“The Heart of Owl Abbas” – now on Tor.com

My very odd short story “The Heart of Owl Abbas” is now up on Tor.com!

The story kind-of-sort-of-maybe exists in the same world (or continuum of worlds) as “Kindling” (in Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear and Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012) and “Skull and Hyssop” (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #31 and Prime’s Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015).

Huge thanks to Ellen Datlow, editor for Tor.com, and Angela Slatter, story doctor extraordinaire, for all they contributed, and to publisher and art director Irene Gallo who let me have Audrey Benjaminsen’s beautiful art. I think it’s the first time a story of mine has been illustrated by someone else and I think it is remarkable. I keep staring at all the little details. Thanks also to Noa Wheeler, copyeditor, who gamely catalogued all the careless inventions and copy-edited with an ear for the weird structures, and to Jodi Cleghorn who kickstarted me into writing this particular project when I was focussed on drawing.

Also, a word to the wise: baroque stylings exponentially increase editing difficulty. Thanks here to C.S.E. Cooney who is the sort of person you want on your side to find replacement words that slot into a particular matrix of sense, feeling, alliteration and anachronism. And also to Amber Gwynne, who diagnosed me with semantic exhaustion.

 

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This Art Is Not By Me (but the story is)

Art by Audrey Benjaminsen

In all Owl Abbas, before it burned (after the Falling but before the Cartographer’s War and the Recurrence of Owls), there were among its many windows only two that need concern us

This is the illustration reveal for Audrey Benjaminsen‘s beautiful charred, byzantine illustration for my story “The Heart of Owl Abbas”, which is to be published by Tor.com in April. It’s the first time (as far as I recall!) that a story of mine has been illustrated for publication by someone else, and I am so happy with it. Look at all those tiny engraved details, and the little lace cuffs, and that muscular, visceral heart.

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#8WordStory

The Queensland Writers Centre has been running an 8WordStory project on GOA billboards around Brisbane. This is one of mine! There is still time to enter until 24 November 2017 on 8WordStory.com or on Twitter, tagged with #8WordStory.

Hedge of Yellow Roses – Year’s Best

YearsBestTiconderoga

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2015 is out, and includes my short story “A Hedge of Yellow Roses”, which was originally published in Hear Me Roar, and also won a Ditmar!

“A Hedge of Yellow Roses” is the story of Vermeille, a vagabond knight (perhaps), who bears three messages out of a kingdom torn by revolution, and on the way stumbles across an old farmhouse and its enchanted, enchanting residents.

The Year’s Best also has all these other most excellent reasons for buying it:

 

  • Joanne Anderton, “2B”
  • Alan Baxter, “The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner”
  • Deborah Biancotti, “Look How Cold My Hands Are”
  • Stephen Dedman, “Oh, Have You Seen The Devil”
  • Erol Engin, “The Events at Callan Park”
  • Jason Fischer, “The Dog Pit”
  • Dirk Flinthart, “In the Blood”
  • Kimberley Gaal, “In Sheep’s Clothing”
  • Stephanie Gunn, “The Flowers That Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth”
  • Lisa Hannett, “Consorting With Filth”
  • Robert Hood, “Double Speak”
  • Kathleen Jennings, “A Hedge of Yellow Roses”
  • Maree Kimberley, “Ninehearts”
  • Jay Kristoff, “Sleepless”
  • Martin Livings, “El Caballo Muerte”
  • Danny Lovecraft, “Reminiscences of Herbert West”
  • Kirstyn McDermott, “Self, Contained”
  • Sally McLennan, “ Mr Schmidt’s Dead Pet Emporium”
  • DK Mok, “Almost Days”
  • Faith Mudge, “Blueblood”
  • Samantha Murray, “Half Past”
  • Jason Nahrung, “Night Blooming”
  • Garth Nix, “The Company of Women”
  • Anthony Panegyres, “Lady Killer”
  • Rivqa Rafael, “Beyond the Factory Wall”
  • Deborah Sheldon, “Perfect Little Stitches”
  • Angela Slatter, “Bluebeard’s Daughter”
  • Cat Sparks, “Dragon Girl”
  • Lucy Sussex, “Angelito”
  • Anna Tambour, “Tap”
  • Kaaron Warren, “Mine Intercom”

 

 

“A Hedge of Yellow Roses” in Year’s Best

yearsbest2015

My bittersweet (and Ditmar Award-winning!) post-revolutionary fairytale “A Hedge of Yellow Roses” has been selected for the 2015 Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror! The book is edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene and is available for preorder now from Ticonderoga Publications.

It has a great cross-section of current Australian writers, and if you’re looking to get a survey of what’s happening here then it’s not a bad place to start!

  • Joanne Anderton, “2B”
  • Alan Baxter, “The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner”
  • Deborah Biancotti, “Look How Cold My Hands Are”
  • Stephen Dedman, “Oh, Have You Seen The Devil”
  • Erol Engin, “The Events at Callan Park”
  • Jason Fischer, “The Dog Pit”
  • Dirk Flinthart, “In the Blood”
  • Kimberley Gaal, “In Sheep’s Clothing”
  • Stephanie Gunn, “The Flowers That Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth”
  • Lisa Hannett, “Consorting With Filth”
  • Robert Hood, “Double Speak”
  • Kathleen Jennings, “A Hedge of Yellow Roses”
  • Maree Kimberley, “Ninehearts”
  • Jay Kristoff, “Sleepless”
  • Martin Livings, “El Caballo Muerte”
  • Danny Lovecraft, “Reminiscences of Herbert West”
  • Kirstyn McDermott, “Self, Contained”
  • Sally McLennan, “ Mr Schmidt’s Dead Pet Emporium”
  • DK Mok, “Almost Days”
  • Faith Mudge, “Blueblood”
  • Samantha Murray, “Half Past”
  • Jason Nahrung, “Night Blooming”
  • Garth Nix, “The Company of Women”
  • Anthony Panegyres, “Lady Killer”
  • Rivqa Rafael, “Beyond the Factory Wall”
  • Deborah Sheldon, “Perfect Little Stitches”
  • Angela Slatter, “Bluebeard’s Daughter”
  • Cat Sparks, “Dragon Girl”
  • Lucy Sussex, “Angelito”
  • Anna Tambour, “Tap”
  • Kaaron Warren, “Mine Intercom”

Chickens and stories

This is where ideas come from:

You mention on Twitter that you don’t know how you started following the local Hereford Breeders society but that you find it soothing. A friend asks for recommendations for chicken fancier accounts.

The search is unsuccessful, but when you sit down to warm up for some other projects with some watercolour painting, you have chickens on the brain.

Fancy chickens.

Fury Road but with chickens

 

You are taken by the idea of Fury-Road-but-with-chickens. But also you were thinking about eighteenth century dresses, because of Tremontaine, so you give a fancy lady a chicken.

Lady with hen

But you aren’t sure you got the jacket quite right, although you want those sleeves, so you get into bodice construction and bowls of eggs because those are also hard to paint pleasingly. Since this is clearly a Cinderella-type, she gets a fancy dress too. You are quite pleased with these Daniel Smith colours and also with that shoe.

Cinderella with chickens

It seems likely Reynolds would have painted her godmother at some point, so another dress happens. Your dad was watching Pride and Prejudice in the next room so a bit of Catherine de Bourgh gets in there.

Godmother

She’s a little too straightforward, and also accidentally stepping on her hem, although that is an effect you might go for deliberately another time. You like her skirts, however.

You are now enamoured of two half-seen fabric designs, and decide to sketch them out in more detail. A costumer friend would like to make one of the dresses, so these plans may coincide. You have the beginnings of a chickenful fairytale idea, and also that first dress just about captures the feeling of a story idea you had last night when you started transplanting the bits you like of Supergirl into assorted historical contexts. This is now half-outlined and has about 1000 words of test-scenes.

An author friend points out that the first lady should be wearing clogs, which leads to a discussion about pretend chicken farmers, and although you meant to refer to Le Petit Trianon, somehow you are led astray into talking about “fake cheep girls” and everyone agrees you should stop talking for the day.

This week: news and matters of note

This week on Twitter etc. (rings by Janet Kofoed)

This week on Twitter etc. (rings by Janet Kofoed)

Alison-Goodman-sketch---not-used

  • The X-Files finally started in Australia (everyone complained about the pop-up ads but I thought it restored the nostalgia which the shock of watching on flat-screen in HD took away). In commemoration, here is the original music video to Bree Sharp’s “David Duchovny” which is so full of wait-was-that? cameos that it bears watching to the very end:

  • If you are into Old Hollywood, You Must Remember This, or Catherynne M Valente’s Radiance, then this long but cumulatively charming article from Brisbane newspaper The Truth, only 100 years ago, is a winsome read: Where Films Are Faked, Fixed and Finished.
  • The rather marvellous talking-to-writers expedition last week included much talk of pens, and it is one of the joys of working in these fields that asking “what pen do you use” tends to result in an arsenal emptied over the banquet table (that was at Illuxcon), while their owners trade virtues and merits. For the record mine are: Hunt Crowquill 102 with Winsor & Newton India Ink (drawing), Pitt Artist Pens (sketching), slim fine ballpoint (for notes, although I haven’t settled on one that is reliably non-blotting).

Hunt Crow Quill

  • Peter Ball’s post on “Prose, Blocking and the Perfect Combination” has a very useful approach to thoughtfully orchestrating the action in your writing.
  • Peter’s post (above), however, also underlines the degree to which storytelling advice translates across media. Illustration, movies, novels: all these contain examples and principles which can be incredibly helpful no matter what field you’re working in. Plus, if you need another incentive to watch Every Frame A Painting, it is 7 minutes of all the Best Bits.
  • Another resource for those trying to make the impossible believable is James Gurney’s Imaginative Realism (that’s James National-Geographic-and-Dinotopia Gurney). It’s also just interesting – my mother made off with my copy to read it. His rather good blog is Gurney Journey.
  • Here’s a less accessible but in-depth look at some myths about classic composition advice – of direct use to photographers and artists but, I would argue, also very useful to writers if you don’t mind doing some heavy lifting with metaphors (and you’re writers, aren’t you?): 10 Myths about the Rule of Thirds
  • The Ship Song Project continues to be beautiful – when I sing it while doing the dishes, this is the version I try to sing: