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Even in a little thing

7th October, 2015. 1:07 pm.

I had an hour without significant pain this morning. I'm afraid I didn't use it to solve the problems of the world: I went back to bed and rested. Now I am in pain again and solving the problems of the world, but I feel quite defiant about having got 7 hours sleep and one hour additional and entirely unexpected rest.

Today is a day for problems, so I'm glad I did that. The issues with my electricity bill have been solved (someone put my address instead of theirs when they moved house) and I've been given til December to pay an enormous electricity bill. And the threat to have my electricity cut off has been rescinded (for the bills were sent to the wrong place and it wasn't my fault) and I've had all the fines waived (for the bills were sent to the wrong place and it wasn't my fault).

I have one last editing task to do, and then my focus will be on the nightmare task. I have a nightmare task. If I can de-nightmare it by next Monday or Tuesday, everything will be OK. If I can't. It won't. I have to clear everything else and sort things out and if I can clear my decks for the day by 3 pm, then I can spend 8 hours working intensely on problem-solving.

Read 2 Notes -Make Notes

6th October, 2015. 12:58 pm.

I think it's a day for a list of ten.

1. My new novel is out. The Time of the Ghosts. (We tried to avoid that title because of Diana Wynne Jones, but when you read the book you'll see why three different people found it impossible. It has nothing in common with Wynne Jones' book apart from the title and being a fantasy novel written in English.)

2. Conflux was wonderful. Seeing Yaritji was wonderful. The committee did a very nice job and we all benefited.

3. The timing of Conflux was not good for me and I suddenly have an editing backlog, despite taking the Saturday off so that I'd be OK.

4. Because I had several hours back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday, my eye has had a bit of a relapse. Only a bit. my eyesight is still 60% of what it should be, so it's still on the mend.

5. If you use my words and my ideas, please mention that I'm the one who taught them to you (in class, or in a briefing, or elsewhere - whichever I taught you) especially if I'm sitting in the audience or on the same panel. When you don't, it doesn't affect my professional credibility: it affects my respect for you. The worst case was someone who gave a whole plenary session speech at a conference, using my words, looking at me the whole while. The one this weekend was less egregious, but it was still wrong. With committee people it means you'll never get my help again. With writers it mans that you'll never be invited to be a guest on my blog, get a cover comment from me, get advice on things, or be in a volume I edit. The moment you claim that my research is your casual thought (implicitly or explicitly) this happens and I can't think of any way of making it unhappen.

6. So much, so much talent in Aussie spec fic. I took pictures of all the publishers in the dealers' room and realised: so many amazing writers there who are not seen overseas. If anyone wants a blogpost on this small group of publishers (which isn't everyone - only those who were in one room for one con) I will illustrate them with pictures of publishers and writers carrying Little My. (see #7).

7. Around midnight on Friday, one of the chairs of the Helsinki 2017 worldcon asked me to take pictures of Little My with fans. Because Conflux attracts many writers, some of those fans are writers. I need to put up the last set of pictures. Later today you'll find the set on my Facebook page. It's generally available and you're welcome to re-use my pictures and yaritji's if I've taken one of your favourite author, but you'll have to ask Cat Sparks for permission to use the one of me.

8. Little My has vanished! For a little while there were pictures of her on a plane and then she was spotted in Adelaide. I suspect there will be more photos adventures in a month or so. Travel safely, Little My! (And yes, WorldCon 75 mob, I blame you. I especially blame you for what she got up to on Sunday. I will post those pictures when I finish here.

9. This is the place where I sneak in the next big news so that no-one will see it: my next novel will be Secret Jewish Women's Business. For those who liked my short story "Impractical Magic" in ASIM this is the same people and etc, but the two stories don't overlap. We don't have a date for it yet - some time in the first half of next year, though. I checked with ASIM and the edition with my story in is completely sold out, so if anyone wants a reprint of the story (which was honourably mentioned in a year's best) I'm very happy to talk. I also have an audio version of it, which needs to find a home. I so don't know what to do with audio short stories! (There's an interesting tale in why I have a professional actor reading my story and have the rights to it, but that's for another day.)

10. People keep on saying to me "What a brilliant idea, making elderly women the centre of a story. I don't know why it hasn't been done to death - it's such a good thing to do." At Conflux I took the time and talked with people to find out why it's so sensible. For some people it's because if the same reasons I wrote it (which I will be taking about ad infinitum during the publicity for the book) but one very clever person pointed out the demographics of readers and said "This is a novel that's written with me in mind, it has people I can relate to."

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4th October, 2015. 4:31 am.

I'm paying for a fabulous weekend and doing much work by having insomnia. It gives me a chance to blog, which is something. The insomnia is pain-legacy. My chiro is a miracle worker and I've seen him twice and my shoulder has started unfreezing and my back has started straightening, but it will take some weeks and so the pain recurs at the most nuisanscial times. Like tonight. I'm not in high pain - just enough to keep me awake. And I have to wake up in 3 hours anyway.

I wrote my six pieces on Thursday and started my week's worth of editing. I taught my workshop (8 students is pretty good for first thing on a weekday when people have to get time off work for it and it was not free - I did a lot better than some whose workshops were free, in fact - and had a bunch of good writers who enjoyed learning) and was interviewed by a student journalist and started giving Little My her next bit of Australian visit. I didn't know there was going to be a next bit, but people are enjoying her at Conflux and one of the chairs of WorldCon 75 told me that she was the Official Australian Ambassador to Confux and that I was needed to escort her around and take pictures. Which I have been, though Yaritji Green took over today and got Little My captured by stormtroopers.

The Little My thing means I'm not giving away photos of locations that I used in my fiction after all, though, and they will have to wait or another time, for offering people food and taking their photo with Little My is quite confusing enough. I went to the chiro and spent time with the friend who's visiting for Conflux and we did much shopping and we went to dinner with a squillion other Conflux attendees. And then I got a good night's sleep (for it was only today that the chiro's adjustments snuck up). And that was Friday.

On Saturday I did nearly 3/4 of the editing I have to do by early afternoon on Tuesday, which means I may well achieve that particular deadline, even if the next two days mean that I spend Tuesday morning asleep. I also did a rather fun interview for Amanda Bridgeman.

I doubt I'll blog again until after Conflux, so let me tell you what you're missing (so that you will know why you're missing it). I have my booklaunch, There's the fan auction. I am on 2 panels in rapid succession, then I have a break (not a long break) and then I give my one hour's worth of talk. I don't know who will know that they need to come to that, for the title got reworded and I didn't pick it up, but if you know anyone attending Conflux, tell them that it's a digest of totally crucial stuff that won't make my book and that is specifically for writers. I think my duties finish at 5.30, but I'm not 100% certain.

On Monday I have a panel, then 2 hours on the CSFG table. I have more panels in the afternoon. I have loads of chocolate and sweets to give to people if I get too tired to talk. I should be OK, for my wonderful visitor has a car and so I can get back on Sunday night safely, even if I can't stand straight. She leaves on Monday morning alas - and I shall miss her, but it's been lovely having Yaritji here.

I didn't think about this when I did my "avoid Gillian" post, but I'm doing almost as much here as at Loncon. More panels, only about 2 1/2 hours of volunteering all up, so it falls short of my average daily total at Loncon, but not by much. I'm not nearly as tired yet, despite insomnia, because I stayed at home today and edited. I saw friends this evening (I said I'd feed anyone who needed - not many needed, but it was a lovely, quiet way of catching up) but I wasn't on show at all. Anyhow, my total for 2 1/2 days of Conflux is 12 hours (not counting the fan auction, for I am not the auctioneer, nor counting Little My), of which an astonishing amount is panels and many of them are back to back.

Sometimes I like numbers too much. I hope I can catch up with my friends in between all that. I enjoy being busy at cons, and I'm on some fun panels. It will all be well. Although I'm going to see if I can get a couple of hours sleep before daylight savings rudely denies me my Sunday.

Read 4 Notes -Make Notes

1st October, 2015. 2:03 pm.

This afternoon's task is to write six pieces. I have until my houseguest arrives tonight to finish them. Two are done, one is part done (maybe) and I have heaps of ideas for the others. I need them finished by 6 pm, in reality, for I still haven't finished my prep for tomorrow's workshop and have barely started prep for my talk.

This is not a problem, for today is one of those days when I am so full of ideas that I could have five more guest posts in front of me and still say something new and interesting for each of them. My next blogpost was going to be about my personal hauntings, but instead I think it should be about historical food. This is because someone just emailed me about the Conflux cook book and my novel is full of foodstuff. I organised it as 12 dinner parties, originally, and devised the menus around the characters of the cooks. And I'm dreaming of some of those dishes, right now, so it will be fun to post about the hsitory behind fictional food.

Make Notes

30th September, 2015. 12:42 pm.

Today I look like a Star Trek alien. Almost human, but with odd skin. It's annual. We have pollens. It's also badly timed, for I was going to visit Floriade today. Instead, I'm staying indoors and dealing, for there are more symptoms than simply the bizarre skin. It's not serious. It's what happens when a person of tremendous allergies meets a certain time of month meets a certain time of year. Anyhow, I have much work to do and shall plod away at it, mourning the loss of an afternoon spent with flowers with a friend.

Normally it only lasts 2-3 days and it was well=begun yesterday, so I should be fine for Conflux.

My consolation is reading Naomi Novik's Uprooted. There are s many recent rewritings of fairy tales and everyone tells me "This is good" that I was worried. It's not that original, but it's amazingly good. Her fairy tale book and mine are very, very different, however, and I'm wondering about cultural identity again.

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28th September, 2015. 2:33 pm. KEEPING THE WARLOCK ON SCHEDULE - Sean McMullen

I have two special guests in one: Sean McMullen and Paul Collins. They've both been forces for good (and for good writing) in the Australian speculative fiction scene for a long time, so it makes me very happy to share Sean's thoughts on their collaboration.

The Warlock's Child series is approaching the first anniversary of its birth as a collaboration, so this is a good time to look at how it went from Paul Collins's partial draft to a published, six book series in just eleven months.

I resigned from my day job to become a full-time author in October 2014, when I discovered that I was paying the government to go to work. At that time Paul had a draft novel called Broken Magic which had been on hold for quite a while, so when he heard that I was about to have way more spare time, he suggested collaborating to get it moving again.

Paul and I had collaborated before, so we already had our roles sorted. I had helped Paul with the technical side of a short story published as Deathlight some years earlier, and he had started to expand it into Broken Magic. We spent half a day workshopping what was going to be written and establishing a story arc. This was the key to getting six high quality books written and launched in eleven months: we sorted out exactly what we were doing right up front.

The language had to be easily accessible to engage the reluctant readers, yet we needed a strong story arc so that accomplished readers did not feel patronized. Both of us had written for this age group before, so no problem.

Dragons are always popular, and I had some dragon themes that I’ve wanted to work on, so dragons became the driving force behind the expanded plot. Paul soon had the Deltora Quest artist Marc McBride lined up to do the covers. Marc does wonderful dragons, so the covers were sure to be winners.

Dantar, the fourteen year old cabin boy at the centre of the action, presented a problem. He was just a cabin boy, and we needed the view from the top as well as from the lower deck. I expanded the role of Dantar’s older sister, Velza, quite considerably. Velza became an officer on Dantar’s ship, and got to mingle with the leaders, so we see the big picture through her.

Any magical story needs rules for the magic: no rules means boring book. In The Warlock’s Child, humans can only ever use one of the four types of magic, which are earth, air, fire or water. Dragons have the lot, so they have the edge on humans. However, while the dragons are immortal, they have become sterile. Even immortals have accidents, like in Book 2 when a dragon hits a mountain and becomes a very large crater, so this is an issue.
When a human warlock, Calbaras, discovers the cure for dragon infertility, he trades this secret with the dragons for power over all four magics. The dragons are less than enthusiastic about this. So is his son, Dantar, who is being used in his father’s experiments. Only in Book 6 do we learn the truth about Dantar, Velza and the broken magic.

Plot sorted, but another problem remained. We were looking at a 100,000 word book. Give that to a ten year old reluctant reader, and count how many seconds it takes for him (they generally are boys) to grab a football and run. Paul’s solution was to break the story into six novellas of about 15,000 words. The books would not be confrontingly large, and would end on cliffhangers which encouraged the young readers to read on.

I started writing on 2nd October. Paul had expanded Deathlight to around 35,000 words, so I was not starting from scratch. So far so good, but Marc McBride needed scenarios for the six covers, and I only had firm ideas about one of them. This meant that I had to spend time roughing out the plots for the later books and sketching dragons doing interesting things.

This caused another problem. Paul needed the finalized drafts of the first book within weeks. In any series the characters and world building get done in the first book, so it needs a lot of care. Thus I was writing rough outlines at the same time as writing highly polished text that would become pallets of Book 1 by January. This also involved rewriting Paul’s draft, to fit in with the expanded plot in the later books.

Anyone who does a lot of rewriting will know that you end up with things in your head that are not in the text. Vital conversations and incidents get swapped around or even deleted, so you know what is happening, but the reader does not. When the Ford Street editors saw the drafts of the first book they found lots of loose ends to tie off, so I had to address these - while working on cover ideas, titles and the plots for the later books. This was quite a strain.

Book 1, The Burning Sea, was released on 1st April, and launched on 18th April in Ford Street Publishing’s auditorium. The reviews were great, and the kids were highly enthusiastic when we visited schools for signings. One book came out on the first of every month for six months, and the publisher ran a competition for best related story and dragon picture after Book 3. Book 1 is into its third print run, and the other books are selling better than expected, so the series is a winner commercially.

There are three main lessons in scheduling for authors in the hyper-fast creation of The Warlock’s Child.
• If you are on a tight schedule you must plan carefully up front and stick to your plan.
• If we had been learning about how to write for reluctant readers, we would still be writing Book 1, so write for the audience you know.
• Minimise the research. I have done some sailing, have spent time in historical re-enactment groups, and have a pretty solid background in karate and fencing. Thus I can write that sort of detail straight out of my head, without having to do a Google search.

As the Duke of Wellington said about the Battle of Waterloo, it was a close run thing. Paul and I coped by establishing the rules early, avoiding paths where there were speed humps, and keeping the research to a minimum. That said, I am now writing a bit slower, and really enjoying it.

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28th September, 2015. 1:53 pm.

Today is a bit wayward: things not quite working. I have four hours to get so many things done, and life keeps intervening. It did that yesterday, too, but yesterday I had two days to play with, so I caught up on DVD viewing when things went awry. At this point, i don't have that option. The thousand words I wrote yesterday will be laughable in four hours, for I have to write five thousand before then. Or edit three chapters. Preferably both. SO if the world would kindly get into line...

I promised you a guest post, too. This is one of the things the world ran interference on. It's sitting in my in-box, being more patient than I am.

Read 2 Notes -Make Notes

26th September, 2015. 6:44 pm.

I'm still slowly catching up with things. Refrain of 2015. I'm still slowly catching up with things. I never quite catch up before they move away.

Things slowly catch up with me. Amazon is now allowing pre-orders of The Time of the Ghosts. My third book for this year is nearing its release date. Inch by inch. And I'm getting closer to finishing the third book for next year, inch by inch.

If I can meet my deadlines, next year will be less fraught than this. If I don't, it will be more fraught. A simple enough equation.

If I keep on catching up, I can go to a meeting on Wednesday. If I don't, I can't.

This coming week is all about arithmetic.

Read 3 Notes -Make Notes

24th September, 2015. 9:46 pm. How to avoid Gillian at Conflux

This is not a complete guide, for I don't know who is on panels with me. And I have illustrative food for my magic workshop, so some people might want to come just to see what I think of as 'illustrative food.' Here, then, is the basic guide to avoiding me the weekend after next. These are from the draft program. To avoid me completely, you might want to check this online version of the program closer to the event: http://conflux.org.au/program/

Friday 10.00 am
Workshop: Putting magic in your fiction

Sunday 12 pm
Book Launch “The Time of the Ghosts” by Gillian Polack, published by Satalyte

Sunday 12.30 pm
Fan Auction

Sunday 1.30 pm
Panel: Using Grammar wot’s bad konstruktivlee
A discussion about when breaking the golden rules of grammar works and why.

Sunday 2.30 pm
Panel: What were we watching then?
Reminiscing about Classic TV shows of the 60’s

Sunday 4.30 pm
Guest Talk Gillian Polack “Building the world of your novel: how narratives help writers”
How writers shape the worlds they write in.

Monday 10 am
Panel: Food in fiction
Food can be an important world building tool in fiction. Writers share their thoughts on writing about food in fiction, their favourite fictional food appearances and maybe a recipe or two.

Monday 2.30 pm
Panel: Finding Authenticity
Finding the authenticity sweet spot between not enough research and far too much. Panellists discuss how they go about researching a story. Where do they start? How do they know which information makes it onto the top 10% of the iceberg above the water? When do they sacrifice accuracy for the sake of the story? How do they find those populist touchstones that create a convincing world in their readers’ minds? And how do they use them without their work descending into stereotype?

Monday 3.30 pm
Panel: Real Vampires
Are real vampires horrifying? Do real vampires sparkle? Are real vampires sexy? Or are they merely blood sucking fiends best decorated with a stake in their chests? Drawing on the rich and varied literature, films and other media our panellists discuss what makes a ‘great’ vampire!

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24th September, 2015. 3:40 pm.

So... Maybe I should stop wishing that Australia and fellow-Australians would be more supportive of my holy days. It's better that there is nothing on national news than that this happens, after all.

In other news, my article for Aurealis has past the edit stage, so its happening. Gradually, I cross things off my back list. Not faster than new things happen, but finishing and getting past edits is a nice feeling. Speaking of nice feelings, my book is at the printer. I've probably said this a hundred times since yesterday, but it never gets old.

Also (If I can find them - I put them somewhere safe) I have some photographs of places that I have used in my fiction. All signed. They are for people who buy books of mine at Conflux. There's a choice of pictures, so it might be a matter of people coming up to me and saying "I just bought this book of yours, what photos are you offering?" I have haunted morris dancers in a couple or a Japanese wayside shrine for The Art of Effective Dreaming and a medieval mikvah and Canberra pictures for The Time of the Ghosts. For Langue[dot]doc 1305 there's a pond on a pilgrim's route, there's the castle and the abbey from the novel, and, because it's my time travel novel, there's a picture of me with one of the Doctors Who. For Illuminations there's the Chantilly library. So that those who buy paper versions but who can't get to Conflux don't miss out, some readers will get photos-by-email. This isn't open til after Conflux, but I'm giving friends who read my blog an early heads-up. And talking about it did the trick: I have those missing pictures.

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