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.