Cristy Burne

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Holidays, with baby


Fergus explores King Arthur's legendary birthplace

I am horribly behind in lots of things, but right up-to-date in playing with Fergus, hugging Doug and having new adventures.

How do you spell “hectic”?
We’ve had a fabulous, if often stressful, month

And guess what?

We made it! We’re back in Australia and still sane!

After a few days with family in Perth, we are now staying with family in rural WA and planning to stay with a third lot of family back in Perth later in the week. By the time we’re once again on our own as a new family, we’ll have spent five weeks living out of a suitcase with three-month-old Fergus. Yikes! But fun.

Super-stimulation for the super-baby Fergus_crashed out
Fergus has coped extraordinarily well with all the moves: driving, flying, packing, unpacking and even jetlag (he adjusted in about three days and last night slept 12 hours for the first time ever!)(YAY Fergus!!).

He has managed to sleep in all manner of places at all manner of times. Flying thousands of feet above the ocean in a nearly-too-short bassinette is perhaps the cutest of them all: I reckon being three months old is more luxurious than flying business class.

He hardly stirred all through both flights, and Emirates provided a show bag of baby goodies as well as toy puppets, nappies and jars of baby food (perhaps a better option than the croissant breakfast? ;-))

A tip to travelling parents (well, it worked for us anyway): we’ve kept Fergus’ lambskin rug and hand-knitted rabbit as constants: whichever strange cot or unusual place he finds himself in, Lamby and Bunnie are there, smelling oh-so-sweetly of homemade yoghurt.

And what about the writing?
I’ve been quietly stressing about my writing while we’ve been traveling. This is because

a) I’ve done nothing, which always makes things worse, and

b) finding the chunks of time I’m used to is proving to be difficult in terms of logistics and motivation. (It’s much more fun to sit and play with Fergus all day long :-).)

During these days of semi-procrastination, I forget how much I love to write, how the hours tick by in a creative blur, how satisfying it is to get down some good words, how thrilling it is to be on the track of a new and exciting story. I know once I get back into it I’ll be away and buzzing again.

Fergus_faces_the_futureLooking forward
The key to Fabulous Happiness over the next few months is going to be discovering a balance between baby, family, fiction writing for pleasure, and copy writing for cash (know anyone who needs a good copy editor? ;-)). Plus an effort to stay fit, see friends, find a new house and car and pay the bills. So how hard can it be?

Bring it on: changing countries and nappies, relying on self-employment and self-motivation, recreating ourselves and our life. What will be next?

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Fergus loves travel!

Fergus_on_a_trainFergus loves travel!
We went to Preston last week, a fab university town about three hours by train from London.

It’s the first time we’ve been away overnight since Fergus was born, and he LOVED it.

He was either incredibly awake (alert, looking, laughing, reaching out, trying new sounds) or incredibly asleep (he didn’t think twice about sleeping for eight hours straight in the unfamiliar cot: what a champion!).

Recurring dream, anyone?
Actually I think Fergus slept better than me: I had a recurring dream about stage_frightbeing minutes from going on stage, but not knowing my lines. I rush around trying to find a copy of the script: I know if I can just be reminded of my first line, the rest will fall into place.

But guess what? There’s not a copy anywhere and noone else is around. Gulp! (Turns out my editor has the same recurring dream…anyone else?).

This actually happened to me as a kid in New Zealand: I got up on stage, all dressed up with an Aussie swagman’s cork hat and ready to recite Dorothea MacKellar’sMy Country“, and I blanked out.

I completely forgot the first line. I just stared through the dangling corks at the sea of faces watching me and sweated, waiting for someone to prompt me. It was a long wait. They probably thought I was going for dramatic effect.

Blackpool_piratesPiratical rumbustification
We also went to Blackpool, Britain’s old-school-British answer to Las Vegas. We ate fish and chips in a pirate-themed amusement park, with bells and whistles and buzzers going off, slow-motion pirate boats crusing overhead, zombie killers, soft toy grabbers, coin pushers…the works (I obviously don’t know their technical names…and we didn’t win a giant stuffed tiger)(We did, however, have an excellent time…I’d love to stay here for a summer and write!).

This weekend we’re off to Geneva, Switzerland, to catch up with friends before heading off to Australia at the end of the month. We’re lucky Fergus is so interested in new things! Here’s hoping he copes OK with aeroplane travel…it’s not my favourite way of getting around, but perhaps he can charm the air stewards into giving us great seats 🙂


Leaving London: Fergus pack your bags

We’re leaving London! The decision has been made.  The (one-way) flights have been booked.

Why? Oh, why?

Since Fergus was born our sense of time has changed. Each day seems more fleeting, perhaps because each day is such a significant portion of Fergus’ new life. Perhaps because the days seem to blur into a stream of spew, nappies and sleeps. (Perhaps because those sleeps are shorter than they’ve ever been before?)

But certainly something very strange has happened: Fergus is seven weeks old already, and yet surely it’s only been a couple of weeks? At this rate, in a flash of overgrown babygros and size-up nappies, he’ll soon be a year old and walking around, pushing mashed banana into his face, communicating in all-new grunts, well on his way to becoming a Real Boy. It’s happening way too fast.

Our Pre-Baby lives were plodding along at a very reasonable pace: we had lots of time to achieve our dreams and often did the things we talked about doing.

But Post-Baby is very different. Now it seems that time is racing, that we are getting older each day, and that if we don’t seize the moment and do the things we want to do… …things may change, time may pass, and we may miss out.

This Carpe Diem feeling has been strong since Fergus was born, and it’s led to…

The Big Decision

Right now, we’d rather be playing with Fergus and working on our dreams (writing great childrens books and crazy-fun computer programs). So it’s out with the “real jobs” and in with the family time. And that includes the grandparents, great grandparents, aunties, uncles, great and honorary aunties and uncles, the works. Plus bush, beaches, deserts… And more time to focus on creative projects that often get pushed to one side.  YAY!

So it’s back to Perth, Australia, for Fergus and his pals (that’s us). We leave October 31 (but we may well be back in June 2010, when the next Frances Lincoln award is announced and Takeshita Demons comes out…it’d be a shame to miss all the excitement!).

We’re sad to leave, but excited to be heading home after 2.5 years on the move. It’s been a long (and lovely) honeymoon. Doug’s last day was yesterday, so we’ve now got more than a month to play in London’s parks and fuel imaginations with London’s energy. Bring it on!

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Contracts, proofs and Takeshita Demons II and III?

Last week I had an extremely exciting meeting with my publisher, Janetta Otter-Barry, at the Frances Lincoln HQ. It was the first time we’d met since Fergus was born, and of course, Ferg had to come along too (I’d hate for him to miss out on the excitement!).

Fergus spent most of the meeting on the floor (we don’t have a pram so he’s used to being plonked on whatever surface is available) kicking and admiring the artwork on the walls. Janetta and I spent most of the meeting discussing terms of my publishing contract… I took along a long list of questions, many flagged by the Society of Authors (bless them!) and Janetta was fabulous in listening to all my questions and concerns. She’s taken away some of my requests to be discussed with the Contract Powers That Be, and she’s confident we’ll be able to sort out answers.

Vampires? Hah! Try meeting an ushi-oni "cow devil" in the middle of the night!

Vampires? Hah! Try meeting an ushi-oni "cow devil" in the middle of the night!

We also looked at an unbound proof for Takeshita Demons… Woo hoo! It looks great. Can’t wait to see the bound proofs!

Of course, nothing’s perfect: they got my name wrong in a couple of places (Cristy Byrne instead of Cristy Burne), but I’m entirely used to that. What would life be without a little trouble with your surname? (It’s ironic because Miku Takeshita, the hero of Takeshita Demons, has trouble with her surname too…)

…and Takeshita Demons II and III?
And the most exciting bit? Way back when I first met Janetta I asked her about the possibility of making Takeshita Demons part of a series. She said: “Interesting; send me a proposal” and I did. I did a heap of extra research into Japanese demons (called “yokai” in Japanese) and scared myself silly with some of the creatures that exist in Japanese mythology (vampires? hah! vampires don’t scare me anymore!!). Plus I brainstormed some cool story ideas and some ace new characters, and I spent ages plotting and re-plotting and thinking and re-thinking, and then I put it all into a proposal and sent it through.

The result? Janetta liked the ideas, and so do her sales team. Fingers crossed you’ll soon be hearing confirmation that the June 2010 Takeshita Demons will be the first of at least three scary children’s books in the Takeshita Demons series…

More soon…

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Babies, contracts, membership cards: It’s all happening

thinkingmanWhile I was sleeping: Baby life

The last few weeks have been a delicious haze of sleep deprivation, little fingers and toes, and all-permeating baby-milk smell. There have been trying times (you won’t eat, you won’t sleep and it’s 1am; repeat every three hours) and incredible times (watching Fergus figure out how to handle his head, watching him process new bits of this all-new world, watching his face crack into a smile). Plus there are fun bits: Bath time is hilarious…he goes all gooey and quiet and would float there all day if we let him.

It’s going quite well — screaming and massive poo spillage aside — and I feel we’re almost experts at this baby thing now.  (Just four weeks ago I’d never held a newborn and knew approximately two children, both of whom live in Switzerland).

What’s this in my mailbox? Publishing lifequestaconsciencecircus

In the last few weeks things have really heated up for Takeshita Demons. My publishing contract offer has arrived! I’m expecting to receive an edited version of the manuscript in today’s mail! And we’re planning to have proof copies of the book available for distribution at the Youth Libraries Group Conference in Warwick in early September ! Triple fantastic!

We’re also hoping (although it’s not yet confirmed) that I will be able to join a panel of Frances Lincoln authors at another conference in late September. This will be my first presentation as a fully fledged author: I can’t wait (I love presenting: I’ve spent years traveling Australia as a science presenter, including a year as part of a science circus!)(can you spot me in the photo?).

I can fly! I can fly! Authorly life

My membership card for the Society of Authors arrived this week…WOW! I’m being taken seriously as an author. This is a dream come true! And I can’t recommend joining the SOA enough: the advice they have offered on my contract (thank you!), the book store discounts (woo hoo!), the “members only” advice and fact sheets, plus the special interest groups (I’m a member of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group and can’t wait to meet the other members at a future event!).

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Tales of poo and vomit

So…a funny tale from Fergus-land…

IMG_4974We had a newborn hearing test today, since Fergus’ ears were too stuffed up at the hospital to give a good result (he was only hours old and it’s common for the test to fail when they’re so little).

The clinic was a short walk away, the sun was shining, yesterday we had a very successful trip to a coffee shop and the day before a great trip to have lunch with Doug (no nappy changes, one feed, no crises), so I was feeling pretty confident. I even wondered about taking the change bag to the clinic, since the test takes only 15 seconds per ear and the clinic is just a short walk away. Who needs to lug a massive heavy change bag for such a piddly distance and on such a hot day? But, since I’m new to all this, I thought it would be good practice to take it anyway. THANK GOODNESS!

Quite Serious Nappy Malfunction

Poor Fergus was virtually cooked by the time we got there…It was super sunny, I was sweating, and he was sandwiched between the carrier and me, so he was also very warm. As soon as I took him out of the carrier he did a noisy poo and then started crying and wouldn’t be consoled. I tried a few different consoling positions before realising that we were suffering from Quite Serious Nappy Malfunction.

Unfortunately, by trying a few different consoling positions, I had successfully spread the leaking poo to a few different clothing positions, including both legs of my pants, the carrier, my shirt, and of course Fergus’ cute duck outfit. Without the change bag we would’ve been faced with Full Scale Disaster. Thank goodness I took that bag! Instead we had a Minor Crisis.

Safe at last?

I found a spot to change him and wiped most of the poo from most of the places I’d managed to spread it (hooray!), and we finished repairs just in time for our appointment. The test went well, but Fergus got hungry as soon as his nappy was done, so I had to breastfeed through the test to stop him from crying (the test only works if everything is quiet). After the test we managed to finish the feed in the corridor, sitting on their nice couch. cuteduckoutfit

But poor Fergus has been suffering from gas and bad burping, combined with lots of vomiting. So as soon as the feed was finished, he let out two man-sized burps and then spewed up his lunch all over their nice couch. D’oh. Whoops. Argh! More wiping up, more repairs, then quick smart back in the carrier and we legged it home. Luckily it’s much cooler at home, and now Ferg is asleep as a semi-nudist on the couch (new nappy in place!), exhausted after such a hot and eventful morning. Busy times!

We’re looking forward to the weekend when we’ll have Doug back full-time to play with…he’s getting much more playful and aware (Fergus, not Doug)(although Doug is also quite playful and aware)…

Can’t believe he’ll be 3 weeks old on Sunday!! Amazing!

OK…that’s my funny tale for this week 🙂 Back to the crazy world of newborn-ness…

And the children’s horror continues next week…I’ll post a great interview with children’s horror writer Alexander Gordon Smith…watch this space!


Fabulous Fergus is born!

FergusIt’s been a long time between posts, mostly because I’ve been waiting and watching for any signs of labour to begin.

Due 7 July, I expected to at least feel something in the lead-up to that date. But no. I was Wooden Cervix Woman. Weeks later, with my Mum (who flew all the way from Australia to be here to meet her first grandchild) due to leave any day, there had still been no progress. The little man hadn’t even engaged. He simply was not keen to leave!

Finally, after planning and hoping for a home birth, we were 12 days overdue and time was still ticking on. We decided to opt for an induction, kicking off the process when we were 12 days overdue. What a great decision!!

The midwives at Homerton Hospital were all AMAZING (thank you! thank you!) and my Mum and Doug were an incredible support and inspiration. Doug and I been practising hypnobirthing techniques for a few months in the leadup, and that was also a great decision. The labour was quick and we got through the first phase just using relaxation and breathing techniques (I remember enjoying some massive endorphin buzzes after early contractions!)…It was an incredible bonding experience and by the next day I couldn’t tell you what a contraction felt like. Everything but the buzz has faded.

Fergus_and_DadThe second phase was a bit trickier…Fergus has a massive head (all those brains! :-)) and I needed a hand getting him out. Again, the Homerton staff were incredibly professional and friendly and supportive. I wouldn’t change any part of that mad, wonderful, INTENSE day for anything. In the end we were about 12 hours from waters breaking to Fergus arriving – it all seems like an incredible dream. My full and utter respect to everyone involved in childbirth. Anyone who has ever given birth or supported someone giving birth has been part of something utterly incredible.

Time now to feed this gorgeous little guy…His stats for those keen on such things: Fergus popped out at 3.97 kilos (8 pounds 12) and 56 centimetres long (what legs!).  YAY!

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Runner up in travel writing comp

Wahey! I Googled myself today (was thinking of applying for an Emerging Writer grant with the Australian Society of Authors so was searching for any eligible writing credits)(as if I need an excuse to Google myself ;-)) and discovered I am a runner up in the 2009 Independent on Sunday/Bradt Travel-Writing Competition. Stoked! Apparently that means  was “nominated for the final by one or more judge, but didn’t quite make it.” Just as well really! The first prize was a holiday for two to Columbia, taken within 12 months of winning (not something we could readily undertake with a new baby, due any day now) and “unpublished” catetgory prize was a writing retreat in Spain, also not something that goes well with a newborn 😉

Congratulations to the six writers who made it through to the finals… Although Judge Matthew Parris makes the final decision, you can read the finalist’s articles online and choose for yourself who the winners should be…

And in other news: the publishing contract from Frances Lincoln Books, my Takeshita Demons publisher, is on it’s way (apparently I should call if it doesn’t arrive by Wednesday!) and I am biting my nails waiting for a response from an agent who has Beyond the Safe Zone, my 50,000-word adventure thriller for kids. And of course, I’m days short of 39-weeks pregnant, which leads to nail-biting of an entirely different kind. (Is this my last free weekend? Or are there still weeks to go?).

I’m not good at waiting around, so we’re booking dinners (Japanese!) and I’m working on some science writing for G-Day UK‘s Square Kilometre Array event. Not heard of the Square Kilometre Array? It’s going to be the world’s largest radio telescope, formed from thousands of individual dishes spread over a million square kilometres and giving us the power to see more of the universe than ever before possible: a 10,000-fold increase on anything previously possible. Awesome huh!

Then there’s the computing behind it: Apparently our planet generates an exabyte of data every year. The SKA will produce the same data volume every day. How’s that for incentive to innovate!? Watch this space: I’ll post a link to the full article and you can follow progress on this massive project.

Oh, and did I mention? My home state Western Australia is one of two places in the world still in the running to host the telescope. Apparently the population density at the proposed site (three millipeople per square kilometre) is just right for minimal interference from mobile phones, microwaves and garage door openers…that sort of thing. Being a desert state has its advantages… Go WA!

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Slime-licking demons, taiko drums, and a very wriggly baby


Thanks to Patrick Gannon for this awesome idea of what an akaname might look like. I think one thing becomes very clear from reading this: you need to clean your bathroom people!

So it turns out one of the big things about publishing is that it takes longer than I ever imagined. Apparently Takeshita Demons will come out in June 2010, after being “unearthed” late April 2009. Translation: a fairly straightforward book takes longer to brew than a baby! I sit here 37 weeks pregnant. My book is only 5 weeks into its 56-week gestation. I guess I’ll just have to learn patience.

Clean your bathrooms people!

Since I last met with publisher Janetta I’ve put together a wicked proposal for two more Takeshita Demons books, both of which are super-scary and follow Miku and her pals on further supernatural adventures. It’s really amazing how many cool demons are out there. This time I managed to include my favourite, the akaname (aka-na-me). He’s a groovy little guy who likes to lick the slime from poorly cleaned bathrooms. He comes out at night, when you’re asleep in your bed, so if you wake up needing to go to the loo, watch out!! Check the bathroom ceiling, check inside the bath. If it’s been a while since you cleaned your bathroom, chances are the akaname is cleaning it for you.

Kodo’s “One Earth Tour”

And in other news, Doug and I went to see Kodo, the world’s most awesome taiko drumming group, at the Southbank Centre. They were incredible! Tickets were less than ten pounds and theykodoekkyo only played two nights: we snapped them up just in time. Their flyer says that taiko “is felt in the body, as much as heard,” and that’s entirely true. Kodo is a full-body experience. When those drums are going, the whole place is fizzing, your whole body is humming. The baby was going mental…he wriggled through the entire performance and was pretty much asleep all the next day.

Seeing Kodo is as much theatre as concert. The performers are as much athletes as they are musicians. Their stamina and muscular strength leave me gaping. The skill and control required to pound those drums with such rhythm and unrelenting power…breathtaking. We were in the second-back row and I could see thigh muscles rippling, back muscles shining: that’s the kind of power I’m talking. This was the second time I’d seen them (the first was in Japan) and both times the audience has erupted into joyous, spontaneous applause, clapping along to the finale and standing to give the players an ovation they truly deserved. If you ever get a chance to see them—especially for nine pounds—do it. It’s magic.