The Fairytale Curse cover reveal!

The amazing Karri Klawiter of Art by Karri designed this stunning cover for me a year ago. I’ve been busting to show it off! Now that the book’s release is only a couple of weeks away I can finally reveal it.

The Fairytale Curse small

Isn’t it gorgeous?? Karri has already designed the cover for the next book in the series too, and it’s just as beautiful. She really is super-talented, and a pleasure to work with.

I hope you enjoyed the first chapter that I posted last time. Here’s the blurb, to give you a better idea of the overall story:

“Most people only wake up with hangovers after parties. Seventeen-year-old Violet wakes up with frogs falling out of her mouth whenever she speaks, and her twin sister CJ’s dripping diamonds with every word. As if starting at a new high school wasn’t hellish enough, they’ve been hit with a curse straight out of a fairy tale, with not a handsome prince in sight.

Apparently Mum and Dad don’t work for the military after all, but for a secret organisation dedicated to keeping the magical denizens of the world safely locked away. These are not the harmless fairies of children’s tales, but powerful beings with a score to settle for their long years of imprisonment. Now the barriers are failing, and if Vi can’t find answers fast the world will be overrun with vengeful fairies. And then there’ll be no happily ever after for anyone.”

In which I discover the importance of checking the camera battery

This year, for the first time, we went into the city to see Vivid, which is a light show where several public buildings are lit up with spectacular effects. The most notable of them is the iconic Sydney Opera House, but naturally my camera battery chose to die the very moment I raised my camera to start taking photos of it. If you’d like to see it, check out the gorgeous photos on Patty Jansen’s blog.
My goodness, you should have seen the crowds! I knew it was popular, but I didn’t expect the sheer number of people. Talk about bigger than Ben Hur!
This is Customs House, looking very different to its usual prim nineteenth century self. The kids had been unenthused about the prospect of going into town just to see some buildings lit up, but they were enthralled by the ever-changing displays.
You can hardly tell this is the same building.
This is the Museum of Contemporary Art:
It was really very clever. The Opera House was particularly beautiful. Those big white sails lend themselves very readily to this kind of thing. Shame I HAVE NO PHOTOS. Stupid battery.
I’m determined to go back next year. I might even take the good camera and tripod.
What the heck – I might even charge the #$!!@# battery.

Chagall with mangoes

I’ve been attending an art quilting class this term at Material Obsession. What fun! I’ve never been a big fan of traditional quilts, though I’ve made a few over the years – getting sucked in by the colours in my usual way. Plus they’re a great way to learn the sewing skills you need. I’m certainly not knocking traditional quilts with their regular block designs. I just wanted to try something a bit more “out there”.

You might remember my first attempt at an art quilt, which I blogged about here.

Oops. I can’t believe that was nearly two years ago! Aaaand it hasn’t got much further along in all that time. I know, you’re shocked. But it now has a red leaf and is ready to quilt, so hey – progress! Glacial, but progress.

So, given the fact that I work so much better with a deadline (ah, Grasshopper, self-knowledge is a wonderful thing), I decided to join the marvellous Kathy again for art quilting classes.

Our first month the assignment was a still life. Not the most exciting of things to me, having watched Mum paint half a bazillion of them over the years, but oh well. I dutifully flipped through some art books for inspiration – artists love still lifes – and gathered my fabrics to take to class.

When we arrived Kathy had some all-white objects to set up against a white backdrop, her point being that colour would distract us. If everything was white we could really concentrate on the shapes and the relationships between them. You can see Kathy’s account of the class here, with a picture of the set-up.

And then she handed out paper and pencils and told us to draw. EEK!! I haven’t drawn since high school, so I wasn’t very comfortable with this step. Predictably enough my drawing was fairly unimpressive.

Then the fun started. “Now draw it again, this time without looking down at the paper.” It was fascinating to see how much looser and freer everyone’s drawing was this time. I liked mine much better. “Now draw it with your eyes shut.” I admit I did peek once, but my drawing was only slightly more surreal this time than the previous attempt.

Then it was time to get started on the designing and sewing of our quilts. Some chose to use the sketches we’d just done as a starting point. I had a still life by Chagall.

I love Chagall’s blues! I was picturing this colour scheme, with the window and the bowl on the table in front of it, only with mangoes in the bowl. In my head the contrast of the orange mangoes against the blue room would be delicious. Only problem was I’d forgotten to bring any mangoes with me, so off I trotted in the middle of the class to buy some.

Once I’d done a quick sketch of my mangoes (without looking at the paper – yay for bold free drawing!) and worked out the proportions of my design I got busy with my blue fabrics creating a background. I tried a new-to-me technique for cutting and piecing curved lines, so there are no straight lines in the piece. I like the slight wonkiness of it all.

I completed the background by the end of the class. True to form, I then put off adding the bowl of mangoes till it was almost time for the next month’s class. It felt like it was going to be too hard. Without the motivating power of the deadline I still wouldn’t have done it, but I managed, and it wasn’t as hard as I’d feared.

At first I wasn’t happy. I’d tried to suggest shading by using different fabrics, but it seemed to me that it hadn’t worked until I was doing something on the other side of the room and happened to look back. Then I could see the blending effect and felt better.

I still have to quilt it, of course, but I’m pleased with it so far. For some reason I’m ridiculously happy with the shadow under the bowl, of all things. Mainly just because I thought to add one(!), but also because it’s a scrap from a quilt I made for my Dad many years ago.

Turns out still life was fun after all!

Seeing what’s there

I finished my mystery WIP from last week. It did look very like a skirt in the photo I showed you then, but in fact it is a table runner.

Only I think I need a bigger table! It was meant to live on my sideboard, but it turned out way too big. Even on the table it takes up a lot of space but it’s very pretty. Here’s another photo which gives you a better idea of the colours. They’re so gorgeous.

I had a few random wedge-shaped scraps left after I cut out the table runner, and those beautiful fabrics were calling to me. “Don’t throw us out!” they said. “We could make a really pretty little art quilt.”

I’ve never made an art quilt before, but I’ve been wanting to try for a while, so last night I had a lovely play, sewing random scraps to other random scraps with joyful abandon. I ended up with this: my newest WIP.

Yes, that’s a real leaf sitting on top of this little quilt. That’s why it’s still a work in progress. I have to applique a fabric leaf on there instead, then quilt and bind it. But I got that leaf off the maple in our front yard to help me draw it right.

(Actually the Carnivore got it for me, bless his little cotton socks, at about 10 o’clock last night, when it was probably all of two degrees outside. That’s true love for you.)

Only when he handed it to me, I was shocked at how long and skinny the points of the leaf were. It was nothing like the picture of a maple leaf I had in my head.

And then I realised I’ve lived here for 17 years, and walked past that maple tree day after day – and never known what its leaves really looked like. My mental classification system has just gone “yep, maple, I know what they look like”, without actually seeing what was in front of me.

I suppose classifying is a self-defence mechanism of the brain. If we couldn’t make assumptions based on previous experience, our brains would have to examine and evaluate every single thing we saw and did, every time. We’d be overwhelmed by detail, unable to function. Maybe it’s even a survival skill – “ooh, I remember how sick I felt last time I ate the shiny purple berries, better not do that again”.

But if you’re a writer or an artist, sometimes you have to take the brain off automatic mode. You have to see those details you normally gloss over before you can describe them or represent them visually. You have to listen to what people really say when they’re frightened/ecstatic/overwhelmed, so your characters don’t sound like animated cardboard. (Believe me, I know cardboard – there’s an awful lot of it in Man Bites Dog. The interminable revision grinds on.)

So I’m going to practise being a soaky soaky little sponge, and really see the things I look at. I’ll try to give people my full attention, instead of half listening and half formulating my response while they’re talking. (Unless it’s Baby Duck rabbiting about monsters or X-Men or aliens. I reserve the right to tune out baby babble.) Who knows? I might Become a Better Person. Or more likely I’ll forget – but it would be an interesting exercise, don’t you think?

And speaking of forgetting, I almost forgot to wish my blog a happy birthday. Two years old today, and if not exactly “going strong”, at least still going!

Not on the same day

“I believe you can have whatever you really want in this life, in one form or another, sooner or later. But you can’t have it all at once and you can’t have it forever. No life has the room for everything in it, not on the same day.” — Barbara Sher

I would love to be able to tell you that I found this quote through my reading because I’m just such an intellectual, but in fact it was one of many wise sayings on my desk calendar this year. It really resonated with me. It’s practically an anthem for modern womanhood. Can we have a career? And children? And still find time for meaningful intimate relationships and keep fit and be fulfilled as a person all while keeping the house spotless and eating nothing but healthy home-cooked meals?

I was thinking about it again the other day. I did end up taking my courage in both hands and dragging my offspring into the wilds of seedy Kings Cross, Sydney’s red light district, to see the Linde Ivimey exhibition. It was a four-hour round trip, of which 15 minutes were spent in the actual gallery looking at the exhibition. The rest was train travel (hugely exciting!), walking (not so popular) and waiting for trains (involved trains so still good – even potential trains are apparently exciting). Not the ideal ratio of travel to exhibition-viewing from an adult’s point of view, but just about perfect as far as the ducklings were concerned. Maybe a little long on the exhibition viewing. Luckily the boredom of the 15 minutes was alleviated by the existence of a large fishpond in the centre of the gallery and – the real clincher – a ten-week-old puppy lurking in the gallery office, which they sniffed out within seconds of stepping through the door.

I was describing the experience later to a dear (childless) friend who often visits art shows and does other adult-type cultural things which are only a distant memory for me. She asked if I ever went to the Archibald show any more, which we used to do together sometimes BC (Before Children) and I thought of the Barbara Sher quote. You can have what you want in one form or another. I can still go to art shows – just not the way I used to. No more taking my time contemplating each piece, but it’s surprising how much you can cover in 15 minutes, even with small people demanding you admire the bug-eyed goldfish and trying to sneak off into the restricted areas of the gallery.

But it felt so good just to go. Look at me! I’m a real person, doing real-person things! And it certainly doesn’t hurt to expose the ducklings to elements of culture that aren’t tailored for kids now and then. Though the response was unanimous: the sculptures were “weird”. But the puppy was cute.

Oh, and the train ride was fun, too. Did I mention how very exciting train travel is? You can sit upstairs! And you can sit downstairs! Then upstairs again! All while talking at the top of your piping six-year-old voice for the edification of the entire carriage.

So maybe I can’t have everything I want, just the way I want it. But the fun part comes in discovering new ways to enjoy things. “No life has the room for everything in it, not on the same day.” But any day that includes some art, a puppy and three happy children is a good day in my book.

Five things I learned on holidays

1) Holiday houses never have enough teaspoons.

2) Fishing is no fun if all you’re doing is baiting hooks and casting lines for children.

3) Children only enjoy fishing if they catch a fish in the first 30 seconds. Makes you wonder why you bothered baiting all those #@$?!*! hooks.

4) Going for a brisk walk along the beach every morning will only do pleasing things for your hip measurement if you don’t also spend the rest of the day lazing around eating cheese and biscuits and drinking wine.

5) Actually fishing is no fun full stop. I only know how annoying it is to take children fishing because the Carnivore told me. I was lazing on the lounge eating the cheese and biscuits while he was out suffering. Look, it was tough, but someone had to do it.

I should probably add a sixth point: I discovered I’m even lazier than I’d realised, hence there were no blog posts while I was away. I did a few pages in my art journal, but failed to finish any of the sewing projects I took, or read any of the books. I was a complete vegetable, though I did manage to drag myself off the lounge long enough to thrash the whole family at putt-putt golf. A most satisfying holiday!

So I’m back, all refreshed and ready to dive into the challenges of the new year. Baby Duck starts school on Monday, so once I get over the tearful goodbyes (mine, not his) it will be full steam ahead on Dragonheart, my fantasy novel which has been languishing since Nano ended.

And yes, I’m aware there was a fairly awful movie around a few years ago of that name. The best thing about it was that the dragon had a Scottish accent, since it was voiced by Sean Connery, who never bothers to alter his accent even to play a Russian sub commander. It’s only a working title. No doubt something stupendous and far more suitable will occur to me in the fullness of time. In the meantime I’d appreciate it if you kept the sniggering to a minimum, okay?


Whew! Lucky I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. Those babies would have been smashed already. Have I been exercising? Eating less rubbish? Writing every day? Updating my blog twice a week? Only if today is Opposites Day.

Not that I’ve been completely unproductive. I’ve sewn a few bags lately, including a tote bag for Demon Duck’s teacher that we both liked so much we were sad to part with it.

I also finished a more sedate handbag for myself. I’m wearing a lot of blues and browns lately so it goes nicely.

I’ve got stuck into the decluttering and have already thrown out a stack of scrapbooking magazines about four foot high. I’m still working my way through another stack almost as big. This job is part of the reclamation of the rumpus room as a usable space and not just a junk storage area, which has been hanging over my head for ages. It feels great to see the floor reappearing from under the piles!

A curious side effect of the sorting process is that is makes me want to scrap again – or at least mess around with paints and patterned paper, which I haven’t done in nearly two years. I dug out my old art journal and did a couple of pages, which was a lot of fun. This is one of them.

So no New Year’s resolutions, because I know I’ll break them. But goals – I can do that. Generally I aim too high and miss, but at least I get further than I would otherwise. Last year I wanted to finish two first drafts, Man Bites Dog and Starfire. I only managed Man Bites Dog, but I wouldn’t have done even that without something to aim for. I also wrote 50,000 words on a new novel, Dragonheart, plus started revisions on Man Bites Dog.

Another goal was to start submitting short stories for publication. I only submitted two, which wasn’t as many as I’d planned, but one got a very encouraging rejection and the other got published, so that went pretty well too.

Writing goals for this year are:

* finish revising Man Bites Dog
* complete first draft of Dragonheart
* write and submit more short stories
* establish a routine of writing daily (at least on school days!).

Other goals include:

* keep up with the monthly art journal challenges at Blue Bazaar
* declutter and get organised
* have more fun!
* and I’m not even going to mention the whole exercise-and-diet thing.

The “have more fun” goal started well. On New Year’s Day we had afternoon tea with the neighbours that turned into dinner and a movie as well. Less successful (from my point of view at least) was an excursion to Jenolan Caves a few days later. But I’ll tell you about that next time I post on my new bi-weekly*-but-it’s-not-a-New-Year’s-Resolution schedule.

Happy New Year to all!

*I just looked up “biweekly” in the dictionary because I was having a vague moment about whether it means “twice a week” or “once every two weeks”. According to my dictionary it means both. Both?? They’re two completely different things! It’s an outrage!! What kind of sloppy good-for-nothing word is that?

In which the dreaded green wall makes another appearance

The two elder ducklings helped me paint a picture last week for our green feature wall. See? I knew I’d find a use for all those green sample pots.

Baby Duck was all keen to help paint circles too until it was made plain to him that he couldn’t just paint one giant circle on the canvas. He couldn’t even have one little corner to paint whatever he liked. The Pout made its appearance, quickly followed by the Venomous Look. Some people have such dreadful mothers.

Drama Duck pointed out when we were finished that it looked rather Aboriginal. Not sure how that happened, since the piece that inspired us looked nothing like an Aboriginal painting. It was pink and gorgeous but I can’t tell you any more than that because it was just in the background of a photo I ripped out of a magazine when the painting caught my eye.

Still, I’m happy. It’s quite big, about 3′ x 3′. It combines the greens and apricots I needed to tie the colours of the room together, and it was a fun way to spend an afternoon. Demon Duck took particular joy in accidentally-on-purpose wiping a great deal of paint over the white pants she was wearing (they were old). I think it made her feel more artistic. And it beats letting them watch TV.