write a sequel/companion for Guardian, but we will all have to wait and see! Emailing me to ask if there is any news will not help; I promise I will tell you all I can when I can.

2) I recently got word that Ben Mautner, who did the beautiful US Guardian cover, will also be doing the cover for The Shattering, and I believe the also ultra-talented Bruno Herfst will again be back to do the ANZ version. I am all aquiver.

3) The Little, Brown contract has a description of the novel noting that it is set in “a small Australian town”. Oh, L,B Contracts, you DO have a sense of humour!

The sad tale of my osteopath’s duck

“Every time you talk about what you do I feel like, WOW, I’m talking to a celebrity,” he said, poking at my spine.

I considered the glamour of my writing life, which includes wearing pajamas until forced to leave the house, and the physical traumas that encouraged me to visit him and his magic neck manipulations in the first place, and said, “But I’m really not.”

“But you’re being asked to go and talk to all these schoolkids about what you do.”

“Oh, but they’re made to do it,” I said. “I’m glad to be there, but only a few of them will actually have any idea who I am or any interest in what I do. I just hope that I can be sort of vaguely entertaining so that the rest go home thinking that at least it was better than being in school for an hour. You must have done stuff like that.”

I meant that he must have been forced into attending things he didn’t really want to as a student, but my wording was unclear, and he misunderstood it as “going to schools to talk about yourself.”

“Nah,” he said. “Oh, except once. My ex-girlfriend was a primary school teacher, and she asked me to come in and do show and tell with my pet duck.”

“Your what?”

“My pet duck,” he cooed wistfully. “Molly Duck. Man. I got her when she was just wee – you know those stalls at Victoria Market where they have the baby chickens and ducks in cages, and you can buy them?”

I do. They’re in a section of the city-bound market, looking cute and pathetic.

“Anyway, it was cold and raining, and they were all these shivering little balls of fuzz. I couldn’t leave them all there. So I rounded up all my flatmates and I was like, guys, are you going to mind if I bring home a duck? And they said no. So I bought her. And I got a shopping trolley and turned it over and sawed the wheels and handle off and she went in through the flap. We’ve got foxes in Richmond, and I wanted her to be safe.”

“That is so-” sweet, I thought, but my osteopath is kind of a dude, and I did not want to make him regret telling me this story, “awesome!”

“She was so great. She’d come in and watch TV with me. I was running a landscaping business at the time, and all the guys would come round afterwards and have a couple of beers, and Molly would be there. Sometimes she’d be under the TV, quacking away, and when I got up to go to sleep, I’d say, ‘Molly, bed!’ and she’d waddle off to her shopping trolley, yapping at me for being so mean.”

He sighed, and stretched my shoulders. “But then I broke up with my girlfriend, who was living with me. The house was in my name, but to make it easier on her I went and stayed with some mates for a couple of weeks while she moved out, and when I came back, Molly was gone.”

“What!”

“Yeah, I know! She took her to her parents’ place. They have a block in the country and some water and lots of chickens and ducks. But she just took her! She said I could go and ask for her back, but I thought that might be a bit much. Probably not the most popular guy at that place.”

“Does her dad have guns?”

“Hah, yeah, he does.”

“What a shame! That’s just not fair. I guess Molly’s doing okay with all the water and stuff, though?”

“Yeah,” he said, and sighed. “Unless a fox got her. Anyway, you should put this story on your blog.”

What She Said

Internets, my first Worldcon was largely a blast and I met many lovely and talented people and caught up with many more whom I knew already and basically I have many things to say about that.

But on Saturday morning an earthquake ripped through Christchurch and crushed the city centre, and it’s been on my mind ever since.

On Saturday morning I had a reading from Guardian of the Dead, which is set in Christchurch and Napier. Normally I read a bit where Ellie goes a-wandering in the misty bush at night, where she is magically attacked by a Strange Lady, smothered in geckoes, and finally hauls off and punches the Mysterious Cute Boy for being so damn secretive.

On Saturday, I read a much quieter part set in the central city, around the Arts Centre, Cathedral Square, and the bus centre.

My panel on Sunday afternoon was called “The (Haunted) Streets of Our Town: YA Urban Fantasy”. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get through the panel without mentioning Christchurch, and I sort of wanted to establish my thoughts early to ward off the possibility of embarrassingly emotional outbursts.

Delightful moderator and my bud Foz Meadows and Seanan McGuire – sorry, CAMPBELL WINNER Seanan McGuire – graciously let me read a thing about Christchurch beforehand. I scribbled it longhand in the Green Room, and then left the draft behind, so, from memory, this is more or less what I said:

I’m Karen Healey, a New Zealander living in Melbourne, and I wanted to talk to you very briefly about Christchurch, first city of my heart.

Christchurch has been described as “something like London… in the fifties.” It’s flat and white and very, very English for a New Zealand city – it’s set on the Canterbury Plains, and the River Avon runs through it, politely avoiding the Christchurch Cathedral.

In summer, Christchurch shines under the brown-baked hills. In spring, the cherry trees explode into bloom, and it earns its other nickname of the garden city. In autumn, the trees imported from Europe shamefacedly lose their leaves, while the sturdy native plants retain their shades of green and brown, and look slightly scornful. In winter, the mists rise from the old swampland the city was built on and cling to the bricks of the old buildings in the middle of town.

It’s winter in Christchurch now. The mists are presumably still there, but many of the buildings are gone. The streets down which I raced to catch a bus to the university – or staggered down after a night that had been just a few hours too long – those streets are filled with rubble.

Christchurch is the first city I lived in. It is the city in which I grew into adulthood, discovering myself, and my self in the city. So when I wrote my first young adult urban fantasy, and wanted to give it a substantial setting to support the supernatural narrative, I chose to set it in Christchurch, the most real place to me. Cities change, and I knew my book would be outdated eventually, but it was released this April, and I didn’t expect it to be a historical document quite so soon.

There are other cities of my heart now – Fuchu, Hiroshima, Tucson, Melbourne – but Christchurch was the first. You’ve probably heard that through great good luck, no one was killed, and only a few serious injuries occurred during the quake. And so I feel easier in my grief for the city.

When people die, we often accord them a moment of silence, but it would be massively inappropriate to do that now. Christchurch is damaged, but not dead, and the residents would probably be appalled if I suggested any such thing.

Instead, I would like us all to take a moment to stop, consider, and celebrate the cities of our hearts.

Thank you very much.

Then Seanan gave me a My Little Pony, instantly securing her place in my heart.

Internets, I still owe you that story about my osteopath’s duck. Even in sorrow, we must not forget the value of stories about ducks.

Christchurch Writers Festival Cancelled

Due to MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE, the Christchurch Writers Festival is necessarily cancelled.

I am very sad about this, of course, because I was very much looking forward to reading about the city IN the city and meeting lovely people. But this can certainly wait for a time when the city is not all shook up!

Stay tuned for fundraising efforts. I have some plans along those lines that will hopefully amuse AND edify.

Guardian of the Dead

In less than a day I had been harassed, enchanted, shouted at, cried on, and clawed. I’d been cold, scared, dirty, exhausted, hungry, and miserable. And up until now, I’d been mildly impressed with my ability to cope.

At her boarding school in New Zealand, Ellie Spencer is like any ordinary teen: she hangs out with her best friend, Kevin; obsesses over her crush on a mysterious boy; and her biggest worry is her paper deadline. Then everything changes: In the foggy woods near the school, something ancient and deadly is waiting.

Debut author Karen Healey introduces a savvy and spirited heroine with a strong, fresh voice. Full of deliciously creepy details, this unique, incredible adventure is a deftly crafted story of Māori mythology, romance, betrayal, and war.

STARRED REVIEW: [T]he weirdness and excitement increase exponentially. … This story starts off fast and strong and just builds from there. – School Library Journal

STARRED REVIEW: [E]nticing and utterly unique. This captivating tale will have readers hiding under the covers with a trusty flashlight until they finish the last fascinating and heartfelt page. – VOYA

Fast-paced adventure and an unfamiliar, frightening enemy set a new scene for teen urban fantasy. – Kirkus Reviews

“Smart, hilarious, and wholly unique. Healey makes juxtaposing totally modern characters with numinous and ancient magic look effortless.” – Holly Black (the Modern Faerie series, The Spiderwick Chronicles)

“It’s been a long time since a debut novel grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. Quite simply, GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD is my favorite kind of read—creepy, funny, sexy, smart, and sometimes just downright, pull-the-covers-up-to-your-neck-and-pray-for-morning frightening. This book completely rocked my socks.” – Libba Bray (A Great And Terrible Beauty)

GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD is published by Little, Brown in North America, and Allen & Unwin in Australia and New Zealand.

Inky Awards Longlist

Internets, so many things to tell you!

First, my osteopath, on learning that I have a blog, asked me to relay the sad story of his pet duck. Since the man does things to my neck that would cause angels to sing, particularly angels who sat in a terrible chair all day typing, I shall certainly fulfil his request.

But secondly, and more moving to me personally than even stories of anatine woe, Guardian of the Dead has been longlisted for the Inky Awards.

The Inkys are Australia’s only international awards for young adult fiction that are in the hands of the young adults themselves. The longlist is selected by the Centre for Youth Literature, and then two adult and four teenage judges select the shortlist. But the actual awards rely entirely on the votes of people under 20. The Golden Inky is awarded to the best Australian novel, and the Silver Inky is awarded to the best international novel of any particular year.

Guardian of the Dead is one of ten Australian* books longlisted for the Golden Inky, and I am honoured beyond measure. I don’t know what will happen with the shortlist and the award and so on, but I am totally thrilled that my debut novel is up for an award that recognises the opinions and tastes of the people for whom I write. I think teen-selected awards are very important.

Also, I am in some delightful company.

Karen, you say, that is very nice for you, but is there anything for us in this Inkys deal?

Internets, yes! The thing that makes the Inkys even more awesome, were this possible, is that there is another award for readers – the Creative Reading Prize.

This prize is a creative response to a book you love – ANY book you love – and the entrants and runners up can be any age, though the Grand Prize winner will be under 20. This year’s Grand Prize winner? Gets an iPad.

What kind of creative response, you say?

Anything you like. Write a story. Illustrate a scene. Perform a song. Make a trailer. Do some cross-stitch. Bake a cake. Personally, I am all in favour of wacky AUs, like the one where Ellie and Mark are in space.

Entries for the Creative Reading Prize are open from now, and I encourage all those of a creative bent to go for it. I love fan works, and I love creativity, and I am all in favour of people getting iPads for being awesome.

That is all FOR NOW, internets. May your day be as happy as mine was!

* Because I live in Australia. Not because it is set in Australia. As we all recall.