Riddles

As a kid, I was a huge puzzle freak.

I liked jigsaw puzzles; the games Rush Hour, Tantrix and Labyrinth; brainteasers; and books like Rowan of Rin and Artemis Fowl and The Eleventh Hour. I loved it when books gave me a chance to solve the problems with the characters. Often, I’d flip back to check out a problem again.

Once, in Grade Three, I had a brilliant teacher who set us a basic substitution code – A = W, but B = F, C = J etc – and I liked it so much, he set me another one. I spent all of playtime figuring it out. I still remember the message: ‘when I was born, I was so surprised that I couldn’t speak for a year and a half!’

Riddles have a very long history indeed. The oldest riddle ever is probably the riddle of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, an Ancient Egyptian problem from 1650 BCE that is similar to the ‘As I was going to St Ives’ riddle:

Seven houses keep seven cats; each cat eats seven mice; each mouse would have eaten seven ears of corn; each ear of corn would have produced seven hekat of grain. How many things are described?

catriddle 

Apparently, there are lots of possible answers. The mathematical answer is 19,607, which makes it a straightforward multiplication problem. But you could also say, for instance, that the answer is five: houses, cats, mice, corn and units of volume are five different things.

Riddles show up a lot in folklore and fairytales, which is probably why they show up so often in fantasy. Not complaining! It gives me the perfect excuse to put riddles in my own stories. Here are a few from my research and development for The Celestial Kris and The Grandest Bookshop in the World. Some of these didn’t end up fitting into the stories. For instance, in The Celestial Kris, the riddling character has a fixation on family, motherhood and being loved, so all of her conundrums (yes, it’s a word, we are descriptivists around here) are kind of in that vein.

Below every riddle is the answer in white text, so highlight the words to see them. 

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The wrong hand

This is a poem about being left-handed. Kind of. I’m sure different people will relate to it for different reasons.

I’m glad I live in a time when differences of all kinds are celebrated, and becoming more accepted every day. And considering my many eccentricities, I’ve gotten off fairly lightly. But living as a ten-per-center in a ninety-per-cent world has its ups and downs.

 

left handed prejudice IM ASEXUAL YALL

 

the philosophy was

my right side was weak

there must be some glitch

or i wouldn’t lean that way

 

it will be easier for her

and it would have been

the world isn’t made for them

it wasn’t, and it isn’t

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Fading (a short story)

This year, you’ll be seeing a lot more creative work on the Narratograph. You enjoy it more, I enjoy it more, it just makes sense.

Short stories are a form I’ve never really been able to nail down. They’re like those tiny meals you get in fancy restaurants, where it’s, like, two pieces of ravioli stranded at the bottom of a bowl the size of a bathtub. That is to say, even though they might be delicious, they’re over too soon and I’m left unsatisfied.

Still, now and then I do a bit of flash fiction as an exercise or personal challenge. Think of them as lollies, rather than desserts that turned out too small. This one ended up being very personal and very challenging. Excuse my self-indulgence in using the second person. These are the things I wish I could say to a specific person, so nothing else really felt right.

But it’s the most personal truths that have the greatest resonance.

***

IMG_0263

It’s okay if you don’t remember.

I tell you several times a day now. It’s okay. I tell you because somebody must. Because you are hearing everything for the first time. Because you don’t understand the world anymore, and that frightens you.

My brother is so tall now. You see him every Sunday when you visit my-mother-your-daughter. You might not remember him, but that’s okay.

Every day, you unravel a little more. You say it’s the appliances that are broken, the newspapers mistaking the date. Someone, you tell me, is changing the things for the light. You roll your eyes when I’m the one confused. You’re convinced a stranger has been moving the light switches in your house, but I don’t figure that out until later.

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Unusual (but helpful) writing tips

Everyone has advice for an emerging writer. Tiny children, wizened elders, people who think a conjunction is something you get in your eye – everyone who has ever enjoyed a story, or not enjoyed it, has something to offer. Some of it is so well-known, it has bled over into the public consciousness.

That’s not the ground we’re going to tread today. You can find that any-old-where. Sometimes, as a noob, you just want some help and all that Mr Internet (or indeed, your nearest and dearest) can offer is follow your heart and write what you know and but you know Harry Potter got rejected 67 times (or 34 times, or 59 times, or 102, or eleventy-threen or whatever)Which, of course, is very nice for your friends and family to say, and it’s wonderful to have their support. But it may not be particularly useful, because sometimes your heart has bad ideas, or you don’t know enough just yet, or comparing yourself to an author far more successful than you’ll ever be somehow doesn’t help.

So here, in no particular order, is some rare but helpful advice I’ve collected over the past twenty-odd years of storytelling, which has helped to boost my confidence as an up-and-comer – and of course, helped me improve my craft.

  1. Rejections are battle scars.  

maaaaaanly

SF novelist and game writer Chuck Wendig offers this advice on the hardship every writer must face:

‘You need to see rejection as bad-ass Viking Warrior battle scars, as a road-map of pain that makes you stronger, faster, smarter, and stranger. A writer without rejections is like a farmer with soft hands.’

I stumbled across this last year when I was at a low point. This is not an unusual sentiment, exactly, but Wendig’s advice is phrased in an evocative and funny way that makes it easy to hold onto when things get tough.

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Q&A post with your host

Things are a bit hectic at the moment with all the adulting and editing I’ve had to do lately. As a result, today’s post is going to be a bit of sorbet (light fluffy writing) – mainly so I can use my best writing energy on The Celestial Kris. My mentorship is going marvellously and it makes me want to get this book done as soon as I can! Especially before I start my Masters degree in a few weeks.

I recently listened to a very funny Q&A episode from one of my favourite podcasts, so today, I’m doing something similar.

 

  1. Are you named after anyone? Weirdly enough, it wasn’t until after I was born that my parents found out that the name Amelia has been carried down on my mum’s side. They just liked the sound of it. As my tagline describes, Amelia means ‘industrious’, which is definitely true of my personal projects… perhaps to the detriment of more everyday tasks.
  2. When was the last time you cried? Um… well, non-Australian readers, there’s this government initiative called Centrelink which is supposed to help students, but…
  3. If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself? Either we’d be massive weirdoes together and have the best time, or I’d be so jealous of that over-achieving bitch that I’d explode.
  4. What do you look like right now? Like this. WIN_20180123_11_47_59_Pro

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Little Raven

I can’t pick a favourite animal, but the subject of today’s poem has a special significance for my family and me.

The Little Raven, native to the region where we live, shares a name with us. Ever since we noticed this, we always keep an eye out for ravens, and we like to think they’re keeping an eye out for us. Even in the most barren environment I’ve ever visited (4200m above sea level in the Himalayas), there were no trees, but there were ravens. Ravens and crows are also incredibly smart and sociable animals, but a lot of people feel intimidated by them – which is also true of my family.

I like to think that if I were to have a daemon, Patronus, guardian spirit or familiar, mine might be a raven. Although, to be honest, there are far more people and personality types than cool animals. And 80% of all extant animals are invertebrates, so realistically, I’d probably end up being something kind of lame, like a velvet worm or some long-extinct beetle.

Anyway, I like ravens. I’m always learning more about them. Fans of the noble velvet worm will have their day, but today belongs to the Little Raven, who I reckon gets a bad rap.

 

 

Few love them

with their harsh calls

their charcoal-sheen feathers

their predatory eyes

the sharp beaks and talons of

Corvus mellori.

corvus1

 

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