Saturday, 12 March 2016

Lily Max - 2016 Storylines Notable Book Awards - Junior Fiction - Happy Dance

Lily Max Illustrations by the incredibly talented Guy Fisher

(This story first appeared on my publisher's Luncheon Sausage Books site. Fashionable books at well-sliced prices.)

I’ve always being a good keeper of secrets. But I’d been itching to tell this one for 11 days. ‘Lily Max: Satin, Scissors, Frock’ has won an award! It’s been selected in the ‘2016 Storylines Notable Book Awards’, under Junior Fiction.

“Storylines - Children’s Literature Foundation of New Zealand’s Notable Books, are selected by an expert panel from the Storylines community. The panel includes children’s and YA librarians, authors, illustrators, teachers and academics; several members have served as judges for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award (and under its previous sponsor AIM) and the LIANZA Book Awards.”

Up to ten books are selected for each category and I feel very humbled to have my name beside some of the greats in kiwi children’s literature - Kate de Goldi, Joy Cowley, Barbara Else and Stacy Gregg. Plus cool new writer friends Sue Copsey and Suzanne Main.

As with most Awards, the winners know well before the news is made public. But its deliverance to me was masked in subterfuge. Only days before I’d asked, Luncheon Sausage Books publisher Steve Braunias, if we’d actually entered. ‘I think so,’ came his reply, ‘but you could always check.’ At the same time I received an invitation to be part of the Storylines Family days in Dunedin and Christchurch in August of this year. I did ask. And we had entered. I knew the winners were about to be announced and as there are only two children’s book awards in New Zealand you don’t want to miss out. A week later when Steve said, ‘A letter had been sent to my home, had I received it?’ My optimistic debut author’s mind started working overtime … Could the letter and the invitation to Storylines be related?

I was away from home at the time. Up in Auckland actually, after scoring tickets to the prince of funk himself – Prince. I texted my daughter. No letter. Odd. I set off visiting bookshops. Most receive authors with welcoming faces and enthusiastic bookish chat, but some are confused and not entirely sure you’re of the same species.

I managed 7 in one day. I’m still pretty good at negotiating myself around the city of sails even after living in the south island for 23 years. I was an advertising assistant at DDB Needham in the 80s. However, I had to google map myself from Remuera to Mt Eden. It was a hot day, my sandals had started to rub, Bfm was playing raucous guitar. I nearly swiped the boot off an XJS parallel parking on Mt Eden Road. The rental car company had given me a Ford that looked like a tractor and drove like one. Luckily I stopped and lent over to the passenger window and spied the Jaguar’s low slung bum, corrected and parked. I’ve always prided myself on my parallels. The bookshop was small and stuffed with books. I signed the one copy they had, the assistant was kind but the owner was out.

I walked over to the green grocer on the corner and bought a punnet of raspberries, and one of organic blueberries which tasted as old as the Iovely Chinese lady who served me. She was all of 4 foot and wore a green checked smock. Age had dragged her head forward, you could not see her face it hung perpendicular to the central wooden counter. She did the addition in her head and spoke with a brilliant kiwi accent. I walked on to the dairy and bought a Kapiti Mango sorbet ice block, the pretty Indian lady owner tried to sell me a Lotto ticket. ‘It’s 7 million this week’ she said. I liked Mt Eden; its brown cone stared down at me. I had two blisters. Back in the car I google-mapped the way up. I’d drive to the top, eat my ice block and look over the city. Catch the breeze. I don’t think I’ve ever been up Mt Eden. My iPhone said estimated journey time: 20 minutes. I didn’t believe it, but I headed for the city. Thirty seconds on I drove passed the entrance. Sometimes it pays to use your eyes and follow your instincts when you want to try something new.

I visited one more book store that day. There was a thick pile of Lily Max’s facing out. ‘We love meeting authors,’ said the manager. Book 2 bounced in the back of my mind again, sales have been steady, in fact we have around 200 copies left at the warehouse.

By the time I got home to Queenstown, any optimistic imaginings of the missing letter had dulled. Way way too unlikely. It was most probably a summons or some such that had got caught up in the infuriating rural delivery system of the greater Wakatipu. We are not on Rural Delivery. Our street number is actually a Rapid number (the number of metres your house is from a main road should you need emergency services). There must be a humungous bag of mail somewhere of letters addressed to our home. NZ Post will only deliver to our PO Box. We pay for that. Her majesty’s mail is not safe, even if you add a return address.

It was a l o n g weekend of imaginings. On Monday when I was still letter-less Steve finally confessed. I could think of nothing to say but ‘Holy Crapppppppppppppppppppppppppp.’ I was so overcome.

I now feel truly buoyed to tackle Lily Max book 2. A huge thank you to the judges at Storylines for selecting me. And to my publisher, Steve for believing I could write a good book. As a debut author with a debut character her reception has been more than I could ever have hoped for.

I bumped into a friend in the Post Office funnily enough yesterday, she said her daughter had been copying out segments of ‘Lily Max: Satin, Scissors, Frock’ for a school project that morning. ‘I had to change some of it, Mum,’ she’d said. Made me laugh. A midget editor.

When I finally get my letter I’ll Blue-tac it beside my Tainui wall planner and her reviews. That is, if there’s any space left in my tiny office, now wallpapered in an attractive colour-way called ‘Book 2 In a Brainstorm’…

Thanks. Thanks a lot!

ps. I still have not received my letter. But one day soon I will. A copy is being mailed to my PO Box!
pps. You'll find more of Guy Fisher's stunning Lily Max illustrations in my book. 103 in total.His name should really be on the cover.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Lily Max Made a Gif

"Lily Max Ice Maiden of Laplandia - you shall go to the ball!"

Just to whet your reading appetite, here's a mini gif made from Guy Fisher's glorious illustrations in my children's novel,  'Lily Max: Satin, Scissors, Frock'
Currently available from many great bookstores and libraries, New Zealand wide.                      
                                                                                                                             Bon Appetit!

Friday, 4 March 2016

Don't Call My Daughter a Cunt, Russell

…We'd just landed on the other side of the province when daughter 17 called sobbing hysterically. 'I’ve been in an accident.' Immediately you pictured her crushed and broken in a tangled steaming wreck on the side of a deserted road. She’s rung to choke out her last words …

Are you hurt?

No, I’m fine.

I breathed a huge parental sigh of relief.

He called me a stupid fucking cunt, Mum. I’m in a parking lock but I’m terrified he’s going to come back and beat me up.

Lock the doors, I commanded. Mother lioness. Don’t lay a finger on my child. What happened?

It was so stupid, I was looking behind me to change lanes and he slowed down. It happened so quickly. I went into the back of him. He wouldn’t stop swearing. I said I was sorry and he said:
You’ll be fucking sorry
Stupid cunt
Are you fucking kidding me
I hope you’re fucking insured
So fucking stupid.

You need to calm down, babe. You can’t drive the four hours home in that state. I pictured her in the twisty parts, taking a corner too fast ...

He wouldn’t stop swearing, Mum. Nothing happened to my car, it’s just got a bent number plate.

Did he drive his away?


Mum, I’m so scared.

Did he have anyone in his car?

His wife.

At that point I was incredulous. A female was present and allowed this yob to swear at a young woman.

We both pulled over into a parking lot and swapped names and numbers.

Please don’t cry, darling. The main thing is you’re okay. You’re insured. Don’t worry. The guy’s a wanker. Call me when you’re about to leave.

I was so scared, Mum. I hid behind my car door.

Please don’t cry. You’ve got a long way to go. You need to calm down. Take deep breaths. Are any of your friends still there? Can you call them? Go to a dairy buy a drink. Have you had lunch …?

From that point on every minute felt like an hour. What if the bozo did come back?

Thirty minutes later: His wife just called me.

Did she apologise for her aggro husband?

No, she said you can understand his growliness he needs a car to get to work. She said, they need to know our insurance company within half an hour! She said while his car is getting assessed your parents need to arrange a rental car for him to get to work.

I rang their landline. His wife answered. I introduced myself. My daughter was involved in an incident. Your husband verbally abused her. She’s 17.

She said you better speak to my husband, Russell.

Look, I could’ve called the cops. She was speeding. I could’ve got her done for dangerous driving.

Suspect you might need witnesses to prove that. Plus eyes in the back of your head. I wished I’d pulled him up. Asked him if he realised he’d threatened a school girl. That she hadn’t broken down in front of him but as soon as he drove away she’d balled her eyes out, convinced he’d return and assault her.

I’m with Youi, said Russell, as though all those annoying TV ads gave him cred. He gave me his claim number. Got his wife to go outside and check his rego. Maybe he sweated? He told me his car started clanking on the way home. He repeated that he had to leave for work at 3am on Monday morning and needed a rental car sorted.

Man up I felt like saying. I’m not a babysitting service. I know this is inconvenient but catch a bus. Ask a mate to help out. I said nothing except, I’ll speak to my insurance company.

My daughter still had a very long drive ahead of her. Alone.

Time stood still. I paced. I followed the road from Dunedin to Queenstown in my mind and tried to distract myself. I folded washing. I toasted pita bread with Edam cheese. Peeled carrots and scooped supermarket hummus into an eggshell blue pottery bowl and set the table with crackers and cherry tomatoes for the four fifteen-year-old belles I was soon to deliver to a surprise party.

She texted: Just passed Millers Flat.

Two hours to go, I replied. Don’t text and drive.

My stomach churned. I remembered a solo trip I’d done from Auckland to Hawkes Bay at a similar age. I’d spun out on a corner on the Napier-Taupo road. A spectacular 180 across an uphill passing lane. Halting in the grass verge with the stereo blaring. My mum had rushed out on my arrival immediately checking the underside of the car. I knew something had happened to you she said pointing to a clump of grass and earth stuck under the wheel hub.
I willed a safe journey. No tourists straddling the white line. No bozos sitting on her tail forcing her to drive beyond her comfort zone.

I wandered outside into afternoon sun. It was nearly 5pm. In the orchard I plucked six cox’s orange from high branches, using my t-shirt as a basket and walked over to the horse paddock. Star nickered and gobbled the tangy fleshy orbs one after the other. A froth of apple juice lipsticked his lips. I kissed his velvet nose and blew into his left nostril. Our greeting. However, it was a momentary calm sniffing his apple sweet grass horse perfume. I went back to the kitchen and tried to think what to cook for dinner. Mainly, I paced.

Daughter finally drove in. I can’t tell you the relief. The hugs. The kisses.

Half an hour later. Russ the muss rang again. The H answered. His story was developing. He’d recorded the accident. On his Go-pro. His car was a write-off. Had we organised his rental yet?

The H said, I’ll speak to my Insurance Agent.

I half expected a lynch mob to appear. Really. If you’re going to rear-end someone (the most common accident statistically speaking nowadays) chose someone with manners.

Was this guy young? I asked.

No, he was your age. His arms were covered in tats. He was big. He looked like one of those people who hated his job. Hated his life and drank every night to forget.

Did they ask if you were okay?

His wife asked if I was a student
I said I was at high school
She asked if I was okay
I said I was fine.

Russell didn’t ring again. I was really hoping his would. I would point out that in the heat of the moment he’d crossed the line. “Intimidation, threats and harassment (All terms cited under “Psychological Abuse” in the Domestic Violence Act 1995) are not acceptable in any situation public or private.

The Insurance companies did their job. Life moved on. Few lessons were learnt.

I’ve just got six more words to say, Don’t call my daughter a cunt, Russell.

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