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Monday, 27 February 2012

Charmaine Clancy ~ Author Interview

News Flash ~ You've got just two more days before the international release of Charmaine Clancy's  newest book  My Zombie Dog.

Zombie Dog promises gore, humour and insanity on a canine level and is aimed at our sometimes gory, often silly and verging on insane, tween market. But before sales go crazy on the 1st of March, I managed to pull Charmaine aside to a quite corner of the cemetery and find out a bit more about this exciting new Queensland kids author. Here's what I discovered:

10 Things you didn't know about Charmaine Clancy and Zombies

1. This is your debut release. How long have you been writing for?
Tried and failed to write novels many times in my youth. What I didn't know then is imagination is not enough, I needed to LEARN the right skills. About 4 years ago, at Uni, I came across a classmates blog; Amy from Ink-Fever. Amy was making her writing a priority. This motivated me to get stuck in and see a novel through to the end.

 2. Why did you decide to self publish in the eBook format for your first title?
I have a marketing background, and was really curious about the process. My motto has always been 'How hard can it be?' I would now say...pretty hard, but definitely rewarding. I'm as proud of the formatting and cover design I produced as I am of writing the novel. The publishing world fascinates me. If you've patience and are keen, then you can do it.

3. Have you always had a fetish for Zombies and dogs?
Dogs yes. ALWAYS. I'd pour over books of dog breeds as a kid. Every novel I've written has a dog in it. But, Zombies? No way. Confession: They were the only horror monster that frightened me. As a kid my parents went to the drive-in to watch a zombie flick with me in the back asleep, but I awoke just in time to see the flesh-eating Zombies give me the jeebies.

4. What inspired you to write My Zombie Dog?
My zombie dog. No, really. We had a little dog that was totally psycho. We tried training, medication, natural therapies. The dog would get into all and out brawls with bigger dogs and several times would fall down 'dead' during an attack. A couple of times I was sure it was, and even covered it once with a towel. Five minutes later it hopped up and was fine. Zombie dog is based on that dog, even the wheezing...and it's name? Fossil, just like Zombie Dog. Fossil now lives with my mum and enjoys terrorising her neighbours.
5. Do you know any real life Zombies?
Well, I once worked in the public service...

 6. What is your favourite breed of cat?
Devon Rex. We have one and she's a funny little thing, and weird enough looking to fit right in with our family.

7. As a child, where did you spend the most time reading?
In scary woods, castles, haunted houses, and elegant steam-trains. Of course all this was while staying on my Hollie-hobby covered bed.

8. How do you think Zombies rate against Vampires?
I'm much more frightened of Zombies. I figure the worst a vampire can do is turn me into some hot chick who parties all night, but zombies are all pus and scabs - I'm just scared they'll TOUCH me.

9. What did your mother put into your school lunch box that used to make you cringe?
Her food. I'd hide left-overs (there was a good reason they were left) in my locker and after a while, create zombie meals.

10. If you had to choose between Zombie gloopy green and sunflower yellow, which colour would you choose and why?
Gloopy green. Yellow's just too darn chirpy for my liking.

 Thanks Charmaine. It's pleasing to know that you have found solutions for at least two of your past problems: your Mum's food and your crazy canine. Hope neither of them read this post and turn me into a zombie.

To purchase Charmaine's new book and be part of the My Zombie Dog and Kindle give away Competition visit her blog.

Escars got to GO

I may not be the most tolerant of people at times. But I do try to be charitable. I turn a blind eye when one of the chooks demolishes a chili plant. I don't mind the fruit bats gorging themselves silly on my guavas and mangoes night after night. I allow the wretched wasps to build their mud condos all over my house because they do such a good job rounding up the spiders and caterpillars for their babies.

But the thing which sets my blood boiling is the nightly, ritualistic, denuding of my veggie patch by those slimy, stealth like, slug faced molluscs that call themselves, Snails.
Don't be fooled by their cute whiskery apperance here either. Midnight torch raids have revealed a revelry of ruminating renegades. Marigolds droop, caught in a slick skin of slime like something out of Ghostbusters. Whole rows of seedlings are eradicated in less time than it takes to say What's Up Doc?

Honestly, I have enough in my back yard to start my own French bistro.

Apart from actually eating them, I've tried everything organically, humanely, ethically, possible to encourage their retreat. They have refused and in doing so have thrown down the gauntlet, or at least they would if they had hands instead of just one great oozy foot. 

And so I make this last plea before going into head on to eye stalk battle; can anybody help me?

- Is there a full proof, non toxic, safe to man and beast but not slug, way to annihilate these little nuisances and leave my veggies alone?

- Can one safely feed snails steeped overnight in vinegar and Duff beer to ones chooks?

- Do snails understand the stratagem of warfare?

- Is there such as thing as snail sized barbed wire available at Bunnings?

And what does this post have to do with writing? Well, if I spent less time hunched over in the pouring rain night after night, scouting for and consigning said snails to a beer bath, I'd have a darn sight more time to write, wouldn't I?

Rightie oh, time for patrol...

Sunday, 26 February 2012

A letter to England

Dearest England,

Forgive me. It's been too long since I've been in touch. But while sorting through my shoe box of snap shots the other day, I came across splashes of colour, images frozen in time, which reminded me of you and of Christmas last. I thought you'd like to see some.

I can't believe it's been nearly five weeks since we left Nelson's country. The bracing cold air of Norfolk in winter is losing its bite. The memory of it, burning my cheeks and causing my ears to throb, fading like a dream upon waking. I cling to it just as fervently but it's hard to retain such a memory when the humidity here makes you sweat even as you sit unmoving.

Frost on the field of Norfolk, early morning.
 We expected more snow. You gave us the second mildest UK Christmas on record. We expected rain. You cleared away the cumulus revealing crystalline blue skies day after day. It's been raining nearly every week since we got back. Heavy, relentless sub tropical rain worthy of any wet season but striking fear into hearts and souls still damp from last year's ravaging floods. Torrential rains, flash flooding, stunning afternoon thunderstorms bashing their way along the SE Queensland coast. They fill me with excitement, anxiety and sometimes anger when drivers react stupidly on the roads.

Elsewhere, Australia swelters as summer wanes to autumn. Tree branches, bereft of moisture, pop and burst in the severe heat. They crash to earth and sometimes land on things they should not have, like cars. Our summer heat makes it less enjoyable to walk, unless you go very early in the morning of course. I miss walking against the chilling winds everyday. Trudging across farrow fields, over moss covered stiles, through paddocks of inquisitive sheep, making interesting discoveries.

"You smell what you hear" Cabbages, churned earth, manure, geese, pigs - the scent of the country
Miss 6 states the obvious

          Milk keeps better outside. Lone apple. Gale force winds. A lesson in tenacity.

Our means of navigation was straightforward enough. Step outside, spy a church tower and walk steadily towards it, heedless of the twisting, narrow country lanes. All that walking meant I endured a self enforced hiatus from writing, commitments, duties, obligations. It was invigorating in every sense.

Not yet available at Super Butcher.
And although I can't remember seeing a prawn larger than 1 pence, you certainly didn't disappoint on the culinary front. Venison, every joint of roasted meat, pheasant (complete with shot), puddings galore. It will take many more months of sweating to reverse all that revelry.

I hear it's snowed since we departed. I wonder how the early blooming crocuses and daffies have fared? Christmas had vanished from our neighbourhood when we arrived back home. Not a fairy light was to be seen. There were no spicy scented Christmas candles burning, no Nativity scenes, no garlands of tinsel hanging in shopping centres, no more carols on the radio.

Snow in Queens Square, Attleborough, Norfolk
But we were lucky. We had you for a month. We had punting on the Cam.We had the wild Suffolk coast line. We had lessons in history every day, with every view we experienced. We had fireworks in the back yard at New Years. And we had that snug, indoors, warm kind of European Christmas so often replicated here but lacking that one essential ingredient...cold. Cold seem to make everything magical. It made my nose run a great deal too. I hope I didn't forget to thank you for everything. I did so have a wonderful stay.

It's gotten busy here. I may not have time to write for a while.  Must away, the chooks need feeding.

Fondest thoughts,


Sunday, 19 February 2012

Come on In

Okay, so seeing swans is one serendipitous side effect of an unplanned early morning walk. I've been waiting patiently for Opportunity to approach again. Waiting for it to hammer repeatedly on my door with unsolicited offers of publication. Alas, no bang the door down deals yet but it has been tapping away. And I decided to let it in...

I've been invited by teacher-librarian and food reviewer Marj Osborne to speak alongside esteemed children's author illustrator Narelle Oliver at Aquinas College on the Gold Coast next month.

Like anyone opening their door to an unannounced visitor offering news too good to be true, I immediately wondered, have they got the right person? Is this for real? Apparently, Marj has and it is.

My tummy is a blender full of emotions. Excitement is whizzing around a million miles an hours with trepidation. I confess, this cocktail has set my nerves slightly ajar. I can't remember the last time I spoke to an audience of human beings over the age of 12, who were not my mates or my peers. But who am I to deny Opportunity, because this is exactly what this invitation is: another fantastic opportunity to live, breathe and share what I profess to love. But love does not come easily nor without a price. Mine is preparation and confidence.

So, in the words of Ernest Hemingway ~ 'There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed'. Excuse me please, I have some bleeding to do...

Monday, 6 February 2012

Knock Knock, Who's There?

The sun had barely eased its way out of bed. The air was still bitey and damp with last night's dew. I arrived at the gym for yoga practice with enough time to secure a spot and have a nice lie down before the class began, only to be told that it was cancelled. Sorry, you should have noticed the sign we just put up. What about a sauna instead? front desk guy offered cheerfully. Great, only I'd dressed for a yoga class not a semi naked sweat out. What about the gym? Um, well would wearing thongs on the treadmill be okay then? No sorry - against health and safety.

So, abandoning the idea of getting healthy within the gym, I left. What to do for an hour before I needed to be home, I wondered? This was a rare opportunity indeed, an hour of unscheduled time as vacant as the yoga workout room back at the gym. So I snatched it up; dumped my yoga mat back in the car, and went for a walk, which you can do without a towel and just in thongs.

I walked under stately poincianas, alongside artfully landscaped pockets of palms, past sleeping geese and across wet, manicured park lands until I came across a family of black swans, hovering in between the morning sky and its reflection on their miniature lake.

Four fluffy grey cygnets, pipped and whistled at me, perhaps a little astounded to see me in my baggy tee and thongs at that hour of the morning. The family glided swiftly toward me, hopeful for a hand out, but as I had little more in my pockets than my mobile phone, they soon steered their ruffled wings away in disdain.

Still I had gained something. I had seized upon a moment, made the most of an unplanned situation and took the time to explore and make an exquisite discovery: the beauty of nature just after dawn. In short, I had made the most of Opportunity.

Opportunity: a favourable combination of circumstances. Strange how sometimes this can arise from a set of unfavourable circumstances. And so in life and indeed in writing.

The keys to making the most of your Opportunities:

- Recognise them in the first place. Be attentive for chance and good prospects in all their guises. You know those ones that hide in grey clouds, that knock unexpectedly at doors...

- Be flexible. Adaptive behaviour encourages the most out of your opportunity. The twists and turns you take to fulfill a new plan or reach a new goal, may be as rewarding as actually getting there.

- Summons the spontaneity within. Plans and lists and time lines are terrific for sorting out your mind clutter but sometimes it pays to act on whims and impulse.

- Let go. Don't be afraid to step away from your norm even for just a little while. It's exhilarating discovering new things, including, your own untapped strengths and abilities.

- And most importantly, carry a few crusts of bread with you at all times.

From a writer's pov, all this may mean, stepping outside of your comfort zone, net working more, taking chances with submissions, cutting scenes, murdering characters, abandoning story lines, writing in different genres, asking for critique or simply going for a walk and letting nature do its thing.

Of course I could have hopped in my car and headed straight home. Despondency is an easy chair to slump into and difficult to get out of. And what if I had not seen the swans? Would opportunity have been wasted? Certainly not. At least, I got a bit of exercise. I certainly don't want to be stuck in my chair of despondency forever (yes I do have one)...unless I have a good book of course.

What opportunity have you made the most of recently?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Happy New Year!

In my customary always-running-behind style, I seem to have missed out on the fanfare of the New Year; the well wishing, the extravagant wave of resolutions, the insightful posts promising possibilities and commitment.

Perhaps I still have time to proclaim, Gong Xi Fa Choy to one and all. The Year of the Dragon promises extremes, good and bad; that if you double your efforts, double rewards will follow. Don't be complacent and watch your temper!

I wonder how all this bears upon my humble 2012 Resolutions: Write More, Eat Less (no really)?

I thought of another this morning: Be more Forgiving. By this I hope to be less of the Shouty Woman, less impatient with myself and others and less intolerant of all those other shouty, impatient, intolerant so and sos who continually get in my way.

Multiple rejections, family constraints and the usual insufficient amount of minutes on my clock will continue to test my metal but it's helmets on and off we go.

Found this in my Christmas stocking
And I have a bunch of reasons to get on with it: a relaxing 4 week sabbatical in the crystalline English winter countryside, the write (pun intended) equipment, and some gratifying achievements received in the closing moments of 2011 to remind me what I'm capable of and where I want to go...

These include:

- A Special Mention for my picture book manuscript in KBR's inaugural Unpublished Manuscripts Award 2011.

- These two lovely Commendations Certificates from Dee White's Writing Classes for Kids and Adults First Page Submission Comp Nov 2011

- A fantastic copy of Lets Celebrate Christmas-Additive Free by Melanie Avery from Ang Hall at Bug in a Book for sharing the Magic of Christmas...and why shouldn't we?

- A copy of the irrepressible Michael Gerard Bauer's Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel, third in his Ishmael Series, for doing nothing particularly skillful other than offering to make my own gift box for the set. It's nice to enjoy a tiny flush of luck now and then.

And so as I waddle into February still bloated from my unrestrained festive feasting, I finally get around to clearing away the Christmas debris, and sorting the holiday snaps whilst clinging to the sensation of being shackle less and commitment free; but never the less, glad to be home among the flooding rains and ripening star fruit. I'm more than a little fearful of facing my Dragon and keeping my own promises.

But excited too. What has 2012 got you excited about I wonder?