Posts Tagged ‘The Key to Starveldt’

The castle of Starveldt is waiting. Having escaped once from Sanguisidera, Solace and her friends are in desperate need of guidance. Seeking to unravel a cryptic prophecy, they travel to the Rookery, an otherworldly place governed by the enigmatic Liluye. Magical and wild, the Rookery tests them all in preparation for the crossing to Starveldt. But the group is starting to fracture. The threat of Lord Grief continues to grow; old betrayals, lies and secrets boil to the surface – with startling consequences. As danger closes in, can they make their peace before everything falls apart? Or will the Bloodkin triumph?

Last Saturday on October 1, The Key to Starveldt hit shelves, officially confirming it as my second published novel. The largest part of my brain still cannot process the idea that this is A Thing That Has Happened, as opposed to A Thing I Have Daydreamed About And Which Would Never Happen, Ever, which is possibly why it’s taken me so long to blog my celebration. But! That time has now come, and so I say unto the world at large, SQUEE! The Key to Starveldt is out! Reviewer Jenny Mounfield says:

“With its shades of Alice in Wonderland, Misfits, Supernatural—and others—this series will delight the Twilight generation. Meadows has handled her large cast of characters with ease; each is as multi-layered and complex as the plot—which really is a slippery thing: easy enough to grasp, but not so easy to hold onto. It twists, squirms and folds back on itself, all the while keeping readers guessing.

The Rare isn’t just a story of good and evil, it’s about friendship, loyalty, belonging and dealing with difference. As Solace tries to resist the lust for human blood encoded in her genes—traits her dark brother has embraced—questions of nature versus nurture, not to mention our ability to choose our own fate, are brought to the fore.

I was bowled over by Meadows’ story-telling skill in book one, and book two has not disappointed.”

Which, frankly, fills me with glee. But in case you need a little more inducement, I offer you this reading from Chapter 3: The Rookery.

Expect more Cool Things to come, but for the moment: whee!

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The Key to Starveldt is here! My second novel is now a real, live thing that I can hold and flip through and poke! It’s due for release in October 2011, which is barely two months away, which is awesome – but which also means, alas, that my ability to launch said novel will be curtailed until sometime early in 2012, being as how plane trips from Scotland to Australia do not come cheap. But! That doesn’t mean I don’t have Special Things planned in lieu of a timely launch.

Oh yes, internets. Special Things, the nature of which shall be revealed between now and October. But until then: new book! Squee!

It’s still in rough at this point, but for those of you who are interested, behold: The Key to Starveldt!

(Apologies for the tiny graphic – the other images I have are all Adobe PDFs, and I can’t figure out how to make them into JPEGs for ease of use.)

As I type this, the edited pages for TKTS are sitting just to my left, and I am anticipating that a fully updated manuscript will be sent back to Ford Street  – who now have a shiny new website – by the end of this weekend. I can’t give you a concrete release date yet, but right now, it’s looking to be sometime in August/September 2011. Apart from all the work involved in sending final edits back and forth, printing the actual books and organising promotions, the fact that I now live in Scotland means that physically getting myself to the launch has become a much more involved process than it was for Solace & Grief. However, while it would be nice to be on hand when the book hits shelves, I understand that certain of you are keen to see what’s been happening to Solace, Sharpsoft and the rest, so regardless of what happens with my travel plans, I’ll do my best to ensure the book comes out as soon as it reasonably can.

This time last year, Toby and I were still in England. On New Year’s Day, we walked through the snow in Leatherhead, Surrey and talked about what we wanted most for 2010. Among the usual small hopes were two important ones: a successful debut for Solace & Grief, and a chance to come back to the UK. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but we’ve achieved both those things. The Key to Starveldt is due for release this year, and in just five days, we’re moving to Scotland for a minimum of eighteen months. It is thrilling, terrifying, wonderful. We worked hard for this, and the reward of actually getting it is monumental. And now we’ve crossed the threshold of another new year, and we get to do it all over again: more work, more plans, more effort and hope and sheer hard yakka, because both of us have the kind of dreams that are easy neither to achieve nor dismiss.

I want to be a professional writer. Toby wants to be a professional academic. In bald terms, we already are these things, but there are no laurels to rest on for being able to claim that much, and even if there were, I doubt we’d be content to do so. Stories are the blood in me, just as my husband breathes philosophy. We understand and love that about one another, the degree to which who we are cannot be readily separated from our aspirations. This year, we have a real chance to make something of ourselves in the ways that matter most to each of us. We have come this far, but the aim is to go much further. And I think – I hope – we can do it.

Beyond all that, I still want the same small things for 2011 that I want every year: to eat healthily and exercise regularly, to pay off our debts and live within our means, to try new things while reconnecting with old passions. It might seem repetetive and futile make the same resolutions each year – or at least, it would do, if any of them were finite achievements. The point of such things isn’t to find some magic, perfect level of successful compliance and declare yourself done, but to constantly look for improvement. This past year, my domestic skills have started to be worthy of the name, not because I suddenly woke up one morning with a desire to be tidy, but because I spent months telling myself that I needed to be. Because in a lot of ways, the biggest change of 2010 – and the one I’m most keen to uphold in 2011 – was the realisation that I could set goals for myself and reach them, even if they were difficult.

Maybe I’ve just grown up. But I hope not. I like having room for development.

Happy 2011, everyone!

So, as per the ancient prophecies, by which I mean yesterday’s post, The Key to Starveldt now constitutes some form of finished product. I have completed my changes, read over the whole thing, and am feeling confident enough to pass it over to the eagle eyes of my publisher and editor. I do not have a release date, but you may now rest assured, dear readers, that Things Are In Motion. Huzzah!

That would be the good news. The bad is more of a rantish thing and completely unrelated to the above, so unless you share my rage at the current team of morons responsible for marketing Vegemite, feel free to leave class early.

Now, look. I have about as much native brand loyalty as the next person, which is a fancy way of saying that I am disinclined to making informed decisions about irrelevant shit. By and large, I do not care about ad campaigns, but seeing as how I am both a lazy mammal and prone to the influence of subliminal messages, there are doubtless times when my purchasing one brand of toilet paper or pasta sauce or whatever has less to do with the price and everything to do with the fact that I’ve heard of it before. If the product doesn’t entirely suck, I’m likely to buy it again – but then, the same is equally true of something I’ve tried and enjoyed, but never seen advertised. At base, humans are conservative creatures. We might like a wide variety of products from which to choose, but in reality, that only allows us to feel superior about our choices when money isn’t a factor in making them, and relieved that there’s a lower-cost option when it is. (For an interesting assessment of this phenomenon, I recommend you look here.)

For me, the main reason I try new brands at the supermarket has to do with money. If I see something cheap that appears to fulfill the same function as the more expensive item I originally reached for, chances are I’ll give it a shot. But, like it or not, there are a few instances in which I find myself buying the costlier product simply because of some wrongheaded, ingrained notion of its betterness. This is called brand loyalty, and for me – and, I suspect, most people – it manifests in the conscious mind as the end result of a skewed cost/benefit analysis. The logic goes like this: I know that the more expensive product is good, or at least, not so bad that I’ve stopped buying it, which has lead to an unresearched belief that what makes it good cannot possibly be duplicated at a lower price without a significant loss of quality. However, I am unwilling to test this theory on the offchance that it turns out to be right, because in the event that it is right, I will have wasted good money proving something I already knew. If I am wrong, then ignorance is bliss, and I am still getting something useable for my dosh. If the product is one I’ve been exposed to for a long enough period of time – like, for instance, the Australian institution that is Vegemite – then my brand loyalty is all the stronger. Stupidly so, because familiarity does not equal quality, but stronger nonetheless.

Not so long ago, there was webwide furor over Kraft’s blunder-slash-publicity-stunt with the iSnack 2.0, which occurence had me grining my teeth with frustration. It’s not that I spend large amounts of time lounging around and thinking about how marvellous Vegemite is, but the whole thing was so ludicrous that it was hard not to feel as though the global human intelligence had somehow been insulted, regardless of whether the move resulted from idiocy or base cunning. And then I found myself in the UK, where Marmite is plentiful and not at all frowned on as some kind of  usurper, and realised that actually, not only was it cheaper, it was also just as good. I mean, salty yeast product? How the fuck can Kraft have a monopoly on that? It’s not like there’s a secret Goddam recipe. The stuff is basically edible tar.

So when we came home to Oz, I went to the supermarket. I ignored the Vegemite and bought a jar of its cheaper, equally-as-delicious cousin. Exchanging one brand loyalty for another might not seem like the most momentous event in the world, but the thing is, I didn’t realise that was what had happened until just now, when I saw a rerun of this 2009 article, wherein the phrase “the new Vegemite experience” was used without irony to describe the original iSnack fiasco. And I thought, what the fuck, Marketing Guys? Foodstuffs are an experience now? Are they fucking really?

As a direct result of which, I have decided never to buy Vegemite again. In fact, I’m tempted to forego Kraft products completely! Because while my passive consumer hindbrain is mostly content to putter along on its own, there comes a point at which the idiocy of any one marketing department causes me to lose all faith in humanity. I have now reached that point, and damned if my hard-earned dollars aren’t better directed towards a product whose corporate engineers have not so blatantly assumed me to be a moron.

So, now I have a new consumer choice to feel smug about. I believe there’s phrase occasionally used to describe this phenomenon – something about cycles and visciousness, I wasn’t really paying attention – but I’m pretty sure it started life as part of an anti-dryer campaign organised by the Hills Hoist Liberation Army. Bastards.

Alright. So. I haven’t exactly been blogging recently, what with The Stuff being sort of busy, and as I refuse to become one of those bloggers who only updates to lament their lack of appropriate updates, I’ve basically been keeping my type-mouth shut until such time as I have (a) something relevant to say and (b) time enough in which to say it. By way of relevancy to this approach, I have spent all day working on The Key to Starveldt, and am literally a hairsbreadth away from finishing my edits, which I will read over tomorrow, and thereinafter dance the dance of writerly accomplishment, which I’m pretty sure is code for Eat Curry And Watch Action Movies. But! Tonight, there has been a Thing, in the form of Controversy On Steph Bowe’s Blog, which can be found here.

Now, for those of you who are too lazy to follow that link, or who might appreciate an external summary in any case, the key of the brou-ha-ha is this: that Steph is a 16-year-old author. Her first book is being released in September this year, and, as might reasonably be expected, she tends to blog about it, as well as other things. The above post was sparked by negative comments here, wherein some of her bloggy remarks were discussed sans context, and which, not unsurprisingly, have prompted her to ask her readers for their take on the situtation. Which I have now chosen to do, here, rather than clog up her comments page. Obviously.

The quote that caused the contention goes as follows:

“I’m 16. I got a book deal when I was 15. There are authors that were published at 13 and 14 and I always find myself thinking, God, must I fail at everything I do? They were published younger than me!”

Now, I remember reading this when Steph first blogged it and thinking, ‘Shit! I know exactly what she means.’ Because although I am talking to you from the year 2010, when, as a 24-year-old married woman with one published novel and a second (see above) that I am on the brink of handing over to my publisher, there was a time, readers – not so long ago, even! – wherein I was eleven, writing a fantasy story for children and feeling absolutely convinced that if said manuscript was not on shelves before I turned thirteen, then I was doomed to failure. Because writers are self depricating that way, and in order to get absolutely anything done, we must set ourselves arbitrary – often crazy! – deadlines. Note that this makes us Interesting People, and not at all mad. No sir. *Snorts into wineglass.*

Let me also state, for the purposes of absolute accuracy, that said manuscript was never published. Probably it has been relegated to the farthest reaches of my Documents folder, there to wither and die like a winter mango. But the point is, all writers are intimidated by other writers, and doubly so by the prospect of anyone getting the drop on them, publication-wise. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we might colloquially refer to as a fact. In this sense, it does not matter if you have wanted to be a writer since you were six or only made the decision on your sixtieth birthday: as in all creative endeavours, we carry around with us the fear that we are not good enough; that someone, somewhere will beat us to the punch; and, worst of all, that someone younger – more untried, with fewer years invested in making such a difficult career work – might land their book on shelves ahead of us. Don’t lie, writers: each and every one of us thinks we’re special, and even though we yearn to meet fellow wordsmiths, there is always that moment of tension, a sizing-up in which we determine the likelihood of their talents surpassing our own, and try to gauge how jealous we should be.

Yes, I can see how, to someone who is in their thirties and as-yet unpublished, the idea of a teenager lamenting that they weren’t signed to an agency at a younger age might read as the punchline to a very bitter, very personal joke. But that same person would also be equally within their rights to land over here at Shattersnipe, assuming they’d ever heard of Foz Meadows – which, granted, is unlikely – and bitch about how unfair it is of me, a twentysomething, to be anything but utterly one hundred percent super-duper all the time grateful for having a book on shelves. But somehow, that resentment doesn’t carry quite as much weight, does it? Because as least I’ve put in the hours. At least I’ve suffered for my art, or something equally Goddam pretentious.

Look: every writer wishes they could be published tomorrow. The publication process is not easy, and it is not always fair. Sometimes, it can feel like creative masochism. But one neither gains nor loses writerly cred contingent upon the age at which they were published. Some adult writers are awful! So are some teens! The envy we feel on hearing of someone younger producing a book has nothing to do with the quality of their work, and everything to do with how long therafter we imagine they will have to ply their trade uninterrupted by such mundane necessities as Other Jobs and Paying The Rent and Everything That Does Not Involve Being An International Writing Superstar. Which is ludicrous, when you consider that the average annual income for an Australian author is $13,000. Thirteen-effing-thousand. OK? I once worked at a cafe for ten bucks an hour washing dishes, and probably earned a better yearly wage than that. Take out the few top earners after whom the rest of us lust, our canine tongues lolling against the hot pavement, and maybe the statistic gets a little better, but ultimately, we write because we love to write, because the words are in us to be told, and if we do not get them on paper, then there is a distinct possibility that we will implode. As my favourite teacher once pointed out during a friendly exchange of ideas, anyone who claims that they would happily do this without pay, forever, is lying – or at least, they are not quite telling the whole truth. If stories are truly a part of you, then the money doesn’t matter. Telling them is just a thing you will do, in odd corners of the day, forever, no matter that the world is slowly eating your soul. But not a one of us would turn down payment for the privilege of doing so, were it offered to us. And, as in all creative industries, writers worry that their Great Work will be kept out in the cold, not because it lacks merit, but because some other upstart, talentless johnny has stolen their shelving space.

Where am I going with this? Oh, right: teenage writers. Yes. The point being, we are all fearful of the Young Turks Usurping Our Dreams. At least in terms of maturity, we feel there must be a cut-off point for publishable works, which is understandable – a point below which there are no junior competitors –  but in reality, that fear is native to our profession, and not to our age bracket. If it were impossible to get published at any age other than thirty, naysayers would still show up on the blogs of their aspirant peers and question whether or not they had, as it were, The Goods. Because tying writerly cred to the age of publication, and trying thereby to dismiss the achievements of younger writers as publicity stunts, is essentially an exercise in ignoring actual talent – perhaps more understandably, it is also a way of coping with the apparently random machniations of the publishing industry. We want to believe there is some reason why our book is not yet a household name, while Jimmy Unknown Teen has been signed to write a trilogy. As a teenage writer, I used to feel an uprising of brute despair every time my considerate and well-meaning father would point me towards a newspaper article lauding the success of some teenage author or other. What he was trying to say was, you can do it, too! but all I heard was, you haven’t done it yet, and what’s more, they’ve got there first, which makes your eventual success seem that much more unlikely. Self-depricating, yes, but also honest. It’s that fear factor, see?

Yes, there are times at which adolescent writers seem to get more media coverage than the rest of us, if only because some parts of public view them as a novetly act. But that does not mean they cannot write, and in cases like this one, it seems to suggest that actually, leaving their age out of it might be the kinder thing to do, as there are few things in the creative world more insulting than the assumption that one has not gained success via any possession of actual talent, but only because of some native and utterly unrelated quality – such as, for instance, youth, beauty and/or pre-existing fame. It is tantamount to an accusation of Selling Out, but as Jane Lane of Daria once made clear, in order for that to happen, you have to have someone interested in buying, which would seem to put a damper on the whole teen-writers-have-no-real-skills argument.

Plus and also? Blogs are for blogging. What that means depends on the blogger. If you want restricted content, go read a newspaper, ‘coz we here on Teh Internets ride tall in the saddle, which is code for Doing What We Find Interesting In the Absence Of A Paying Audience, Which, Like, You’re Not, So Shut The Hell Up.

Here endeth the rant. And now, back to editing! Enjoy your long weekend.

OK, so, remember how I said I’d be back in a week, like, three weeks ago, and then I wasn’t?

Yeah. That may have been some species of lie.

It wasn’t deliberate. I didn’t set out to deceive you all. Well, when I say all, I mean whoever-you-are who reads this blog, because presumably someone does? I mean, it gets hits, so I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that at least some of you aren’t turning up here by accident after taking a wrong turn at Google. The point being, I’ve been absent. And now I’m trying to be…less absent.

So, by way of quick explanation: I was, in the first instance, sick. Two weeks ago, I took the Monday off, went in the next morning under the impression that I was cured, and then collapsed beneath a coworker’s desk while waiting for someone to sign off on my Sick Leave form. As in, I fainted. One minute, standing, the next…on my back, with a very bruised arm from where I’d cracked it on the edge of the desk, and trying to figure out how I’d got there. Sufficed to say, the sight of several concerned editors standing over me discussing what to do with my feet was rather alarming, especially given the fact that one of them was reading out loud from the First Aid manual. In the end, a friend drove me home and I stayed there until Thursday.

Then came a furious spate of work on The Key to Starveldt, which I’m hoping to hand to the publisher before the end of the month. This may be outrageous optimism on my part, given that I’m still not happy with the structure and flow of events in Act Three, but then again, I’ve met far crazier self-imposed deadlines in recent memory, so why the hell not? Since my recovery from the Fainting Flu, and taking into account the number of words I’ve also chopped out, the manuscript has grown by about 20,000 in a bit under two weeks. With the exception of two small scenes near the beginning, I’m almost 100% happy with the way the novel works up until about Chapter 17, at which juncture I am currently stalled. This is due almost entirely to the fact that the current version of TKTS is about the fourth major draft I’ve produced, each one being significantly different from its fellows, and while the ending has never changed, there are now about six scenes leading up to it that either have to be dropped entirely, massively sleeked to fit the flow or else recombined in a different order. That’s my goal for the next two weeks: thanks to a thoughtful lunchtime deminap under my desk today – because I have been known to sleep on the floor a’purpose, and not just after my immune system goes flonk – I’ve suddenly realised two very simple, obvious-in-retrospect Things I Can Do To Make The Third Act Work, which is extremely helpful. With the end in sight, I’m taking the deep breath before the plunge in preparation for my traditional mad dash to the ribbon. Wish me luck!

As for the rest of the time: I’ve had work, and extracurricular writing projects, and the discovery of romance novels, which is a whole ‘nother blog post in and of itself. Also, I may have played a bit of Wii Tennis and Super Mario Galaxy while rewatching all of Firefly with Toby. I know, I know. But now I’m back, so let’s have a digital hug and get on with business as usual. Rant, anyone?