Recently (yesterday!) discovered that one of my books is going to be picked up, although I'm waiting to get the contract before I say too much! The book is a "writing challenge" I gave myself: write a book in a week. It's called Banned Books - a working title - and is about a school that tries to ban controversial books with limited results. I'm not sure if I'm a fan of the book itself but I did enjoy writing some of the characters. And of course it's set in a private school because as usual, it's hard for me to not write about private schools. I'll be honest, I have no idea what public schools are like. Except I suppose what I learned from watching Mean Girls. I also have a new release out - Jasper and the Dead - which is part of the Under the Southern Cross anthology. Zombie story set in 18th century Sydney, which includes my favourite convicts. The Under the Southern Cross anthology is a collection by Australian authors which is quite fun, as I know some of them. Here's a blurb: At the dawn of the nineteenth century, a zombie outbreak threatens to wipe out Sydney. Zombie hunter Jasper Blue and Pape Sassoon, a ferryman’s secretary, are charged with getting the governor safely out to the ship anchored in Sydney Harbor. Despite a sparking mutual attraction, the two men hire a cadre of bodyguards and attempt the mission. But when the zombie horde threatens to overwhelm them, their fight for the governor becomes a battle for life, and love, and much more. I'm currently working on two YAs: Mizzenmast and TBBHATS. I'm halfway through Mizzenmast but boy can it be tough going! I wish I had a ghost writer but I've no idea where to find one... and I probably couldn't afford them anyway. TBBHATS on the other hand is trucking along. It's going to be quite short but I think I'm okay with that. It's only the first story in the series anyway.
1 “That was Arthur Smithy, ladies and gentlemen,” cried Sandy Greyson, host of the reality TV show, Find Me A Hero. “Let’s give him a big hand.” The crowd cheered as she grabbed Art’s skinny arm by the wrist and raised it in the air, like a prize-fighter claiming a championship. “Great work, Art,” Sandy purred. “Now let’s see what the judges thought of the song. Over to you, Gary. What’s running through your mind?” Gary—industry giant, manager to the stars--quit picking at the tiny mic tucked in the lapels of his jacket and looked up at the stage blankly, as if he’d completely forgotten why he was here in the first place. “One of your strongest performances in the competition, Arthur,” he admitted. “But I’ve got to be blunt here. You’re not right for Hero. Your voice isn’t strong enough and you don’t have the right look for a boy band. Daniel does. At the end of the day, I don’t think you can sell records and that’s really what it’s all about.” “Money, money, money,” Helena purred disapprovingly from the chair on Gary’s left. Beautiful, vapid Helena was the diva of the show—in fact ‘the diva’ had become her nickname. “Don’t take any notice of him, Arthur,” she continued. “I love you, sweetie. The audience loves you. Everyone loves you. It’s no wonder you made it to the final two. You’ve got your own style, you’ve got your whole, um, dark, gothy thing going on…” She trailed off uncertainly. Sandy relieved the silence by pushing her microphone into Art’s face. “Thanks,” Art mumbled. The final judge was DJ-MORE—rapper, producer, and gold medallion aficionado. “Look Arthur, let’s get real. This isn’t a high school talent show. This is Find Me A Hero. Right now you’re about here,” he said, indicating a space somewhere at shoulder level. “But at this stage of the game, we need you up here.” Up here? Up where? Art wondered miserably, wilting under the spotlights. Does he want me to grow taller? “Well that’s what the judges think,” Sandy giggled, “but we know it’s up to you at home to decide which one of the boys is going to be our Hero.” She tilted the microphone toward the crowd, and the roar of excitement was as loud as thunder. The stadium was full tonight—but the stadium was always full. Find Me A Hero, with its odd combination of singing, adventure and general knowledge quizzes, was one of the most popular shows on television. Tonight eight thousand people had gathered in the stadium to watch Art and Daniel compete to become the fourth member of the internationally successful boy band Hero. Most of the audience was teenage girls, who screamed and waved signs professing their undying love for the contestants. (Well, mainly their undying love for Daniel.) The rest were a mix of reluctant boyfriends, boys who wanted to be in boy bands, and middle-aged adults—most there with their daughters, but some alone and waving their own cardboard placards. Their messages flashed up now and then on the stadium’s jumbo screens: We Heart U Daniel Daniel is my HERO I’ll make DAN-YELL anytime “Voting is about to close, Arthur,” said Sandy, jogging Art’s elbow. “Got any last words for your fans?” Give up? Art thought. To be honest, he wasn’t sure if he had any fans. Every media outlet in the country was already crowning Daniel the winner of Find Me A Hero. Betting shops had him down as a dead cert. Art wasn’t jealous of the one-sided attention. Secretly he thought Daniel deserved to win, too. Art was as surprised as everyone else that he—the weird, quiet, goth kid—had made it through to the final two. Hopefully the band liked a good underdog story, he thought, his gaze drifting from the crowds to the curved platform hidden directly above the judges’ table. This was the band’s balcony, where the three remaining members of Hero—Lee, Steven and Fraser—could watch the show out of view of the audience. Most of the time the trio stuck to the shadows like operatic phantoms, but sometimes when he was on stage Art could see them moving about up there. Flashes of pale hands, and now and then a glimmer of gold light glinting off Lee’s fair hair… “Your fans are waiting, Arty,” Sandy prompted him. Art blushed and leaned in to the mic. “Thanks for your support.” His words were followed by a round of applause. For a moment—a brief, strangely exhilarating moment—Art imagined that the audience were clapping for him. Then he felt a hand on his shoulder and knew that they weren’t. “Hey, thanks, wow!” said Daniel, suddenly beside him. Above the stage, the jumbo screens immediately zoomed in on Daniel’s sparkling green eyes, his perfect teeth and perpetually half-tucked shirt. The camera loved Daniel… but then everyone loved Daniel. You only had to look at him to know he was destined for great things. Now he enveloped Art in a tight hug as if they were best friends reunited. “Oh my gosh, it’s Daniel,” Sandy gushed, sounding almost as pleased as the audience. “And what do you want to say to your fans?” “Wow, Sandy! I’ve so much to say!” Daniel clasped his hands over his chest and took a deep breath—acting as if what he was about to say hadn’t been rehearsed a hundred times in front of his dressing room mirror. “I want to start by telling them they’re fantastic and beautiful people. You just… you just make me humble, okay? Just so humble. I do it all for you. Give yourself a cheer! You deserve it.” The crowd’s screams were so loud they made Art’s ears ache. “What a superstar. This is going to be an amazing… wait, wait.” Sandy touched a hand to her ear-piece. “News just in. Voting has closed. The votes have been counted and I can tell you it is extremely close. Only a handful of votes separate Arthur and Daniel.” That had to be a lie, Art thought. He doubted he’d come anywhere close to getting the votes Daniel had. Sandy was probably trying to ...
When Royal Ottoman was thirteen he found a funny lump in his chest, a tiny nodule shaped a bit like a jelly bean. At the time he didn’t think it was anything important. He’d had funny lumps before: chicken pox, mosquito bites, pimples, med-rash, blood blisters and even a nasty boil Mr Takuira said he’d gotten from not eating enough fresh fruit. So he didn’t tell anyone about the lump, especially not his mother (who would worry, who was always worrying). Most of the time he forgot it was there, but now and then his t-shirts would brush against it, and he’d think: Funny. A year later Royal started feeling dizzy when he woke up, so much so that his best friend Gwyn started calling him torus-apad—wobble-foot in pirate Creole. It got so he was tired all the time, it got so bad he would wake up and have to go straight back to bed again, and at night he dreamt his body was falling apart like a battered old airship, panel by panel. Eventually Mr Takuira drew Pachito aside and said, “There’s a problem with your boy.” “His father died,” said Pachito. “He’s grieving.” “His father died six years ago,” said Mr Takuira. “I think this is something else.” Pachito wouldn’t go, so Mr Takuira brought Royal to the hospital. The doctors took some of Royal’s blood and went away to test it. Royal and Mr Takuira were left to sit in a long pink waiting room, shoulder to shoulder with syphilitics and leukemics and haemophiliacs and a wild-eyed woman with knuckles like tangled tree-roots who called Royal white-devil and told him the Japanese had killed her great grandfather in a war long, long ago. Two hours later a nurse called Royal’s name, and he was brought into a new room (small, white, blank) where the doctors gave him their diagnosis. Simply, apologetically, like it was all their fault. Cancer, sorry. Sorry, cancer. Well, Cancer, actually, Cancer-with-a-capital-C, because after that day everyone always spoke about it as if it was sentient, a malevolent spirit rather than a collection of mutated and dividing cells. Royal Ottoman’s Cancer was a sneaky thing, creeping silently from organ to organ, leaving a trail of tumours as it went like glossy white breadcrumbs. His lungs, his liver, his bowel, the lymph nodes in his armpits and neck. From there it had seeped into his bones, where it festered and multiplied and became CANCER, all capitals, a shout, a scream, a massive elephant of a disease that beat itself against the sides of Royal’s fifteen-year old body while Pachito wept and the doctors explained (quietly, as if scared they might further enrage the beast) that they were doing all they could. Cancer happened to Royal for a long time, for months and months, for so long that he started to forget what it was like to not have Cancer, to not have to spend weeks in hospital, to be able to go outside without carting a silly IV bag behind him on its clumsy metal hat-stand. One day Royal came back to his ward to find a thin man sitting on his bed. He was dressed in white like a doctor, and Royal was about to ask after his latest test results when he saw the man’s eyes. They were the colour of pitch and had no depth, so that when Royal looked into them he saw nothing but his own reflection shimmering on the surface like sunlight on oil. Royal shuddered. “Mr Desangua?” “Master Ottoman.” Lucian bowed with his hat held against his chest. Lucian was always doing dumb things like that. Clowning Around, Pachito called it. Except it was never funny, because Royal knew that under the silly act was a brain as sharp as a cut-throat razor. Royal had always been scared of Lucian, of Lucian’s brain, of what Lucian’s dead black eyes (and they were dead, it was like there was no one inside him) could see. “I should sleep,” said Royal. “I hear you’ve got cancer,” said Lucian. Pronouncing it cancer-with-a-small-c. Like it was No Big Deal. “We should probably fix that.” “How?” Royal wanted to know. Frustration made him bold. He was pale and skinny and half-dead from a combination of chemo and pills with made-up names like ALANAX and HEDOPHINE. He was sick of injections, of people taking stuff out of him, putting stuff in. “I want to be cured. I want to be better. But nothing works. What do I have to do?” Lucian said: “Wipe this cotton bud around the inside of your mouth and I’ll call you in the morning.” “Is this going to make me better?” Royal asked. “In a way,” said Lucian. “I am going to make a better you.” Bink remembered these things happening, although he knew he shouldn’t be able to. You couldn’t clone someone’s memories, that was impossible, that was science fiction—except there the memories were, inside his head, bits and pieces of Royal’s life before Bink. Bink knew things about Royal’s childhood he had no reason to know, no right to know, no desire to know. Like how Royal had been scared of the dark and scared of spiders and scared of needles, but scared of dying more than anything else, because it meant losing everything, and he’d already lost so much. Like how Royal missed his father, and blamed Lucian, and hated the seedy hi-house hangars he saw every day from his hospital window, as bulbous as the tumours in his x-rays. Like how Royal yearned, above all things, to go home.
Having completed the anthology (Signs over the Pacific) and the novella (Jasper and the Dead), I've got one last major project on my to-do list before I can start working on my own stuff. That project is Mizzenmast, that bastard bastardbastard of a thing which has been lying around on my hard drive for upward of five years. Fuck knows how I'll manage to squeeze it into shape. Today I sat down and squeezed a potentially 80,000 word plot into a more manageable 60,000 words by nixing a handful of characters, removing whole plot lines, and simplifying a lot of the relationship between the antagonists, as well as switching the "romance" from one couple to another. You better believe my brain is burning from the effort. Tonight I'm going through the 20,000 or so words I have of it and excising many of the sub plots. I'm keeping the explosions but removing almost everything between and after them. It might be a weaker story as a result, but at least it'll be concise.
Okay folk, I think I'm open again for commissioned fiction and/or anthology requests. I've currently got a novel and two short-stories on my commission list, plus a short-story for a charity anthology, but I'm deffo open for new novella and short-fiction length stories. Chances are I'm not going to do much submitting to magazines any more - I really hate that submishmash thing and I only use it when I can get my husband to do it for me - so if you'd like something from me, let me know what you want and I'll get on it. Some notes, though: I only do charity anthologies when I believe in the charity. If your submission guidelines include social justice stupidity about inviting people "without privilege"... and all the related fun around that... I'm not interested. I'm okay with meeting deadlines. But I will likely need one to get motivated. I'm probably not going to be able to manage anything more than 20,000 words, especially with a novel hanging over my head (to say nothing of the novel I actually want to write). If you'd like to run a reprint, a lot of them are currently off-limits. Please ask before reprinting! I'll be able to let you know that way what's good to go and what's not. :)