Saturday, January 27, 2007

Greetings Britain... this is Australia calling...

In a couple of days' time my third book, 'African Sky' will be published in the UK.

This is quite a big deal for me, because up until now my books have been published in Australia, and distributed to New Zealand and South Africa, but not the UK. The only international deal I've had so far was a Dutch translation of Far Horizon, which morphed into "The Elephant Hunters".

I'm excited by it, and also pathetically grateful to my very good friends at Pan Macmillan for taking a risk on me (enough sucking up?).

Seriously, though, it's like getting published for the first time all over again - which is a great feeling. The UK office has also done a terrific job in negotiating deals for me in Germany for African Sky, and in Germany and Italy for Far Horizon.

Thanks Anna, Jeremy, Rebecca, Jon, Dave, Sandra and everyone else on the team.

Above is the re-designed cover of African Sky, for the UK release.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Books, beaches and Kariba Houseboats.

Well, not much to report from the land downunder. It was hot and dry, and now it's hot and raining. Mrs Blog and I are missing the little things we take for granted in Africa, such as electric fans and mosquito nets. So much for life being easier in civilised Australia. I woke up this morning covered in mozzie bites (though at least there's no risk of malaria).

I've been hard at work on editing my fifth book the past couple of weeks. This chiefly involves sitting on the golden sands of Sydney's Manly Beach, reading through a hard copy of the first draft and attacking it with a red pen. Hard work, as you can imagine.

It's not all beer and skittles, though, this writing caper, and not nearly as cushy as you might think. Last week the water temperature was unseasonably cold and on another day I had to walk 100 metres back from the beach to my serviced office becuase I'd forgotten my red pen. Yes, dear readers, I do suffer for my art.

Well, enough of that. My new best friends, Pan Macmillan London, have been looking for ways to promote the forthcoming release of African Sky in the UK and have got me working on a couple of ideas for travel stories for the UK press.

This gave me a good excuse to contact the owners of a houseboat on Lake Kariba. Mrs B and I, along with many unruly friends, stayed on the good ship Return to Eden in 2004, in celebration of my becoming a grown-up (turning 40).

Australian houseboats are about as big and appealing as floating caravans, so our expectations were not high for something cruising on a man-made Lake in land-locked Zimbabwe. However, we were in for a shock.

Return to Eden is like the Titanic of the houseboat world (OK, bad analogy, as it's still afloat, but you get the picture... Big... Luxurious... Like to be rude with Kate Winslett on board - sorry Mrs B).

Anyway, this is THE way to go game-viewing; sleeping in one of six air conditioned double cabins, with en-suite. One freakily appealing feature is the fact that the toilets look out through deck-to-deck full-length windows. There's no one to see you... except for the odd hippo or elephant, but it's not for those who suffer from stage-fright.

The houseboat, which has top deck big enough to launch an FA-18 Hornet from, and a bar to make an Aussie weep with joy, tows along two little self-propelled platforms from which guests can go fishing or animal spotting. We did plenty of both on the trip.

A houseboat holiday is a must for any serious Africa-o-phile. If you're going to do Lake Kariba, do it in style and be the King of the World on board Return to Eden. (Yes, this is another shameless plug, but they really do deserve it - unlike Land Rover, which will get no more plugs until I get my new/reconditioned gearbox).

Above and below are just a couple of the many animals we saw on the trip...