24 December 2008

Hark we herald 2009

The final frantic festive preparations are upon us.

Hurry, scurry: procure elusive present for aunt who has everything, wrap extra gift and place under tree for unexpected guests, slip empty-handed into seafood and fruit emporiums and return laden with delicious items, bake assorted treats, clink glasses with friends who appear at door for quick pre-family cheer, count presents again, wrap another extra unlabelled gift, dip into nibbly items just to check freshness and suitability, order bread to be collected from bakery tomorrow morning, engage in fridge tetris with prepare-ahead food and chilling beverages, sing carols to maintain festive spirit, clink another glass, put feet up, consider that more could be done tonight, but there's always that sliver of time tomorrow, wonder if the issue is over-catering or hungry guests, ring family member to check they have collected ham, count guests and try to reconcile with menu, realise under-catering is only likely if cousin arrives with whole new previously unknown tree of family, clink glasses, close eyes just for a second...

Oh - hello 2009!

And it begins with a lovely bunch of books for the young people to read on their long lazy days:

Wombat & Fox Thrillseekers by Terry Denton
Best friends Wombat & Fox are back in a third book, and this time they have a list of WILD and DANGEROUS deeds. What can possibly go wrong?

Girlfriend Fiction 9 Bookmark Days by Scot Gardner
Avril falls in love for the first time with the boy next door ... problem is, his family and hers are bitter enemies. A Romeo and Juliet story set in sheep farming country.

Girlfriend Fiction 10 Winter of Grace by Kate Constable
At a peace rally, Bridie and Stella rescue a cute Christian boy. He introduces Bridie to a whole world she never knew existed.

In the City by Roland Harvey
Roland Harvey's witty, slapstick style brings the city to life in vivid detail.


23 December 2008

SB takes the cake

It had a wood pile.
It had a dog kennel (with dog and dog bone).
It had a fence and gate posts and a little path to the front door.
It was a thing of beauty...

and then we ate it. (And it was good!)

Really outstanding work, SB.

PS If you are into gingerbread and/or Tove Jansson's Moomins, you will die of love for this.

19 December 2008

Sound the trumpets

Happy news! A made-of-awesome new YA novel is coming soon to the House of Onion: The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

It's written by the divinely talented Mary E Pearson of California who is a card-carrying member of the blogosphere.

Here in the House, advance reading copies were like those popular library books, with wild waiting lists and battered covers. They passed with speed from hand to hand as Onion after Onion joined the I Heart Jenna Fox club.

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox wakes up from a coma following a terrible accident and remembers nothing...

What happens next is utterly engrossing. Deliciously full of mind-bending questions about ethics and humanity. And above all - unbelievably addictive. But don't just take our word for it. See here and here for a taste of what the peeps are saying about the US edition.

The French, the Germans, the Dutch, the Finnish, the Latin Americans, the Japanese, the Koreans and the Chinese are also welcoming Jenna Fox into their hearts. And the film rights have been snapped up, too. Woot!

Mary, a warm welcome from the Alien Onions - we can't wait for Feb 09 , when our edition of Jenna Fox will make her way out into the world.

18 December 2008

Let us have lists

As we have said before, we love a list.

So here are our Top Ten book characters who have successfully made the transition from page to screen:

1: Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride
2: Mr Darcy from Pride & Prejudice
3: Holiday Golightly, Travelling from Breakfast at Tiffany's
4: Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird
5: Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs
6: Dan Humphrey from Gossip Girl
7: Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones's Diary
8: Ponyboy Curtis from The Outsiders
9: Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
10: The vampire Lestat from Interview with the Vampire

*Honourable mentions to:
Aragorn from Lord of the Rings,
Kurtz from Heart of Darkness (Apocalypse Now)
Dickie Greenleaf from The Talented Mr Ripley
Rick Deckard from Do Androids Dream, of Electric Sheep (Blade Runner)
Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series

Who's on your list?

17 December 2008

Mini missive

Dear Words,
We're sorry we had that little quarrel. You know that we could never really leave you, don't you? Here's a small token of our affection.
with love,

Words that aren't onomatopoeias but sure sound like what they mean:
almost any of you sl- words: slippery, slide, slap, slick, sleazebag, slimy

Words that don't sound anything like what they mean
pulchritudinous (until reclaimed by Justine)
dessert (although 'pudding', on the other hand...)

Any others?

15 December 2008

All Worded Out

We've dealt with a lot of words this year.
Thousands and thousands of words.
Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands.
Millions of words have passed over the desks and through the hearts and minds of the Alien Onions.

Pictures to the rescue!


Christmas in the House of Onion

A wee taste of something exciting that Mr Terry Denton is preparing for us

Christmas at an Onion childhood home.

11 December 2008

Vale Dorothy Porter

I came late to poetry. I discovered it by accident. I walked into a bookstore looking for crime fiction. Comfort reading. Light. Fast. Dangerous. Fun. I browsed. I can’t remember why I picked up The Monkey’s Mask, but as soon as I read the blurb, I was hooked.

It began: ‘You are about to do something you have never done before.’ It boasted a missing person, murder, deception and a tough, unforgettable streetwise female P.I. ‘You will find yourself reading the crime thriller of the year.’

Excellent. Exactly what I was after. But I had read selectively. I had missed all the clues – and they weren’t hiding: ‘It’s poetry. It’s unlike any poem you have ever read.’ I did not see these words. I’d never heard of a verse novel. It was crime fiction. End of story. I bought the book. It fell open at page 4.

‘It’s poetry.’ I think I said it out loud. I looked around furtively to see if the bookseller had registered my disappointment. Then I read the poem on the page it had opened to.

I’m female

I'm not tough,
droll or stoical

I droop after wine, sex
or intense conversation

The streets coil around me
when they empty
I'm female
l get scared.

(from The Monkey’s Mask, Dorothy Porter, Hyland House 1994)

She had me at hello.

Some years later I went to a lecture by Dorothy Porter. She said there were four things you must do before reading your work in public.
1: Rehearse
2: Rehearse
3: Rehearse
4: Be fantastic.

It sounded like life-lessons. She read her work. She was fantastic.

Afterwards, I felt like I was wearing red shoes and had clicked my heels together. I skipped and swooped past the fountain in the Carlton gardens. I was the kind of student who wore my cynicism on my sleeve, and Dorothy Porter had inspired me to skip, at night, through the park; she showed me what poetry could be.

Oh the things that we DID see

So... you know how we mentioned the waterskiing out the front of the House of Onion?

Here's proof!

Good work, Bruno. Nice capture! (Apparently that's what the serious photographers say to each other.)

09 December 2008

A few open letters...

Dear Compound Adjectives,

On the surface, your rules seem so simple and easy to follow, but underneath you are confusing and convoluted. Why?

A possibly ignorant but willing-to-learn editor
Dear Adverbs,

I am writing to inform you that we can never be friends. I admit that used appropriately (See what I did there?) you can add to the richness and flow of a piece of writing. But the simple fact is: I don't trust you. You have a nasty habit of ganging up with your friends and stealing all the thunder from the poor innocent verbs.

An editor dashing hurriedly out the door to hungrily wolf down her lunch
Dear Participle Phrases at the Beginning of a Sentence,

Listening to your lack of rhythm, I quickly lose interest.

Dear Split Infinitives,

Don't listen to them. I will boldly go where ever you wish to lead me.

To edit
Dear Microsoft Word Grammar Check

You suck.

Dear Australian Pine Trees

Why do you have branches that grow straight upwards and are thus virtually impossible to hang decorations on? Perhaps you should take a leaf (as it were) out of your northern cousin the fir tree's book. Horizontal branches only, please. It would be appreciated if you could have this implemented by next year.

A Concerned Tree Trimmer

08 December 2008

The season of spending

Not sure how to answer KRudd's call to spend our way out of the economic crisis?
Books, we say, buy books!
Here are some tips to help fill the Christmas stocking.

for the older readers:
Somebody's Crying by Maureen McCarthy. We love Maureen. We love the way she makes us feel her characters truly exist, and that if we just turn the right corner at the right time of day, we might even run into one of them. And this one is brimming with suspicion, guilt, love and redemption. Here's a taste.

for the teenage girls:
the Stephenie Meyer Twilight books are far too big to lug to the beach (they are best enjoyed curled up on the couch so if there is to be any swooning over Edward*, one doesn't have far to fall) so we say: hello Girlfriend fiction. There are already eight out now - and two more coming very soon - don't they look GOOD! They do go so well on the beach, and there's a cartwheel on the cover of this one.
(We do like a cartwheel). Pitched perfectly for 13-16 year old girls

for the young fellas:
they're fast, they're funny and they're books especially for boys. The OK Team 1 & 2 by Nick Place, The Detachable Boy by Scot Gardner & The Dog that Dumped on my Doona by Barry Jonsberg. Laugh out loud fun for boys aged 7-12.

for the littlies:
Peka-boo The Smallest Bird In All the World by Eliza Feely - a loud and lively book about friendship and finding your voice - and at the end you can all dance the fluttering skippity with seed-cracking gusto.

Tiny, by our Jen castles and Steve Otten, is a wonderful book about a red heeler on a road trip - an excellent gift for anyone with a spirit of Australian adventure or a soft spot for dogs.

for a touch of Christmas (with things to make and do):
the wonderful Roland Harvey's Big Book of Christmas - a treasure chest of Christmas stories around the world, treats to bake, stickers (!) to stick, gifts to make and carols to sing up all the Christmas cheer you need to get you in the swing of the festive season.

and for the adults:
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan - we are so proud of this wonderful book by our Margo - and it's thrilling that people all over the world are saying such lovely things about it. Oh, so many accolades already - slip over here to sample the many words of praise.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. David Marr described it as THE great Melbourne novel. You've probably seen all the glowing reviews, or had someone rush up to you and say: Oh. My. God. I just read Christos's book, it's amazing, I couldn't put it down. But if not - here, here and here are a taste of what the peeps are saying about it.

And if that isn't enough to get you champing at the bit to gallop on down to your local book store to help spend the economy's woes away - here are a whole host of other terrific Onion gift ideas.

Happy wrapping.

*Just for the record, we understand that there is a lot of swooning over Edward, but the Onions are Team Jacob.

05 December 2008

oh, the things that we will see

Out the window, something extraordinary caught our eye. It was unexpected and brash and laced with danger: young gentlemens water-skiing in the cathedral fountains. For serious!

There are three big rectangle pools, and the water-skiing involved a rope and a 4WD and we suspect some kind of winch contraption, and they water-jumped over the low wall between each pool. They did it several times - and they did tricks! They had us standing on our desks and clapping. A tonic for our Friday afternoon flat spot. Oh, how it swept the glums away!

We've got the glums...

... well actually, that's not strictly true. It's more that wispy melancholy that sometimes seems to waft in on the warm breeze at this time of year. (Must be because of all the all the end of yearness that goes on; one Onion has even been known to get a little choked up when TV shows she doesn't watch, or even like, all start going on hiatus.)

We are stoking our light-blues by reading:

1) Frank Cottrell Boyce musing on Philippa Pearce's last book, A Finder's Magic.
'This is goodbye, not just to fiction, but to life and family and home - which explains why this pretty, light-hearted fable has such a powerful elegiac undercurrent. All Pearce's books have this strange, unobtrusive power... Every ghost story, most religions and a good deal of modern physics are about the persistence of what is past. But hardly anyone has described it so powerfully and eloquently as Pearce'
2) Felicity Dahl talking about life with and without Roald
'Children still pitch up unexpectedly at his Buckinghamshire home, Gipsy House in Great Missenden, where Felicity, 69, lives. 'It's just awful because they look over the gate and say, "Roald Dahl lives here doesn't he?" And I say, "Well he did." "Oh, has he moved?" And I have to say, "No, he died."'

3) The 10PM Question by New Zealand author Kate De Goldi. Funny, funny, funny and a little bit heartbreaking.
'Tuesday the 14th of February began badly for Frankie Parsons. There was no milk for his Just Right. There was no Go Cat for the Fat Controller, so the Fat Controller stood under the table meowing accusingly while Frankie ate his toast.'
(It's already a bestseller in NZ, but it's not out in Aus till February, so you'll just have to wait a bit.)

4) The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald, a graphic adaptation by our Nicki Greenberg
'And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it.'

03 December 2008

Save Our Stories

Quickly, quickly go forth and save your favourite characters.
The Gift of Reading Project is all about the idea of keeping imagination alive through reading.
We like that in a project.

It seems to be a fairly dramatic approach though. And a bit scary: seeing Peter Pan old and infirm, his spirit slipping away. And Cinderella hooked up to a drip suggests she might just have partied a little too hard at the ball. But the flutter of that red cloak. Oh, Little Red Riding Hood. Quick, pick up a book; read, read against the dying of the light.

But it's not an entirely new idea. Let's not forget Puff the Magic Dragon. The song begins so sweetly, it's upbeat and full of magic and frolicking - but poor old Puff is in for a sad fate...
A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. oh!

Oh, Puff. I believe...

01 December 2008

’tis the season...

...for cherries, for birthdays, for cake.
(oh, I know it's always the season for cake, but I was following Obama's lead, using the tricolon for effect, and cake is clearly the most powerful way to finish any sentence).

Anyway, it always feels like true summer when the first cherries of the season appear, all red and plump and ripe with juicy goodness. A sure sign that it's time to dig out that ole Christmas spirit and swing into the festive season*.

But it's been birthday season here, and the very clever cake-maker certainly knows what to do with a cherry or thirty. Oh, hello Cherry Tart.

So 'yes we can' have cake (complete with hearts and stars and candles and a mighty fine number). Omnom.

And not so very long ago we were fortunate indeed when the cake-maker-in-waiting baked a half-century special: Butterscotch Apple Spice Cake served with butterscotch sauce (yes - that is butterscotch sauce, not gravy!) and ice-cream and cream and yoghurt and candles, and even balloons.
Hip hop happy.

*now that it's December we can happily talk up the whole Christmas spirit thang without fear of rule-breaking.

28 November 2008

‘Leave It Alone’

If there's one thing we Onions like (apart from cake), it's singing.
No wait, it's books.

Clearly, it's singing about books. Take it away FOCL:

In what the Geelong Advertiser calls a 'a last-ditch bid' to save the town's public library, the good folk of FOCL (Friends of the Colac Library) are rocking the intertubes with the power of their message. 'Every city, every town deserves a public library.'

Colac, along with the rest of Victoria, will be voting in council elections tomorrow. We don't know much about the issue at hand, but the Onions will be watching the election results as if Colac were the 'bellwether seat' of Eden-Monaro. Will FOCL's wonderful YouTubery swing the tide and save their public library?

26 November 2008

In which an Onion travels north

Oh, holidays – aren’t they wonderful (especially when the rains seemed to have set in on poor Piglet back at the House).

And one of the best things about them is choosing books to take. Of course this is often a difficult business because, well frankly, I always want to take them all.

So the real pre-holiday question was, if I packed the new Phryne Fisher adventure, Murder on a Midsummer Night (Kerry Greenwood), and The Slap (Christos Tsiolkas) and Joel & Cat Set the Story Straight (Nick Earls & Rebecca Sparrow) and Finnikin of the Rock (Melina Marchetta) and Looking for Alaska (John Green) and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Sherman Alexie), would I be able to breeze through airport check-in in a manner that suggested I was not weighed down by book-laden carry-on luggage? Hmm, I think not.

But never fear, there was a solution. Audio books to the rescue! Once transferred to an iPod, those audio books became very light indeed, and as the second leg of the journey was a very long road trip in the northerly direction, well, audio books rock.

Of course, they are not all audio books, and my reading eyes are bigger than my reading stomach, so I will not be able to finish all the books I packed, especially when there are distractions: But it’s lovely to have a choice.

So here's to lazy days of reading amid the swish of lush green leaves, and swimming in cool waterfall-fed waterholes, and dining with the scent of a sea-breeze, and afternoons that end with shadows cast long on a sweep of beach…and cartwheels at sunset; yes, let there be cartwheels.

Wish you were here.

23 November 2008

In which Piglet is entirely surrounded by water

It rained and it rained and it rained. Piglet told himself that never in all his life, and he was goodness knows how old - three, was it, or four? - never had he seen so much rain. Days and days and days... It was rather exciting. The little dry ditches in which Piglet had nosed about so often had become streams, the little streams across which he had splashed were rivers, and the rivers, between whose steep banks they had played so happily, had sprawled out of its own bed and was taking up so much room everywhere, that Piglet was beginning to wonder if it would be coming into his bed soon.
'It's a little Anxious,' he said to himself, 'to be a Very Small Animal Entirely Surrounded by Water.'
- AA Milne
Map from BoM

17 November 2008

Getting our Yuletide on (or rule-breaking 101)

This Onion FIRMLY believes that Christmas should not be mentioned until December. No carols. No decorations. No merriness. No nothing until December 1st. Only then may you start to open your advent calender (which should NOT have chocolate! Is opening little cardboard doors not enough for you people??!!) and get fully festive.

This hard (but fair) rule is partly because my birthday is at the very end of November and CLEARLY birthdays should not be polluted with Christmas, and vice versa. They are Separate. It's also partly to do with the potential for overload. I love The Christmas Feeling - and if it's spread too thin it tends to disappear.
And (speaking of rules) there are some books that I ONLY read on Christmas Eve. Never at any other time during the year.

But I am going to break my cardinal rule and talk about them in NOVEMBER. Why? Because rules are made to be broken and if anyone suggests any awesome Christmas books of which I am unaware, I need plenty of time to acquire them by Christmas Eve.

So here is my Christmas Eve reading list:
  • Two chapters from The Good Master by Kate Seredy 'Mikulas, Bearer of Gifts' and 'Christmas'. The shepherds are in from the fields, the farmhouse is snug and warm and full of food. Jancsi and Kate, snuggled down in robes in the back of the sleigh, pick up Mikulas from the train station! But the eyes twinkling above the beard look strangely familiar to Kate... (Oh wholesome joy.)
  • Tasha Tudor's A Doll's Christmas. Dolls in a dollhouse having their friends over for Christmas. Tasha Tudor illustrations. (Enough said.)
  • The Gift of the Magi by O Henry Sob. Hair combs. Sob. Watch chain. Sob. Selfless love. Sob.
  • The chapter in Little House on the Praire where Mr Edwards walks 40 miles to (and from) Independence, Kansas, and then swims the flooded Verdigris river to bring Mary and Laura their presents. (A brief aside. Reading the 'Little House' books again as a grown up I've been struck by just how appealing Pa is: twinkling blue eyes; strong and tall; able to build anything; far less worried about making Laura stick to the traditional "girl" roles than Ma is; plays the fiddle and sings; respects the Indians; brave and adventurous but kind and gentle too. *swoons* Who's with me?)

Christmas stories that are NOT on my Christmas Eve list:
  • The Little Fir Tree by Hans Christan Andersen. (Moral. Moral. Boo. Sad. Moral.)
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (UNLESS there are Muppets involved)
We would love to know if you have any Christmas reading traditions. (Because we want to steal them and make them our own.) Any fabulous Christmas books or stories that we must get hold of? Any Christmas stories you WILL NOT ALLOW into your house?

If anyone is on the lookout for some cheesy Christmas music I can HIGHLY recommend the Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails CDs. Best. Purchase. Ever. Even though they are culturally inappropriate because, baby, it's really not cold outside.

13 November 2008

Joanne Horniman - author guest post #1

Joanne Horniman has been a kitchen hand, a waitress, an editor, a teacher and a screen printer. She now writes full-time in a shed overlooking Hanging Rock Creek near Lismore, northern New South Wales (perfectly positioned 'between the rainforest and the sea'). Oh, envy...

Her novels include Mahalia, Little Wing and A Charm of Powerful Trouble, and most recently, My Candlelight Novel - a "quietly breathtaking" story told by Sophie O'Farrell.
It's the follow up to the wonderful novel Secret Scribbled Notebooks as told by Sophie's sister Kate.

Here in the House, we are endlessly fascinated by where and how authors work. And how their surroundings infiltrate their writing. So we asked Jo (who once, to our extreme gratification, included a little glimpse of what we claim as the Onion office in one of her novels) to tell us something about where she writes - take it away, Jo:

You don't need to go there

I don’t seem to be able to stop writing about Lismore. I’ve been living outside it for about 30 years, and my favourite house is this one, down on the riverbank.

It probably has a real name, it certainly has a history, but I know none of it. It’s the house I call ‘Samarkand’ in Candlelight Novel and Secret Scribbled Notebooks, and a glimpse of the exterior is all I know.

I know that I could ask someone if I could go inside (I think it’s been divided up into flats – it’s not a boarding-house), but I don’t want to. I don’t want the actuality of it to spoil what I imagine.

It’s better that the real place remains unknown to me, apart from a few tantalising glimpses as I go past. That way I can make it whatever I want it to be, inhabit it with the people of my imagination. In fiction, I think you can do too much ‘research’. There’s a point where the imagination needs to take over. You don’t really need to go there.

Thanks Jo

(NB you can find out more about Joanne and her novels here - if you haven't had the pleasure of reading any of them yet - well, you're in for a treat.)

06 November 2008

Public Displays of Reading

Does anyone else read while walking? I do. All the time. Especially during that really boring 800 metres between tram stop and home. (Actually, come to think of it, I never read on the way to the tram stop in the morning, only on the way home in the evening.) People look at me strangely sometimes. But I know that if I bumped (probably literally) into a fellow Onion, they would understand.

Because we are a company full of book nerds. Passionate, passionate book nerds. (Although, now that ‘book’ means ‘cool’ that might be a contradiction in terms.)

Here is a list of PDsR (public displays of reading) that other Onions have confessed to…
  • On a plane. Crying over the ms of Judith Clarke’s new book, Winds of Heaven. And not Hollywood-style glamorous tears, but swollen-red-face-shiny-nose-wet-Tshirt-person-sitting-next-to-you-thinks-you're-completely-weird tears.
  • In a café. A bunch of Onions in gales of laughter, followed by an embarrassingly loud and lengthy coughing/choking fit. (That was your fault, Justine - the luge-ing scene in How to Ditch Your Fairy.)
  • On the way to work. Looking up to see the train pulling out of Melbourne Central Station, letting out a huge sigh of realisation that it's a long way back - and a change of train - to Parliament Station. Stephanie Meyer, Bella, Jacob, Edward - curses to you all.
  • In church, as a child. Caught reading about the boarding school antics of Enid Blyton's hockey-playing heroines through the crochet holes in a beige poncho. Got in all sorts of trouble. But did it again, and again.
  • In the pub while the rugby's on. For some reason, this seems to inspire a high degree of disgust (and occasional amusement) from surrounding rugby fans, be you in Ireland, Melbourne or New Zealand at the time. But this Onion doesn't like rugby!
  • Reading at the dinner table. Always guaranteed to irritate one's parents.
  • Huddled behind a little hidden-away wall near an alley. Finishing a chapter of Philip Pullman ... even though she was already late... and it seemed to be raining.
  • Stopped dead under a street light at the tram stop. Looking totally demented while juggling the A4 pages of the first manuscript of Maureen McCarthy’s new (awesome!) book Somebody's Crying – because of being totally unable to walk home without knowing how the book ends.

Ever been caught reading somewhere inappropriate?

03 November 2008

Fictions on the Field

Horses you would bet on if the 2008 Melbourne Cup were a romance novel:
  • Mad Rush
  • Profound Beauty
  • Red Lord
  • Prize Lady
  • Master O'Reilly
  • Boundless
If it were an Anne Rice novel:
  • Barbaricus

If it were a kids fantasy:
  • Septimus

If it were a fairy tale:
  • Ice Chariot
If it were a World War II novel:
  • Honolulu
  • C'est la Guerre
If it were a website:
  • Viewed
If it were a Lolcat:
  • Nom de Jeu

30 October 2008

In which Eric eats cake

So it seems we haven't had cake for a while (and, it's true, the cake-maker has been away). But she is back today and she arrived with cakes in hand! Hooray! Little bite-sized lemony ones in dainty (pink, yellow and green) paper cupcake cups, topped with icing.

But it's not actually true that we haven't had cake treats. We have been holding out on you. We did have cookies in the near past, and they were sweet and round and melt-in-the-mouth and full of chocolatey goodness - and they disappeared from the kitchen in such a flash that there was no time to photograph them.

And speaking of all things cake - the most excellent cake-maker-in-waiting (Hilary) baked one of the most impressive of our occasion cakes. It was this one.*

But for real - with fresh strawberries and layers of yum. And she baked it for the day Shaun came in to sign our staff copies of Tales From Outer Suburbia. Omnom. Oh happy day.

So perhaps there's a message here for all our illustrators:
if you draw it, we will bake.

*Thanks Shaun - for letting us share Eric's cake.
PS: If you haven't already discovered Eric - you can find him here.

28 October 2008

Totally book

We are so hip. It says so right on the front of our office.

Because 'book', don'tcha know, now literally means 'cool'.

In the most widely used predictive-text lexicon, punching in 2665 defaults to 'book' before 'cool' (much as 43 goes to 'he' and not 'if' - jeez that annoys me), and apparently (Thanks for the heads up, LB) legions of txtrs out there are just lettin' it ride.
'Book. I'll see you there.'
'That new guy is so book'
'I can't believe how book it is that there is a long weekend next week.'
Maybe one day I'll get to write a blurb that's just:
This book is book.
Or even better:

The Urban Dictionary - one of my favourite things on the interwebs - has loads of other meanings for book. Including to 'leave in a hurry' or 'run' ('See you guys, I gotta book.' 'I booked it when the cops arrived.'). But my favourite recent UD find is 'book hobo'. Apparently it's a noun (someone who hangs out in bookstores reading but never buying) and a verb (to hang out in bookstores and read but never buy).
'What did you do on Saturday?'
'Oh, I book hoboed at Readings for a while and then wandered down to Brunetti for a latte.'

This is my new favourite word for my long-favourite pastime.

24 October 2008

A tale of three covers

Guest Post # 2 - from the Mothership, thanks again LB

Here are the US and UK covers for Teen, Inc by Stefan Petrucha. Both are published by our cousins at Bloomsbury. Can you tell which is which?*

We loved Teen Inc - a fast-paced read, part comedy, part The-Firm-style espionage adventure.

(Interjection: A Melbourne Onion ran downstairs to look at a copy of Teen Inc after reading the draft of this post, started reading it by accident and is now totally hooked. The premise is completely awesome: boy is raised by a corporation - his 'parent company' - after the corporation is responsible for the death of his parents. Poor old Jaiden has to suffer through hideous things like board meetings designed to 'facilitate' his dating options.)

We longed for a cover that would say something a little different to Australian readers. Lisa White designs beautiful books for adult Onion titles. And happily she sometimes moonlights on YA and children's books as well. So with a vague brief, a minuscule photo budget and a whole heap of plastic toys and gadgets sourced from the local $2.00 shop, Lisa came up with this for the Oz edition:

Clever girl.

* The illustrated jacket is the UK edition. The photographic image is the US edition.

23 October 2008

Please, Mum, read me the one about the failed presidential candiate

This article in the New York Times opened my eyes to an arena of kids publishing of which I have been sadly ignorant: the political picture book. Feast your eyes on this:

'This picture book biography, written with great love and insight by his oldest daughter, shows us the public John McCain and the personal John McCain in a way we've never seen before -- making this American hero come to life before young eyes.'
'Even as a boy, Barack knew he wasn't quite like anybody else, but through his journeys he found the ability to listen to Hope and become what he was meant to be: a bridge to bring people together.'

'When Hillary was young, she wanted to be an astronaut, to soar as high as the stars above. She kept reaching up and up as she grew. There were people who told her no. But she didn't listen to them. There were people who didn't think she could do it. But she believed in herself. And Hillary has been making history ever since. This is the inspiring story of a girl with dreams as big as the open sky.'
What do you think, people, have I identified a gap in the Australian kids book market? Are you clamouring for KRudd: Cow Farm to Kirribilli ? Would you bust down bookshop doors to buy 32 pages of full colour celebrating Malcolm Turnbull's rise from his grim boyhood days of living in rental accommodation? Are any illustrators out there dying to draw Julia Gillard?

PS: Searching Amazon in this vein has also opened up a whole new world of Christmas presents. Did you know you can buy 'Richard M. Nixon and His Family Paper Dolls', or 'George H Bush and His Family Paper Dolls' (featuring W as a boy). You can also get the Reagans, the Clintons, the Kennedys or, most mystifyingly, the Carters.

21 October 2008

All the way up to eleven

Over at Inside a Dog current writer-in-residence Brigid Lowry (author of many wonderful books including, Guitar Highway Rose, Tomorrow All Will Be Beautiful and Juicy Writing) is devising strategies for chasing away the blues brought on by the change of season. She suggests making a list of: Things That Would Make Me Happy or Things I Am Prepared To Do Without.

This Onion is a big fan of Spring (yes - even with all that annoying wind) so is not struggling with any seasonal blues, but we do love a list.

So here's a list of Items We Are Not Prepared To Do Without:

1: Daylight savings
2: The West Wing
3: HB pencils, a sharpener with a good action and a clean eraser
4: The Macquarie Dictionary
5: Lightly salted, thinly sliced potato chips
6: A healthy pile of books beside the bed
7: Editing in the wild (Thanks, P) -->
8: Jasmine tea
9: Those tiny bulldog clips that are totally useless, but very cute
10: Fresh tomatoes
11: Good Tupperware

16 October 2008

Rolling out the welcome mat

Here in the house of Onion we be very pleased.

We welcome into the pantry a writer we have admired for some time. Justine Larbalestier is a writer, reader, eater, drinker and sports enthusiast, which I'm sure many of you will know if you are a regular visitor to her blog over here.

Justine's latest YA novel, How to Ditch Your Fairy has just been published to a raft of rave reviews in the US and we are dance-happy in the house because we will be publishing the Australian edition in March - WOOT! Welcome, Justine!

We even have a sneak preview of the cover of the Oz edition.

Prepare to be abuzz with yearnings for your own personal fairy. We are wishing we had a speed-reading-and-retaining fairy so we could devour in a flash all the books in the pile beside the bed AND remember them in crisp detail so as to discuss (with colleagues, authors, book club, friends) in witty, thoughtful and charming manner.

Bring on the rubbish

Speaking of Sweet Valley High, a recent ABR article led us to this excellent piece (an oldie but a goodie) by celebrated British children's author Peter Dickinson in which he makes a great case for pop culture.

One Onion particularly related to the stressed-out boarding schools boys going home to the comfort of books they'd loved as younger children. While supposedly on swot vac in her final school year (and hello to anyone currently going through that torture) she worked her way through her entire Noel Streatfeild collection. (This editor. Stressed about HSC exams? No!)

Unexplained mystery for the day:
Why does the url spell it "defense" but in the article it's "defence"?
Is his website designer American??
Would anyone other than an editor have noticed???

15 October 2008

Guest Post - from The Mothership

We are delighted to have our first guest post - which comes to us from one of our esteemed Sydney Onions, LB.

Here in the mothership (in Sydney) we, too, are passionate about cake. Not just passionate: competitive! At our recent fiercely contested Bake-Off, legendary Marketing Designer Anthony was recognised for his rich chocolate and hazelnut tart. Other awarded selections included a basil and marscapone tart (yes, we do savoury too), shortbread biscuits and an American baked cheesecake (mmm, cream cheese and sour cream …).

We even had celebrity guest judges for the day: food judge, radio presenter and author Barbara Lowery and the esteemed bookseller David Gaunt from Gleebooks. And those who partook donated a gold coin to the Indigenous Literacy Project.

Three other things pleasing us are:

1. The 10PM Question, Kate de Goldi's wonderful new novel, which the Onions are working on for February. Ostensibly for young teenagers, it also has loads to say to adult readers.

2. Literary villains on the screen

Flicking channels on Sunday night, I caught the end of Holes. The film is good, though it has nothing on Louis Sachar's original. But I do admire Sigourney Weaver's turn as the wicked Warden. She certainly does a nice line in crazed.

In other villain news, coming soon (March in Australia) is the stop-motion animated film of Neil Gaiman's wonderfully creepy book Coraline, and I for one can't wait to see the wicked Other Mother on the big screen (with the voice of Teri Hatcher). Gives me shivers just thinking about those button eyes. There's a fabulous website to keep us busy in the meantime.

3. A Night Out in New York

No villains to speak of, but we were delighted to see a preview of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, the film of our very own book. Kat Dennings is delicious in it, and it's already receiving praise for transcending the teen movie mold.

- LB

PS: We Melbourne Onions are VERY excited about the Nick & Norah film - we have seen the trailer and, oh, how it looks GOOD!

14 October 2008

What's in a name?

Penni over at Eglantine's Cake posted recently about the super-seductive world of Sweet Valley High. At least one Onion was a devoted Elizabeth and Jessica fan. Browsing the Wikipedia entry for the series, I was reminded how awesome is Francine Pascal's facility for names - you don't need the line or two of synopsis to figure out what sort of character each might be. A skill Ms Pascal shares with Mr Charles Dickens.

Here is a small quiz:

Winston Egbert
a) hot quarter back, or b) class clown.

Mister Smallweed

a) amoral money lender, or b) good-hearted, if simple, hero.

Enid Rollins

a) slightly drippy best friend of main character, or b) outgoing gorgeous prom queen.

Sir Leicester Dedlock

a) old and crusty baronet or, b) impetuous and handsome young man.

Caddy Jellyby and Prince Turveydrop

a) ravishing, 'perfect size 6', blonde twins, or b) amusing minor characters who live a hard but happy life.

Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield
a) ravishing, 'perfect size 6', blonde twins, or b) amusing minor characters who live a hard but happy life.

The other day I came across My Name in Books: A guide to character names in children's literature. According to the Amazon description: 'Because youngsters delight in reading about characters with the same first names as their own, this guide is a great way to motivate them to read!'

It does seem a leetle strange. Will 10 year-old Gilbert Blogs who is into trains and extreme sports really be motivated by reading Anne of Green Gables? But then again, I do remember the frisson of delight I felt on reading my own name - spelled correctly with an 'h' at the end and everything - in Playing Beatie Bow. (It was suggested by the mother as a possible witch's name - Coolest. Thing. Ever.)

PS. The author of My Name in Books is Katharyn E. Tuten-Puckett (for real).

10 October 2008

Making us look good

Zoe Sadokierski has the mad design skillz.

She used to be an Onion, and now that she has left the fold (the larder? the pantry? where do you store onions?) we lure her back as often as we can.
Here is a selection from our Sadokierski library.

Isn't she clever?

Zoe has an online folio here for your viewing pleasure. And here she blogs about book design, with examples of two of our all-time favourites: The Great Gatsby and The Red Shoe.

Sadly, we are to be without her services for three long months, as Zoe has adventure on her mind.

Using a world map, the internet, her flatmate Katherine and lots of red wine, she cobbled together a travel itinerary that includes: drinking breakfast cocktails on a plane to Tokyo, travelling from Beijing to St Petersburg on the trans Mongolian rail, visiting Santa under the northern lights in Lapland, finding her Grandma's village in Poland, pursuing Dracula in Romania, floating around some hot baths in Budapest, eating her way through Germany to Berlin at Christmas, and heading home via London and NYC. She will not have a mobile phone or laptop.

Colour us envious. Sigh.

Happily, she has exciting new projects to work on when she returns...