Changeling’s Island

Well, first the bad news. It’s Monday and you’re stuck with me. I will forgo the obligatory Mwhahahaa. Oh, what the the heck. MWHAHAHAAA!
Now the good news, it will probably be Tuesday one day relatively soon (and that is one day closer to Friday).

On other news, for those of you who delighted in my ‘ordinary’ a while back – in the excerpt I posted of CHANGELING’S ISLAND – the YA novel I have set on Flinders Island — About a city-raised kid who gets into trouble and gets sent off to live with his crazy grandmother on a remote farm on the island.

The wind flurry brought angry drops of rain hissing down the blue-grey wall of the surging swell. It roared up the ramp in a seething ravel of white water and rolling stones. The inky blackness across the water devoured the outer islands, and the horizon had vanished into the rain haze. Suddenly it was back-lit by a tracery of jagged lightnings showing every black billow of the vast, stark, roiling mountains of cloud above the white-capped grey sea.

“It looks a bit ordinary out there,” said Tim, zipping up the red life-jacket. “I’m going to a get little wet.”

The book has been bought by Baen. Tony Daniel asked to see it when I mentioned it in a podcast I did with Eric, and it appears Baen are venturing on a YA line. I said it would be too Australian for them but he seems to think it adds to the book’s exotic charm. I can’t wait for Kate’s take on that. (and yes, that is what sheep say too. It’s too late. We’ve heard all the sheep jokes, and besides, we tell them about new Zealanders.)

I have decided to go with the trad route on this one, firstly, because it is Baen, and secondly because it is YA. I think this is going to change, but it and MG are still areas where authors are going to struggle going Indy. I’ve got a soft spot for Baen and I think, to be honest with you guys that they’re bucking stacked deck here. The SJW brigade have largely taken over YA, and books-in-schools. They’re outright not going to like CHANGELING’S ISLAND, it has a strong male hero (strike 1), with a perfectly good claim on victimhood who utterly fails to whine and blame anyone (strike 2), and makes and shapes his own destiny (strike 3). Oh yeah, and to add insult to injury it lets a battler country hick be an honorable hero, and deals with the very non vegetarian reality of where food comes from and how hard it is, and how valuable that is. And there is complete absence of kinky sex, but an abundance of rugged outdoor adventure. And entirely the wrong attitude to tools.

She looked at the sea. Shook her fist at it. “And yer be off. Don’t yer be coming anywhere near here, or I’ll stick a pitch-fork in you.”

“Who? Who are you talking to?” asked Tim looking at the gray, angry water.

“The seal woman. She’s nothing but trouble.” She pulled a face. “Have you got a knife?”

“Uh. No.” Knives had caused one of the boys at St. Dominic’s to get expelled only the term before. Pupils were not allowed to carry them, and while it had been tempting… Tim had not ever had the spare money, or really been… well, bad enough to get one. He’d wanted… sort of to be bad, to get a bit of respect and to make up for being small and really not much good at ball sports. His life was too full of people who thought he was bad, and trouble and didn’t give him any of that respect, back in Melbourne anyway. Did his gran think he was a mugger and a shoplifter? Why did she think he had a knife?

“Yer need one. Yer never to go near the sea without steel. I’m a fool. I didn’t even think of that,” muttered his grandmother. “Well, she’ll not come near while I’m here.”

They gathered armfuls and then carried loads of stinking seaweed up to the ute. Crabs scuttled away. Little bugs ran out of it. March flies bit at them if they stopped…

And then, when the ute tray was full, piled high, his grandmother said: “I hope yer can move the seat. It hasn’t bin moved since yer father was a boy.”

Tim noticed she never mentioned his father’s name. Hardly ever even talked about him. If she did talk about anyone, it was ‘My John’ and even that didn’t happen too often.

They wrestled with the seat, and got it to move slightly. Then it stuck. “Can yer push the pedals all the way down?”

Tim tried. The ute lurched forward. “Foot off the clutch, on the brake,” said his grandmother.

He got the part about taking his foot off the pedal. “Which is the brake!?” he asked in in panic.

It was rather a long trip back with the sea-weed. Tim was exhausted, but quite pleased with himself. He’d found the concentration of driving a strain. He’d stared hard ahead so much that he imagined he saw all sorts of things out of the corner of his eye that just weren’t there when he looked properly: Potholes, logs, a small hairy manikin in a hat clinging to the outside mirror. That, on a second glance that nearly sent them off the road and into the bog, was a bunch of weeds.

When they got home his grandmother said: “I need a pot of tea. And they deserve some beer. I don’t think we’re ready to try taking the ute into the shed yet. Just stop.”

Tim had got used to his grandmother’s ways by now, or at least the beer for the fairies idea. He set out the bowls. There were two of them to be put out, one in the barn, and one in the corner of the kitchen, each with a quarter inch of beer in them. A bottle lasted a couple of weeks or more. The mice or something must love it.

Only this time he was tired enough to just sit there in the kitchen, and happened to be looking at the bowl. The flat beer was a limpid brown pool in the bowl… and then it began to ripple, as if something was lapping at it. And then, all by itself, the bowl tipped a little. Tim blinked. Rubbed his eyes.

Looked. Rubbed them again.

The bowl was empty. Drained of the last drop.

It must have been a mouse he couldn’t see at this angle… or something. It was enough to creep him out. But Gran decided they’d sat about idle for long enough, so she said: “Come. We’ve got a Ute to offload.” She hesitated for a second. Went to the drawer of the kitchen dresser and rummaged about. “Here,” she said, holding a flat, yellowed object out to him. “It was yer great granddad’s penknife. Useful on the farm. I thought yer must have one.”
It was a solid, heavy piece of steel, with the outside casing made of a yellow, scratched… something.

“It’s supposed to be walrus tooth. Sailor’s knife, been in my family a long time. Must have come from Scotland, somewhere. We don’t have walrus here.”
Tim opened the knife warily. It had obviously been sharpened many times. Once it must have been quite a broad blade. Now it was narrow. He tested it against his finger, and cut himself. “Ouch. It’s sharp,” he said, looking at it.

“Yer keep it that way,” said his grandmother. “What use is a blunt knife? It’s not this new stainless steel, boy. It’ll rust. Yer oil it, clean it after yer use it, and keep it sharp.” She took a deep breath. “And yer keep it with yer all the time. Especially at the sea, or near it. That seal woman doesn’t like iron. I didn’t know she was still around. Yer don’t ever go into the sea without a knife. You wash it in fresh water and oil it after, as soon as you can.”

“But… it’s dangerous. I…I’m not allowed to have a knife.” He could just imagine his mother finding it. Or someone at St Dominic’s. Or the store where he’d been caught.

His grandmother snorted. “Townie nonsense. They got nothing they need a knife for, except to try and pretend they’re tough, and cut each other. It’s different here, Tim, working on the farm. A knife ain’t dangerous, any more than a spade. It’s laid there in that drawer for 40 years and not hurt anyone. It’s what you do with it that’s dangerous, if you’re a fool or child. It’s a tool, not a toy. Don’t play with it. And never test it on yer thumb.”

Tim felt quite peculiar about the old knife. He wanted it, badly. But he was scared about being in trouble because of it. “They won’t let me have it at school.”

His grandmother rubbed her chin, a sign, Tim had learned, that she was considering something. “Fair enough. It’s far from the sea. But the minute you get back here it goes in yer pocket. No going near the water without it.”

Let’s hope there are lots of parents and grandparents who don’t want their kids reading SJW decreed pap, but books with adventure, honor and courange… and responsibility. Baen might be better at reaching them than I am.

43 Comments

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43 responses to “Changeling’s Island

  1. Yay! Of course this delays my getting my hands on it, but I’ve got some young relatives that are reaching the age they need _good_ YA.

    • Thank you 🙂 I’m going to have to work really hard with pre-orders on this. If Cuttlefish and Steam Mole taught me anything is that ideology is a major factor in YA/MG in traditional channels. They were good books but off PC message. I trusted Pyr to sell them. To market, to get them to readers. I won’t make that mistake again.

  2. I will of course be putting a copy in my son’s hands (and possible the Junior Mad Scientist, I think this is up her alley) when it comes out. I agree that YA is difficult in the Indie market. Mine have never sold at a brisk rate, and are emphatically not ‘in fashion’ being more adventure and a lot less dystopia, and oh, yeah, responsible, caring adults who serve as proper protectors and guides. Anyhoo… I’m looking forward to where Baen is going with the YA. When I was a children’s librarian, finding books for boys was a serious challenge, especially above MG. It seemed like the bulk of YA was mostly romance, and my teen patrons wanted adventure. It’s not about the gender of the protagonist, it’s about action, derring-do, and not being a wet mope.

  3. The bit with the knife reminds me… I got my Swiss Army Knife when I was 11 and joined the Boy Scouts, and I always carried it with me, even in high school. I still have it, and I still carry it every day (except to the airport, damned TSA). If there’s an artifact that must have a sympathetic aura to me, that knife must be it – not that I believe in such things.

    Now, having been drilled in the safe use of it, like any boy, I wanted to show off my knowledge, and I told another kid in my nice suburban neighborhood all about knife safety. Well, he musta gone home and asked his dad, because not more than half an hour later, his dad came up to me on the sidewalk and gave me a ration of shit about showing his kid anything so dangerous as a pocketknife and he didn’t want his boy exposed to such things and I was a bit confused an angry as to why this adult was giving me crap, lecturing me when I was sharing correct info about how to be safe around knives. Why would he not want his kid to know how to NOT cut himself or anyone else?

    I don’t think I ever ran into the kid again (not that it was a huge development, maybe 90 houses) but much later I had the realization that his parents must have been sheltering liberal types who wanted to protect their precious baby boy from the real world until it was too late.

    • Uncle Lar

      Imagine the reaction I get every time I try to promote gun safety classes in the local public schools. Screaming horrors from the usual lib prog folk and “not necessary, already took care of that,” from sensible parents.
      Every year I spend a few days with younger son and his family. In appreciation I bring my sharpening kit and do the daughter-in-law’s kitchen knives. Last time my 11 year old grandson helped, actually did a couple of paring knives by himself, sharp enough to ribbon a sheet of paper. I showed him that trick for testing an edge after catching myself before demonstrating my preferred method which will get you sliced if you are not extremely careful. The kit includes a WorkSharp powered unit with grinding and honing belts. Not quite as effective as a full bench setup, but portable.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      I was fortunately done with school before they even began considering pocket knives as something to ban. Everyone I knew carried a pocket knife. When I got a desk job, I eventually stopped carrying one, because they always wore a hole in my pocket, but I still feel kind of naked without it.

      • I solved the wearing a hole in my pocket thing by grinding off the little tab that they had on it for attaching a lanyard. That seemed to be the major factor in making a hole.

        • Dan Lane

          Hard metal, soft cotton. Or whatever fabric may be. *grin*

          A strip of leather folded over the pocket works if you hang your knife there. Stitch the leather to itself, replace as needed- but it usually outlasts the pants in my experience.

          Pockets can be strengthened/replaced as well. I know some folks handier with a needle than I (I should say *much* more skilled, lest I damn with faint praise), and I’ve had a couple of my comfy pants fixed like that when the pockets disintegrate.

          • I am more likely to leave home without my trousers than without my knife. I use it at least 5-10 times a day – cutting veg, undoing a screw. Killing an injured animal quickly, cutting baling twine, cutting poly-pipe, opening boxes. My answer to the wear has been that my current knife (5 years or so) has a clip so it sticks to the edge of my pocket. It’s a step up on my last one in that it is a lock-knife.

      • Yep. I literally feel undressed every time we fly.

    • Marty

      Anyone remember playing mumbly peg on the school playground while the teachers were arriving, or at recess?
      For those to young to know what mumbly peg is: Two boys start with feet together facing each other. Taking turns, each boy flips his knife, with the pointy end on his finger tip, near his opponent feet. Wherever the knife lands, the opponent has to move his foot next to the knife stuck in the ground (if the knife didn’t stick it didn’t count). The game ended when one of the boys fell over because he couldn’t reach his opponents knife. (Boys, not girls, because I never saw a girl play).
      I played that game through most of grade (now called elementary) school. I literally can’t remember not owning and carrying a knife (of course at my age memory is a sometimes thing). And I still do. I also own a lot of knives, around fifty of so the last time I thought about it.

      • 🙂 played it endlessly.

        • robfornow

          Our park didn’t have a swing set, that left a complete Mumbly Peg course open. I carry a pocket clip knife when on the road; but, the ‘Uncle Henry’ never gets more than an arms-length from my pocket. TSA can keep their bloody planes too.

      • We used to call that game “Stretch” – the other rule was that if you missed, your opponent had the opportunity to throw the blade between your feet and make it stick and go back to the start position.

        As for Mumbly Peg, I never played that game, but my Dad had a pair of books “How to do nothing with nobody all alone by yourself” and “‘Where did you go?’ ‘Out.’ ‘What did you do?’ ‘Nothing.'” that were all about boy things to do that might have been done in the ’50’s. (I understand “The Dangerous Book for Boys” is a modern equivalent, but might not be as daring as it thinks it is.) One of the two books included a detailed set of variations on knife-sticking stunts that constituted Mumbly Peg.

  4. Sounds good. looking forward to it.

  5. I’m in for a copy. When will it be available? Can we beg, borrow or steal advance copies from the author? 😀

    BTW, give us a heads-up when publication is near. Dot and I will publicize it on our blogs for you.

    • Thank you, Peter. It will still be 8-10 months – the difference between Indy and trad. If you come and fetch them, I’ll give you your own personally sea splashed advance copy 🙂

  6. Ohhhh, Aussie silkies? Readable YA with a non-milqutoast protagonist? Release date, please, and add me to the will-plug-on-blog list.

  7. Dan Lane

    If it’s out by Christmas, this’ll be one to read aloud to the mites when they start squalling for more storytime. *chuckle* Well-begun, and looking forward to it, good sir.

    • Er. Summer or fall. Tony says they really want to try and prepare the ground. That, I think, if they do it, will be very wise. The market is there, but expect howls of outrage from the gatekeepers.

  8. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Grumble Grumble.

    You didn’t give us enough. [Very Very Big Grin]

  9. Oh, man, I want to read that.

  10. Nice, looks like a great YA story. I suspect it’s going to do very well, the kids here will probably love it because it’s about a foreign place.

  11. Congratulations! I know we’re all supposed to be fierce indies, but a sale to Baen is enviable 🙂

  12. The book has been bought by Baen. Tony Daniel asked to see it when I mentioned it in a podcast I did with Eric, and it appears Baen are venturing on a YA line. I said it would be too Australian for them but he seems to think it adds to the book’s exotic charm.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with them. Besides, look at their young adult list. Is it really more exotic than Greek Mythology, Harmony and (lack of) Reason, or Luna City?

    I assume a Baen YA line will be pushed primarily through sympathetic adults, rather than SJW dominated university education departments. However, even teachers aren’t necessarily brainwashed SJW drones. There’s a market there, and it isn’t being served.

  13. Eleanor

    Thanks for the heads up. I’m looking forward to this book.

  14. This sounds great. I started working on a YA male-oriented series, so after reading your comments about Baen I went to check on their site. Which is as of this writing, not working. The cached version of their submission requirements insists on indented paragraphs and no smart quotes. They suggest 8-12 months waiting time after submission. Not too likely I will bother.

  15. Ben Hartley

    Kids? Pshaw! I’m only 76 — that’s “young adult,” right? — and I want a copy for _me_! (No comments about being an overage child.)

    • I forget now who said it – could have been CS Lewis? and I paraphrase – if it is not good enough for adults, how can it be good enough for kids?

  16. robfornow

    Seventy-four, In my second childhood; I tell everyone. Hiding the fact that I never left the first one. My granddaughter wanted a switchblade for her birthday, gave her an assisted SOG instead. I want her to walk straight when she leaves the alley. So, I’ll be getting at least two of-um.

    • Marty

      I really like assisted opening knives, especially the ones with a flipper tab, rather than a thumb stud. Have three (or four?). My two favorites are a CRKT and a Gerber.
      Don’t know if I’m in my second or third, but then I’m only seventy-three for the next few weeks anyway.

  17. Laura M

    Looking forward to this one. I have a nephew I’ll be sending it to.

  18. Rarely leave without steel. Of course that’s a leatherman these days. I will have to remind myself to take the one that lives in the camera bag out for travelling. Of course I spent ten years working in a hardware store. A knife is mandatory.

  19. I’m glad to hear Baen is doing YA. I have not been happy with plenty of the recent offerings for YA, and even a recent book I bought for my son in the hopes of the kid starting to get into books that don’t have pictures had one of the whiniest heroes ever. I vetted the book and the child hero and his family were ostracized for rather vague reasons, and the whole journey had me wanting to strangle both the child characters. I could understand why the boy and the girl were unlikeable as they were at the start, but there was a grand total of one flat out likeable character. One. But there wasn’t any content that I felt the kids hadn’t already seen in either The Lord of the Rings OR the Hobbit, so I let my son read it.

    I’ll definitely be getting these books for my children.