Archive for New Zealand

Meet our September Star Author – Mary McCallum

Our super September Star Author is Mary McCallum.  As well as an author Mary has worked as a creative writing tutor, a bookseller, book reviewer, broadcast journalist and television presenter.  Mary’s first children’s book, Dappled Annie and the Tigrish was published earlier this year.

Thanks for joining us Mary!  We look forward to hearing all about your book and your writing.

Comments (4) »

Meet your favourite authors, illustrators and storytellers!

I’m going to be one of many authors, illustrators and storytellers at the Storylines Festival Family Day in Wellington this weekend.

These free family days are great fun. It’s a chance for you to meet writerly types and listen to magical stories. Plus there are fun competitions to enter too.

So come along and join in the story fun. There are family days being held in Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Whangarei and Auckland. 

Find out more about Family Days at the Storylines website.

Talk more soon 🙂

Comments off

Get set for super (duper) perigee moon!

Guess what? This year, there will be not one, not two, but three perigee supermoons. The first happened in April. The next is due early morning Monday 11 August, and the third will happen in November.

Which begs the question, what is a perigee moon, and why on earth did I end up with one in my book about Tilly Angelica, The Night of the Perigee Moon?

A perigee moon is when the moon is at its closest point to us here on earth. A supermoon is when the full moon and perigee happen together. Because it’s so close, and it’s the full moon, it looks amazing. Big, golden and HUGE. You can read more about supermoons here.

And a perigee moon ended up in my book because I happened to go stand on my back doorstep one night and saw one staring back at me. I was so taken with it that it ended up in my story.

That’s how I find my stories come together. I settle on a central idea, and then all sorts of other funny everyday events and happenings end up bossing their way in too.

When I started writing my book, I had no idea that a supermoon would end up being central to the story. That’s one of the things I love about writing – it’s an unfolding surprise, with moons, stars and all sorts of other enchantments wrapped up in it.

Now, go check out that moon!

Comments (5) »

Meet our August Star Author – Juliet Jacka

Our awesome August Star Author is Juliet Jacka.  Juliet is a New Zealand author, whose debut novel, Night of the Perigee Moon, was published earlier this year.   Biography for author Juliet Jacka.   Juliet has wanted to write for years, in large part inspired by her love of Margaret Mahy’s young adult books. Escaping the call of writing would have been hard, as she comes from a family of bookworms and crossword fanatics.

Thanks for joining us Juliet!  We look forward to hearing all about your books and your writing.

Comments off

How fast the world can change

This is my last post on the Christchurch Kids blog. Thanks so much for hosting me – I’ve had lots of fun putting together my thoughts and pictures. I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I have writing them!

No one in Christchurch needs to be told how the world around them can change within minutes.

1. Sumner library The Press

But for some reason, we assume ancient ruins fall to bits really slowly. Sometimes that’s true, but often it happens much faster. The Parthenon, perched on the Acropolis in Athens, was incredibly well-built. It looked like this for over 2000 years.

2. Parthenon replica Wikipedia

Then the Turks conquered Greece. In 1687 the Venetians attacked the Turks, and the Turks stored their ammunition inside the Parthenon. When the Venetians shelled the Acropolis, a cannon ball hit the magazine and the whole temple blew up.

3. The Parthenon explosion httpict.debevec.org

Since then, the Parthenon has looked suitably ruined, but not because of the ravages of time.

4. The Parthenon today httpwelshmattsmith.blogspot.co.nz

Here’s another example – the great hall at Mykenai, where Atreus pardoned his murderous brother Thyestes in Chapter 11 of Murder at Mykenai. This is what it looks like today. You can still see the round pillar bases and the central hearth.

5. Mykenai great hall today  Cath photo

Compare it to this artist’s impression of King Nestor’s great hall at Pylos. Compare the four pillars and the central hearth with the previous photo. Atreus’s hall would have been every bit as glamourous.

6. Nestor's great hall reconstruction Piet de Jong

The palace of Mykenai burnt down in about 1200 BC, because of a massive earthquake like Christchurch’s. In one night it went from being a fabulous building to a pile of ashes. Nestor’s palace was destroyed around the same time, through enemy invasion.

War and earthquakes have ruined much of what people built in ancient times. But we tend to assume the land has stayed the same. Geology measures change in millions of years, right?

Yes and no.

In 1991, 12-14 million cubic metres of rock and ice fell of the top of Mt Cook/Aoraki. Our highest mountain is now 10 metres lower than it was, the rockfall probably triggered by an earthquake. This kind of event is more common than we realise. Often it’s big, catastrophic events that shape our countryside.

7. Mt Cook Aoraki rockfall Bob McKerrow blog

Here’s something similar that happened in Greece. In my last blog, I mentioned I was staying in a fishing village. It’s called Korfos and it’s one of the few good harbours on a mountainous coastline. I was searching for the ancient Mykenaian port nearby, because I’m planning an enemy invasion on this coast for my next book.

I assumed the port would be on Korfos harbour. Instead I found it way over the hills overlooking a funny little headland. That’s it on the right of the picture, with Korfos on the left.

8. Korfos harbour area Google Earth

I was really puzzled till I found out that, in the Late Bronze Age, Korfos harbour was a swamp. About a hundred years after the ancient Mykenaian port was built, an earthquake lowered the swamp into the sea and turned it into a harbour. And part of the Mykenaian port disappeared into the sea too, like the lost city of Atlantis, taking its own harbour with it.

9. Lost city of Atlantis lukzenth via Photobucket

There’s lots more I could write about. The lake in The Bow has vanished. The town round Tiryns fortress is buried under 10 metres of flood debris. The Narrows, where Laertes’s ships held the evil king Thyestes at bay, is the gap between two tectonic plates that are moving apart … the list goes on.

If you want to know more, you can email me on cath@catherinemayoauthor.com  or visit my website www.catherinemayoauthor.com.

Comments off

Same but Different

Same but different

When I arrived in Greece at the end of May, I expected some things to be different but other things to be much the way they are back here.

Different:            Ruined temples
Everyone speaks Greek
The street signs look weird
They drive on the other side of the road

1. Athens street sign

The same:           Jeans and tee shirts
Motorbikes and cars (lots of motorbikes)
Coca cola
Cell phones

But then I got some real surprises. Like thunderstorms.

I love thunderstorms. When I was a kid, I’d stand on the dirt road outside our cottage on Waiheke, with the rain pelting down and the mud squishing up between my toes. After each flash, I’d count the seconds till the thunder came – BANG!-rumble-BOOM-BOOM-bump-thud-grumble-mumble. Then silence for ages, apart from the splish of the rain in the puddles.

In Greece last month, I was chased through the hills by a thunderstorm as I searched for an ancient road to Mykenai. I stopped the car and got out to watch. I soon realised this was different to any thunderstorm I’d ever experienced.

2. Thunderstorm over Limnes

For a start, I couldn’t see any lightning. But for the 15 minutes I stood there, the thunder never stopped. It groaned and muttered and growled away without a break, as if the sky god Zeus and his wife Hera were having an argument, with both of them insisting on having the last word.

And then there were the seagulls.

NZ seagulls drift through the air crying gkeee gkeee, when they’re not strutting about screaming Kaar Kaar Kaar at each other. That’s what all gulls do, right?

3.  NZ seagulls

Wrong. After I’d finished searching for my ancient road, I returned to the fishing village where I was staying. By now I was hungry, so I walked along the waterfront to a taverna. As I sat there, I heard a mewing sound. I looked about for the cat – Greek tavernas always have at least one cat and often about six.

5. Cat in a Greek taverna

But there was no cat to be seen.

After a while I realised the noise was coming from the seagulls sitting out on the water – you can see them as white dots out beyond the fishing boat. Close up they look just like NZ gulls.

4. Greek fishing boat and seagulls

Then I remembered reading some English story or poem, years and years ago, which talked about the “mewing of gulls”. The phrase had passed me by – it was so unlike anything I’d heard gulls do and I put it down to poetic fancy (ie: silliness).

This morning I decided to look up the Oxford Dictionary and there it was: “mew n. the characteristic cry of a cat, gull etc.” In fact, in England, another word for “seagull” is “sea mew” or just plain “mew”.  So European gulls are not the same as ours after all.

Sometimes it’s the big, obvious things that take you by surprise. But it’s just as much fun when some small unpredictable thing happens. It makes you look at everything in a fresh way, even the things that are the same.

Comments off

Stranger and Stranger

A few weeks ago I was wandering through a Greek olive grove, searching for a 3300 year old city (as you do). The first thing I came across was a herd of goats.  Soon after that I came across the goatherd, and when I asked him – in my very bad Greek – about the ancient city, he beckoned to me and set off through the trees.

Goatherd

I decided he must be leading me to some spectacular ruins, but instead we ended up at his camp, an untidy clearing with a rickety tin shed, some goatskins over a pole, a very friendly dog and her two young pups. By now I was starting to wonder what was going on.

Goatherd's camp

I soon found out. The goatherd produced a battered saucepan into which he poured some white liquid from a 20 litre plastic container. When he handed it to me, I knew I had no choice but to drink. It was fresh goats’ milk and it was absolutely delicious. This from a man who had almost nothing – by our standards. But because I was a stranger, he wanted to give me something.

What I’d just experienced was a Greek tradition called xenia that goes back thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, kindness to strangers was a sacred duty. The sharing of food and shelter bound people together almost like family. In Homer’s Iliad, the Greek hero Diomedes and his enemy Glaucus, a Trojan ally, stop fighting and swap armour because they find out their ancestors were guest friends.

Diomedes and Glaucus

And early on in my new book The Bow, Odysseus and Diomedes know they can trust each other for the same reason.

My Family and Other Animals book coverIf you’ve read Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals – surely one of the greatest (and funniest) books ever written – you’ll remember how Durrell was plied with food and wine by the peasants he met .Tourism is eroding this deeply embedded tradition, but you can still find amazing generosity in Greece if you travel off the beaten track – as I did.

These days, we’re increasingly careful around strangers.  A famous Dame Edna Everage quote goes: “My mother used to say that there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet. She’s now in a maximum security twilight home.”

Dame Edna Everage

I think my goatherd would have agreed with Edna’s mum.

Comments off

%d bloggers like this: