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A new tag bought to you in honour of Neil Gaiman and the Wunderkammer that my desktop becomes each day.

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Weta, Wellington now has its very own mermaid:

[Photo credit: Steve Unwin]. Nadya Vessey, who lost her legs as a child, has been crafted a tail that is both beautiful and functional so she can swim. Awesome. I hope Ms Vessey will gladden our hearts by splashing about in the harbour wearing her tail regularly.

In other Weta related news, there is an interesting article about The Savage World of Dr Grordbort here. Last time I checked, Joel was still making odd ray guns to sell alongside the Dr Grordbort guns, in a similar style.

I enjoyed this Daily Mail article about a giant rabbit escaping and requiring a major capture effort.

As is often the case, the British police showed a charming sense of humour when faced by a reporter:

“PC Jackson added: ‘Inquiries are ongoing into unconfirmed reports that Bunny had an accomplice called Clyde who assisted in the hare-brained escape plan.”

The Cavalchina, a ball that is a traditional part of the Carnival of Venice happened on Saturday. Here are two pictures of the equine stars of the party. The first is from Getty’s images and features the performance staged last year. The second was of a practise session for this year from The Independant:

The second horse is a Freisian and my favourite breed of pony.

I have been enjoying Casey Curran’s hand cranked wire automata (found via Boingboing):


Its been a busy time of friends staying and lots of rushing about for various reasons. I’ve just gifted myself with two very necessary days off. Tomorrow, I start back and hope to finish typing up a chapter during the day.

Old Ways

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Today I walked into my favourite antique shop – Wayne Wright Antiques – and found an image of Pan:

He was made in England out of terracotta.I asked Wayne how much he was and he named a low cash price amidst huge protests from his wife and business partner. I had, to the dollar, that amount of cash in my wallet and I took Pan home. He has driven around with me all day and its been making me smile.  I’m sure you can see why: that’s one infectious grin.  What a character. Plus, I love serendipity.

This was my horoscope for the week from Rob Breszney:

If you ask young men what experiences have afforded them the most adventurous fun of their lives, a majority will talk about indoor activities. Some will say video games and others their sexual escapades. Only a minority will describe far-flung events in the great outdoors or exotic locales. What about you, Cancerian? Under what circumstances have your most amazing forays into the unknown unfolded? Where have you been transformed in ways that helped you stretch to meet your destiny? I’d like to suggest that it’s time to go beyond those previous benchmarks. You’re ready to transcend your personal limits as you wander into the frontier.

It mirrors exactly how I feel. I am filling more and more and more of the black leather bound book that Jarrat and Evie gave me. I wonder at what point of their journey my characters will be when I have filled it. Daily, Somewhere Else is growing by 1300 words plus. At the moment the current chapter stands at about 8000 words I think; I’ll know once it is all typed up.

Shortly, I will be typing and revising this chapter and doing a little back up research. It is mostly around archery. With the help of Colin, who once represented New Zealand in a trans – Tasman archery team, I have been working out a new system of archery that will suit (a) the level of technology of my setting (b) available materials (c) the archers (d) their circumstances when using bow and arrows. We have developed a firing stance based around old Persian techniques. It’s really interesting and I have a small stack of archery books to chew my way through – thanks to Colin. Good geeky fun! 🙂

A while back I finished reading The Raging Quiet by Sheryl Jordan. It was on the IBBY honour list in 2002 and rightfully so. This book is powerful and deserves to be recognised as a classic New Zealand young adult’s book. The action is set in a fictionalised medieval village and revolves around the relationship of two outsiders (Marnie and Raver) with the rest of their village.  I found it intensely moving, poetic, and sad. I recommend it.

Not In My Name

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Today a bunch of people stood in Wellington waving blank, black placards. Why? Because they were protesting section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act. That section means that if you are accused of breaching somebody’s copyright online, guilt is assumed, your internet connection will be forcibly terminated and your website can be taken offline.  Those black placards represented your blank computer screen if this section is preserved and you are accused of appropriating somebody elses artistic creation.

I would rather share my work without profit than live in a society that draconian. Please visit and join the effort for change.


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Today started with a slight sinking feeling. I had odd writing related dreams that made me feel questioning about what I was doing. This is a state I don’t normally tolerate whatever shrinking feeling may flit through. Thankfully, the first thing I had to do at my desk was look at the City Library site to find out when my borrowed books are due. I couldn’t.  But what the site did spit up was a list of Deputy Dan copies held by the Christchurch Public Libraries – no fewer than  eleven copies! Nearly all of them were out this morning being read. Being reminded that there are kids out there enjoying my story made me feel lifted, and completed, and freed from my moment of writer’s neurosis.

This was to be the step I trod all day. I went into Drexels, writing in hand to do at breakfast, and Roslyn came over. She confessed, and I  hope she won’t mind me relating, that she had been crying the whole day before.   I asked why and she told me it was just a mood up and down. Conversation shifted on and I started to talk about the eel I had watched in the shallows of the Avon by Mill Island. Roslyn suddenly interjected, telling me ”I think its about finding courage to do what you’re doing” (Roslyn is an amazing young singer). I told her about my moment this morning and that I’d been thinking about those things too, that it was funny how events conspired to encourage you, and that it was important to never let anything stop you if you are driven to follow your muse. I told her the wise words of two friends as she was called away – that courage is inside if you look for it within – and that she must never give up. She left smiling and I think both of us felt lit up by the conversation.

I went to have my car checked and one of the car salesmen of Christchurch Honda approached me and asked me to get and sign a copy of Deputy Dan for him. Then I went to the library to return those borrowings. I found a laminated copy of Deputy Dan front and centre there, and took it up, asking how I could get that form of lamination. I wanted to make my reading copy tougher. The librarian, Marianne, certainly didn’t realise I was the author when she told me how popular that book is. Cue the author dying of thrilled on the library floor. Well, ok, not on the floor or dying but it felt like that in a good way.  Marianne helped me organise getting the book plasticised by the Library bindery and if you ever want a book covered the binders (found in their burrow at the back of the Linwood Council Centre block) are genius. Its well worth the $6-8 they charge for the service. Thanks to them and Marianne.

Eventually, via many errands I won’t relate,  I got home to an e-mail from the good persons running the Sir Julius Vogel Awards this year. They asked me if I would be prepared to accept Deputy Dan’s nomination for ”Best production/publication.” Of course, I not only would be prepared to accept, I am utterly delighted. Thank you to any one reading this who nominated Deputy Dan.

So: a day of affirmation, of positive feedback, of having the universe practically yodel at me to keep doing what I am doing. I feel incredibly grateful and my stock of courage is all topped up.

Today I have written four hundred words on the current chapter of  “Somewhere Else.” It only has twenty-four hours of action left to write.  My pen is to hand.

Woman Time

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I’ve just spent the past while with my mother, Ruth. Its been a special time for us. We had the most fantastic day yesterday when we drove to Akaroa and Governors Bay. It was a day that really brought home how much incredible talent and passion for art there is in New Zealand. Our first stop was Little River Gallery. We enjoyed Merv Sarson and Shelia Brown’s exhibition there very much. Merv’s Wading Heron remained my favourite peice of the show but Mum loved his Swallows and Sheila’s various birds on the wing. It seemed flight was the impromptu theme for the gallery with birds eggs and bird nest haired bronze busts on display in the rest of the space. Together, it all worked really well. I loved seeing more work by Sam Mahon too – he is an incredibly multi talented guy. No doubt a lot of Cantabrians will recognise this work of his:

One day I hope to be able to have something by him; he is definitely with Merv and Craig Fletcher in my group of favourite local artists. Little River Gallery was well worth the visit.

Just over the hill from Little River we had a near death experience as tourists in a little red car swerved down a side road, then right back onto the main road again in front of us, without indicating or pausing to look. Some blue words were spoken and, as they continued to drive erratically, I pulled off a side road of our own and headed for French Farm figuring that the road to a nice vineyard was vastly preferable to a one way trip to the after life. French farm looked as beautiful as ever but we didn’t really enjoy it. We were offered a table that was full of dish rags and chalk and black boards when we commented a seat would be appreciated. We did have a small tasting but only stayed ten minutes even after firmly taking seats in the restaurant. I hope they pick up their game again; I had remember it fondly from a previous visit. In Akaroa, as is customary, we drove about choosing our favourite cute house to imagine living in. We both settled on this one for our imaginary life:

We ate a bite at a nice cafe and went for a long walk that eventually took us to Tully House. Mum may be becoming clucky. She purchased this set and matching bib with a little bandannaed pirate shaped rattle that quacked like a duck:

I got some beautiful French sheets and six embroidered pillow cases to go with them. We continued to exercise using the rule of the day: at any place marked studio, gallery, exhibition or antique we stopped. So we saw some work by Svletlana Orinko who recently came to look about the cottage and Craig Fletcher (his work is shown). Awesome:

We headed out of Akaroa and, as soon as the road got mountainous, nearly rear ended the same little red car. Its occupants had parked directly in the middle of the road, around a blind corner in a 100 km per hour zone, to look at a map. I suspect that’s one pair of tourists that may not survive their visit. I was pretty chuffed with my skills when it came to avoiding them. We drove over the pass between Birdlings Flat and Governors Bay. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the road was, and how short a time the trip took, because it meant that when we reached She Chocolaterie for our Chocolate Tasting Class we had time for a tasting platter ahead of the class.  We feasted on lovely breads, mediterranean vegetables, salmon, dips, cheeses and more. I was glad this was a tasting platter entree though because, of course, chocolate was the focus of the night. We were ushered into the room behind the main restaurant where O’Sean was playing the violin soulfully to welcome us. Everyone was given a bowl full of chilli scented Mayan hot chocolate to drink and it immediately caused Mum to melt into chocolate ecstasy. Then Oonagh, She’s elfin chocolatier, took the stage. With small movies and lots of hands on fun, Oonagh took us on a journey through the history of chocolate, its making, tasting techniques, and more.  We rubbed chocolate between our fingers, tasted coco butter (though you’re not really meant to), licked fingers clean, double dipped and giggled. By the end of the night, cheaper chocolate delivered in a blind tasting made me feel squiffy as I learned to detect the film of fat it left on the tongue. As promised, this night has changed chocolate for me forever. By the time we wound up with tasting plates of She’s delicious creations I was in chocolate rapture and ready to drop from fullness at the same time.  We wombled happily home and ended up pyjama-ed in the same bed talking about the experience. There were two things I was not prepared for from the night. One was that having shared the richness of the chocolate and the journey together, Mum and I came away feeling closer, though I can’t explain exactly how as we’ve always been close. The other was how the chocolate affected me creatively; I woke up early and  had an absolute outpouring of imagined scenes for ”Somewhere Else.” I feel full of inspiration to write. Oonagh talked often about the magic of chocolate and I can only attribute these things to just that. I now want to find a supply of roasted cacao beans, which we tried at She, to add to my daily breakfast as a great soul food for nurturing that writing spirit and as a health food. Hopefully, the good folk at She might be able to help me out.

Thanks to them for a lovely night.

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Life remains interesting.  Sometimes it is interesting in the sense of that probably fake Chinese proverb –  ”May you live in interesting times” – and sometimes it is simply fascinating. I am enjoying the ride on the whole though I would like to be getting to more classrooms than I am. Transitioning between cities makes that difficult; I can’t be booked to go on Books in Homes visits if we don’t know where I’ll be.  Happily,  I am really starting to get my teeth sunk into Chapter Four of Somewhere Else. There may also be changes ahead for this web site.

Here as some tidbits from tabs I need to close. The first is footage of tempests battering light houses in France. It thrills me.

Next, The Places We Live is an amazing exploration of life in the worst slums in the world that incorporates the sounds, places, and people of slums really effectively.  It’s not online poverty tourism; but it does give you a real feel for the day to day conditions of an ever increasing number of people.  This would be a great site to run through with kids and I loved the insight it gave me. It’s cleverly done. Recommended.

Finally, I loved learning that someone else is as utterly addicted to TED as I am. What’s TED? It’s an invitation only conference that has now been running for 25 years; a shared mindgasm for the lucky attendees and, for those of us who get to watch it at home, the talks are an incredible source of inspiration. The theme of the talks is “ideas worth sharing” and they bring thinkers from all over the world to share those ideas with us. If you’re not enjoying the TED talks yet,  I’d urge you to go along and have a look at them, and then check out the lists of  “best TED talks” in the NY Times article linked to above.