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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sophie Masson's New Venture

Hi lovely readers. This morning I got the following email from Sophie Masson, author of so many wonderful fairy tale books (some reviewed on this blog), this time producing a children's picture book which contains two Russian fairy tales:

Dear everyone
This is to let you know about an exciting new adventure which I'm embarking on with two artist friends: illustrator David Allan and illustrator/designer Fiona McDonald(yes, at whose gallery we had the expo and launch). We have started a very small picture book publishing house called Christmas Press(print books, not e-books), and are preparing our launch title: Two Trickster Tales from Russia, featuring my retellings of the lively, funny folk tales Masha and the Bear and the Rooster with the Golden Crest, illustrated by David Allan in classic Russian-inspired style and beautifully designed by Fiona McDonald.
We're going to be printing a limited edition of 500 softcover books, in full colour, with an Australian printer, and plan to publish in October. And we have just started a 'crowdfunding' campaign for the book to help with printing costs. The way it works is people directly contribute to the campaign through its Indiegogo page: and hitting whatever amount and perk appeals to you.
You'll see there's lots of possibilities for contributing, but basically a $25 contribution is a pre-order for the book. But even if you don't contribute(and I totally understand if you don't want to!) I hope you might be able to tell lots of people about it through your personal contacts and social media contacts.
Thanks so much for reading this!
Best wishes

If you follow the link, you'll find that there are other options, including getting a print of one of the illoes, but really, if all you want is a copy of the book, the price asked is about what you'd pay in a bookshop and it includes postage! Why not buy a beautiful book, written by one of Australia's best children's/YA writers and full of gorgeous illoes? They're hoping to raise $3500, which shouldn't take long, given the track record of the author and artists.

I'm not sure what the deal is for overseas, but if you live outside Australia and your mouth is watering at the sight of this, it should be worth emailing Sophie Masson to ask about postage.

The style rather reminds me, not only of Russian art, but of the Victorian/Edwardian English artist Walter Crane. Take a look:

This is an illo from the new book, from the story Masha And The Bear.

And here's one from Walter Crane's Little Red Riding Hood.

Both are gorgeous, eh?

If you're interested, follow this link

Anniversary - Gone With The Wind

On June 30 1936 the massive writing/publishing/cultural phenomenon Gone With the Wind was first published. It sold 1,000,000 copies in six months! It won awards and not too long after that, they made the movie, which is a phenomenon in its own right. When you think about it, Margaret Mitchell's book was the cause of creativity in others. Music, costume, screenplay, acting...

Perhaps not the best time to admit I don't greatly care for the book, which I read in my teens and thought a 1000-page Mills and Boon. That's before we even get to the racism and the fact that you want to give the heroine a huge boot in the backside.

Nevertheless, I went to see the movie -also in my teens - and didn't much care for that either. And that was before my PC period began. A friend wanted to go see it and the trailer advertising it at our local cinema looked good, so I agreed to see it a second time and still didn't like it.

As an adult, I realise the film is a masterpiece of cinema - and I suspect that if I watched it on TV, say, I would get sucked in and watch the lot. And I'd have fun spotting the well-known actors in cameo roles, such as a very young George Reeves, before he put on the cape and suit and took to the skies as Superman, playing one of Scarlett's suitors. And knowing that Vivienne Leigh was British behind that southern drawl would be fun; I didn't know that as a teen. Actually, the actress who played one of Scarlett's sisters said that it was better she was British, because an American from the North would roll their r's in a way a Brit wouldn't.

But I'm never, I'm afraid, going to find it romantic or go gaga over it, or over the novel on which it was based. So, I'm a philistine. Sorry!

As a Pratchett fan, though, I will always have a giggle remembering the "click" Swept Away made in his novel Moving Pictures. Now that book would be worth filming!

Friday, June 28, 2013

On Reading, Rereading And Introducing Books

Yesterday I persuaded a student to try Douglas Adams. We have a volume of Hitchhiker's Guide 1-4 on the library shelves. Mark was in my homeroom last year and I know him to be a Monty Python fan, so suggested that if he liked Python, he might enjoy Adams and then, if he likes that, I will introduce him to Terry Pratchett(evil chuckle!). We have a fair number of Pratchett books from a few years ago when a young man called Jake was reading and loving them. Poor Mark, he was looking for a missing volume of Skulduggery Pleasant, which the catalogue said was on the shelves, but wasn't. Happily, he was willing to try something else while I hunt for the other one or add it to my shopping list.

Meanwhile, I have finished my reread of Wintersmith, the third Tiffany Aching novel, and felt like starting again from the very beginning, with Wee Free Men, so I downloaded it and have realised, I'd forgotten how very good it is. Terry Pratchett is magical, and not only because he writes fantasy. I think he expresses himself best in that genre, but what he says is not just for fantasy fans. He has something to say to everyone, whether he's sending up popular genres such as vampire fiction or having fun with Shakespeare or turning fairy tales inside out. His characters are real people, even if they're witches or wizards. And he's funny, even when he's saying something serious - laugh-out-loud funny!

I do hope I can get Mark hooked on Pratchett.

Excuse me whie I go read some more.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Recently Downloaded Ebooks

There's something magical about ebooks. In my case, I get a credit from iTunes via those cards which you can always find discounted somewhere. I put it on my iTunes credit and I can confidently download, knowing the money is there. And I see a book that looks interesting and zap! It's on my little computer, all ready to read.

This week's goodies include Connie Willis's Bellwether, a classic which for some reason I had never got around to reading. I have finished it already, delighted with its humour. It's free of regular SF tropes, but it's SF all the same, with statistics used as the theme, as the heroine tries to work out where fads begin, along with a fellow researcher whose passion is chaos theory. Very funny and touching and there are sheep and Browning poetry involved. And because Browning is being quoted constantly, I dropped in at Project Gutenberg for some of his poems, though as it's only a selection, the key poem from Bellwether, "Pippa Passes", isn't there.

I was also in the mood for Tolkien-related stuff, but as I already had most of the bios in print form(did I ever mention my favourite bookshop, Collected Works?), I skipped them and bought a title on masculinity in Tolkien, The House Of The Wolfings - part of a series of his influences - and Inheritance by his grandson Simon , who has begun writing a series of police procedurals. I like crime fiction and it wasn't dear, so what the heck! Definitely wise of him not to attempt fantasy, as he would be constantly being compared to hs grandfather and found wanting.

I also downloaded a couple of volumes of SF by Howard Fast. I read them years ago, finding them a bit too philosophical for my tastes, but then, that's his style and it's nice to look at them again with years of spec fic reading and writing behind me. And he is capable of humour, as shown by a story about a hoop that sends things elsewhere and is used to dispose of garbage. That one would stand up very well today, as would the story about digging so far into the earth that what comes up us not oil but blood. Another, "The General Zapped An Angel" was updated and turned into a short telemovie. Although we know him best for his historical fiction, Howard Fast's first sale was spec fic, when he was about eighteen. And his son Jonathan became a spec fic writer.

Lots to read! See you all on the other side...

Spam Comments Again!

Ack, I've been spammed again - and published a spam comment, since removed.

Mostly, they're easy to spot - they make a vague comment about how much they enjoy the blog without saying anything about the post itself, they slip in an ad for something at the end and when you check their profile it has been in existence for five minutes and "follows" a bunch of advertising blogs. Or the profile links to an advertising blog.

Occasionally, you aren't sure and you publish the comment. After all, some people who don't have their own blogs keep a profile so they can read other people's. Nothing wrong with that; I don't, after all, allow anonymous comments, so you have to have a Blogger profile to comment here. So I have taken chances- once I even responded! Then you get a swarm of other advertising "comments" and you know for sure that you've been had.

I don't allow advertising on this blog, not even the Blogger-arranged AdSense. I know some of my friends do, and that's fine. I tend to ignore ads on their blogs, but if it gets them a little free money, no problems. It's just not for me. The closest I get is to run guest posts by writers who can then put in a link to further info about their books and where to buy. This is a book blog, after all, and if readers are interested, they'll want to know where to buy.

So, to genuine commenters, I say, I will publish your comment if it's about the post. I won't publish anything that says vaguely,"Hey, great post" or,"I really like this blog" without saying why in a way that tells me you've read it. Especially if it leads back to a profile that tells me you're an advertiser. ;-)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just Finished Reading...

Some of this is on ebook, some print. I managed to get three of the shortlisted titles for this year's CBCA awards on iBooks - I'm still waiting at school for the print versions, which tend to go out of stock the minute the shortlist is announced. Of those three, I have just finished reading Jackie French's Pennies For Hitler and Neil Grant's The Ink Bridge - still reading Doug Macleod's The Shiny Guys. I have just finished Myke Bartlett's Fire In The Sea, which I downloaded from iBooks while the author was speaking at Reading Matters. A nice entertaining fantasy adventure which the kids will enjoy if I can ever get it in print.

This evening I finished Stephen Chbosky's The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, which I bought for the library on student requests and I must say it was nice to have further requests from them for some of the classic novels mentioned in it. I haven't seen the film, but I became curious and I believe that if it doesn't become a classic(I suspect it will) it may at least be the cause of reading classics. The hero, Charlie, is doing a class in advanced English and has a teacher who gives him a stack of books such as To Kill A Mockingbird, The Catcher In The Rye, On The Road, Hamlet and some F. Scott Fitzgerald books - actually, there are about fourteen classics mentioned in the novel. In general, it's a coming-of-age, very well-written.

I will rustle up whichever of the books we have on our shelves and maybe do a special display on this novel and those mentioned in it.

Time to return it and grab something else. I believe we have quite a few of the Inky long list in the library. - next on the agenda!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Continuum - The Rest Of It!

So after lunch yesterday, I got back on time for the readings. In the end, we had to read to each other, because nobody turned up till Narrelle Harris came from her panel, followed by others. I ended up sticking around for a panel on historical realism in fantasy, which was a good, lively discussion of what you use and what you cherry pick from history when you write fantasy. Alison Goodman admitted to cherry picking for her fiction, for good reason. She is currently writing something with a Regency setting and has been researching the period thoroughly. There was a lot of talk about standard mediaeval fantasy. Of course, as the author of a mediaeval fantasy I had an interest in this. My novel was what it was because it was inspired by a mediaeval romance I loved and because that's what I know about, not because I thought this was the market. And I researched, even though it was my own universe.

The two anchor figures were Paul Poulton, an old friend from my Austrek days, who is currently studying history, and a young SCAer. The other author was Jane Routley, who said her novels were not mediaeval.

I enjoyed it very much and it was overflowing with audience, some on the floor.

Last night, looking at the program for today, I suddenly realised I had a panel at 10 this morning! It was on the subject of dark YA. Whatever did I have to say about that?

I was with Richard Harland, Amanda Pillar and a guy called Ander Louis, who has just self published his first YA novel, apparently dark. I haven't yet read Richard's new novel, Song Of The Slums, which is sitting on my cyber bookshelves, but I gather that has some dark in it too. We discussed what you can and can't put in YA or just how far you are willing to go. As my novel isn't especially dark, despite one scene with the Wild Hunt, I wore my teacher librarian hat for this one and stuck to what kids read, what they ask for and some of the truly dark stuff that has turned up on the CBCA short list.

It was an enjoyable panel, with much audience participation, and after that I bought a couple more books from the dealer's room - the Joanne Anderton collection from Fablecroft, which includes the title story, which she had originally in Light Touch Paper, and the Alison Goodman novel originally published in the US and now republished by Lindy Cameron's Clan Destine Press. Yesterday I bought a collection of true crime stories from them, with some of Australia's top crime writers in it, and going for $5!

Then I went to the panel on watching the new Doctor Who, which I enjoyed very much, and followed it up with one on British TV SF and fantasy of the 1980s. Amazing how much there was!

I had lunch with my old friends Kathryn Anderson and Sarah Murray-White, both from my days in media fandom.

After lunch I was on two panels, one on dystopias and finally one on reviewing. I finally got to meet Tsana Dolichva, a book blogger currently studying in Sweden, but home for six weeks, and put a face to a name, and Michelle Goldsmith was with me on the reviewing panel; both have given lovely reviews to Wolfborn, so that was nice. I have actually accepted a story by Michelle for ASIM 60, making it four local pieces so far. I need more!

I've overdone the SF so far and have enough horror fiction for now, so I am having to go for fantasy in the interests of balance.

That was the final panel and we waited a while for the closing ceremony, where it was announced that next year's Continuum will be the Natcon and the GoHs would be, local, Ambelin Kwaymullina, author of The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf, and, international, Jim Hines, a writer of humorous fantasy who has been published in ASIM and some of whose novels are in my library. The kids enjoy them very much. Nice to see both guests are writers of YA fiction, or at least fiction that teens can enjoy!

After the closing ceremony was over, I went for tea and a bowl of wedges with Helna Binns, a friend from my Austrek days, and we chatted about the new Trek movie - a pleasant end to an enjoyable convention.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Continuum Day 2 So Far

I arrived lateish this morning due to wanting a sleep in, then stopping at Haigh's to buy chocolate. I wanted to have it with tea, but still have it in my bag.

There was a panel called Plot 101 going on in the foyer, because they had been kicked out of their room,  probably to make way for the GoH speech at noon. So I sat and watched(photos will be inserted as soon as I get home tonight). The participants were Trudi Canavan,  Richard Harland, Amanda Pillar and David Witteveen, who was moderating. I sat on the floor and listened to their discussion of plotting a novel. One question asked was one I wish had come up yesterday on my panel, on what happens when you have to make a major plot change. In my case it's what you do when you suddenly lose your villain, who turns out to be okay, and have to replace her, THEN you realise that as the heroine's potential romantic interest is a long lost prince, who will eventually become king , she can't have him and you now have to find a new character, because your girl readers will NOT like a Prisoner of Zenda ending! I am starting to realise that there may be a reason for the standard YA romance triangle.

After this, I went to Paul's GoH speech, which was mostly a workshop on the twelve thingies making up the Hero's journey and we had to get into groups and work out a plot. Five of us came up with a very silly plot, but I took notes because it may come in handy in the classroom.

This was followed by a second launch of Richard Harland's new Steampunk novel. I downloaded it on iBooks - I just don't have space on my shelves any more and the library has a copy.

I had a great chat with Michael Pryor before going out for lunch at a Mexican place, where I'm writing this. I may sit in on the rest of the auction and then go to author readings in hope that mine can be fitted in before audience wanders off!

More anon.

Continuum Day 1

Yesterday I arrived late for Continuum, because I spend Friday nights with my mother, then take her for lunch. Friday nights are sacred to the family, so I missed the opening night of the con as well, including the Chronos awards. Probably just as well, as I didn't win and would have had to smile at whoever did(still don't know), but it was nice to be shortlisted and I want to thank whoever did vote for  me and put me on the shortlist. Yesterday morning Mum and I went out just for coffee and cake in her local shopping centre, at a delightful restaurant called The Goat House due to the fact that a goatherd discovered coffee. Then I headed for town.

Continuum takes place every year at the Ether part of the Swanston hotel. I remember when this small conference centre used to be an Asian food court - how things change! I like Continuum and have gone to every one since the beginning; it was a follow up to Aussiecon 3, where I worked on the children's program, and the idea was to train up a new generation of con organisers.

I was on two panels, one on the heroines of YA and the other on the YA writers of Melbourne. Today I have only a reading, assuming anyone turns up(people mostly don't, but you never know). I arrived a litte before the launch of George Ivanoff's new novel, Gamer's Rebellion, which I will be reviewing here as soon as I finish it(nearly finished) and wandered into the dealer's room, where my novel was on Justin Ackroyd's table, so I gave him some bookmarks and more to Chuck McKenzie of Notions Unlimited bookshop, who had some copies of Crime Time on his. (Chuck sold lots of copies of Wolfborn when he was running a Dymock's).

A man near Justin's table made my day by telling me he had just finished Wolfborn and loved it, after his teenage daughter had said,"Dad, you've got to read this!"

Happy sigh!

I had a chat with the folk at the horror fiction table, which was nice, and was asked about ASIM submissions.

The panels went well. I was on the first one with two Amandas - Elliott and Pillar - and David Witteveen. Richard Harland as well, though he came a bit late. Only a few people admitted to reading YA fiction, but when we asked, "Who has read this or that series?" we got most hands up, and there was much discussion. Michael Pryor was in the audience to hear me say one of my favourite YA heroines was his character Caroline in the Laws Of Magic series, who is intelligent, attractive and kickass. Of course, I also like JKR's Hermione, who doesn't need to kick ass, as she uses her brain.

I rushed off for a belated lunch at the Australia Food Court before returning to my next panel, which I did with Paul Collins, Michael Pryor, George Ivanoff and a lady called Amie Kaufmann, whom I had met once before, at Flinders Street station, where she admired my fannish t shirt and told me about her forthcoming novel(not yet available in Oz). Paul was moderating and when the question of "Melbourne influence" came up, I was the only one who could say I had had some Melbourne settings, even if only in my short fiction. There was a lively, if irrelevant, discussion, of what education publishers will censor. I also mentioned a scene in Wolfborn, stolen from Petronius's Satyricon, in which a werewolf, about to change to wolf shape, urinates around his clothes to hide them. I offered to remove it if necessary, but my publisher said it was fine. The audience had a chuckle over that.

Soon after, we were shooed out so that the evening's Maskobalo could be set up, so some of us went upstairs to the bar, then went down the street for dinner at a Greek restaurant, where I chatted wit writer and fellow Year 8 teacher Steve Cameron. We ended up talking teacher shop all through the meal! Steve said we should add it to our PD hours. ;-)

I didn't go back for the Maskobalo, which is good to look at, but far too noisy for my taste. An evening at home was nice.

Back to the con today, ths time for more hours, though I won't be there for long after my reading at five - home to my family, as Sunday is another family evening.
More tonight!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

A Baby Boomer In The Age Of Technology

While I was at the conference last week, I was asked to fill in a survey form and  had to borrow a pen because I had forgotten to bring one, even though I'd brought an exercise book. I hadn't been using the notebook, you see, I had been taking notes in Pages on my iPad. As speakers did their thing, in between taking notes, I was googling those of whom I hadn't heard and downloading their books where available, to be read later. Now and then, I would lift the iPad and take a surreptitious photo of the stage for my blog, though on Day 2 I brought a good old fashioned camera(well, old fashioned in that it  was a camera - it was digital and later I downloaded the photos, correcting the red eye as I did so). The reason for that is that you can't get a close up on an iPad, or if you can I haven't yet worked it out, but I will. Next to me, a teacher librarian with grey hair was working her own iPad like there was no tomorrow.

Where am I going with this? The other day, I agreed to run an eye over an assignment on library digital services for a nice young librarianship student. There was something unintentionally patronising about the discussion of "digital illiteracy" but when it got to a sentence in the notes about libraries teaching people this stuff and "baby boomer statistics" I went, "Whoa! Who does she think invented this stuff? Taught her how to use computers in high school?" It's bad enough getting the constant refrain of "baby boomers are selfish" but at least you can see where that comes from and why. This was sheer patronising. Definitely not intentional, which may be worse.

My father discovered the Internet in his seventies and eighties. He was a true silver surfer. Every morning he would get out of his nice warm bed in the cold early light and go read the international newspapers online. Every visit I heard,"Hey, guess what I found on the Internet today?" If he'd still been around, I would have bought him an iPad and a digital subscription to his favourite papers. He could have taken it off the charger and back to bed.

Some years ago, I met a teacher I'd known in my first job, when he was teaching science. Now he was head of infotech.

See, when I was growing up computers were the size of a room and only universities and government facilities had them. I had a typewriter on which my uni assignments were written and on which my Honours thesis was typed. If I wanted someone to look at my assignment, I had to show it to them personally, not email it. In fact, when I was with my first writer's group, we had to make carbon copies or find an institution with one of those wet photocopiers and mail our stories to each other. I published a number of fanzines. By then I did have easy access to photocopying, but I was still on a typewriter, though an electronic one I had bought with the prize money from my first win in the Mary Grant  Bruce children's writing award. It wasn't until I wrote my first book that I had a computer, an Apple Mac Classic 2. When I was in my first library, I had catalogue cards - five for each book, and then, during stocktake, we had to pull all five out for any missing books. And there were lots of books missing every time - hundreds!

Can you see why I was so delighted when technology made my life easier? No more having to fix typos  with whiteout or retype whole pages. No more pulling five cards out for every missing book. In fact, now I can just download a catalogue record for most books(I can still catalogue from scratch). We do still have a typewriter(electronic) for spine labels, because it's not a good idea to put a sheet of sticky spine labels in a printer or photocopy tray with rollers to catch them. In fact, where I work, with everyone sharing the photocopier as a printer, chances are that someone will go to print out a piece of written work and find it spread across a page of spine labels. Our students who visit my office are intrigued by the typewriter."What's that?"

I love my Internet passionately! I love that if it's not in a book I can help my library users find it online. I love that I can write this n the way to work on a little computer the size of an A4 page and publish it to the world before I get there and then use the same little computer to read a book or a newspaper or slush for my issue of ASIM.

"Baby boomer statistics"?!? Being patronised, however unintentionally, by a girl who thinks her generation invented technology - Urk!

 I can only hope it never happens to her generation.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

On Editing ASIM

I've been a member of the Andromeda Spaceways Collective(now Association, long story) since it was in single digits. Now, I'm finally going to edit an issue, #60.

I never intended to do this. I have done some subediting and participated in the multi-editor issues where each of us chose one or two stories to edit. That was fun; I got to pick something special and didn't have the responsibility of the full job. It will certainly mean I have to put aside most of my own writing. But I offered to subedit this issue for a member who has since vanished into the blue, nobody having heard from her in months, without having started and now it's up to me. This has sort of happened to me before, with #38, but that one was nearly ready to go when the editor vanished for several months, to the point where some authors assumed the magazine had died and sent their work elsewhere. She had even chosen the cover artist and paid from her own pocket. We rolled up our sleeves and got it out in time. I had help. I will have help this time too, but in the end, it's my job to make the decisions.

I will post about the process as it happens.

Right now, I'm reading. And reading. And reading. Lucy Zinkiewicz, our slush wrangler, has come up trumps, sending me slush that has passed all three rounds of reading as soon as she gets it. I need a  balance of SF, fantasy and horror fiction. Fantasy is the easiest, as most of our submissions fall into that category. SF is harder, because we get less of that and what we do get is not always believable. Fortunately, we have scientists in the collective to check the physics for me. I have found one wonderful piece that is believable and has an emotional punch too. Not many can do that. Off the top of my head, Stephen Baxter can, among the current crop of hard SF writers. I don't really like horror fiction, so I have asked for opinions from someone who knows the genre better than I do. In the end, I still have to care about the characters and the writing has to be excellent to get me to consider it, whether it's a space opera or a brooding Gothic horror. When I have chosen stories in the past, they have mostly been ones that I couldn't stop thinking about two days after I had read them. I may not have that luxury for a whole issue, but I still want stuff that is better than just "quite good".

I'm reading this as a reader, not an editor, asking myself,"What would I want to read if I bought this?"

And it's not just a balance of genres - you can't have a bunch of stories that all all grim or even all funny, despite ASIM having been founded to create a market for funny stories. There's also poetry, reviews, possibly articles to choose.

Ah, the challenge! Stand by for the next exciting instalment...

So Many Books, So Little Time! Reading Matters Splurge

Just got back from three days at Reading Matters, the biennial conference run by the Centre for Youth Literature in Melbourne. More when I have the energy and have sorted the photos. I have to share anyway, with the staff at school, as the school paid for my ticket.

The con proper was two days, but Thursday was student day and I took book club. I bought far more books than I should have, including downloads of some on iBooks as the authors spoke - I didn't have an iPad last time. Danger both from the bookstall and the iBooks Store!

There was also the goody bag, that contained a manga comic which goes straight in the library, and Will Kostakis's new novel in ARC form. A lovely, lovely book, which I have finished in a day, but can't yet review due to a mid July embargo. Will has agreed to an interview, which also has to be July. I will have to write it all now, while it's in my mind, and save it for July. Something to look forward to!