Inspired by The Ghost Squad…

It’s been a year since the release of The Ghost Squad, and right now I’m working on an exciting collaborative creative project inspired by the book, with the extraordinary artist Angus Nivison, under the auspices of Arts North West and the New England Regional Art Museum. We had a great meeting about it yesterday and it’s inspired me to put up again the stunning trailer for The Ghost Squad, created by Whiptail Productions. More details on the collaborative project soon!

Start with two eggs and end up with icecream and mayonnaise!

Okay, so what does that mean, exactly? What on earth do icecream and mayonnaise have in common? It’s simple: they both(or at least the home-made variety) start with an egg, or two, in this case, as I was making a decent amount of both icecream and mayonnaise.

Simply put, the icecream starts with two egg whites; the mayonnaise with two egg yolks. And you can make them at the same time–or, rather, one immediately after the other. Both recipes are ultra-simple: they’re my own invention(especially in the case of the icecream–haven’t really seen any other recipes quite like it) but can be easily reproduced by anyone.

So let’s start! Assemble your ingredients: two eggs, which are of course common to both recipes: best for them not to be too cold (cold interferes especially with the successful thickening of the mayonnaise), so if they are in the fridge, take them out at least half an hour beforehand. Then for the icecream, you’ll need pure full cream(NOT thickened or light cream); castor sugar; and flavourings as desired(see recipe below). For the mayonnaise, you’ll need sunflower oil, a very small amount of vinegar(say a quarter-half teaspoon), salt and pepper. You will also need bowls for the icecream and the mayonnaise(in the case of the icecream, you need two bowls, one for the egg white mix, one for the cream, and if you want to make different flavours like I did this time, you’ll need more than that, to separate them out.

Now separate the eggs, putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. I then made the icecream first but that’s not a rule or anything, you can do whichever first.

Icecream recipe (I call it my ‘snowball icecream’)

Beat the egg whites till soft peaks form, then add three tablespoons of castor sugar (one after the other, beating in between), beating the mix till it goes glossy, like meringue mix. Set aside and whip 300 ml of pure cream with one tablespoon castor sugar till glossy and thick. Blend the two mixes together, and that’s your base. Then flavour it with whatever you like: vanilla, melted chocolate, coffee, jam…The thing to remember is you must not mix in anything that is watery or juicy. So if you want a fruit flavour, for example, you use jam–strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, cherry are all especially delicious–not fresh fruit. The reason for that is that anything watery or juicy tends to form ice crystals: this icecream recipe makes particularly wonderful creamy soft-textured icecream which does not need any extra beating after freezing or special equipment, as long as you remember not to add those watery/juicy things. Below you can see the ones I made the other day: vanilla-flavoured(made with vanilla-bean-flavoured castor sugar, but you can also use vanilla essence); chocolate(dark chocolate melted with a tiny bit of cream) and strawberry(using our home-made jam made from divinely tasty Alpine strawberries).

This was to make a kind of home-made Neapolitan icecream. Okay, so then you put your icecream into a suitable container–if you’re making more than one flavour, you simply layer the flavours in the container) and stick it in the freezer. It will be ready in several hours: you can either make it in the morning to eat at night, or better still, make it in the evening to have for the next day. And that’s it! Like I said, no extra beating required, no special equipment of any sort(in fact I just use a hand beater to make the mix and that’s it) and the texture and taste is always wonderful. And it always works.

Mayonnaise recipe

Use a hand whisk for this one, it gives the best results. And by the way I use sunflower oil as experimenting has shown that gives the best classic subtle flavour: olive oil, which I normally use in sauces, is too strong, and other oils don’t seem to have the same subtlety as sunflower, in my experience, though canola is okay, and grapeseed oil as well. Add a tiny bit of vinegar to your egg yolks, stir in gently, then take your bottle of sunflower oil and slowly let in a trickle of oil into the yolks, beating as you go, then another trickle, whisking still, making sure that the egg is thickening up with the oil, and keeping that trickle going for quite a while so you get a good lot of lovely thick smooth mayonnaise. It shouldn’t be too ‘eggy’ in taste or too oily; taste it at various moments to check. Then add salt and pepper and any other flavourings you like: I’ve added piment d’Espelette to mine this time, but you can use herbs such as tarragon or thyme, or roasted garlic, whatever you fancy. Put in the fridge to cool–can be used within just a couple of hours. It will keep in the fridge, in a covered container, for around 3 days.

So now you can see how you can start with two eggs and end up with icecream and mayonnaise. Hope you enjoy creating your own!

Proof copy of Magical Tales from French Camelot

Just before New Year, what a lovely surprise in the mail: a proof copy of Magical Tales from French Camelot, my forthcoming book with the fantastic Lorena Carrington! To be published by Serenity Press in March 2022, it features my original translations and retellings of some great French Arthurian classic tales from the Middle Ages, principally stories by the great twelfth-century French writers Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France, illustrated by absolutely superb pictures by Lorena. It’s so good to be able to leaf through this first copy–looking wonderful!

By the way, the book is for adults and teenagers–certainly not for ‘7 plus’ as some websites have it.

Illustration by Lorena Carrington for ‘The Boy in the Forest, the Girl in the Wasteland, and the Fisher King’, from Magical Tales from French Camelot.

The Buyers: a short story to enjoy

Well, here we are now in the festive season: Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, New Year, all the lovely celebrations that happen at this time of the year. It’s not been the easiest of years for anyone, that’s for sure, but still we reach towards hope and joy as we approach the end of 2021. It’s a time when people like to relax and read, watch and listen to light, happy, warm stories full of love and magic and the unexpected. And it’s also a giving time. So I’d like to combine those things today and offer all my readers a short story I’ve written recently. It’s called The Buyers, it’s for adults, it’s set not long before Christmas, and I hope it will bring a smile to your face. You can download it from the link below.

(Do feel free to link to the story from this post but please note it is fully copyright-protected and cannot be used commercially. My authorship should also be acknowledged, if you share the story).

May you all have a peaceful and happy festive season, whatever you celebrate, and a relaxing and fun holiday break. And see you next year!

What’s inside Inside Story? Check this out!

There’s only two days left till the end of the crowdfunding campaign for Inside Story: the wonderful world of writing, illustrating and publishing children’s books, the wonderful non-fiction book about Australian children’s books which I’m involved in compiling. And UPA Books have created a great little video which gives you a bit of a glimpse into what you can expect to find in this unique, informative and beautiful book. Have a look–it’s worth checking out!

Cover reveal of Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!

I am delighted to reveal the fabulous cover of Cock-A-Doodle-Doo, my forthcoming picture book with Kathy Creamer, to be published by Little Pink Dog Books in June 2022. Isn’t it fantastic!

Here’s the blurb of the book:

Richie the rooster loved waking up the farm each morning. He loved it so much that he began to crow earlier and earlier. Again and again!  Stop, everyone cried. But Richie wouldn’t stop. Until one day…

A hilarious story about how sometimes you can have too much of a good thing, by the acclaimed author and illustrator team who also created See Monkey and Join the Armidale Parade.

This was a story that was such fun to write, and pure joy to see the wonderfully riotous, colourful and characterful visual world Kathy has created for the noisy but endearing rooster Richie, his long-suffering friends on the farm–and the sneaky intruder with the red coat 🙂 I think readers are going to have a lot of fun with it, too. Can’t wait till it comes out!

Find out more and pre-order the book at the Little Pink Dog Books website, here.

A Hundred Words for Butterfly now available on Audible

For anyone who uses Audible, some good news: A Hundred Words for Butterfly, narrated by the wonderful Sarah Kennedy and published by Spineless Wonders Audio, is now available for purchase there, just in time for the holiday season! You can get it free with an Audible trial if you’re not yet a member, buy it within a subscription, or buy it separately, as a non-member. If you do decide to obtain it via Audible, I’d be delighted if you could put up a review of it there. Many thanks!

And remember, you can of course also get the book on many other platforms, see the full list here. Reviews on any site very welcome!

Great little promotional videos from Spineless Wonders Audio

Spineless Wonders Audio have just produced a couple of fabulous little promotional videos, written, edited and filmed by the talented Ben Vella, for the books and authors featured in their growing audio book list. And of course I’m part of that, with A Hundred Words for Butterfly!

Check them out below: the first one features a quick grab of me talking about Authors Direct.

And below is the second video:

Cover reveal for Sydney Under Attack!

I am excited to reveal the absolutely stunning cover of my forthcoming historical novel for middle-grade readers, Sydney Under Attack, which is set in late May and early June 1942, at the time of the Japanese midget submarine attacks in Sydney Harbour.

The book will be published in March 2022 by Scholastic Australia, it was edited by Clare Hallifax, and the cover was designed by Chad Mitchell. Isn’t it striking!

Here’s the blurb of the book:

In 1942, 12-year-old Nick lives in Rose Bay, Sydney, with his mum, dad and sister, and dreams of becoming a writer like his dad. But with the world at war, Nick is constantly on alert for anything that seems out of the ordinary and then late one night he sees it! A plane! But no-one believes him! Then, the unimaginable happens. Sydney is attacked! And Nick starts noticing people behaving strangely. Is it just his imagination or something more sinister?

I hope readers will much enjoy this novel, which is as much a mystery and spy story as it is historical novel and war story. Nick was a great character to write–he is so lively, energetic, and imaginative, even if he does sometimes gets hold of the wrong end of the stick 🙂 And it was a fascinating book to research, too–trawling through documents, archival films and photos, and Sydney newspapers of the time (thank you, Trove!)

The book is part of Scholastic’s Australia’s Second World War series–it’s the third one, in fact. And I wrote the first in that series, too, War and Resistance, which was published in 2019. Sydney Under Attack also has a link not only to War and Resistance, but to another novel of mine, 1914, published in 2014, which was part of another series Scholastic published, Australia’s Great War. The three novels are linked through one French-Australian family, the Jullians, who appear in different roles in each of the three books, as main characters in the first two, across two generations, and as important but not main characters in the the third. It has been absolutely amazing to have been able to do that and keep the link through the three books!