Garden in Progress :)

Tiny garden progress:

All of that used to be just grass! My water-wise garden ūüôā
We moved here a year and a half ago, during a severe drought.  It was a challenge, finding plants that can survive here. This patch  faces north, which in the southern hemisphere means direct sun all day long. Harsh!

This front area used to be the only bit of garden I had. Now, the backyard is becoming more plant friendly, since I had all the concrete removed from it. It’s the domain of Pippin the Plant Squasher though, so we’ll see how that goes.

 

“The Strange” is complete!

One year later than planned, but I’m finally turning my book The Strange into an ebook. :: happy sigh :: I enjoy formatting. And it’s such a good feeling that this book is finished at last. I hope to publish it in the second half of November. Watch this space! ūüôā

“The Real” is shortlisted!

I’ve just heard that my book “The Real” has been shortlisted for the Ilube Nommo Award for best speculative novel by an African. How about that!
Other people on the short list:

Gavin Chait OUR MEMORY LIKE DUST
Deon Meyer FEVER
Tochi Onyebuchi BEASTS MADE OF NIGHT
Deji Olokotun AFTER THE FLARE
Nnedi Okorafor AKATA WARRIOR

That’s quite a list.

In the next three months, apparently all of these books will be made available to Nommo members so they can vote for a winner.  You can read all about this competition at the Nommo site:

Writing progress “The Strange”: First Draft Complete!

The first draft of The Strange is complete!

This is the most difficult, complex book I’ve ever written and the longest, too. I had moments when I doubted that I would make it this far.¬†¬†This draft is nearly 140 000 words. The first two books in the series are about 70 000 each ūüôā¬†It’s such a great feeling. There’s a lot of work to do still as it’s a very rough draft, BUT IT EXISTS!
* happy dance *

Day Zero Diary: Rite of spring

Today I became one of the thousands of Capetonians who queue at a spring for water.

This one is not very popular, as it’s very slow. You have to wait for ages while your bottle fills. Also, I didn’t realise that you need a hose to siphon the water down from the little pool where it gathers. Luckily a kind man let me use his.

It’s hot. Cicadas sizzling. Waiting your turn, watching wasps and butterflies enjoying the spilled bits of water.

Launching soon: “The Real”

If you are in Cape Town on the 16th of February, come to the launch of The Real, the sequel to The Babylon Eye.¬†We’ll be¬†at The¬†Field Office coffee shop, 34 Salisbury Road, on Thursday 16 February at 6pm. ¬†My other novels will be available, including The Babylon Eye (in print for the first time) and a discount will be given to anyone who has purchased either The Real or The Babylon Eye in e-book.

Book description:

The Muara. A ruined sea-side resort, shattered by the weather, buried in sand. Three children scavenge a living on the abandoned beaches and in the sand-swamped houses. This is their home and its desolation is their security…but their safety is an illusion.¬†
Under the sands of the Muara, in an underground room, is a secret that could destroy them and everything they know.

the-real-medium

 

 

The layers of language in The Babylon Eye

Several people who’ve read The Babylon Eye have asked about the languages used in the book. I put quite a lot of thought and research into that aspect of the world building. This explanation of my process will probably make more¬†sense if you’ve read the book!

I wonder how many readers picked up on the fact that while the book is written in English it is really, as it were, translated from whatever language the characters in this alternate world actually speak. They never refer to their own language as English. One clue is that¬†every now and then one of them will consider another character to be rather “anglo”, suggesting that they don’t think of themselves as anglophone. This¬†is my own private joke, as I have an allergy to¬†people who think of¬†English as the¬†default language, and consider all other languages¬†to be foreign, no matter the¬†country or context.

I decided early on in the planning process that the world I was creating would be very similar to ours but that its history would have some significant differences. These differences¬†don’t have a direct impact on the plot but they do shape the world and especially the names and words used.

For example in the world of the book, Germany ¬†won the First World War and the United States doesn’t exist, being a collection of smaller countries. The Second World War never happened and ¬†at the time the story is set in,¬†Prussia is still one of the dominant powers although some of the American countries have¬†been gaining influence over the last decades.

Closer to home, South Africa (called Nieu Batavia in this world) was never a British colony but stayed Dutch until it gained its independence. This had an¬†impact on the names of places and people. ¬†The character names tend to be Dutch or Germanic rather than British, for example the main character Elke is diminutive of Adelheid which is a German name and her surname is Dutch. Some of the place names are Malay (this is more apparent in the second book, The Real). Dutch titles¬†like mejuffrou (which means miss) and meinheer (the equivalent of mister) are used for ordinary people, while the high status Prussian characters retain their German “Frau” and “Herr”.

The names for the different castes of Strangers, (the people from the other world), are all words that mean “ghost”. Geist is Germanic, glim is middle English and¬†eidolon is Greek. ¬†This suggests that these terms were chosen by people from our own world rather than being official strangeworld titles, probably chosen to match some the unpronounceable strangeworld equivalents.

The first Strangers who contacted people from our world used a form of Latin. This is a clue that there must have been contact between the worlds before, and that the Strangers’ culture is not utterly alien to our own. Of course, Latin wasn’t necessarily their mother tongue, but¬†a bridging¬†language they knew we would be able to understand. Many of the names of things in the Eye itself are influenced by Latin, for example the dexter and sinister states of the Eye, and the soluster, the chandelier-like light that lights up the main levels of the Babylon Eye. Even¬†the cubbies, the tiny living quarters of most of the population of the Eye, is rooted in the Latin word cubile.

On the other hand, the slang and the swearwords used by the working people in the Eye is a little different. For that I mixed in a lot of Polish, Zulu, Afrikaans, Russian and Spanish, based on the idea that the mechanics, cleaners, drivers and other workers would have come from all over the world. ¬†Since the Eye has quite a communal culture and was, originally at least, to have a open and non-hierarchical structure, the¬†working people had a say in the running of the Eye and its customs. This is reflected in the official terminology. For example¬†the court, the body that is responsible for hearing legal cases, is called a “stolik” which is the Polish world for “table”.

The names people call themselves differ from what other people call them and reflect their status. The lowest of the Stranger castes, the untattoed ones, are called “weeds” and “blanks” and other rude¬†names by those who shun them, but they refer to themselves as Fugado, the fugitives. Using “blanks” (in this context, referring to somebody without tattoos to signal their status) as a insult was another in-joke, a play on “blanke”, a term which has a completely different meaning in Afrikaans, being a term for a white person and which is not usually considered and insult.

I could go on! There is so much more. I’m busy with the third book in the series now and have a whole new universe of titles, place-names and slang to figure out. I’ve been digging around in Somalian, Arabic, Assyrian, Yiddish, and some of the other ancient languages for inspiration. Only a small part of this shows in the finished book, of course, but I hope that it helps to make the world feel richer and more real.

Not Chlorr of the Mask

I made a small mask-face that started out inspired by Garth Nix’s character “Chlorr of the Mask” who features in his Old Kingdom series. Although it started out as Chlorr, it ended up not looking like her at all, so for the moment, it’s nameless ūüôā

mask

I started with Super Sculpey firm polymer clay with some cowrie shells for eyes…

mask1

Worked a bit more…

mask2

And a bit more…

mask3

Painted with acrylic…

mask4

Added gold and aluminium foil…

mask5

…and quite a lot of hair.

mask6

The Babylon Eye Cover: discarded designs

I don’t think I’ve ever gone through so many different versions when designing a book cover!¬†The Babylon Eye went through quite a few look and title changes. ¬†Since I’ll soon be doing the cover reveal for this book, I thought I’d share some of the discarded designs.¬†Keep in mind that the look¬†of the design isn’t the only criterion,¬†it has to convey the genre, set up reader expectations for the tone of the book and also be adaptable enough so that it’s possible to make tie in the sequel’s cover.

First attempt: at¬†this stage the title was just¬†Babylon Eye¬†(no “The”) The dog is too flat and a bit clumsily drawn. Also not to sure of that title typeface!

cover-wip-5

In the next one the dog’s pose was inspired by the Persian¬†bull mosaics¬†from the Ishtar gate (there’s an Ishtar gate in the story). ¬†The main problem with this design is that it doesn’t really convey that the book is science fiction.

bull

cover-wip-4

Something completely different for the next one. I’m not very fond of books that show the characters on the cover myself, but it’s a popular look. But my attempt doesn’t really work. It hovers uneasily between a sort of children’s book look, and something a bit more serious. I also really don’t like the fake plasticy gold of the title. ¬†And Meisje (the dog) looks a too goofy!

cover-wip-3

At this stage I was spinning my wheels and trying out different titles. The ghostly author name in the top left is not intentional!

cover-wip-1

My next idea was to focus on the main character. Yet again, a title change. ¬†This isn’t too bad but it doesn’t feel right for this particular book. I liked the typefaces though.

cover-wip-2

And after many more attempts, I ended up with my final design and title. Watch this space for my cover reveal ūüôā

If you’d like to be notified when¬†The Babylon Eye is published you can sign up for my mailing list. I only use it when I launch a book (about once a year) so you won’t be inundated with emails ūüôā

The Babylon Eye ready to launch…

My next book,¬†The Babylon Eye, is about to be published. It’s something a little different for me, science fiction set in alternate world South Africa. ¬†I had a lot of fun with it. The main character¬†is my age¬†for a change. ¬†It’s been interesting writing about a woman in her forties. Her age means that there’s space for her to have had a complicated and rich past life before the story even begins, something that’s not always possible with a teenage protagonist.

For the past few weeks I’ve been focusing on the print and ebook formatting. It’s a finicky process but I do enjoy it, although it does bring out my obsessive streak. Choosing the exact right symbol for the text separator took my much longer than I’d like to admit ūüôā

text_separator

If you’d like to be notified when¬†The Babylon Eye is published, you can sign up for my mailing list. I only use it when I launch a book (about once a year) so you won’t be inundated with emails ūüôā

Writing Update

I’ve just completed another two book series which I hope to publish in the last half of 2016. This is something new for me: science fiction set in alternate world Southern Africa, and nothing to do with Crooks & Straights or any of my other books. The series title is “The Babylon Eye” but I have not finalized the titles for each of the books yet. Here is a description of the first book:

Meisje is no ordinary dog. She’s a gardag, a cybernetically enhanced, living weapon. She’s also lost, hungry, and lonely.

Elke Veraart is on Meisje’s trail. If she can find the dog she’ll win back her own freedom. If she fails she’ll be sent back to prison.

As she closes in on the gardag, Elke finds her admiration for Meisje growing. And Meisje, weak with hunger, begins to wonder if she could trust the woman who is hunting her. Then Elke discovers that there are other hunters searching for the gardag and that her orders have changed. She no longer has to find Meisje. She has to kill her.

I have just started the third book in the “Babylon Eye” series and don’t have any immediate plans to write more books in the “Special Branch” or “Sisters” series, but you never know! ūüôā

If you want to be notified when I launch these books, you can sign up for my New Release Email List 

If you are curious about these new books, here is a link to the visual inspiration for book one and book two.

Writing companions

Who says writing is a solitary occupation? Although the birds are much less distracting than Pippin, who keeps lying on my feet, groaning, and accidentally switching the power off at the wall.

mossies

bird-shadow

writing-companion

The Green Man doll

In between everything else, I’ve been making a new doll. At the moment he is called “The Green Man.” ¬†Using marbles for eyes is a new thing I’m trying out. ¬†He looks quite different with his skin on ūüôā

wip_doll1 wip_doll2 wip_doll3 wip_doll4

 

I added ears. Then reshaped them. To my horror he looked just like Dobby from Harry Potter, which is not the look I was going for.

wipdollears2

 

So I moved the ears and added more bits.

 

wip

Then I made him a hand, holding the shell of my deceased apple snail.  His other hand is a hoof.

green-man-hand

Hand and hoof, freshly baked.

freshly-baked

cooked-head

The Penguin Gang

They are cute, but their beaks are sharp, and they have plenty of attitude.

I had to reach in behind the tree — one of those rocks is actually a¬†lid on a¬†pipe, which I had to fill with water for the tree. ¬†I felt a little…uncertain about putting my ungloved hand in among these guys. ¬†I hung out with them for a bit, and showed them the hosepipe (Peck! Nip! Not Edible!) and the lid of the pipe (Nip! Peck! Might Be Edible! Nip!) and after a lot of “Hey, nice day, isn’t it? Don’t mind me, I’m just standing here with my hosepipe” they eventually allowed me to get near enough to fill the pipe.

penguin_dudes

What’s in the Bowl

Once a week, I volunteer at the Two Oceans Aquarium, at the microscope display.¬†It’s always a bit of a surprise what you’ll find in the bowls. ¬†This one contains, among other creatures¬†

  • Anemone (not sure what kind, ¬†the thing like a golden chrysanthemum in the middle there)
  • A Pycnogonida, or scarlet sea spider with egg pouches (see him just above the anemone)
  • A Red chested sea cucumber (little dude on the left that looks like a chilli with a moustache)
  • Golden sea cucumber, (peachy thingimajig bottom left)
  • Feather star (bristly person upper right)
  • Several barnacles
  • Nudibranch (not really visible against the left edge)
  • Billions of brine shrimp all over the place

microscope_bowl

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