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A Nom!

As some of you will know, the nomination period for the Sir Julius Vogel awards closed at the end of last month. Anna recently informed me (and the official list is out now to make it feel even more real) that Tales for Canterbury made it through to the final ballot! How awesome is that!!!!

Not only that, but there is a HUGE representation on the list by fellow members of SpecFicNZ. In fact, every single novel in the ‘Best Novel’ category was written by a SpecFicNZer. How cool is that? I love seeing other authors I know doing well, and it fills me with joy to know that some amazing books are going to get recognized with one of these:

Isn’t it pretty?

Anyways, I knew we’d had an initial nom, but I didn’t expect to make it onto the top five. It feels pretty amazing to see our names there on the list for Best Collected Work.

While I have you here…we’ve still got copies for sale, but only until the middle of the year! So if you haven’t picked yours up, get in while you still can. It’s a great collection, loaded with stories, and I’m sure you’ll find something in it to tickle your fancy.

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NZ Book Month

New Zealand Book Month is a non-profit initiative promoting books and reading – and as a result, literacy – in New Zealand.

One month each year we celebrate books and encourage all Kiwis to get involved. The next New Zealand Book Month will be in March 2012.

The clear goal of New Zealand Book Month is to form a North to South community of readers. Kiwis passionate about books, determined to share them with each other and spread the word. Telling and retelling stories, and recommending new books to read.  From friend to neighbour, school bus to sporting field, workplace to playground.

New Zealand Book Month works alongside a wide range of organisations fundamental to books and reading in New Zealand. Publishers, booksellers, libraries, schools and activists provide the necessary support to make New Zealand Book Month a success.

This month I will be purchasing a book by NZ author Helen Lowe – it’s long overdue that I begin her The Wall of Night series, with Heir Of Night.

Isn’t that a gorgeous cover?? I’ve read the sample from Amazon and can tell it’s going to be a fantastic book! I’m looking forward to diving into it this month.

There are a huge range of fantastic books by kiwi authors, so I encourage you to get out there and take a look around.

At the NZ Book Month website you can find a list of all the events taking place throughout New Zealand – why not check out if there is anything happening where you are, and go along?

And for those in Christchurch, SpecFicNZ has organized an event called Flights of Fancy on the 18th of March. It looks like it’s going to be a fabulous event (Wish I could make it!).

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Musings

It’s the end of New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week, and I missed yesterdays post – I’d been going to tell you about some stuff and then today I was going to post the final version of the short story I started two years ago during the very first Blogging Week.

Yeah, not gonna happen – sorry about that. My touch pad and buttons on the laptop started failing a couple of days ago, and doing anything on the computer has been incredibly frustrating. So I avoided it. As much as possible. Which means that the house is looking very tidy (hooray for those spring cleaning vibes!), but I haven’t managed a lot of anything writing related for the last wee while and the short story is very much not in a ‘final’ state.

That’s life sometimes, isn’t it.

So while I have not been writing, I have been thinking, mostly about how one goes about bringing a Kiwi voice to their writing. I’m thinking about this because my current work in progress, Saving Tomorrow, is set in a future Wellington. I’m thinking about it because I’m still breaking down the walls I have when it comes to using New Zealand as a setting.

It’s what I know, it’s what I love, but there is very much a barrier there. I think, because most of the fiction I grew up on was from elsewhere. The TV shows, the movies, the cartoons. So much of everything we had access to growing up was from other shores, and it makes me ponder – which parts of my writers voice are New Zealand?

In some respects, I think this is a redundant question. Part of being a NZer is that we are a cross between a colony and a native race. We’ve got this blend of what was already here and what was introduced – that’s still very true for today, as it was for years gone by. So naturally, we draw from a whole range of things and our language, our way of communicating with the world is influenced by everything we are exposed to.

The thing I need to remind myself is that NZ is rich with possibilities and that if I have no particular setting in mind, then it’s a positive and not a negative to make the most of my country of origin. I frequently um and ah about where to set something, and I just need to plug ‘New Zealand’ in as my default. My writing will be stronger for it – and hell, there are less of us, so in some ways its more original than your typical medieval fantasy, or other overdone settings 😉

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks, and checked out some of the other posts written for it.

Tomorrow I’ll be raving about how getting a dishwasher has revolutionized my life…

And, I’ll leave you with another pic from the beach. Isn’t the blue of the sky amazing?

seagulls in flight, after eating our sandwich crusts

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Mary Victoria, an interview

As I mentioned yesterday, I first got to know Mary through Tales for Canterbury. A little known fact is that she actually wrote TWO stories! After submitting the first, she started working on a second – ultimately that one was a better fit for the anthology, and was the one that appeared (Daughter of the Khan).

From an editor’s point of view, I was impressed with Mary. She worked hard at getting her stories in, and then went on to tweak it until it was just right. She’s the kind of person who works until she is sure it’s the best she can possibly get it, and I really admire that quality in writers.

From a personal point of view, I discovered not only a dedicated author, but also a lovely person. She always responded to emails quickly, she was super friendly and just so great to work with.

For me, the only thing more exciting than finding a new author whose work you love, is finding an author who you also admire as a person. I definitely found that in Mary. She kindly answered a few questions for me this week, so I’ll shut up now and get on with that 😉

The world in Tymon’s Flight is quite amazing. So completely different from anything I’ve ever read before. Where did you get the idea for an entire world based on a gigantic tree?

As the story goes, my husband woke up one morning saying he’d dreamed of floating cities in the sky. I said, ‘Well, that’s an interesting basis for a fantasy world.’ But the more I thought about those floating cities, the more I saw roots and branches growing between them, connecting them. And eventually I realised the whole thing was set in one big tree – so big that it resembled a continent or mountain range, rather than a single plant.

I’m going to be reading the second novel in the series shortly. I’m curious, did you know it would result in a series when you first had the idea? Or is that something that occurred to you while writing Tymon’s Flight?

The books were always going to be a series, a trilogy. Really this is a single story spread over three books. Each volume has an arc and a natural stopping point, but you have to read all three to get the full picture. What starts off as a fairly straightforward adventure/coming of age story turns into something quite different by the end! So yes – I always had that overall theory. I just didn’t know how exactly I was going to get there, which is part of the joy of writing in the first place – discovering the story the characters wish to tell.

The third book, Oracle’s Fire, is coming out in the near future. What’s next for you? Will we see more novels set in this world, or are you working on something else?

I’m already working on a new project. Yes, it’s set in a different universe entirely. And nothing will induce me to tell you more at this point! 🙂

As this week is all about New Zealand, and Spec-Fic – what would you say are of the positives and negatives of being a writer in New Zealand?

Positives include a rich local culture and landscape on which to draw for inspiration, and a pretty darned fabulous community of fellow writers. Seriously: I have had nothing but support and real practical help from other NZ authors (maybe we’re nice to each other because everyone knows where the other guy lives, heh heh.)

Negatives are simply to do with being far away from other English-speaking countries: it’s hard to launch a book tour outside NZ. 😉

What is one piece of advice for newer writers in NZ that you would offer up?

Don’t give up. People will tell you nonsense like: ‘the book is dead’, ‘you can’t make a living as an author unless you write urban fantasy/self help books/celebrity memoirs’, and so on. Stick to your guns. Write what you love. Write what you love even if you’re eating Spam and crackers and working two day jobs. Find an agent if you can. Publish, then write some more. Don’t stop. It’s worth it.

Fantastic advice! Thank you so much for sharing with us, Mary. I’ll look forward to reading the rest of this trilogy, and whatever else you put out in the future 🙂

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Tymon’s Flight – by Mary Victoria

I got to know Mary Victoria while organizing Tales for Canterbury. I loved the story she wrote for the anthology, and knew that it would only be a matter of time before I checked out her longer work. Seeing as this blogging week was coming up, it seemed like the perfect time to launch myself into the Chronicles of the Tree.

The World Tree rises up out of the seething clouds like a green mountain. All creation nestles in its green branches. There is no world besides this one… or so the people believe. 

Tymon grows up at Argos seminary in the lush heart of the Central Canopy, where science is a heretical pursuit and travel beyond the Tree is banned. But he yearns to break free of these rules and discover new horizons. When he meets a despised Nurian slave in the city baths, his dreams of freedom take on a completely different meaning. 

Banished to a drought-ridden colony, Tymon falls in with a group of Nurian rebels and finds himself facing difficult choices. Fighting for freedom and power is not so enticing when it may mean betraying his own people and severing all ties to the world he knows.

Let me start this review by saying that I’ve never come across a more unique setting. The whole world is in a tree, everything is part of it, with four canopies making up the four regions of the world. It’s pretty amazing, while also being quite challenging at times – it’s just so very different from your typical fantasy novel setting. It took me awhile to get to grips with the big picture, but I found it beautiful and fantastic. I’m a huge fan of trees, but the scope of this one is beyond anything I’ve ever imagined!

I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would in fact. I have been finding it harder to get into fantasy lately, but with the unique setting, the smattering of other elements such as dirigibles, a society in which science is virtually taboo, and strong themes of prejudice and culture clashes, this book really rocked.

The main character is a young boy, bound to the church for raising him. He’s at odds with everything in his world through, and finds himself more often interested in things outside the sphere of what’s acceptable than not. When he meets a Nurian slave, everything changes for him and he makes decisions which lead to him being sent to the outreaches of society.

This is where the adventure really kicks into gear as we get to watch him interact with a race of people who despise his kind and unravel the mysteries hinted at in the first third of the book.

The conflict felt very true to me, and I think Mary did a fantastic job capturing that on the page from the perspective of a young man. I could feel the oppression, anger and distaste of the Nurian’s towards the Argosian’s, and would throw my lot in with them as well, if I had the chance.

The characters are engaging, and the story line captivating. It may not be as action packed as other novels, but it’s a beautifully told story with a lot of heart and fire.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes high fantasy and it looking for a richly drawn and detailed world to throw themselves into. Unlike much fantasy out there, this is not just a revamp of anglo-saxon medieval times, it’s a refreshing change! I am looking forward to sinking back into this world when I pick up the sequel, Samiha’s Song, in the near future – it’s a great time to start reading because the third book in the series is out shortly!

Check back in tomorrow, because I have an interview with Mary Victoria to share. This is definitely one writer to keep an eye on. I think she’s got a fantastic career ahead of her.

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Traveling Through Time

Yesterday I took state highway 45 (surf highway!) out of town, around the coast, to where I grew up. The car became a time machine and I rocketed past the landmarks of my history.

It’s always like this, every time I traverse that path I’m reminded of the details of my childhood, my teenage years, the foundations of who I am.

This occasion was sadder than normal – I was attending the funeral of one of my best friends father. I’ve known her, known him, since high school. He’s not old enough to have passed, but that’s life sometimes.

I was reminded of all the things I loved about growing up a ‘coastie’. The arctic blast of wind, straight off the mountain after a fresh dump of snow. The windswept trees, pushed into abnormal shapes, some stripped bare, pointing their naked branches at the striking blue sky in accusation. The beautiful shape of the ranges, the roll of the hills, the clusters of rock strewn across the paddocks as though giants had been playing marbles.

Mt Taranaki from Surf Highway

I drove past the two blue silos before Oakura. In my teens I told myself the story about the farmer and his wife, who lured travelers off the highway. They’d murder them and keep them stacked in those silos, no-one the wiser.

And then there was the barn whose round roof poked over the top of a hill. In my childhood I was convinced it was the easter bunnies hot air balloon. Who knows why it was there every day. Or why they flied in hot air balloons. It was one of my truths, and it took many years to accept that actually, it was just the roof of a barn…

Back Beach

Everything around here inspires me, and I love to time travel and remember the things that shaped me into the creative person I am today. This is a beautiful country, and I draw so much from it. The raw beauty I find in my natural environment is something that I try to bring to my writing. That clarity, that sense of reality, even though the worlds and characters I create are fictional.

Please head over to the SpecFicNZ page. There are other posts to have a look at, and if you leave a comment you go in the draw to win a book!

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New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week begins!

Tēnā koutou. Haere mai! Welcome, everyone.

A year ago, I had no idea just how rich the realm of speculative fiction was within New Zealand. I’d been in contact with a few people, had a few friends who were doing things, but I was mostly unaware of the gold that was still untapped. This all changed at the end of February when Anna and I set about the task of compiling the benefit anthology, Tales for Canterbury.

Through this project I had the opportunity to make contact with a phenomenal range of New Zealand authors*. They all have such different takes on the world, such varying styles of writing, but one thing remained the same—they were all generous, helpful, friendly and wonderful to work with.

I never imagined that despite other commitments and deadlines looming, despite being affected personally by the quake, so many writers would be so willing to pitch in. I don’t know why I was surprised though, because for the most part, this is my experience of being a New Zealander. That ‘get in there and help out’ attitude.

So, not only is New Zealand filled with amazing writers (some of whom I’ll share more about later this week), but those writers are also amazing people. I feel lucky, and inspired, to be part of that bunch, and hope that one day when I’m better established as a writer I’ll be able to do my country proud like these folks. Creativity and passion are not lacking here. The Land of the Long White Cloud is filled with it.

I hope you’ll tune in this week, and check out the other posts that will be going up around the web. A list will be compiled at this page as we get the links through.

Enjoy!

*I had contact with a fair few fabulous overseas authors as well, but because this is NZ spec-fic blogging week, I’ll be focusing on the Kiwis 😉

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NZ Spec Fic Blogging Week 2011 – coming soon!

It’s almost that time of the year again! I love this blogging week, and I’m looking forward to bringing you a variety of posts for this years event. To learn more about it, why not head over to the SpecFicNZ website? This is the third year, and I’m sure it will be even bigger than last year.

Kiwiwriters.org is running a challenge alongside, in case you needed some extra incentive for posting during the week.

It’s a great opportunity to show some love for our beautiful country, and the talented and creative individuals who live here. I can say that participating for the last two years has really given me a greater appreciation for New Zealand Speculative Fiction, and spurred me into writing more fiction based here – attmpting to claim my local voice, if you will.

I hope you’ll tune in between the 19th and 25th of September. 🙂

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My first novel

My second post for New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging week (Sep 13-19).

In some ways, your first novel is a lot like your first love – it changes your whole life, you never forget it, but it is rarely ‘the one’. Lifelines was such for me.

It was the first novel I’d written since my early teens, and the first thing I’d ever set in New Zealand. The novel begins in Auckland, but soon traverses down the country into pretty much the middle of nowhere. It’s a story about family – the blood kind, and the kind you choose – and a woman who is following her sister’s dying wish, even though it will no doubt bring her into danger.

I had so much fun researching for the novel – making sure my travel times were accurate, infusing it with my personal knowledge and experience of travelling in my country, but most of all, the knowledge I gained of the Patupaiarehe. I had gone in search of some beings to use in my story, and they were a perfect fit.

image courtesy of http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/patupaiarehe

Mine aren’t blue, by the way, but it’s a neat stamp nonetheless.

I’d never heard of them before I went looking, and it proved to me that there was so much to be discovered about my own country – how many other creatures had I not heard of? How many legends unexplored?

My first novel made me a writer, it got me into the habit and changed my whole life – but it also opened my eyes to my own country.

Once upon a time I was a teenager who thought that New Zealand was boring. I mean, we have very few animals which might kill us – no lions, no tigers, no bears (oh my!). We don’t have Stonehenge, or pyramids. Psh. Boring

Now I know just how naive I was. New Zealand is full of intriguing places and stories, its history might not be as long or as well known as other countries, but what we have is unique, it’s ours and one of the ways we can own that, honour that, is through our writing.

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NZ Speculative Fiction Blogging Week – Sep 13-19!

As most of you will know, I am a big fan of speculative fiction – it rocks my world. As such, I love it when I get a chance to promote all things spec-fic, and the blogging week is almost upon us.

Last year we managed a total of 52 posts over the week, written by 24 different bloggers. This year, of course, we are hoping for more.

I’ve been thinking about what I’ll post for some time now, trying to get a few done here and there so that I have something for every day of the week. Last year, it was so exciting to be part of it and I felt at the end like I had a better connection with the spec-fic writers of NZ, and with NZ itself. We live in a beautiful and amazing country, and while there isn’t as much support or publicity for speculative fiction writers here as we might like, that doesn’t mean there can’t be.

If you are a blogger from NZ who loves to read, write, or watch speculative fiction, why not join in? And if you aren’t from NZ, why not take a look anyway, you never know what you might find out about New Zealand and it’s writers 😉

Is there anything you would like to see in a blog post? Feel free to leave comments or suggestions, and I’ll see what I can do.