First advance copy of Cock-a-doodle-doo!

So lovely to get the first advance copy! Such a fun book to write and so good to see it brought to such lively and funny visual life by the fabulous Kathy Creamer! Gorgeous endpapers, too.

Published in June by Little Pink Dog Books. Available in all good bookshops and directly from the publisher.

A Hundred Words for Butterfly in bookshops now

The print edition of A Hundred Words for Butterfly is now available through any bookshop, across Australia! Returning from my big five-week trip to Europe–including to the Basque country–I was delighted to receive copies from my lovely publisher, Bronwyn Mehan of Spineless Wonders, and to meet in person with her and SW team members Camilla Cripps and Bettina Kaiser, on a beautiful sunny day in Sydney!

Six weeks on a boat: a childhood ocean voyage

Something a bit different: a little video I made about an ocean voyage, from Australia to France, on a French ship, through the Pacific, Carribbean, Atlantic and then Mediterranean, a voyage which I went on as a child, with my family. It was an amazing trip whose memory still lingers in my mind, and which has inspired scenes in more than one of my books. My dad documented it all with his trusty super8 film camera, my brother-in-law recently converted the films to MP4 files, and I’ve made the video from screenshot stills captured from the films. I hope you might enjoy it!

A Hundred Words for Butterfly to be published in print!

I’m very pleased to announce that A Hundred Words for Butterfly, my adult audio-first novella published by Spineless Wonders Audio in September 2021, will now also be published in print! It will be released in the ES-Press imprint of Spineless Wonders in April, and distributed nationwide by NewSouth Books. Available in all good bookshops across the country, it has the same gorgeous cover as the audiobook, and the back cover also has lovely endorsements from the wonderful writers Wendy James, Nick Earls, and Carmel Bird. An ebook edition of the novella will also be available. So happy with Butterfly having new ways to reach readers!

Lovely first review for Sydney Under Attack

Just seen the first review of Sydney Under Attack, and it’s great! It’s by Ashleigh Meikle on the Book Muse blog. Here’s a short extract:

2022 marks the 80th anniversary of these attacks – which makes novels like this poignant and important. They remind us that everyone was touched by the war in some way – whether on the home front, on the battle fields, or through knowing someone affected by events far from where they lived, such as Mrs Stein being unable to help her family escape persecution in Europe. Sophie Masson not only touches on how Nick and his family are affected, but how Jewish people are affected, how people who have family stuck in other theatres of war were affected, and how assumptions about someone based on appearance can change when you get to know the person and understand them, and find out that they’re just a normal person, not a spy at all.

You can read the whole review here.

An article on community writing challenges in the pandemic

An article in which I was a joint contributor, wearing my hat as Chair of the New England Writers’ Centre, has just been published in the international academic journal Reflections, which focuses on issues of community writing engagement. The article, written with Ariella van Luyn from the University of New England(who is also on the NEWC Board) and Lyn Aspey, current NEWC program manager, is about how NEWC had to move our program online during 2020 and the first covid lockdown, and is centred in particular around the online course in historical novel writing which Ariella ran that year. Each of us wrote our sections from a particular perspective; myself as Chair, Ariella as course facilitator/presenter, and Lyn as both a course participant and later program manager. Ariella also wrote the introduction and conclusion.

Thought it might be of interest to readers: check it out here.

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!