Thursday, June 30, 2011

SocNoc, day 30

June is over. Thank goodness.

I am not proud of my efforts this month. Although at times the story did flow rather well, at others it slumped like a lead balloon. I feel mentally fatigued. Which is odd, because my NaNo novel last year was energising, not exhausting.

My final wordcount was 62,414 of which the last 3,914 will be deleted and the plot will take a new turn. So I still achieved the 50k even taking into account the 4142 words written before the month began.

So in a way I have achieved my goal, but I have still ultimately failed. I wanted it to be good, I wanted it to reach a final point that was exciting and cliff-hangerish. Instead it just meanders on and on and achieves nothing.

If anyone is interested in reading the 58,499 of this story that is decent, please drop me an email.

However, for "Lore of the Ringtails" there shall be no future and it shall forever be related to the "unfinished stories" folder on my desktop - along with "Quest for Lemuria" (mark 1, 2 and 3), "Scavengers of the Deadlands" (which was actually not too bad) and too many others to count.

On the positive side, I can start concentrating once more on "Midsummer Knight's Quest" which I believe DOES have a future, even if it is gathering dust in a warehouse somewhere.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SocNoc, Day 28

Wordcount: 1,263
Total Wordcount: 61566 (less 4132)
Percentage: 115%

I have recaptured the flow in a rather subdued manner. But with only two days to go, I really must spend tomorrow night doing nothing but writing. I've still got a considerable amount of plot to work through until this part is done. So much, in fact, it seems highly improbable I will get it done before the end of the month - although friday - July 1st, my next day off, will likely be a Good Writing Day. Especially if I decide to disconnect the internet!

A crow dropped from the sky, claws reaching for her. It struck her, knocking her from her feet. She slipped, bouncing, down the rockface, until her long fingers hooked into a crevice and caught.

Another dived, striking a burning blow across her back.

Go away,” she shrieked, but there was no way to fight them off, no way to defend herself, not without slipping to her death.

Another sliced by, a whisker's width, the flap of its wings stirring her fur. She tried to pull herself up, onto the ledge, but it was too narrow. Her feet flailed, seeking purchase, but finding only the unforviging smooth face of the rock.

The crow landed above her. Peered down at her with one dark, beady eye. She could have sworn she saw laughter in those eyes.

Then it pecked her fingers.

She released her grip, reflexively, slipping down the rock face. I'm going to die, she thought. After all I've been through, I'm going to die like this.

Then a ledge of rock forced all the wind from her lungs and all thoughts from her mind. It took her a heartbeat to recover, and another to stagger upright. Everything hurt – every muscle. Her back felt sticky with blood and she could barely bend the fingers of one hand. And the crows were diving again. So many crows. Four, five, six... there were too many, moving too fast. Best not to count, best just to hide. But hide where? In that dark hollow perhaps?

With one last desperate effort, Aurelia flung herself into the dark hollow. She struck something cold and hard in the gloom, crawled to her feet, turned to face the entrance. The fur on her spine bristled, her lips drawn back. If any birds dared to follow her in here, she would grab them and pluck them and make them sorry for hurting her.

No birds followed. They waited outside for her, cawwing to one another. Laughing.

Aurelia shrunk back and crouched down. She knocked the cold, hard thing again. This time she stopped to look at it.

Recoiled at the grinning face, the sightless gaze.

Even in the darkened interior of the alcove, she could see it was a skull. No, not a skull, a skeleton. Bones picked clean. By time or crows? She shivered, feeling the chill touch of its lemures, haunting the cave.

What happened to you?” She asked it. “Did you die here, alone? Or is this your tomb?"

Sunday, June 26, 2011

SocNoc, Day 26 - Caught in a Rut

The inevitable has happened. Having achieved my goal of 50k words my motivation has suddenly burned out. It is not as though the characters have reached a point of stalemate - Karazana and Aurelia are about to enter the Tsingy and meet the sisters. Noir is well on their tail. It is just that I am getting to the part where I wonder... what is the point? No one is very going to read this book. I have no idea where the second part (to be written in November, alledgedly) is headed. And it is all just a pointless, long-winded waste of time. I would probably be doing better were I... I dunno, drawing NZ birds or something. No, wait, I've drawn them all already.

*sighs* At least I finished "Aroha's Grand Adventure" I should really submit revision#3 that for publication.

Food is Art, Photography Swap

I'm into hosting photography swaps at the moment, mainly because they allow a different sort of creativity. And since I'm into photographing food, I figured I might as well share it with people.

So here's some of my tasty offerings, these ones I made myself:

Kumura and Banana Salad (with cashews)

Nachoes with some sort of mushroom patty (at a guess)

Autumn Waffles with summer fruit

Friday, June 24, 2011

Chimera Commisison - Leorabbit - coloured

Now with colour, but no background yet. Or whiskers.

SocNoc, Day 24 - the day I reached 50k

Wordcount: 5,048
Total Wordcount: 55,753 (less 4132)
Percentage: 103%

What'll you know... The day I reach my 50k is the day my internet and phoneline decide to crash and burn, meaning that I cannot sing it to the world until possibly as late as Wednesday.

Actually maybe that's why I wrote so much – no Facebook, no AFA, no interweb distractions. Although just because our phone isn't working doesn't mean I didn't spend some time talking to my mother. They set up a call divert to my cellphone. This meant I had time to colour my leorabbit commission.

Plot is progressing nicely, although Part 1 it will not be completed with 60k, maybe 70k... My chaacters seem to be able to fall into another plot arc, and even when they get to the Sisters in the Tsingy, they will then have to be there a while before Noir catches up with them (he's about 5 days behind them at the moment, but he's on antelope so might be moving faster than they are).

Aurelia felt very much like wrestling with him (a nameless komba kit). Just to see if she could ignite some sort of spark. He seemed almost listless. But then again, maybe he was just a bit dim-witted.

“Wanna play tag?” She asked.

“What's that?” Asked the kit.

Wow, two words, Aurelia thought, and a question, that seems like an improvement.

“It's a game,” Sneak explained. “We'll play it with this stick here,” he picked one up and waved it about. The nameless komba kit shrunk back as though he were about to be beaten.

What's wrong with him? Aurelia wondered.

“Anyhow, in the start I'll have this stick. I'll run off with it and you and Au-err Fotsy here have to catch me and take it off me. If you get the stick, then you've gotta run off cos we'll be chasing you next and trying to get it off you. Understand?”

The kit nodded, still wide-eyed. “Why?” He asked.

Sneak frowned. “Why what?”

“Why would you want the stick?” The kit showed he was capable of managing a full sentence.

“Err, so that we'd be chasing you instead.”

“Why would I want you to chase me?”

Sneak scratched his head with one foot, baffled. “Um, because it's fun.”


Sneak frowned. “Why what?”

“Why is it fun?”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

SocNoc, Day 23

Today's Wordcount: 1,330
Total Wordcount: 50,914
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 93.5%

And I'm into the home-straight now! Tomorrow might be the day that I officially reach the 50k. Today is also distinctive in two other ways - one it is my longest working day - from 10 am until 9.15 pm and thus I am truly pooped, and two, it is my birthday.

So why am I working on my birthday? Because I don't see the point in taking the day off and besides, I am very fond of my co-workers and any excuse to get extra hugs from them is most welcome. One even gave me a cupcake. It's so cute I don't want to eat it yet - not until I've photographed it.

Anyhow, due to the late finish, I have not achieved my daily word goal for today. Not that it really matters, as it is only 300 words and I am sure to manage them tomorrow. My plan is to finish this part of the novel up to its grand climax (probably around 60k words) and end it with a cliffhanger, and then set the book aside for four months and resume it again for WriMo. As I am suffering a bit from Madagascar overdose.

Also, I need to finish polishing "Aroha's Grand Adventure", order a (hopefully final) proof copy and get it published so that people can actually buy it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Socnoc, Day 22

Today's Wordcount: 1,807
Total Wordcount: 49,529
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 90.8%

An early update today because I am starting work later - at 12 noon. Why? Because I am finishing around 8.30 tonight as I am selling books at Paul Henry's Press Liasons tonight. Therefore I can get my writing done in the morning.

Some time ago now I read a book about a child raised by a bunch of woodland animals and they then went on the run from something/someone. It was by Richard Ford and the first one was called "The Quest for the Faradawn". I cannot remember much about the plot, but I can remember one thing - pratically everyone who helped the heroes was killed.

And I hated this. It just felt so wrong to me.

Yet now I am finding myself in a similar boat.

I have killed off two characters so far, and implicated the death of a third. Today I came close to sentencing another THREE to death, along with possibly an entire tribe of maky.

This is not on. If I engage in this sort of behaviour then noone will want to read it.

Yet the desire is there. It's not my fauly Noir is a blood-thirsty murderer! But I guess now I have to work out reasons for him NOT to kill everyone who has put a spanner in the works of his plan.

You'll be pleased to know, that despite these promises, no one has died today.


And just to show how evil Noir is, here he is questioning Celeste about her involvement:

Do you know where the kit is?” Noir growled. He glared down at the brown-capped sifaka. She stared back up at him, her eyes wide with terror.

And with good reason, because crouching over her, huge paws pressed into her chest, was Kaikitra. And there was nothing any sifaka, anywhere, feared more than the touch of the fossa.

I, I do not know,” she whimpered. “Please, get your beast off me.”

Not yet,” he snarled. “I know she was here, another Hunter reported her presence. A white sifaka kit with blue eyes.”

His captive's eyes narrowed. “That Hunter killed my brother.”

And this Hunter will kill you.” Noir made a motion with his hands and Kaikitra's large jaws closed about the female sifaka's shoulder. “Tell me, or I will command her to snap your arm. Her jaws are very strong, and I think a sifaka with only one arm would be very short-lived.”

The captive sifaka whimpered. The jaws tightened. Blood trickled out, staining the pure white fur.

She wasn't with us,” Celeste whimpered. “She was living with the maky.”

Very good,” Noir said. “For that answer, I shall give you a head start. Release, Kaikitra.”

The fossa opened its jaws and stepped back, allowing Celeste to scramble free.

Now run, my pretty,” Noir grined. “Run as you never have before, because if she ever sees you again, Kaikitra will kill you.”

Celeste ran. She bounded off into the spiny forest, leaping up the trees.

Noir ran his hand along Kaikitra's short fur. He had no intention of sending the fossa after her, he needed it by his side. But it was still amusing to scare her.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

SocNoc, Day 21

Today's Wordcount: 2, 339
Total Wordcount: 47,716
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 87.1%

Sometimes when writing, an author will wind up writing a character into a situation in which the only way they could get out of it would be totally unrealistic. That is the situation I have managed to get Aurelia into today.

The situation?
Aurelia has been taken into the hospitality of a lemur called Clarisse, her mate, Gerard and daughter, Blanche. They are white sifaka and rather sophisticated and civilised. Aurelia, as we may have noted earlier, is not. Aurelia is also being pursued by some of the Queen's Hunters.

Now, Aurelia happens to have in her possession, a bag containing three books belonging to the monkey, Chike. Now, current politics have declared all monkeys as being outlaws and those who associate with them will be put to death or exiled. Anyone found possessing monkey-made memorabilia faces this punishment too.

Not wanting the well-meaning sifaka to be exiled or killed for the sheer fact that Aurelia had left her bag in their tree, Aurelia had raced back to claim it, disrupted a peaceful game of fanaraona and invoked the ire of her newly- appointed guardian.

Upon reclaiming her bag, Aurelia was supposed to dart off through the trees. This is where the problem lies...

Chike's books are bulky, and lemurs rely on speed and dexterity to leap through the trees. Given that Aurelia is only a young lemur, and has no way of carrying this bag except in her mouth or her hands, you can see the predicament she's in...

So here's what really happened:

Aurelia snatched up her bag from Blanche's shelf. She could not carry it in her hands and leap at the same time, so she held it in her teeth. She sprang into the next tree. The extra weight dragged her down and she missed the first branch, crashing several feet onto another. She regained composure quickly, and sprang along the trunk.

I can't do this for long, she realised. And I can't do it very fast either.

Her foot slipped beneath her, and she tumbled from the tree. Memories of the crocodile and its mighty jaws flashed through her mind as she plummetted through the air.

Splash. She hit the water hard. Dropped the books. Water flooded into her nose and mouth and her feet flailed as she tried, very fast, to learn how to swim. It was a lesson in which she was not succeeding.

I'm going to die here, she thought. Then something grabbed her about the shoulders. The crocodile has found me.

But it was not the crocodile. It was worse, much worse, for she was dragged up onto the pirogue and dumped in an unceremonious heap.

Why look who dropped in,” said Melissande. “If it isn't little Miss Blue-eyes herself.”

(I suppose I am just very lucky that the Queen has just put out the instruction that Aurelia be taken alive, or else I could have this story finished most tragically, within 50,000 words. As it is, it will be at least 65,000 before I get it to the intended "termination point" for Part 1, with Part 2 becoming my NaNoWriMo project in November).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chimera Commisison - Leorabbit

Purchased via Felt, a commission for a Lion/Rabbit for a child being born in the Year of the Rabbit under the starsign of Leo.

This'll be fun - here's the lineart:

Isn't he cuddly?

SocNoc, Day 20

Today's Wordcount: 1,703
Total Wordcount: 45,377
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 82.5%

Woke this morning to my alarm - once again set for the "wee small hours" of 5.30 am. Looked at my story. Felt no motivation to write.

So I coloured in a parrot instead, had breakfast and went to work.

After work, feeling a bit more motivated, I rustled up 1703 words then a further 438 or so when I decided that I really should at some point have Aurelia visit her mother's tomb.

So here's the scene, rather early in the proceedings:

Karazana paused for a moment. “Would you like to see your mother?”

“But she's dead,” Aurelia said.

“The dead are never really gone,” Karazana explained, nuzzling her. “When we die, our spirit soars out of our body and becomes a lemures. It joins with the other lemures – the ancestors of times before, and they watch over us and guide us. But we must keep them safe. Although they've no use for their mortal bodies anymore, they are still bound to them and it is their bones that bind them to a place. Follow me, ny fitiavana.” Karazana trotted off, into the spiny forest. Aurelia bounced along behind her, jumping onto her back the moment she paused. Karazana continued past a spindly tree and around a squat baobab, disturbing a coua. The blue bird fluttered off with a sharp call of surprise.

“Because your mother is not our kin, we could not place her in our tribe's tomb,” Karazana explained. “But this one was built for her.” Before them stood a low wooden fence. It surrounded a slight mound. Two poles stood at either end, both tied with pieces of cloth and strung with shells. Aurelia slipped from the maky's back and hopped over.

“She's buried here?” She asked.

“Yes,” Karazana said, standing beside her and wrapping her tail around her small form. “She's buried here.”

Aurelia slipped over the fence and placed her hands on the mound. It was warmed from the sun. She rested her head against the sand, as though trying to listen to her mother, entombed in the dirt. She could feel nothing, hear nothing, except for the shells clinking together in the wind. She studied the skies, trying to see her mother's lemures. But all she saw was a solitary buzzard, soaring high above.

“I can't see her,” she said. “I can't hear her.”

“But she's there,” Karazana said. “She's there watching you, proud of the strong kit you've become. You can't sense her – not with eyes, nose or ears, but you can feel her. In your heart.”

Aurelia struggled to feel something, anything, striving with all her senses. She shook her head. “I can't,” she said, and slunk back to Karazana, tail drooping in dejection.

“Never mind,” Karazana gave her a rough hug. “Maybe you will, with time. You can come and visit her again, any time you like.”

Aurelia stared at the lonely mound of dirt, the scraps of ribbon flitting in the breeze. She felt nothing but a dull ache in her heart.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

SocNoc, Day 19

Today's Wordcount: 1,895
Total Wordcount: 43,132
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 77.9%

Not much progress made today. My goal is to get Aurelia and Karazana to the Tsingy by around 54,143 words. That's 10,000 words away.

Here's a vaguely entertaining piece of dialogue between three kits - Aurelia, Sneak (a crowned lemur) and Blanche (a Decken's sifaka):

We'll be leaving the carts soon,” Sneak informed her. “Cos we're about to enter into the swamp. So we'll meet the piroguiers soon.”

What's a pee-rock-ear?” Aurelia asked, sounding out the unfamiliar word.

“Piroguiers,” Sneak repeated. “They's the lemurs what row the boats.”

You know,” Blanche interjected, “you would really benefit from some elocution lessons, little crowned varika.”

And you could benefit from learning that it's bad manners to interupt someone what's talking,” Sneak snapped back.

Who is,” Blanche corrected.

Who is what? What is you on about?” Sneak grinned at her.

Like the Vezo?” Aurelia asked.

What?” Sneak frowned at her. “Yeh, I like the Vezo. What's that got to do with anything?”

Are piroguiers like the Vezo?” She asked, with a sigh.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

SocNoc 18

Today's Wordcount: 2,259
Total Wordcount: 41144
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 74%

I'm into the home streak now - for the wordcount at least. Characters have not even got as far as goal #1 yet - reaching the Tsingy. This book it appears is going to be an epic - as planned. I'm spending a fair amount of time researching things, and possibly engaging in too much "species dropping" in which I am trying to include as many different lemur species as I can. The problem is that the Malagasy names for many of the species are the same - so Vakira, the red-fronted brown lemur is also the name used for the crowned lemur and several other lemur species. Which means I'm spending a fair amount of time describing lemurs.

Anyway, Karazana and Aurelia are on their way to Belo-sur-Tsribihina.

So maybe it's time to introduce you to some of the characters, starting with Aurelia:

Aurelia is a silky sifaka - well, to be precise, she is half-silky sifaka and half some other species, possibly diademned. Her fur is plush and white, with highlights of gold around her head and arms - hence the name "Aurelia" which is a french name meaning "golden". Aurelia's other distinguishing feature is her bright blue eyes. These mark her as being of the royal blood line and are certainly going to cause some difficulties at many intervals in the book.

Aurelia's mother is a silky named Solange. She died tragically after birthing her kit. Aurelia was raised by Karazana, a ring-tailed lemur (maki). She is precocious and independent, even at such a young age (about 5 months at present). She is also forthright and a bit impulsive. And a lot smarter than you might expect.

When I originally began to write this novel, Aurelia was supposed to play a minor role, despite being the main pivot point of the plot. She was supposed to be the clingy kit that spent the first third of the book as little more than a prop and moved into her own about halfway through when she got to the city of Narivo. It is my hope that eventually the plot will take her there! However, she's a stubborn wee lass and she ran away in the fourth or so chapter, befriended both a monkey and a sifaka and allowing her blue eyes to be seen by the wrong people.

(The reason this pictures look quite different from my usual is because I created it for a "favourite artist" swap - which means they are my take on another artist's styles - this one is Mark Ryden IIRC. For these swaps a lot of participants just copy the works of the selected "favourite artist" but I prefer to parody their works with my own characters - usually lemurs.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

SocNoc 17 - Magical Madagascar

Today's Wordcount: 2,174
Total Wordcount: 39,046
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 69.8%

One question on everyone's mind (all two or three of my readers, that is) might be: "why lemurs? Why Madagascar?"

And this is a good question. Those of you who know me well will know of, if not understand my near-obsession with lemurs. I have adored them for years - I have over 30 plush l emurs and I have even been to Madagascar so I could see them in the wild.

So why lemurs? Where did the obsession begin?

Well, the answer is - I don't remember!

There are two points in my past that I can put the finger on and say "that fed the addiction" but I'm not sure at which point I went "I love lemurs, give me more!" The first was in 7th form biology, when we were studying primates and I discovered tarsiers, possibly for the first time. Tarsiers aren't lemurs, but they're awesome! And the whole prosimian group of primates. Before then I had been aware that they existed (I read a lot of Gerald Durrell, for one thing) but I'd never really rated them more highly than say the African Wild Dog or the Cheetah. For the record, through my older childhood years, my favourite mammal was the Aardwolf, and I had an overwelming obsession with birds (all of them, but I particularly liked the hoatzin). I still like birds, but at one point, lemurs started to trump them.

I started doing volunteer work at a local wildlife park - Orana Park - when I finished my University degree (B average, I was very average) in Zoology and Psychology, and it was then my lemur obsession started to grow. They had two species there - the ring-tailed, which everyone knows, and the ruffed lemur, which I didn't know so much about it. I had to learn to be a decent tour guide, but as I'm a natural show-off I loved showing people around and telling them all about the animals. I even knew the names of all the ring-tailed lemurs. I think they've all passed on to the great forest in the sky now, except perhaps Isalo (named after the National Park in Madagascar, where I've been). Anyway, I used to spend my lunchtimes sitting beside the lemurs' island, watching them sunbathe and play.

I think the appeal of lemurs is that apart from being amazingly cute and cuddly in appearance (like red pandas, the animated plush toy of the animal kingdom) they also exhibit behaciour that is not unlike humans - when they sit in the sun with their arms upraised, looking like they're meditating for example, but they also look animal enough so that they don't seem like a twisted caricature of human-kind. I have associated for a time in Furry circles, and whilst lemurs are popular, monkeys and apes are almost considered aberrant - aside from the tamarins and marmosets. I think because they are a little bit TOO close to human kind. But lemurs, well, they look a little cat-like, a little fox-like but they behave in a manner that is utterly endearing. Most of the time.

Slowly but surely, lemurs began to work their ways into my fantasy worlds. In my first creation, a world called "Halcyon", my imps looked a bit like tarsiers and my pixies were ringtailed lemurs. More-or-less. Somewhere along the way the imps evolved into sort of rabbit/monkey hybrids, but the pixies remained the same. I started on the 'Net in furry circles and created my fursona based on a ringtailed lemur. I played a shape-shifter in a LARP that could turn into a lemur. I called my character "Kataryna", based on the scientific name for the ring-tailed - Lemur catta which later evolved into LemurKat which became my internet moniker (except on Myspace, some US lass bet me to it there). I created a lemur Pokemon. Basically, lemurs crept into everything I did. Mainly ringtaileds, because even with 30+ species to choose from, they were still the most charasmatic. At least at that point!

I wrote up Kataryna's story. Or started at least, lost track of the plot and set it aside.
I wrote a sequel to Kataryna's story focusing on her daughter (a lemur/wolf hybrid, don't ask). Stopped writing at around 90k words. Still have it, but have no idea where it's going. It's not bad though.
I wrote Pokemon fanfic with a lemur pokemon as my main companion. Lost steam. One story from the end of the series!
I wrote a novel called "Quest for Lemuria" which featured an aye-aye called Mephistopheles. Set it aside. Rewrote it. Rewrote it again. Gave up on it. Still got it too, all 3 incarnations, all incomplete.

Then I went to Madagascar.

I fell in love. But Madagascar is not the beautiful place you see in documentaries. True, those are a part of it, but most of Madagascar's wild beauty has gone. Around 90% deforested.
To compare, I think NZ is nearly 75% deforested, so pot - kettle - black...
And our fauna is just as unique. We've lost a lot, and so has Madagascar.

Anyway, this novel has been in the pipelines for a while - an epic journey around Madagascar based partly on my own experiences and also using lemurs as the dominant life-force. It includes some of the characters from other novels or works that I had given up on - significantly Kataryna (now Karazana, the Malagasy word for "kindness") and Mephistopheles (whose name I have not changed, he's an aye-aye, he's supposed to have a creepy name). But I have also decided that my Madagascar is not going to be 90% farmland and wasteland, I'm going to give them back their forests.

Which is harder then you think. When you start trying to decide - "so what should the main city, Narivo, look like? What used to be on the highlands before Antananarivo?" And then you guess and approximate.

I recently acquired "BBC Madagascar", of which I have watched the first episode. It has some rather intriguing footage of such things as a young babakoto trying to pull off her older brother's nose, a swarm of baby tenrecs, flycatchers trying to stop a drongo destroying their nest, crowned lemurs climbing down the Tsingy, a spider moving a shell into a tree and bandro making reed bridges to cross parts of Lake Aloetra. Apparently they can swim. I have been almost in tears on several occasions, not because they have said how bad the situation is in Madagascar, but because I know. I know that many of these animals will probably be extinct before I am. And they are far more unique and precious.

And that's why I'm writing this novel. To preserve not only the memory of these strange and beautiful creatures, and to increase awareness, but also to try and capture the charm of Madagascar, an island that stole my heart.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

SocNoc, Day 16 and some random mailboxes

Today's Wordcount: 770
Total Wordcount: 36, 864
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 65.4%

Today's effort = shameful. I woke up early to watch the eclipse but could not settle to write and as today is my long day at work - I finished after 9pm, I have just spent the last two hours fluffing around on the interweb and managed a grand total of maybe 100 words. It's just not flowing because I'm too tired to concentrate.

So I believe it is time for bed.

Here's some photographs of mailboxes:

The first was taken in Cairns, the second in the Daintree (yes, it's a microwave), Queensland, Australia.
The third was on the way to work (you really don't want to see the house it's standing in front of. Let's just say they're taking "open plan living" to a new level) and the whale was on Kauai'i, Hawaii.
I also photographed the mailbox outside my old flat - painted up pretty by my flatmates. But alas the weather and neglect have taken their toll and it's a bit shabby now. Their neighbour's brick box was cracked in half!

(These have nothing at all to do with my story. Nothing whatsoever. I'm just participating in a mailbox ATC photoswap on AFA and I wanted to put something marginally interesting here)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SocNoc, Day 15

Today's Wordcount: 1,918
Total Wordcount: 36,091
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 63.9%

In excellent news, my BBC Madagascar DVD arrived today, so I shall be engaging in research. I've already watched the first 15 minutes or so. Madagascar is so beautiful that it makes me cry. Because I've been there, and the beauty is so fragile, so vulnerable, that it could all disappear in my lifetime.


When my alarm went off this morning my first thought was "dagnamit - why did I set my alarm for the middle of the night?" Because I have been setting it half an hour earlier* in order to give me some "writing time". This means that it currently goes off at 5.10 am. In winter. It is cold and it is dark and I wake up and jump in the shower, trying to get some life into my brain.

Some mornings I can't do it - it's too cold and my fingers don't seem to work and I make more typos than I should.

This morning was almost one of those mornings. I'm having short, sharp showers at present because of water issues and there was a nice, vicious frost. My fingers were cold, my brain was still half-addled by the dream I had been snatched from. I slipped on my finger-less gloves and started to type.

Managed 1,000 words before I had breakfast and headed into work. There was a nice, sharp aftershock (magnitue 5.0) at 6.20 to wake me up properly. What fun. But hey, I was already awake, so that's almost civilised (none between midnight and 5.40 am, yay for uninterrupted sleep).

So why do I do it?

The characters make me.

Today Aurelia revealed her story telling abilities (and her secret identity?):

"... I am not a maki,” Aurelia admitted. “I am in fact a special type of sifaka, a type so rare that none of you will ever have seen one, because I live in the sky, among the stars. But my parents were clumsy, and one day my mother dropped me.”

Gasps from her audience (of kits). “Oh no,” one said.

That's why my fur is white – with the star sparkle and my eyes are blue because I have gazed so much upon the skies. Anyway, I huddled on the ground, lost and alone. I had no way of getting home, I could not leap that high. Karazana and Manjoretra found me. They had just lost a kit of their own, and to them I was a gift from the Lemures. They promised then that they would protect me to the ends of the earth and beyond. But that was a promise that was going to cost them dear.” She studied her audience, making sure that each and everyone had their attention focussed on her. Aurelia rather enjoyed being the centre of attention.

Because there was another that also wanted me as her own. She had seen me fall from the sky – in a blaze of white light. And she had heard legends of fallen star-lemurs. Had heard that if she were to eat my eyes, she would be able to see in the dark If she ate my ears, she would be able to hear every whisper, every rumour ever ever uttered about her. And if she ate my heart she would live forever.

She came hunting for me then. I was out foraging for food with a friend of mine when she found us. I had just bent over to pick up a fallen tamarind,” she snapped open a tamarind pod, “when I heard a sound. Clip-clip-clip. The sound of hooves on hard ground. I looked up and saw an enormous beast. It had a long, thin face and great horns rose from its head. On its back sat a dark-furred sifaka. Her eyes glowed red as she gazed upon me. She rose one finger and shouted 'attack'. A swarm of mongoose erupted from behind her, charging at us. My companion was very brave, he took up a stick and fought many of them off. But there were too many of them and they nipped and they bit. 'Run Fotsy,' he cried, 'run.' So I ran. I listened to him. I shouldn't have.”

She let her shoulders slump. “I never saw him again. His name was Matthieu and he was brave and strong and I miss him very much.” The distress in her voice was not feigned. The kits sighed and whimpered in sympathy.

So I ran, and I leapt up a tree and then across into another, leaping and leaping further and further away. But one caught me. Its sharp teeth sliced into my side and the pain, oh the pain! It was terrible.” She untied the bandage, showing the neat stitches and the deep gasp they held together. “I would have bled to death had another not rescued me. A monkey. I know you've maybe heard bad things about the monkeys, and how the Queen wants them all gone, but this monkey was good and kind. He took me to the maki Ombiasy and she healed my wounds. But after that, I had no choice. If I stayed, the hunter would come after me and she might hurt more of my friends.”

Her audience were watching her with wide round eyes.

My maki friends decided that we should go somewhere, far far away. And they'd heard of a place. Of a tree so tall that it reached into the skies. So tall that it reached the stars. And that is where we're going. To the very north, the tip of the island. From there I might be able to climb home.”

She glanced across at her rapt audience. Some of the younger ones gazed at her in awe. Others frowned in doubt.

But as we were passing your shore, the wind saw me, and decided to snatch me away. It whipped the waves into a frenzy, trying to sweep us out of the reef and into the open ocean where we would be eaten by gigantic fish with huge teeth. But my maki guardians were strong and they fought the wind, so that we stayed within the reef. Finally the wind grew weary and retreated, meaning we could start towards shore. But we were exhausted. So it is very lucky that one of your Vezo found our craft and rescued us. And that,” she said, with a final wave of her hands, “brings us to the here and now.”

* On days when I start work at 8 am, that is to say - 3 days of the week

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Socnoc, Day 14

Today's Wordcount: 2,030
Total Wordcount: 33,995
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 59.7%

Still trucking along. Now that the characters have established themselves in my brain, I'm more or less just a conduit for their actions. Looks like Aurelia's going to get herself into a bit of mischief, with another lemur-brained scheme. See, we have a small problem - as the heir of the royal line, Aurelia has blue eyes. This makes her rather obvious to anyone who cares to look. And as Karazana and Aurelia are intending to attend a rather large market, it seems highly probably that someone would see her eyes and figure it out. So, they're trying to plan a way to hide her eyes, whilst also allowing her to still see:

I could wear Manjoretra's hat,” she said. “Or wrap a lambas around my head. It wouldn't cover my eyes, but it might make it less likely for anyone to notice them.”

Hrm,” her foster mother answered. “That is a very sensible idea. Although I think we can do better than Manjo's hat. We could fashion you up a nice one, like the Ombiasy's...”

That's what gave me the idea,” Aurelia interrupted. “I was so busy looking at the hat, that I hardly looked at her at all. All I saw was the hat. If I had a hat like that, no one would notice my eyes.”

(first she asks Manjoretra for his)

He frowned at her. “You want my hat?”

Yes,” she said, “to hide my eyes so no one can see they're blue tomorrow. They'll be too busy looking at the hat, you see.”

Really?” He took his hat off and plonked it on her head. It covered her eyes and rested on her muzzle. “Well, it certainly does cover your eyes,” he chuckled.

She pushed it up. “Oh, it's too big.” She sighed. “I can't see anything.”

He laughed. “I'll help you make your own,” he said, “I made this one myself. It's not hard – you've just got to have nimble fingers.”

(so they try and make one from a sisal palm)

They're better if you dry them in the sun first,” he said, “but we don't have time, so this'll have to do.” Together, with Karazana's help, they stripped strands of the long palm leaf and began weaving it. The final product – created sometime after darkness had fallen, was floppy and green but somewhat hat-shaped.

It's hideous,” Aurelia moaned. “I can't wear this!” She flung it to the ground, and bounced on it a couple of times.

I guess it's gonna be a lambas around the face then,” Karazana replied.

Monday, June 13, 2011

SocNoc, Day 13 - earthquake therapy

Today's Wordcount: 2,849
Total Wordcount: 31.935
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 55.6%

Today was a disturbingly eventful day. It got off to a slow start, I began writing in the early AM but it was so cold that I was struggling to put my ideas into words and my fingers on the right keys. So I decided to go to work early, leaving my characters in a sinking boat with only a narrow reef between them and the deadly open ocean.

Work was okay, but I wanted to get back to my story. I foudn jobs to do, and we got a delivery of stock. All was well and good.

Until 1 pm.

The first earthquake* hit with a jerk and a jolt. We - staff and customers, all sort of froze. I stood at the counter, one hand using it for support. The shaking finished, the siren went off. We grabbed out bags and coats and evacuated the mall.

The next hour or so was spent standing out in the sun, with shaky legs and quakey ground. Contacted husband and parents, they were both okay. Husband was heading home. We thought we'd be let back in the Mall eventually - once the engineers had checked it out, and then have to clean up.

At 2.20 the second big one** struck. It was savage. The ground rippled and we all staggered. I dropped to the ground, because it felt kinda like I was going to fall. We were all outside at this point, on a quiet side-street beside the mall but away from anything that could fall on us. It finally stopped.

We were allowed to go home.

Upon arriving home some 90 minutes later, to find we still had power. After picking up everything and putting it in neat piles on the floor (we have a new way of interior decorating in Christchurch - it's called "keep it low"), I decided to distract myself from Mother Nature's wrath by writing. So I did... Then I deleted some and added some more.

Now I am about to head to bed. Whether or not I sleep depends entirely on whether or not Mother Nature wants me to. If I can't, I guess I'll write. It's good therapy.

Anyway, here's today's extract:

Manjoretra's muscles strained as he fought to keep the canoe from the dangerous reef. Beyond it, enormous waves peaked and crashed, smashing against the coral forest.

If we end up in the open sea...” Manjoretra started, but didn't finish the sentence. Didn't need to.

...We're dead. Aurelia finished it for him, in her head. She was too frightened to brave the thoughts aloud. Speaking them aloud makes them real, she thought.

There was a long, grinding ripping sound and the outrigger tore free. The logs were bobbed for a moment on the waves, then ground against the reef, slowly turning in the currents before being snatched up by the waves and tossed away. The sail ripped free, fluttering from one corner like a dying butterfly. Then a violent gust of wind tore it away, and it flew off into the dark, grey skies. The boat twisted and turned, rocking violently. It tilted. Tilted further.


All four of them were thrown into the water. Karazana grabbed Aurelia's tail at the last minute, Hung on tightly. Scrambled onto up the upturned canoe.

Where's Manjoretra?” She shouted. “Where's Chike?”

* magnitude 5.5

** magnitude 6.0

Sunday, June 12, 2011

SocNoc, Day 12

Today's Wordcount: 2,526
Total Wordcount: 29,141
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 49.9%

Short post cos I'm tired and it's cold and I need to get some sleep.

Extract: (lemur fight!)

The fidgetty, brown lemur took a step back. Lunged. Aurelia met him. She had a great deal of practise wrestling with lemurs. Sharp claws or not – she would show him she could fight too. She dodged the slash and hurtled herself at the dark creature, using her weight to her advantage. His claws grazed her, but failed to penetrate her thick fur. She nipped his shoulder, kicked him in the shin and grappled him in a rough hug. He bit back, teeth slicing across her cheek. She cuffed him across the face, hard and pushed him away from her. He stumbled and fell to the ground. Aurelia bounded forward and sat on him.

What do you want with these?” She asked again.

The lemur made no answer. So she cuffed him across the cheek. She could feel her blood running through her fur, taste it with her tongue.

Who are you? What species?”

Still no answer. His small body was trembling beneath her. She bared her teeth “Tell me, or I bite.”

Mijifajifa,” he whimpered. “I'm a boenga.”

Saturday, June 11, 2011

SocNoc, Day 11 - the importance of writing dialogue

Today's Wordcount: 2,110
Total Wordcount: 26,938
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 45.6%

Writing Dialogue
is something that is essential in every story. According to a "writing for children" course I took, and passed with flying colours*, a large percentage - something like 66%** of the story should be dialogue.

Although I am not entirely sure about this, there is one thing I know about - it is a GREAT way to bring up your word count!

So... If you're reading back over your stories and you've found a passage that says something like:
"...and then Karazana and Manjoretra finally talked about the child they had together but had died in infancy."*** (18 words)

And write it up as the actual conversation:

(for those of you that have just picked up from here, Karazana is foster mother to Aurelia, having lost her own son soon after birth. Manjoretra, is currently helping them out. Until this point it has not been revealed that Manjo was in fact her one-time mate ****

Karazana whirled on him, flashing her teeth. “What do you know,” she growled, “you're not Aurelia's father.”

"No,” he said, dropping back a few paces and bowing his head in submission. “But you're not her mother, either.”

"I'm not anyone's mother,” she said, shoulders slumping and ears drooping.

Manjoretra nuzzled his cheek against hers. “I'm sorry, Kara,” he said. “I guess I wasn't the right choice. Maybe on your next mating day you'll make a better one.”

(and then some more stuff and conversation happens)

“There has been such a sadness in you, since he died,” he said, licking her nose. “I wish you'd come to me for comfort. I mourn him too.”

Succesfully writing dialogue can be difficult and some folks struggle with it. There are several things to remember:

~ don't write how people really talk

In general human conversation, there are a number of "um"s and "er"s and also people have the tendency to run off on tangents. I had a conversation the other day with an older lady that started with me asking her if she needed help finding a book and ended up discussing earthquakes. This is fairly typical in Christchurch at the moment, but not in your story, the speakers should stay on topic as much as possible or only digress if it is relevant to the plot. So if you want to end up with your characters discussing earthquakes then there should have been or will be one somewhere in your story.

~ Use Adverbs sparingly.
This is something you should do in general (although they do bring up the wordcount). Some authors believe all adverbs should be killed on sight. Adverbs DO have their purpose, but only if they actually enhance the verb.

Compare this:
"I'm tired," John said, wearily.
"But I'm not," Jane said, happily. "Shall we play again?"
"Oh for goodness sake Jane, I want to go to bed," John said, angrily.
"Oh, very well, then go," Jane replied, sulkily.

With this:
"I'm tired," John yawned.
"But I'm not," Jane declared. "Shall we play again?"
"Oh for goodness sake Jane, I want to go to bed," John grumbled.
"Oh, very well, then go," Jane snapped.

So, it's still not good writing, but at least it's an improvement.
My basic rule with adverbs is, take it out. Read the sentence, if it still means exactly the same thing, then you can safely leave it out. For example: Read the sentence, if it still means the same thing, then you can leave it out.

~ Read your story aloud
Preferably when there is no one else home, otherwise your flatmates might look at your strangely and call in the men in white suits. This is a good way to get the feel of the conversation.

~ Be consistent
If your character speaks in a crude-ish tongue, make sure she doesn't start speaking very formally in the next conversation unless it's appropriate to the plot/character.

~ Incorporate actions with words
"I'm hungry," John grumbled. "I've had nothing to eat since breakfast."
"I'm hungry." John rubbed his belly. It felt hollow, like a deflated balloon. "I've had nothing to eat since breakfast."

To write dialogue you need to know your character's personality and let it shine through the words. Any author should know their characters inside and out, front and back. If you know them well, then you will know how they will react to certain situations. But sometimes they will surprise you.

Aurelia has surprised me for example - she was supposed to be a relatively minor character, despite being the main pivot-point of the plot, but now she has forced herself to the front, pushed her way into the action and demands most of the screen time. Aurelia is outspoken, and forthright - if she wants to know something, she'll just out and ask (a bit like Aroha). She's also quite prone to interrupting when others are speaking, but that's just because she's young and has always had her curiosity indulged.

I am contemplating having her captured by slave traders in the next few chapters. That should liven up the plot a bit. Hrm... maybe that's how I can introduce Danyel, the drunkard ruffed lemur...

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

* okay, so it wasn't graded, but I did do all the assignments and they seemed to like my stories

** the younger the child, the more dialogue you're supposed to include. Although this applies to chapter books, not picture books. It's apparently very much more
show than tell when the characters do all the telling!

*** Probably not the best example because this is quite a complicated situation, although it does mean I can tie it in with what I've written today and thus make the example today's extract as well.

**** Ring-tailed lemurs mate once a year and do not form long-term partnerships. The male plays little part in rearing the kit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Socnoc, Day 10

Today's Wordcount: 2,399
Total Wordcount: 24, 549
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 40.8%

When you wake up in the wee small hours of your day off and you like in bed, and the plot of your story fills your head... That is when it is wonderful to be a writer. Today as I lay in bed, pondering my next few pages I found myself unable to sleep and had to get up and write. over 2k words written before shower and breakfast!

Then my mother came over and I spent the rest of the day working on art so that I could finish listening to an audio book that is due to expire tomorrow. Still, I am well up on the wordcount - should be 50% by tomorrow, I reckon. Unless it turns into a lovely sunny day and we decide to go for a walk in our earthquake ravaged city.

So, what happened today? Well our strange little cast of heroes hopped into an outrigger canoe with a maki called Manjoretra (which means "sensible") who seems to have some sort of previous relationship with Karazana. Relationship not yet revealed, but should be easy enough to figure out. And Chike got to tell the story of his past. Not sure what will happen next - maybe they will camp on the shore and be kidnapped by brown lemurs, or possibly face attack by a crocodile. Maybe a storm, but as they're currently inside a reef, they're pretty safe there.

There will be NO earthquakes in this novel. Apparently they don't get earthquakes in Madagascar, although they do have a word for earthquake -horohoron-tany.

For reference for my Malagasy words I have a phrasebook and also am using this site here.

Also, for anyone that is actually following this blog, I am scheduled to have it featured on the Kiwi's Unite webpage on the 13th June. Except that it seems to be up there now - so tomorrow I might write up a proper instructional post on "writing dialogue" cos I reckon about 70% of my novel is dialogue! My characters just won't stop talking...

So, here's an extract (Chike tells his story):

As you know,” the vervet began, “I am a monkey from the mainland – one of the vervet tribe. My family make their home in the acacia woods not far from the channel. They rarely ever venture from the trees, because life on the mainland is much more dangerous than here. There are snakes..”

We have snakes here,” Aurelia interrupted.

Not like these ones,” he continued. “The snakes are massive, and some of them spit poison. There are also giant birds that snatch us from the sky...”

Eagles,” Aurelia said. “We've got them too.”

And,” he continued on, ignoring her, “dangerous cats. Great spotted ones called leopards that climb the trees and chase us, and sandy brown ones that wait for us to touch the ground.”

We have fossa,” Aurelia interjected. “And mongooses* and eagles and...” She ran out of dangerous creatures. “Mongooses are scary,” she concluded. “I gotten bitten by one, see? And I've only heard about fossa but I really, really, really don't want to meet one. They're massive and golden and chase lemurs through the trees and gobble them up.”

Chike rose his eyebrows at her. “Who is telling the story, little one?” He asked. “Me or you?”

You,” Aurelia looked a little embarrassed at his gentle scolding. “Sorry.” She closed her mouth.

* The plural of mongoose IS mongooses, not mongeese or mongoose.

Midsummer Knight's Quest

Currently the novel is in the process of being editted, but here are some illustrations of the characters I rustled up recently:

Hemlock in juvenile and adult form.

Butterscotch the brownie

Stoatbane, the pixie warrior

Gruff, the Troll

Thursday, June 9, 2011

SocNoc, Day 9

Today's Wordcount: 756
Total Wordcount: 22,133
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 36%

Long work day + tiredness means not a lot of words written today. Still, I have progressed the plot a little bit and have several things to consider.

1. This story has no commercial potential. Due to certain elements in the plot, it may be considered culturally offensive to some people*. As I do not wish to offend anyone, I will not be making it publically available after its completion. Although I may make it privately available (ie: you have to acquire it through me). By changing some of the words, I could likely elimate these problems and I probably will on the re-write. Should I ever get it finished in the first place.

2. I need to invent a religion. Or do I? There is an irony with having monkeys filling the role of "missionaries" is not lost on me. However, unless I want to commit blasphemy along with my other crimes, I cannot have them spouting Christian doctrine. They need to be ambassadors of a different kind. At present they have come to the island to teach the natives (the lemurs) how to read and write and possibly propose trade. Is this enough? Quite probably. Do monkeys need religion?

Controversy - good or bad? There have been a number of novels out there subtly (and not so subtly) tending towards Christianity (or against it). This novel is not - as it stands - implying anything particularly religious - there is no Aslan, for example. The clash of the two cultures - the lemur's spiritual leanings and the monkey's more practical approach to things, are not the main focus of the plot. More a side plot.

* I am not quite sure how the Malagasy people will take to me creating an alternate of their world where they are replaced by lemurs and also making (mis)use of their language, especially where it relates to things of a spiritual nature - such as their razana (ancestral spirits). I have also made use of a number of Malagasy placenames, although I have shortened the most well known one - Antananarivo to the simpler and more pronounceable "Narivo."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

SocNoc, day 8

Today's Wordcount: 2,702
Total Wordcount: 21,118
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 34%

Story is coming along nicely and getting to the point where it is starting to haunt my waking moments and fill me with the constant and unresistable urge to write. I love that feeling. It is a compulsion and one I sometimes feel when I am particularly enthused with an art project as well. Today I have killed off a character, and set up the plot so that the main "adventuring" party has a place to go. They will consist of a vervet monkey, a ringtailed lemur and a young silky sifaka. I am considering that their route will take them first up the west coast of the island (by boat, so they might have a male ringtail along to sail it), and then up through a delta with the final destination being the Tsingy. Me thinks I shall soon have to do a stylised map of my island-that-is-not-quite-Madagascar but might as well be. I have yet to give the island a name, but for the most part I am using Malagasy place names for the parts of it, albeit bastardising them somewhat. I have named the capital city "Narivo". I do not want to call it "Antanarivo" because I do not want the actual city - in all its sprawling, messy, polluted glory tainting my alternative realisation. Basically, I have given the forest back to Madagascar. Since my people are all lemurs and more-or-less live in the landscape, not changing it to their views, there is no reason why so much of it would be a barren, desolate wasteland.

Also, I have introduced Mephistopheles and Queen Ranavalona into the plot - as you can see in this extract below.


Ranavalona looked up, her golden eyes blazing deep into Mephistopheles' soul. His heart skipped a beat.

The kit lives,” she said. “You lied.”

Her advisor opened his mouth to deny the accusation. Thought better of it. Closed it. He hung his head and his huge ears dropped. “I am sorry,” he said. “It appears my interpretations were inaccurate.”

Yes,” said the Queen. “It appears they were. Come here, Mephistopheles.” She returned the bird to its perch and motioned him over. He moved reluctantly and stood beside her. Shivered as she put her hand on his shoulder and guided him towards the edge of the pavillion. He gulped at the sheer cliff that fell away beneath them, the sharp rocks and jagged trees that waited at its foot.

Do you remember Hunter Berangere?” She asked.

Mephistopheles gulped and nodded.

Do you remember her final mission?”

He nodded again.

What was it?”

She was pursuing the wench, Solange.” He said. “But she was lazy. She sent out her hunting pack, but failed to follow them, preferring instead to engage in an afternoon siesta. They caught the quarry, but she was not there to nulify it and thus the wench escaped.”

Exactly,” the Queen said. She ran her long fingers down her advisor's triangular face. “And do you remember her fate?”

Mephistopheles stared down the sheer cliff, at the exposed red rock, worn by wind and rain. It looked a little like blood.

Yes,” he said. “I do.”

Well then,” she flicked her finger hard against his pointed chin. “You would do well to remember it. Think on it next time, when you decide to omit the truth from your words. Now, begone. I need to speak to Hunter Noir. Will you summon him to my pavillion, please. And ask him to bring his special pet.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

SocNoc, day 7

Today's Wordcount: 1,804
Total Wordcount: 18,445
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
Percentage: 28.6%

I have a sneaking suspicion that this is going to be a very long novel. I'm over quarter of the way into the 50k challenge and my party of heroes have yet to even leave home. Still, won't be long now - I'm setting that up nicely. And my characters are spending a fair amount of time bickering.

Also just placed an order for the "BBC: Madagascar DVD". It's Zone 2, which means I get to have all the fun of trying to work out how to make my DVD player change zone (it's a bit of a fiddle) but I am too impatient to wait until it is released in NZ. Plus I have purchased it plus 2 cds - for less than $60 NZ. And we wonder why the local retail market is collapsing... Anyhow, the dvd would be good for research. Also, looking through my photographs of our amazing holiday in Madagscar. So I might as well liven up this post with some photographs, instead of an extract.

Spiny forest of Ifaty, South-east Madagascar - where this story begins.

Verraeux's sifaka - this could be Matthieu. Or his sister, Celeste.

Ringtail lemurs (maki) - Karrazana and Reniko, maybe? Except that this setting is somewhat less natural than those found in the book.

The two lemur pictures were taken at Berenty, where lemurs fall from the trees, although they also live in Ifaty, we failed to see any in our time spent there. In Berenty we had them in our cabin and on our roof. It was wonderful!