Of tomatoes and onions

No, this is not Sherylyn’s picture. This an image from clip art, that I tried (unsuccessfully I think) to Photoshop using the oil paint filter.



We came up to Wangaratta this weekend to see our mother. It’s 270 kilometres, so we stop half-way for coffee and something light to eat.

By light, we mean something that’s not going to make us want to fall asleep in the car half an hour later.  What do we normally eat?  Tomato and onion sandwiches. Made with fresh bread, not toasted.

Now adding onion to a road trip may seem a weird thing to do, but it’s the perfect meal.  Fresh, light, and not too much.  The café we usually stop at isn’t grand to look at, but they have deliciously fresh bread, which is super important.  And the tomato’s been allowed to ripen, so it’s tasty, and doesn’t freeze your teeth.

We must be the only people who ever ask for this type of sandwich, however. The owner doesn’t recognise us—until we order the sandwiches.  Then she starts saying things like, “I haven’t seen you in a while.”

Of course, when we get back in the car, we need some gum to clean our teeth, otherwise we taste onion all the way to Mum’s place.


Tomatoes and onion as art

Sherylyn enjoys painting.  She did a “Drawing on the right side of the brain” class a few years back. Once they’d finished that, the class voted to move on to painting.  After a term everyone started doing their own projects, with the art teacher providing assistance as required.

Sherylyn’s concentrating on painting techniques.

One of these was a colorization (note my use of US spelling here, for no reason other than that I can) technique done using a palette knife.

The art teacher wanted her to do still life. (Art teacher loves people to draw fruit and veg.) Onions. So she could demonstrate the technique.

“Onions,” I said. “What do you want to paint onions for? What are you going to do with a picture of onions?”

Those onions stayed around for a whole painting term. And because she was learning the technique, she couldn’t finish it in her own time. That meant she had to keep the picture wet (it was that type of technique) and the paint on her palette from drying out.

The picture took up a whole shelf in the fridge. The paints a shelf in the freezer. In a two-person house there’s no need for a massive refrigerator. That was half the freezer, and a quarter of the fridge.

“Karen wants to know when she’s getting the fridge back,” she told the art teacher one week.

“Oh, but she’ll love it when the picture is finished and you hang it on your wall.”

“I don’t think she’s going to let hang an onion on the wall.”

The poor art teacher doesn’t know when Sherylyn’s being flippant, but it’s true. Neither of us wanted the picture on the wall, no matter how good it was.  While we both like to eat onions, we’re not going out of our way to hang pictures of them.

Next term, the art teacher wanted Sherylyn to continue the technique.

“Sure,” said Sherylyn, who’d enjoyed painting the last picture.

“I think you should do some tomatoes,” the art teacher said.

Now, the poor onions had lasted a whole eight-week term. The tomatoes didn’t last that long. Especially since this time she had to cut one in half, and paint the centre of the tomato as well. Imagine, if you can, what a moving target it is when you have to buy new tomatoes every third week. Especially when the tomatoes start off orange but get redder each the week as they ripen.

We got some nice tomato sandwiches in weeks three, six and eight, however. (The full ones, not the halved ones.)

I have to say, both pictures looked good, and the colouring in them was lovely. (Even if that first week, the guy locking the building after the class had finished said to Sherylyn as she carried her picture out to the car, “I can’t tell what half these people are painting.  At least I can see that yours are oranges.”)

Not long after that, the combined classes put on an art show. Every student was asked to provide artwork. Sherylyn put her tomatoes and onions in.

She dragged me along to the opening night.

I finally met the art teacher. “Sherylyn is so good,” she said. “Those pictures are amazing.”

“They’re okay,” I said. And I meant it.

We write novels together. We are honest with each other. Okay means, yes, they are okay. Amazing means wow, wow, wow! This is the best.

Later in the evening I met up with the art teacher again.

“Sherylyn is my best student,” she said.

“That’s nice,” I said. “She’s enjoying the class. That’s the most important thing.” I confess I’m not the world’s greatest conversationalist.

The new term started last week. The art teacher told Sherylyn, “I don’t think your sister is very supportive of your art.”

By the way, the tomato and the onion sold at the art show. We don’t have pictures of them, because Sherylyn forgot to take them before the show.

Confluence – $1.99 at all good e-tailers

Right now, Confluence is $1.99 at all good e-tailers.

As an added bonus, Linesman is $2.99. This means that if you wish, all three books in the series are available for a grand total of $10.97.

As one of our famous music ambassadors here in Australia used to say when he was spruiking new releases, “Do yourself a favour.”

Barnes and Noble

Is it just me?

Is it just me, or are Young Adult (YA) books going the way of their older sibling, the New Adult (NA)?

First, let me define what I mean by YA and NA.

Young adult fiction is fiction where the protagonist is a teenager. Usually mid-late teens rather than early teens. It is often a coming of age story. While the intended audience is teenagers themselves, these books are often also read by adults.

New adult fiction was intended to be stories about people just into adulthood. Late teens or early twenty-somethings. About what happens to teenagers after they finish secondary school and start on the next period of their life.  University/College, or work.

Or, as Cora Carmack succinctly wrote on her blog a few years back:

Young Adult books are about surviving adolescence and coming of age. New Adult is about how to live your life after that. New Adult is the “I’m officially an adult, now what?” phase.  Just like growing up, that life stage is different for everyone, but I do think there are some things that are constant.

Cora Carmack, The one about what new adult means to me

Except new adult very quickly turned into a specific type of book. Post-young adults and sex. In fact, it has a reputation as ‘sexed-up* young adult’ stories.

And you expect this, for yes, people that age are likely to have sex. Most of them, anyway. Many teens have sex as well, and one expects that to be reflected in young adult books too, although often not as explicitly.

I would also add, primary audience for new adult books appears to be female.

Young adult and new adult are marketing groupings, a way of putting books together in a bookstore so that the desired audience (people of around the same age or a little younger than the protagonists) can easily identify the books they want to read, books about people like them.

But it’s not just readers the age of the protagonists who read these books.  Adults do too, and voracious, mature younger readers as well.

I read a lot of young adult books. Fairly obviously, I enjoy them.  But lately they’re all starting to sound the same. So much so that the last three I picked up, I put down without reading past chapter two. In every one of the three books the heroine was an angsty 16-17 year-old. She hates, or is angry with, a handsome, superior boy a year or two older than herself. The only difference in all three books was the best friend.  One was a girl, and I wasn’t sure if she’d stick by the girl to the bitter end or betray her, another was the quiet, ever helpful guy as best friend who you knew would turn out to be secretly in love with the protagonist.  The third book didn’t have a best friend.


I need to read more widely.


* There’s a list on Goodreads, New Adult that’s not about sex. It looks to have interesting books, with authors like Rainbow Rowell. I think I might go and re-read Carry On.

Copyedits – the new book is coming fast


Stars Uncharted

The copy edits for Stars Uncharted came back on Thursday.

By this time in the writing process Sherylyn has taken over all the editing on the book, so while she carefully works through each edit, I continue working on an early draft of the next book.

So far, she’s seeing lots of comma changes, a few missed/added words, and some questions about the timeline.

So, not too bad, so far.  We’ll see if it stays as clean as we get into it.

That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of red markup, because there is, but they’re small things, like the commas, or slight grammar issues.

We have to get the copyedits back by the end of this month, and our author portal tells us the book will be out in August next year.  It’s a long way away, but it’s also coming fast.


Passionate writing

Some of the best passionate writing comes out of things you feel strongly about. Given today’s political climate, it’s not surprising that a lot of people feel strongly about politics and prejudices.  I’d like to point to Chuck Wendig’s The Game Is Rigged as an example of some strong, powerful writing.


Some things you take for granted

Hmm. There are some things you take for granted.  I would never have expected anyone to consider Leckie’s use of pronouns anything but deliberate, but I suppose, if you hadn’t read her first books, maybe you would think they were typos.

I enjoyed Provenance, by the way, and I’m so envious of the way Leckie managed to make Ingray such a different person to Breq. The weird thing is, even though the story is nothing like—and I mean absolutely nothing like—Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, this is the book it reminded me of.  I still can’t pick why.  Maybe it’s the hopeful tone.

Conflux roundup

Vibe hotel, Canberra. Image from hotel website.

One of our goals this year was to go to a science fiction convention.

We’ve been to conferences in the past, but they’re all aimed at writers. Genrecon, RWA. But we’ve never been to a con specifically for speculative fiction. Nor one that’s not just about writing but about consuming what has been written.

We missed our local—Melbourne—con, Continuum. This was back in June, and I had work commitments.

Our next-nearest convention was Conflux, in Canberra, which always seemed to have good mix of topics. Not only that, the con was at the Vibe hotel, which is at the airport and meant we only had a walk a few hundred metres once we got off the plane. It sounds a weird place for a con, but it worked really well.

The conference was also held during Canberra’s Floriade festival. We thought maybe we could sneak away for a couple of hours and look at flowers.

We couldn’t make all four days, only the weekend, so another advantage was the reasonable day rates.

We arrived Saturday morning, checked in our baggage, and joined the fun.

Everyone was friendly, approachable, and easy to talk to.

The guests of honour were great, the panels interesting and informed.  Standouts for me were:

  • Steampunk martial arts (Rik Lagarto, Aiki Flintheart, Laura Goodin and Madeleine D’Este). An entertaining look at how one protects oneself wearing Victorian garments.
  • To PhD or not to PhD (Angela Slatter, Cat Sparks, Tim Napper, Donna Hanson, Rachel le Rossignol). I wasn’t sure what to expect here. I came away thinking maybe I should try for a PhD.
  • Putting science in stories (Ellen Datlow, Craig Cormick, Rob Porteous, Dion Perry). An interesting topic.

The first two sessions were on the Saturday, the third on Sunday.

Plus, there was our own panel on the Sunday morning, Starting writing later in life. Sherylyn and I did this with Laura Goodin, with Zena Shapter moderating.  If you were there, you were a great audience, interested and engaged, and you participated, which is what every panellist hopes for when they sit down there at the front.  Thank you.

We didn’t get to Floriade. There was too much happening at the Vibe, and we were having a good time there. I’d recommend it as a conference for first-timers. It was small, it was friendly.  Even better, they had a ‘first-timer’ rate, where you could go along for one day at half price.

Conflux 2017

Zena Shapter (right) launching Towards White at Conflux on Saturday afternoon. Zena’s hosting a panel we’re on later today (Sunday), along with Laura E. Goodin. Come along and see us all.

This weekend we’re at Conflux, in Canberra. I have to say, the weather today is beautiful.

Canberra is only about 400km from where we grew up, so this is almost home territory for us.