24 November 2011

The Gauntlet

Not content with the harbour, the bridge, the A&U terrace and occasionally dining at Quay, The Mothership now wants a piece of the cake pie*.

And, to be honest, they are doing it right.

SC took it to the next level with a salted caramel cheesecake and caramel sauce. And KB kept it there with a nectarine cake with almond meal.

Ladies and gentleman, I think this just got real...

(pic via juliamarchese flotsam and jetsom)

*Mmmm, cake pie

22 November 2011

Tuesday Stuff and Items

The weather is getting warmer.
There are Christmas decorations on the streets and in the shops.
Social calendars are filling up.
It must be time to get down to some serious planning...

It's not just Father Christmas who makes lists at this time of year. It is our feeling that you can't expect to get the most out of your summer if you don't carefully itemise what you intend to do. 

Herewith the beginnings of a list...

1) Watch THIS MOVIE*

Charlize Theron plays a writer of young adult fiction? SOLD!

Also, did you know Diablo Cody is deep in development of a Sweet Valley High movie?? *squeals*
Will they cast real twins to play Jessica and Elizabeth? Or will they pull the starring-Hayley-Mills-and-Hayley-Mills routine, also known as the Winklevoss Ploy.

2) Go to TJUKURRTJANU - Origins of Western Desert Art at the Ian Potter.

A nice, gentle, easily achievable goal this one.

4) Swim.

5) Swim.

6) Eat.**

7) Watch trailers for the Hunger Games movie as they are released. Comment loudly to anyone who will listen about what we think are the likely pros and cons (based on 2.36 mins of footage and some magazine articles).***

8) Devise (and consume) literature-inspired cocktails.

The Anne
2 parts Marilla's best current wine
1 part vodka
Garnish with carrot tops.
If you're going to set your friends drunk, you might as well do it in style.

The Margo Lanagan

1 part champagne
1 part Gosling's Black Seal Rum
Slice of lime or scattering of fresh sea wrack.
If you drink enough of them, you too will be seeing selkies.

The Fantasy shaker
1 flagon of mead (butterbeer will do in a pinch)
2 shots whisky
A dash of ichor
Serve with Lembas or whole suckling pig.

The Justine Larbalestier
Assemble a basic Manhattan.
Serve in a Vegemite glass in front of the cricket.****

The Renesmee
Pour tomato juice over ice cubes.
As you drink, crunch the ice between your teeth to simulate Bella's cracking ribs.
Make sure you put the empty glass in the dishwasher before your best friend can imprint on it. Cos that would be awkward.

What's on your list of things to do over summer?

* NB Australian release dates may make this *ahem* seemingly impossible. But we're with the US Army Corp of Engineers on this.
** At least an hour after swimming.
*** Pros: Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, the look of the thing, the vibe of the thing, Prim, Rue, Effie, Katniss, Peter.  Cons: Gale
**** Good work, Pat Cummins!

21 November 2011

The Onions Go To Sydney

Do you get disconcerted when characters you know in one setting move away from their familiar spheres?

Like when Kate Ruggles, who usually resides at Number 1, One End Street, spends a whole book on holiday at the Dew Drop Inn.

Or instead of returning to the Lake District, the Swallows and Amazons relocate to Hamford Water.

Or when the characters in Friends appear somewhere other than their apartments or Central Perk.

Well, hang on to your hats, because in this episode of Alien Onion, we leave The House behind and take a trip to Sydney...

Last week we attended our annual Editorial Conference where we recharge our editorial batteries, are apprised of new and exciting publishing industry items, and spend time with the wonderful Onions who inhabit the Mothership.

Garth Nix gave a fabulous talk about telling stories and writing fantasy. (And he also gave us chocolates, so he's invited back any time.)

We participated in excellent discussions on copyediting and structural editing with Nan McNab.

Nicola O'Shea shared very useful thoughts on editing onscreen.

We talked ebooks, and discount department stores, and pathways to becoming a publisher.

And then, ladies and gentleman, we ate delicious food in front of this view:

Thank you, AH, for organising such a terrific day of listening and learning and talking... and eating, lots of lovely eating.

And thank you, Sydney - the jacarandas were blooming, the air was soft, the views were spectacular and the people friendly. We can't wait to come again! 

But for now you'll find us happily back at the House - our One End Street, our Wildcat Island, our Central Perk.
Where, of course, there is cake.

14 November 2011

Every good weep-fest deserves cake

It's not every cake that features a drop shadow...

Happy birthday, FL!

And excellent cake-makery, SB!

10 November 2011

'All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story.' - Karen Blixen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that sometimes we all crave a little bit of comfort crying. Holly Hunter as Jane Craig in Broadcast News certainly knew it.

And every avid reader knows it too. We have touched on this topic before, but this time we decided to poll the Onions about which books made them weep, or sob, or at least caused a single tear to slide down their cheek. And we were well-rewarded!

Be prepared people. Sad stuff happens - which is our way of saying
*spoiler alert*. 
You have been warned.

Herewith our list of fifteen titles to weep by:

 1) The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
There are many teary moments in the HIS DARK MATERIALS books. Lyra leaving Pan behind. Poor little Roger. The sad/sweet ending. But it was the death of Lee Scoresby and Hester that made me weep and weep. I'm weeping now just thinking about it. 'She pressed her little proud broken self against his face, as close as she could get, and then they died.' *SOB*. One of the very comforting things about having a Daemon would be the knowledge that you would not have to face your death alone. (And then, and this is not a sentence one writes every day, I felt a lot better once Iorek Byrnison has eaten Lee's dead body.)

2) Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
Those in the House will know that I have always found it difficult to enthuse over books where the romantic protagonists are more than a few years apart in age. So who knew that a book about a girl falling in love with a man old enough to be her grandfather could touch me so deeply and make me weep copious buckets of tears over Louise's oh-so-unfair life. And weep again at her ultimate acceptance of her life and, if not happiness then contentment with it. Sob.

3 & 4) The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier & The Chestry Oak by  Kate Seredy
It's strange, because I know I cried over books, but the only two I can really remember (and that's probably because I returned to the weepy parts again and again, when I needed to weep) were when the children in THE SILVER SWORD had to leave their faithful dog on the German shore of Lake Geneva when they escaped to Switzerland and when the horse Midnight was found and an acorn planted at the end of THE CHESTRY OAK. I would say animals definitely jerked my tears more than people.

When I was a teacher I found an old class set of THE SILVER SWORD. I gave it to a group of naughty low-literacy Year 9 boys to read, thinking they would enjoy the war theme. Unfortunately, I had completely forgotten that all through the book, Jan's precious rooster is referred to as 'Jan's cock.'

5) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

6) Pippi Goes on Board by Astrid Lindgren
I will never, ever forget reading the story of Pippi Longstocking's father. I'd opened my book the second I hopped into my mum's car for the ride home that afternoon, and when we arrived, I was too engrossed to move; the doors slammed shut around me and I sat there in the car-warmth reading and reading.

And by the time I got to That Bit, it was almost too dark to see, and I didn't just cry - I WAILED aloud in bereft solidarity through the entire scene... That peculiar sensation of genuinely devastating yet still somehow half-enjoyed tragedy has never left me.

7) Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
A friend's daughter was not just distraught but profoundly shocked when Ginger died of neglect and mistreatment in BLACK BEAUTY. There was the grief at the death of BB's friend, but also the shock of something BAD happening to a good character: this was probably the first time she had encountered this. I remember that: it does feel like a betrayal, to be led through hundreds of pages of delight, and then felled by a cruel plot twist.

8) Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
One of my fondest memories of my littlest sister was finding her completely distraught one day, over a book I had never heard of.
"What's wrong, Kathy?"
"It's the BOOOOOOK!"
"Oh dear. What happened?"
"Charlotte DIED!"
"Oh no. That's very sad. Who was Charlotte?"
"A-a-a-a  S-S-SPI-I-I-DER!!!!"
(Somewhat taken aback and at a loss for words) "A spider! Is the whole book about a spider?!"
"Yes, and Wilbur. Charlotte SAVED Wilbur!!"
(OK - thinking we might get to the human story now) "And who was Wilbur?"
"A-a-a-a P-P-P-PIG!!!!"
Kathy then collapsed completely, well beyond the reach of my meagre comforting skills.

9)Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
When I began working at a publishing house, I was introduced to TUCK EVERLASTING. Even though I am now a grown up, I can and, when necessary, do reduce myself to gasping sobs any time of the night or day by reading the last chapter. It's probably a good thing I didn't encounter this book as a child.

10) Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
No sooner is Judy all recovered from her adventures and reunited with her huge family than she is killed by a falling tree in a stunning early lesson about the randomness and unfairness of the universe. That is all.

[I didn't cry, but it made me shocked and angry and upset because it seemed so wrong. Why couldn't it be some minor character we hadn't got to know much? Why couldn't the General just die and allow for a spell of decent mourning as a plot element? But I love the book anyway.]

11) A Patch of Blue by Elizabeth Kata
For Year 10 English, I read A PATCH OF BLUE and I wept and wept - so much so that I was recently surprised to find my dog-eared copy is not at all tear-stained, just yellowed with age and a little brittle in the bindings, but holding together nicely courtesy of its clear plastic covering and liberally applied sticky tape.

There was a film as well, and our whole year level was to be shown it as a special treat - but some of the Year 10 boys made inappropriate remarks in the opening ten minutes and the viewing was cancelled. And I wept again.

12) The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter

13) Rilla of Ingleside by LM Montgomery 
War books. It's always the war books - and war films - that move me to tears and beyond. I think it's the sheer WASTE of young men. It's the UNFAIRNESS. This is especially poignant in books written in the interwar period, where the hope that all those boys gave their lives for everlasting peace - that it was the war to end all wars - has not yet been proved a lie.
RILLA OF INGLESIDE was one of the first books I read that brought this home to me. The death of Walter - the most Anne-like of all Anne's children - in action at Courcelette had me prostrate on the couch for hours. As soon as I read the title of the chapter -  'Little Dog Monday Knows' - I knew too. And I almost couldn't read on. LM Montgomery had known for ages. She had been preparing us for this moment since she introduced us to Walter as a young boy in ANNE OF INGLESIDE.*
Walter was smiling in his sleep as someone who knew a charming secret. The moon was shining on his pillow through the bars of the leaded window ... casting the shadow of a clearly defined cross on the wall above his head. In long after years Anne was to remember that and wonder if it were an omen of Courcelette ... of a cross-marked grave 'somewhere in France'.

But I was young. I didn't KNOW what that meant. I'd never HEARD of Courcelette. I didn't think she could mean THIS. 

And then, of course, I bawled again when Jem comes home, and old and arthritic Dog Monday becomes, ' a young pup, gone clean mad with rejuvenating joy.' Brave, uncomplicated Jem. Faithful, loving Dog Monday. AND NO WALTER.

14) A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken
A student at the Faber Academy event on the weekend mentioned A NECKLACE OF RAINDROPS, and I screamed aloud, because I was obsessed with it as a child and used to go to the primary school library at least once a week and read it cover to cover. One time I got in trouble at school and was sent to the library as punishment and I took this book to the corner and read it while I cried... Did you read it, too?

15) The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
One word: Manchee.

Deep breath. And another. That sound you hear, dear reader; that sound is stifled sniffling. After such a list, it is most tempting to give in to the call of the comfort reads and curl up on the couches downstairs and weep our way though the afternoon. But alas, we cannot. We have WORK to do. Sigh. But if you have time to curl up away from the world, do let us know so we can at least indulge in a little vicarious comfort weeping.

I have just discovered that Anne of Ingleside was published 18 years after Rilla of Ingleside. It didn't occur to me that they weren't written in chronological order. It must have been so bittersweet for LM to be writing that golden childhood after having written the war, the pain, the death. 

03 November 2011

The editor's cut

This one time, there was jelly slice in a manuscript. 

But the manuscript was set in Queensland, where the jelly wouldn't. 

Set that is. 

Or maybe the whole thing would melt. Anyway it would be a disaster.

And so a difficult decision was made: 


But the Cake-maker Virtuoso just couldn't let it go. She had jelly slice on her mind.


What follows is an exclusive cut scene, an outtake, a special-features reel.

Isn't it beautiful, the way it wobbles...

 the way it refracts the light...

So beautiful, so wobbly, so refracty. And just a little bit illicit.

Bootleg jelly slice - the best kind.