Last Day of 2010

This is my annual post where I sum up what happened in my professional life in that year and look ahead to what’s going to happen in 2011. I do this so I can have a handy record that I can get to in seconds. (Hence the “last day of the year” tag.)

For reasons I’ll explain in more detail below (but are mostly I was not online much) 2010 was ridiculously productive for me. I now have more than 100,000 words of my 1930s novel. Most of it written this year. And I declare those words to be good.1 I have not enjoyed writing a book this much in I do not know how long. I never want to finish. Which is fortunate because I suspect that I’m not even half way finished. Likely not even a quarter. Possibly not even a tenth. Ooops. I may well not EVER finish. But, hey, at least I’m having fun.

For those of you who actually like to read words I write do not fear! I also wrote (with someone sekrit) a whole other sekrit (but hopefully not for much longer) project about which you will hear much next year when we’re allowed to tell you. Writing it was just about the best fun ever. I adore collaborating it turns out. Or maybe I just got lucky with the smartest, wittiest, fastest-writingiest collaborator of all time. Whatever the reason the two of us finished that project and sold it in two different countries.2 And now we get to do it all over again. Colour me, excited.

Such a productive year was particularly wonderful because in 2009 I stopped writing for many months. In that year all I did was rewrite Liar, a few thousand words of the 30s book, and about the same on two other unfinished projects. It was my least productive year since I became a professional writer and it scared me. For a while there I was worried I wouldn’t write again. So, phew! Despite annoying injuries 2010 has been my most happy and productive writing year ever. Here’s hoping 2011 will bring more of the same.

But this is my what-happened-in 2010 report, I shall continue:

Books out in 2010

This year I had only one new book: Zombies Versus Unicorns which I put together with Holly Black. It was published in the US (Simon & Schuster) and Australia (Allen & Unwin) with one of the most perfect and gorgeous covers any book of mine has ever had. I cried tears of joy when I first saw it. Josh Cochran is a genius and so are the design team at Simon & Schuster. The book has had wonderful reviews and even won an award for the audio edition and sold way better than anyone expected.

It’s a publishing truism that anthologies don’t sell.3 Well, this one sure does. Yay! Thank you so much for reading ZvU, buying it, and telling your friends and librarians about it. Much appreciated.

There’s also an audio edition by Brilliance, which features me and Holly reading the introductions. Well, sort of reading, we got more and more ad-libb-y as the day went on. Let’s just say we had a great time. I would happily record audio books with Holly and the Brilliance team whenever they want.

ZvU also sold into France (Pocket Jeunesse), Germany (Bertelsmann Jugendbuch Verlag) & Brazil (Editora Record).

Liar came out in paperback in North America. It was also published for the first time in Denmark (Hoest), France (Gallimard), Italy (Salani) & the Netherlands (Mynx). I had the great pleasure of meeting the Gallimard Jeunesse team in Paris and they were all wonderful and work in the most gorgeous building complex I’ve ever seen. They even have a sekrit garden!

There will also be editions of Liar in Brazil (Editora Record), Germany (Bertelsmann Jugendbuch Verlag), Taiwan (Sharp Point Press), Turkey (Artemis, an imprint of Alfa Yayin Grubu) and Spain (Ediciones Versatil).

Reception of Liar

It’s been brought to my attention that some people don’t feel Liar has gotten the recognition it deserves. While it’s lovely that people feel passionately about the book I want to point out that Liar‘s gotten a tonne of recognition. Liar was more widely reviewed than any of my other books and almost all of those reviews were extremely positive. It also made a gazillion different best book of the year lists. Liar was shortlisted for eleven different awards and won four of them:

  • the Davitt Award for best Young Adult Crime Novel 2010, which particularly thrilled me because I deliberately wrote Liar as a crime novel and the Davitt Award people were the first to notice,
  • the WA Premier’s Literary Award, Young Adult Prize 2009. In Australia the Premier’s awards are a huge, huge deal and even come with a big old fat cheque,
  • the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) Christina Stead Award 2009, which is an award for best novel of the year regardless of genre—Liar was the first YA novel to win. I could not be prouder,
  • and the fourth award has not yet been officially announced but the 2009 Carl Brandon Kindred Award. When I found out I screamed. I think the wording of the award will explain why this means so much to me: “The Carl Brandon Kindred Award is given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity; nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group.”

So there you have it Liar is by a country mile my most successful book by whatever metric of success you want to use. It’s the best reviewed, won the most awards, generated the most fanmail and discussion,4 and has sold better than any of my other novels in Australia and the USA. On top of that it’s a book I’m proud I wrote.5 I’m stoked.

Read These Books!

My favourite YA book of 20106 was Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves. Dark, weird, quirky, full of unexpected turns, fabulous world-building, and gorgeous writing. It’s not like anything else I’ve read. Well, other than her second book, A Slice of Cherry, which comes out in 2011. I highly recommend both.

Onto next year:

Books out in 2011

    The paperback edition of Zombies versus Unicorns

7

and, um, nothing else . . .

That’s right for the first time since 2005 I have no new book out. But I promise you there will be something new (see above about my sekrit project) in 2012 and in 2013. Truly.

My Silence this Year

You might have noticed that this is my first post in six months. For someone who used to blog every day that’s a huge change. A weird one. Yes, I do miss blogging. No, this is not the beginning of me blogging frequently again.8 I won’t be blogging much for the foreseeable future. Sorry. But thank you so much all of those who wrote to let me know how much you miss this blog. You made me all teary, you did. As did you lovely people I met at ZvU events this year who told me ditto. Bless!

I spent the year dealing first with an acute injury that kept me from writing but that healed relatively quickly. Then I discovered that I had RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) i.e. shooting pains in my arms and neck because of having typed a vast deal for about thirty years.9 I still have RSI. I cannot type for more than twenty minutes at a time or more than four hours a day without pain. I spent 2010 learning how to deal with it.

I tried many, many, many different things but here’s what worked for me:

RSI management:

  • My computer is for writing novels. I only tweet or blog or IM or email or any other non novel-writing keyboard activity on days when I don’t write. I also make sure I have at least one or two days a week completely away from the computer.
  • Most days the internet is switched off on my computer. Ah. The calm and ease of concentration with it gone. I honestly don’t miss it.
  • I am very strict about writing only in twenty minute bursts with stretching in between and not for more than four hours a day.
  • I use an ergonomic split key board, two trackballs with writst rests—one for my left hand and one for my right, my screen is at eye level, and I sit on an exercise ball forcing me to use my core muscles at all times.
  • Weekly massage and physical therapy. Accupuncture has also helped. I have tried other therapies but those are the ones that have given me the best results.
  • I work out five times a week with a trainer.10
  • I do pilates once or twice a week.

So, yes, I am doing much better than I was—most importantly I’m able to write—but it’s a continuing thing for which there is no magic cure. I hope those of you at the beginning of your writing life pay attention and start developing good habits now before permanent damage is done. I wish I had! /lecture

Being offline a great deal of the time does mean I’m harder to contact than I was. My apologies. If you wish to contact me the best way to do so is still via email. If I don’t get back to you and you deem it urgent contact my agent, Jill Grinberg. (Her details are in the automatic reply.)

In conclusion

This time last year my writing was not going well. I was in a dither about what to write next and was working on four books at once. Obviously, see above, I concentrated on the 30s novel, which is not finished, and the sekrit project, which is.

I said my goal was to be happy writing and I was. That’s my goal for this year too. And for the rest of my life. I declare it to be a most excellent goal. I commend it to you!

Thanks everyone who wrote me letters of support and letters about my writing this year. Those letters were wonderful. I treasure them and I’m very sorry I haven’t been able to respond. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being moved by the different responses people have to my work.11

I hope 2011 shapes up beautifully for all of us.12

Happy new year!

  1. I’m sure when I re-read them I’ll be less thrilled but right now I think they’re fabulous. I’ll stick with that feeling, thanks. []
  2. Well, our agents did. Thank you, Jill! []
  3. Take that, smelly publishing truisms. I bet green covers aren’t the kiss of death either. []
  4. And, no, I’m not counting discussion generated by the cover controversy. []
  5. I don’t care what anyone says I think that’s the most important thing of all. []
  6. Not written by a friend or husband of mine. []
  7. And this was not, in fact, published in 2011. Current rumours are that it will be out April 2012. []
  8. You do not want to know how many days it took me to write this. []
  9. This is a very common condition. I know gazillions of writers in the same boat. []
  10. Yeah, I’m one of those people. Sorry! []
  11. Yes, many of your letters made me all teary. What can I say? I’m a sook. []
  12. Even the Australian cricket team. Not that I’m holding my breath on that one . . . []

Writing, Not Following Last Few Overs of First Test

So I have no idea that Australia only need two more wickets and England a handful of runs to make Aus bat again and thus reduce overs and increase chance of securing draw. Only 15 overs remaining.

I AM NOT FOLLOWING IT AT ALL.

Writing, working hard, ignoring the nail biting finish.

COME ON AUSTRALIA!!!

Twenty20 League in NYC?!

If this happens I will be an extremely happy bunny rabbit:

Australians Jason Gillespie and Damien Martyn head a group of rebel cricketers recruited for the American Premier League, the latest international Twenty20 tournament that is gathering momentum in New York City.

Because as you all know the one thing wrong with New York City is the absence of international level cricket. Well, that and the absence of rainbow lorikeets and flying foxes and good Thai food. Oh, and the crappy winters. And that there’s no southerly in the summer to blow the excessive heat away and . . . .

Oh, never mind.

Women in sports

I wonder why it is that women in sports get so little attention. Unless they’re tennis or golf players and pretty. Or winning gold medals during the Olympics.

I’ve been following the women’s world cup online, but apparently I don’t have much company online or offline where very few folks have been going to their games. I don’t get it. The NZ v Pakistan game sounds like it was amazing. Wish I’d been home to see it.1 Games were $5 each or $35 for a pass to see all of them. Standards were high yet attendance was crap.

And then there’s the WNBA which I love passionately. But the only coverage it gets is all about Candace Parker, who isn’t even going to play this year. Don’t get me wrong, I think Parker’s phenomenal, but she’s not the only phenomenal player in the WNBA. Why do articles about female athletes always begin by disquisiting about how gorgeous they are? Yawn. Who cares how pretty she is when she can play like that?

It’s 2009 and I’m watching Mad Men and there are so many ways in which the world has changed not one iota. Having a women’s basketball league and a women’s world cup in cricket does not make the world cease to be sexist. Neither does having a black man in the white house end all racism.

But I am an optimist. Some day, I’m sure, all those isms will disappear. Some day . . . I just don’t think I’ll be alive to see it.

  1. Here’s hoping the Kiwis can crush the Poms in the final. Guess, I’ll find out when I wake up. []

Cricket weather & the Littlest MorM and Magic Lessons

I was just sent notification that Wunderground now has a cricket weather page. We can all check out what the weather is for any ICC game in the world. Ordinarily I ignore any such advertising but this one’s actually cool and useful.1 I’m also chuffed that my intermittent nattering about cricket is on anyone’s radar.

Sadly, it does not have the weather for any women’s international matches. Including the current world’s cup where shockingly the English women are ahead at the moment. NOES!!! Also it gives the weather in both sensible Celsius and the other weird temperature measurement scale. Why? No one who follows cricket knows or cares what that F nonsense is about. Honestly.2

In even more important news (and not a total segue for cricket gets a passing mention in the first book of the trilogy) I now has six copies of the Japanese edition of Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons. They are tiny! I adores them. They are the smallest books ever to have my name on them. It is ridiculous how excited I am by their teeny tininess and yet I am.

Here they are with the US hardcovers for scale:

So. Adorable.

  1. I have learned that the temperature in the world of cricket is much better than it is here. So. Not. Fair. Not that I didn’t already know that. []
  2. All comments from people claiming to follow cricket and the F nonsense will be deleted because you’re clearly lying. []

Women’s World Cup

Is on in Sydney and thereabouts right now. And I am not able to view ANY OF IT. Even though many of the games are dead easy to get to and cheap as chips.1

There are deadlines, there is packing, then there’s leaving of beloved Sydney and beautiful and wondrous brand new digs. So no women’s cricket for Justine. But next time, next time I will enjoy every second of it!2

I hope that the Sydney based cricket fan readers of this blog, of which I happen to know there are at least three, manage to get to some of the matches in my stead. Lucky ducks!

I get back to the never ending rewrite of tortuous horror wonderful rewrite of my next book what comes out in October and is in no way annoying me at all.

I leave you with a photo by the lovely Sarah Dollard taken from deck of brand new digs:

  1. Though had I gone to today’s Oz v NZ match at North Sydney oval I would have spent much time huddling against the rain. []
  2. Also, thank Elvis for the radio. []

Attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Pakistan (updated)

Several people have written to ask that I talk about what happened in Pakistan yesterday. I’m not sure what to say.

For those who don’t know the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked on their way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. The team members sustained some minor injuries, the fourth umpire, Ahsan Raza, who travelled with the team is in hospital with critical injuries, eight people were killed: six policeman and two civilians. The Sri Lankan team has returned home. The test has been cancelled and many people are saying this is the end of international cricket in Pakistan.

I hope not. But several international teams, including India and Australia, had already cancelled tours to Pakistan. Australia will shortly be playing Pakistan in an ODI, safely hosted by another country. I suspect that’s the way it will go for some time.

Because obviously this is not just about cricket. There is a great deal of anger and sadness being expressed by the Pakistan cricketing community and by Pakistanis in general. I can only imagine how they must feel.

Update: Here is Kumar Sangakkara’s eyewitness account of what happened. For those of you who don’t know Sangakkara is one of the world’s best batsmen. Watching him bat is one of the world’s great joys.

The rumours are true

So, this is very weird but I’ve had three people write to ask if it’s true that I changed hotels in Perth in order to watch the South Africa v Australia test.

Yes, it’s true. The Duxton did not have Fox 3, the Hyatt did. What else could I have done?

Best catch ever? (updated x 2)

Even if you don’t like cricket you must admit that this catch is pretty bloody speccie:

Update: Due to Cricket Australia’s bloodymindedness you can no longer see the truly fabulous catch by Adam Voges. I’m not sure what they think they’re achieving cause having a catch like that go viral increases the number of people round the world who get curious about the game. I don’t know about you, but I’d’ve thought that would be a good thing for cricket. How come institutions like Cricket Australia don’t get the intramanets?

Update the second: Narelle in the comments points out that the catch can be seen on the front page of www.3aw.com.au. This is no way lessens my anger with Cricket Australia’s stupidity. Having a few minutes footage of a genius catch go viral is what you want, you fools! It’s not like youtube was hosting the entire match. Gah!

Not a good day for cricket

First the Kiwis were robbed by the rain in the final ODI, excuse me, Twenty20 match, which they were so totally going to win. Stupid rain! Stupid umpires for not letting play continue for a mere six more overs. Guptill did great. What little cricket we did see was wonderfully entertaining. And then the rains returned.

But much much much worse is the abandonment of the second test between the West Indies and England after a mere ten balls. Cricket cannot be played on sand. It’s dangerous. I was pretty sure the West Indies authorities were aware of that, but apparently not. At the Gabba in Brisbane in 2002-2003 the sandy outfield led to Simon Jones buggering his knee as he slid to prevent a four.

Here’s the great Sir Vivian Richards on what happened at the ground named after him: “This is not shooting me in the foot. This is shooting me straight through the heart.”

Makes me want to cry.

Are the West Indies back?

The West Indies just destroyed England in the first test at Sabina Park in Jamaica.1 Is this the beginning of a new era of outstanding West Indian cricket? Oh, please let it be true! Please, please, please, please please!

The West Indies cricket team of the 1970s and 1980s made me fall in love with cricket. They were the best team in the world and even when they didn’t win every match, were clearly the most talented. They made playing cricket look joyful and fierce and like the most important thing in the world. I could not get enough of them. I watched every match I could. Pretty easy to do living as I was in a cricket lovely household. I miss the West Indies not being the best team in the world.

Clive Lloyd was the world’s best cricket captain. He’s yet to be surpassed. I have never seen a more elegant bowler than Michael Holding, or a better batsman than Viv Richards. Obviously, we’re not going to see their like again. But I will totally take Jerome Taylor’s 5/11 (!), Sulieman Benn’s 4/31, and Chris Gayle’s sensible century. Not to mention his steady captaincy. Could he be shaping up to be the West Indies’ next great captain? Hop so.

So far the twelve months or so have been awesome for cricket: rejuvenation in India and South Africa. Signs of strong improvement from Bangladesh, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka (Yes, they’re getting wiped in India right now. But I think India are the number one team in the world.) No, I don’t have a read on Pakistan at the moment. Inconsistency from Australia (not business as usual, thus interesting) and England (business as usual, therefore fun to laugh at).2 The IPL and the ICL have added bizarre, but kind of cool dashes of, um, I’m not quite sure what yet.3

Adding a resurgent West Indies to the mix fills my heart with joy. So much great cricket ahead. YAY!!!

  1. England all out for 51 in their second innings. Hahahahahah! []
  2. Bear in mind that except for cricket played in Australia this summer I’m going off what I’ve read not what I’ve seen. No, we does not have cable here in Sydney. []
  3. Am I the only one who’s fascinated by the IPL auctions? Lord, I’m glad the pro writing world doesn’t work like that. []

An amazing test

I couldn’t let one of the best tests and test series of all time go by without saying something, now could I?

We were there for day 3, which was splendid and full of pinkness (the shirt I wore was blinding) incident and event (how did those bloody bails not come off?), but nothing compared to the fifth day. That was mental! I can’t believe Graeme Smith batted with a broken hand. I’ve had a broken hand, I couldn’t have lifted up a bat, let alone wielded one. He totally deserved his man of the series award.

I can’t believe it came down to the last few overs. How about Ntini batting defensively? You rule, Ntini!

I rate this Australia v South Africa series almost as high as the Ashes series in England when those bastards won by, like, two runs. (I still think we was robbed.)

I’m ecstatic that South Africa and India are as good as (if not better than) Australia right now. True contests at last. And Sri Lanka and England aren’t far behind. I really hope that the West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand start to get their shit together too.

I cannot wait until the next three tests in South Africa at the end of February. (So far away! Waaah!) But I’m stoked I’ll be in Australia to see the first two.

I am absolutely thrilled I was at the SCG for one of the days and that I got to watch every day of all three tests. Fifteen days of glorious cricket. Best game in the universe. Nothing could be better. (Well, if they sacked Ponting as captain that would be better. Though I’m not sure who to replace him with.)

Note: Yes, there’ll be more writing advice shortly. I just need a little time to recover from the edge-of-my-seat tension of that last day’s play.

Congrats, South Africa

South Africa just won their first test series against Australia in Australia. I’ve been dead impressed by them. Especially by debutant Jean-Paul Duminy. What a way to score 166 runs! He now has an average of more than a hundred. And he’s awesome in the field. He is looking to surpass Ntini as my favourite South African cricketer. I can only see South Africa getting better as more and more South Africans get excited about cricket. Under apartheid they only had a small pool of white cricketers to draw on. Now the pool gets bigger and better every year. If that keeps up they will be dominant for a long time.

South Africa and India have both beaten Australia in a series this year. Convincingly. It’s good to see more than one strong test side in the world. It’s good for cricket not to have Australia winning everything. Really, there’s only one nation that we must always destroy—England. If we keep doing that I’m good.

I’m hoping, though, that the third test will be a little closer. Not just because I’ll be going but because three strong test sides is brilliant for cricket. I want to see Australia fight back. I want to see them strong. I think they need to drop Hayden and have Phil Hughes in his stead. And we really really really need a new captain. Ponting is lost without Warnie setting his fields for him. And how about giving that Bollinger lad a go? There’s a lot of talent out there. Let’s see them get a go at test level.

Another reason it’s so awesome to be home. I have now watched ten days of cricket some of it astonishingly good: Mitchell’s bowling in Perth, Duminy’s fightbacks with the South African tail, Ponting’s almost century. And I’ve been really enjoying Shane Warne’s commentary. I wonder if I can get tickets to the musical? Bless you, Warnie.

And, yay, South Africa!

Boxing Day

I love Boxing Day.1 It is the most excellently lazy day ever. Right now I have my feet up, watching the beginning of the Boxing Day test, while eating my brekkie of mango, banana, sheep’s milk yogurt and granola. (We ran out of passionfruit. Get some more tomorrow.) Is there anything better than this? I don’t think so.

I have high hopes for this series between Australia and South Africa. The first test was splendid. Every day (except the last) was full of reversals and much excitement. I didn’t see the series in India so this is the first time I’ve seen the Aussies up against a team that can beat them in ages. It’s most excellent. If only we had a better captain. Ponting’s a great cricketer but I’m deeply unimpressed by his captaincy skills.

Mmmm. Boxing Day, cricket, mangoes, laziness. I’m home, aren’t I? If it were up to me I’d never leave.

Hope you’re all having a marvellous day wherever you are and whatever day it is. Hope you are having as much relaxing fun as I am!

  1. I know the date stamp for this post says Xmas Day, but it’s not. I was too lazy to change to east coat aussie time from east coast usian time. []

Fruitz I has them

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Look at my pretties! Two different kinds of mango and passionfruit, mangosteens, sugar bananas! I couldn’t figure out how to fit the yellow and white nectarines and the peaches into the bowl as well. Or the box of black cherries.

Mmmm, summer home in Sydney. Happiness. Ain’t nothing else I want.

I believe I’ll help myself to another mangosteen. Or am I in more of a peach mood? Or how about those rambutans? Decisions, decisions . . .

Jesus played cricket

And the liar novel is almost finished. I’d say all’s right with the world, wouldn’t you?

He notes that in the Armenian Gospel of the Infancy, translated into Armenian in the 6th century from a much older lost Syriac original, a passage tells of Jesus playing what may well be the precursor of cricket, with a club and ball. (Via Lili.)

Sounds like a hundred per cent conclusive evidence of Jesus playing cricket to me.

A genre I never tire of . . .

. . . Is USians what know zero about cricket writing about it. Today’s example comes from the New York Times and concerns a novel that’s been written about the Staten Island cricket club1 by one of the members, Joseph O’Neil. Here’s my favourite bit:

That Mr O’Neill in his other life happens to be a novelist is a matter of indifference to most of his teammates. They’re more interested in him as an accomplished batsman, a sure-handed fielder and a decent off-speed bowler.

Off-speed! Hahahahahahah! Perhaps they meant “off-spin“? Or has the Staten Island cricket club invented a whole new kind of bowling?

Made my day. Bless you, New York Times.

  1. And apparently other things such as 9/11, family, politics, identity. That kind of stuff. Obviously, none of it as important as cricket. []

Made my day

Cricket Buzz just named its top 51 cricket blogs and I’m on the list!

Yay!

And also—how embarrassing! I have been very remiss of late when it comes to cricket blogging. I mean I haven’t mentioned the blessed sport since March and not written anything proper since January. Largely because (for reasons beyond my control) I have not been home since May of last year.1 Thus I have not been immersed in cricket culture and have not been keeping up with things such as the new Twenty20 Indian Premier League. 2

I like the idea of it in theory. But I hate the idea of it as a replacement for Test cricket. That will never happen! Or at least not in my lifetime.

I miss cricket. I must find ways to re-immerse myself. Or, I will, when this book is finished.

  1. Waaaaahhhh!!!!! []
  2. The link is to a NYT article explaining the League which will amuse those of us who know about cricket and hopefully be a clear-ish explanation for those who know nothing. []

And now London

Rome was unbelievably wonderful especially the food. A friend of mine spent four months in Italy and gained around three kilos—I think I managed that in one week. Excellent!

I am at work on a post about the fabulous food we ate and a number of others—including another writing one1—but work on my next novel has got in the way of finishing them. Stupid novel! Not to mention the erraticness of our internet access. But, soon, my pretties, soon!

In the meantime I’m exhausted but happy: there’s cricket on the tellie. All’s right with the world. And even though England’s doing kind of okay I still think the Kiwis are a possibility. Those are only flesh wounds!

London, 24 March 2008, 11:12PM.

  1. See? I do listen to you. You ask that I blog it and blog it I will. []

Grace

In the vociferous arguing about the ins and outs of who behaved worst over the second test etc etc there are people implying that criticising the Australian cricket team is unAustralian and whingey.1

Please! I love my country, I love cricket, but when the men’s team behave like dickheads they should be called on it.

People who play sport at a professional level are not exempt from the social contract. No one is. Writers (to pick a random example out of the air) shouldn’t behave like dickheads either. Recently I was at an award ceremony where the speeches of the winners were generous and moving. All but one. This one person got up to accept their award without a gram of graciousness. Their speech was about the importance of their book and the judges’ perspicacity in picking it as the winner. That speech left me not wanting to read anything by that writer. I don’t even want to meet that writer.

Very few people in this world achieve things without considerable help; acting like you did it all on your own is graceless and rude.

Ponting’s and the rest of the team’s arrogance and inability to admit that they ever do anything wrong makes me ambivalent when Australia wins test matches. Don’t get me wrong. I love for Australia to win, but, well, I love it a lot more when they’re gracious in victory.2

So, yeah, this debate isn’t just about cricket. It’s about how people should behave. How we should treat the people around us. There’s a reason that photo of Flintoff offering commiserations to Brett Lee has become so famous. It captures a moment of perfect grace:


Getty Images

  1. Though what’s more Australian than whingeing?! []
  2. And aren’t ropeable when they lose. []

Not cricket

I’ve had a few people writing to ask why I’m not commenting on the disastrous second test between Australia and India. There are several reasons. I’ve not been able to follow any of the cricket as closely as I’d like. I haven’t had time.

But mostly because I’m embarrassed. And, well, I think Greg Baum and Mike Coward have expressed what I feel about it so well that i don’t really need to add anything.

I will though: I’m sick of Aussie sportsmen (and, frankly, it’s the blokes, not the women) behaving like dickheads. I’m not Indian, so the bad behaviour of the Indians doesn’t make me ashamed, and, you know what? We’re the host country here. We should be behaving like hosts. What’s wrong with a bit of graciousness? The Aussie team of 1960-61 managed it up against that fabulous West Indies team. Why can’t our current team be more like them?

Look, unlike Mike Coward, I don’t think there was ever a golden age of well-behaved cricket teams. There’s always been cheating and sledging and arrogant behaviour.1 But it didn’t used to always be us. Right now the Aussie cricket team reminds me strongly of the English under Jardine back in 1932-33. It’s not a pleasant thought.

That said, I still wish I’d been able to see it . . . And I really hope the next two tests are less horrible with much better umpiring!

  1. In fact, there’s a whole book about it: It’s Not Cricket : A History of Skulduggery, Sharp Practice and Downright Cheating in the Noble Game by Simon Rae. []

An unanswerable question

Someone just wrote to ask me what to do when the writing is not going well. Fortunately, Diana Peterfreund has just written on this because I have no useful answer.

I suspect my own struggles with sentences that crumble as I type, with plot and character and meaning twisting out of my control, are at least partly because I’m very early on in my career. Old timers are much smarter about this stuff. Fer instance, my parents heard Thomas Kenneally interviewed the other day and he said that the writing got easier as he got older. After having written for more than forty years and having produced a bazillion gazillion novels (or, you know, thirty odd) he knows his own process and what to expect.

I don’t.

Not really. I’ve only written six novels and the writing of each one was different. I’ve been a freelancer writer for four years. I still have no idea how long it takes me to write a book. I can tell you how long the last one took, but not how long the next one will.

When you’re starting out you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what you’re capable of. When the crappy writing days hit you—it’s a shock and you don’t know how to handle them.

Even super disciplined writers, like my old man, have days of words dissolving into puddles of putrescence, when they can’t focuss, and can barely squeeze out five words let alone a thousand.

What he does is keep writing. That’s where the discipline comes in. The act of getting yourself into the chair and typing—even if the words you’re producing make William McGonagall look like a genius—can be enough to get you past the crap and into the good.

Or not.

Sometimes people just need a break.

And only the writer can figure out which it is.

Personally, I’m pretty much always convinced that I need a break. Preferably in a place where there’s plentiful cricket coverage (alas, poor England), the food is fabulous, and the wine even better.

Sadly, my deadlines say otherwise . . .

Happy, happy

Australia just thrashed England in their Super Eight match. They barely broke a sweat doing it. Ha ha!

I discovered this lovely review of the Magic or Madness trilogy by a future librarian. It’s pretty spoiler free if you want a squizz. I really liked this bit:

The magical abilities are also not what one expects—Reason has an amazing aptitude for math and patterns. Her friend Tom can create magical clothing, and Jay-Tee’s magic is in movement—like running and dancing. (None of this, ooh-look-at-me-I can-fly-or-read-minds . . . etc.)

I did that on purpose! And someone noticed! Woo hoo!

Also Scott just read me the almost last bit of Extras and it is good! So. Very. Good.

And on Tuesday we fly to San Antonio where it is much much warmer than NYC and there are many cool librarians and young adult writers for us to hang with. Happiness!

Of fans and geeks

El and Rachel Brown correctly surmised that the fan half of my question was inspired by the bruhaha about whether John Scalzi should be nominated for a fan writing Hugo or not.

For the record: yes, Scalzi should, and I hope he wins for all the reasons that have been described in great detail here, here and here. I’m also not comfortable with people telling other people that they are or aren’t “fans” or “geeks” or anything else. Those are the kind of labels you get to choose for yourself.

The geek half was inspired by my being asked to contribute a story to an anthology about geeks and geekery. My instant response was to say, “No.” Not just because I can’t write short stories, but because I couldn’t begin to think of a geeky story. (Plus no way am I biting the head off a chicken. Ewww.)

Also I was just curious about how you lot define those words. Part of what’s interesting in the great Is-Scalzi-a-Fan debate is that there were so many different definitions of what a “fan” is, which led to much talking at cross purposes. Seems thesame is true of “geek”. Veronica defined it the way I would, but Cecil defined it the way I would define “fan”.

A number of people take “fan” to mean someone who loves something uncritically. I can’t help but laugh at that when I think of the number of letters I’ve had from self-proclaimed Magic or Madness fans who tell me in minute detail the stuff they don’t like about the trilogy, just as much as the stuff they do. Clearly, these are slippery, slippery terms.

Thanks everyone for such fascinating responses.

So why do I call myself a fan but not a geek?

Let’s take the word “fan” first. I’m not a fan of science fiction, which may sound odd for someone who did a Phd on it, which became a book. To be honest the whole PhD thing was never a passion. All I’ve ever wanted to do is be a writer, but as everyone knows there’s no money in that, so I went for an academic career to support my writing habit. The subject of my PhD was an accident. I’d read sf as a kid but I’d read lots of other things too and, honestly, I think the vast majority of sf (film, television or film) is on the nose. Many of the so-called classics of the genre like the work of Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke or Star Trek or Blade Runner leave me cold.

It’s the world building that does it for me with science fiction, being transported to somewhere that is not like the world I know. I get that just as readily from books about places I’m unfamiliar with: Japanese crime books fascinate me; Australian ones not so much. I also get that button pressed by books from the past (Jane Austen, Tale of Genji,1 Elizabeth Gaskell, Miles Franklin et al) historicals, fantasy, westerns and so on. Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith and Jim Thompson create worlds that are almost completely alien to me. I adore their work.

I love the writings of Samuel R. Delany and Maureen McHugh and Ursula K. Le Guin. But I’m not convinced that it’s the science fictioness of their work that does it for me. I’m just as happy when they’re writing fantasy or memoirs or criticism or blogging or whatever else they choose to write. I love the way they string their words and sentences and paragraphs together. Yum.

If I were to be banned from reading one genre it would be less of a hardship for me if that genre were sf rather than fantasy or historicals. (Naturally, I exempt manga from all these categories.)

I’m also not a fan in the sense that Ulrika is talking about. That is I’m not a member of a community that came together around a love of science fiction in the late 1930s and is still going strong today. Or am I? I definitely feel like I’m a part of the WisCon community. For years I helped with the running of that particular science fiction convention. I was on the ConCom. Can you get much more fannish than that? And, like John Scalzi, I feel very much at home with many members of the science fiction community who definitely consider themselves to be fans.

However, I’ve never written fanfiction. So I’m not part of that thriving aspect of fandom. Nor do I read it. Though there are definitely books and stories I love, like The Wide Sargasso Sea, that are a kind of fanfiction—but the kind that plays around with out of copyright texts and thus gets to be published.

I’m happy to call myself a fan not just because of the WisCon thing, but because there are a lots of things I love. Elvis Presley’s voice. Cricket. Madeleine Vionnet and Hussein Chalayan’s clothes. The writing of way too many people to list here. I love Bring It On and Deadwood and Blue Murder and My Brilliant Career and ES and Nana and Osamu Tezuka and mangosteens and the food of countries like Spain and Mexico and Thailand and Japan and Italy and Ethiopia and the great wines of Australia and New Zealand and Argentina and South Africa and Italy and France and Spain and many other places.

I don’t think the word “fan” implies uncritical love. There are clothes of Vionnet and Chalayan’s that I think are naff, Cricket matches that bore me, Angela Carter books ditto, and Spanish food and French wine I’ve had to spit out.

So why aren’t I geek?

First up, the word is American and doesn’t have much resonance for me. I never heard it as a kid nor “nerd” neither. Not outside of a John Hughes movie. (That’s not true of younger Aussies.)

The people I know who are self-described nerds or geeks have passions for stuff that bores me. Video games, role-playing games, board games and the insides of computers. I have many friends who are into these things and, well, I am not like them in this regard. I do not know what “chaotic good” is, even though Scott’s explained it to me like a hundred times.

I’ve had flirtations with various computer games over the years, but my attention span for them is microscopic, and ulimately I’d much rather be reading a book.

Once I got into Go for about a year, to the extent that I was playing it with a bunch of Go fanatics on servers in Korea, and reading books on it. But it was largely research for a novel I was writing. When I finished writing the book my interest in playing Go lapsed. It’s still by far the best game I’ve ever played, but I doubt I’d even remember how anymore. I haven’t played since 1999.

Many of my geeky friends are also collectors.

I hate stuff. I spend a large chunk of my life recycling and throwing stuff out. I hate things that sit on the mantlepiece and serve no purpose other than to collect dust. I see no point in them. Nor in stuffed animals, or dolls, or collectable cards, or any of that. I love cricket but I have no desire for cricket stuff cluttering up my house and am endlessly giving away the cricket tat people give me (clothes excluded).

If I collect anything, it’s books, but I cull them ruthlessly and often. If I’m not going to reread it, or I’ve had it for more than a year without even cracking the spine and there seems little likelihood that I will, then out the book goes.

Also I have a terrible memory. Always have had. I can’t tell you what year Bring it On came out, or who directed it, or who all the actors are without looking it up. I have to read a book a billion times before I can remember any details about it and even then I’m pretty crap. I just did a test on Pride and Prejudice I don’t think I’ve read any book more times than that one. I got 5 out of 10. I would not be able to tell an original Vionnet gown from a knock off. I do not have the trainspotting gene.

So, yes to “fan” and to “enthusiast” (thanks, Bennett), no to “geek” or “nerd”. I’m also quite happy to be called a “dag”. Yes, I am also a “spaz”. (Though, Christopher, I say to you: Know thyself!) And “dilettante”? Oh, yes, that’s me. I have the attention span of a gnat.2

  1. I confess I have never finished The Tale of Genji despite repeated attempts. The bits I’ve read have been fabulous. It’s just that the book is so damned heavy and hard to read in bed. I know, I know . . . dilettante. []
  2. Except for blogging, apparently. Bugger but this was a long post . . . Sorry! []

Idiocy

I was going to rant all over my blog today about the bloody ICC‘s idiotic decision to demand that youtube take down all footage from the World Cup. But then I found this excellent rant that says everything I want to say. Here’s a taste of Andrew Miller’s wrath:

Only three days ago it was suggested on this website that the events of the past week might serve as a wake-up call for cricket’s fiscally obsessed powerbrokers. Fat chance. A game run increasingly by lawyers for lawyers, has deemed it necessary to go to war on the very online enthusiasts who can spread the word of a game whose reputation has been dragged through the mincer.

It is an astoundingly short-sighted decision by a ruling body that has once again shown it is completely lacking in a sense of priorities. God knows that cricket could do with some good publicity at present. Only 24 hours ago, the ICC’s Lawyer-in-Chief, Malcolm Speed, was telling Cricinfo how wonderful the match between Australia and South Africa at St Kitts was turning out to be. “Let’s all just watch the cricket,” he suggested when queried about the latest murmurings about Bob Woolmer’s death. Mal, we’d love to. But 75% of your global audience have no means of tuning in.

Yes, that’s right the ICC is so money-grubbing that they sold off the TV rights to cable channels which the majority of cricket lovers in the UK and Australia can’t afford. Cable in those countries is crazy overpriced and—other than covering the cricket—crap. Trust me, I pony up the dosh specifically to watch the cricket. And the cricket is the beginning and the end of what’s good on cable. For most cricket fans youtube is the only way to catch glimpses—and it is only glimpses—of the World Cup.

When will all those moronic beaurocrats wake the hell up? I am so sick of copyright insanity. Colour me extremely bloody ropeable.

National character

Shashi Tharoor has written a wry op ed piece for the New York Times on the World Cup and how Americans are oblivious to what is preoccupying a billion plus folks at the moment. It ends thus:

In any event, nothing about cricket seems suited to the American national character: its rich complexity, the infinite possibilities that could occur with each delivery of the ball, the dozen different ways of getting out, are all patterned for a society of endless forms and varieties, not of a homogenized McWorld. They are rather like Indian classical music, in which the basic laws are laid down but the performer then improvises gloriously, unshackled by anything so mundane as a written score.

Cricket is better suited to a country like India, where a majority of the population still consults astrologers and believes in the capricious influence of the planets — so they can well appreciate a sport in which, even more than in baseball, an ill-timed cloudburst, a badly prepared pitch, a lost toss of the coin at the start of a match or the sun in the eyes of a fielder can transform the outcome of a game. Even the possibility that five tense, hotly contested, occasionally meandering days of cricketing could still end in a draw seems derived from ancient Indian philosophy, which accepts profoundly that in life the journey is as important as the destination. Not exactly the American Dream.

Ha ha! That makes me giggle. Though to be honest I’m not convinced. Cricket’s popularity in India and elsewhere is an historical accident. If in the early days of cricket in America they’d had some home-grown cricketing heroes demolishing visiting English players and some ambitious entrepreneurs touring the game around the country and bringing in the dosh I reckon things woulda turned out differently.

Cricket’s also bloody popular back home. I’m pretty sure the majority of Australians don’t consult astrologers or believe in the capricious influence of planets (of pollies? yes, but planets? not so much). Or certainly we don’t do it any more than Americans do.

I’m always suspicious of sketches of “national character”. I’m not saying there aren’t difference between nations. I’m often amazed by the extraordinary confidence of the middle and upper classes in the US, especially the white folk. So many of them seem to have this sense of the inevitability of their own success (whether it’s happened yet or not). I’ve never met so many people who are just waiting for their first million, their first broadway show, big movie role, bestselling novel. No question in their mind that it will happen. Even if they’ve never acted or ever written anything longer than a limerick.

But I’ve also met enough Americans who are not like that, and Australians who are, to be wary of typing a whole people. People are complicated and large groups of them even more so and you can never discount regional and class and racial and gender differences.

I also wonder how much of that disturbing confidence is real and how much of it is people saying what they think they’re supposed to be saying.

Back home you’re emphatically not supposed to say stuff like that. If you do you’re a wanker who writes tickets on yourself. Being up yourself is one of the worst things anyone can say about you.

Here that attitude doesn’t seem nearly so wide spread. For instance American English has no home-grown synonyms (that I’ve heard) for “writing tickets” “being stuck up”, “getting above yourself”, “being up yourself”, or “being a wanker”. Mostly because they almost never accuse anyone of that kind of behaviour. Nor do they have the terms “tall poppies” or “cultural cringe”.

So while it might be true that on the whole Americans=confident and Australians=not confident. It could also be that we just know what we are and aren’t allowed to say out loud. If an Aussie says “I’m a genius!” odds are they’re being sarcastic. If a Usian says it not so much. But does the Aussie secretly think they are a genius while the Usian secretly fears they are not?

There are, of course, lots of exceptions to all of this. And things are changing in both countries. I even know Americans who adore cricket.


And, um, did I mention that I have a new book out, Magic’s Child? And, er, it’s not too foul. Really. Well, um, other people think it’s okay. Sorry. Don’t mind me. I’ll get out of your way now . . .

My very first online ad & other matters

For the next month, there’s an ad for Magic’s Child up on Locus online. Tis my very first one and I’m dead excited. Ordinarily, I can’t stand ads but somehow it’s different when it’s an ad for one of my books. That makes me want to pat it and sing it songs. Lovely, lovely ad. Designed by the fabulous Courtney Wood who also made those beautiful screensavers which you can now download from the links in the sidebar.

There is now a cover for the Science Fiction Book Club’s 3-in-1 version of my trilogy. It’s called The Magic or of Reason.

In other vainglorious news, the Hathor Legacy likes Daughters of Earth, describing it as the “perfect marriage of fantastic stories and excellent critical analysis”. Yay! That’s what I was going for.

And to stop skiting for a second, wouldn’t it be great if this happened? An ODI series between India and Australia right here in NYC? I could bring all my USian friends what want to learn about the noble game and convert them to the glories of cricket in their own country. Bliss!

Also this could be the day Magic’s Child is released into the wild. i await reports. Remember there is a prize for the first person to send me photographic evidence that my latest book exists and it may not be as crappy as I said.

Slaughter of the Minnow-cents + Sachin

Every world cup it seems there’s a debate about whether allowing in the so-called minnows of the game is a good idea or not. Because every world cup there are 200-plus run victories as Bermuda or Scotland or whoever are bowled out for less than a hundred by Australia or India or whoever.

It’s happened again this year. Herschelle Gibbs even smashed a world record 36 off an over against the Netherlands. For those whose maths is as poor as mine that’s a six off every single ball. No one had ever it done it internationally before, not in ODIs and not in test cricket.

The argument against the inclusion of minnows is that they help create crazy world records like that cause they’re just not up to snuff. “What’s the point of such an uneven competition?” they ask. And blah blah blah.

To which my response is, “Please!” One of the best ways to improve at anything is to learn from people who are better and more experienced than you are. Letting the minnows play with the top cricketing nations means that they will get oodles of practice against the best players in the world. As they improve they’ll create more interest in cricket back home and more potential cricket players and thus the game will grow and prosper throughout the world.

And they do get better.

As evidence I present Exhibits A & B: Bangladesh and Ireland.

The minnows sometimes upset the giants. Bangladesh just beat India in the first round. In the past few years they’ve racked up victories against a number of top teams including Australia. They are no longer as minnowy as they once were. I don’t think they’re a shot at the world cup (though how cool would that be?) but they’re certainly going to give a number of teams a testing time. Yay, Bangladesh!

First Ireland tied with Zimbabwe in their opening match and then in their second they beat Pakistan! Bowling them out for a pathetic 132 in the 45th over and following that up with a gritty batting display against some awesome bowling (and even better appealing—give Mr Sami an Oscar! He’s up there with Our Shane). And I’m so relieved the bad light and rain did not reduce things to a Duckworth-Lewis decision. Bravo to Ireland. They have several players I reckon England1 would love to have on their side.

Back in the olden days Sri Lanka and New Zealand were minnows; now they are not. They got that way by being included in world-class competition. I really don’t understand how anyone could argue against minnow inclusion. Me, I’m hoping a US of A team will qualify for the next world cup.

And via Christopher Rowe some other cricketing news: Sachin Tendulkar is going to have his own comic book:

The superhero character will be known as “Sachin The Master Blaster” for comic books, animation and games.

Excuse me? Sachin is one of the finest, but there is only one Master Blaster and his name is Viv Richards.

The article also claims that Sachin is the second greatest batsman of all time. Nuh uh. Not on his own he isn’t. I don’t care what Wisden says. There are a lot of other very fine batsmen in the running for that spot. Other than Sir Viv, there’s Brian Lara, Garfield Sobers, Sunil Gavaskar, and Ricky Ponting. But don’t ask me to pick a best out of that lot. I can’t. They’re all amazing. And besides comparisons are odious.

  1. Bummer about that loss to New Zealand, eh? []

Important matters

1. I have been accused in certain circles (okay, in certain emails) of deliberately not mentioning the English win in the recent ODIs against Australia in New Zealand. So here you go, you whingeing poms:

    Yay, England for finally stringing together three wins in a row! Way to peak at the right time. Yes, you are now contenders for the World Cup next month. Go forth and be happy!

    It’s still only One-day cricket, but.

2. I’ve also been meaning to remonstrate with one Maureen Johnson who has let down her fellow pro writers by revealing one of the most closely guarded secrets of our trade. First it was Matthew Cheney, and now Maureen. When is this going to stop, people? Are you going to start selling your secret decoder rings to the punters? I hope you remember the sacred oathes you swore. Don’t forget that there will be repercussions!

3. I’ve also been asked why I think it’s okay to hurt Maureen Dowd’s feelings when I’m so precious about novelists’ feelings. To which I can only respond: Well, der. I am a novelist. Of course I’m more worried about our feelings. Besides it’s well known that columnists are made of much sterner stuff than thin-skinned novelists. They are mocked all the time and are well used to it. But every time a novelist is mocked a little piece of the world’s communal imagination disappears in a tiny puff of smoke. It’s on your own heads if you mock us.

The one exception is John Scalzi who has managed to maintain the thick hide of a columnist despite becoming a novelist. You can mock him as much as you want. He loves it!

4. Over in the magical land of livejournal, there’s some really fascinating discussions going on about urban fantasy and the demonisation of “normal”. I have much to say on this subject and am struggling to get them together in a way that makes sense to anyone but me. But they involve lots of thoughts about Pan’s Labyrinth and fairy tales.

5. I have discovered a good thing about the cold. When you fall over in the street, you’re so padded with gloves and coats and scarves and etc etc, that it doesn’t hurt!

6. Feel free to share some matters you consider important.

Monkey love

Scott just sent me this because we both love cricket and monkeys.1 It is the personification of our love. It makes me so happy!

Though I gotta say that’s a pretty suspicious looking bowling action. And why is the umpire lying on the ground? Because the monkey is totally using body line? Check it: the monkey’s aiming at their heads! Or perhaps because the monkey has used six different balls? That’s gotta be worse than ball tampering, right? Bad cheating monkey!

  1. He found it here, but I’d love to know the original source. []

Best movie of all time

For ages people have been telling me that I have to see Lagaan. Well, now I have. And everyone’s right. It is the best movie of all time. No contest.

It has everything that should be in a movie: cricket, the British are the baddies, more cricket, dancing, singing, a love triangle, and more cricket. Lagaan is perfect. (Well, it could have been longer with a wee bit more cricket and a few more songs, but other than that—perfect.)

At least seventy minutes of the movie is a cricket match. How did that make any sense to American viewers? Cause most of the folks who’ve recommended it have been yanquis who know nothing about the noble game. How did you keep track of the balls and overs? How did you even realise

S
P
O
I
L
E
R

that Bhuvan wasn’t out at the end cause the evil bastard captain had stepped over the boundary when he took the catch?

Also what was it like not getting all the cool little cricket history references?

I mean the actor cast as the big baddie captain even looks like Douglas Jardine (or at least he looks like Hugo Weaving playing Douglas Jardine in Bodyline—same thing). And he certainly behaves like Douglas Jardine. Right down to stretching the ethical limits of the game to breaking point. And then there was the fabulous homage to Baloo Palwankar with the untouchable spinner. Fabulous stuff.

Sigh. And now I believe I will watch it again.

That word does not mean what you think it means

This one breaks my brain.

From the Sydney Morning Herald the Australian cricket team responds to accusations of being arrogant, rude, sledging bastards:

“The way I look at cricket, you do everything possible to win. Some people like the verbal side of the game, some don’t, but you just get one with what your job. I take what Vincent is saying as a backhanded compliment.”

Hayden, Clark’s Australian teammate, was equally indignant.

“If he considers that to be the case, I’m not unhappy about it, to be honest,” Hayden said. “It’s a great clash between New Zealand and Australia and long may it continue. It doesn’t matter what sport—we could be playing kick a cockroach from here to the wall and we’d want to be competitive.”

You know last time I looked “indignant” meant “cranky”, “pissed off”, “ropeable”. It did not mean “bemused”.

Talk about sloppy journalism of the let’s-try-to-manufacture-controversy-even-if-the-quotes-don’t-fit variety. That or the journo truly doesn’t know what “indignant” means. Well, whoever wrote that, I am indignant at your use of the word indignant.

Though maybe they were just being a smartarse? Cause Hayden is just as indignant as Clarke, i.e. not at all.

RW3: the quick ones

Little Willow asks:

Have you heard the song Reasons Why by Nickel Creek?

No. Please to point me to a link where I may listen.

Roger asks:

Your favourite cricketers, m’dear, and why. Whence the Keith Miller obsession?

Still living: Shoab Akhtar, Makhaya Ntini, Daniel Vettori, Shane Warne and Andrew Symonds.

Because they entertain me.

I have explained my Keith Miller infatuation here. Basically, I think he was a dropdead spunk plus he generated ace anecdotes. And there was the whole cricket thing too.

Jenny D asks that I say something about

the fiction of Ellen Kushner

It is completely wonderful in every way and you should all read her!

Jenny D also ask that I detail

some of your more unfortunate past fashion choices—with pictures!

And I refuse and threaten dire consequences to anyone who posts such photos of me ever.

Chris McLaren asks for

Convention horror stories and other juicy gossip.

This too I refuse. What happens at a convention stays at the convention.

Simon Sherlock would

like to see you write about why the England cricket team is far, far better than the Australian one (even though they choose not to show it) :)

I did say I would lie for you all, but it turns out that this I just can’t do it. Especially after yesterday’s performance against New Zealand.

All I can say is that I’m sure they’re much better at enduring cold wet weather than the Australian cricket team and that is not a skill to be sniffed at.

A lurker wants to know

Your thoughts on harry potter. and jkrowling. just curious.

I really enjoy the books though have found the last few a tad too long. I wish they’d been a bit tighter edited. Am really looking forward to the next one.

I worship J. K. Rowling. Without her my career wouldn’t be possible. All children’s and YA writers owe her hugely. Thank you for everything, J. K.!

Robyn Hook would

like to hear about your jeans shopping expedition with Ron!

Twas fabulous. All things done with Ron are a million times more fabulous than they otherwise would be. Ron is a goddess. I can no longer go shopping with anyone else. This is a bit of a problem given that I only see him once or twice a year . . . I’m reduced to wearing rags!

I’m still taking requests. Just add yours here. I cross ‘em off as I complete ‘em.

Thanks everyone for all the requests. This is fun! I may never come up with an idea of my own for the blog ever again.

Happiness

I cannot explain why this make me so very very very happy. It just does.

Australian fast bowler, Brett Lee, in a duet with Indian legend Asha Bhosle. Why don’t more cricketers sing?

The song is currently no. 4 on the charts in India. Wonder if they’ll release it here?

And she goes

I’ve been just a few days away from finishing the first draft of the great Australian Elvis mangosteen monkey knife-fighting cricket fairy novel for weeks and weeks. What is it with that? I feel like there’s someone up ahead with my ending, who—every time I get close enough to touch it—madly sprints away.

Bloody bastard!1 Stop it!

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to finishing this draft. I have such plans for the rewrites! Rewriting is so much funner. You can’t really get the monkey-knife-fighting scenes right until you’ve gone over them many times adding zeppelins and fireworks.

I’m also a bit cranky cause this was going to be my shortest novel ever, but it keeps growing. Grrr.

Do any of youse ever have the receding-into-the-distance ending problem? What do you do about it?

  1. Just rewatched Bodyline. My favourite bit is when Douglas Jardine (evil captain of the English team) goes to the Australian dressing room to demand an apology for being called a bastard. The captain turns to his men and asks, “Which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?” Jardine stalks off in high Pommy dudgeon. Tee hee! []

Goodbye Warne, McGrath and Langer

The last day of this year’s Ashes series didn’t even amount to two hours of play, but it sure did sum up the series. Australia bowled well; England crumbled. Didn’t run except when Andrew Symonds was holding the ball ready to run them out. Then Langer and Hayden got the handful of runs necessary for the 5-0 sweep. It took five overs longer than I thought it would on account of Harmison finally decided to bowl some scorchers. But then it was done.

And for years I will have fun telling folks that I was there to see Langer, McGrath and Warne say goodbye to cricket. The way I’ve already been able to skite about being there to watch Steve Waugh get his in-your-eyes-selectors century off the last ball of the third day back in 2003.

Five-nil. Only the second time in the history of the more than century-old contest. Oops.

I don’t see England recovering any time soon. But it would be nice if they did. I’ve said it many times before but we need at least five strong test sides: Australia, England, India, South Africa, and the West Indies. And I would love for it to be eight with New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But right now not one of them is even close to being able to beat Australia.

Maybe the next ten years will show improvements all over. That would be lovely. I’m hopeful that enough Australian talent has been poached to help build up sides all over the world. Yep, that’s right cricket is now our Imperial export. In your eye, Douglas Jardine.

Maybe the next Warne will be from Kenya or Zimbabwe and they’ll have support from the rest of the team and from their bureaucrats and they’ll reshape the face of cricket, not just in their country, but throughout the world. Why not, eh?

(Just as long as Australia stays strong!)

Stygian gloom

Today I will share with you one of the many reasons I love cricket. This is more for me than for you, because I am currently very cranky with cricket—specifically with the Australian and English cricket teams—and I need to remind myself of the love.

Australia because they got out way too early: Warne? Gilchrist? I’m looking at you! Where were your centuries?

And England because they crumbled and lost five wickets. Yet a-bloody-gain.

I would like to remind you both that I have tickets for tomorrow’s play and right now I’m not seeing it go past lunch. A pox on both your houses.

I am also pretty dirty on the weather. What? You can rain all night? But barely disturb the cricket? Curse you!

But here’s my latest reason for loving cricket:

Stygian gloom has its own entry in Leigh & Woodhouse’s Cricket Glossary:

Stygian gloom: “The middle half of this game, and the end, was played out in gloom so Stygian Dickie Bird would have been reaching for the smelling-salts and a handy flashlight.” A topos for reporting on bad light at Headingley and in Hades.

Last Day of 2006

It’s been another good year for me professionally and I will now skite about it: My second and third books, Magic Lessons and Daughters of Earth, were both published to some very nice reviews and reader responses. The whole Magic or Madness trilogy sold to Editora Record in Brazil, Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons sold to Mondadori in Italy, while Magic Lessons and Magic’s Chld sold to Amarin in Thailand. And then there was the recent sale of the trilogy to the Science Fiction Book Club for a 3-in-1. Not to mention Magic Lessons being on the shortlist for the Aurealis.

It was a great year for Scott who hit the New York Times bestseller list not once, not twice, but three times! Woo hoo! Twice for Specials and once for Pretties. Also my friends Yvette Christianse’s (Unconfessed), Kate Crawford (Adult Themes), Ellen Kushner (Privilege of the Sword), Julie Phillips (James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon) and Delia Sherman (Changeling) all published wonderful books that were well-received. If you haven’t already read them—do so immediately!

Other dear friends also published fabby books, but these are the ones that I saw through gestation. In the same way I’m very excited to see how Holly Black’s Ironside and Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones fare next year. Do yourself a favour and get hold of copies as soon as you can!

Next year I have three English-language publications on the horizon:

  • Magic Lessons will appear in paperback in February.
  • The final book of the trilogy, Magic’s Child, will be out in hardcover in March.
  • Also in March—the SFBC’s 3-in-1 edition of the trilogy.

As you can imagine I’m dead excited to find out what my readers think of the complete trilogy. Do not hold back! (Unless what you have to say might harm a writer’s delicate sensibilities. Always remember: praise is good!)

This year has also been a great one for me blog. Readers way more than doubled this year, which is just lovely. I’m particularly excited to have picked up so many more readers here in Australia. Especially the ones I don’t know and am not related to. (Not that there’s anything wrong with my friends and relatives, mind. Well, not that much wrong.) Thank you so much everyone for hanging out and commenting. Your comments are more than half the fun. Without you there wouldn’t be much point. Much appreciated.

Last year on this day I set out my goals for 2006:

I’m aiming to write two books (both of which I’ve already started) in 2006 and sell one (two would be nice, but I don’t want to jinx myself). I also plan to spend the majority of the year in Sydney, cause now that I’m home I just want to stay. And I really, really, really want to get tickets for the Sydney Ashes test. Ideally for every day of play.

How did that work out?

I finished one book: Magic’s Child, but it wasn’t one of the books I was talking about above. So I didn’t finish either of the books I aimed to. Though I got awfully close to finishing the first draft of the great Australian feminist monkey knife-fighting mangosteen cricket fairy young adult novel. (So close I can smell it! Oh the frustration!)

This year I have the same goal: to finish two novels. My odds are much better given that I’m mere days away from finishing the fairy book . . . And I’ve made good starts on six other novels. Dunno which one I’ll write next. What fun not to know!

I didn’t sell any books on account of not finishing any to give to my agent for said selling. I won’t be declaring my intent on sales again because it’s pointless. I have some control over how many books I write; but none over how many I sell.

The big change this year was my decision not to sell any books until I’ve finished them. (Another explanations for no sales this year.) It’s also why I’m finishing this year without any dread deadlines over me. Much less stressful!

I spent only five months in Sydney and even though that’s more time than I spent anywhere else I still did not see nearly as much of my family and friends here as I’d like. Sigh.

There was way too much travelling this year. And while I loved all the places I visited—Bologna and Kyoto especially—I haven’t stayed anywhere for more than three months since 2003. I’m sick of it. I’d love to travel less, but already 07 is shaping up to be very travelly. Come June though and I believe we’ll be applying the breaks. Aside from it being exhausting and conducive to the contracting of viruses, travelling that much in aeroplanes and staying in hotels is terrible for the environment and no amount of offsets makes up for that.

I did get tickets to the Sydney test. Fourth day. Can’t wait. And we Aussies reclaimed the ashes what should always be ours. Bliss. Now I have to figure out how to get coverage of the world cup while we’re in the US of A. We may even cough up for satellite coverage. Would be fabulous to get over to the West Indies, but see above on wanting to travel less.

To sum up: Life is good. I hope yours is too.

I have a very good feeling about 2007, not just for me, but for the wider world.

Happy new year!

4-0 and England weeps

What is wrong with England?

  • shite fielding: Look at Australia in the field and then look at England. The Poms with a few exceptions (Collingwood, Panesar, Pietersen) have no intensity. They don’t run down every single ball, turning fours into threes, twos into ones, and saving singles. They look lethargic and bored.
  • shite captaincy: Flintoff looks lost. He’s not leading by example given his poor batting displays and erratic bowling and he’s not leading on the paddock. His field placings have been all over the place. He elects to bat when the wicket is iffy. He doesn’t seem to know whether he’s playing test cricket or Sunday arvo mah jong. And way to not show any confidence in your new bowlers Panesar and Mahmoud. Give ‘em three overs here, then pull ‘em off, and never let ‘em get their rhythm going.
  • shite field placings: What’s with the defensiveness? What’s with giving Monty fields that allow the batsmen to score at will? What’s with no consistent plan of attack?
  • shite batting: You’ve got eleven blokes with bats. Surely you can get two or three of them not to throw their wickets away? And do none of you know how to shepherd the tail?
  • shite selections: Monty Panesar a very promising spin bowler. Chris Read is a million times the keeper that Geraint Jones is and Sajid Mahmoud’s got promise and all. Why were they kept out of the side by way less promising and performing players?
  • shite protection of your top secret bowling plans: I mean, honestly! Did you really have to make the farce farcier?

Your boat is listing, England, fix it. World cricket needs you. And I need you to get your shit together so there’ll be a fourth day in Sydney. I’ve got tickets! C’mon, people!

Meanwhile Australia is doing just fine. Every single player has more than proved their worth during this series. Andrew Symonds has finally shown what he can do at test level, Brett Lee has got his groove back, Stuart Clark is fabulous and Warne has proven once again what a gobsmackingly incredible cricketer he is. Oh, how I will miss him!

Did anyone else get a tad teary as he walked off the MCG with McGrath?

Boxing Day

It’s a good day to be hungover a bit under the weather. The Boxing Day test starts in less than an hour. Will it be too cold and wet to start? I hear it was freezing in Melbourne yesterday. Will Shane Warne take his 700th wicket today?1 Will England get its shit together for more than one or two sessions? All excellent questions to contemplate while languishing on the couch.

I was going to post about how 2006 was for me and how 2007 is shaping up, but the idea makes my head hurt. How bout youse guys? Tell me about the good things that happened to you this year and the good you’re looking forward to in 2007? I’ll post mine when the ghost of wines drunk yesterday aren’t haunting me.

Happy Boxing Day!

  1. Unlikely, I hear the MCG is favouring pace. I reckon it’ll be day 3 before Warnie gets his 700th scalp. []

Summer in Australia

I just came across a lovely piece by Mark Lawrence about the outsiderness of living through Australian summers while knowing very little about cricket:

What [being a migrant] means is that I have very little understanding of the finer points of cricket, and don’t play it at all well. I can’t tell the difference between ‘long leg’ and ‘short leg’, and I have absolutely no idea where ‘mid-on’ is. After over a decade living in Australia, I do have an idea of how the game is played, but only a middling understanding of how it is scored or how a test proceeds. Strategy? Not a scratch. So much so that during the recent Ashes test in Adelaide, I had trouble keeping up with what was going on, while my colleagues could assess exactly how the day’s play had progressed and what the scores meant in an instant. I was left going, ‘What happened? What happened?’.

Of course, as he points out, there are lots of Australians who don’t give a damn about cricket, actively hate it even. Sadly many of them are friends of mine. At dinner last night as I was trying to talk with another cricket-loving friend about Shane Warne’s retirement, the rest of the table stuck their fingers in their ears and starting humming. It is to sigh.

But, yes, during an Australian summer cricket is everywhere. It’s the main headline on the sports page and quite often the front page too. You see it played on television (free-to-air and cable), on the various cricket grounds around the country, in parks, on beaches and in backyards. It’s played at all levels: from muck around family games where the stumps are an esky, through school competitions, grade and state levels, all the way up to international test series.

For me, even more than cicadas, the voices of Alan McGilvray, James Maxwell, Geoff Lawson and the rest of the ABC’s radio commentary team past and present has long been the sound of summer. Cricket discussions with my family, my (non-insane) friends, cab drivers, wait staff, people in queues for the bus are as much a part of summer as mangoes and passionfruit.

What will our side be without Shane Warne? Is Langer going to retire too? What about Hayden and Gilchrist? Is this the end of Australian cricket supremacy? How long before Murali takes Warne’s world record?

Lawrence worries that his cricket ignorance will affect his son’s progress in the game:

To an extent, my concern is whether my son will lack the necessary cricket skills, as I don’t want him to miss out on learning the game and being included in the matches that will invariably spring up at school, or at the beach or park with friends and family as the summer progresses.

But I recognise there is more to it: some of these concerns stem from my anxieties about what it means to be a migrant in Australia and, by extension, being an outsider. It is also an anxiety about whether I can truly prepare my son to be at home in Australian culture – to not be an outsider through no choice or fault of his own.

My father is the son of migrants from a non-cricket playing country (Poland/Ukraine) who knew nothing about the game and cared less. But he grew up loving and playing cricket and passed that love onto me and my sister. (As did my fourth or fifth generation Australian mother.) I grew up listening to, watching, talking about and (very) occasionally playing cricket in the backyard.

In my teens, inspired by the Bodyline mini-series, I started to read about the history of cricket. The first book I read was a very poorly written biography of Donald Bradman. The first book I enjoyed was Sid Barnes’ autobiography, which confirmed my admiration of Bradman the batsman and dislike for Bradman the man. I also discovered Keith Miller and fell in love.

The history of cricket is the history of English colonialism; they brought cricket with them wherever they went. In some place it died out: For my birthday this year Scott bought me two gorgeous American prints from the 1870s. One of them shows international cricket being played in New England. The other shows a game of baseball looking remarkably like a game of cricket.

In some places it did not: A quarter of the world’s population lives in cricket-playing nations. Just read C. L. R. James’ Beyond a Boundary on cricket in the West Indies and Ramachandra Guha’s Corner of a Foreign Field on cricket in India and Pakistan. They are not only extraordinary books on cricket, they are amongst the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read, bringing the complexity of the game and its history alive. They are about race, class, caste, gender, nationhood, politics and colonialism, because it’s impossible to write a good book about cricket without touching on those issues.

The books of Gideon Haigh are also remarkable and have taught me a great deal about the history of cricket in my own country. And thus a great deal about Australia. You don’t have to like, or give a rat’s arse about cricket to be Australian. But knowing a little of the game’s history teaches you a little more about Australia’s. For example, our first team to tour England was Aboriginal, and yet the official Australian team has had almost no representatives of Aboriginal ancestory.

I didn’t start loving cricket because of its happy history of illuminating colonial relationships, but reading its history has made an already rich and complicated sport irresistably fascinating to me. There are few sports with as long and rich a history. And I can’t help but want to share that fascination with other people, Australian or not.

I hope that Mark Lawrence is curious enough to read some of those books. It is truly not necessary to know the difference between “long leg” and “short leg” to enjoy them (or cricket for that matter). Though if he does want to know there’s a rather helpful *cough* *cough* guide right here.

No way! (updated)

Shane Warne is retiring. I cannot believe it. He was good for another three or four years easy. What the hell?!

Thank God I get to see him bowl in Sydney. He is the best bowler I’ve ever seen tweaking the leather. And I’ve seen some greats. I don’t know what I’m going to do with no Warne to watch? Aaaarggh!!

And what is he going to do now? The mind boggles.

How can I go to bed on this calamitous news?!

Update: I have deleted comments on this thread which I deem to be disrespectful. When I am in deep mourning my sense of humour is impaired. I do not mock your sporting idols (okay, except for Johnny Damon. But that’s different.)

The Ashes

The Ashes are back where they belong and all is right with the world.

Now if only they’d give us the actual urn!

The third day . . .

I haven’t been blogging the third test because I’ve been sitting in front of it entranced, transfixed, and incapable of typing (plus there’s the whole absence of wireless thing). Those first two inning were something else, weren’t they?

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see Andrew Symonds back and making magic for the Australian test side. He’s one of the best fielders of all time. His bowling was fabulously effective—if only he could stay in a tad longer he’d be a lock on the number six spot. Frankly, I think his performance in this test should bag him number six no matter what. His fielding alone makes an insanely big difference. Plus he’s one of the most entertaining cricketers in the world.

And speaking of entertaining cricketers—how about that Monty Penasar? He’s a bit of alright, isn’t he? And not nearly as crap in the field and with a bat as we were led to believe. Are the English selectors mentally challenged? I reckon that’s the end of Ashley Giles’ test career. Go, Monty!

And now tis almost time to turn the tellie on for the third day’s play. Heaven!

Never Say Die

See, that’s the problem1 with test matches. They don’t always go the way you think they’re going. First innings points can mean nothing. There are five days, fifteen sessions. Oodle of time for oodles to happen. Any one of those sessions can go badly, one or two or three or four or five or more players can have an awful match, and yet that team can still win.

Like Australia did today. On the back of fabulous second innings efforts from Lee & Warne. Especially Warne. He may well be a dickhead off the paddock, but on he’s a genius. And both of them were being written off after their first innings. Drop Warne? I don’t bloody think so.

England had some fabulous innings too: Collingwood, Pietersen & Hoggard. But it weren’t enough. Maybe the next test? Who knows.

Today was one of the most exciting days of cricket I’ve seen in an age (since last year’s Ashes, even). And not just because we won. (Though that were lovely, weren’t it?) But because it ebbed and flowed, because there were slow sessions and lightning fast ones, and incredible (Warne) and woeful (Warne) innings, and because the bookies’ odds went up and down like yo-yos.

That’s why I love love love me some test cricket!

  1. “Problem” here is a synonym for “glory”. []

Ashes to Ashes

And so it begins in sunny Brisbane three hours ahead of sunny Bangkok. I’ll make no predictions of the 5-0 variety (though wouldn’t that be nice?) but I will say that you’re barking mad if you think England has a chance in hell of keeping the Ashes.

Flintoff consoles Lee

Yes, I know I said that last time too. And frankly if it hadn’t been for some shocking lapses by the captain we woulda won that and all.

Here’s to the next few weeks of battle. May it be as awesome as four two years fifteen months ago, except with the proper ending this time.

Oh, and check out the English Ashes cricket blog (via Alison). Fabulous!

Why do you like sport?

This is not a question I get asked very much. Not directly, anyway, but every single time I post about sport someone writes and asks me when I’m going to post about interesting topics again. That’s right, the biggest complaint I get from you, dear readers, is that I talk about sport too much.1

Now I ain’t never gonna stop writing about sport, no matter how many of you are bored into a coma by it. I writes about what I wants to write about. You can suggest topics if you want but if I can’t be arsed to write on that topic then it ain’t gonna happen.

I digress. The complaints do get me thinking about why it is that I like sport so much. Seriously, for me to learn the rules of a sport is for me to become addicted. I’ve had to start studiously avoiding contact with new (to me) sport just to have enough hours in the day to, you know, get books written. I try very hard to only pay attention to cricket, the Tour, and women’s basketball. And the Olympics. I cannot get any work done when the Lymps are on.

I’m not that fussed about playing it. Tennis is great fun, I love swimming and riding my bike but I have zero interest in doing any of them competitively. (Gah!) But I can watch pretty much any competitive sport and I can do it for days and days and days. For me it brings together the aesthetic pleasures of watching athletes at the top of their form, with the soap-opera like joys of a long-running story (what can I say I’m a narrative junky in all its forms), together with the gossip and politics. A good sporting scandal is prolly my most favourite thing in the world.

Clyde Walcott, one of the West Indies' greats.I love how knowing about the history and politics of cricket (West Indies not getting a black captain until the 1950s and then only after a long-running campaign orchestrated by C. L. R. James; the long campaign to get an Untouchable to play for India), and about women’s basketball (Title IX, and when it was allowed into the Olympics, and how little coverage it gets in the mainstream press) adds so much to watching any individual game.Picture purloined from abc.net.au

I love the majesty and pomp. I love supporting (and hating) individual players and countries.

Why do you love the particular sports you love? Sing it, please!

No offence intended but I’m uninterested in why any of you don’t like sport. I’ve been hearing it long and loud from my fellow arty-farty types my entire life. I get that you’re an oppressed minority. I feel for you. But enough already! Let us sport obsessives bond for a bit. And, yes, I will delete anti-sport diatribes.

So fellow sport lovers—time to share that love!

NB The first image is of Sir Clyde Walcott who died earlier this year. He was one of the greats of West Indian cricket. Bless him.

The second is of the Australian women’s basketball team winning the world cup. Bless ‘em.

  1. It’s particularly weird as I’ve hardly blogged sport at all this year. Very little mention of cricket, the World Cup, or the Tour de France; pretty much nothing about the Liberty’s unhappy WNBA season, and hardly any mention of all the various Australian triumphs this year. I’ve been busy, okay? []

Answers

While I’ve been buried in my book and/or in Kyoto (will tell all about it when my sister sends me photos) you lot asked a bunch of interesting quessies. Here are my answers:

    Quessies from Ken Kugler: I was wondering if the deadline given to you pushes you to complete a book before you are really ready to give it to the editor? It seems that if that is the case, writing the book first and being satisfied with the final results before handing it in would be the way to go if you can hold out for money. Also there is the question of payment. Are there financial incentives to consider such as preselling a series at a lower price?
    A: Sure, that definitely happens. So far it hasn’t happened to me. I’m blessed with editors who won’t publish anything from me unless they’re sure it’s the best I can do. I’m running late on the current book and rather than publish prematurely we’ve chosen to skip doing arcs (advance readers’ copies). If this were a standalone book or the first in a series that would be a disaster. Fortunately it’s the third book in a trilogy so it should be okay. I’d much rather be late and unreviewed than publish a sub-par book.
    Typically a starting writer will get more money for a finished book than for a partial (usually a first-time writer can’t sell from a partial at all). There are exceptions obviously. As you get more established and particularly if you become a New York Times bestselling author like Libba Bray or my old man or other exalted folk you can prolly sell a rough idea scribbled down on a napkin for scads of dosh. In my case I imagine I’ll get more money for a finished book (depends on the book, natch). If an agent or editor wants to step in and answer this one I’d love to hear it.
    Now a bunch from Amanda Coppedge to help flesh out my wikipedia entry:What is your favourite book? Er, um. So hard! It used to be The Master and Margarita. Some days it still is.

    Food: mangosteens.

    Colour: Um again. I am tempted to say puce. Easier to tell you what colour I don’t like: yellow. But that’s only cause I look crap in it.

    Animal: my husband.

    Toothpaste: people have a favourite toothpaste?

    Did you always want to be a writer, or did you have other career aspirations as a youngster? I never wanted to be anything else, but I did work on having a main job so that I could support myself. For the longest time that job was being an academic.

    Any awards, degrees, etc. that should really be up there? Not that I can think of. I am award-less. Though I do have a Ph.D so you must all bow down and call me Dr Justine.

    Anything else that just screams “essential Justine bio factoid”? That my religion is the noble sport of cricket.

    Quessie from Marrije: I wonder what stories the taxi drivers in New York tell themselves and each other about black people.

    A: Here are some theories I’ve heard: Cab drivers don’t stop for black men because they think they are more likely to be robbed and/or assaulted by black men then by anyone else. And they don’t stop for black women because they think they are accompanied by hidden black men who are just waiting for the cab to stop so that they can jump out and assault and/or rob them. And even if there is no assault the black passenger will make the cab driver go to an “unsafe” neighbourhood where they will be assaulted and/or robbed.

    Q from Kristine Smith: Have you run this [the idea of writing a book on spec] past your agent?

    A: Yup. She thought it was an excellent idea.

    In response to those (few) folks wanting to read the Cambodian novel: I may well make it available online some day, but only when all possibilities of traditional publication are totally exhausted.

If anyone else has any further theories, answers or questions fire away.

And thanks again for all the fab comments on the writing on spec post. I feel very encouraged by your responses. My loins are now girded. I shall do this thing!