10th Power in Japanese!

Finally, The Tenth Power has been released in Japan! Here's the cover:

It's very-- striking, isn't it? Very dramatic. I think it's Samis.

Anyway, I can't wait to see it in the flesh, as it were. The first two volumes have been items of absolute beauty, with gorgeous illustrations, bookmarks, postcards and every imaginable loveliness, all filtered through a Japanese sensibility which makes Tremaris strangely, but appropriately, alien.

If only I could read them.


Back To The Real World

Michael went back to work today, which meant no writing for me. Which is a shame, because I'm at the stage where, if I could lock myself away for four or five days, I could probably finish it. I know lots of people manage to write novels with children underfoot, but I'm so not one of them. (Evie is hanging off my elbow at this very moment, begging for a cuddle, so I won't be here long...)

So, Michael wasn't here, and it was hot (Alice just came in and asked if she could have a stray key-tag; now they're fighting over the key-tags) so we just sat around, reading books and knitting and making pompoms and watching the video of The Railway Children. (Evie is now pestering me for a key.) I love The Railway Children so much, just putting the tape in the machine made me cry. "Oh, stop it, Mum," said Alice, rolling her eyes. "It's not sad."

Last night it was dying baby elephants on the television that set me off. I must be in need of catharsis or something.

Evie wants me to attach her key to her tag. Better go.


Naming The Baby

Titles are hard. I say that now, as I'm struggling to name the Current Project (the one I've totally changed three times before getting to this point, ie almost the end of the second complete draft.) So far it's been called The Shadow of the Crow, Isabel's Dreaming (that was back when the main character was called Isabel), The Time of the Crow, Speaking With Crows... you may have guessed, it features crows. My current working title is Crowfire, which I love as a title, except that I'm going to have to go back and insert some extra fieriness to justify using it.

Although ultimately that may not matter, as almost certainly someone is going to say, nah, don't like that, and we'll have to come up with something new.

The Singer of All Songs was originally called The Chanters of Tremaris, which ended up being the name of the trilogy. Briefly, The Waterless Sea was The Sands of Hathara. The Tenth Power was always The Tenth Power. The Taste of Lightning started out as Baltimar's Daughter, and the editors and I struggled for weeks until Penni helped me out. Always Mackenzie used to be Truly Mackenzie, but the Girlfriend people thought that was too wussy. Winter of Grace was a bullseye, first shot. Woo-hoo! My next book, which comes out in May, will be called Cicada Summer, which I don't loathe, but I don't particularly love it either, partly because there are at least three other books with the same title kicking around out there. (You can google them yourselves.) To me, Cicada Summer will forever be The Summerhouse Girl.

As for the CP - well, I'd love it to have Crow in the title somewhere. But who knows... Naming Alice and Evie was a doddle compared to this lot.


Crack The Sads

My current favourite Oz expression is "to crack the sads," as in, I told her we couldn't go swimming today, so she cracked the sads. At least, I think it's Oz. A cursory googling seems to confirm this assumption, and it also doesn't seem to have been around for very long. I think it needs encouragement. I'm all for nourishing what little home-grown slang we still have left.

Last year I took up "Crikey!" so perhaps 2009 will be the year of cracking the sads. What with the dismal economic and climatic outlook, I should have plenty of opportunity to use it.


The Finishing Line

I told the Alien Onions that I'd have finished a draft of my new book by the end of the year. That was last year. Obviously I haven't quite made it. Maybe it'll be done by the end of this year.

Nah, only kidding. It's nearly there. This won't be the final draft, but it's the first one that I'm prepared to show to people without feeling embarrassed by the holes. With luck, it won't need major surgery, only some shuffling and tinkering and embroidery.

Finishing a book is a weirdly unsatisfying process. Usually, once I get to this stage, and send off the Reasonably Okay Draft for editing, I'm already thinking about my next project. By the time the ROD comes back to be fixed, I might have started writing the New Thing, and inevitably, the New Thing seems much more exciting than the old one. By the copy-edit stage, I actually resent the manuscript coming back, because I want to concentrate on the New Thing, which is by now simply the Thing I'm Working On. And by the time the Old Thing arrives as an actual Book, I'm so deeply into the next thing, or even the thing after that, that I almost don't care about it any more.

Having said that, turning the Reasonably Okay Draft into a Good Solid Manuscript is my favourite part of the process. The plot holes are plugged, the structure is sound, and all I have to worry about is the words. For me, getting the story right is the hard part; playing around with language is secondary. Soon, I'd like to do some writing that isn't focused on story, to reconnect with the joy of words. Hopefully, my next project will allow me to do that.

See, I'm thinking about it already.


A New Year, A New Doctor

Matt Smith has been announced as the eleventh Doctor. I've seen him as Danny in Party Animals, which I'd started watching, weirdly enough, as I hardly follow any TV series. (I must have had a premonition - similarly, I picked up Blackpool just before David Tennant took over as Doctor No. 10.)

I've been a Dr Who fan for a long, long time (not quite 900 years, but it feels like it). The central conceit of the show - the time/space machine that's bigger on the inside, the mysterious Doctor who can change bodies when necessary - is a story-telling mechanism of brilliant elasticity. The Doctor has roamed through the past and the future, everywhere from cosy English villages to the outer reaches of the universe.

The beginning of Singer of All Songs, where the mysterious Darrow arrives from the outside world and whisks the innocent Calwyn away into a life of dangerous adventure, owes quite a bit to the Dr Who paradigm! The notion of the TARDIS landing in your back garden and the Doctor beckoning you inside has always been terrible seductive.

My first Doctor (the series' fourth) was Tom Baker. "All teeth and curls" as one of his successors described him, he seemed to relish the role. Perhaps he sensed that he would be forever the Doctor. Always eccentric, sometimes autocratic, sometimes plain silly, he personified the enigmatic time traveller as a larger than life figure, with a larger than life scarf. At seven years the longest-lasting Doctor, Tom Baker remains for many the quintessential Time Lord.

But the Doctor I loved was the fifth, Peter Davison. I already had a huge crush on him from All Creatures Great and Small, and when I heard he was taking over as the Doctor, I felt as if all my Christmases had come at once. Amazingly, he lived up to my expectations. Young, energetic, cricket-loving, his Doctor was a vulnerable hero, who always meant well but often made mistakes, a more human character than his predecessor. He was the Doctor of my dreams...

...until David Tennant arrived! The Tenth Doctor has blended child-like wonder and manic enthusiasm with moments of chilling ruthlessness that remind you that he is not, and never will be, human.* And it doesn't hurt that DT is, in the words of Catherine Deveny, a red-hot spunk. He's been very nearly perfect, absolutely loveable, but with a core of remoteness. And his costume is the best yet, stylish yet practical (love the Converse runners with the pin-stripe suit!)

It'll be interesting to see what Matt Smith does with the role. Every Doctor has been subtly different. I'm slightly apprehensive that he might be too young; the Doctor needs to convey an ancient authority as well as vibrant energy - a hard balance to pull off. But even if Matt Smith ends up being less wonderful than my favourite Doctors, I'll keep watching.

* Except for that couple of episodes where he changed his body chemistry - and that didn't work out too well.


Winter Of Grace Out Now!

Winter of Grace (Girlfriend Fiction 10) is now officially available in shops all over Australia. (Just spotted it in Myer today.) Hooray! So I thought I might tell you a little about the origins of the book.

The idea behind Winter Of Grace came to me quite early on -- the story of a friendship between two girls where one friend "gets religion" and the other is horrified by the thought. I wanted to write something about young people and spirituality, because I feel it's a neglected area. Exploring religion and God and spirituality (and politics) is just as important to some young adults as finding their way round sex and drugs and cyberspace, but it doesn't get nearly as much attention.

The initial idea came quickly, but for a long while I wasn't sure who was going to tell the story. Originally it was going to be from the point of view of Stella, the horrified friend. But gradually I realised that it would be more interesting for me, as a curious but fairly non-religious person, to get inside Bridie's skin and tell the story through her eyes.

In fact, I feel I've swung back and forth between both sides of the Stella-Bridie divide. I grew up in PNG in the 1970s, where missionaries of all varieties were thick on the ground. My best primary school friend, Eva, was the daughter of Finnish missionaries, who had travelled literally to the other side of the world to bring the word of God (as they saw it) to the people of PNG. I remember trying so hard to feel the ecstatic certainty of being "saved", but never managing to hold onto that feeling for long.

Eva and I lost touch when I moved back to Australia and her family moved to the US, but she wrote to me again when we were about 14. She was still a keen member of the church and covered her letter with "Jesus loves you" stickers. Alas, I felt I had to break it to her that I was now a committed atheist, and worse, a convinced socialist. I never heard from her again.

Maybe Eva would have smiled quietly to herself if she'd known that a few years later, when I was at university and feeling rather lost, I spent some time "church-crawling," just like Bridie. But unlike Bridie, I never found a church that felt like home for me.

While I was writing the book I felt very close to Bridie and sympathetic to her experience, but since finishing it, I feel I've drifted back toward the Stella position. I guess the truth is that Stella and Bridie represent two parts of myself that have been sparring since my early teens, and like the girls, I have to accept that one is probably never going to convince the other. All I can do is take what's best from each of them and hope they find peace in my warring heart (or soul!).