New system: I'm keeping an up-to-the minute blog on Wordpress, at http://richardharland.wordpress.com/.
Easier for me, using my iPad, and just doing it once instead of many times over for different websites.
I'll transfer the content across here every few weeks.
28th July, 2012
Busy lately! Just a writing hermit, that's me! But I got social enough to do a post on the great e-debate going on around Isobelle Carmody's latest publishing venture - bringing out a novel, <em>Greylands</em>, as an e-book with no print publisher involved. Of course, she'd have no trouble with getting a print publisher - but she wants to experiment with this form of publication. A great many authors are watching with interest - and a great many authors have also entered into the debate about e-books. I put up a piece as a guest poster earlier, followed by a whole lot of interesting (and helpful) conversation about e-readers ... also commented on a few posts by later guest posters.
The site address is http://greylands.theslipstream.com.au/. Check it out!
17th February, 2011
Yesterday I went to post off a copyedited MS of Liberator, the sequel to Worldshaker, and got caught in the middle of an armed hold-up! It was the copyedit for America, and I went to a local post office to send it off. Keiraville post office, a tiny, quiet little place in a tiny, quiet shopping area. I went to the counter and was given the international form that has to be stuck on the front. and I’d just started filling it out. The only other people in the shop – it’s so small, it could hardly hold a dozen customers at once – were an old couple.
Then suddenly these two guys burst in, wearing hoodies, face masks and gloves, one of them toting a sawn-off double-barreled shotgun. About 20-25 years old, I’d guess from their voices, though the one who stood guard over me and the old couple hardly spoke. The one with the shotgun jumped up on the counter, shouting like a character in a gangster movie – threatening, cursing and trying to sound as violent as possible.
The ugliest moment was when shotgun guy accused the post office guy of pressing the alarm button – which he had. The elderly lady was breathing and gasping and shaking, on the verge of a panic attack. I put my arm round her and said we’d be OK. It turned out she had a heart condition – luckily she had an inhaler spray with her that she used the moment they were gone.
They made the post office guy open the till, and shotgun jumped down and scooped up what was there. Then back on the counter, ordering the post office guy, but not us customers, to get down on the ground. There was something more they wanted, maybe access to a safe, but they decided not to hang around any longer. The post office guy told the cops afterwards that they’d got away with $1000-2000.
Anyway, they rushed out and took off in an off-white car that had been parked in the drive next to the post office. We got the number plate, for what that’ll be worth. The post office guy rang the cops who turned up pretty smartly, viewd the CCTV footage and took down our details.
Funny thing was, it didn’t seem particularly scary at the time – maybe because the shotgun was almost always trained on the post office guy, with just a flourish or two towards us. And the elderly lady did enough panicking for us all – I was more worried about her state than anything.
And now the key question you must be wondering – did they get away with the copyedited MS of LIBERATOR? No, they didn’t even realise the treasure right under their noses! They just rushed out with the money – and I had to go to a different post office to send off my parcel.
I never imagined it was such a dangerous life, being an author!
Working frantically on two lots of revision at the same time - Liberator (I'm up to Chapter 35 of 80), and a steampunk/supernatural story for an anthology. So I still haven't written up Worldcon. Here's a quick version …
It was a total buzz, a schmoozefest, way too many things to do in too little time. I got to say hi to almost everyone I wanted to say hi to, but I didn't get to talk long to anyone. I didn't help myself by being on so many panels and other events, but hey, I enjoy doing things. One thing I did was a joint reading with Jack Dann - we both thought we were on at the same time, which was a failure to understand the programming, but we decided to read extracts alternately - and do voices in each other's readings. It was huge fun, and it worked for the audience too … people have even described it as one of the highlights of the Con. I don't know about that, but it was a highlight of FUN!
Another thing I wouldn't normally do was chair a panel on a topic I'm totally ignorant about - but I was asked to fill in on as MC for a panel on visual art in spec fic with Shaun Tan and D.M. (David) Cornish. Two great artists (and both writers too, but we were set down to talk about the art) - so I just prodded them along with questions, and they ended up having a fascinating conversation. So many revelations about the way artists work!
I can't remember a panel I didn't enjoy - I think I must've been on about eight - but one of the most interesting to me was one on steampunk, where Jay Lake was one of the panellists. (If you haven't read his Mainspring books, I highly recommend them - mind-blowing concept!) I was on another steampunk panel too, and also gave a half hour talk on steampunk - I'll type out thre main ideas and post them on this blog, or in the Steampunk pages.
Other events included booklaunches, parties, drinks, and the fabulous Nightmare Ball (organised bythe Australian Horror Writers Association). I got to meet a whole lot of people I wanted to meet - all the biggest names were there, from Bob Silverberg to China Mieville to George R. Martin to Kim Stanley Robinson. Here's a piccy of Aileen and me at the Nightmare Ball -
I'm the one in the mask. Oh, well, work it out for yourself …
I’m typing this at Worldcon, which is also Aussiecon 4 in Melbourne. Having a great time here! I’m keeping very busy, with a heap of panels and other events. Yesterday I got to talk to Jay Lake, who’s one of my steampunk heroes, author of the mind-blowing Mainspring. Then other panels, MCing, and a co-reading with Jack Dann. When we found we were set down for successive half hours, we did turn-about readings, and filled in voices for each other. It was tremendous fun. As Jack would say, we did great shtick!
I did a talk today at MLC Burwood, a Sydney girls' school - and was amazed to find that so many of the Year 6 students had read Worldshaker, and one whole class was actually studying it.
I'd already learned that, although it might look more of a boys' book at first glance, it actually works just as well for girls. But I've still been thinking of it as a High School book - now that's proved wrong too!
Now here's the best bit! The class that was studying had extended into so many associated activities! One student had made a model of Mr Gibber's classroom - with tiny Geometry and History books on every desk, and his lessons up on the board - the Noah's Ark lesson and the lesson on right angles versus obtuse angles versus acute angles.
Another student had made a doll of Sephaltina - perfect, because she's so doll-like already! There were all kinds of illustrations - they'd gathered every clue on the characters' appearances - and costume requirements, etc. And a preliminary blurb for a film of the book, with Daniel Radcliffe cast as Col and - oh help, I've forgotten - someone else for Riff (Lesley Anne Taylor? a name like that?).
The film angle is getting close to the truth, as Hollywood interest moves from vague to very focused. Meanwhile, the students are going to produce posters for the movie. Some are also going to produce a bottle of Ebnolia's perfume and advertising copy for marketing it! Wonder what they'll call it?
The projects aren't finished yet - but they've promised to send me photos when they are. Watch this space!
A nice confidence-booster yesterday! I did a gig for 'Youth Reviews the Shortlist', a videoconference between a number of High Schools. I did an author presentation, but the main purpose was for students to review and then vote on the CBC Shortlist for the YA Best Book of the Year.
So the students reviewed and voted, then the Chair opened an envelope and read out the actual winner as announced that day. But the best bit for me was when the Chair took a 'popular vote' that included Worldshaker along with the shortlist (since the students had all read Worldshaker too). Yippee! Worldshaker was way ahead as first choice!
Today in Australia, it was like the first day of Spring. In Wollongong, anyway. Real heat in the sun, a glorious bright warm day. We've turned the corner and left Winter behind.
I feel like I've turned a corner too - since yesterday. I've been struggling to get back into the writing after the overseas tours, struggling over a particular story for a steampunk anthology. Now I know what I needed - I needed to make a start on revising LIBERATOR, the sequel to WORLDSHAKER. I've had all the comments in from US, UK and Australia, and I'd been baffled and boggled over how to integrate all the different revisions. All I needed to do was make a start and launch into it - and already I'm excited about the improvements.
It must have been part of the same mood that yesterday I also saw exactly what I have to do with my steampunk story. I rough-drafted the last quarter - it's almost novella length - and all the parts fell into place. I got a handle on the 'voice' too, which has been giving me problems all along. Four separate starts, and never quite getting it right - but now I can!
Yippee! Like the sap in the trees, the creative juices are flowing again!
I still haven’t come up for air! The backlog of emails and other work just keeps hanging over me. I heard from my German publisher today – the German edition of Worldshaker comes out at the end of this month. The cover looks like this, very nice -
She (my German publisher) is reading the first draft of Liberator too – so far, all my good feelings about that book have been confirmed!
I spent this morning planning what can happen next after Liberator, and it’s all starting to come together. Wish I could just stop the clock and take time out for planning for a few days.
Meanwhile, I’ve been getting some very affirmative emails from bookstores in the US and UK. They’re giving Worldshaker a good push and it’s starting to move. Word-of-mouth is on my side!
Back home, and I ought to be recovering and relaxing after 6 weeks away. Some hopes! I’m overwhelmed by all the email and jobs that need doing – everything left hanging for the last 6 weeks. I feel like I’m being submerged and I’ll never get through it all.
Oh well. Take a deep breath. No panic – just work through it slowly and steadily. Getting back into writing mode seems like a distant dream right now!
‘Reset body clock to correct time zone’ – huh! Got that wrong! Aileen’s body clock is ticking along just fine with Australian time, but I woke up at 2.30 in the middle of last night and stayed awake for the next 3-4 hours.
(Maybe it’s a punishment for not being respectful towards John Howard)
Anyway, there was one compensation – I had the story idea I needed for an anthology I’ve been asked to submit to.
So strange to come home to Australia and find it so cold. After the last three weeks of hot sunny weather in England and Europe, how can Wollongong be so chilly?
We made it back in spite of last minute attempts by crazed cyclists in Amsterdam to mow us down (hordes of em, zooming at you from all angles out of nowhere), and in spite of Malaysia Airlines’ attempts to feed us to death (they did everything short of putting a pipe in our mouths and forcing food down our throats).
Guess who we ran into in Sydney airport as we staggered away from customs through the entry hall? There was John Howard, no less, surrounded by reporters who wanted to know what he thought of not being elected vice-president by the International Cricket authority. Huh! Aileen said they should’ve swung the cameras on me, since I was the one who had a successful trip overseas, not our poor ex-PM (second time unelected).
So now we’re back home recovering from 30 hours flying time between Amsterdam, London, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, plus getting up in the middle of the night and missing 2 regulation sleeps. Funny thing is, we haven’t had jet-lag at all. A couple of hours sleep before leaving Amsterdam, a nap on the plane to Kuala Lumpur, a nap on the plane to Sydney, then a full night’s sleep back in Wollongong – and somehow our body-clocks have ended up set perfectly into the correct time zone.
Not the correct email zone, though – I’ve got a time lag of about six weeks there. I now have a mountain of email to wade through – and if you’ve never waded through a mountain, believe me, it’s really really difficult! (I just answered an email from someone at one of the first book events I did at San Diego, and it seems to have happened in another world in another era.) I expect to be suffering cyberlag for about a week.
Here’s a visual flashback to the start of the tours – my first event in San Diego, the first piccy in my camera:
That was me in one of the Borders bookshops in San Diego.
Here it is, alas, our last evening overseas. Yesterday I resisted the blandishments of the ladies of the night, even though they posed in windows and doorways in the most negligent of underwear. On the other hand, Aileen bought a bodice of a deep blue colour and black lace – how could they compete?
I’m typing this at an internet cafe just round the corner from our hotel – half the price of yesterdays (probably because it’s a real internet cafe and not a dope shop masquerading as an internet cafe). I feel as if we’ve hardly explored the area, hardly settled into our neighbourhood – not as we did in Bruges. Instead we’ve been playing the tourists.
Today we did the 2 obvious tourist things in Amsterdam – we went for a canal ride and visited the Rijksmuseum. Dutch gabled buildings must be old, gables from the 17 & 18th Centuries, but they don’t LOOK old. Maybe it’s the Dutch habit of keeping things v clean and tidy, or maybe it’s because all the windows seem to have been replaced with modern frames and large panes of glass. (Though maybe neat and tidy has got left behind recently – garbage and grafitti all over the place – the new laissez-faire since they discovered dope?)
Canal ride piccy -
The Riksmuseum was great, but I’m getting to the stage where I enjoy buying (amazingly cheap) posters afterwards, knowing I can look at them more comfortably back at home.
Packing is almost done. By some miracle, my big case now weighs only 18 and a bit kilos – which is a relief, since Malaysian Air only allows 20. Actually, the miracle has a scientific explanation – I rolled my used clothes up v v v tight and packed them into my carryon luggage, which weighs a ton. Well, probably at least 12 kilos, and Malaysian Air only allows five. I’m hoping they won’t check.
Today was the train trip from Bruges to Amsterdam. First half to Antwerp was ok, only we had to move from 1st class to standard, where it wasn’t air-conditioned. Antwerp was a nightmare, the platform was crowded with people (all young, hippyish, holidayish) and they made a rush for the carriage doors before we could make our rush the carriage doors. We had to fight our way on board, literally the last ones in, when every seat was taken, every aisle was full of people standing, and the open spaces at the end of the carriages were choc-a-bloc. We had to push people out of the way with our big suitcases – and most everyone else had cases and bags too.
So we travelled standing, squashed on every side. People trying to pass had to climb over bags. I vowed there and then to travel first class next time. We got out of that train hot and sweaty and reliieved to breathe fresh air again.
So now we’re in the Amsterdam, close to the railway station – we’ll need to do a quick take off by train to the airport day after tomorrow. Close to the railway station is also the red light district. Many many little glowing red lights in all the side streets, and the young ladies of the night are just starting to take up their position in the windows.
I’m typing this at an internet cafe that’s also a hash cafe. Just like old times, when I visited Amsterdam at the end of the 70s. There was the hash and dope menu, all laid out on the counter, different costs for about 50 varieties.
Though 50 varieties doesn’t begin to compare with the way Belgians drink beer. Last night we went to the same brasserie, called ‘Cambrinus’, where we had out first dinner in Bruges – and chose another few beers from a selection of over 400 possibilities. The beer menu weighed a ton, divided into separate categories like Special Beers, Abbey beers, trappiste beers, fruit beers, lambic beers.
Here’s the menu, an inch thick between wooden covers, about 40 pages for beer and one page for food -
I mostly experimented with abbey and trappiste varieties – my favourites – but had a lambic beer too last night. Totally different, sort of sharp and refreshing. Maybe one day I’ll go back to Bruges and work my way through the other three hundred and eighty odd.
Weather is amazing, we’ve had over a fortnight of sun and blue skies. Almost too hot today, at least for walking around as a tourist. Must be still about 30 degrees now. We wandered as far as the beguinhof – the nunnery. Aileen talked to one nun who’d been a novice for 46 years – ‘I’m very happy with the life I’ve chosen’. The beguinhof sums Bruges up in a way, like a quiet retreat from the world. Lots of Godshuises too – which means almshouse, I think, but they’re like little oases of quiet tiny old buildings around courtyards. If I didn’t have so many novels left to write, I could easily contemplate a quiet meditative retirement in a Bruges Godshuis.
Forgot to mention one funny event from yesterday – or was it the day before? see how time has stopped flowing? We went to look at the Basilica of the Holy Blood – they were in the middle of a mass, but since Aileen’s a catholic, we went in and sat down, and Aileen took communion. Here’s how it looked inside -
But this was no ordinary service – this was the one time of the week for the Procession of the Holy Blood, when a long vessel like a gold-encased tube is presented for the special prayers of the devout. (Liquid blood or dried blood? and where was it obtained? I’ll have to google when I have time0
Anyway, Aileen joined the queue to pass before the relic, touch it and make a prayer – but realised too late that you were supposed to make a donation – and not subtly, not discreetly, but right on the steps going up to where the priest sat with the vessel virtually in his hands. So she went through with it, geneflucted, touched the vessel, made a prayer – but whereas everyone else got a card, no card for Aileen!
Somehow I donùt think the nuns in the Beguinhof would have understood the less than charitable spirit of that!
Had a great birthday dinner for Aileen last night, sitting by a restaurant window overlooking a canal. With swans swimming, of course – maybe you can just see them in the canal in the background …
Oh well, maybe not, but I know they were there.
Today we went on a boat trip around the canals of Bruges. Very different to Venice, v calm and quiet, with overhanging trees, and swans taking their cygnets on morning outings.
Afterwards we went to a Saturday flea market – drove us crazy, all the things we wanted to buy and couldn’t because of luggage limits on the flight home. Every kind of knickknack at ridiculously cheap prices – including fabulour brass candelabra (we really want a nez candelabra). I bought a leather helmet, medieval soldier style – - I always wanted one, don’t know why – and even more out-of-character, I bought the Livre de Mobilisation that belonged to a Belgian soldier at the end of the 19th century. I am so much NOT an antiquarian, but it fascinated me, the worn pages with all the details of Private Van Hoolenbeck’s enrolment, duties and requirements for a soldier in the Belgian army – even a separate folded paper with his final discharge – and all in an old goatskin binding. A real treasure for just a few bucks – I had to have it.
What else? We’ve learned to adapt to a shower recess so tiny it would challenge even an astronaut in a space capsule.
We bought some evil-smelling black drawing ointment for Aileen’s toe. Tonight is Aileen’s belated birthday dinner night, this afternoon we’re just listening to the canal waves lapping outside our window counterpointed by the loudspeaker voices of multi-lingual commentary from the canal tours going by.
Only 3 more days left after today, alas!
Just in case you thought travelling abroad was easy, here’s the score so far. Aileen: one swollen puffed-up toe and one v stiff neck (from carrying backpack). Richard: one sore throat (needing frequent doses of rum to keep it in check) and one bad back (thank you, Paris Metro with your lack of escalators). But we’re still having a ball – even if shuffling as we dance along.
Bruges is the perfect place for taking it easy, rambling along narro cobbled streets and green dreamy canals, drinking Belgian beer (the best, and v strong and v cheap), sampling Belgian chocolates. Did I mention before that our bedroom window looks out on a canal? Like this -
Meanwhile, what’s been happening back in Oz? We turn our backs for a couple of minutes and the whole political scene changes. Kevin out and Julia in? When I left 6 weeks ago, the worst for Kevin was a couple of bad opinion polls!!!
Paris was wonderful! Just the perfect weather, blue skies shining down on the leafy boulevards, and our hotel was in the perfect area – the south end of the Latin Quarter, near the Rue Mouffetard.
So our hotel – near the publisher’s offices – was in an area of typical Parisian buildings, with the balconies and angled dormer roofs. Rue Mouffetard nearby is a wonderful narrow cobbled street winding up through markets and fromageries, epiceries, every kind of old-style shop, along with a million restaurants.
The journey across Paris by Metro was hell, and ditto the journey back today. No problem when we went by Metro to the Seine and Notre Dame – because then we weren’t dragging suitcases. But heavy suitcases on the hot packed Metro – and all the steps to carry them up and dozn. The escalators – of which there are hardly any anyway- never seemed to be working in the direction we wanted. And today, the rail workers were having a go-slow, so I stood in a queue of about thirty people and took over an hour to get to the front.
But those were the only bad bits. Paris itself was, well, just so Parisian. We sat drining beers at little round tables in the sunshine, we had soupe a l’oignon and red wine, and cafe au lait and croissant for breakfast – for a couple of days there, we were Frencher than the French.
There was also lunch with the people from Helium, my French publisher. We ate at a restaurant in Rue Mouffetard, of course. Great people, and for once I remembered to take a photo – that is, Aileen reminded me. That’s been the problem – she hasn’t been there to jpg my camera arm before.
From left to right – Gilberte, Gérard, Valérie (translator), yours truly, Sophie (publisher) and Sandrine.
It was good to hear that the French edition is going into reprint.
I’ll blog about Bruges tomorrow, now I’ve got internet access again.
The last couple of days have been great – except for the travel part. I’ve grown so used to having everything taken care of – plane and train tickets provided in advance, cars and taxis booked, times all worked out, nothing for me to worry about. Now suddenly it’s all up to Aileen and me – queuing for tickets, finding out where to go and what to do. Travelling from Dorking to Brighton yesterday, everything went wrong – trains going from unexpected platforms, trains cancelled, me waiting in the wrong places, everyone assuming I knew how things worked when I didn’t. But apart from that, the last couple of days have been great.
First of all, there was the meeting up with relatives at cousin Kit’s place in East Croydon. I couldn’t hire a car to drive round to see people – not enough time in the schedule – but instead almost everyone managed to come to Kit’s. Not only Kit and Alan but also Vanda and Anne, also Andy and also Terry and janet. That’s all the cousins I grew up with – and they hadn’t seen one another for a long time either (especially Terry’s family) so it was a great get-together for everyone. Floods of nostalgia, rivers of reminiscence! So much to catch up on – and so many half-forgotten memories unearthed.
(No photos – I’m ashamed of myself.)
Aileen and I stayed overnight with Kit, then headed off from East Croydon railway station – Aileen straight to Brighton where she met up with a friend, me to Dorking, a one-time small market town, now an outer part of the London conurbation. Home of my UK publisher, Templar. I met up with Phil, my publicist, again, and Emily my editor – at last, I now have a face to go with so many emails. Also Mandy and Ruth and many more. Templar is an expanding publisher, but still has a great ‘team’ feel.
Emily had already read Liberator. Although I’ve felt so confident about that book, there’s still always a moment of apprehension – no need in this case, she loved it! We talked about some v small possible improvements.
Went out to lunch with Emily, Mandy, Ruth and Phil – v relaxing, under a sunshade at the back of a restaurant. I can remember a time when I was frozen stiff in the presence of publishers – but all my publishers and editors are such great people, it’s become like chatting with friends.
Later, after the hell ride to Brighton, I went over to meet Ian Miller at his house, not far from our hotel. Ian is the illustrator whose work I’ve admired for decades – and who created a wonderful cover for Worldshaker. I half expected to be in awe of him, but no, I just LIKED him. (I hope he’s not reading this.) He’s as old as me – groan! wheeze! – but he’s like a breath of fresh air, so funny, so sharp, so unpredictable. Mike Jolley from Templar was there too, and Ian’s wife Jenny – we sat in a sort of bower of greenery in the back garden, then gathered in the parlour, then had a dinner when Ian’s son Danny arrived. The whole house is a fabulous collection of art-inspiring oddities. I can’t explain ‘art-inspiring oddities’ – I nean, bits of stone, wood, toys, figurines, amazing stuff that Ian has collected (and you can see elements of them creeping into his pictures).
So anyway, we talked and talked and talked – it was a fantastic evening. And of course I drank Ian’s favourite tipple, organic cider (and bludged a cigarette off Mike). I feel sorry to be leaving England behind …
Last talk yesterday at the Borders Festival (the Borders area in the south of Scotland, not the bookshop chain). I’ve enjoyed the UK tour so much, and I’m sure I’ve generated a lot of interest in Worldshaker. But this last talk wasn’t a highlight – the kids attending were around 9 years old, a bit on the young side for a YA novel like Worldshaker! No matter – can’t expect everything to work out perfectly. And the festival as a whole was great – white marquees set up in an old garden with the sun shining. It was cucumber sandwiches on the lawn weather, a lovely holiday feel.
Earlier, Aileen and I went around Melrose Abbey, a grand ruined Cistercian abbey church and cloisters. I realised this was my first bit of true sightseeing on the whole trip so far.
Today I re-organised my suitcase so that all the stuff I use for presentations – clothes, displays etc – went to the bottom. Now it’s holiday clothes at the top!
We’re now in Melrose in the Scottish Borders country – home of a famous ruined abbey and also a writer’s festival. We arrived yesterday, staying at a delightful guest house nearby. Yesterday evening was a reeception and sitting around talking – I was a bit daunted in advance, because of course everyone knew everyone else, and Aileen and I knew noone. But everybody was very friendly and welcoming, so we soon got over that.
The UK tour is rushing to a close – I do a presentation today, travel to London and catch up with my relatives, then travel south to have lunch with my UK publisher, on further to Brighton to meet Ian Miller – then the next day is back to London and over the Channel to France. I mean, UNDER the Channel, by train and Chunnel … very appropriate, since WORLDSHAKER history begins when Napoleon digs HIS tunnel under the English Channel to invade England.
I ought to be tired with all the travel and presentations, I MUST be tired – but right now I feel as if I could keep doing this for weeks and months non-stop!
I love it when kids get carried away with questions – when more and more of them put their hands up, more and more enthusiastically. That’s what happened today at Altrincham (pronounced Altringam) Grammar School.
It took me back to the school I went to in England, long long ago, when all-boys grammar schools were far more common than now. The students even wore a uniform similar to Sudbury Grammar – green jackets with red piping round the edges. Ours was more a carrotty red, and we had caps too. (Imagine, requiring schoolkids to wear caps – isn’t that a surefire way of getting caps pinched off heads, thrown, chased, hidden – guaranteed chaos!) There was a traditional feel about the school in general – in a good way. Or maybe it was just nostalgia on my part.
This morning I counted numbers of socks, shirts, undies, pants. Getting towards the end of the trip – only 2 weeks left! – and I’d hate to do more hotel room washing than I had to. Funny how some things work when tested under travel conditions and others don’t. Like my microfibre shirts and pants – they dry so fast. And my washing line for hanging above the bath, my whisky for gargling after doing talks. Other things that weren’t worth the bother – like my tailcoat and top hat, which I’ve hardly used, my steampunk cap and vest are much better.
I always think I’ll remember and plan and pack better next trip, and somehow I always forget.
Sunshine and blue skies! And they keep staying blue (mostly) and sunny (85% of time). Last few days in Edinburgh, the wather was wonderful, and now it’s actually hot in Manchester.
This afternoon I chatted with a bookshop reader’s group of kids who’d already read Worldshaker – the ultimate treat for an author.
In my shcool presentations, I’ve said similar things so often, I’m now wandering and varying and adding new bits.
Yesterday was a long, long day! Up before 5 am., then a double train trip (four and a half hours) to the north of Scotland, and a first visit to Gordonstoun, which is the private school that Prince Charles attended. I’m really spreading the steampunk message far and wide! That was fun – then on to Buckie High School in the same area. Whereas the US tour was mainly bookshop readings and signing, the UK tour is mainly school visits. I didn’t get back till 9 pm yesterday.
Today another couple of school visits, including an interview for Teen Titles magazine by the students of Liberton High. Aileen had to take over as my ‘escort’ today – escort and publicist.
We’ll have another dinner at another amazing Edinburgh pub tonight.
Then on to Manchester tomorrow. Another day, another city …
After Newcastle, we trained across to Workington, where Aileen’s surviving relatives live. We had a sunny day! I was amazed when we had an hour’s wait for a change of train at Carlisle, and I had a Guinness – out of the fridge! A chilled guinness, just like Australia. I bet they wouldn’t dare in Ireland!
This morning we went around all the different houses where Aileen’s family had lived. A lot of houses for different branches of the family at different times -yet all within a small area of half a dozen streets. Amazing how families used to hang together – at least, until they left to find work in places like Australia and South Africa, and then hardly saw their families again (in the days before jet travel).
(Here we’re standing in front of what used to be Uncle Ernie’s sweetshop)
Later today we head back to Edinburgh and the same hotel. Monday is going to be my hardest day of all – getting up to catch a train at 5 am, then 3 school presentations, and not getting back to the hotel until after 9 pm. No blogging tomorrow!
Now in Newcastle, where I did a workshop with a class of kids who are doing a steampunk project, building an old-fashioned-y steam-age construction. Such a treat to talk to converts!
While I was doing schools in Scotland, I learned one important lesson – don’t talk about my early life growing up in ENGLAND. (Or at least, don’t mention that it was in England.) There’s no great love of the English in Scotland, ever since the days of Maggie Thatcher. (I can understand why.)
The weather has turned sunny after a cloudy morning. Not warm, exactly, but really pleasant. A sort of brisk summeriness.
Right now I’m borrowing the computer at the hotel reception desk, no way can I do more than a brief blogette.
Hi! British internet at hotels has gone into swift decline. At London, we had our own internet computer in the room. At Bristol, only a hotel computer to use, and expoensive. In Edinburgh, no computer in the hotel – no access, not even for the laptop I haven’t brought. It’s a fair trek to the nearest internet cafe, but here I am.
What the hotel has is an incredible location facing the towering Walter Scott Memorial on Princes street, this amazing 19th Century gothic structure, as black as if charred by fire.
That’s the view from our bedroom window – and we look out on the skyline of the Royal Mile too -
Our bedroom window looks out onto that and also the whole skyline of the Royal Mile, very dramatic.
Edinburgh is brrrr-ugh – very cold. Lots of fine drizzly rain, which we had in Bristol too. Now, for the moment, the sun has come out – but wait till the next time I look out the cafe window. Can’t trust any weather to hang around long.
We met up with a friend of Aileen’s on Tuesday evening and went to an amazing pub – only the local, but it had stained glass windows, a coffered many-coloured roof and tile pictures, framed like oil paintings. All of this stuff is just standard in Edinburgh – or not very unusual, anyway. The whole city is old and sandstone-y. We haven’t eaten haggis yet, though it’s on many menus – we’re going for the less traditional form of Scottish cuisine known as Indian.
Schools are interesting – I’ve done 2 primary schools, but primary goes a year later than Australia.
Very quick blog while waiting for plane from Bristol to Edinburgh. Did two school visits yesterday – really good kids. Bristol area is West Country – lovely accent, all green fields and on-off rain to keep it that way. I met Philippa, who’s been doing a wonderful job organising the tour.
Here’s Phil (Phillipa) on the left, and Pam, school librarian, on the right
This morning Aileen and I wandered around St Nicholas Markets – old bric a brac and everything. I saw a metal steampunky construction I really craved, but couldn’t have managed the weight for plane flights. Got Aileen an amazing art nouveau style necklace for birthday instead.
Aileen arrived this morning … but not the tall and elegant version of Aileen, more of a wrung-out dishcloth version, after 36 hours without sleep. So good to see her (in any version)!
The hotel we’re in is between the Houses of Parliament and the Tate Gallery. It’s a much-touristed area – which is good for shops/cafes/restaurants staying open all weekend. I can’t help wondering if all the traditional red phone boxes and blue phone boxes and red postboxes are natural, or whether they’ve been gathered up from far and wide, and re-planted here. I can’t believe there could be so many in one area.
(Red shirt to colour-coordinate with red postbox)
We went walking today – checking out pubs for a pub dinner tonight (an amazing congregation of very traditional pubs in this area too!), getting a UK SIM card for Aileen’s mobile, then later strolling along the Embankment beside a very muddy low-tide Thames, surveying the Houses of Parliament and London Eye ferris wheel – and even the Gherkin in the distance.
Wish I had more to say – the one time I have an internet computer in the room, but nothing much to tell except the dramatic phone call from Reception when Aileen arrived at 7.30 this morning. I’ll take my camera and get a photo in the pub tonight.
I’m now at a hotel with an internet access computer in the room- in London – so now I can put up some piccies, going way back through this blog – a selection of the piccies I took but couldnt upload through hotels’ business centre computers.
Here’s a photo of me at a bookstore – trouble is, I can’t remember which one when —-
I’ve just been indulging in English memories, sitting at the computer with a pork pie, a bottle of Hobgoblin real ale (better than beer ever was when I lived in England), some ciabatta-like rolls, some French brie – and for dessert, marzipan. (Okay, maybe not so English after all – but I dote on marzipan).
New York was a blast – the high point of the US tour. There were high points all along the way – but, I mean, I know I can do readings and talk up my latest book. I love doing those things – but New York meant meeting the people at Simon & Schuster, and I felt honored when everyone who’d been involved in the book’s production or marketing gathered around the oval table in the main suite just to meet me. Must’ve been nigh on 20 people from the vice-president down, and they were so enthusiastic, so happy about Worldshaker and the way it’s been selling. Which was a great feeling for me – plus, I was impressed by the high morale of everyone there . I’ve seen publishing companies full of backbiting and grudges and factionalism, but here they had a really strong spirit as a community and a team.
It was great to put faces to names – Navah my editor, Taryn my publicist, Paul the director of publicity, Catharine the steampunk afficionado – and of course David my publisher. All so full of energy and enthusiasm. I just wish I could remember everyone’s names – Justin, Anne, Mary … no, I can’t do it.
I had lunch withDavid afterward at a great little Mexican restaurant. Australia has many great cuisines, but let’s face it, Mexican isn’t one of them. Whereas Mexican is hugely popular in the States – every level from solid cheap fare to the to-die-for delicious. My two best Mex meals were this one in New York and one in Phoenix. The Phoenix place did guacamole and enchiladas and the classic Mexican standards brilliantly; the New York one opened up whole new possibilities beyond the standards.
I was sorry to leave the States. Maybe my waistcoat felt the same, because it managed to entangle its buckles with Navah’s pendant chain just when a taxi finally pulled up. (The same waistcoat as in the photo above – part of my standard steampunk costume) The cab driver nearly gave up and took off without me.
Flying to London was a drag, as flying always is. Did I ever mention I was flying with Icelandair, since way back before the volcano erupted? Anyway, it didn’t blow its top. Iceland is as bare and windswept as it looks in “The Eagle’, the TV series.
Now I’m in London, at a hotel near the Tate ggllery. Aileen joins up with me tomorrow, yippee!
Hi! Now I’m in Cincinnati, on the other side of the Ohio River. Woke up this morning and turned on the tap – nothing. Tried all the taps – no water. The front desk told me that a water main had burst overnight and no room had any water – not even to flush the toilet. I had the choice of staying in the Hyatt and showering at the Millenium Hotel over the road, or re-locating to the Millenium. I chose the latter – and of course the Hyatt took care of all expenses, in fact they probably won’t even charge Simon & Schuster for the two nights. I made the changeover in an early morning blur – I guess it was lucky that the rooms were available and so close. The hotels are almost exactly the same standard.
Did some meeting and greeting and signing at bookshops this afternoon – taken from place to place by my escort. People in American bookshops seem very busy – they wear intercoms so messages are always flying around the store – but when they have time they really give you their support. Nothing more important than recommendations from a bookshop person!
Another reading/signing tonight, then I get up at 5.00 am, fly to New York, another signing and – most important of all – I get to meet my publisher and editor and publicist at the Simon & Schuster offices. It’ll be great to meet in person after so many emails. Then, late in the evening, I fly to London via Iceland. (The volcano is being nice and quiet at the moment – touch wood)
Next post will be from the London hotel!
Still in the Hotel Seelbach. The ‘grande old dame’ of Luisville. I had to go dress up in my full steampubnk regalia, just to have a photo taken coming down those stairs.
Did a reading and signing last night at a Borders store – no tornado, not even a storm. The Borders chain is flourishing fine in the US, stores everywhere and big ones too.
Afterwards I had a true Kentucky dinner – fried catfish and fried green tomatoes. Both rolled in flour and cornmeal, and deep fried. Now I know where Colonel Sanders (another famous resident, along with Mohammed Ali) got his KFC ideas from.
Mass stock signings this afternoon, then on to Lexington, then Cincinnatti this evening.
Phew! It’s like Wollongong in the summer here in Louisville, very warm and very very humid. There are storms forecast for later, and even the chance of tornadoes. (First thing I noticed when I arrived at Louisville airport was the tornado shelter.)
I did some walking around today, and then discovered the trams, which, apart from being wonderfully airconditioned, are all shining brass and woodwork, like San Francisco’s cable cars, but without the cables.
My hotel is on Muhammed Ali Boulevard – I’d forgotten, in his Cassius Clay days, he was nicknamed the Louisville Lip.
Another reading and signing this evening – it may have to be a v loud reading if there are tornadoes blowing!
So cruel! This morning I had to part from my two plasma TVs - just as I was just getting used to surfing screen number two while screen number one was having an ad break. Now I’m back to just one – but I love this new hotel, the Seelbach Hilton, which is a grand old building from WW I. The staircase is sheer Gone With the Wind – gilding and mahogany everywhere. This tour is like a tourist trip around all the best that US hotels can offer!
Another plus, it’s right in the centre of town. Town being Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby and bourbon and paddlewheelers on the old Ohio. Instead of a half mile to the edge of the hotel grounds, as at the Biltmore, now I step out, turn to the left, and I’m in the middle of pubs, discos, restaurants, the works. Must’ve been the thought of the UK part of the tour coming up, because I went to The Pub and had beef stew and mash and beer (Texan bad, Boston good).
I started browsing a shopping catalogue on the flight from Phoenix. Americans love gadgets – and so do I! Very appropriate for a steampunk writer, and the truth is I always wanted to be an inventor. How about these for some wacky gadgets? -
An underwater pogo stick (the World’s One and Only) for hopping about in the swimming pool? And for company while hopping, what about a Kaleidoscopic Pool Cruising Fish (only $99) that waggles its tail to swim round your pool at random flashing out a continuous show of multicoloured lights for up to 8 hours?
For the financially-minded, there was a Front pocket Wallet, not rectangular, but specially curved on one side to fit in the shape of the male front pocket. Also, a Stainless Steel Wallet, more than normally durable and also prevents identity theft by anyone secretly scanning the credit cards through your jacket.
One of my favourites was the Solar-Powered Mole Repeller – you plant it in your lawn, and it uses the power of the sun to send a vibration through the ground that moles just hate. Or, also for the garden, a simple means for aerating the ground to encourage oxygen into the soil. Why use expensive machinery, when you can use Strap-On Sandals equipped with Specially Long Spikes! Don’t the say that all great inventions have the genius of simplicty? Make your own aerating holes by walking around – and you can replace the spikes at half the full cost when they wear out …
I won’t even mention the Peaceful Progression Alarm Clock that wakesyou gently over a 30 minute period with growing light, delightful arousing smells and a choice of one of six soft Nature sounds before the buzzer cuts in …
I’m going to go off now and dream up a device for preventing lint in bellybuttons or opening chip packets or something that humanity really needs. It’s all about ingenuity!
I’m now at the Hotel Biltmore in Phoenix. My rooms (and I mean rooms – even my bathroom has rooms!) have two plasma TVs, two sundecks.
It’s a taxi ride just to reach the edge of the hotel grounds. Everything in Phoenix is unbelievably spread out. I ordered some milk when I arrived, evening before yesterday, and a two litre bottle arrived in an ice bucket at a cost of US$22. It hurt, even though it all goes on expenses. Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned here – but they tell me it’s gone upmarket since then …
Here’s the particular wing I live in! Naturally we have our own courtyard, swimming pool and spa -
I’ve since set myself up with a couple of bottles of red wine (I’m impressed by Californian wine, Trent – still loyal to Australian, but this stuff is good and cheap – from the supermarket), sourdough bread, provolone and ham – now I can nibble lunch on (one of my) my sundeck(s) without having to walk all the way to the hotel’s various restaurants. I feel like Crocodile Dundee – I want to make a little camp in one corner of my main living area, light a fire and feel all cosy!
My first evening in Phoenix was a book reading and signing – supported by the Brose Brothers as my backing act. Unbelievable steampunk costumes, as good as I’ve ever seen anywhere, and they’ve been dressing up steampunk style since way back, long before it became a fashion. Phoenix is not the obvious home of steampunk, but these guys were sensational.
Yesterday I did a school visit to Magnet Traditional School. Talking to large audiences, I’m having to get used to doing readings with a mike. One great thing about American students – they’re never backward in asking questions!
Did a bookshop panel followed by a reading yesterday evening, at the legendary Mysterious Galaxies bookshop in San Diego. Great guys there, who really know their SF/fantasy.
(Me in my steampunk cap, Megan alongside)
Then dinner with Larry, who’s been escorting me round for Simon & Schuster. Had my first Californian wine – have to admit, pretty good. (Not that I’m going to back down on the supremacy of Australian wine in a hurry!)
Had to get up at 4.45 am this morning – blurgh! Made it to the airport, caught my flight to San Farancisco, met uyp with my San Fran escort, Frank – but it was all a blur until I got to the school I was visiting, in Berkeley. Very different to any Australian school. I did a presentation that tied in with their career day (writing as a career? you’d have to be mad … but I talked about how very very fulfilling it is – especially when you’ve just written WORLDSHAKER!)
I’m now in San Francisco near Union Square – just a couple of blocks away from where I stayed 2 years ago. A hotel with great character – the Rex. A long soaking bath to wash away the weariness, then maybe I’ll go out seeking further experimentation with Californian wine.
Third day in the States. Yesterday I went round the USS Midway – huge decommissioned aircraft carrier. Big navy vessels send a shiver down my back – even though none of them match up to juggernaut size. But down in the tiny bunkrooms, in among the engines and machinery and wiring – it all had the juggernaut feeling. Plus that unmistakeable smell of lead paint. I have photos, but using hotel computers, I haven’t found a way to post them on this blog yet.
Now I have – here’s a glimpse of the Midway
Last night I did my first reading and signing at the San Diego Borders. Vast store – and to start with, a small audience. I was nervous until I got going. Then I did my readings at full store-filling volume, and suddenly the audience grew much bigger. Sold and signed a fair few copies, and gained some good friends, including the store manager.
I’ll be more confident next time. I guess you always wonder how you’re going to measure up in America … so far so good.
Today, I had the morning and afternoon off – went to the San Diego zoo, which is the biggest in the US. Highlight was a polar bear, so cute. Eating his/her vegetables, then playing with a ball underwater – bouncing it against the glass. What a show-off!
Tonight’s event is a panel at Mysterious Galaxies.
Hi! Just a quick blogette – nothing much has happened. I feel I’m settling in to the States – I’ve got my cell phone (I don’t even think ‘mobile’ any more), my Ralph’s discount card, etc etc. I foresee a major conflict looming between the American habit of serving food in huge sized portions, and my deeply ingrained training of never leaving anything on my plate. This could mean problems.
This afternoon I’m going visiting the USS Midway, a de-comissioned aircraft carrier you can walk around. It’ll be my first visit to an aircraft carrier since the one in Plymouth (UK) when I was 6 or 7 – when I freaked out with claustrophobia or something. Not this time!
Here I am, in West Hollywood! A bit of luxury after the long endurance of the flight. I had to transit in Fiji, and got a full body search for my troubles. On the Fiji-LA leg, I discovered I was in a seat next to a woman who started coughing – ‘I’m going to be like this the whole way,’ she warned me, and she was right. Every 10 seconds, cough, cough, snort, splutter, cough, cough. In the end I escaped and found probably the only empty seat on the plane – except it wasn’t. I was between an old Fijian guy and a young guy who must’ve been his nephew or something – and a steward told me later, the old guy was actually one of the wealthiest businesmen in Fiji – business class had been full, so he’d booked 3 economy seats side by side. So I unintentionally took the middle one.
But he was real nice about it, no problem And the special service he got from all the stewards and stewardesses sort of came my way too.
Tonight, I plan on having a long long LONG sleep.
Here it is, the last post. TRAA-RAAAH! From now on, I'll be blogging on http://richardharland.wordpress.com.
All going well - except the weekend trains to the airport, normally very handy from where I live, are totally stuffed up with trackwork, so not handy at all. Aileen will drive me in instead.
Aileen's birthday falls round about the time when I'm travelling (Icelandic volcanoes willing) from New York to London, so we'll be do birthday dinner out and birthday presents tonight. I'm trusting that nothing desperately last-minute-y comes up, because there won't be any time much tomorrow morning.
Here's a photo of my suitcase. Looks so small and innocent, doesn't it? But it weighs a ton - exactly 23 kilos now.
Wish me luck! This should be fun! Next post will be on
Today, the preliminary packing. Collection of items to pack, ironing clothes, folding clothes, putting everything into the suitcase and weighing. Why are they so mean with baggage allowances? My main suitcase came in just under 23 kilos, my carry-on case weighted exactly 7. It's those wheels - half the weight is the weight of frame and wheels.
OK, so I can fly to the States with that, then maybe lose a kilo from the carry-on luggage for the flight from New York to London (allowance 6 kilos). But coming back with Malaysia Airlines - they only allow 20 kilos of checked luggage and 5 (five!) kilos of carry-on. I'm going to have to shed things along the way - shed and definitely not accumulate. Where does the weight come from?
Hmm … I remember asking that same question apropos of something else. But I reckon I'm shedding personal kilos with all this packing business. Can't wait to just get over there and start touring.
Here's a mystery - why do trains in the UK alternative between cheap and dear prices? First a cheap one, then a dear one, then a cheap one, then a dear one ... and so on all through the day. What's the explanation?
Time to watch the telly, veg out and unstress for a while ...
Today was the day of collecting stuff to pack and discovering what I haven't got. Not much, it turns out. I've sorted out my pharmacology, my socks, my underwear … okay, that's probably all you need/want to know. I've arranged to meet up with Ian Miller in Brighton at the end of the UK tour - he did the cover for the British version of WORLDSHAKER, and he's absolutely my favourite SF/fantasy illustrator of all time. I'm expecting an evening of organic cider - if it lives up to his claims, my health will be perfect for the next 20 years.
Meanwhile, Aileen and I have been booking hotels for that last part of the trip after the tours are over. Here's Aileen being glamorous (with brother-in-law Bob)
Turns out that the offices of my French publisher in Paris are in the Latin Quarter very close to a flea-bitten hotel where I used to live when I sold newspapers (Herald Tribunes) to American tourists in Paris. The area must've changed - from bohemian to upmarket and ultra-fashionable - but maybe I can find the soup kitchen where I used to eat (well, a charitable institution serving cheap meals to the down and out!), the bars where we used to drink and argue, the bookshop where we used to lounge around reading entire books.
Ah, strange times, exotic memories. Right now, present reality is calling me back to sewing trouser cuffs that have come unstitched. (One of the things about glamorous wives is you have to do your own sewing ...)
Back from Bundaberg. Had a great time, one day of workshops, one day of panel and presentation, hotel on the beach, got to talk with writer friends I hadn't seen for a long time - but already it seems a hundred years in the past. I fly off to the States in just 4 days time! Agggh!
So much preparing and packing still to do. Why do I always leave things till the last moment? Maybe it’s what I do in my novels – must remember that real life doesn’t need to be so stressful!
I just rang up Icelandair – guess who booked their flight from New York to London going by way of Iceland? But they said, not to worry, there’s far less problem over Iceland than there is over the rest of Europe. Smart people, Icelanders – they know which way the wind blows!
I think I’ll be wearing my tailcoat as everday dress on the tours – it’s very heavy, and I can’t afford the baggage weight of another jacket. Either I’ll convert the world to steampunkery or they’ll throw eggs and tomatoes at me.
Now i think I’ll just go off and have another panic attack followed by a packing attack.
I’m just back from the first of 3 trips. Flew down to Melbourne a few days ago to catch up with Jack Dann and Janeen Webb on their farm, just north of Wilson’s Promontory. Beautiful country, all green hills, and their house is on top of a ridge, so that you can look out towards the ocean and promontory on one side, and on the other side a whole panorama with a lake and cows. 360 degree views, and 360 kph winds. No, I’m kidding, but even it's calm , the wind still gusts and tries to knock you over. Apart from the wind, the weather has been very Victoria, moving from sun to shower to overcast to sun – and round and round and round at 5 minute intervals.
This was the totally relaxed trip, with good friends and nothing to do but chat and chill out. (Can Jack cook up a storm in the kitchen!) Next week, it’s the Bundaberg Writing Festival – workshops and talks. Wilson’s Promontory. is the furthest south in mainland Australia I’ve ever travelled and Bundaberg will be the furthest north.
That's all just a warm-up for the big one the following week. May 22nd is when I fly off for the overseas tours for Worldshaker – first 2 weeks travelling around the U.S., then on to the U.K. for another two weeks travelling around England and Scotland. After that, a bit of holidaying and a visit to Paris and my French publisher. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also panicking. So many things to prepare!
Being on the farm with Jack and Janeen was the perfect relaxation - there was nothing I could do about anything, so I had 3 great days of admiring the green hills and cows and non-stop weather, chatting and eating and drinking. I was so relaxed that I started overflowing with ideas for the book to come after Liberator. I've been a bit worried to have so little planned at so late a stage (remembering that I'm usually planning years before I start writing) - suddenly it all clicked into place.
I've just finished revising/re-writing a modern version of "Beauty and the Beast" for an anthology edited by Isobelle Carmody. Or maybe not so much modern as newly traditional - I aimed to make it even more fairytale-ish than the original! I'm very satisfied with the way it's turned out..
I'm clearing the decks ready for the overseas tours, as in NEWS next door. Before I fly off I have to do some days of teaching and talking at a Writing Festival in Bundabeg, then a workshop in Sydney, and also visit Jack Dann in Victoria. I'll hardly have time to pack my socks ...
My big news is that I've just finished the first draft of the sequel to Worldshaker! I was contracted to have it done by December 2010, and instead I've finished it already! I'm amazed at myself - never ever ever have I written a book so smoothly and easily. I still have to hear back from my editors - and my sample readers - but I feel very very confident about this one. I want to call it The Book That Can Not Be Put Down.
At any rate, it was a book that its author couldn't put down! My favourite part of writing is always towards the end of a novel, the last sixth or so, approaching the climax. If everything has been planted right and put into place, that's where the book starts writing itself. The story and characters know where to go, and I just have to hang on for the ride. With Liberator, that started happening from about a third of the way through, and I've been hanging on for the ride ever since. Whoo-eee!
Maybe there's a reason - because this is a book where the climax really does start before halfway through - and just keeps on rolling and building all the way from then on. I like big rolling climaxes, I always try to make them a feature of my novels, but I've never known anything like this before.
Liberator was always a story just bursting to come out. It got held back because there was so much promo work to do on Worldshaker, and when I was ready to write it, there was a sudden change of plan. I'd been working out everything that needed to happen in Book Two so that there could be a Book Three, but then I was persuaded to produce a duology, where the second volume would be even bigger and better than Worldshaker, rather than a stepping stone to Book Three. I was tearing my hair out, because I'd spent so much planning time on the old Book Two - but when I started thinking of Liberator as the wrap-up book of a duology, it all started to come together. The events from Book Two and Book Three started to impact on one another, so that the end product is far better than any two books could have been separately. Liberator will be a bit longer than Worldshaker - I'll have to trim it in the second draft - but it's definitely turned into one single super-story.
I am so-o-o-o-o pleased with it!
How much to give away? Spoiler alert! At the end of Worldshaker, the Filthies plan to change the juggernaut's name and Riff likes the sound of 'Liberator', so that's what the newly liberated juggernaut is called. But now, three months further on, the Filthies' revolution is moving into a new phase, more violent and extreme. Col and other Upper Decks people who have stayed to help on the juggernaut are viewed with suspicion and hostility. It's partly because of the mysterious acts of sabotage that keep happening, and it's also because the Imperialists are massing against them. When Liberator calls in at the coaling station of Botany Bay, that starts a confrontation which eventually involves the Russian, Austrian, French and Turkish juggernauts. In the Revolutionary Council, moderate voices are drowned out and extremists take over. War is approaching!
I'd better shut up before I start revealing who the saboteur really is! I'll just say that most of the characters from Worldshaker reappear in Liberator: not only Col and Riff, of course, but Gillabeth, baby Antrobus, Quinnea, Orris, Septimus, Professor Twillip, Mr Gibber … they're all back, as weird and wonderful as ever. (I've really enjoyed watching them all grow and develop more sides to their personalities.)
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