Monday, 28 May 2012

Getting the next show on the road

A rat has little conscience. This one's not even going to apologise for his weeks' long silence.

He's just getting on with it, he says.

Elena Bossi and I met in Iowa, at the 2007 International Writers' Programme. We became friends and when it was time to part Elena suggested we work together on a project – a novel – in order to keep our friendship fresh in spite of language difficulties (mine: Elena's English is vastly superior to my Spanish).  We worked apart for a year or two, writing alternate chapters in our own language, having them translated, then putting the whole together to make a novel in each language. In 2009 Creative New Zealand awarded me a grant to visit Elena in Argentina, where we polished up our versions; checked facts, laughed a lot, sang Beatles songs, completed a solid draft of Amigas, then flew off to Tierra del Fuego.

The decision to publish one's own work is not straightforward. I'll say more about that soon. I'll talk with Elena on this blog about our process and who else has been involved. I'll tell you what's brewing in the way of book design and marketing. I'll keep Ratty busy.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Vita interrupta

Well, the online translator tells me this is how you interrupt a life in Latin but please tell me, anyone, if it's not so. I'm across the Tasman at present (like Ratty, yes! strange that) so my work is being done in even shorter fits and starts than usual.

 I wanted to let you know that The Glass Harmonica: a sensualist's tale has been reduced in price by four dollars to 7 USD.

The cover of The Glass Harmonica will always be dear to my heart. Not only because it covers a novel dear to my heart and Rosa Mira's first (which speaks, too, of the trust and courage of its writer, Dorothee). But also because it was hand painted by Christine Buess of Dunedin, the design suggested to her by a description in the novel of the waistcoat Chjara borrows from her employer, the prurient opium addict, Victor Ravenaugh.

He opened his eyes and saw her: dressed in his own clothes. Dressed in his pantaloons. Stuffing his boots. She turned away from him when she tucked a rolled cloth between her legs, a cloth he couldn’t see hid a single hard gold coin. He would have spoken to her sharply but he had no energy for rebuking her at that moment; her arms were raised, her neck tilted back, and her long hair swept to the middle of her back. She was braiding it.

Victor Ravenaugh had not seen a woman braid her hair for a hundred years. She pulled on his wig from the days of Louis XVI, then she wrapped herself in his ivory silk shirt with the matching ivory waistcoat. The waistcoat had been stitched all over by those Asian devils with silk-thread blooms and pink butterflies and his favorite ornament, the bright red tomato or pomme d’amour, that exotic discovery of the Americas. She did not look at him as she left, and he imagined he saw his better self. Going. At last, gone.

Dorothee has recently been preparing a mixed-media ebook drawing on some of her fascinating findings while writing the novel, about America's first sexual revolution. Such Were My Temptations: Bawdy Americans 1760-1830 will be available soon. I'll keep you posted. 

A new batch of excerpts from Slightly Peculiar Love Stories can be read here.

Meanwhile, here in Victoria, beach walks are punctuated by little gems such as this no-longer-puffing puffer fish which, as you'll know, is the world's second most poisonous vertebrate after the golden poison frog. Almost all puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one puffer fish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

I didn't touch it.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Helping make new readers

It's only just warm enough for this, but Ratty feels compelled to lie down as he drinks in the vibrant colours of the beach boxes here on the edge of a large Australian bay. He's pondering ebooks, naturally. He smiles thinking of the favourable review The Glass Harmonica received just the other day, online at Historical Novels.

He recalls, too, how the ratadilloes' eyes light up for their bedtime story session with him or Lily. He wonders when they'll begin to read all by themselves . . .

Learning to read: it's a privilege we more or less take for granted where I come from. It's not so everywhere. In Iowa in 2007, I met author and surgeon Kavery Nambisan who has been instrumental in setting up neighbourhood reading schemes in her native India:

The Nalanda Trust offers basic non-formal education to underprivileged children. Our objective is to reach out to those kids who have no access to a good basic education system. We also hope to motivate the parents to send their kids to school by making them understand that learning will help individuals and families earn a satisfactory living and help improve their quality of life in all spheres. We attempt to make them realise that it will broaden the mind, create awareness and stretch the imagination of their young so that they are better able to draw upon in-built strengths and develop various valuable skills.

We also run libraries for the young in mind without easy or affordable access to books but with the eagerness to know more about the world. 

Rosa Mira Books would like to contribute to work of the Nalanda Trust, which runs on a shoestring and is funded largely by the trustees and 'a few close friends'. Lately it has become a registered charitable trust, so can more easily receive donations from overseas. As yet, RMB hasn't broken even, let alone made the net profit of which it intends to share 10% with Nalanda. However, this month I'm going to send some money anyway, and thought I'd give my blog readers a chance to add to this sum — a couple of dollars, or a handful: any amount will make a difference. If you'd like to, leave a comment or contact me directly and we'll work out how, depending on where you live.