29 January 2010

Friday stuff and items

1. The year got off to a ripper of a start when the short list for the 2010 Territory Read NT Book of the Year was announced and it featured Barry Jonsberg's Cassie and Leonie Norrington's The Devil You Know. Hooray, Barry! Hooray, Leonie! Hooray!

2: And it continued to be awesome with Nathan Jurevicius winning the Aurealis Award for Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel for the wonderful, the delightful, the strange and quirky (the pink!) Scarygirl. Hooray, Nathan! Hooray, Scarygirl! Hooray!

3. In a few short days, Lord Sunday, the very last book in Garth Nix's The Keys to the Kingdom series will be out in the world, and the Will of the Architect will finally be made whole. (And ZOMG the ending puts The Max in climax*.) But you don't even have to wait the few days to get started. You can listen to Garth reading the first two chapters RIGHT NOW. Download the podcast from iTunes or listen online - both links are here.

4. 'Don't ever tell anybody anything.' Vale J. D. Salinger.

5. So, the Mothership threw down the gauntlet with this amazing display - and on Wednesday we kind of accidentally picked it up. A happy confluence of events saw us inundated with more cake than we knew what to do with.** There were birthdays, and a sort-of going away that we are refusing to accept so are mostly pretending it isn't happening, and there was this array:


This is made of ice-cream, people! ICE-CREAM! It was a good day.

* I can't believe I just wrote that - but it's totally true.
** Ok, this is a lie, we knew exactly what to do with it, it just took us a couple of days rather than the usual 15 minutes.

27 January 2010

What Do Editors Do All Day, Part Two - Structural Editing

Herewith, the second in our occasional series What Do Editors Do All Day. You can find the first in the series, our essay on copyediting, here. Today we want to talk about Structural Editing.

If we were structural editing this occasional series, we might ask, 'Why didn't you begin this series with Structural Editing - given that it precedes copyediting in the linear process of producing a book?' To which we might reply to ourselves, 'You make a valid point, but it just works better this way. Can we keep it as is, please?' To which we would then say, 'Right you are. Carry on. But can I just draw your attention to something else over here...' Etc, etc, you get the idea.

Part Two: Structural Editing


Again, thanks to all the original, unknown-to-us authors of these lolcats (and lolbears and lolruses lolephant seals**).

*Actually, none of us can ever remember suggesting a prologue - it mostly seems to work in the reverse. But the point stands.** (UPDATE) Thanks for the heads-up, Anonymous commenter! This brings up a lesson that is all too easy to learn the hard way: if you lose an author's trust by making silly mistakes, like mixing up your flippered marine mammals, it's very hard to convince them you know what you are talking about on the big stuff. Perhaps our structural note should have read: 'Dear author, it is not clear how your protag shape-shifts from walrus to elephant seal and back again - seemingly at the drop of a bukkit.' For further reading on this subject, I recommend www.walrusbucketsaga.com

22 January 2010

Stationery 3 - The Revenge

So, we have had the Top FIVE (six) FOR THE WIN stationery items and the Top THREE (four) FAIL stationery items.

What's next? As Jed Bartlet would say. And in the spirit of Let Bartlet Be Bartlet, we say: Let Stationery Be Better.

And with that we give you the Onion list of:

Oh-I-Wish-It-Existed stationery items:
  • Self-organising notepad that records all those helpful tips jotted down and never to be found again.
  • An auto-complete proof-checker and print-order generator (once-activated it checks all corrections efficiently, identifies any unseen errors and corrects them, and packages up the final PERFECT proofs - with trim marks - in a bundle with a letter to the printer and a completed print order).
  • Right-sized, right-strength rubber bands.
  • A filing robot that takes any document or photocopy and puts it neatly away in an easy-to-find file.
  • A device that automatically sorts and tidies shelves, boxes, files, my brain...
  • A mini desk-sized guillotine (with Buffy on it, and it's scratch 'n' sniff and smells like purple lollies, and beeps at 2.30 every afternoon like an editorial alarm. And also gives me unsolicited compliments.)
  • The absolutely perfect never-fail pocket-sized pencil sharpener.
  • Household sponges with labels, eg floor sponge, toilet sponge, sink sponge.*
  • A nice green plant.*
Meanwhile, in the Mothership they are letting Bakers be Bakers. Behold this range of items that once-activated did not remain stationary** for very long. A beloved member of staff was leaving, and it seems the Mothership expressed their feelings through cake. Lots and lots of lots of cake. Jealous.

* No, we don't know how these items qualify as stationery either. As we have said throughout this stationery-fest, disobedient Onions. Nor can we fathom how one Onion has failed to realise that a nice green plant is not a pipe dream - nice green plants do actually exist in the world and could be easily, you know, acquired.

** By-the-by, if you have trouble telling your stationery from your stationary, here are a few mnemonics you might find useful . (1) The friendly person who sells you pens and post-its is a 'stationer', clearly not a 'stationar'. Problem solved. Or (2) remember that the 'e' in stationery is for 'envelope'. Problem solved. Or (3) paper ends in 'er', so does stationery. Problem solved. Onions - we are here to help.

21 January 2010

Highly Relevant to Our Interests

Not sure if you've noticed - we're pretty subtle about it - but we Onions like to read. A lot. And we like to eat cake. A lot.

So you can imagine (and we have, in many idle daydreams) that if there were a book group that also baked cakes, we would be IN FAVOUR of it.

Well, let me unfold a tale of joy into your shell-like ear...

A couple of days ago we received an email from Karen Healey, author of Guardian of the Dead, that contained The Best Fan Letter Ever from a girl in the USA who had read an advance copy of Guardian. It is the Best Letter Ever not only because the reader was clearly smart and articulate and funny and had really liked the book - but because she and her friends had BAKED A GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD CAKE.

Because... I almost can't type for the awesome ... they belong to a book group called LET THEM EAT CAKE, where they bake cakes inspired by the books they read.

Head over to Karen's blog, wherein she is dead chuffed and does some BAKING OF HER OWN.
And for more pics and more amazing creations check out Let Them Eat Cake's own blog.

Here is our awesome Bruno-designed cover of Guardian of the Dead.

And here is the also-very-cool US cover, which helps puts the cake in context.

20 January 2010

Stationery 2 – When good pens go bad

On Monday we revealed the Onions’ Top five FOR THE WIN stationery items. So much love, so little time.

But it seems that when passions ride high, disappointments gallop alongside. When asked to list the top THREE items of stationery that frustrate or would never darken their desk, the vitriol flowed.

The ire was not focussed on items with a core-functionality for which people had no use (although there was a marked lack of love for the mouse mat), but rather on items that failed to adequately perform their core-functionality.

Top three FAIL stationery items:

  • Sticky tape that isn't magic tape - seriously why does it exist?
  • Sticky notes (they should stick for years not minutes).
  • Sticky tape of the: 'I thought I was buying sticky tape but instead I've ended up with some flimsy bit of cellophane with a sad excuse for adhesive on the back’ school of sticky tape.
  • Post-it notes that fall off.
  • Gluestick.
  • Clag & spray adhesive - the former doesn't secure much at all, and the latter sticks you to everything!

  • Pencils with leads broken all the way through (how does that happen?).
  • Thick or leaky biros, especially the leaky ones that pick up dust blobs or hairs on the point.
  • Pencils with constantly snapping leads (especially those 'mechanical' ones).
  • Leaky pens.
  • 2B pencils that are not 2B.
  • Ink, uncontained (i.e. smudged on my face, leaked in my pocket, in a puddle on my desk).

  • Wrong-sized rubber bands.
  • Rubber bands without enough give.
  • Rubber bands with too much give.
  • Rubber bands that are the wrong size or break as soon as you stretch them.
  • Too-big rubber bands that you have to fit around the ms vertically.

  • Twisted paper clips (especially the ones with old sticky blu tac attached to them).
  • Little paper clips, (especially the terrible plastic covered ones).
  • When the giant paper clips are all tangled up with the small paper clips.
  • Mating paper clips.

Dishonourable mentions:
Plastic sleeves, textured pads attached to keyboard & mouse on which you're meant to rest your hands (*shudders*), wall calendars with no room to write on, mouse mats, unlabelled manila folders, useless mini-staplers, useless non-sharpening plastic pencil sharpeners, mouse mats, staplers that constantly jam, mouse mats, year planners (I much prefer a Buddhist approach of my diary - one day at a time).

* Yes. This is Item FOUR in our FAIL stationery top THREE. This disobedience is getting out of hand.

19 January 2010

Three Million Cheers*

We want to say a
to Libba Bray

Going Bovine has won the
Michael L Printz award

Very well done, Libba - and very well deserved!

We are thrilled and delighted to be publishing Going Bovine
in Australia in February.
That's only a week and a bit away, people.

*As much as we love stationery, we're cheering for something MUCH more exciting than paper clips.

18 January 2010

Stationery – in which we pander to fetishists

In our experience, stationery is something of a fetishised item.

Some people have been known to walk the aisles of Officeworks as a kind of meditation. Others will only copyedit with a Uniball Fine Deluxe (0.7mm dia.tungsten carbide ball - naturally). And most remember fondly the back-to-school treat of all new stationery ALL AT ONCE.

So in the service of science and in the spirit of nurturing this fetishism we polled the Onions for their Top FIVE stationery items, the Top THREE stationery items that incite them to fury, and their Top ONE Oh-I-Wish-It-Existed stationery item.

While we did unearth some interesting stationery trends (there’s a PhD in here somewhere) we were also alarmed to discover that for a bright bunch of Onions whose comprehension and numeracy skills are well-developed and exercised daily, most of them can neither count nor follow instructions.

It seems that, given a numbered list to complete, our fellow Onions believe it is perfectly acceptable to note more than one item of stationery (eg: sticky notes, sharpeners, rubbers; scissors, stapler, ruler) at one LIST item. One Onion also noted:
'I honestly can't think of any [items of stationery that frustrate me or would never darken my desk]. My heart warms towards all stationery.'
And then went on to list FIVE items of displeasure. This is what fetishism promotes, people – over-zealousness, contradiction and a marked lack of obedience.

We will be sharing our results over the next few days. So consider this a warning: if you don’t know your HB from your 2B, your fineliner from your art tip, your post-its from your page markers, maybe you should check back later in the week, when the fetishists have left the building.

Top five FOR THE WIN stationery items:

1: PENS*
  • A slender blue ball-point with a bright consistent ink & a black fine-liner with a smooth flow (and no scratching on the paper).
  • Pens - oh I love a particular kind of smooth flowing, fine but not too fine tip.
  • Nice pens that write nicely.
  • Free-flowing medium point biro (for firm handwriting).
  • Papermate Kilometrico blue pen.
  • Luscious fat, yet sleek, weighty but elegant, cool, black lacquered, chisel-nibbed fountain pen (and peacock-coloured bottle of fountain-pen ink).

  • Pencils, pencils, pencils (good sharp pencils).
  • A box of 64 Derwent pencils (still in original box with all pencils present, which my little sister was NEVER EVER allowed to touch on pain of death).**
  • An army of coloured pencils (they flash me back to my first treasured Derwent set, all standing in perfect order of colour shade, in their tin). **
  • Australian-made Staedtler HB pencil (sharp).
  • Pencil (for scribbling all over authors' manuscripts).

  • Pencil sharpener, pencil sharpener, pencil sharpener (for good sharp pencils).
  • A pencil sharpener with a good action.
  • Metal pencil sharpener that doesn't snap leads.
  • Pencil sharpener, a good one - that also works on eyeliner.
  • Pencil sharpener (to use while I think what to scribble on authors’ manuscripts next).

  • Double-sided sticky tape.
  • Magic tape.
  • Scotch invisible tape - nothing else cuts it.
  • Permanent spray glue.
  • Clag (that distinctive smell recalls my first creative projects at kinder).

  • Spiral bound notebooks.
  • Notebooks - for all those lists.
  • An extra fat, 320-page, dog-eared exercise book (the one I use for 'to do' lists, notes from meetings, discussion points with authors, new procedures to remember - absolutely everything all in one place).
  • Brand-spanking new notepad (optimistic).

6: ERASERS****
  • A good clean rubber (for rubbing out the markings of the good sharp pencils)
  • Completely clean, unused, virginal rubbers (erm ... erasers).
  • Rubber/eraser (for when I change my mind).

Honourable mentions:
Clever but expensive rubber bands which go four ways so they can grip a manuscript on all sides, post-it notes, brown paper, wire stands that hold folders at an angle, Manila folders, coffee machine, post-it notes, plastic clear-view sleeves, Sharpies, comfy chair, highlighters (plentiful in quantity and colour-range), smiley-face squeeze ball, post-it notes, scissors, stapler, ruler, paper, cardboard calendar tent, post-it notes, tiny bulldog clips, zip-up diary (so all the pesky loose items are safely secured), removable labels, gorgeous creamy, textured, deckle-edged, silk-to-the-touch writing paper and envelopes, post-it notes.

* Not a hint of fetishism here. No. None at all. Nope.
** SNAP! No, not the pencils. We’re not going to breathe on those Derwents, much less even consider snapping them. We are a little scared by these Derwent fetishists.
*** Who would have thunk it? Pencil fetishists like [GOOD] pencil sharpeners. Imagine.
**** Okay, we know this is List Item SIX in our stationery Top FIVE. It seems we can’t count or follow instructions either. (Birds of a flock, and all that.)

15 January 2010

Technology - How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways.

Even though there's PLENTY to read around here, sometimes we Onions go into something approximating a TIZZ when our email or (worse still) our whole computer system fails.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

What to do?
Who to turn to?
We flap about.

And then the seconds minutes hours tick by, and we realise we are now halfway through a manuscript that has been on our desk - trying to lure our attention away from the computer - for weeks days.

I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need,

Quiet reading time. It’s the business. But sometimes it's so hard to find. Especially when there's an avalanche of unread email to attend to, or editorial reports to write, or draft covers to consider, or book websites to check, or blogs to read - or, you know, the world to stay in touch with.

I love thee with a passion put to use

Yes. Enforced quiet reading time. It should be a bonus. Something to celebrate. But when it is prescribed by technology failure, it is underpinned by a sense of unease. (What am I missing? Who needs my attention? How can I possibly meet that deadline now?)

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

And this feeling is compounded when the almost-completed, due-today, in-progress copy-edited manuscript is locked into a computer system to which there is no access. (*tears hair* *takes deep breath* * has faith* *goes back to reading hard copy of new manuscript*)

And then the computer blinks back on...

Smiles, tears of all my life!

11 January 2010

Hot Town, Summer in the City

We got this...* What you got?

Via the ever-helpful weather-watchers at the School of Earth Sciences.

*Definitely not our favourite kind of melting moments.

08 January 2010

A beginning, an ending, and a cake...

Phew. We made it through the first week back.* Hurrah!

January. Such a lovely month. Half the (antipodean) world is at the beach so all is quiet on the Melbourne front. The streets have tumbleweeds in them, there are fewer cars on the road (all the better for cycling), the trams are empty (all the better for getting a seat), the phone doesn’t ring, the email doesn’t ping (all the better for getting work done), the coffee emporiums are either closed or training up the new staff (all the better for… hmm, actually let us rethink that, all the worse for getting good coffee).

But, regardless, we soldier on. And things have been happening. Look what landed!

Lord Sunday - the final installment in the Keys to the Kingdom series.
You are not going to BELIEVE how it all ends. (And may we also point out that we are very excited by the gold foil on the winged figure inside Arthur. It looks awesome!)

Don’t they look fine all in a row on the bookshelf?

The Cakemaker-in-Chief has also started the year on a high note.
Look at that S cake go!**

What font is that, H?

* Well, most of us.
** In the spirit of clarity we wish to point out that it wasn't actually cake, it was an exceptionally delicious tiramisu that was consumed in seconds. (And this phrase works so much better when applied to a car.)

06 January 2010

Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice

It comes to our attention that we are probably a grave disappointment to a few people.

We strive to please, but over the year-and-a-few-months that Alien Onion has been around, a host of people have landed here by way of very specific Google questions that, to the best of our knowledge, this blog has completely failed to answer.

In the spirit of the new year we have decided to answer these questions as best we can, in case any of those poor lost souls ever make their way back this way.

So here we go...

Q: How does the story Mahalia by Joanne Horniman end?
A: Okay, so Matt and Emmy... Wait a minute... Are you asking this because you're supposed to have read it for class and you have to write an essay or do an exam or something and you're trying to fake it? Well then, Sir/Madam, we would never be party to such sneaky cheaterism. You're on your own. Plus, the book is really good so you should just read it.

Q: What does Nick sing at the end of Lirael?
A: We wouldn't want to be spoilery so we've make this text white. You'll need to highlight it in order to read the answer.

I'll sing you a song of the long ago -
Seven shine the shiners, oh!
What did the Seven do way back when?
Why, they wove the Charter then!
Five for the warp, from beginning to end.
Two for the woof, to make and mend.
That's the Seven, but what of the Nine-
What of the two who chose not to shine?
The Eighth did hide, hide all away,
But the Seven caught him and made him pay.
The Ninth was strong and fought with might,
But lone Orannis was put out of the light,
Broken in two and buried under a hill,
Forever to lie there, wishing us ill.

Although, technically, we're not sure it's really Nick who sings this. I mean, sure, he's the mouthpiece, but there is something else behind his eyes - if you know what we're saying. To our minds, the song has interesting parallels with Green Grow the Rushes, O - which at least one Onion used to sing on long family car trips (because it builds and builds in a long and satisfying fashion, like The 12 Days of Christmas).

Q: What is riz?
A: We assume here you are not talking about the inimitable Rizzo from Grease, but rather the riz that the grass is. Happily, we had an epiphany about riz in the spring of our discontent. (Well, it wasn't actually the spring we were discontent with - just the loss of riz as awesome. Sigh.)

Q: Who said: "My Kingdom for a horse?" And where?
A: Speaking of seasons of discontent... That oft-quoted chap by the name of Shakespeare wrote it. Many people have said it, most notably those who have been unhorsed at the battle of Bosworth field while playing Richard in the Bard's play Richard III. Despite the fact that we are anti-spoiler, we can say that it does end rather badly for poor old Richard...

Q: What do onions have to do with Christmas?
A: Is this a trick question? Perhaps you haven't been paying proper attention? This is what Onions have to do with Christmas. What's that? Oh, you mean actual onions? The foods. Oh, I see. Sorry about that, chief. Hmmm. Onions and Christmas. Nope. Nothing springs to mind. But the multi-talented Ms Lili Wilkinson can help you with other Christmas items, such as Turkey, Stuffing, Bread Sauce and Potatoes.

Q: Does Mr Edwards bring onions or potatoes for Christmas in Little House on the Prairie?
A: Potatoes! Lili and Mr Edwards both bring the potatoes. We don't know who brings the onions. Well, technically, Mr Edwards brings sweet potatoes. He also brings heart-shaped cakes and tin cups and candy canes and shiny new pennies. And let us take a moment to remember that he walked 40 miles from Independence, Kansas, and then swam the swollen Verdigris river so that Mary and Laura would have their Christmas gifts.

Q: Is there onomatopoeia in To Kill a Mocking Bird?
A: Hmm. We suspect another attempt to shortcut the actual reading of the book here and we do not condone it. This is one to read. And re-read. And read again. That said, there is at least one onomatopoeic passage in To Kill a Mockingbird that springs to mind:
"Jean Louise. Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing." Sounds exactly like weeping.

Q: Can I get there by candlelight book?
A: Well, it is perhaps an unusual way to travel, but then so is the Tardis, so if you close your eyes and concentrate very hard on the candlelight book, its magic may well transport you wherever you wish to go.

Q: Are we under a spell?
A: Yes. We are under the spell of the candlelight book.

Q: "Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. so... get on your way." Which book?
A: As Sam-I-am might say:
I will not box them here or there.
I will not box them anywhere.

Oops, wrong book reference. Your mountain is actually waiting in the pages of Oh the Places You'll Go! by Theodor Geisel aka Dr Seuss. So get on your way.

Q: What is a wilted onion?
A: Something that happens when Onions are exposed to a brutal Melbourne summer. Check back in next Monday, forecast to be 38, and we'll show you.

Q: Do you remember when you were thirteen?
A: Yes.

Q: Can you kill an alien with onions?
A: You know what, we're not sure if it's ever been tried. Alien et al, Independence Day, Signs, District 9 - perhaps these could all have been shorter films if only someone had thought to try onions as the first line of defence. I mean, if garlic works on vampires... *rushes to stock basement with onions in preparation for inevitable alien invasion*

Q: How can a boy work on summer holidays?
A: Hmm, good question. Paper routes might be kind of on the way out. Summer jobs that are popular in YA fiction include: lifeguard at your local pool, working in the deli aisle at the supermarket, or serving in a coffee shop or bookshop. And if Empire Records is anything to go by, we strongly suggest you apply at the hippest indie record store you can find in your immediate vicinity.

Q: How do you pronounce hunca munca ?
A: We've always said hunka munka - like hunka hunka burning love. How else would you pronounce it? Surely not hunsa munsa?

Q: How do you spell 'marshions"?
A: Not like that.

Q: What's Mo Johnson doing these days?
A: Well, for one thing she's writing awesome books like Something More . Mo - if you care to further enlighten this curious soul, have at it in the comments.

Q: Can onions help with sickness?
A: Oh yes. Onions have many excellent medicinal qualities. *adds more onions to the Apocalypse-survival stash*

Q: What is the things that we use in water skiing?
A: Water skis.

Q: What's Bruno about?
A: You know, most of the time we have absolutely no idea. But whatever it is, it's working for us, so we hope he continues to be about it.

Q: Is there a banana-duck?
A: This is our favourite banana duck. In his biscuit form he is our avatar. (See top of page.) But here is another excellent one.

Q: What is YA?
A: Actually, the people who asked this question should have been well satisfied, as we've answered the heck out of it. Phew! Go Us!

Q: Are giant onions hotter and the compertition?
A: ... ... You know what, we got nothing. You're on your own with this one. Good luck, friend!

Q: What's so good about The Princess Bride? *
A: Everything. (Clearly we know something you don't know.)

*Okay. We confess. We made this one up. But, you know, as we have said before, when it comes to The Princess Bride: any excuse.

05 January 2010

Tuesday stuff and items

Welcome back!
It's the NEW year! A term bandied about with something approaching abandon in the lead-up to Christmas in the House of Onion. And now the new year is upon us, so we are buckling down to all those tasks we gleefully surrendered in the old year.

We trust you all unwrapped lots of lovely books for Christmas and had time to get some of them sandy at the beach or crumpled on the plane or soggy in the bath or lost under the couch cushions...

Here are some things that have happened while we were sleeping eating drinking reading.
  • Nicki Greenberg stormed the castle - when we say castle here, we mean the New Yorker.

  • Hot hot hot.

  • A blue moon!

  • Thunder! Lightning! Fireworks!
    The old year went out with a sizzle and a bang and the new year came in with the whisper of rain. And then there was some more spectacular banging - like this forked lightning in North Fitzroy, video taken by an Onion Sympathiser.

  • Shane Watson finally made his first Test hundred (just).

  • Some very very pleasing items arrived in the House:

And while we were merrily celebrating our achievements for the year, of course, as ever there was cake.*

*Many thanks to the Christmas cake-maker who prepared this cake on the other side of the river (there’s another side to the river?) and successfully negotiated the obstacle course that is pre-Christmas Punt road traffic and transported it all the way to leafy West Brunswick. A triumph!