Soujourning

My To-Do List for today includes “write blog post”.

Oh, how foolish I am. Many things happened from the moment I wrote that item, and internets, I am awash with things I simply must tell you. One blog post will not suffice! But this is the first.

My circumstances are not nearly so dire as those of many many others, but it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the collection of disasters in places I have lived and love, deadline pressures, and a legal matter of which I am not at liberty to speak all took their toll. To whit, my brain resembled a hamster on speed running around and around its wheel, nose twitching ceaselessly at a treat held just out of reach.

A holiday was called for.

And so it was that on Friday I traveled to the foreign land of Sydney, to take grateful refuge in the summer abode* of Dr Larbalestier and Mr Westerfeld.

I did not touch a computer for four days, and it was AWESOME. Instead, I was given guided tours to the wonders, scandals and crimes of Sydney past and present, a topic on which Justine is unsurprisingly well-versed. I was given good wines and absolutely incredible food. I was given a beautiful view of the city skyline from the balcony garden, as the flying foxes zipped past and the city hummed. I was given lovely company and interesting conversation and delicious tea.

I was given rest and respite, which I have rarely needed so badly, nor valued so much.

Also, I am really not kidding about the food. I haven’t eaten that well in ever.

Then I came back, to aforementioned deadlines, and began working on the To-Do List. But lo, things had begun to happen in my absence…

* Yes, all right, both of their abodes are summer ones.

Nice, no, awesome, yes.

I am a very pale person, and I live in Australia.

Granted, I don’t live in one of the places in Australia where people actually live underground because the surface is so ridiculously hot, but in summer I layer sunscreen over my moisturiser-with-sunscreen-in-it, and try to avoid going outside between 11 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. Because if I don’t, I very swiftly look like crispy bacon.

Crispy bacon skin hurts, y’all. Also, I have plans for my life that melanoma might delay or halt.

The other day, my delightful friend Mary had a delightful birthday party picnic, and I attended, suitably sunscreened up. But we were outside for some time, and sunscreen sweats off, and despite my best efforts, my arms still got crispy fried.

This picture represents my last, desperate move, which was to steal Mary’s parasol and twirl it becomingly.

[Image transcript below]

The friend who took the picture sent it to me, and then, operating on the principle that if I were in pain, others should suffer also, I may or may not have emailed it to some North American friends currently trudging through Snowmageddon 2011.

BFF ROBYN: You’re such a nice girl.
ME: I know, right?

I am fondly reminded of the time I sent another friend an email that contained only the chorus of Willow Smith’s greatest hit. That time was ten seconds ago.

GOOD MORNING, [personal profile] miggy!

[Image transcript: A white girl with freckles (your humble author) wearing a black top, black and white skirt and white sunglasses sits barefoot and cross legged on a picnic rug, the world’s most adorable red parasol with ruffles poised on her shoulder, under a blue, cloud-spotted sky.]

Cover Reveal: The Shattering!

Internets, this afternoon I went to the gym and pushed too hard – damned endorphins – and am currently suffering a NAP ATTACK. I am going to have to fall on my face for an hour, or I will never get anything done tonight.

But! In the interests of your delight, and my crossing something off my To-Do list, would you like to see the Australian/New Zealand The Shattering cover?

You know, I thought you might.

[Image transcript at bottom of post.]

Lovely Editor S. emailed the draft to me from the House of Onion a couple of weeks ago and I stared at it in frozen awe for a second. Then I picked up the phone.

Normally I email my editors, but I have Editor S’s cellphone number, in case of emergency, such as thinking it would be a great idea for us to have a cocktail.

Editor S: *wary concern* Helloooo?
Me: I. LOVE. IT.

Oh, I love it so much. I love the fonts. I love the way the setting evokes both the brightness and menace of the book in the dying grass, and that sun, whose rays are breaking up the pictures solidity – and after all, is it setting or rising? I love the fantastic illusion of the sky, which is actually the ocean. Things are not what they seem!

And I love, love, LOVE the body language of the three protagonists. It’s wonderful. There’s Sione, cautious and loyal, following the girls and ready to support them. There’s Janna, floating in long, lovely strides, taking up all the space in the world, demanding that you look at her. And there’s Keri, racing out in front to meet the danger, athletic and determined and fast.

Oh, Designer B. You are a scholar and a gentleman and an artiste of stunning delight.

I wish to also convey my thanks to the Australia Council for the Arts, who awarded Allen and Unwin a grant for the purposes of developing and promoting me as a mid-career writer (hurrah!) which I am told is going to include some sort of fancy detailing for the cover (double hurrah!). Embossing, perhaps! I do adore a good emboss.

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

[Image transcript: Three teenagers, a boy with black hair and medium-brown skin, a girl with blonde hair and pale skin, and a girl with light-brown skin and dark-brown hair, all dressed in jeans and casual tops, are running over a field of dying grass, their faces turned slightly away from the camera. They are partially silhouetted against the sun on the horizon, either rising or setting. What looks at first glance like a dark blue sky with clouds in the top third of the composition is actually an ocean with white wave patterns.]

Oooh, Shiny!

Look, Internets, I won a pretty!

This is my William C. Morris Award finalist plaque for Guardian of the Dead!

You see it below in the hands of my American editor, the supersmart Alvina Ling (who is rocking that bob!) and my fabulous editor Barry Goldblatt.

Big congratulations to the other finalists, Barbara Stuber, Lish McBride and Eishes Chayil, and HUGE congratulations to Blythe Woolston, whose book The Freak Observer is the 2011 William C. Morris award winner!

I am currently writing something about which I shall tell you NOTHING as yet. But it has been brought home to me that people might want snippets of my next book, The Shattering. Teasers, as they say! Or in the book world, cookies.

Internets, would you like some cookies?

Mutant Tastes.

Hey there, internets, I have divined that you like talking about food. This is awesome, because so do I!

I plan to make the terrifying Schadenfreude Pie for Christmas dinner – if there were ever a better time for a pie composed entirely of sugar and fat, I don’t know it – and of course ran into manifold difficulties acquiring the ingredients.

Graham crackers? Dark brown sugar? Dark corn syrup? Molasses? Not in evidence, and possibly unholy.

These things are probably all available somewhere in Melbourne, but they were not in my local supermarket, and I had privately resolved that, given the other stresses of preparing Christmas dinner (for the first time by myself, go me!) I would not make myself frantic trying to find arcane American ingredients, and would instead acquire reasonable substitutes.

I did manage to get my hands on clear corn syrup, which I walked past four times, on account of the label read GLUCOSE SYRUP and added underneath ~Derived from corn~.

Afterwards, discussing my difficulties with friends, I noted that at least my chocolate was likely to be better than that in the original pie, since they appear to be standard semi-sweet chunks, and I am super hardcore about my cooking chocolates.

BFF Robyn: I am not surprised.
ME: Hey, some people have a wine palate. And some people can recognise chocolate with fewer than 40% cocoa solids at twenty paces.
MIGGY (who is from Idaho): I have a potato palate. Sadly I am not kidding. Living the stereotype~
ME: Interesting! Come to think, I have friends with really high rice standards.
MIGGY: I mentioned this to [Another Friend] and his thing is milk.

Do you have a thing like this, internets? Are you an insufferable snob about potatoes, or milk, or mayonnaise, or tomato sauce (if you will, ketchup), or cheese?

I mean, I am kind of a snob about cheese in that I insist it should come from a cow and not be orange, but I can’t really tell the difference between a superb cheddar and a mere rather nice one. But my chocolate taste is well-developed. I will happily chow down on a Snickers, but the difference between that and Green and Black’s Dark is remarkable to my tongue.

BFF Robyn’s superpower – well, in addition to being able to break bricks with her hands – is that she is a supertaster.

This is one of those mutant powers that embarrass the X-Men. It’s all very well to have laser eyes or telekinesis, but some mutants have the power to heat their hands to something that approaches a bar heater! Or the power to grow scales!

Supertasting is one of those powers, in that BFF Robyn cannot eat a lot of things that taste just fine to me because to her they are horrendously bitter or taste of soap. It’s hard to be a mutant in a world that hates and fears you!

ME: What was the thing at the restaurant? I remember you were super grossed out.
BFF Robyn: It was some kind of like goat cheese something? I can’t recall, except that it was with a spoon and I put it in my mouth and almost spit it across the table.
ME: EXCELLENT CONTROL.
BFF Robyn: For real, man. Usually I have some kind of spidey-sense or something, I think because of odour.
BFF Robyn: But this one I was all, ooh, that looks good OH GOD BETRAYED.

Serious Discussion

The next item on my to-do list is “write words of thanks for honour of being Morris finalist,” but while I am both grateful and honoured, I am also exhausted. I spent five hours cooking today, for a party I am holding tomorrow after – note! – my signing at Melbourne Borders Central at 2pm.

I don’t think I am in a fit state to compose a message that adequately conveys my sincere gratitude.

Instead I would like to have a serious discussion of pie.

In my part of the world, when one says, “I want a pie,” one generally means something like this:

That is a steak and onion pie from venerable Australian chain store Brumby’s bakeries. Om nom nom delicious gravyness.

In other parts of the world, by which I mean North America, when one asks for pie, one tends to mean this:

That is apparently pieces of pumpkin pie and lemon chess pie.

Internets, you are smart. You probably knew the pie/pie differential already. But you may not have known that the confusion does not stop with pie, but extends to foods in the pie family.

Once upon a time, I was eating at a very good Mexican restaurant in Tucson with BFF Robyn. Undefeated by the awesome chicken mole, we both ordered flan for dessert.

I was expecting something like this:

Instead, I got something like this:

It was yummy, I GUESS, but my expectations had been dashed, and I was very sad.

Of course, I think it can be generally agreed among people who are fond of both chocolate and coffee (eg, me) that the best pie of all is John Scalzi’s Schadenfreude Pie.

Much like John himself, this pie appears to be composed of equal parts sweetness and high-grade evil.

I have not yet dared to make it, but when I do, I confidently expect the earth to tremble, ever so slightly, at its unholy inception.

Scandalous Shopping

The news that is not full of WIKILEAKS SCANDAL!!! is full of stories about Australian retailers worried about lower income this holiday season.

I feel sorry for small businesses who are being hit hard by the recession, but I’m not sure why I should feel worse for them than for their customers. Mortgage rates have gone up. People have much less to spend. So when I hear, “But people aren’t spending enough on discretionary items!” I mentally translate it as, “But people are being financially responsible!”

We can’t have that!*

Anyway, retailers of Australia, especially bookstores, I am doing my bit! In a burst of highly efficient shopping with the delightful Tessa Kum in tow, I finished all my own discretionary spending yesterday.

Particularly fun was selecting cards. I love buying cards, because you get to grab the perfect thing for a particular person, and also, you get to look at pretty things. I may have gone a tiny bit overboard but it was soooo much fun. Is this a thing you do, internets? Spend half an hour cooing over lovely art and snarky sayings? Or is that just me?

Of course I came home and spotted the pack of twenty gorgeous card designs I purchased from an art gallery a month ago sitting right there on my desk, but hey! Always good to have spares.

* P.S. Of course, you can always help the economy by buying my book. It’s holidayriffic! With festive supernatural murder!

And if you buy it at Borders Melbourne Central this Saturday at 2pm, you can get it festively signed. A gift for the whole family, or that part of it that likes stories where people’s eyes are torn out.

Getting My Girly Geek On

Internets, as you know, since I address you constantly as “internets”, I occasionally like to get my geek on.

For “occasionally”, let us read “all the time”.

So the other day I went to the comics store (Comics R Us, Bourke St, they are awesome), picked up my holds, and spotted a trade paperback entitled The Guild.

“Oooh!” I said*. “A comic book based on the hit cult web series written by and starring the exceptionally smart and funny Felicia Day?”

“That’s right!” he said. “The comic is actually written by Ms. Day and drawn by Jim Rugg, who illustrated The Plain Janes, one of your favourite YA comics. It is a prequel to the increasingly well-acted and always well-scripted web series that has awesome guest roles from Wil Wheaton and Teal Sherer, the latter of whom upon you have a giant girlcrush.”

“Oh my gosh,” I exclaimed. “A story explaining how the Knights of Good got together! You know, once someone told me I looked a bit like Felicia Day and I was totally thrilled. Although I have naturally wavy hair.”

“Um,” he said. “I can give you a small discount?”

Of course I bought the book and read it on the train home. Of course it is smart and funny and charming and beautifully drawn. And something I noticed, and found totally hilarious, is that the book highlights that the MMO Game that timid Cyd and her fellow Knights of Good play rewards normative feminine behaviours.

“And for killing stuff you get rewards, like clothing!” Codex enthuses. “Whose idea was that?! GENIUS!

It’s an open secret that the Game is actually World of Warcraft. Which I also play! With my naturally wavy hair! In fact, the second I got home from the comic book store, I was loading up much-anticipated expansion pack Cataclysm and taking my werewolf-in-a-top-hat for a ride.

Okay, so World of Warcraft is a game where female characters almost universally get massive racks and sexy /dance sequences. Armour that is full coverage on a male avatar often exposes cleavage and stomach on a female build, and jokes about female players are stupidly common on many servers. (Not mine. Proudmoore for life, yo.)

But it’s also a game where quests are rewarded with shiny new clothes and adorable animal companions. Where, to maximise your character’s usefulness and earning potential, they must learn how to cook food and wrap bandages. Where they can create useful (and pretty!) objects by practising handcrafts, picking flowers, and making jewellery. Where you get a much valued achievement for running around the world and hugging small animals.

Also, you can buy a flying pony made out of twinkly stars.

World of Warcraft. Often sexist. Totally girly.

* This dialogue is made up entirely. But I can assure you the actual conversation was no less informative and charming.