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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Middle Grade Reading: Booktalkers 2 for 2012

Tonight I went to the State Library for Booktalkers, which this time was on the subject of  middle grade books. The speakers were Gabrielle Wang, Kate Constable and Tom Taylor, a writer of graphic novels, aka comic books. Tom was the only one I had never heard of, but he proved to be very entertaining. I have actually read most of Gabrielle's books and all of Kate's.

The first half of the program featured the two ladies. Gabrielle spoke about the  process of writing her Our Australian Girl historical fiction commission from Penguin. She said she was nervous about historical fiction, not having done any history before apart from Little Paradise, which was a personal thing about her parents(and I know how she feels; I took on historical fiction for Ford Street and longed to throw in a spaceship or a unicorn, but had to learn how to handle straight history!), but she  chose the Gold Rush era because her great grandparents came out to Australia then.  Her heroine was part Chinese, part Aborigine. She felt a connection with indigenous Australians because of being non-white and spoke warmly of her advisers.

Kate talked about Girlfriend Fiction. She was invited to submit at an Allen and Unwin Christmas party. She said she was worried about doing straight mainstream fiction after writing all that fantasy. There were strict guidelines, including words not to use and a hint of romance. She thought of girl with girl romance (Being McKenzie - I actually remember reading that one and  thinking she was brave to do that in a YA romance where the girl readers are waiting for the heroine to end up with the gorgeous boy). She said she actstrictly key the strict guidelines; it  meant all sorts of decisions didn't have to be made. She likes to write of girls12-13 years old and sees herself as more of a children's writer than YA.

Gabrielle Wang said she gravitates to 8-12 years old.

They were both invited to say what is in the works? Kate Constable has just done a YA novel, but next after that will be another middle-grade time slip story.

Gabrielle has a fantasy novel with her publisher, The Wishbird.

Both writers said they felt their audiences were female. During question time I told Kate that, in fact, there were boys reading her Chanters of Tremaris series and Gabrielle that two boys had read and enjoyed A Ghost In My Suitcase for Literature Circles.

After intermission, there was one more speaker, Tom Taylor, who has had several careers, including juggling in the street, but is now doing very well writing graphic novels for reluctant readers. He is the  author of many Star Wars graphic novels (he killed off Bobba Fett not long ago and will have to admit it to the actor, Jeremy Bulloch) but mainly writes The Deep series, about a multi-ethnic family of undersea explorers, which is popular in every country. It contains  peril and humour, but no violence. Tom admires Joss Whedon, whom he described as an influence. He says that even when he was a playwright he was more influenced by graphic novel writers than anything else.

He showed a scene from The Deep, which seems very funny and included a pet fish called Jeffrey being taught to fetch.

How difficult was it writing in an established universe?

There are a lot of constraints, he said. Five sets of eyes have to look at each book. It's about continuity. Actually, I'm wondering who gave him permission to kill off Bobba Fett, but someone must have.

Tom said, however, that he gets away with a lot , such as giggling storm troopers.
He nelieves thay comics are an Incredible storytelling medium. They are only an issue here; France, the US, Japan, all celebrate comics. Reluctant readers already love them, they just don't know it!

He ended his talk recommending a number of comics.

Personally, my only problem with comics is how very expensive they are! And especially manga tends to come in multiple volumes, which is very difficult when your budget is as tiny as mine, alas!:-(

The evening ended soon after. It was enjoyable. There was no bookstall this time - disappointing but probably better for my wallet and my bookshelves!

Happy Birthday J.K. Rowling!

Happy Birthday J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter!

Anyone remember where they were when they first heard about the Boy Who Lived? I do. I was in the back of a car going to a meeting of Aussiecon 3, the third Australian Word Science Fiction Convention. I was one of two people running the children's program, which was a mini version of the con itself, so I was a committee member. The lady sitting next to me was Alison Goodman, who has since gone on to bestseller status, but at the time had done one novel, a YA called Singing The Dogstar Blues.

Anyway, we chatted about this, that and the other and she asked me if I'd heard of Harry Potter. I hadn't; the series was fairly new at the time, maybe only the first or first and second were out. She recommended it and at the next Children's Book Week Fair I bought a copy of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone. I'd like to say I thought, "Wow!Classic in the making!" but all I thought was, "That was fun!" and got the next one as soon as I found it.

By the time I got to the third novel, Prisoner Of Azkaban, I had come to realise that there was more to this than just another entertaining children's series. The world building had developed, the wizarding world had become a place where an innocent man could go to  prison just because the unelected head of state wanted to be seen to be doing something (I'm talking Hagrid here, not Sirius, who developed this theme further) and in POS we found out that the prison was not merely bars and concrete but torture. I also noticed that the author was following Chekhov's idea that a gun on the mantelpiece in the first scene should go off by the end. I wondered what guns would go off in future. Another thing: it was the last book in which no one died.

By the time of the final novel, I had read the entire series several times. I remember that day too. I remember the bookshop queues(as a reviewer I just had to queue at the Allen and Unwin offices in East Melbourne). I remember walking down Collins Street in the city, where people were sitting everywhere reading h Potter. There were brass bands at one bookshop and a choir singing Hogwarts songs at another and people at all the table in the food court where I took my book reading the same book.

I rejoiced. All this fuss was being made about a book! Better still,suddenly it was cool to read a children's book, though there were many still reading books with the  adult  covers. I suppose some people just can't handle being seen with something obviously not written for adults.

 I get so tired of people sneering when you tell them you're reading a children's book. But on line there are entire groups of adults discussing this universe in their forums (fora?), being passionate about it, having to be moderated, even. There are academic conferences with papers read. Personally, I just like to enjoy the books and discuss them with fellow fans, but I can understand why people make so much of it, with all the cultural background from a woman who is well educated in history, folklore and languages.

Anyway, raise your virtual glasses to J.K. Rowling and her creation Harry Potter, in thanks for introducing adults to children's literature!

Monday, July 30, 2012


July 31 Australian time:

There were six entries for the competition celebrating the US release of my novel Wolfborn. 
I’ve decided to give away one local and one international copy, so here are the winners;
International: Miki, from Belgium. I’m especially pleased that she has won because Miki entered my first giveaway at the start of the year and has hung around on the Great Raven to make the occasional comment, including one that I found helpful about French translation. So congratulations, Miki! Your copy will be winging its way to you in the next few days, as soon as I get your address.
The local winner is leecetheartist, who took the trouble to wander over from Livejournal and now will have her very own copy after having had to hand back a borrowed copy! ;-)
Ladies, I will be emailing you for your addresses.
Thanks to the others who entered!
I will be hosting another giveaway fairly soon, this one for a copy of Crime Time, my children’s book on true crime which adults have been known to hang on to after buying it for their children! I have found myself with a box of author’s price copies and can spare some, so keep an eye out on this blog and why not read the sample chapter while you wait?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Some review egoboo from ASIF

Mythic Resonance has had a review from Tehani Wessely,(recently interviewed on the Raven) on the ASIF website and very nice it is too! "Intelligent and enchanting" are two words applied to my story which definitely made my day. ;-)

Here's the link to the review and if you don't have the anthology yet, why not get a copy now?

The Hazard River series by J.E. Fison. Published by Ford Street Publishing.

This series is centred around a group of young friends on summer holidays at Hazard River, a place loosely based on the Noosa River, where the author spends a lot of time. Jack Wilde, his younger brother Ben and their friends Lachlan and Mimi find that their adventures involve a lot more than swimming and playing.

The author is a journalist who has had plenty of adventures herself, but as well as the adventure theme, there’s the environmental theme. There’s no preaching, but baddies tend to have plans that involve destroying wilderness or wildlife. 

Despite the serious message, the main emphasis is on humour. Blood Money, for example, starts with Jack having a get-rich-quick scheme which might work out sooner than he was expecting due to some mysterious money in the hands of his little brother. This is not by any means the Famous Five; I'm betting Julian would look down his aristocratic nose at these children.

Actually, what it does remind me of is Margaret Clark’s Aussie Angels series, which was set in Victoria’s Otway Ranges and was about the children of a park ranger. And come to think of it, that was meant to be a sort of Enid Blyton for modern times!
The language is not difficult for children to follow and the characters are likable and not perfect. The covers are designed by the wonderful artist Marc McBride.  
The series has its own web site which includes teacher notes, if you’re interested in teaching it,

Recommended for children from about eight years up.

Arkie Sparkle Treasure Hunter 1: Code Crimson and 2: Time Trap By Petra James. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2012

These are the first two books in a series of seven, which span seven days and seven continents. 
Arkie Sparkle, the daughter of two archaeologists with access to amazing technology, comes home from school to find her parents have been kidnapped. There is a message from the kidnapper saying that in order to get them back she must follow a series of clues involving travelling to seven continents in as many days. Impossible? Not really.  Arkie has access to technology including a craft called the BLUR, which can dodge local radar, a computer with all the information she might need and even a time machine enabling travel into the past! She also has a genius cousin, TJ, and TJ’s dog Cleo, who come with her. 
In Code Crimson, they go to Egypt and travel into the past where they meet Abu Simbel, the boy after whom the place is now named.  They  also encounter Giovanni Belzoni, the circus strongman who uncovered the temple of Ramses II. 

Time Trap finds them in China, in the time of the First Emperor, the one who was on a quest for immortality and destroyed as many books and scholars as he could. Arkie is after a book called the Book of Songs which is part of the next clue, and the only way to get close to it is to pretend to be an immortal herself. She hasn’t, of course, been counting on the sheer lunacy of this particular Emperor...
There is an endearing silliness about these books which should give young readers a chuckle. Each of them has many illustrations and information about the historical characters written in a chatty style at the back, so that the reader learns something, even if it’s only enough to help out in a trivia quiz. TJ being what she is, she spouts facts as she goes, while Arkie has to learn something to help her find the next clue in the puzzle. There is just enough information to give young readers the curiosity to go look it up. The language is generally fairly simple, though words like “manifesting’ and “turbocharged” might be confusing. But most of the long words are in context, so that they can probably be figured out.
Recommended for mid-late primary.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wolfborn Giveaway Reminder

Just a reminder, before I go into town for Part 2 of the launch, that I'm celebrating the US release of Wolfborn with a giveaway of the Aussie edition, signed. You have until Tuesday July 31, which is coincidentally J.K. Rowling's birthday, to enter. All you have to do is click the comment form with your name and country. So far, I have four entries, which gives the next entrant a one in five chance, pretty good odds. If you entered last time and didn't win, here's your chance!

Ford Street Launch - Part 1

I'm home from the first part of Ford Street's launch of Trust Me Too; this evening will be the launch at Princes Hill Secondary College, where I have actually worked, though only for a few weeks. The current TL is Pam Saunders, whom I know from her days at the State Library.

This morning I got up a little later than usual, had a quick breakfast and went to catch the tram to Scotch College, a private boys' school in Hawthorn. After such a nice sunny day yesterday, this morning the heavens opened. I wrapped up and took an umbrella. The tram was caught behind traffic on Glenferrie Rd and the trip took longer than I had expected, but I still made it on time.

There were students at the gate to meet us and hand us our name tags. They were a little younger than I was expecting. For me, "junior school" implies Year 7 to 10! :-) but these were unmistakably primary school, and I have a soft spot for younger children. When I gave them my name, one of the kids burst out, "So THAT'S how you pronounce it!" This, of course, made my day, as it implied he'd actually read something of mine.

I was shown into a small hall, where the tables were set up, by another terribly cute little boy. I handed some copies of Wolfborn to one of Paul's interns, but knew they wouldn't sell when I saw the age of the audience as they filed in - Grade four and five, around right for Crime Time, but really too young for Wolfborn. Never mind, maybe tonight. These little boys looked totally adorable.

I found myself sitting next to Isobelle Carmody, who was to read from her story as part of the launch. She too hadn't expected such a young audience and was flipping through her story for something suitable, perhaps the most exciting bit. She asked me how many pages I thought would cover the fifteen minutes she had and I suggested four or five, having done readings at cons. And in the end it worked out well, with most of the kids leaning forward to hear. I saw one boy browsing through his copy of the anthology, for which I didn't blame him; there's something so delicious about a new book, I don't think I could have resisted doing that either; as it was,I couldn't wait to start into my newly-purchased copy of the new edition of Greylands.

The initial speech was made by Graham Davey, the head of YABBA, whom I have only met on the phone and by email. Apparently, he makes a living as a performance storyteller, so his rich, musical voice went over very well, and he made up stories about many of the writers he introduced.

We went over to the signing tables, where I signed a lot of programs and several copies of Crime Time. After this, we had some morning tea, where I chatted with Graham and also met one of the school staff, who told me they don't actually get many author visits and certainly nothing like this. I'm guessing this referred to the primary school, where she works, because I know for a fact the high school has things like literary lunches and a writers'festival where the GoHs include the likes of Geoffrey Robertson.

I walked out with Grant Gittus, the cover designer who did the wonderful cover of Crime Time, which has to be one of the best covers I have ever had. Grant and I chatted about cover design and Aussiecon as he gave me a lift home.

Part 2 of the launch is tonight. If you're in Melbourne, do come along. Otherwise I'll blog about it early tomorrow morning.

Book Club, Isobelle Carmody And Me

It's 5.30 am and I can't sleep. Today we're launching Trust Me Too, of which more later, when it's happened. It will be a long day!When I've done this post I will emulate my fellow Random House writer Rhiannon Hart and do some early-morning work on my novel.;-)

Yesterday I took my book clubbers to Marian College, where my friend and colleague Sharon Hayes now works. I first met her when I came to my current school, where she was running the senior campus library and the college library network. As it happened, she was a friend of a friend. She left a couple of years later to have a baby and never returned, but we have continued to meet at Booktalkers and the Melbourne Writers Festival. At one of these events,Sharon kindly invited me to bring some students along to hear Isobelle Carmody. Her school is within walking distance of mine, so the offer was irresistible! I ended up with eighteen students, including two Year 7 girls(nineteen, actually, but Natalie was absent, which her friends said later was a great pity). I was joined by Chris Wheat, a workmate and fellow YA novelist,and we were lucky enough to get some fine weather for the walk, a relief as it was raining all night.

We reached the school early, while the first session was going in the auditorium, and waited in the library, where the students pounced on the books with cries of delight and admired the layout of the huge library. They declared we must rearrange our library similarly and Selena, who has ambitions as an engineer or architect and is brilliant at maths, offered to come up with some ideas. I've tried to do this before, but if she can work something out...

Sharon's colleague Sophie came to collect us and take us to the school auditorium, which was along a corridor. Sharon was there with Isobelle, who was taking a short break between sessions. She knows me from various conferences and joked that I'd heard her so often I could sleep if I liked. She was happy to chat with my book clubbers and Thando, who had to leave early to pick up her young brother, asked her planned question, which was about volume 3 of Legendsong. Isobelle said it was written, but she had other commitments before that one could happen and said next year, some time.

The Marian College girls arrived. Some were friends of my own students and hugs were exchanged before we settled down to listen to the official talk. It was one worth hearing, as Isobelle talked about her storytelling to her younger siblings, whom she terrified with scary stories and hunted through the house. She spoke of the fact that when you write it has to be, first and foremost, for yourself and you have to care and feel it yourself if you want anyone else to. She was bullied at school, plus not being able to come out of the house much when she was at home, so when she wrote her first novel, Obernewtyn, at fourteen, it was about a girl who didn't fit in. She talked about Little Fur and how she'd come up with the idea for that.

After the talk, we presented Sharon with flowers and with chocolates to share with her book club. Isobelle hung around to sign books and answer further questions. She kindly posed for photos with the book clubbers, then we headed for home.

It was a terrific day and the students had a wonderful time, as did Chris and I.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

PM Literary Awards

I'm home sick, with a horrible sore throat and keeping warm, so I have the radio on. It has just been announced that the YA winner for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards is Robert Newton's When We Were Two, which is also on the CBCA shortlist this year. I remember Michelle Prawer, one of this year's judges, talking about this one at a SLAV meeting last term. It sounded rather sad, but now I really must read my ebook copy of it.

As I write this, Michael Pryor is about to speak on Radio National! So long, signing off to hear him.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wolfborn Giveaway!

Wolfborn will be released in the US on October 1.I'm celebrating in two ways. The first is that I'm taking out my family for High Tea at the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne. That's where we went to celebrate when I sold it and once more when Edwina Harvey, who had helped me sell it via an interview, was in Melbourne for the Worldcon.

The other way is by a giveaway of a signed copy of the Australian edition, and you can enter wherever you are. All you have to do is click Comment.

The giveaway ends on July 31. Just over a week to enter! If you missed out on the last Wolfborn Giveaway, here's your chance to try again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On My TBR Shelves

Yesterday I received a copy of Isobelle Carmody's latest collection, Metro Winds - goodness, that woman is prolific! - so I thought I'd take a glance at the other books that have been accumulating lately.As a matter of fact, I requested Metro Winds when Julia Imogen of Allen and Unwin asked me what I'd like, to say thanks for arranging my students to do reader reports. But once a reviewer... So I'll be reviewing it. Stand by.

I also have the first two volumes of Arkie Sparkle Treasure Hunter, a new children's series. Then there's Juliet Marillier's new YA fantasy,Darkfell, set in an alternative universe version of Scotland - I'm halfway through that.

I'm awaiting the arrival of Rhiannon Hart's new book, Blood Song, which has a very pretty cover. When I was commenting on formal gown and YA paranormal romance, Rhiannon reminded me that her heroine actually IS wearing one in the wilderness in her first novel. :-) Let's see if this gown is also a part of the story.

And I am pleased to announce that the other day I received a copy of Mark Walden's first non-HIVE book, Earthfall. I did rather think he'd painted himself into a corner at the end of the last HIVE book, and while I can't see how, it does need resolution in at least one more book. By that time, this new series should be under way. Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading this one. Meanwhile, if you want more HIVE, why not wander over to his website - which has a short story about Otto's best friend Wing and how he was taken to HIVE.

Wolfborn In The US - Official Release Date!

Okay, I have heard from the lovely rights lady at Random House Australia, Rebecca Diep, and now I finally have a date for Wolfborn in the US. It's October 1, 2012. Not long to go now. She tells me that the title and cover will be the same, so if you live over there, you can find it easily with the same gorgeous cover as in Australia.

I'd like to thank those whose comments on US web sites made it clear that there are people over there who want to read it - and also those who have bought it anyway, either in ebook or through Fishpond, despite it not being available in the US.

To celebrate this launch, I am offering a signed copy of the Australian edition, for anyone, anywhere. All you have to do is click "Comment" on this site or on Goodreads, where this post will appear as well, with your name and country. The giveaway goes till the end of July.

Taken from a Native American friendly website, Check it out!
Good luck!

MOONLIGHT AND ASHES By Sophie Masson. Sydney: Random House Australia, 2012

Once upon a time there was a girl whose mother died and father remarried. Her stepmother, who had her own daughters, was very cruel and made the girl work in the kitchen. They called her Cinderella because she sat among the ashes in the kitchen...
We all know the beginning of this fairy tale, and, of course, that she goes to the ball, meets a handsome prince and so on. And there are many versions of it across many cultures, including a Native American version. Sophie Masson has used the Brothers Grimm story, Ashputtel, rather than Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon, which is the one most of us know, including the pumpkin coach and fairy godmother. Ashputtel, and Sophie Masson’s heroine, Selena, use a hazel tree connected with her mother’s grave, and a bird. And Selena comments wryly that she has to get to the ball on foot!
This novel includes the cruel stepmother and sisters, the weak father who doesn’t defend his child and the ball at the palace, but this is only a jumping-off place for the main story. In Ashberg, a part of the Empire, magic has been suppressed for all but an organization known as the Mancers, since a rebellion a century before nearly killed the Emperor. Anyone remotely suspected of being magical, whether a werewolf or a “moon-sister”, is collected by the Mancers and never seen again. And Selena’s mother was a secret moon-sister. 
When she arrives at the ball, the Prince is not as wonderful as he is supposed to be and, trying to escape him, she meets his best friend Max, a much nicer young man. When both of them end up in the Mancers’ prison, they find themselves escaping across country with a female werewolf, a Mancer child and a huge young man in whose barge they have hidden. But Max has his own secret and Selena finds herself being forced to do something she doesn’t want to do, in order to save his life...
This isn’t the first fairy tale Sophie Masson has used as the base for one of her enchanting novels. Clementine, for example, set Sleeping Beauty during the French Revolution and a century later. My own favourite, Cold Iron, took the British version of Cinderella, Tattercoats, and set it in Elizabethan England, mixing in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night Dream. This novel is set in an imaginary country, but the era is nineteenth century. There are newspapers and photographs and steam trains. 
And it works. Selena (appropriate name for a young “moon sister”) is not the passive Cinderella of the fairy tales. She stays in that house both because her dying mother made her promise not to leave her father and because, without money, she knows she won’t get far before she’s caught and dragged back. When she is alone and having to plan ahead, she shows intelligence and courage.
It’s interesting, really, how much like Cinderella the current paranormal romance  is. You know - ordinary teenage girl meets gorgeous paranormal guy, falls in love and is rewarded by his return of her love. That, or she saves his life and finds out she is the Chosen One and then he falls in love with her. But Selena is a believably strong heroine and while there’s a hint of Chosen One, she has to put up with an awful lot before things work out for her, and she’s only Chosen because there’s nobody else available at the time.
I finished this in a couple of hours, being caught up in the almost non-stop action and delighted by the beauty of the language. Yet it’s easy, comfortable reading and should appeal to girls from about fourteen up.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Phryne Fisher Competition Results

A few days ago, I received 94 entries for George Ivanoff's web site competition in which the brief was to come up with just one word to describe Phryne Fisher, heroine of Kerry Grenwood's delightful series. The TV series was out on DVD and Blu-Ray and George had two Blu-Rays to give away. He invited me to be his guest judge because I have read and reread all the books and am a huge fan.

I have to say, I sure wouldn't want to try describing Phryne in one word and I really admire those who had a go. But I had to think this out carefully, because I wanted to be fair. That meant considering each and every word. They ALL described her beautifully!

I ended up choosing words I felt implied many of the others and gave my reasons here, on the web site. why not follow the link and take a look? George's site is always worth a visit.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tehani Wessely Superwoman

Today’s post is an interview with Tehani Wessely. I have known Tehani since she was with the Andromeda Spaceways publishing co-operative, of which she was a founding member (I came along in the next wave). Whatever she says below about it being an apprenticeship, it was a highly impressive apprenticeship. It is true that she got her practice in publishing there. Tehani, like Miffy Farquharson, whom I interviewed earlier on this blog, is also a judge in a number of book and writing awards. Stuff the comic book superheroes, Tehani Wessely is Superwoman and a nice person on top of it all. Welcome to the Great Raven, Tehani!

SB:You’re a teacher-librarian, a mother, a publisher, an editor, a blogger, a reviewer, a podcaster, a judge for three major awards (the Aurealis, the WA Premier’s and the Children’s Book Council, have I missed anything?) - how do you manage to fit it all in?

TW: That’s a very good question! I guess a lot of what I do involves reading, which I have always devoted a lot of time to (and I do read very fast – not always a good thing!) so it’s just a normal part of my routine. Luckily, a lot of judging reading overlaps, although the deliberations are always very different! I don’t watch much free-to-air television, or do a lot of outside the internet socialising, and if I’m being honest, I REALLY don’t get enough exercise, so I guess that’s where the time comes from! J

SB: How did you get the judging gigs you have had?

TW: The first time I judged was for the Aurealis Awards. I put my hand up a few years ago when Fantastic Queensland was running the Awards and called for judges, and was made convenor of the Fantasy Novel panel. It’s just grown from there – I’m now the judging co-ordinator for the AAs, and I think my other judging opportunities owe a lot to that experience as well. The first year I did WA Premier’s it was again just a simple matter of applying (and I think they were desperate – I shortlisted two categories on my own!) – I’m about to finish my last year for that, because you can only do three years in a row then have a couple of years break. CBCA was fantastic, and I’m only sad I couldn’t do my two year rotation (the judges are state-based and I moved interstate. I didn’t think it was very fair to the WA members not to have their judge accessible to them!).

SB: How many entries did you receive for the Children’s Book Council Awards and how long did it take to read and comment on them?

TW: I think we received over 400 entries across four categories. CBCA is great because from about May through to the following March, you receive a box of books every three weeks to read and comment on. The deadlines are nice and firm, and it keeps you on track, so although you’re reading a heck of a lot of books (many of which are picture books or quite short chapter books, which makes it easier!), it’s spaced out over the year.

SB: What criteria did you use in judging the CBCA awards (and any other you might like to comment on)?

TW: There are quite extensive criteria for the CBCA awards, which are available on the CBCA website - Naturally, literary quality is an important factor in all awards, but so is age appropriateness and many other elements. What’s interesting about judging for different awards is seeing the different focuses, and also how discussions differ in different types of panels – CBCA is eight people, face to face in an intensive four day judging conference in which EVERY ENTRY is looked at again; WA Premier’s is two people for initial shortlisting, then four/five for final decision (face-to-face meeting in an afternoon); Aurealis Awards is completely online, with three to four panelists. You can judge exactly the same books and get very different results – fascinating!

SB: What did you do with all those books you received?

TW: Most I donate to my local school/s – my own school library does very well out of me, as do my kids’ school. I give some to friends, and keep special ones for myself. I try to be ruthless about what I keep though – we’ve moved around a lot and boxes of books are HEAVY.

SB: I’m told that sometimes the difference between a Notable Book in the CBCA awards and a shortlisted one can be one vote - did that happen this year? 

TW: Each book is shown to the judging team at the conference – if it receives at least half the team’s vote, it’s put forward for discussion to be Notable. The process is very straightforward – a certain number of votes are required for a book to get this honour, and then each of the Notable books is discussed and voted on to work to a shortlist. Then we vote again for Winner and Honour books. Each stage has clearly delineated rules about number of votes needed for a book to make it through. And yes, there were books this happened to – I imagine there would be every year!

SB: Would you do any/all of these judging jobs again?

TW: In an instant! I really enjoy the process, and the discussions you can have with other judges – I’ve never been in a book club, but I daresay I get the same sort of thing from judging!

SB: Tell us about Fablecroft Publishing, the company you founded.

TW: I started FableCroft after about eight years working in collaborative groups in Australian small press. Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine was really a kind of apprenticeship for me, and an experience I’ll always treasure for the friendships I made and the lessons I learned. But I eventually decided I really would like to do some projects on my own, and thus FableCroft was born. It’s been ticking along nicely since the first book, Worlds Next Door, came out in 2010. I did two books that year, just one in 2011 (I also helped run a major science fiction convention that year, which ate a lot of time!), and two already in 2012.

The amount of work required for the press comes in fits and spurts, depending on where in the publication schedule I’m at – I’m always looking for marketing opportunities, and do regular newsletters with Twelfth Planet Press, as well as mailouts to retail outlets, update the press’s social networks and am usually working on one project or another at various points of the publication process! Slushreading is perhaps one of the biggest time factors – for Epilogue, which was open internationally, I received almost 200 submissions, which translated to over 900,000 words of fiction. In the first two weeks of the submissions call for the new anthology, One Small Step (closes September 30), I’ve had a dozen stories submitted – it will be interesting to see what the final numbers are like for this book, as it’s open to Australian authors only.

I love working on FableCroft – it lets me be creative, and support our local authors. As with Andromeda Spaceways, I really enjoy seeing new(ish) authors I published early in their careers go on to wonderful success, and is one of the reasons I formed the publishing house. It’s also really great when stories I’ve published are recognised at awards time, because it means that other people agree that the stories are as good as I think they are! A FableCroft story won an Aurealis Award for the first time this year, which was very exciting (yay Thoraiya!), and we also have stories being reprinted in the Ticonderoga Year’s Best collection later this year. Awards are not the reason I publish, but it’s a lovely bonus.

SB: Small press publishing seems to be thriving in Australian speculative fiction in recent years. Do you agree - and if so, why do you think this is the case?

TW: Personally, I would agree that independent press seems to be thriving in Australia, but I’ve only got a decade long perspective to work with. Certainly it seems in our history, we’ve had other boom periods, but the difference today is, I think, visibility and accessibility. We live in a connected world, and it is both much easier to actually CREATE such things, thanks to the advances and lessening costs of printing/publishing, as well as to be AWARE of them, due to social networking. The noise-to-quality ratio may also be increasing, but authors can certainly find more publishing opportunities now than ever before, and those opportunities seem to be growing too. It means we know more about what is out there, both within Australia and internationally, and can easily find publications we’re interested in reading, and interested in submitting to. It’s a great and scary time to be involved in publishing – so many changes, and so many opportunities. Pretty awesome, really!

SB: And here's the link to Fablecroft Publioshing: If you're a teacher or school librarian or both, you might like to check out Worlds Next Door while you're there. There are some free sample stories to download and some of the stories have been read aloud by the authors. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Queen Lear at the MTC

I love Shakespeare. No matter what he writes about, it's about people and the dumb things they do, and people haven't changed much in hundreds of years. Lear is about family. It has two families in which the parent throws out the loyal child and embraces the awful one.

But Shakespeare doesn't have any great roles for older women for the good reason that he didn't write roles for women at all. The boy actors were apprentices, learning their craft. There are some older women, such as Queen Margaret in Richard III, but she comes in, makes one long speech and doesn't appear again and her role is often left out altogether. All that said, I should add that I had a lecturer at Monash University who argued that he couldn't see a thirteen year old boy playing a role as complex and difficult as Lady Macbeth.

However, we'll assume, for now, that the female roles were, indeed, played by boys and that a lad who could play Lady Macbeth well would have a great career ahead of him.

So, no Shakespeare roles for a brilliant actress to play once she gets past a certain age -there are some middle-aged roles, but not many and no leads. I remember the late Frank Gallacher playing Lear once he was old enough. No more Hamlet - maybe Claudius. He was old enough to play the great role of Lear. And he did it brilliantly.

What do you do for someone like Robin Nevin, a superb actress at the height of her career, but too old for Lady M or Ophelia and probably too old even for Gertrude? You change Lear from a father to a mother, that's what.

I was a bit apprehensive when I arrived at the theatre. My sister couldn't bring herself to go at all. But I remembered that Geoffrey Rush played Lady Bracknell last year, and that he took the role seriously(as seriously as you can take a character like Lady Bracknell anyway) and got his only laughs from Oscar Wilde's words, not from hamming it up. After five minutes I forgot he was a man and just enjoyed the show.

This is not quite the same; Robin Nevin was not wearing a white beard. (And it wasn't like that production of Julius Caesar where a woman played Cassius for no special reason I could see, apart from making one more female role available)But the spirit was the same. It was a perfectly good production of Lear. Richard Piper played Gloucester, Robert Menzies was a fiercely protective Kent. Genevieve Picot was Goneril. There was the strange rearrangement of the Fool's role, splitting it among the three daughters, though even that has sort of been done before. Usually, it's Cordelia who doubles the Fool, due to one line in the last scene where Lear says, "My poor fool is hanged" just after Cordelia has been hanged. On the other hand, there was the scene in the RSC production in which Sylvester McCoy as the Fool is taken by Cornwall's men and hanged on stage just before intermission. ;-) (Someone at the tram stop afterwards remarked to me,"That is no way to treat the Doctor!") in this production the Fool wasn't really there, she just seemed to be functioning as Lear's conscience - literally!

Other than Lear -and the Fool- being female, it was a normal production of this play. You just didn't think about it after a while. Robin Nevin deserved the chance to play this role and did it beautifully, and there's something that works in the mother comforting her daughter in the scene where they go to prison. The only spot where I regretted the change was the Lear/Gloucester scene, where the two "foolish, fond old men" are together, Lear mad, Gloucester blind; it just didn't have quite the same meaning when one of them was a woman.

I missed the beginning of this play, having forgotten to check my ticket for the start time.They let me into the crying room, a glassed-in balcony for mothers and babies, and I watched there till intermission with a lady whose public transport had let her down. Still, it didn't take me long to catch up and of course, I know how it starts.

If you live in Melbourne, ignore the negative newspaper reviews and give it a go.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Preparing for Publicity Over There...

The first bit of publicity I was asked to do for the US launch of Wolfborn was a letter to my teenage self for a blog called "Dear Teen Me" (I spotted Tristan Bancks there, didn't know he started life as an actor!). Okay, I can do that easily enough. I'm working on it. Author bio? Check! Author photo? No problem!

Then they asked for a pic of the author as a teenager. Now, that was a problem. There are not as many photos of me as you might think, given what a camera ham I am. I love having my photo taken as long as I can pose, because unposed photos make me look awful. I always posed for the camera when newspapers or TV journalists were in sight. I have a tattered photo of me with some other students taken at Monash University when we were being political, but by then I was about twenty. There was one amazing picture taken of a long line of Monash students for the Age newspaper. Even tiny and one of a huge crowd, I was recognisable, and friends said, "Hey, Sue, is that you?" It was. I'm a ham, I tell you!

But family-wise I tend to be on the other side of the camera and forget to get my own picture taken. And there are very few informal family/friend photos of me over the age of ten or eleven.

The other night I happened to be at my mother's home, where all my childhood photos are kept. I was tempted to scan one of the photos of me in my early twenties, which I only know are in my twenties because they had the family dog, Bimbo, who only appeared in our lives when I was about twenty. Hey, no one would notice!

But I decided not to cheat unless I absolutely had to. And while all the photos of me as a teenager were taken by a professional photographer for a special occasion such as a wedding, there were one or two that might work for me. I had the beehive hairdo so popular when I was growing up and hated it then as I do now. In fact, when my sister had her engagement party, I got a haircut just so I wouldn't have to have my hair done up by the hairdresser.

And I found and scanned this photo, in which I have short hair and a pixie-ish grin. You get to see this before Dear Teen Me, though I will, of course, post a link when it appears much later this year.

Here it is.

It feels strange looking back over the years at that day, through this photo. We had the party at my Dad's cousin Helen's home, which was bigger than ours (we lived in a flat at the time - a decent-sized flat, but still too small for a party and the neighbours wouldn't like it). It was a fine day and I invited my friends Harvey and Denise. The three of us went for a walk when Denise was a little dizzy.

My brother-in-law-to-be asked my mother, "Do you mind if I call you Mum?" and he has done that ever since, and treated her as a mother.

And here I am in the garden, posing as usual! :-)

I would have liked to find the picture of me at seventeen in the school production of Bye, Bye Birdie, a photo taken backstage; I think I had just made a joke and those around me are looking at me and smiling. That was in the school magazine and who knows where THAT is?

So this will have to be it. Hope you like it!


Trust Me Too is the second anthology published by Ford Street Publishing, because Trust Me!, the first one, was so very popular that publisher Paul Collins decided to do a second one and that one looks like being a hit also. I have stories in both books - historical fiction set in the 1960s. The current anthology features my story "Call Him Ringo", about a teenage girl fan of the Beatles who plays the drums and has an unexpected encounter with the Beatles drummer who isn't Ringo. I'm making my delighted way through the anthology - who would have thought I'd be in there with the likes of Isobelle Carmody, Lucy Sussex, Doug McLeod, Kerry Greenwood, Jack Heath, George Ivanoff... oh, there are so many! And the genres are widespread - history, crime, science fiction, fantasy, "Twilight Zone", humour, take your pick. Isobelle Carmody's story is set in the universe of Obernewtyn and if you want to read it, you have to get this book! ;-)

Naturally, Ford Street wants to launch this. Last time it was at the State Library of Victoria and there was a huge signing in the upstairs room where we usually have nibbles before Booktalkers, after the official launch at the Village Roadshow Theatrette. This time, Paul decided to run a competition for secondary schools in Melbourne and Sydney and the winners, who will get to have a large bunch of writers descend on them in the evening are Paramatta High next week and Princes Hill Secondary College in Melbourne Friday July 27th. The events are free and all welcome, but you need to book. If you're going in Sydney, you'll get to see the likes of the wonderful Oliver Phommavanh, who had my students rolling around laughing when we went to see him at the State Library, and here's the list for Melbourne, as Paul Collins sent it to libraries:

"How would you like the following authors and illustrators to attend your school or municipal library FREE?

Krista Bell Sue Bursztynski  Isobelle Carmody   Paul Collins
Meredith Costain        George Ivanoff  Felicity Marshall
Marc McBride    Hazel Edwards   David Miller
Sean McMullen   Michael Panckridge      Leigh Hobbs
Wendy Orr       Corinne Fenton  Judith Rossell
Lucy Sussex     Kim Kane                Gabrielle Wang
Jenny Mounfield Margaret Clark  Janeen Brian
Kirsty Murray*

Sounds too good to be true? It's not! Isobelle Carmody will read from her Obernewtyn prequel and launch Trust Me Too on July 27. We're looking at a commencement time of around 6 pm."

Notice what it says about Isobelle Carmody? She's reading from her story! If you've been following the Obernewtyn series, you'll want to hear this. If, like me, you've been waiting for YEARS to read the third Legendsong book, here's your chance to ask for the release date, which is looking more likely, since the last time I spoke to her, Isobelle said she was 400 pages in and that was last year.

More news about Isobelle, by the way, is that her book Greylands is being reprinted by Ford Street later this year. Stand by for details.

If you are coming to the Melbourne launch and want a copy of either this or Wolfborn, let me know and I'll bring one along for you. Crime Time will likely be sold on the publisher's stand, but Paul has told me I can bring the novel as well if I like, and I'll sign it for you.

Here's a link to the Ford Street newsletter with all the details and I really do urge you to check it out if you're going to be in Melbourne or Sydney in the next couple of weeks. Near the top there's a photo of me looking solemn, signing copies of Crime Time in a bookshop. Do come if you can - how often do you get to meet all those great writers for free?

I Am Now Following...

Morva Shepley's Clockwork Moon. this is the blog of Terry Morris, a Melbourne librarian, photographer, mother and fan. Even if you only want to check out the links, Terry has put a lot of work into finding useful links for anyone who lives speculative fiction,including to 150 classic SF stories, but the posts on this, that and the other in SF, are gentle and charming. And they're regular! I'm the first member, why not trot over and join?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What I'm reading this morning

Actually, I have a stack of TBR stuff and it's so hard to choose which one to pick up. But over breakfast this morning I was reading Louise Berridge's fabulous Crimean War novel Into The Valley Of Death. I like military fiction,but the only Crimean War book I have read before, one of the Flashman novels, was from the viewpoint of an officer, and one who would probably sneer at these men for caring.

The research the author has done for this is breathtaking.

And as someone who lives in an area where the streets are named for battles and characters of the Crimean War - a suburb called Balaclava, streets called Alma, Crimea, Raglan,Sebastopol, Cardigan, Inkerman, etc. - it feels strange reading the familiar names in their original context. There will be a review here and hopefully on January Magazine when I finish.

Last night I downloaded Gillian Polack's new novel Ms Cellophane. If you can't afford it in the shops but have an ereader it's just under $5. Gillian is a historian who lives in Canberra. She knows her Middle Ages back to front and tells a great yarn. She arranged several historical banquets for the Conflux conventions and has written a book about that too.

I'm looking forward to this particular book, though. I've read her fiction before and loved it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Winners of the Light Touch Paper ebooks

Okay, here are the winners of the ebook edition of Light Touch Paper Stand Clear.

Liz Bright has very kindly agreed to give away three copies, two who expressed interest on Goodreads and one who entered on the Raven.

From Melbourne we have Annabel Kehoe.

From Newcastle, NSW, we have Brenda Telford.

And last but not least is US book blogger Sherre, whose surname I don't know. :-)

Annabel, can I please have your email address? I will be sending your details to Simon Petrie, who will email you the book.

Congratulations to the winners, and I hope you'll enjoy your book, which, if you've been following the guest posts, you will know to have a little something for everyone who likes speculative fiction.

Thanks for following the series of guest posts!

Edwina Harvey's thoughts about “Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear.”

 Sorry, Edwina, Les tells me that it is indeed a wizard's hat. For what it's worth, I too thought it was a whale's tail and asked. but you and I will always see it as a whale's tail. ;-)
It's always nice when an editor doesn't have to do much work. You feel guilty. last time I had such a story, I even asked the author if SHE had any changes she wanted to make. But face it, you don't want stuff you have to edit heavily anyway. You choose stories that don't need work. So it makes sense.
Being an editor for “Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear” reminded me of that line from the movie, Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
Unlike working on an issue of Andromeda Spaceways, where you see the story beforehand then decide, editing Light Touch Paper was all about throwing caution to the wind and hoping like crazy it would all work out. We had no idea of what we were going to get.  While I worried over what would happen if stories were on the same theme, Simon worried over the word count and page count of the finished anthology. Turns out both our worries were unfounded.  There was as wide a diversity of subjects as word counts, and we were both astounded at the high quality of submissions we received from our authors.  From an editor’s point of view, it was a cake walk!
We gave cover artist, Les Petersen, the title of the anthology and the vaguest of briefs for the cover: “A bit SF, a bit fantasy, you know…” Simon and I must have sounded like kids in charge of the chocolate shop as we opened the cover art on our computers and chatted on the phone. Les had  nailed the cover brief! It was perfect for the anthology, and though Simon assures me that’s a wizard’s hat, I wouldn’t put it past Les to sneak a whale’s tail onto the cover…just for me. : - )
 Like a skyrocket, we think this anthology will light up the reader’s night sky with a diversity of sparks and colours.
Well, this is it, folks! You still have a last chance to enter the ebook competition, which will be drawn this afternoon Melbourne time. I have some on Goodreads, only one here.  All you have to do is click comment and tell us what format you want if you win.
See you this afternoon!

Wolfborn Heading Stateside!

Before I get stuck into today's posts - Edwina Harvey's editor post on Light Touch Paper and the announcement of the winner of the book, I'd like to share with you a lovely bit of news I had today. The heading above says it all. RHA haven't told me yet, but the US answer to RHA's lovely publicist Dot Tonkin has contacted me with the first request for publicity, in this case a guest post for a site called Dear Teen Me. I am to write a letter to my teen self and supply an author pic and bio, but also a teen photo of me. I don't HAVE any teen pics of me! My mother has some in boxes, but I 'll have to do some hunting around, and they're all very old and faded, though there's a quite nice photo of me at my Year 12 formal.

I'm very excited. As soon as I hear from RHA about dates it will be up here.

Bless you all, gentle readers!

Les Petersen - what’s REALLY behind that cover?

Les Petersen is the artist who has been behind many an ASIM  cover, including my favourite, #12, in which I had an Arthurian story, and he did a gorgeous King Arthur for the cover.Since then, he had a great career as a book cover artist, but the really unfair thing is that he can WRITE as well as illustrate!
In this post, he tells us what was behind his cover for Light Touch Paper.
Why the cover of LTP? What was its inspiration?  I suppose part of it is a memory image of a black powder weapon display from years (decades) ago – where they actually used touch paper – that morphed into  the idea of a guy (almost a Bacchus/Pan figure, really) sitting on a cannon and celebrating the powerful creative explosion. It’s a fairly phallic image, of course, especially if you consider the explosion of a world from the loins. Heck, I even doubled the phallus - look at where the lightning would be funnelled by the staff. And the spray of the wine. Tch tch tch! (Years of counselling have been wasted; or much more is required).

But it doesn’t take away from the playfulness of the image. It’s fun and frivolous and slightly naughty. Putting the characters on top of a tower/rocket and adding the fantasy and scifi elements just came naturally to the imagination – part of the requirements for the anthology – there’s even a bit of steam punk in the shape of the rocket. No horror, though, it just wouldn’t have fitted in.  Interestingly, if you look at the fantasy archer, she’s looking down (or backwards in ‘flight time”), searching for a lost arrow, maybe. The guy is looking to the future, to space, to creation – in a somewhat drunken haze maybe – and the only one really looking at us is the Grey Alien, and who really knows when we’ll ever meet them. I had a bit of fun with that.

SO, it was a bit of fun and I’m glad everyone likes it.
If you’d like to check out some more of Les’s art, go to his gallery, here.

Light Touchpaper: Rob Porteous on The Subjunctive Case

I’m pleased to say that, just as I thought we were finished, I received a post from Rob Porteous, the newest writer in the anthology, with only a couple of sales so far, but one with a terrific future ahead, if this is any example of his work! Since Simon has already had his say on this piece, let me add my own. I started reading it and thought, "Yes, but what’s going on here? And why does it jump around so much?" And then I realised why all the leaping from place to place and thought, “How clever!” After that, I loved it. No other detective I’ve come across has quite the advantage of this one.
Rob sent his post in the form of an interview. I’m happy to have the author create his own interview questions, so take it away, Rob!
Q: How did you get your inspiration from the theme of Light Touchpaper?
Rob: The image I got was of a burning match and the smoke. For me, that felt a bit retro so it drew me towards something with a seedy, thirties feel – I love Raymond Chandler's writing so, from there, I suppose a detective noir story was almost inevitable! Anyway, smoke pervades this story – it inspired the paranormal ability of the detective character at the beginning and it's there on the lips of the Lauren Bacall moment at the very end.
Q: Melbourne provides a perfect setting for this story – is that where you're from?
Rob: No! I'm originally from the windswept plains of Perth. But I needed a big-city canvas for the story and I really like the different boroughs of Melbourne's inner city. Plus, there's the great story of how the world's tallest tower almost got built there in the 90s (originally designed by Harry Seidler); in my story it's actually under construction in the heart of the city and that becomes a crucial element.
However, I have to admit that, before the detective turned out to be paranormal, I was thinking of a straight, hard sci-fi setting off-world. Bringing it back home let me work in some Australian themes that added a bit of interesting texture.
Q: Some of the other characters have a lot of personality and you hint at their history with the detective. Did you plan out a prequel?
Rob: No, I've only been writing for a little over a year so everything I write is sort of first-of-kind and a bit unplanned. I wrote this story pretty fast (for me) over a couple of weeks, but I ended up developing a lot of affection for the characters. Though, now you mention it, I have some other 'perfect murder' plots I wouldn't mind trying out (don't ever cross me!) so, maybe, there could be a sequel.
About Rob:
Rob Porteous lives in Canberra, Australia and has been fortunate enough to have careered through a curriculum of interesting jobs, including stints as a speechwriter and a research physicist.  Although he has only started writing fiction in the last year or so, he is an active member of the Canberra Spec Fiction Guild.  Between writing lots of short stories, he is planning a novel and is co-editing the next CSFG anthology (scheduled to be launched at Conflux 2013), which is called... 'next'!