Middle Grade March Promotion

I’ve teamed up with 30 other authors this month to promote our books for ages 8-13. There’s a fabulous line-up of books here, and many of them are on sale or free at some point during the month of March. I’ll be posting a link to a different book each day during the month on my Facebook page. Be sure to check back frequently for new deals—some only last a few days.

Sir Julius Vogel Award Nominations

New Zealand’s annual Sir Julius Vogel awards recognise excellence in science fiction, fantasy and horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents.

Fatecarver cover

The awards are named after a journalist and politician who was not only the Premier of New Zealand in the 1870’s, but also wrote what is regarded as New Zealand’s first Science Fiction novel—Anno Domini 2000—A Woman’s Destiny) which envisioned a New Zealand of the year 2000 largely run by women (which was quite prescient, given that in 2000 New Zealand’s Head of State, Prime Minister, Governor General, Attorney General and Chief Justice were all women).

The awards are presented annually by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand in a range of categories. 

To be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to the SJV awards in the past, in spite of their importance to the NZ speculative fiction community. But I was recently notified that my novel Fatecarver has been nominated for Best Youth Novel. 

Of course, I’m chuffed about that. But I know that in order to get onto the shortlist, Fatecarver will have to be nominated more than once, because the number of nominations determines which works move on to the voting round.

Hence this post. Anyone around the world can nominate an eligible work, and it doesn’t cost anything to do so. Now that at least one person has nominated Fatecarver, I’d love to see this book make it to the short list.

And while I’m at it, my short story, Deathventures Inc, which was published in the anthology Alternative Deathiness is also eligible for a SJV award for Best Short Story.

So if you have a moment, I’d really appreciate a nomination or two. Nominations are open until the end of March. The nomination form is here, and information and guidelines for the award are here

Thanks!

In Praise of the Pencil

I don’t consider myself a Luddite—at least not when it comes to writing. I publish e-books and use lots of online tools for marketing, distribution, etc. I love the writing software, Scrivener, and own both Adobe and Affinity design software for creating my print books and marketing material. I  don’t know how I would manage without all the tech I use for writing.

But I love pencils. 

There is something about the tactile sensation of a good, sharp, Number 2 pencil that unlocks my creativity. I love the way a pencil moves over the paper—with enough resistance you feel the shape of every letter. I love how the line thickness is responsive to pressure and direction. I love the warmth of wood beneath my fingers. Writing with a pencil is like caressing words into being.

I appreciate the erasability of pencil. I admire the elegance of letters formed in pencil. The sound of a pencil rasping across the page is soothing to me. I appreciate being able to write upside down, in the rain, and on multiple surfaces with a pencil. I love the fact that much of a pencil is actually used up in its use, and most of it is biodegradable. I love that a pencil can sit in a drawer for 50 years and still be perfectly functional.

I enjoy the contemplative nature of sharpening a pencil to the perfect point. The gentle grey of graphite on the page is easy on the eyes. Pencils require no electricity and can be carried anywhere.

I’m picky about my pencils—I can’t stand the not-proper-graphite, reconstituted-wood pencils. Real wood and soft flaky graphite are a must. Otherwise, the proper pencil mood doesn’t materialise. With a good pencil, dragons become real, magic portals open, and there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.

Guerrilla Art

We spent a night in Wanaka last week before our tramping trip. While wandering around town looking for a likely spot for dinner, we came across some poems stuck onto a bridge railing. 

Like a Banksy painting, the poems were certainly not ‘legal’ and were no doubt frowned upon by the local authorities. But also Banksy-like, they made passersby smile and think.

Years ago, when my husband and I lived in State College, Pennsylvania, we regularly took our walks in the agricultural fields near the edge of town. Along the path, shortly after leaving the neighbourhood, someone had installed a tiny section of sidewalk. Embedded in the concrete was the poem ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ by Shel Silverstein. There was no indication of who had installed the poem, and it was tucked away beside the field as though it had been surreptitiously installed in the dead of night. 

There are municipally sanctioned examples of Guerrilla art—art that appears in unlikely places. The poetry among the rocks along Wellington’s waterfront is one example. But there’s something particularly delightful about the non-sanctioned art—the amazing sand sculptures people create on the beach, the sidewalk chalk drawings that proliferated during lockdown, the splash of graffiti on train cars. It’s an expression of life and spirit, a proclamation of something uniquely human, a statement about human lives.

I think we all could use a little more guerrilla art in our lives. Thanks to the Brownston Street Bard for your lovely contribution. May the ink continue to flow from your pen.

Sunshine in a Teacup

I woke up to the sound of rain today. Not an unwelcome sound—the seedlings in the garden will appreciate it. Still, a rainy day inspires a certain amount of decadent self-care to banish the mental chill (even if it is perfectly comfortable indoors). 

My decadence this morning came in the form of pulling out a Sunday teacup for my coffee. 

We bought two of these cups at Driving Creek Railway in the Coromandel a few years ago—a Christmas gift to ourselves, and a real splurge. They’ve become our special occasion coffee mugs—used on Sunday mornings and Christmas Day only. In my mind, they’re associated with relaxation, holiday, and decadence.

So on this rainy morning, with a day of intense work on the next novel ahead of me (and no sunny-day excuses to get me out of it), I thought I needed a little motivation in the form of a special vessel for my coffee. A tiny thing, but it has made my day sunny, despite the rain outside.

Inspiring Landscapes

When I was writing my Dragon Defence League series books, I delighted in placing my characters in some of my favourite places in New Zealand—the mountains of Fiordland, Kahurangi National Park, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, and many others.

But New Zealand’s landscapes infuse my latest book, Fatecarver, even though it is set in a purely fantasy world.

While I was writing Fatecarver, I kept imagining specific places in New Zealand. I sat on a peak near Arthur’s Pass and imagined my characters there. I scribbled down descriptions of real views, storms, trees, and hikes to use in the book.

I took the New Zealand landscapes and mixed and mingled them with favourite places in the United States, Panama, Peru and Bolivia until the Fatecarver world included elements of a lifetime of adventures. 

Many of my fellow authors are adventurers like me. We take inspiration for our writing from dramatic landscapes and other settings we’ve experienced. The landscape becomes a character in its own right, thwarting other characters’ plans, throwing up challenges, or providing aid at a critical moment. Just like real landscapes do.

Natural landscapes play a huge role in my own real life adventures—it’s only natural to include them in my fictional ones.

Fatecarver–New YA Epic Fantasy

Fatecarver cover

With lockdown and everything, I completely forgot to announce that my new young adult epic fantasy, Fatecarver, is now available in both ebook and print formats!

Kalish had a plan. The gods had a different one.

Kalish expects to become her clan’s next fatecarver, channelling the wisdom of the gods into the storyscars of young women—tattooing their futures onto their skin.

But the gods have different plans for her.

Kalish’s own storyscar brands her a traitor.

Banished by her clan and rejected by those she loves, she sets out to find a new home, hoping to rewrite her own fate. But her storyscar is more complex than even the elders guessed, and her travels take her far beyond the understanding of her clan.

When she discovers a plot to destroy her people, she must decide: leave them to die, or save them by becoming the traitor they think she is.

Book 1 of this new young adult fantasy series takes you to a stunning landscape of harsh beauty and harsh consequences. Kalish’s journey of loss, love, and self-discovery is set against a backdrop of cultural conflict and religious taboos that challenge her sense of belonging. 

If you like action-packed fantasy, strong female characters and magic realism, you’ll love Fatecarver. Pick up your copy today and start your adventure!

My First Book

handmade book--Rainy Day Thing

I was going through a box of old stuff the other day, and I ran across my very first ‘book’—Rainy Day Thing—a how-to about paper snowflake making.

I remember creating this book, back in 1979 in the weekly gifted class my school district bussed me to. I remember folding the snowflakes to use as examples in the book. I remember the smell of the rubber cement I used to glue them on the pages. I remember the excitement of making a real cover, and having my About the Author page laminated (Laminated! Can you believe that? This was back in the days when very few schools had laminators—we were still using mimeograph machines and chalkboards.) I even remember posing for the author photo in the school library.

I don’t remember writing my author bio, however, and 42 years later, I’m amused at what I wrote: Robinne Weiss likes to draw, play kickball, read and play baseball and play basket ball. She is 9 years old. She has a sister and a brother.

First of all, the grammar is shocking—no huge surprise there. My 9-year-old students are at least as bad. But writing isn’t on the list. (And basketball is? I don’t even remember playing basketball at that age.)

I know that I published my first poem at age nine, and at age ten I recited my poetry on the children’s television programme, Christopher’s Magic Cocoon. 

I know that somewhere in those years, I wrote a poem for my dentist, and he hung it on the wall in the waiting room (much to my later embarrassment). 

I know that I took a creative writing class in high school, and a poetry class at university. In my junior year of university, I wrote a children’s picture book (long gone, now), and published a few more poems in literary journals that no longer exist.

Author page from Rainy Day Thing

While in Peace Corps, I poured out poems, and even published a few, printed out at the Peace Corps office in Panama city and posted to magazines on my weekly trips to town. I started writing a novel (never finished).

As a Masters student in entomology, I answered essay questions in verse (I’m sure my professors thought I was nuts), and wrote regular articles for the PSU Entomology teacher newsletter, Bug Bits.

After graduation, as a professional heritage interpreter, I wrote articles for trade magazines and local newspapers (one even won an award). I wrote curriculum materials for teachers and other interpreters. I started writing another novel.

I’ve never not written.

But if you’d asked me if I was a writer, I would have said no until a few years ago. And when I did decide to close down my interpretation business to write, the decision was fraught with emotion, because even though I wanted to give writing a go, I wasn’t a writer

I’m about to release my 11th book (not counting Rainy Day Thing). My writing has improved a great deal since 1979, and my covers are no longer made of wallpaper-covered cardboard. I no longer list baseball and basketball in my author bio.

But after decades of denial, I admit I’m a writer. And I’ve been one for a very long time.

Oh, and yes, I still remember how to make a paper snowflake. Maybe I’ll write a book about it someday. 

Why I Write

When my year eight students first learned I’m a writer, they wanted to know why I was teaching, since I must be rich.

JK Rowling, you have a lot to answer for.

Of course, the reality is, most authors need second and third jobs to make ends meet.

So why do we write?

I can’t answer for other writers, but truth is, I’m trying hard to turn my writing into a viable business. I would love to be able to make a living as a full-time writer. 

But that’s not why I write, nor is it the most important measure of success in my opinion.

More important to me are comments like these from readers and readers’ mums:

“I haven’t seen my son this excited by a book since Harry Potter!”
“I read your book in one day!”
“Three generations of our family read and loved your book.”
“My son’s not a big reader, but he’s devouring your books.”
“My kids sat with a map, tracing the travels of your characters.”
“You brightened our days.”
“Your books are as re-readable as Harry Potter.”
“You’re my favourite author.”

To me, one positive comment from a satisfied reader is worth a thousand sales. As a writer, I want to share worlds, introduce new friends, and communicate ideas. I want to make people feel things. If I’ve done that, it is enough.

Would it be nice to also be able to pay the mortgage with my writing? You bet. Maybe someday I will.

New Zealand punches above its weight when it comes to writers, and there are lots of local authors writing great books for kids. Come out and support them at the Tamariki Book Festival on 22 November. Who knows? You may meet your next favourite author!