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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Writer's Forensics Blog: Another Useful Blog For Writers

I found this on Jordyn Redwood's "how to hurt your hero" blog and have signed up for email notification. The site is called The Writer's Forensics Blog and has regular posts about things of interest to the kind of writer who needs to hurt a hero for the purposes of a crime novel or thriller. I have to admit, I've not written such fiction, but you never know when you're going to need information about whether the poison of the blue-ringed octopus can turn you into a zombie if it doesn't kill you, or some of the weird things people eat, which kill them.wri

I'm a big fan of forensics, probably starting with my childhood dream of becoming an archaeologist.

The author, D.P.Lyle, has written a lot of books himself, both fiction and non-fiction, and has helped out with forensic information for a large number of TV crime shows, so I think he'd know what he's talking about!

Why not wander over and check it out?

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Find, A Veritable Find!

I LOVE the Internet and ebooks! I have found, at last...

But first, for my friend Stephanie Campisi, a Haiku with unicorns in it, based on Wolfborn:

Golden sky above,
My friend's horse a unicorn,
Armand, you are shamed!

Okay, I can see a real Haiku poet sneering, but it has the five/seven/five thing and it does feature nature as required, so hope you like it, Steph! You really did like that scene, didn't you? (g)

If you haven't read the book yet, it's in Chapter 9, set in the Faerie Otherworld, and has the kind of silliness both Steph and I enjoy. I do silly. I can't help it. 

Now, speaking of Faerie, I have at last acquired an e-copy of Robert Kirk's The Secret Commonwealth Of Elves, Fauns And Fairies, written back in the 17th century and a classic, a must for writers of the kind of folklore fiction I write. This edition has an introduction by Adrew Lang, who did all those coloured "Fairy Books" (I have the Blue one on my virtual shelves, courtesy of Project Gutenberg). It's said that Robert Kirk never died but was carried off by the Fairies. Well, I'm still reading the intro because Andrew Lang was a big name in folklore himself, and am having a ball. And you know how it is when you read something and, to paraphrase Helene Hanff,author of 84 Charing Cross Road, you find something interesting and say, "Hold on a minute!" and go check it out? Of course, she was writing a long time ago, when you had to go look it up in the library, but I bet she would have loved the Internet, which was just starting when she died. 

So, there were references to a book by Sir Walter Scott, on witchcraft and demonology, and like Ms Hanff, I said,"Hold it right there!" and went to find it with my good friend Mr Gutenberg and there it was. The intro to that one told me things I hadn't known, such as that he spent the last years of his life paying off a massive debt that wasn't his fault. Poor Walter!

But his book is there now, on my virtual shelves.

And I have the famous Secret Commonwealth! It was one of the books Melissa Marr used in her research for the Wicked Lovely series. Se really did some good research for those, some of them books I already had, such as The Fairy Faith In Celtic Countries, but this was one that had eluded me till now. And for $2.99 I now have access to it. There is an online edition, but I'd rather do it as an ebook, much easier to handle, and you can flip the pages.

Research is so much easier since the Internet!

PS What do you mean you haven't read 84 Charing Cross Road? It's a must-read for anyone who is passionate about books and reading.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sunday Morning Waffle On Giveaways, Rereads and Wolfborn Haiku

I'm in bed listening to the radio, rereading some books despite a mile-high to be read pile of review copies, sipping chamomile tea and going back over some interview questions for I Am A Reader blog, where I intend to promote my novel's arrival in the US with interview and giveaway. It may be my last giveaway for a while; I never seem to have much interest from either this web site or my Goodreads account, even when I invite entries just to give their details in the comments section.

And yet, those who have entered these small giveaways have always been terrific people. Through them I have had one great review, even though it came months later, I have been able to give a copy of Wolfborn to a lovely lady who had a second try after my first I Am A Reader hop and another to one who gave ME a present, the beautiful HUGE cup from which I am sipping my chamomile tea, I have met a library technician determined to get her primary school library going again... Worth it, I guess, if hard work(and who would think it would be hard work to give something away?;-D)

Anyway, we'll see how this one goes on the I Am A Reader site. My guest post on Dear Teen Me should be coming up soonish and I will include a link here when it does.

Meanwhile, here's my answer to one question, "Write a Haiku about your book ":

"Autumn leaves  fall soon,
My lord then in wolf skin trapped,
Perhaps forever".

Hopefully that will intrigue...;-)

What do you all think?

Ray Harryhausen On Saturday Arvo

I'm sitting in the living room watching a Saturday afternoon matinee movie. It's Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger. Prince Kassim has had a spell cast on him by an evil sorceress. The prince's sister (Jane Seymour) and her uncle plead with Sinbad to help. He replies,"It alchemist, a great magician, a..."- Doctor? ;-) Patrick Troughton is in it as a dotty old Greek scientist, with a long beard and hair. And come to think of it, that "key" looks somewhat like a sonic screwdriver,

There were lots of Harryhausen's stop-motion critters, starting with sort-of-skeletons like those in Jason And The Argonauts and going on to the Minoton which accompanies the villainess and the Prince as ape and ... Lots!

There's an endearing silliness about these old movies. And Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to show them. It was when kids were off school and could go. I went to a lot of them when I was a child, with my friend Denise and her sisters. We'd meet outside the Victory cinema(now the National Theatre), a grand old 1930s cinema, and buy popcorn and White Knight nougat bars and go sit in the balcony to enjoy whatever nonsense was on that day.

 The matinee was on at two in the afternoon. You got two movies, a newsreel and a cartoon- that may have been why there were only two sessions a day.  I saw such delights as Jack The Giant Killer,  which featured stop motion animation that looked like Harryhausen's but wasn't, such as the two-headed ogre, and The Magic Sword, which was actually kind of scary. I bought that one on DVD at an el cheapo shop, for only $2.00. I remembered the SFX, but discovered from a re-view that this Saturday matinee movie featured Gary Lockwood as the young hero George - Frank Poole if you're a 2001 Space Odyssey fan, or Lt Commander Gary Mitchell in the Star Trek episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before", veteran British actress Estelle Winwood as his good sorceress foster mother and veteran villain Basil Rathbone as well, the villain!

These movies often did feature unexpected treasures, long before they became cult classics. The thing is, back then you didn't think, "Ah ha, cult classic!" you thought,"Aargh, scary!"

Worth missing an afternoon's reading for!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Playing Back Literature Circles 2012

I have been playing back some of the filming Emily did for our Literature Circles movie this year and am delighted to find some treasures there. Emily did the editing, but I will have to get her to re-upload her version because the entire folder of class work which we had up on Public Share was deleted by a member of the class who had nothing better to do and no doubt thought it funny(Fortunately, the students had saved their files to their home drives, but the movie had taken forever to load). And yes, I have worked out who the culprit was and have made sure they can't do it again.

Meanwhile, I'm looking through my own folder of group discussions which I downloaded from the camera to give to Emily in the first place. And she has done a great job of interviewing her classmates, encouraging even two shy girls to talk about what they were working on with the novel A Ghost In My Suitcase by Gabrielle Wang. The group discussing Burn Bright(Marianne De Pierres) did a proper Lit Circles discussion, explained what their roles were and generally gave a good example of what it should be. Emily hardly had to do anything there!

I interviewed some other students because it was getting late in the piece and we really needed to get everything on film. The interview with the group studying Justin D'Ath's Pool was very productive, even though it was not a discussion as such.

Poor  Cuong was the only member of his group left on the day I did the interviews, but he did well explaining about Dragonkeeper (Carole Wilkinson).

The girls who were doing Mao's Last Dancer had worked well together, reading it aloud when they could, for the benefit of those whose reading wasn't quite as good as the others, and discussing it seriously. They loved the book and came up with good responses. I interviewed them, though, because one of them had been absent a lot and missed a large chunk. And they responded well to the interview.

We had to film the Darren Shan interview after all the others, on my iPad, from which I emailed it in bits! The boys spoke quite well, though they had been better when we weren't filming.

I think there will be two versions, though. I still need to get Emily's version loaded - she was waiting for the creative responses, but I might have to add those, and we only have one proper book trailer because a couple were done on Powerpoint and one was done without sound.

Still, there will be some good stuff to show next time and I'm helping a colleague with his own Literature Circles.

And looking at the list, there are three by Australian writers and one published here, by a writer who is now living in Australia, as artistic director of the Queensland Ballet. There are some wonderful YA writers in Australia and it's great to see their work being enjoyed by my students.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fairy Tales And Looking Them Up( from my other blog)

Last year I went to Swancon, where I attended a workshop on fairy tales by Juliet Marillier, who writes the most wonderful fairy tale-themed fiction herself. One of the things she told us about was a web site called Sur A Lune Fairy Tales which had all these variations on the folk tales we know and plenty we don't. Of course, I ended up bookmarking it. It was full of the kind of stuff that would give me writing ideas, and you don't even need to stick to Grimm or Perrault. For example, I'd written a story inspired by Snow White, and I found out tat there were versions of the story all over, not even only in Europe - some were in Lybia and Mozambique!

This evening I had a browse through the Cinderella stories, which are also pretty international. There was one before Perrault and Grimm, by someone called Basile, and oh, it was nasty! This Cinderella commits murder! She hates her stepmother, so her governess suggests she kills her by dropping a chest lid on her neck, which she does, then talk her Dad into marrying the governess, who then turns out to have six daughters and the rest of it is fairly familiar, with maybe a few small differences.
I mean - yuk! And the first stepmother didn't actually send her to the kitchen, just got up her nose.

The French Cinderella, Cendrillon, is a bit passive, but at least she doesn't kill anyone and her sisters are married to gentlemen of the court, not, like in the German version, cutting off their toes to fit the slipper. ( Well, okay, I wouldn't want to be one of 
Cinders' brothers-in-law and you can imagine her asking her new husband which of his courtiers he wanted to annoy...)

It's funny, though, how you can start with one thing and find yourself looking up something else. I was reading a blog post onThe History Girls about fleas in history. There was a quote from a fourteenth century book called The Goodman Of Paris, about how to keep your husband happy by making sure you get rid of fleas. I wondered if that was available from Project Gutenberg and instead I found a collection of fairy tales translated from Norse in the 19th century and that had an introduction mentioning the Scottish version of Cinderella. I wondered if that was up on my favourite fairy tale site. It was mentioned, but due to copyright isn't on line, so I had a look at some others instead and there was an Italian version, Cenerentola, which is the one I mention above. And this comes from a collection that was on the web site in full.

It was fun even back when I had to look up what I wanted in a book, but now it's even better, because I can go straight to a web site. You never know what you're going to find out there, if you check out a link.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

This Month On The History Girls

This is Black History Month and not only the US is celebrating it. If you drop in at the History Girls blog, you'll find, so far, two fascinating posts about the black population of England in history and the suggestion that the racism was actually not as bad back then as it is now.

 Yesterday's post was about Mary Seacole, the "other" nurse of the Crimean War, turned down by Florence Nightingale - probably for class reasons rather than race (she was half-Jamaican, half Scottish) - who made her own way there and ran her own mission. She didn't care which side of the war her patients were on, either. She called them all her "sons". When she got back to England, she was broke, but her "sons" rallied around and made sure she was okay. And she wrote a book! I have downloaded it from Project Gutenberg and started reading it. The introduction is by a journalist who was there during the Crimean War and assumed EVERYBODY had heard of her. So she was a celebrity in her time.

Today there's a post about the black population during the eighteenth century, which is only mentioned occasionally, but was there. It would have just been assumed the readers knew. There is mention of black crooks, such as the highwayman who complained that with 1000 blacks in London, why were they picking on him? There is testimony from a woman who was up before the old Bailey - and a connection to the Old Bailey web site. There's a slight error in the link, which should be .org, not .com, but that should be fixed soon. I have bookmarked it for future reference, in case I need to do some research for my fiction - or non-fiction.

The women who write for this site are all successful historical novelists who are thorough in their research and offer some great links as well as sharing what they have found. They range from the Crimean War to ancient Rome, including children's fiction - in other words, something for everyone. Why reinvent the wheel?

Why not go check it out if you're not already following it? Even if you're not a writer, there will be something for you, including information about the authors' books.


If you look at the side of the page, you'll find a heading, "My Other Blogs". Of course, I've done Livejournal for a while, and Sue Bursztynski's Page was my first attempt at a blog. I use it, these days, for school-related posts as well as general ones, and sometimes I copy a post from here if I think it's suitable.

But some time ago, I tried a Wordpress blog, as an experiment, and then, not sure what to do with it, more or less forgot about it.

Recently, two things happened. One was that I suddenly found myself with my first follower on a blog I hadn't actually done anything with - it was Stephen Ormsby, a Twitter buddy.

The other thing that happened was that I did a giveaway on George Ivanoff's blog and among the entries was one by a lady called Jennie Tuvey, a library tech running a primary school library in Melbourne's eastern suburbs. She tells me the library has been much neglected, as school libraries tend to be in the Victorian state system now, since Principals had to handle the budget and found libraries the easiest place to make cuts. Jennie is determined to get her library going again and thought a copy of Crime Time might be a nice thing for Grades 5 and 6. I gave her two, and let her know she could count on me for such things as virtual visits. Jennie said she would see if she could get the children to read my blog, send letters and such.

The trouble is, The Great Raven is not really a blog for children to learn about a writer they like, though they're always welcome here. It's mostly about other people's books, only a little about mine. And a children's writer really should have an online presence where their young readers can visit, comment, ask questions or whatever else they like. It's hopefully going to be even more important soon, because I will be going to the YABBA Awards, both as a teacher, with six of my lovely Year 10 students (Dylan, Thando, Selena, Ryan, Kristen and Paige) and as a writer. My friend George Ivanoff tells me not to expect too many people to wander over to our signing table - they will all head for Andy Griffiths; last year, he says, even Gabrielle Lord, whose 365 series is so popular, had hardly any children wanting stuff signed! But you never know who will look you up afterwards. And I want them to have a web site to find.

So I have started posting, for Stephen (hi, Stephen!) and for my readers. It's going to be a writing site, with some general stuff about my life,  the universe and everything.

It has been all fun and games trying to work out how to use it - and what happens when someone wants to comment? Do they have to have an email address? A Twitter or Facebook account which younger children probably won't have and which, anyway, are usually blocked at school? But I'll get there.

I went over to Technorati to "claim my blog" because so far I have had the massive number of 23 hits, despite my posts being automatically tweeted and some kind souls re-tweeting them, and Technorati is the place where you go to make sure your blog shows up on Google. That was a difficult journey in itself; it has been a VERY  long time since I've done any blog-claiming and I think my Livejournal pops up anyway. I had forgotten my login. I didn't even remember my login name!

But it's all done now. Hopefully, Write On! will eventually have as many hits as this blog - and as many followers or more. (I have two, unless you count the Twitter followers) If you'd like to see it for yourself, you can follow the above link or check it out on the sidebar page.

So, now you have a choice of four of my blogs to enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ada Lovelace Day

I have only just found out that today, October 16, is Ada Lovelace Day, in which we're encouraged to celebrate a woman of science.

Nothing wrong with this one. My second book for children, Potions To Pulsars: Women doing science, featured a chapter about her. I have a lot of favourite women of science, including some modern ones, who were kind enough to check the chapters about themselves. I'll do a full post about that and the research I did another day, but just a few lines about Ada,for whom the day is named.

She was born in 1815, the daughter of Lord Byron - yes, that Byron, colourful character, amazing poet and, in the words of a woman in his life,"mad, bad and dangerous to know", who has turned up in at least one novel as a vampire. He and his wife Annabella divorced, he left England and Ada never got to know him. 

Charles Babbage,"father of the computer"

Poor Ada didn't have much of a relationship with her mother either, it seems, but her mother did one thing for her that changed her life and probably the world: she had her taught mathematics. Ada, who was introduced to Charles Babbage,  known as the "father of the computer", became the word's first computer programmer. She translated some mathematical papers from Italian for him and added plenty of notes of her own, including what is the first computer program.
 Analytical Engine, the world's first computer

What if her parents had stayed married? Or if she'd left England with her father? How different might the world have been if, perhaps, she'd become a poet like him instead of studying maths and science with the likes of science writer Mary Somerville? Anyone want to write an alternative universe story about this?

Unfortunately, one of the things Ada used her maths skills for was to design a betting system for the races. Of course, she ended up in huge debt. She died when she was only 36, of cancer.

Thing is, she was a female mathematical genius in a time when nice girls didn't do that sort of thing. Actually, judging from some of the crazy things she did in her lifetime, she was probably regarded as anything but a nice girl! But I have always had a soft spot for her.

So let's raise our glasses in a toast to Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Guest Post By George Ivanoff:Inspired by High School

  I can remember, years ago, working on an issue of SPOCK, the Star Trek club fanzine, typing up one of George Ivanoff's stories in which the word "probe" was used often and I kept mis-spelling it "proble". The friend who was typing up the issue with me agreed that "proble" was an ancient Vulcan rite involving the ritual assassination of Spock's father, Sarek. We wrote a very silly story about it, so you could say that George has inspired my own writing. :-)

Since then, he has sold sixty-five books and I've sold ten. George has done fiction of many, many genres and non-fiction on just about everything under the sun. Some time I would love to invite him back to talk about some of the bizarre experiences he has had in the publishing industry!

George is a fellow Ford Street writer, the author of the two Gamers' novels, which are very popular in my school library. But there was another book, once, which went out of print, as books tend to do, and is now back with a vengeance!

I'll let George tell you about it - welcome to the Great Raven, George!

My very first book, published back in 1999, was a collection of YA short stories called Life, Death and Detention. Out of print for many years, it’s now back — a new edition with a new cover, a new publisher (Morris Publishing Australia) and updated stories. I’ve already written about the journey this new edition took, on my own blog (see here —; and here —

Each of the ten stories in this book is based in some way on my own past experiences. Now, that does not mean that I ever brought a gun to school, or held a teacher hostage, or snogged the school bully — aspects of my life were merely starting points for the stories, rather than the stories themselves.

Sometimes the relationship between story and real life is direct, as in the case of “Remember Me”. I wrote the first draft of this story shortly after my grandmother died. Writing it was a kind of therapy. I then pushed the story further from reality as I re-wrote it. Although the story is now fiction, the emotions that the main character is experiencing are very much my own. It’s probably the most personal story in the collection.

I didn’t need comforting. I needed to be alone. But it had to be done; so I put on my funeral face and dealt with the guests. It was strange—tears had been replaced with a mixture of nostalgic conversations and concerned looks.

With other stories, such as “Ghosts”, the connection is looser. I have never encountered a ghost. With this story the association is one of location rather than experience. When I was in high school, and later university, I used the library as a sanctuary — a place to escape to; to be alone; to reflect on things. And so, in this story, a girl named Melissa uses her school library in a similar way.

Since mid-primary school, I have been an enthusiastic science fiction fan. That interest manifests itself in two stories. “Sugar” is my take on the sci-fi, rampaging monster story. “Beam Me Up”, on the other hand, takes a more personal approach. Rather than being a science fiction story, it’s about a group of science fiction fans — nerdy kids who band together with a common interest. When they are first introduced, they are set up for ridicule (as I had experienced), but I then turn this around as the story progresses, trying to show them for what they really are — ordinary kids.

Natalie surveyed the worried faces. Daniel was sitting on one of the desks, rocking back and forth nervously, while Crystal bit at her nails and Anthony paced. Anton and Marco stood rigidly in place, uncertain glances darting between them.

They’re kids, thought Natalie, just an ordinary bunch of kids. A bit weird, sure. But hey, aren’t most people a bit weird in their own little ways?

This came as quite a revelation to her.

All fiction needs a kernel of truth. It’s this basis in reality that can make the most dramatic and fantastical of situations believable. Feelings, incidents, locations, interests, people, thoughts — all these things from my high school life have come together in the creation of the stories from Life, Death and Detention. They are undoubtedly fiction, but there is also truth in them — my truth, inspired by my time in high school.

Life, Death and Detention is available in bookshops around Australia. It can be purchased from many online bookstores, including Boomerang Books ( And it is available in numerous eBook formats from Smashwords:

George Ivanoff is an author and stay-at-home dad residing in Melbourne. His books include Gamers’ Quest, Gamers’ Challenge and Life, Death and Detention. He has books on both the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge and NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge booklists. He is currently working on the third book in the Gamers series. Check out his website:


Thursday, October 11, 2012

World Premiere of "Book Club Fights Back!"

Yesterday I gathered my readers in the library, presented them with their contributor's copies of the DVD and set up the TV to watch their Banned Books Week readings. Probably I should have done it by chapters rather than just pressed play, but on the whole it worked well. They giggled at the bloopers, enjoyed their own readings with "Oh, no, I'm AWFUL!" and were delighted at the opening credits, which I used to sandwich a test run Dylan had done without realising he was actually filming! 

Unfortunately the music was missing from the end credits and after making all those copies it's not worth fixing. Oh, well...

We had parent teacher night following, so I was able to chat to parents about it, only to find they already knew because their son or daughter had been pleased enough to tell them.

I will be showing bits of it at a staff meeting at some stage, if allowed. It will be nice to share a successful literacy activity with my colleagues! I had a lot of fun with it, and so did the students, while doing something important.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Banned Books DVD Done At Last

I'm listening to Alan Zavod's music for the wonderful marionette stage play of The Hobbit while I wait for my DVD to burn. I returned from the holidays yesterday and downloaded the last files from the video camera to my USB stick - Emily doing her reading from The Hunger Games and the group giving the finger to book bans. This afternoon my colleague Jasna recorded her own reading from Fahrenheit 451. I added it all this evening, reworking the credits to include Jasna and making sure the music fitted well. Tomorrow I will burn copies of the final version to give to all the readers on Thursday, when I hope to have a world premiere of Book Club Fights Back! in the library. ;-) We do have parent teacher night, meaning that lunchtime will be shortened even more than usual, but with luck it will be long enough to show the film.

I'm rather proud of this. I have taught myself how to use the software needed and made a nice little movie that the readers will keep as a souvenir and that can be used to give people some ideas of things they can do to engage their students.

As for my students, they had a wonderful time doing it and it gave them something to think about.

It's getting late and I will be off to bed as soon as the DVD is finished, but it was well worth staying up to do this.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A Light Touch Paper Review from Aurealis Express -woot!

Here's a review I was sent about Light Touch Paper And Stand Clear, for which I wrote a story earlier this year. Normally I would include a link, but there wasn't one and I think you have to subscribe to get  the newsletter. This anthology has had some terrific reviews. If you live outside Australia, you can still buy it, though it may work out cheaper to get it in ebook, from Wizard's Tower books (there's a link from the Peggy Bright Books website) If you're a writer, you really should consider small press for your short fiction, especially in Australia, which has a thriving spec fic small press industry. Big Press rarely publishes short stories, unless your name is Margo Lanagan and even she writes some fiction for small press. And Big Press in Australia almost never publishes science fiction, it's all fat fantasy trilogies!

Anyway, here's the lovely review:

" Thanks Simon P for finding this review. I'm passing it on to all the authors highlighted in this review.

Once again, our thanks to *all* our Light Touch authors for contributing such great stories to our anthology.


This is the review from Aurealis XPress. Worth the wait, I reckon: (Simon)"

Light Touch Paper Stand Clear, edited by Edwina Harvey and Simon Petrie
Peggy Bright Books
Review by Lachlan Huddy

If anybody you know gets going about the dearth of quality Australian spec-fic being published at home, you needn’t counter with words; just point them toward this smashing collection of shorts. Joanne Anderton will wow them from the first word of her moving, melancholy, fantastical meditation on the irreparable horrors of conflict,  The Bone Chime Song, and then they’ll get a chuckle out of Sue Bursztynski’s feminist retelling of the triggering of the Trojan scuffle, Five Ways to Start a War. They can then take their pick from any of the top-shelf offerings that follow, but allow me to list some of my favourites: Dave Luckett’s sci-fi cracker, History: Theory and Practice, is thick with detail and dry wit; Ian McHugh’s The Godbreaker and Unggubudh the Mountain bristles with bruising action, flawless characterisation and hums with the lifeblood of a beautifully thought-out world; Kathleen Jennings’s masterfully evocative Kindling is a steampunk concoction of tales spun into a glittering remark upon the danger of an adventurer’s thirst (while still somehow making it appealing); and Adam Browne proves once again that he is the master of concept and a near-peerless wordsmith, as the British Empire undertakes to colonise Hell itself in his absolutely astonishing The D__d. Read this. That is all.

Lord Of The Rings and the MSO

I 'm just coming home from the performance of Lord Of The Rings at the Melbourne Concert Hall. I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived; I had thought it might be the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra playing, perhaps, a symphonic suite with some scenes fom the movie playing in the background.
Boy, was I wrong. It was the entire movie of Fellowship Of The Ring, with the music soundtrack switched off and in its place a live orchestra and two choirs, a mixed adult one and a highly cute boys' choir on a balcony at the left of the stage, with their own soloist who got up every now and then to sing his bit, including that song in the end credits.

Oh, and my "restricted view" took the form of a kindly but tall cellist who grinned at me and said,"I apologise!" I told him that I was aware it was a restricted view seat and I was happy to see the orchestra. He promised to play his best for me.

Thing is, when you see a movie at the cinema, however wonderful the score is, you just enjoy it for what it is and think you really must buy the CD. When, however, you see the orchestra, watch the solo violinist at work, see the cellists doing pizzicato bits, hear the sound of the percussion and the brass from just behind, when you see the choristers opening their mouths to sing in Elvish, you realise just how much of a team effort it is.

It was a fabulous evening out and a pleasure, too, to see audience members from about ten years of age to white-haired ladies who probably bought the first edition of the book when it came out. They're doing a second concert, of The Two Towers, next July and you can book online till Sunday.

Guess what I'm doing? I resisted, with great determination, the $65 books about the score for sale in the foyer, even though they had a CD of unreleased music and concept drawings by John Howe and Alan Lee, so I have money I can put towards a ticket to the next concert. I mean, come ON! I have the fully illustrated LOTR with Alan Lee art. I have his version of The Hobbit, plus the much rarer Michael Hague one. I have an annotated Hobbit, a couple of copies with Tolkien's own art AND the ebook Enhanced Hobbit which has three of the songs that you can press play and Tolkien sings for you! I have books about the novels and about the move art, plus several Tolkien bios. How much more do I need?

The movie was just as gorgeous as the first time I saw it. I have visited some of those places when I went on "pilgrimage" to NZ a few years ago. The River  Anduin scenes were shot just outside Queenstown at a spot where people go bungee jumping. There was also a place where they filmed the Nazghul threatening Arwen and Frodo, where I went on the same half-day tour as where I saw the "Misty Mountains" ( the Remarkables, where people go hang gliding). Movie making is magic and this film was made by people who loved the book, a love that comes through. One of the Nazghul is a veteran rider who was offered his choice of riding jobs in the film and that's all he wanted. Even among the cast there was Christopher Lee, Saruman in the movie, who has been reading and rereading the novel since it first came out(and when the Tolkien Ensemble recorded Tolkien's songs, he was the most delightful Treebeard- he can actually sing, he started life as an opera singer).

The fans were worried before the film came out, but it was faithful to the spirit of the book and you can't ask more than that.

Neither could I have asked for a better concert.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

How To Hurt Your Hero - The Latest

I just love Jordyn Redwood's web site. It's one of those things that makes the Internet so wonderful. If you're an Aussie writer who was doing fan fiction back in the eighties you might remember a lady called Mary G.T.Webber, a doctor, whose article "How To Hurt Your Hero" was so very popular because it told enthusiastic fan writers what they could and couldn't do to their heroes in their hurt/comfort stories. ( I'm still giggling over the woman whose hero broke his spleen and she wasn't the worst of them). That was years before the Internet and even now it can be hard to be sure which web sites have got it right. But Redwood's Medical Edge is a blog written by an experienced emergency room nurse who is, herself, a writer. She knows what she's talking about and so do her guest writers, one of whom has, in the latest post, answered the question of a writer who wants her heroine hurt badly by glass in the back in a car crash.

If you're a writer who wants to injure your character and you'd like to get it right, do check out this blog. Even when she's not answering writing-related questions, her guest biggers are talking about fascinating medical conditions of famous people in history. A great blog!

On a totally unrelated matter, it was On This Day in 1957, October 4, that Sputnik went into orbit, exciting the SF fans and scaring the US government. But it started the space race and if that was about military applications, it did lead to better reasons for going to space and a "sensawunda"(sense of wonder) that makes me love science fiction with a passion I feel for no other genre.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Lord Of The Rings Concert coming!

The tickets were sold out when I tred to get one a few days back, but people do return tickets for events when real life commitments get in the way, so the other day I went in to Hamer Hall to see if there was anything available. And there was! The ticket I bought is in the front row of the stalls, which means that I won't see the bottom of the giant screen, but the lady at the box office assured me this was the only thing that made it a restricted-view seat and dropped the price. She said I would certainly had a good view of the orchestra and that there was plenty of screen left to enjoy.

So tomorrow night at seven p.m. I will join the huge crowds filing into the newly refurbished Melbourne Concert Hall to hear the MSO play the score to the wonderful movie The Fellowship Of The Ring!

Howard Shore is one of a number of film composers who have been attracting notice in recent years. I have always loved movie music. My brother and I collected recordings all through our days at home. He was just a small boy when he scraped together his pocket money to buy the double album score for what the cover called The Star Wars. Now a grown man with two children of his own, he still has the vinyl version, though of course he got the CD when the boxed set came out some years ago. And the record of Jaws. I had my favourites - Miklos Rosza, who did all those epics in the 1950s and early 60s. Elmer Bernstein, also an epic composer(and, oddly, the composer for the British TV series Arthur Of The Britons!). Alex North was another favourite, for his score to Spartacus. If you know your film trivia, he also did a score to 2001:A Space Odyssey before they decided to go with the temp score. Ennio Morricone, who did the spaghetti Western scores, but also a terrific score to a TV miniseries in which Burt Lancaster played the role of Moses. And, of course Ernest Korngold!

So I was listening to all this music and getting funny looks from friends who pointed out that the idea of film music was to back the mood of the film, not to be heard by itself. But then something happened, not sure what, and suddenly everyone was talking about film music and Howard Shore was adapting his LOTR score into symphonic suites and even Doctor Who, which had relied on that famous Ron Grainer tune,was employing a guy called Murray Gold to score its new episodes and that music was making its way into the London Proms concerts and, eventually, to Melbourne, where it was seen by one of the friends who had told me she wasn't into film music if it distracted from the film....

Speaking of Doctor Who, check out YouTube for some deliciously bizarre renditions, including one where a young lad hums it in harmony with himself - and it works!

More of the concert when I have seen it.

Happy Birthday Richard III!

Here are some famous folk born on October 2: Mahatma Gandhi, comedian Bud Abbott, Avery Brooks( that velvet-voiced actor who played as the commander of Deep Space 9), Sting, Groucho Marx... All have helped, in their own ways, to make the word a better or at least nicer place, even if only to make us laugh or sing along.

But today's post is about King Richard III, the subject of a lot of books and at least one play, who was born on this day in 1452 and died long before he could get to my age. I used to be in the Richard III Society, though I dropped out when it got too hard to pay my membership to England and some friends who went with me to local meetings had other commitments. But I never lost interest in the subject.

 So, why join a fan club for a man who has been dead for over five hundred years?
It was because of this book:

When I was in Year 11 at school, I had a wonderful English teacher. We were studying Richard III by Shakespeare. She was the first teacher I had had who took Shakespeare seriously enough to discuss it, not just make us read it at home and show us the film. And one of the things she told us was that, wonderful as the pay was, it wasn't strictly accurate historically. She recommended we read Josephine Tey's novel, which I did as soon as I could get hold of it.

And then, when I was out of school and earning money, I found and joined the Richard III Society.

I recently got hold of the ebook and started to reread it yet again last night. I posted about it when I bought it online, but I hope you don't mind my mentioning it again.  It's the kind of book that stands up to a reread. When I was in my teens, I didn't realise how long ago it had been written and thought some of the references confusing, but now that I understand the world of the novel is different from now, I can just get on with it.

If you haven't read it, it's very simply a police procedural which never leaves the hospital room where Inspector Grant, the hero of some of Ms Tey's other books, is stuck with a broken leg he got in the course of his police duties. He's bored, the books he has been offered to read are not to his taste and the nurse won't even move his bed around so he can look at a different part of the ceiling. He is set a challenge: who really DID kill the Princes in the Tower, if it wasn't Richard? Was Richard really the villain Shakespeare portrays? Quite apart from the cleverness of setting a mystery novel in a hospital room, there's the fascination of the research aspect, something that I, as a librarian and writer of several non-fiction books, can only approve.

But there's more. The book is timeless, but also a product of its time, years before the Internet. If Grant was stuck in hospital today, he would be given a laptop or an iPad and could just google the information instead of relying on books and an earnest young research assistant to bring them. In fact, he'd probably, being what he is, demand and get his paperwork! There would be no story. :-)

I read my way through quite a bit of Richard III-themed fiction over the years, as well as the non-fiction books. There were some other mysteries, such as Jeremy Potter's A Trail Of Blood. The author was part of the Richard III Society, so would have an obvious bias in Richard's favour, but it made a fascinating mystery novel in its own right. The novel is set in the time of Henry VIII, who is about to close down the monasteries. A monk is sent on a search for a possible surviving Yorkist heir, in hopes that the heir, once found, might depose Henry and save the monasteries. It leads him through the story of Richard and his times.

There was one by Sharon Penman, who has since gone on to write about other English rulers, The Sunne In Splendour. That one is definitely for fans of the thick-as-a-brick historical saga, but is better than most of those.

One writer I discovered early on in my Richard III fan reading was Rosemary Hawley Jarman. Her novel, We Speak No Treason, kept me on the edge of my chair. Here's what the author had to say about her book in 2011, on the 40th anniversary of its publication, on her website.    

It's been a long time since I read it and I'm not sure how I would feel about it on a reread, but there's no doubt that it hooked me in at the time, with the beauty of the language and the descriptions - I could shut my eyes and picture every stitch of embroidery in the clothes, every banner fluttering from the towers, hear the music and the trumpets. The novel has a number of viewpoints - the Nut Brown Maid, Patch the court fool and the Man of Keen Sight. The girl falls in love with Richard and becomes pregnant with his daughter before being sent off to a convent(the daughter, Katherine, was a real person). Patch is not sure how he feels about Richard,  but becomes loyal. The Man of Keen Sight is an archer whose family appear again in another novel, The Courts Of Illusion, about Perkin Warbeck.

This novel was the one in which I first discovered Sir Edward Brampton, who was a real person, a Portuguese Jew who came to England and became a major member of Edward IV's court. He is only a minor, though important figure in this novel, but I became interested enough to look him up and wasn't he a character! In the novel, he is a dignified figure. In real life, he was much more colourful. Think cheeky Errol Flynn. The really interesting thing about him is that this loyal servant of Edward IV and Richard III(who knighted him) managed to charm Henry Tudor into welcoming him back to England, where he lived happily ever after. When you think of some of the things Henry did to many of those who had served Richard, that's quite an achievement!

Rosemary Hawley Jarman gives him an important task to do for Richard at the end of the novel, but I won't tell you what it is in case you want to read the novel.

I believe Ms Jarman is now writing fantasy. Interesting indeed...