Well, wow. That was intense.
Conflux 13 is over & it was amazing. I feel like I’ve been operating on overdrive for a week now. Where should I start? OK, highlights.
1. Meeting Ellen Datlow. Idol from my youth. Giant of the fantasy & horror genres. Hard not to spend the weekend in a total fangirl tailspin.
2. The panels. What’s not to like about spending the weekend talking with like-minded and fascinating people like Angela Slatter, Kirstyn McDermott and Aiki Flintheart about things like Fairy Tales With Teeth and Claws, Beastly Transformations, Magic Schools and Deadly Dance?
3. Winning second prize in the CSFG/Conflux short story comp for my story Flawless! (Which I’ve now been invited to read at the next meeting of the Canberra Fairy Tale Ring. as it fits neatly with the AFTS November theme of Snow White.)
4. Interviewing Zena Shapter for the launch of her new novel, Towards White, out from IFWG Publishing.
5. Drinking creme de violette bellinis and planning a live-tweeted rewatch of The Lady and the Highwayman and perhaps also A Hazard of Hearts (both movies based on Barbara Cartland novels made in the 1980s).
6. Discovering who was the mysterious origami master leaving perfect tiny dragons and unicorns all over the con.
7. Watching our guests of honour Ellen & Angela, & MC Kaaron opening their thank you goody bags to reveal a beautiful cast glass key by Canberra Fairy Tale Glass artist Spike Deane. I’m given to understand they were well received.
8. And last, but definitely not least – because this is what it’s all about when it comes down to it – is spending time with beloved friends and kindred spirits, both new and old, talking about writing, publishing, reading, movies, games, art, history, research, language and anything else that moves us and connects us and makes us part of the same tribe.
(All photos, except the first four, by Cat Sparks.)
Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.
It’s here. And isn’t it beautiful? I’m so thrilled.
And just in case this beautiful cover art isn’t enough for you, Hodderscape have a fascinating behind the scenes look at exactly how they created the cover for The Beast’s Heart.
I love the thought that the cover of my book is actually the gate to the Beast’s realm. You just have to open it up and step through to lose yourself in the fairy tale on the other side.
Friday is going to be a big day. There are things happening on Friday.
Conflux, which has entirely taken over my life recently, starts on Friday. Woohoo!
A little bird tells me there will be something very pretty revealed on the Hodderscape blog on Friday.
I’m so excited!!!
Conflux 13 is almost upon us! I have been a bit swamped the last few days putting the final touches on the program and scheduling all our wonderful panellists, but it’s almost there! And I am SUPER excited for this year’s con.
Firstly, what’s not to love about a dark fairy tale-themed SF con? *Swoon*
Secondly, the Guests of Honour this year…
Ellen Datlow and Angela Slatter! Hell, if I swoon any harder I’m gonna give myself consussion.
It was reading Ellen Datlow’s fairy tale anthologies in my early twenties that basically showed me that fairy tales were not just dragonflies locked in amber for all eternity, and that writers were still using all my favourite tales as inspiration for new stories. Which kinda inspired me to start writing my own stories…
And I will let you in on a secret and tell you Angela has been one of my author crushes for a while now. If you are into stories that draw on fairy tales and folklore all twisted up with a large pinch of darkness and more than a few shreds of cobweb, Angela is your gal.
So. Conflux! When I’m not running around troubleshooting or recovering from all of that in the con bar, here is where you’ll be able to find me:
10am – Con 101 with my good friend Elizabeth Fitzgerald. New to cons? A bit shy? We’ll have tim tams.
11am – Magic school. I’ll be talking magical education both real and imagined with Angela, Lyss Wickramasinghe and Dion Perry.
2pm – Fairy tales with teeth and claws. I’ll be moderating this conversation between Ellen, Angela, Kirstyn McDermott and Jason Nahrung.
4pm – Beastly transformations. A subject dear to my heart, you might say (boom-tish!)
11am – Not for children. I’ll be talking about the dark roots of classic tales with Ellen, Angela and Kirstyn.
9am – It’s early for a Sunday, but I’ll be soaking up the company at the Conflux 13 Guest of Honour Breakfast.
11am – Anthology makers. I’ll be honest, I put my hand up to mod this discussion between Ellen, Cat Sparks (who is launching her anthology with Liz Grzyb, Ecopunk, at Conflux) and Michelle Lovi of Odyssey Press hoping to get some hot tips for editing A Hand Of Knaves at the end of the year.
1.00pm – Deadly dance. I am really looking forward to this one. Dance & death in SFF fiction with Angela and Aiki Flintheart.
3.30pm – The Canberra Fairy Tale Ring agreed to let Conflux host it’s September meeting (just a teeny bit later than usual). Conveniently this month’s tale is The Girl With No Hands, as that was the title story in one of Angela’s earlier collections of twisted fairy tales. So she’s going to come along to that too.
Writing. It looks so much easier than it is.
I’ve spent most of the last week and a half doing more brainstorming and dreaming. I’m still sitting at that point of frustration, where I can see the shape of the story, I can feel it, taste it, even. But when I try and pin it down in words, it just dissolves like mist through my fingers.
I’ve definitely made progress, though, even if I can only describe it as creeping.
Here, have some more of my visual prompts from Pinterest. Which is kind of what this WIP looks like in my head. Intriguing, definite feel to it, some good characters. But a concrete plot? Pff.
This week has been a bit of an exercise in frustration, and a reminder that writing is not all about just getting words on the page. Sometimes it’s about sitting there, staring into space, maybe for hours, with the same song on repeat. Or going for a long drive, or a run, or sitting on the bus with that song on repeat. Or delving back into your research to try and pad out some ideas, or generate new ones. All the while, with that one song on repeat.
It doesn’t feel very productive, but this is also the kind of thing I rarely get time to do in the normal course of things.
So, in the interests of at least presenting an appearance of productivity, here are a few snippets of visual inspiration I found while trawling through Pinterest.
I’ve taken some time off the day job! Eight whole weeks. Woo! But I’m not having a holiday. Just doing a different kind of work. I want to complete a first draft of one of my WIPs. So this week I’ve been head down, busily writing away.
Reporting for duty at the National Library of Australia.
I figured if I treat it like a job and leave the house every day, hole up somewhere quiet (preferably with coffee) and just focus, I’ll be less likely to arrive at the end of the 8 weeks and find I’ve accidentally constructed my dream vegetable garden or cleaned out the garage instead of finished the novel.
Holed up at Good Brother Cafe with a slice of semolina custard pie.
At the iconic Tilley’s Devine Cafe.
Back at the National Library writing in the cafe under the light of their glorious stained glass windows.
Um. Friday was a bit of a yukky day. So I broke out the fluffy slippers and parked myself on the couch. It was still moderately productive and far too wet and windy to make landscaping an attractive alternative to plot-wrangling.
I’ve added around 4000 words to the MS, put the plot in order and stitched up a couple of ugly holes. That’s probably OK for a MS I haven’t looked at for months. My aim is to get myself up to doing at least 2000 words a day. The MS is currently sitting on 41K, and I’m aiming for about 90K.
Aha. Spoilers. It’s another standalone and it’s fairy tale related. Maybe I’ll leave some hints lying around here over the next few weeks.
So this weekend’s writing job, while I do a bunch of other, non-writingy jobs, is to start dreaming up a city for one of my current projects.
I’m a big advocate of the setting-as-a-character-in-its-own-right school of world building. My favourite novels are the ones you want to keep re-reading because you just enjoy being in the world of the story so much. Think JK Rowling’s Hogwarts, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, Terry Pratchett’s Ankh Morpork, Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood, Diana Wynne Jones’ Moving Castle. And just to show this works outside fantastical stories, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden and Georgette Heyer’s Regency London. In fact, one of my big motivations behind writing The Beast’s Heart was to write myself a fairy tale world I could go and live in for a little while.
I have some sketchy ideas for this city, but so far it’s really just been a backdrop for the action in this new story. I want to level it up a bit, deepen it’s character, really bring it alive. I want my city to have twisty, shadowy alleyways lined with crooked buildings, cobbled streets and piazzas, a complicated clock tower, avenues of terraced mansions, moonlit shenanigans on rooftops, a river with treacherously damp water stairs, a monumental bridge lined with statuary, and a royal palace with towers and turrets. I want it to have all this and hold out the tantalising promise of more.
I have a whole Pinterest board of city inspiration.
I love looking at old photographs of cities in times gone past for inspiration.
I also love using old paintings and drawings for city inspiration. I find it interesting to look at what drew the artist’s eye. What was it about the city they thought was worth capturing? Rooftops? Stately buildings and squares? Shadowy spaces and archways leading…where?
And I’ve been mainlining illustrations by the likes of Anton Pieck and Arthur Rackham, who did delightful, fairy-taleish cityscapes.
What are your favourite literary cities? And what brings them alive in your mind?
So this little piece of exquisiteness just got revealed on Twitter over @Chapter5Books tonight.
— Chapter 5 📚 (@Chapter5Books) July 13, 2017
It’s waaaaay past midnight here, and I’m so excited I can barely breathe, let alone sleep. And this is just the proof cover! The hardback cover reveal is still to come!
Between this and the Tour de France I’m not going to get any sleep tonight, am I?