Some Things I Forgot to Say About Sport

At the Brisbane Writers Festival I was on a panel about sport and writing alongside Hugh Lunn and Don Watson moderated by Lee McGowan. All three are sports obsessives and so it was great fun and excellently moderated and much territory was covered and if anyone wants me to talk about sport in front of any kind of audience at all I AM SO THERE.

By which I mean: PLEASE INVITE ME TO TALK ABOUT SPORT MORE.

There were a few themes that emerged during the discussion. Both Hugh and Don1 were mournful for how sport in this country used to be, for past athletes who were humbler and more dedicated than the athletes of today. They seemed to also have a fair amount of sadness that Australia is no longer the great sporting nation it once was.

I do not share their concerns so that made for some fun exchanges.

I pointed out that during the decades of Hugh’s and Don’s coming of age as sport enthusiasts, the 1950s and 1960s, the athletes in this country were largely still amateurs. Most had day jobs and were paid a pittance—if they were lucky—to represent their club or their country. We were still in the midst of a shift from amateurism to professionalism.

Even now for many sports that shift has barely begun, particularly for women’s sports. That’s why Ellyse Perry is one of the few dual internationals left—representing Australia in both cricket and soccer. Back in the day it was de rigeur for the best Aussie athletes to play cricket in summer and their preferred code of football in the winter. These days the men cannot play both even if they want to: being an elite cricketer or a footballer is a full-time gig. That’s why Ellyse Perry is helping stack the chairs after one of her club games and fully professional blokes like Shane Watson are, well, not.

Everything that follows is stuff I wanted to say but didn’t get a chance to.

Probably the main reason Australia doesn’t seem to be as successful a sporting nation as it once was is that back then we didn’t actually have that much competition. If you look at the lists of say, tennis, champions in the 50s and 60s there are very few that aren’t Australian or from the UK or or the USA.

Let’s think about why, shall we?

Firstly, tennis used to be predominately a British game. Every single tennis champion until 1915 were British or from the USA or Australia. And they remain the vast majority until the 1980s. My evidence: these lists of grand slam champions. Tennis is now an international game, played all over the world. China now has a grand slam champion. I predict that there will many more.

Then there was this little thing called World War II, which set back most of Europe’s sporting programmes for many years. Australia was relatively unaffected. (As was the USA.) Australians could keep on training and playing and winning with far less competition than they would have had if there hadn’t been a world war.

Basically, while there is still nowhere near a level playing field,2 there are many more nations competing against us at all levels and in more sports than there once were. And as more countries around the world spend more money on their athletes our sporting achievements will continue to seem not nearly as good as they did up until the 1960s when it must have felt like we won almost everything.3

It’s also important to remember that until relatively recently most people were unable to train and compete, even in those wealthy countries like Australia and the USA, because of reasons of ethnic, racial and sexual discrimination. There’s a reason there have been so few African-American tennis champions. It was a sport for the wealthy. Now it’s a middle class sport played all over the world, which means the pool of talent has deepened and widened. The odds of a relatively small country like Australia regaining it’s former tennis glory are small indeed.

I would argue that the athletes who are at the top of their sport today are truly amazing. Samantha Stosur may have only won a single grand slam but the competition she is up against is much, much tougher than it was for, say, Margaret Court. And Stosur has managed to stay at a very elite level for quite a few years now, which is remarkable. This makes players like Serena Williams and Roger Federer some word which is like a hundred times stronger than “remarkable”.

Further to Samantha Stosur. I am so sick of her being bagged by the Australian press.4 She was the no. 1 in doubles for more than a year. She’s been as high as no. 4 in singles. She won the US Open against Serena Williams. SERENA WILLIAMS. She has 5 grand slam titles. And 28 career titles. But you’d never know it listening to the Australian press who can only talk about what a choker she is. Because apparently only singles grand slam titles count. Or something.

So here’s what I hate about contemporary sporting culture: that it’s all about winning. Sadly though I think that’s what sport’s pretty much always been focussed on. Fans turning on their idols because they lose a match is not a recent development.

I love watching Stosur play because you can see her fighting herself. Frankly, she reminds me of myself while writing. Some days it all goes so well; other days OMG stupid words! Why do you defy me?! Some days I fall to pieces. And I’m a writer. There is no opponent, there is no global audience watching my every move. If I were a tennis player I would be a much, much bigger head case than Stosur. Honestly I have no idea how they do their job day in day out with so many people watching and commentating on every move.

One of the reasons I love tennis is that it’s such a psychological sport. The more unemotional players who hold it together have never interested me nearly so much as the ones for whom the battle against themselves is almost as mighty as the battle against their opponent. It’s one of the reason I love Serena Williams’s play so much. She’s such a confidence player. I mean on top of just being amazing. Watching herself dig herself out of a hole—like she did at this year’s US Open—it is a thing of beauty and also of agony.

For another example of this insanity check out this tweet about the fact that Roger Federer one of the greatest players the game has ever seen is no longer winning every little thing:
“Do you think the great Swiss player is finished?”

I know what my response would be were I Federer. It would not be polite.

That’s another thing that drives me nuts. Why shouldn’t athletes keep playing their sport as long as they’re good enough to do so? It’s not like Federer needs a wild card to get into events. He’s still a highly ranked player. He’s just not number one any more. It’s total bullshit that he’s tarnishing his legacy. No, he’s not. No matter what he does now he will have still won a gazillion grand slams and been world number one for basically forever.

Athletes already have a shorter career that almost any other profession without us spectators and commentators howling from the stands that they’re finished because they’ve got from world’s best ever to still pretty bloody good.

Well, felt good getting that sporting rant off my chest. As you all were.

  1. I feel that we are on first name basis now that we have been in the panel trenches together. []
  2. Australia remains one of the world’s wealthiest countries. []
  3. Except soccer. []
  4. I can’t even imagine how she feels about it. []

Training can be Better than Competing

When I was a littlie I hated PE1 with every fibre of my being. I hated the way the PE teachers yelled at us and made us do things we mostly didn’t want to do. I hated being made to compete against the other kids in my class. In PE I would almost always come last the second anything was turned into a race or a competition. I would make no effort because competing stressed me out. I would get out of PE as much as I could. I would conveniently have my period or a note from home explaining why I couldn’t take part.

I was also made to feel from a very early age that I was not good at sport. The kids who showed talent were immediately fallen upon with glee: “A future Aussie Olympic medalist! Let us get them to the Australian Institute of Sport, stat!”2 Those of us who did not show instant aptitude for throwing, kicking, catching or thwacking balls, for running or jumping, or lifting heavy things, or moving through the water quickly, learned that there was little point in us trying because we were crap.

It wasn’t until I left high school that I discovered I, in fact, love many different sports.3 And that while I would never have been professional or Olympic level at anything I was not, in fact, crap. I have decent hand eye co-ordination and I am quite good at picking up physical instruction.

I started with fencing, then there was rowing (briefly), climbing, swimming, tennis, and most recently, boxing, and through all of it weight training and working out in gyms. I discovered that I really enjoy learning how to do physical things and that I particularly enjoy learning technique. I love that I can progress from rubbish to competent with practice.

Dear Readers, I love practising, I love training. My first day on the speed ball I was total rubbish. Have you seen Girlfight?4 They do an excellent learning-the-speed ball montage. Like Michelle at first I could not get it to do anything I wanted it to do. The speed ball annoyed and frustrated me. I wanted to kill the speed ball. STUPID SPEED BALL. But then, lo and behold, with a little bit of practice I got better. I got so I could do it really, really fast in an I AM A FEARSOME WARRIOR kind of way. At which point my trainer taught me a different technique and I was back to square one—maybe square two—and had to learn all over again. Every time I get decent at a particular way of thwacking the speed ball she teaches me a different way and I go back to being arhythmic and rubbish. LOVE IT!

I became fit. I discovered that being fit not only feels physically fantastic but helps my mental health as well. I am a much happier person when I’m exercising regularly. It’s also the only time that I can turn my brain off. When I’m intensely focussed on learning and perfecting (ha!) a new technique that’s all I’m thinking about. I’m not angsting about fixing my book or anything else I’m. Just. Boxing. It’s AWESOME.

I really hope that PE is taught differently these days. That kids are not made to feel like failures if they cannot instantly throw a ball accurately or run fast. That they are no longer taught that competing and winning are the be all and all. That the emphasis is now on being fit and enjoying various different sports and physical activities and not just one competing and winning.

I hope that PE teachers around the world have finally abandoned the idea that only the naturally gifted will excel at sport.

Here’s why: There’s a town in the UK where they keep producing Olympic level badminton players.5 This happened because a top badminton coach lived there and taught at the local school and opened a badminton centre that was available to interested locals 24/7. Those keen kids played there A LOT. The town developed a badminton culture and lo and behold many badminton champions. Few of whom, if tested in childhood, would have demonstrated any particular aptitude for badminton.

Talent helps, obviously. Usain Bolt would not be where he is today were he not a naturally fast runner. But he would also not be where he is today if he was too lazy to practise and train, which he has done relentlessly since he was knee high to a grasshopper. There is no world class athlete in the world today who hasn’t spent the vast majority of their life training until they puked.6

We spend way too much time obsessing about talent and not nearly enough time about hard work, practice, and training. Talent is nothing without hard work.

And, yes, all of this applies to writing too. It applies to pretty much everything. I have known many talented writers who have never gotten around to finishing a book. And many less talented writers with successful careers.7

  1. Physical Education. []
  2. I may possibly be exaggerating. A little bit. []
  3. Doing them, I mean. I learned at a very early age that I loved watching other people doing them. []
  4. If not, why not? Oh, how I adore Michelle Rodriguez. It’s a truly wonderful film. Go see it! []
  5. I think it was badminton. Google is failing me right now. There’s a whole book about this. []
  6. I may be exaggerating about the puking thing. []
  7. I totally concede that “talent” is a much more nebulous thing when it comes to the arts. []

Arse-kicking Protags Who No Longer Study

This comment from Rachel on my post of the other day:

This is a big issue in the Urban Fantasy genre too. I’ve started more than one series where the MC, despite being thirty-something with a job and developed asskicking abilities, has zero friends and no previous relationships. (Teacher of asskicking? No, conveniently dead just like other parental figures? What about cowor- no there too? Not even other independent psychic investigators? Okay, then. Friends? Okay, okay. Just asking.)

Rachel put her finger on something that drives me nuts in many movies/tv shows/books etc. The mighty arse-kicking protag who is the master of many martial arts but no longer studies any of them. They’ve had their training montage and now their skills are perfected and they never need to study again.

Seriously? How does anyone buy that? I mean even a slight sports fan knows that all the top athletes have armies of coaches and trainers and work really hard to improve even when they’re ranked number one in the entire universe.

I have studied two different martial arts: fencing and boxing. My fencing instructors, while instructing beginner me, were themselves still studying both with top fencing instructors in Australia but they would also go to master classes in Italy and France.

My boxing trainer makes a special trip out to the USA once a year to work with her trainer. She’s won titles and has many students of her own and yet she’s still training and working with her guru. And he, in turn, who is a master of several martial arts, continues to learn other martial arts and to train with other masters, swapping techniques. Which he then incorporates into his own teaching.

Funny how often that doesn’t happen in fiction.

I do sometimes wonder if the way learning is represented in popular culture—you study hard for about ten minutes and then magically you are perfected!—is part of why so many people give up when learning something new because they aren’t perfect at it within the space of a training montage. Could it be why so many people think they can just sit down and write a perfect New York Times-bestselling novel without having written so much as a haiku previously?

Probably not. We people are often pretty lazy. But those popular culture tropes sure aren’t helping.

In conclusion: learning to box is awesome.

How Great Britain Did Not Do As Well As Australia At The London Olympics

Sure, they came 3rd with 29 gold, 17 silver, 19 bronze and 65 overall. Given that they’re the 22nd most populous country in the world they are clearly performing well above expectations. They are also the 22nd richest country. So, again, well done Great Britain!

However, let us not forget the incredible boost that the home country advantage gives you in the Olympics.

At the Sydney Olympics in 2000 Australia came 4th overall with 16 gold medals, 25 silver, 17 bronze, 58 in total.

For Great Britain to have surpassed Australia’s efforts at our home olympics they needed to do three times as well as we did, given that they have three times our population. We are the 52nd most populous country in the world.

They needed 48 gold, 75 silver, and 51 bronze.

What did they get? 29 gold, 17 silver, 19 bronze.

I’m sorry, Great Britain. Great effort but not quite good enough. I feel quite sure that you’ll get much closer to that total at your next home Olympics.

Dear Scott,

You were right. Maths1 is lots of fun!

xox

Justine

In all seriousness: I think the true “victors” of the Olympics are all the countries who were able to have people compete despite having to get to London on the smell of an oily rag. And the women who competed despite insane pressures not to. Such as Wojdan Shaherkani and Sarah Attar of Saudia Arabia.

  1. Or arithmetic. Whatever. Numbers. I talked about numbers. []

On Getting Notes From First Readers

As I may have mentioned, once or twice, I recently finished the first draft of my Sekrit Project novel. And, yay verily, I was full of joy. There was dancing. Bouncing. Happiness and even more joy.

After the joy I spent a few days tinkering with it, fixing the egregiously rubbishy bits, adding things that needed adding, moving chapters around. As you do.

Then I sent it off to my wondrous, fabulous, worth-more-than-their-weight-in-mangosteens-and-other-precious-things first readers.

Then I kicked back and watched loads of Olympics and blogged and did many things that have nothing to do with Sekrit Project. And there was more joy.

After a week there was still some joy on account of OLYMPICS OH HOW I LOVE THE OLYMPICS but there was also creeping OMG THEY ALL HATE IT WHY HASN’T ANYONE GOTTEN BACK TO ME ABOUT IT NOT EVEN MY OWN HUSBAND IS IT REALLY THAT BAD thoughts.

Then yesterday one of my readers got back to me. She liked it! PHEW.1

But more importantly Meg had really smart, useful notes for me. And I got to talk with someone who was not me about Sekrit Project and most especially about the second half of the book and the ending.2

I think I got a little giddy. It was such a pleasure to finally talk about it. Poor Meg. I plied her with a million and one questions. And she answered them all for me in really useful ways. I have a much better idea of what is and isn’t working and how to fix it. Scott also came through with notes on the first half of the book. There was bouncing and dancing.

Both Meg and Scott’s notes were full of questions about character’s motivations, aspects of the worldbuilding that didn’t make sense to them, why certain things happen when they do and so on. Questions that make me realise that I had not achieved what I thought I had. All too often the book was too subtle, too opaque, too confusing. All of which I am now brimming with ideas for how to fix.

This world and people I have created changes once other people have seen them. Meg and Scott’s comments and questions have changed how I see them too. I love this part. I love how it gives me a million and one ideas for making the book better.

Have I mentioned that rewriting is my favourite part of the writing process? This is why.

I know there are lots of writers who can figure out all this stuff for themselves. But I really depend on feedback. I need to know how readers respond to what I’ve written because all too often what I think is there is not there. And I can’t discover that by reading and rewriting my book over and over again. I can’t do it alone.

So now I can rewrite to deal with all those problems and work towards the general embetterment of the book. And once that’s done I send it off to my agent. Then when both she and I are happy it gets sent out to editors. Who will in turn send me their own notes.

At least that is how I do it.

Trust me, every writer has their own methods. Some never show anyone anything other than their agent and editor. Some talk constantly about their book and what happens in it as they write and have several people read it as they go along. Some, like me, only let people read it once they have a complete draft. Some have everyone in the world read it and comment. Others none.

Whatever works for you is how to do it.

  1. Yes, no matter how many books I’ve written I am always nervous about how the people whose opinions I value most will respond to my latest one especially in its raw state. []
  2. Usually as I write the first draft I read chapters out loud to scott every three or four days. But this time he only got to hear the first half because he was overseas while I wrote the second half and totally rewrote the first half and he has not yet finished reading the complete draft. []

On Blogging and the Olympics

So here it is the final day of my blogging every day of July effort and I have succeeded!1 And it was fun. So much fun that I’m going to keep on blogging. Not every day but at least once a week. Turns out I missed it way more than I realised. Missed you commenter types both here and on twitter. I think we had some really cool and interesting conversations over this month and I hope we’ll have many more. *hugs blog* *hugs commenters* *cries*

I didn’t do all the posts I promised I would. I know. I am badness. But I will do them. In the future. In the not-too-distant future even. If you ask me to opine on something here or on twitter eventually I will do so.

I did not, in fact, use voice recognition software. I tried and gave up in anger and frustration. But I will do the post I promised @SirTessa in which I use that dread software without correcting any of the mistakes.

However, not using it was really positive because I also finished the first draft of a novel this month2 and thus between that and blogging every day was typing more than I had for ages and doing so in a managed way. Some days, yes, I was very sore. But I never pushed through and typed more than twenty minutes at a time. And the frequent breaks—including at least two days off per week—and stretching and strength work and treatment kept the pain manageable. Turns out I can write more than I think I can. To which, well, YAY + DANCE OF JOY.

And my reward for finishing the first draft of a new novel and blogging every day?

THE OLYMPICS.

So far I have watched, in no particular order:

  • shooting—for the first time and it was way more interesting than I thought it would be
  • hockey—the Aussie men are RIDICULOUSLY good what a pleasure they are to watch
  • basketball—the US women ditto. I mean, they could field an entirely different team from the WNBA and they’d still win gold. Hell, they could go all the way down to, like, the fourth, fifth, and sixth team options and they’d still medal. Depth? Oh, yes, my second nation has it. Total pleasure to watch them play. Especially Seimone Augustus. Oh, how I love her. And yes I adore the Opals and I want them to win but without Penny Taylor? I mean, even with Penny Taylor it was a long long long long shot.
  • badminton—shuttlecocks are freaking awesome, I love how they are at once faster and slower than a tennis ball. I also love that serving has no impact on the game
  • weightlifting—has to be the most stressful sport of all. I am always afraid their eyeballs are going to pop out of their skulls, that muscles will rip from bone, that their heads will explode. I love the slapping and screaming and other weird stuff they do to psych themselves up and how cool is it when they manage to keep that insanely heavy bar above their head and their feet in line and not moving? Very. And some of them are lifting three times their own weight. Let me repeat: THREE TIMES THEIR OWN WEIGHT!
  • gymnastics—you know, every other sport I kind of feel like I can do a much crappier version of it. I could shoot and play hockey. I have played basketball and tennis and table tennis. I’ve lifted weights. I’ve been training at boxing for almost a year now. I have dived into pools. I’ve swum, run, rowed, canoed and jumped. These are all possible things. Admittedly everyone at the Olympics is doing them a gazillion times better than me. But the gymnastics? I cannot do any of those things. Not a one.3 Gymnasts fill me with awe.
  • table tennis—watching high level table tennis is for me like watching high level snooker. I have played this game in friends’ basements, backyards and the pub. The game I play has nothing in common what I see before me on the television machine. Wow.
  • diving—ditto. With even more wow.
  • beach volley ball—anyone who says this is not a real sport deserves a smack. Yes, they’re wearing bikinis so do many of the track and field athletes and no one’s dissing the 100 metre sprint.
  • boxing—I know. I know. It’s brutal and evil and violent and gives people all sorts of horrible brain damage and only barbarians could possibly like it. But, well, colour me barbarian. I’ve always liked boxing but learning how to do it has increased my appreciation and respect for its practitioners a hundred fold. It is so hard and so technical and so much more cerebral than I realised. Can’t wait to catch some of the women’s matches because I’ve never seen one before.
  • canoe slalom—This is CRAZY. I love it.
  • rowing–I have rowed. It is really hard. These athletes are incredible.
  • swimming—I swam with a swimming squad for quite a few years. Getting up at 5AM to train, having the coach go over the finer details of all the strokes with me.4 Doing endless laps with kickboards etc etc. Thus my empathy for what the swimmers put themselves through is very, very, very large indeed. And watching technically perfect swimmers gives me large amounts of joy. Plus underwater cameras? I love you.

The time difference between Sydney and London is kind of perfect. Live coverage starts at 5:30pm in Sydney and the last events are winding up at 9am the next day. So I can watch until I go to bed and then wake up around 7am in time to watch a live game of basketball. Then I can go about my normal day of gym, boxing, writing etc. I admit it, this particular sports lover is in heaven. I kind of wish the Olympics was on every single day of the year.

  1. Weekends do not count. No one is online on Saturdays and Sundays. Scientific fact. []
  2. *bounce* *bounce* *bounce* []
  3. Well, okay, I can do some of the goofy dance moves in the floor routines but other than that? Nope. []
  4. Why does that always sounds so rude? []

Farewell For Now

As some of you may have noticed I’ve not been around much online. Sorry! Thank you so much for all the concerned supportive emails. They are much appreciated. (You made me all teary.)

Here’s where things stand with me:

The good news: The original injury that caused me to cut back on blogging is completely healed. Yay!

The bad news: The RSI in my hands and forearms got worse.

I took four weeks off from the computer entirely. I have reorganised my computer setup. I’ve been doing a vast amount of physical therapy. I’m improving. Slowly and frustratingly but surely.

However, my time at keyboard remains limited and my top priority is my novel. All else—blogging, tweeting, emailing—is on hiatus until I can get through a day’s1 work without pain.

I see that all sounds depressing. But honestly I’m doing great. While I miss being in close contact with all my fabby online friends.2 I’ve been spending more time with friends in the real world. I’ve been reading more than I have in years. Watching lots of crazy good anime. Who recommended Moribito? I LOVE YOU.3 I’ve been cooking up a storm. And immersing myself in the WNBA, NBA, French Open, various cricket series and am ecstatic about the coming World Cup and Wimbledon and the Tour de France.

Life is very good.

So this is farewell for now. Thanks for all the support. It means heaps.4

I’ll be back.5

  1. I.e. four hours. []
  2. A LOT. []
  3. Feel free to make more recs in the comments. []
  4. Thanks to the lovely folks who inquired after my health at BEA. Even if most of you were Team Unicorn. What’s up with that? []
  5. But not in a scary way. I swear that I’m not a cyborg from the future hellbent on wiping out humanity. Me, I like humanity. []

Why I Love Becky Hammon (updated)

In a recent interview Becky Hammon, who plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars had some very smart things to say about feminism. She’s an amazing and very smart ball player, but her response to the following question made me love her even more.

    Silver Stars Nation: What would you say to younger girls that play basketball but yet do not support women’s and girls basketball as a whole?

    Becky: I think that is one of the saddest things I come across. For a couple reasons.

    First of all, lets not forget our history ladies. It wasn’t so long ago that women weren’t allowed to compete in sports. So many unfulfilled dreams, so many opportunities that were denied simply because you were a woman. We all stand on the foundations that some one else who went ahead of us built. And more than likely the foundation was built out of blood, sweat, broken dreams, and tears. And if we’re not careful, and if we don’t support each other, all that hard work could crumble. The opportunity is not promised to be there tomorrow. Its still fragile, because its still a very young ideology.

    Secondly, young girls, young women, middle aged women we are failing to see the bigger picture here! Its not just about the WNBA or sports, its about equality and respect-which every human being deserves, whether male or female. Breaking barriers and stereotypes so that when YOUR daughter, YOUR niece, YOUR mother walks into that job interview SHE will have an EQUAL shot getting hired and paid the same as if a male walks in for that same job position.

    So ladies, we’re not there yet, we still have a long ways to go, but if we don’t have support each other now, it may not be as bright as a future for us as it could be.

    So boys, girls, men, and women support the WNBA if you have a mother, a sister, a niece, a girlfriend, a cousin or whomever, because the bigger picture is its for all people and affects all people.

    I love when a little boy or girl comes up and has my jersey on, or wants an autograph, why? Because they’re growing up in a culture that views women as strong, smart, athletic, capable, and worthy of respect.

    Last point: I get tired of hearing people say, “well you walk into a women’s basketball game and you see so many women.” WELL, I’d counter, you walk into a men’s game and you see mostly men. THIS is an important point, because at the end of the day, it can’t be an “us” verses “them” mentality. We all need each other. In GENERAL it is mostly men who watch, support, follow sports, and that’s why I go back to my point of even if you’re not an athlete, or not a women, or you don’t know an athlete, it’s still important to support it, because in the end, it affects everyone one of us, male or female, because of the bigger picture is represents in our society. UNITY is an amazing word and when its captured, produces amazing results. But ladies, how can we ask the guys to support it, when we don’t support it ourselves! WE need EVERYONE, but, ladies, lets start with ourselves!

I have nothing to add other than: what she said.

Update: The photo is of wee Becky Hammon, 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in), guarding Margo Dydek, 2.18 m, (7 ft 2 in). Dydek was the tallest woman to ever play in the WNBA. Oh and the credit for that photo belongs to Gregory Bull, AP. I never tire of that photo.

Guest Post: Doselle Young on Everything (updated)

Due to boring circumstances beyond my control, I will not be online much in February. Fortunately I’ve been able to line up a number of stellar guests to fill in for me. Most are writers, but I also thought it would be fun to get some publishing types to explain what it is they do, teach you some more about the industry, and answer your questions, as well as one or two bloggers.

Today’s guest blogger, Doselle Young, is not only one of my favourite people on the planet, he’s also every bit as opinionated as me. (Though frequently wrong, like his love of Madmen and Henry Miller. Ewww.) I enjoy Do holding forth on any subject at all. He’s also a talented writer of comic books, stories, movies—anything he turns his hand to. Enjoy! And do argue with him. Do loves that. Maybe it will convince him to blog more often? I’d love to hear about the strange connection between Elvis and the superhero Captain Marvel Jr. Fingers crossed.

- – -

Doselle Young is a writer who hates the whole cliché about how writers ‘lie for a living.’ He thinks it’s boring, pretentious, and only meant to promote the author’s self-image as some kind of beast stalking the edges of the literary establishment. Whatever. Get over yourselves, people! Please! We’ve all gotten exceptionally lucky and you know it! When the meds are working, Doselle writes film treatments for Hollywood directors, comics like THE MONARCHY: BULLETS OVER BABYLON, the upcoming PERILOUS, and short crime stories like ‘Housework’ in the anthology The Darker Mask available from Tor Books. Read it. It’s not bad. And, after all, how often do you get to see a black woman with a ray gun? If, on the other hand, the meds aren’t working he’s probably outside your house right now planting Easter Eggs in your garden. Bad rabbit. You can follow him on twitter. He’d rather be following you, though. It’s lots more fun that way.

Doselle says:

Before we begin, I feel there’s something I must make clear: while I write a lot, one thing I am not is a blogger.
Not that I have no respect for bloggers. Hell, some of my best friends are bloggers (and I mean that with a sincerity that borders on relentless). It’s for that reason I’ve lurked here on Justine blog pretty much since the day I met her.
This is a good place, this here blog o’ hers. A smart place and a place with personality, wit, snark, truth, and, when appropriate, outrage.

Wicked outrage.

Kind of like a good local pub without the hooligans, the gut expanding calories and that obnoxious bloke at the end of the bar who smells just like the sticky stuff on the floor just outside the men’s toilet; although, there may be analogues to all those things here. It’s not my place to judge.

What I’ve noticed when trolling though the blogs of authors I know is that, as far as I can, what people fall in love with aren’t so much the personality of the authors but the personality of the blogs, themselves; the gestalt created in that grey space between the author and the audience. An extension of what happens when you read an author’s book, maybe.

And so, as I’m currently sitting here beside a roaring fire in lodge somewhere in South Lake Tahoe and bumpin’ De La Soul though a pair of oversized headphones I paid waaay too much money for, I feel a responsibility to engage with the personality that is Justine Larbalestier’s blog; which is not Justine, but of Justine, if that makes any sense.

On the subject of sports:

I don’t know a lick about the sport of Cricket. Justine loves it (almost as much as she loves Scott, I suspect) so there must be something of high value in the poetry of the bat and the ball, the test match, the teams and the history; some inspiration and beauty to be found there.

The sport that makes my blood race, however, is boxing.

Yeah, that’s right, I said it: brutal and beautiful boxing. Corrupt, questionable, brain damaging, violent boxing.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing but growing up black and male in the 1970s here in the U.S. of A. meant that Muhummad Ali was practically a super hero. Hell, there was even a comic book where Ali fought freakin’ Superman and won (and, yes, I still got my copy, best believe.) Like most everyone, I loved Ali’s bravado, his braggadocio, and his genius with extemporaneous word play. All that, and Ali’s unmistakable style, in his prime it seemed that Ali’s neurons fired to the best of jazz rhythm and when he got older, jazz slowed down to the Louisiana blues tempo—a little sad and melancholy, sure, but nonetheless beautiful.


Update: Image supplied by Doselle in response to Diana’s question

In each of the best fights I’ve seen since, I’m always looking for a hint of those rhythms that make my skin tingle to this day.

On the subject of chocolate:

Not a big fan, myself. I love the taste of vanilla bean and the scent of cinnamon. I love bread pudding and oatmeal cookies and the unholy joy of a well-executed Pecan Pie, but beyond that, whatever.

Screw chocolate. Chocolate still owes me money, anyway.

On the subject of LIAR:

If you’re reading this, I prolly read it before you did, so, nah-nah nah-nah and half-a-bazillion raspberries to you and you and you over there in the corner with that absolutely awful Doctor Who t-shirt.

I loved Liar when I read it and loved it even more when I re-read it. I loved every question and every turn. I loved Micah and her nappy hair and would love to see her again and again. If LIAR were a woman in a bar, I would approach her slick and slow, and be proud be as hell when she took me out to the alley behind the bar and stabbed me through the heart.

In short, LIAR is a killer book and that’s all I have to say about that. Nuff said.

I think Patricia Highsmith, as awful a person as she was, would be proud of LIAR and hate Justine for being the one to have written it.

On the subject of RACE and IDENTITY:

There is no monoculture among people of color or people, in general. Sure, there are tribes, cliques, groups, social organizations, concerns, movements, etc. and I can speak for absolutely none of them.

I can only speak personally. Will only speak personally. Could never speak anything but personally on something so emotionally charged as race and identity.

Like Steve Martin in The Jerk, “I was born a poor black child.”

For the first eleven years of my life, my favorite TV shows were super hero cartoons, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, My Favorite Martian, All in The Family, M.A.S.H. Sanford and Son, Good Times and The Jeffersons. Even if you’re not Usian (as Justine likes to say), the U.S. exports every piece of television we have so I’m sure most of you will be aware of some of those shows, if not all of them.

I listened to Rick James, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Louis Jordan’s Jump Blues, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones.
Most of my friends growing up were Jewish and the most horrible acts of racism I personally experienced growing up were perpetrated by other people of color.1

All of which should be considered prologue to finding myself at last year’s World Con in Montreal sitting on yet another panel about race (as an African American author I somehow find myself on race panels even when I haven’t requested them on the programming).

I’m sitting there, halfway through a sentence, when I have an epiphany, of sorts: one of those moments where everything comes into a different kind of focus.

The truth is: I don’t have anything to say about race that I can put in a short blog post. I don’t have anything to say about my experience with race and the perception of race that I can tweet. I don’t have anything to say about race on a sixty-minute panel at a science-fiction convention.

My personal thoughts on race and identity (ethnic or otherwise) are just that: personal, and as complicated, convoluted and tweaked as the catalog of experiences that shaped them.

How about yours?

On a related note, when I requested to NOT be put on the race panel at World Fantasy 2009, I ended up on the queer panel and had a blast.

Life’s funny that way.

On the subject of Buffy The Vampire Slayer:

The show’s over, homey! You really need to move on!

On the subject of writing:

Have a life that feeds you. Lead a life that challenges you. Write what you know. Write what you don’t know. Research. Steal. Invent. Be brave. Be honest about what terrifies you. Be honest about your regrets. It also helps if you can spell.

On the subject of God:

Sorry. I still can’t get that jerk to answer the phone.

On the subject of Zombies Versus Unicorns:

Honestly, I make it a rule to never discuss pornography in public.

On the subject of books:

I’m reading Megan Abbot’s QUEENPIN. The back of the paperback dubs Abbot “The Queen of Noir” and, honestly, I couldn’t agree more. Her books are violent explorations into the ruthless worlds of film noir and crime fiction, delving into the cold hearts of the grifter gals and femme fatales who, until now, have only existed at the grey edges of the genre.

If you like books like LIAR, I think you’ll like Abbott’s stuff, as well. Pick up QUEENPIN or BURY ME DEEP. You won’t be disappointed.

Another book I’m reading now is a biography: THE STRANGEST MAN – THE HIDDEN LIFE OF PAUL DIRAC, MYSTIC OF THE ATOM.

If you don’t know, Dirac was a theoretical physicist, one of Einstein’s most admired colleagues and, at the time, the youngest theoretician to win the Nobel Prize in physics. Dirac made numerous contributions to early work in quantum mechanics and was the first to predict the existence of anti-matter (the same stuff that makes The Enterprise’s engines go ‘Vroom.’) Dirac was, as you might expect, also a bit of an eccentric and a very private man who shared his tears with very few if any of the people closest to him. Written by Graham Farmelo, ‘The Strangest Man’ a meticulously researched piece that, nevertheless, maintains its focus on the often-enigmatic heart of its subject, Dirac. If you’re a science fiction fan, take a peep. After all, if a couple of social misfits hadn’t put chalk to chalkboard, we never have split that atom. Boom.

The last book on my nightstand, for the moment, is John Scalzi’s THE GOD ENGINES, published by Subterranean Press. Before I go any further, I should disclose that this book is dedicated to me but I didn’t know that until after I got a copy of the book. So, with that in mind, attend.

THE GOD ENGINES is a dramatic departure from both his Heinlein-inspired military SF and his more tongue-in-cheek material. While using SFnal tropes, the story is, at heart, a dark fantasy; one set in a world where an oppressive theocracy uses enslaved gods as the power source to drive their massive starships. Brutal, fierce and tightly laced with threads of Lovecraftian horror, 
this is Scalzi’s best book by leaps and bounds. I hope to see more of this kind of work from him—even if I have to beat it out of him, myself. I’m calling you out, John Scalzi. Remember, I’ve still got the whip!

Well, I guess that’s more than enough for now. Nine subjects. One post.

Guess that means the caffeine’s working.

As I said: I’m not a blogger. I have no idea how this stuff is supposed to work. I’m sure this post is way too long. I mean, I didn’t even get to address why the show Madmen doesn’t suck just cause Justine says it does; why Henry Miller looks cool standing beside a bicycle on Santa Monica Beach; The Terrible Jay-Z Problem or the strange connection between Elvis and the superhero Captain Marvel Jr.

Oh, well, maybe next time.

In the interim, let’s be careful out there and remember: just because its offensive doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Best wishes,

Doselle Young

P.S. Those boots look fabulous on you, Justine! Absolutely fabulous!

  1. Being called ‘The N-Word’ by another PoC felt just as crap as being called the same by a white man. That just how I felt and I can make no apologies. []

Is it 4PM yet?

I have a mountain of work to get through before I head out on tour. But all I can think about is the third game of the WNBA finals, which takes place in Indianapolis today at 4PM (US Eastern time). So far this has been the best WNBA finals series I’ve ever seen and I’ve been following the WNBA since 2000.

The two best teams in the league, Indiana and Phoenix are battling it out. Indiana is renowned for their defense and Phoenix for their offense. Though both teams have been proving in this series that they’re not exactly slouches at the other end.

They’ve won one game each both played in Phoenix. The first game was the highest scoring game in WNBA history 120 to 116 (Phoenix won). The second was every bit as exciting (Indiana got the win). The third game will have a crowd of at least 18,000. Last I heard they were just shy of a sellout.

I don’t have a favourite in this series. I like Indiana a lot. I’m a huge fan of Tamika Catchings and Tully Bevilaqua (an Aussie, don’t you know) and Ebony Hoffman has totally won me over, not just because of her awesome play, but also because of how smart and funny she is in post game interviews. And Briann January is a hell of a rookie.

But Phoenix also has an Aussie, Penny Taylor, who’s just astonishing. I think her absence in the second half of the second game is a big part of why Phoenix lost. Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi are two of the best players in women’s basketball. Taurasi is the current Most Valuable Player of the WNBA. Then there’s Tangela Smith and Dewanna Bonner. I love Phoenix’s style of play. Run and gun, take no time outs, except for injury.

So, no, I don’t know who I’m going for. They’re both great teams. It would be gorgeous for Indiana to win it’s first championship, but I’ll be happy no matter what happens.

Is it 4PM yet?

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!!!

Why Being a Writer is Better Than Being a Pro Sportsperson

At BEA there was much speculation about the end of publishing as we know it. How fewer books will be published and less money spent on them thus it will be harder for writers to make a living. I’m not actually convinced things are as bad as all that. Besides I don’t think it matters that much to most pro writers’ chances of making a living. It’s just as hard to make a living as a writer in good economic times as it is in bad. I know plenty of brilliant writers who make very little from their writing and only a handful who make anything close to a living wage.

But it’s not nearly as tenuous and fraught as being a pro sportsperson.

As some of you may know I’m a fan of the New York Liberty, New York’s Womens National Basketball Association team, and I follow the entire WNBA closely. This year there’s one less team than last so those players were dispersed to the remaining teams. At the same time all the teams have to reduce their roster to 11 players. That means that the transactions page looks like this:

    May 31
    The Seattle Storm waived La’Tangela Atkinson and Kasha Terry.
    The Atlanta Dream waived Chantelle Anderson.
    The Phoenix Mercury waived Murriel Page.
    The Chicago Sky waived Jennifer Risper.

    May 30
    The Minnesota Lynx waived Kamesha Hairston and Aisha Mohammed.

    May 29
    The Chicago Sky waived Liz Moeggenberg.
    The Atlanta Dream waived Marlies Gipson.
    The New York Liberty waived Abby Waner.

Those are all players being let go. They’ve had a couple of weeks in the pros and now it’s over.

There is a chance of being picked up by other WNBA teams. But there are fewer places—only 143—and more players than ever competing for them. Many talented amazing players are not going to make it. Some of them will find places on overseas teams, but most won’t.

Those are just the players who got picked up by a WNBA team in the first place. There are many many many college players who weren’t drafted in the first place. Some overseas players are also trying to break into those 143 spots available in the WNBA.

And if they do make it onto a team they can be traded at random to another team in another city. Often the press finds out that they’re now going to be living in San Antonio before they do.

Pro basketball players are lucky if their career lasts into their thirties and almost never into their forties. They rarely make it through without at least one serious injury resulting in surgery. When they’re older they wind up with arthritis.

I’m sure as with writing the rewards of doing what you love most for a living outweigh everything else, but, well it looks crazy hard to me and it makes me very glad I’m a writer not a basketball player.

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. []

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.

Last day of 2008 (updated)

Yup, it’s my annual what-I-did-this-year skiting post. I write these mostly for myself so I can easily keep track. Hence the last day of the year category. Thus you are absolutely free to skip it.1

This year was exceptional. I’m still pinching myself. My first Bloomsbury USA book, How To Ditch Your Fairy, was published and seems to be doing well. I was sent on my first book tour, which was fabulous. It’s insane how much fun I had and how many fabulous schools, book shops and libraries I visited in California, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Thank you to everyone who came to see me while I was on the road. It was a blast getting to meet you all! I loved hearing what fairies you all have!

Now this is going to sound like the acknowledgments page but bear with me cause I thanked my fabulous editor, Melanie Cecka in print, but not the wonderful publicity and sales and marketing folks because, well, I didn’t know them back then. Deb Shapiro is the best and funniest publicist I’ve ever worked with, Beth Eller is a genius of marketing, and all the sales reps who’ve been flogging the fairy book mercilessly across the USA are too fabulous for words. Extra special thanks to Anne Hellman, Kevin Peters, and Melissa Weisberg.

HTDYF also sold (along with the liar book) to Allen & Unwin in Australia. This is a huge deal because it’s the first time I’ve had a multi-book deal in Australia and A&U publishes many of the best writers in Australia, including Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, Penni Russon and Lili Wilkinson. My editor and publisher, Jodie Webster, is a joy to work with. So’s Sarah Tran and Erica Wagner and Hilary Reynolds and everyone else on the Alien Onion team. Bless!

Both Bloomsbury and A&U seem even more excited about the liar book than they were about HTDYF. Which is a huge relief to me because, um, it is not the most obvious follow-up to the fairy book. Older, darker, scarier, completely different. Stuff like that. Here’s hoping that not too long into the new year I’ll be sharing the title, the cover, a sneak preview, and other such fabulous things.

The fairy book also sold in Germany to Bertelsmann, who published the Magic or Madness trilogy there and gave it the best covers ever. It was awesome getting to meet the two Suzannes: Krebs and Stark in Bologna. Thank you for believing in my book so strongly that you bought it when it was still in manuscript. I still can’t quite believe it.

Speaking of the trilogy it sold in Indonesia to PT Gramedia and in Korea to Chungeorahm Publishing, which means it’s now published in ten different countries and eight different languages. All of it Whitney Lee’s doing. It’s astonishing to me how well the trilogy is doing more than three years after first publication. Fingers crossed that will continue.

I also had two short stories published. A rarity for me. My last short story was published back in 2004. These two were the first I’d written since then. Short stories are not my thing. They’re so much harder to write than a novel. ““Pashin’ or The Worst Kiss Ever” appeared in First Kiss (Then Tell): A Collection of True Lip-Locked Moments edited by Cylin Busby and was universally declared to be the grossest story ever. “Thinner Than Water” is in Love is Hell edited by Farrin Jacobs. I’m proud of them both for very different reasons. But don’t expect any more. Writing short stories hurt my brain.

Last year I was wise and only aimed to write one novel in 2008. Just as well because that’s all I did this year no stories, no articles, nothing else. I wrote the liar book and began the 1930s book. It’s very clear that I’m a one-book-a-year girl.

I also mentioned in that one-year-ago post that I had three sekrit projects. The first is no longer a secret: the Zombie Versus Unicorn anthology that I’m editing with Holly Black, which marks the first time I’ve edited original fiction. Am I excited? Why, yes, I am. It will be out from Simon & Schuster in 2010 and we’ll be announcing our insanely excellent line up of authors in the new year. Truly, you will die at how great our writers are.

One of the other sekrit projects morphed into a solo project (the 1930s book) and I’m still hoping that the last of the sekrit projects will go ahead some time next year. Here’s looking at you co-conspirator of my last remaining sekrit project! You know who you are.

Next year will be taken up with writing the 1930s book and editing the Zombie v Unicorn antho. The 1930s book is the biggest most ambitious book I’ve tried to write since my very first novel set in ancient Cambodia. I’m loving the researching and writing. Immersing myself in another era is the most fun ever! I think my next ten books will all be set in the 1930s.

My 2009 publications. This is a WAY shorter list than last year:

    Update: Possibly September: paperback of How To Ditch Your Fairy

    September: the liar novel for Bloomsbury USA.

    October: the liar novel for Allen & Unwin.

Yup, just the one two novels from me and one a reprint. Sorry! You should also get hold of Cassandra Clare’s City of Glass when it comes out. It’s the final book of the City of Bones trilogy and the best of the three. I read it in one sitting on my computer.2 Then later in the year there’s Robin Wasserman’s sequel to Skinned. You know you want it! Yet another book I read in one go. Also on my computer. Think how much better it will be between actual covers.

Then there’s the three YA debuts I’ve been talking about by Peterfreund, Rees Brennan and Ryan. If you read no other books in 2009 make sure you read those three. I’m also dying to read the sequel to Kathleen Duey’s Skin Hunger, which was my favourite book of 2007.

Last, but not least, the old man has his first novel in two years, Leviathan, coming out in September. Fully illustrated by the fabulous artist Keith Thompson and better than anything else Scott’s ever written. I’m so proud of him and of this book. You’ll all love it. Seriously, it’s worth the price just for the endpapers!

I travelled way too much this year. Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, the UK, France, Canada, all over the USA, and home to Australia. Again. Looks like the same for next year. I have no idea what to do about that. I guess when you try to live in two different countries at the same time that’s the price. Oh, and lots and lots of offsets. We try to be good.

This is where I usually say that I think the coming year’s going to be fabulous. But this year I’m not sure. The economic news back in the United States has been dire. Friends have lost their jobs, their editor, their imprint. It’s scary in publishing right now and it’s even scarier in many other industries. I really hope good governance in the USA will make a difference world wide. But I just don’t know. I had great hopes for the Rudd government and here he is botching the fight against climate change and trying to put up a filter for the internet in Australia. Ridiculous. Surely Obama’s government will not be so stupid.

Here’s hoping 2009 will see a return to sanity all around the world, but especially here in Australia.

Happy new year!

  1. I would if I were you. []
  2. Actually I was lying in bed. Whatever. []

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!

Up to date correspondence & the joys of fanmail

I am now almost up to November answering my correspondence. There’s only a hundred more emails to answer! Yay!

If you’ve written to me this year and not heard back from me, that means I either didn’t get your email, or you did not get my response. Either way best thing to do is to write me again.

I received more fan mail this year than all previous years added together. (Which, admittedly, was not hard as I received very few until this year.) Of all the fabulous things that have happened to me in 20081 those letters are by far the best. The majority were about posts and essays on this website—especially requesting writing advice. The next biggest group of letters were about the trilogy, and lastly about How To Ditch Your Fairy. Though to put that in perspective HTDYF has already attracted more letters in the few months since it was published than Magic or Madness did in its first 18 months of publication. Yay, fairy book!

Thank you so much for the wonderful letters. Each one gave me a tremendous lift. Even if I was already in a good mood they made me happier still. While I’ve always wanted to be a writer, until my first book came out, it had never really occurred to me to think about what that would actually mean, about what it would be like to have readers. I know that sounds a bit bizarre, but I was so focussed on my writing, and on getting published, that I just hadn’t considered that part of the equation: that being published means being read by people I’ve never met. I’m glad that part didn’t occur to me ahead of time. I think it would have spooked me. But it turns out to be fabulous.

Thank you for all the letters pointing out the typos and errors in my books and my blog. I really appreciate them and do what I can to fix future editions. Keep ‘em coming!

Thanks to everyone who wrote and begged for more books in the Magic or Madness and HTDYF universes. I’m pretty sure that HTDYF is a standalone and the MorM series a trilogy, but I’m thrilled my books left you wanting more. The best way to get more is to write it yourself. There are gazillions of wonderful fanfic sites out there. You could add your own stories about the further adventures of Tom and Charlie. Go forth and create more fanfic! Mash up MorM with Buffy or Nana. Or HTDYF with Naruto! What would be cooler than that?

Thanks for all the tips on quokkas and mangosteens and cricket and 1930s fashions and photo sites. Much appreciated! Though I’m horrified that any of you are settling for dried mangosteen or mangosteen juice. Ewww. There are no substitutes for the actual fresh fruit!

Good luck with your writing. Yes, sometimes it can be hard and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. That happens to the professionals too. The only thing you can do is keep pushing through. Don’t give up. But remember to have fun with it too. One of the best things about not being published yet is that you have heaps of time to experiment. Write the same story in all the different points of view. See which one works best. Try writing a story backwards. Starting at the end and working your way towards the beginning. Write in lots of different genres. Muck around! Have fun!

Thanks for your letters, your comments, and all your support. It means the world to me.

xo

Justine

  1. Of which more on the last day of the year. []

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. []

Not that fussed

Initial disclaimer: I realise that just by announcing that I’m not that fussed I’ll be seen as protesting too much. To which I respond: Whatever.

In the course of reading Diana Peterfreund and Carrie Ryan’s lovely posts about all the ways in which YA is dismissed by people who know nothing about it and have read at most two YA novels, and the New Yorker blog post that set Carrie off, I realised that I, in fact, wasn’t particularly annoyed or outraged by it. There are a few reasons for that:

  1. The post in question, while declaring that it is the exception that proves that YA is not worth reading, raves about a novel by a truly wonderful writer: Kathe Koja’s Headlong. I’ve not yet read it. (Tragically, it is not set in the 1930s.) But I have heard great things and I’ve read several of Koja’s other novels. She’s a genius. Pure and simple. Anyone spending time praising her work in a public forum is okay by me. Continue!
  2. I’ve seen that kind of dismissal of the genre many times before—not just YA, but also sf and fantasy. It’s boring and I’m bored by it. Yawn. Been there done that. The more you hear an erroneous set of assumptions, the less they bother you. I’ve also mounted the counterarguments and had them largely fall on deaf ears so I can’t be bothered saying it all again. I’l leave it to those more able and willing. Like Diana and Carrie and Maureen Johnson and John Green and Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
  3. We’re doing better than they are. I don’t want to skite about my genre, but . . . Oh, who am I kidding. I totally want to skite! I don’t care that there are adults who will never read YA because there are heaps of adults who are reading it. Not to mention the gazillions of teenagers. YA totally outsells adult litfic. Our audience is bigger than theirs. Our books earn out; theirs mostly don’t. Many of the YA writers I know can make a living writing; most of the litfic writers I know can’t. Many YA writers sell in multiple territories. We have books in Korean and Russian and Indonesian and Turkish and Estonian as well as English. We get fan letters from our readers all the time. We’re doing just fine; it’s adult litfic that’s in trouble.

Now that last skiteful point may turn out to be an historical aberration. Horror as a genre was riding very very high in the eighties and look at it now! Exactly. There are very few “horror” sections left in book shops and Stephen King’s pretty much the only one still doing fabulously well. Best to take that point with a grain of salt. I imagine that when the genre dries ups and my books stop selling1 I’ll be annoyed all over again at those mean litfic types peeing on YA. But I hope not. On both counts. But, yes, especially in the US, this has been a very scary year in publishing.

In the meantime, yay for Koja praise. Yawn to ignorant dismissals of any genre. And yay for all us YA writers doing just fine, thank you very much, while the rest of the publishing world collapses. Some of you astute followers of publishing in the US may have noticed that there were way more job losses and other slash-and-burns in the adult publishing world than there were in children’s/YA. Maybe the current spate of litfic sniping at YA is sour grapes?2

Oops, seems that I’m still skiting3 Look away, pretend you saw nothing! And read whatever damn books you want to read: litfic, YA, romance, fantasy, manga, airplane manuals, cricket books. It’s all good.

I’ll get out of your way now . . .

  1. Those two events may or may not be concurrent. []
  2. Well, except that as I pointed out t’other day many of them haven’t even heard of us. []
  3. Which is dangerous given how precarious publishing feels right now, even though book sales are actually up in the USA on what they were the year before. []

North American HTDYF tour winds up (Oz tour begins?)

In just a few days I’ll be back on the road—to Texas—winding up the HTDYF tour. I’ll also be promoting Love is Hell, answering all your questions, finding out what everyone’s fairy is, and converting those who need converting to the glorious ways of zombies.

Tomorrow I’ll be doing an appearance right here in Manhattan with many fantabulous authors. I did my very first YA author appearance at Books of Wonder. Way back in the olden days with Eoin Colfer and Scott. It was incredible. Peter Glassman (Books of Wonder’s proprietor) has been very good to me and Scott in the ensuing years. It’s always a pleasure to do a Books of Wonder event:

    Saturday, 15 November, 12:00PM-2:00PM
    with William Boniface, P.W. Catanese,
    Suzanne Collins, Joanne Dahme,
    Daniel Kirk, Dean Lorey, Amanda Marrone,
    Ketaki Shriram and Robin Wasserman
    Books of Wonder
    18 West 18th Street
    New York, NY

Do please join us! Also if you attend would you do me the favour of asking every author there to declare their allegiance on the zombies versus uni***n front? We have a right to know!

Then next Wednesday I will be in Austin, Texas, city of amazing food and people and music. Yum! This is my only event of the How To Ditch Your Fairy tour that includes Scott. I think we shall have fun. Not least because BookPeople is one of my fave bookshops in the entire US of A:

    Wednesday, 19 November 2008, 7:30PM
    With Scott Westerfeld
    BookPeople
    603 N. Lamar
    Austin, Texas

And then my last event of the tour will be in gorgeous San Antonio. Land of great boots and wondrous food:

    Thursday, 20 November 2008, 7:00PM
    Barnes & Noble
    San Antonio, Texas

And thus will end my HTDYF tour.

Or will it?

Stay tuned those of you who live in Sydney and Melbourne and possibly even Perth. There’s a very good chance that in February and March I will be doing a few events at home for my fabulous Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin. Actually the Melbourne event is not a possibility anymore—it’s an actuality! More info as I gets it.

Really looking forward to meeting some more of you in the next few days and weeks! Zombie power!

Lots and lots of fairies

Because the talk everywhere I go is of the US election1 or of the general economic collapse I thought that I would share the rest of the YA writers’ fairies.

    Holly Black: The coffee fairy—a fairy that would make sure I always find the most delicious cup of coffee (free-trade, with milk) wheresoever I am.

    Cecil Castellucci: I’d like a fairy of perfect timing.

    I mean that in every way, from timing everything perfectly, to everything being on time, to it being the right time for things, and to telling a good story/ joke with perfect timing.

    Cassandra Clare: I have an umbrella fairy. Umbrella fairy tells me to take my umbrella, then it doesn’t rain. But I wish I had a typing fairy. Typing fairy could teach me to type with all fingers.

    Jenny Davidson: My fairy is a sense of time fairy—I always know when it is, it is easy for me to be punctual and I have a good sense of how to pace a class (use of 75 mins) or a project (use of 3 months). But I wish I could trade it in for a sense of direction fairy! Because I can get lost at the drop of a hat, it is utterly absurd, I never know where I am or how to get anywhere, I am often finding myself (though less in age of Google Maps, where foresight can largely compensate for sense of direction) on the verge of tears and not at all sure which direction I’m pointing in!

    Cory Doctorow: I wish I had an email answering fairy who knew exactly what I wanted to say to every email and took care of them all!

Cory really needs that fairy. I have seen how much email he gets: nine hundred bajillion katrillion pieces in a single day. It’s insane.

    Maureen Johnson: Right now I wish I had a Book-Finishing Fairy. Or, at the very least, a That Section Clearly Adds Nothing to the Plot Fairy. Or a Make this Suck Less Fairy. Failing that, I would accept an Answer My E-Mail Fairy or a I Will Make You the Next Doctor on Doctor Who Fairy . . . because that last one sounds kind of fun.

    Ellen Kushner: My fairy seems to be the Find Your Friends Fairy. I run into people I know on the street in foreign countries, in airports, and in restaurants.

    David Levithan: I’ll go for a Wakefulness Fairy. You know, one who would whisper something really funny or (barring that) really loud in my ears whenever my eyelids started to flutter shut in the middle of the day.

    E. Lockhart: I have a “finding things that belong to other people” fairy. If someone I live with has lost something, I can put my hands on it in a minute or two.

    Sadly, my fairy won’t actually work for me. My postal scale went missing in my house 6 months ago and hasn’t turned up yet.

    I wish for an anti-clutter fairy. Clutter is cluttering up my cluttered life.

    Jaclyn Moriarty: I think I have the fairy of relentlessly excited expectations. Every time I hear an e-mail arrive, or the telephone ring, I think something amazing is about to happen. At the moment I have a letter by my front door, to remind myself to post it, but every time I walk by the door I notice it there and get a rush of excitement. I think: ‘Somebody has slipped a mystery letter under my door! How fantastic! Who could it be?!’

    If there was a fairy that could meet my excited expectations, such as a fairy of
    regular yet surprising news of good fortune, that would be my choice.

    If not, I’d like the fairy of decisiveness.

Ooooh! I want a fairy of met expectations, too. Frabjous!

    Sarah Mlynowski: I am a hypochondriac. So the fairy I wish I had is one who would point out germs. Such as: Sarah, do not eat that chicken! It is not well cooked and is riddled with salmonella. Or, Do not shake that guy’s hand, he just went to the bathroom and did not wash it. Or, Do not sit next to that girl on the subway because she will sneeze on you and give you Diphtheria.

    I have a perky fairy. I can usually cheer friends up when they are depressed.

    Garth Nix: I have a slightly warped Punctuality Fairy. He/She/It forces me to be on time, the twist being that if I am actually late, the Punctuality Fairy will make everyone else late too, or delay my plane, or cloud my mind so that I’ve thought the meeting is earlier than it should be, so that any meeting, engagement or booking that I would have been late for by the original schedule, suddenly becomes on time.

    I have been asked many times over the years by Sydney’s State Rail to sell them my punctuality fairy so that all their late trains will suddenly become on time, but the fairy just won’t leave me. I’m hoping that HOW TO DITCH YOUR FAIRY will give me some ideas.

    Diana Peterfreund: I think I have a hat wearing fairy. I tend to look good in hats, and I never lose, sit on, or have hats blow off my head. I also don’t get hat
    head.

    I don’t know if I feed her often enough, though.

    John Scalzi: I did have a “know who is calling on the phone as soon as it rings” fairy for a while, which used to freak people out when I would pick up the phone and call them by their name without saying hello first. However, in the age of call waiting, this fairy has become far less useful than it was back in the day. Stupid advances in technology.

    I wish I had a fairy that would make bacon double cheeseburgers a slimming health food. Because that would rock.

    Robin Wasserman: My fairy is a last minute fairy, that lets me start anything at the last minute and still get it done on time. That works out rather nicely, but I suppose if I had my pick, I’d take a say the right thing fairy — which, as you might guess from the name, means that in any and every situation I’d always know exactly the right thing to say. (Perhaps this fairy would first have to kill the say the wrong thing fairy who often stops by for a visit.)

    Scott Westerfeld: I have the simile fairy. Whenever I need a cool simile to nail a dramatic moment, my fairy comes and hits me on the head like a pillowcase full of naked mole rats. Or, if I come up with a lame one like that, I pick a book from the shelf and open it at random. And, lo and behold, there’s a great simile to steal right on that page. So it’s a simile-stealing fairy as well.

    But I want a good-night’s-sleep fairy.

You can find more fairies here. And, as usual, feel free to share your own fairies.

I would like to wish everyone in the US over 18 a good voting fairy.

  1. I’m in Canada! They have their own election! Why are we still talking about the US one? Um, because it’s really important? []

Liberty wins + appearance

The New York Liberty won the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was an ugly win. An ugly game. The only grace notes were Deanna Nolan’s gorgeous shooting—I swear she stays up in the air for seconds at a time, she looks great even when she misses—the great turnout, and the fact that we won.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to hate Bill Laimbeer more than I do. But his performance tonight pushed my hate a few notches upward. How he managed not to get a delay of game call or a technical I will never understand. Sit down, Bill!

Later today I will be in Larchmont, which is a mere twenty minutes from Grand Central:

Saturday, 27 September 2008, 1:00PM
Voracious Reader
1997 Palmer Ave
Larchmont, NY

I am wondering if this is the Larchmont that the term Larchmont lockjaw comes from. I hope I get to meet some of you there.

A most excellent day

The sun is shining, the sky is clear, you can see the entire length of the avenue, the Chrysler Building gleams and last night the New York Liberty made it into the conference finals. Let’s go, Liberty! (And San Antonio got through to their conference finals. Oh, how I long for those two to meet in the WNBA finals. That would make my year!)

My editor loves my new book, work is going great on the even newer book—how much fun is it researching NYC in the thirties? VERY FUN—and HTDYF keeps getting lovely reviews. In my world everything is fabulous.1

How about youse lot? I had to shut down the old Good News post on account of evil spam so why not tell me your good news and sources of happiness here instead?

Me, I’m turning the computer off and going out to enjoy the glorious, glorious day!

xo

Justine

  1. *Cough* It helps to not read newspapers or news blogs. []

I wish I had studied maths

I stopped studying maths in Year 7. Before that I’d made a bit of an effort but in my first year of high school (in New South Wales high school starts in Year 7) I downed tools. I was bored, annoyed, and couldn’t see the point so I quit. Technically I kept going to maths class—it was compulsory until the end of Year 10—but I failed each year and was never made to repeat. I didn’t learn anything new after Year 6.

At the time I thought it was excellent that I could get away with it. In class I read novels under the desk. I never studied and finished my maths exams quicker than anyone else cause I guessed all the answers. Thus giving me more time to read novels.

Now I regret it. My regret is very very very big. Because now I don’t have the underpinnings to understand even the most basic mathematics and science. (I also stopped studying science very early.) Writing the Magic or Madness trilogy was a nightmare. It’s very difficult to write a character who is a mathematical prodigy when you yourself are a mathematical moron.

My current regret, however, is fuelled by the Rethinking Basketball blog. Quentin who writes it is a numbers boy. He has all sorts of fancy formulas and statistics to map the performances of different WNBA players and teams. Like how to take defence into account when figuring out who the Most Valuable Player should be.

I understand almost none of it and that fact fills me with despair. If I could go back in time I would tell the bored and cranky twelve-year-old me that maths would come in handy later on and I should really pay attention to the nice man. (My Year 7 maths teacher was a sweetie, who did not deserve me as a student.)

But plenty of people—including my parents—were telling me that at the time and I ignored them. I probably would have ignored the adult me as well. Sigh.

So it’s now more than a little bit ironic that I am in the position of telling twelve year olds that they should pay attention in maths class. But you really really should. Who knows when or where it will come in handy. But trust me, it will. Don’t be as stupid as I was.

This has been a public service announcement. You are most welcome.

An interesting question

Ally asks:

Justine, I was wondering what you would do in a situation like this:

“As some of you may have heard, my partial draft of Midnight Sun was illegally posted on the Internet and has since been virally distributed without my knowledge or permission or the knowledge or permission of my publisher.”—Stephenie Meyer

Since I don’t really write or anything I don’t know what I would do. Would it bum you out to where you couldn’t write it anymore or would you just ignore it and keep going?

I’d be very unhappy and hurt that someone had betrayed my trust like that. I recently sent my most recent novel, Why Do I Lie?, to a bunch of people for comments—if they’d passed it on to other people to read I would be furious. That’s an enormous violation of trust.

As for what I’d do in that situation? It’s very difficult for me to say. I’m not Stephenie Meyer. It’s really unlikely an unfinished ms. of mine would wind up online and widely circulated. I don’t have anywhere near her fan base.

I can definitely imagine the whole thing souring me on the book. On the other hand, I really like to finish what I’ve started. Not to mention that my manuscripts tend to change a lot after I’ve finished the first draft. So what was distributed would not bear much resemblance to the final book.

I certainly feel a great deal of sympathy towards Meyer. That situation sucks.

Tallying Olympic Medals

The official method of figuring out who “won” the Lymps is to count who won the most gold, in which case China comes first with 51, and the USA comes second with 36. The USA, however, reckons the combined total is a better method on account of they won 110 medals altogether, while China only won 100.

If you use the first method Australia came sixth; if you use the second we came fifth.

Personally I think the most revealing way to look at the total is in terms of population and GDP. Both of which you can find at this handy site.1

Population

1. Jamaica

2. Bahrain

3. Dominica Republic

4. Mongolia

5. Estonia

6. New Zealand

7. Georgia

8. Australia

9. Norway

10. Slovakia

(USA comes 33rd and China 47th out of the 87 who won medals.)

Australia remains a top ten nation but the truly outstanding effort of places like Jamaica are underlined. They won 6 gold medals with a population of less than 3 million. That’s less than the population of Sydney. Pretty amazing, eh?

GDP

1. North Korea

2. Jamaica

3. Mongolia

4. Georgia

5. Ethiopia

6. Kenya

7. Belarus

8. Zimbabwe

9. Bahrain

10. Panama

(Australia comes in 29th, China 30th and the USA 47th.)

I like this table a lot because it illustrates just how much money it takes to be a top-ten Olympic nation. The US and China and Australia and the other top ten nations in the official list have much bigger GDPs than many of the other medal winners. Winning medals without massive amounts of funding and Insititutes of Sports is an amazing achievement.

I am much more proud that the one openly gay male participant in the Olympics, gold-medal winning diver Matthew Mitcham, is Australian than I am of how many medals we won. Watching him win live was my highlight of the Lymps. The Australian coverage of his win was fabulous. I loved that a photo of him kissing his partner was printed in the Sydney Morning Herald. Ten years ago I doubt that would have happened. Here’s hoping in another ten years it will be so ordinary it won’t occur to me to blog about it.

  1. Their figures are taken from wikipedia so I suspect there are some inaccuracies. []

Lymps

You know what I like best about the Olympics? Other than twenty-four hours of non-stop sport? That I can’t decide which events I like best.

Seriously, there’s all the primal track stuff: run, throw, jump, jump with giant pole. I loves ‘em all. Plus Usain Bolt is a legend. I could watch the replay of his hundred metre relaxed stroll all day long. And how about Jamaica? Jamaicans are finally winning lots of medals for Jamaica, rather than GB or Canada or the USA. Lovely to see.

But how primal is weightlifting? Very. I love the grunt, scream, growl, popping veins. Weightlifting is the best sport ever. There should be a weightlifting channel.

On the other hand, I do love my team sports. In fact, the only team sport I haven’t been able to fall in love with is water polo. Handball is much better. And I adore the beach volley ball. Not to mention regular volley ball.

I’m also into all the judged sports. They’re such an excellent rage outlet: “ARE YOU JUDGES BLIND?! STUPID?! OR JUST OUT AND OUT CORRUPT?!” It’s good to have a bit of a yell. It’s the synchronised swimming judges who are most demented. I have no idea what they’re thinking ever. Are they using i ching to make their decisions?

I am not looking forward to the Lymps ending. Why can’t it be once a year and not every four years? Or even better why can’t there be a never-ending Olympics? Twenty-four/seven/three-sixty-five? That would be the best thing ever.

Though my favourite Olympic sport of all time? BMX racing. Best. Sport. Ever.

What do youse lot love most about the Lymps?

Note: Yes, I am still without regular internets and thus am massively behind with email etc. Hope to catch up when we return to NYC in Sept.

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.

Writing goals

A while back I said that one of my writing goals was to publish a book in every one of the following genres. Here’s the updated list with more genres crossed off cause I done ‘em in How To Ditch Your Fairy:1

  • Romance
  • Historical
  • Crime (what some call mysteries)
  • Thriller (the John Grisham, Tom Clancy etc etc genre2
  • Fantasy
  • SF
  • Comedy (do you call ‘em comedies if they’re books?)
  • Horror
  • Mainstream (you know, Literature: professor has affair with much younger student in the midst of mid-life crisis)
  • Western
  • YA

For those keeping track I crossed off “romance”, “comedy” and “SF”. Three down with the one book! How clever am I?

I’m also aiming to publish books that use the following povs:

  • First person
  • Second person
  • Third person limited
  • Omniscient

Sadly, HTDYF is in first person so nothing to cross off there. Poo. But soon, my pretties, soon.

As well as these:

  • Standalone
  • Trilogy
  • Series

Score! HTDYF is a standalone. Now I only have to write a series and that list will be taken care of. Piece of cake.

Crossing things of lists is my favourite thing in the whole world. Almost as good as passing the 65,000 word mark on your latest novel. 65k is a landmark for me because that’s how long my first three published novels are. I passed it today. Woo hoo!

  1. Yes, I know HTDYF isn’t pub’d yet, but, c’mon, it’s only a month away! []
  2. I’m using “genre” and “category” interchangably cause now that I’m no longer an academic—I can. []

From an undisclosed location

Scott and me has run away to finish our novels at an undisclosed location. Posting from behind the walls of our hidden bunker may be intermittent and on the shortish side. Book must be finished on the soonish.

In the meantime, it is conclusive, “monster” and “white-ant” are verbs only in Australia. For confused non-Australians a white ant is a termite. Thus to white-ant someone is to undermine them: to bore away at their foundations, you know, like termites do. Is most useful verb.

Thanks for the Cadel Evans commiserations. Second two years running. Surely next year.

Yes, I is stoked that the Liberty are in the second place in the Eastern conference. Here’s hoping we come out after the Olympics break ready to take over first place from smelly Connecticut.

Here’s hoping youse lot are happy wherever in the world you are. I sure am.

I got what I wanted (Updated)

Candace Parker played. She played very well indeed. I was impressed.1

And WE WON!!

And we are now a mere game out of first place in the East. Life is very good indeed.

Thank you, New York Liberty, for improving in so many different ways. We have post players. We have two good point guards. We have DE-FENCE. In fact, other than Indiana, I think we’re the best defensive team in the WNBA. I love our full-court pressure. I love the many ways we made LA turn over the ball. Twas bliss.

Now all we have to do is shoot a bit better and we’ll be perfect.

Too exhausted and happy to get more analytical. This has been the best New York Liberty year in AGES. Colour me ecstatic.

Let’s go LIBERTY!

Update: The crowd was just shy of 13,000, which is the biggest we’ve had all year. So the atmosphere was incredible. We screamed ourselves hoarse—especially cause there were a few too many pockets of evil LA Sparks fans in the audience. My fave part was when the Beat LA! Beat LA! Beat LA! chant got going in our section. We may have had something to do with that . . .

  1. She’s not dirty in defence unlike, say, Lisa Leslie or Delisha Milton-Jones. []

I am happy (Updated)

The WNBA has handed down the suspensions for Tuesday’s brawl. I know many are unhappy about the lenience towards Candace Parker in particular. But for extremely selfish reasons I am very very very glad. Because this means I get to see her play on Friday. Woo hoo!

What’s making me cranky is the total absence of anything said about the abysmal refs. Where’s their punishment?

Update: Though I’ll admit I am very nervous about Leslie and Parker being so rested before we play then in the Garden.

Quick stuff

I may not be blogging so much for the next few weeks. I is busy. Plus book still not writing itself. But here’s some links for youse:

  • Maureen weighs in on the should-you-major-in-creative-writing-for-your-undergraduate-degree debate and manages (as usual) to be both funny and wise.
  • Rethinking basketball, my new fave WNBA blog, talks about last night’s Detroit-LA brawl. I disagree that it will have a negative effect on attendance, but I do worry that they’ll wind up over-officiating games to make up for last night’s shoddy under officiating.
  • Publishers Weekly has named How To Ditch Your Fairy one of the wackiest Fall titles they’ve come across more specifically it’s the “Least Practical DIY Guide”. Via way too many folks to thank all of ‘em.

You may have noticed I haven’t gotten around to answering all those excellent quessies for my FAQ. It will happen! In the meantime feel free to hit me with more quessies.

And now I must write book while listening to the Liberty defeat the Mystics.

Upset

I just watched a hard fought game between the LA Sparks and Detroit Shock that ended in a real fight. The ending was horrible with three players and one coach ejected and, I’m sure, lots of unwelcome attention from the press which ordinarily completely ignores the WNBA. Gosh, maybe now even the New York Times will cover a game.

I was most shocked by Detroit Assistant Coach Mahorn, who is male and well over 7ft tall 6ft 10inches, pushing over Lisa Leslie. He needs to be suspended for the rest of the season. You do not touch the opposing team’s players ever. Under any circumstances.

But mostly I blame the referees. There were several incidents leading up to the fight between Parker and Pierson. Cheryl Ford should’ve been T’d up. So should Coach Laimbeer. And Candace Parker. The officials let things get out of control. They let the nasty atmosphere boil over into violence. Can the refs be suspended for the rest of the season? I’d like to see that.

And now several players are going to be out for a bunch of games. Plenette Pierson, Candace Parker and Delisha Milton-Jones for sure and most likely Muriel Page and Deanna Nolan as well. Not to mention Cheryl Ford getting injured trying to keep Pierson from attacking more LA players.

I hate this crap. This is not why I follow the WNBA. If I want to watch people brawling I can watch the thugby (otherwise known as Rugby League) or the NBA. The New York Liberty plays the LA Sparks on Friday. It’s not going to be as good a game without Parker and Milton-Jones.

And all because the officials couldn’t put a lid on Laimbeer and Ford and Parker. When a coach is screaming abuse at you, when players have to be held back, when players are going after the ball long after the whistle is blown—T them up. And if they do it again—throw them out. As I saw tonight that aggressive nastiness spreads.

I really hope this is the WNBA’s first and last brawl.

More HTDYF reviews

I may have mentioned that Leilani Mitchell of the New York Liberty looks pretty much exactly how I imagined Charlie, the protag of How To Ditch Your Fairy, looking. And she’s a point guard—just like Charlie! How perfect is that?

So here is a Leilani photo taken by Bruce Yeung to adorn the most recent reviews of HTDYF.1

The first review is over at Book Lover. Be warned it is VERY spoilery.

The second one comes from Enchanting Reviews. They give HTDYF five enchantments!2 Here’s a wee snip of the review:

Charlie is a witty and lovable heroine; I almost wish she was my best friend! The idea behind this novel was so unique, which is another reason I loved this novel so much. Just the concept of having personal fairies is so cool, and I liked how the fairy aspect of the novel never seemed superficial. All in all, I completely enjoyed reading this story because it was so well-written and made me sigh in happiness. HOW TO DITCH YOUR FAIRY was a perfect blend of all its elements and a novel I most definitely recommend.

The third review comes from the Menasha Library (Wisconsin) Kid’s Lit blog:

The lightness and freshness of this novel make it read like a frothy teen novel with little substance, but that isn’t the case. Underneath the humor there are more serious questions lingering about fairies, faith, and friendship for those who want a little more depth. Teens can read it on several levels, which means that it will appeal to a wide range of readers. The teen characters are interesting and always more than their fairies seem to be. The obsessive nature of the New Avalon society is a great commentary on American culture. A great part of the fun of the book is Larbalestier’s teen language that is unique to New Avalon but easily understood by all. It just makes the reading all the more enjoyable.

This review is especially pleasing cause, you know, that’s what I was going for! (Though I was commenting on Australian culture as well as American.) So lovely when readers read what you think you put on the page.

She finishes by saying,

Recommended for teens age 12-15. Little handselling will be necessary for this one. It will fly off the shelves on fairy wings.

Fingers crossed she’s right! Cause that would be deeply awesome! (Why, yes, I am imagining HTDYF sprouting wings and flying around bookshops and libraries all over North America. What of it?)

  1. I love this photo. How gorgeous is it that her coach, Patty Coyle, is taller than she is? Also that Leilani’s so ready to get back into the game that Coyle has to hold her jersey to finish giving her the rest of the play. []
  2. I’m really hoping it’s out of five, not ten. []

Congratulations, Atlanta

Atlanta Dream: 91; Chicago Sky: 84

The first win for the Atlanta Dream has made me very happy I can’t imagine how thrilled the Dream fans are. They have had the longest losing streak (0-17) in WNBA history without actually being a bad team. Quite a few of those losses were thrillers. I know. I watched the game where the New York Liberty barely beat them.

I think it’s astonishing and wonderful that more than 8,000 people have shown up for every one of those games even when they’d lost ten, fifteen, seventeen in a row. And now they have their first win. Woo hoo!! And w00t! It’s good for Atlanta and it’s good for the whole league. May it be the first of many many more.

The Art of Writing Blurbs (updated)

NB: The Alchemy of Stone is not a YA book.

I have just read a splendid book, Ekaterina Sedia’s The Alchemy of Stone, and now I must blurb it. I am realising once again that blurbing a book is really hard. As you may have noticed from this blog, I am not naturally succinct. I fail at all forms of writing that are on the short side: blurbs, pitches, haikus, summaries. They are all nightmarish to me.

I am so crappy at pitching my own books that Scott uses my feeble attempt to pitch Magic or Madness to a Sydney bookseller as his standard example of how not to pitch. (After hearing me out the bookseller put on a forced smiled and said, “Hmm, that sounds really complicated.”)

I wish I could just say:

Ekaterina Sedia’s The Alchemy of Stone is rooly good. Read it!

—Justine Larbalestier, Magic or Madness

Or do as Quentin Crisp used to, which was to respond to blurb requests with the following:

You may attribute to me whatever words you think will assist in the marketing of this fine work.

On this occasion my problem is that The Alchemy of Stone is a really complicated book and I love it but I don’t know how to describe it and thinking about it is hurting my head.

Maybe that should be my blurb? Hmmm.

The Alchemy of Stone is a really complicated book and I love it but I don’t know how to describe it and thinking about it is hurting my head. Buy it! Read it!

—Justine Larbalestier, Magic or Madness

Blurbing a dense, original and smart book like Sedia’s is especially hard. There are so many things to say about it. I love the alienness of the protagonist, Mattie, who is an intelligent automaton in a world in which automatons are dumb: they can neither talk nor think and are used as servants. How she grapples with being the only one of her kind and with actually knowing and talking to her creator is the heart of the book. She never once reads like a human being and yet she is a compelling character. I like her. I want her to succeed.

I love, too, the stone gargoyles who watch over the city, the power struggles between Mechanics, Alchemists, and the hideously oppressed miners and farmers, the subtle yet brilliant worldbuilding, the quasi-myth like though also fairy tale-ish feel to the language. Oh, yes, the language! Sedia’s a gorgeous maker of sentences. Not in an obvious show-y off-y way. Many of her sentences are sparse and unadorned. Yet several times I had to back up and re-read in order to savour and relish the implications of a particular word or phrase.

You see my problem? And I haven’t even really begun to describe why I enjoyed the book so much. Or mentioned the Soul-Smoker or explained why I don’t think it’s steampunk, which leads me into a long rant on why I don’t find “steampunk” a very useful term for describing books.

Stupid blurbs. I kick them.

How about:

Ekaterina Sedia’s The Alchemy of Stone bursts with inventiveness from its robot heroine to the Soul-Smoker and stone gargoyles that watch over the city. The book is full of explosions both literal and metaphorical as well as being a gorgeous meditation on what it means to not be human. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this beautiful book.

—Justine Larbalestier, Magic or Madness

Or something. Did I mention that I hate writing blurbs?

Alchemy of Stones is rooly good. Read it!

Update: Here’s what the publisher decided to go with:

“A gorgeous meditation on what it means to not be human. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this beautiful book, from its robot heroine to the Soul-Smoker and stone gargoyles that watch over the city.” —Justine Larbalestier, author of Magic or Madness

Charlie haz face!

And now that she has a face I’m even happier with the cover than I was before and, let me tell you, I was pretty happy. But now she’s not only escaped the headless woman curse, it’s also clear that she bears a bit of a resemblance to Leilani Mitchell of the New York Liberty, who looks exactly how I imagine Charlie would look if she wasn’t, you know, imaginary:


Copyright 2008 NBAE. Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Goose meet gander

Apropos of Becky Hammon playing for Russia comes this article from The New York Times about all the foreign nationals that are playing for the US Olympic squad:

Marching into Beijing Stadium under the American flag this August will be a kayaker from Poland, table tennis players from China, a triathlete from New Zealand, a world-champion distance runner from Kenya and a gold-medal-winning equestrian from Australia.

Though I am shocked, SHOCKED to my core, that an Australian would desert our fine country to play for another nation especially when they’re a good shot a gold medal. How are we going to keep coming third in the Olympics despite our small population if the big countries steal all our Olympians? Huh? Way to take your tax-payer funded training and give the benefits to the peoples what didn’t pay those taxes!

Um, what was I saying? Oh, yeah, if it’s fine for the US to have representatives from other nations than it’s fine for USians like Becky Hammon to represent a different nation. And, er, I guess that goes for Australia too, what’s had any number of foreign nationals represent it over the years.1

  1. Wow, that was really hard to write. []

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. []

Word counts

I’m curious: Are any of you interested in reading about writers’ word counts? And if so why? Cause I confess I’m not sure I entirely get the point of blogging about it. And those who post ‘em on your blog why do you?

Don’t get me wrong I keep an eagle eye on my word counts. They are the measure of my days.1 I’m aiming to hit 60 thou by the last week of July. But, you know, it’s housekeeping. I don’t keep people posted on how many dishes I’ve washed, meals I’ve cooked, or hours I’ve spent exercising.2

Now, I know that I blog about many things that people find deadly dull such as quokkas and sport of any kind and that doesn’t stop me—actually it provokes me to further bloggage on topics of annoyance to the complainers. However, I can defend and explain why I blog on those topics. So to repeat my opening: why do you blog your word counts if you do? And does anyone other than the blogger of the word count get anything out of it?

Coming up soon: my post on the sport of quokkas.

  1. Better than coffee spoons. []
  2. For the record: today I’ve washed no dishes, put together two meals, and spent an hour at the gym. I’ve also bitten off all my fingernails and failed to find my favourite T-shirt. Every second of today, er, yesterday, was a thrill ride! []

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. []

Why can’t I be Guest of Honour all the time?

I will confess that I was nervous about going to High Voltage ConFusion. There were several reasons for this:

  • I’m afraid of cold places. And Detroit in winter is COLD.1
  • I’d never been a guest of honour before and was worried I’d be crappy at it.
  • I was aware that most of the people at the con would not have heard of me or Scott and was worried that they would feel dudded of a proper author guest of honour what wrote adult sf and fantasy.

I need not have had any concerns at all. I was right that most of the people there didn’t know us or our work (unless they were a teen librarian or had teen children—there were precious few actual teens in attendance). But it turned out to be a really good thing. No pressure and no expectations. It was really relaxing. One of the most relaxing weekends I’ve had in ages.

Mostly because of Anne Murphy, our liaison. I had no idea that guests of honour get someone to take care of them. It was fabulous. Anne made sure we were fed and happy. She is the best liaison of all time. Thank you, Anne! Why can’t she take care of us all the time? We’re lost without you, Anne!

There was much fun. The Opening Ceremonies were hilarious. A picture of which below. Scalzi interviewing us was very silly and totally enjoyable. Though I was bummed he didn’t bring up unicorns or quokkas.

We got to design our own panels. Thank you so much con organisers for indulging us! And thus were able to vent about stuff that’s been bugging us for ages. Why is there so little sport in fantasy and sf? Why did our audience turn on us during that panel back in Boston in 2004? Do they really just love wheat?

Thus the wheat panel which was FABULOUS therapy for me and Scott, though audience members expecting us to follow the panel description might have been disappointed. Sorry about that! But thank you for not turning on us. You were the best audience ever. Actually, all the panel audiences were smart and engaged and awesome. Me and Scott were dead chuffed that as the weekend went on more and more folks were showing up to hear us gasbag and pontificate. Yay!

The sport panel was also wonderful. Though we had way too much to say and not enough time to say it in. I especially loved that the audience was almost entirely women. Hah! There was also a sports writer, Dave Hogg, in the audience (he really should have been on the panel) who turned out—along with his partner—to be a huge Detroit Shock fan. Go, WNBA! We had an excellently geeky women’s hoops gossip.

I’ll admit that my last few cons had left me with panel fatigue. But now I love them all over again. I wish I’d gotten to see some of the panels I wasn’t on. I heard that all of Kevin Dunn’s (the science guest of honour) were brilliant. He explained soap and and all sorts of other Caveman Chemistry. I can’t wait to read his book.

You’ll be shocked to hear, however, that the best fun was not had during the panels, but at the parties and in the bar, and just generally hanging out. The ConFusion organisers and regulars are the best people on the planet. Seriously I got into so many great conversations and arguments and teasing contests. I can’t wait to go back!2

May I share with you the three best words in the world?

Roaming Pirate Party


Thanks again, Hugh, for the photo.

I haz met the Roaming Pirate Party. They haz rum3 and pirate hats and jollity by the galleon load. Best pirates ever! I shall treasure my pirate hat and t-shirt for ever!

We got to catch up with old friends like Karen Meisner, John & Krissy Scalzi, and Doselle Young. Why don’t they all live MUCH closer to me? I miss you all already. Waahh!! Not to mention making stacks of new friends. You know who you are! Yanni! Brian! Aaron! And SO MANY OTHERS! You all made it the best weekend ever.

Hell, we even got to see a movie: Cloverfield and it were good. Very good indeed.

If anyone needs a guest of honour me and Scott are so up for it!

  1. How cold? Minus a million cold! That’s how cold. So cold that I’m back in NYC and it’s freezing and it seems warm in comparison. []
  2. Any chance you could move it to a warmer time of year? []
  3. Though, obviously, being a YA author I didn’t drink any of it. Heaven forfend! []