Conflux 13: Grimm Tales

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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:

Friday

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!)

Saturday

11am – Not for children. I’ll be talking about the dark roots of classic tales with Ellen, Angela and Kirstyn.

Sunday

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.

If you’re in Canberra over that weekend, come along to the Vibe Hotel & say hi. It’s going to be spectacular. (Ticket info on the Conflux website here.)

 

 

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Stories in the mist

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.

Argh!

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.

Operation First Draft: Week 2

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.

Operation First Draft

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.

Monday

Reporting for duty at the National Library of Australia.

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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.

Tuesday

Holed up at Good Brother Cafe with a slice of semolina custard pie.

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Wednesday

At the iconic Tilley’s Devine Cafe.

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Thursday

Back at the National Library writing in the cafe under the light of their glorious stained glass windows.

Friday

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.

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Progress?

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.

And what am I writing?

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.

Dreaming up a city

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?

Spectacular things

Two – count them! – spectacular things happened to me today. First a package arrived on my doorstep this morning. What could it possibly have contained? Oh, just the PROOF COPIES OF MY FIRST EVER PUBLISHED NOVEL.

Sorry, sorry. Got a bit excited. I’ve turned the caps lock off now.

Then I fired up the internet to see Hodder & Stoughton released the blurb today!

My Twitter went nuts for a bit.

I am not complaining. It’s actually kind of humbling to know people are excited to read something I wrote. I’m ecstatic, as well. But when I opened that proof copy today and saw my words – my very own words – all lined up on the page of an actual book, well, I had a moment. I got a bit trembly.

I just hope that I can go some way to fulfilling the hopes of those people who are excited for this story, and they will love it at least a little bit as much as I do. *crosses fingers* *closes eyes tight* *wishes hard*

Ending the drought

For obvious reasons, I have been on a self-imposed ban on consuming any Beauty and the Beast stories for the last – oh, I don’t know – five years. But the manuscript is finished. The edits are done. Last week I even watched the Disney live-action B&B movie for the first time. And now I am ready to wallow in other people’s Beauty and the Beast imaginings. So.

What Beauty and the Beast retellings should I indulge in? What are  your faves?

To get you started, I’ve got these two lined up ready to go. An old, old favourite and a brand new treat (all freshly signed from Kate’s fascinating talk at the National Library in Canberra last week!)

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Gimme your recs! Go!

Those proofs

My big news this week is that the printed proof copies of The Beast’s Heart have arrived in the London office of my publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, and a small pile of them will soon be winging their way into my waiting hands.

To say I’m excited is putting it mildly. Up until those photos were tweeted, I had only seen the front cover, so I’m still swooning a bit over the detail on the spine and I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming when I read the lovely words they’ve put on the back.

If you would like to receive a review copy, Hodder has information available for book bloggers here.

If you’re an Australian reveiwer, your best bet is probably going to be through Hachette Australia on Netgalley.

An oval mirror in an ornate frame on a deep blue background. The mirror has been shattered.

Proof

So this little piece of exquisiteness just got revealed on Twitter over @Chapter5Books tonight.

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?