Search This Blog

Monday, June 30, 2014

I Got Some Free Books!

I've recently won a book from the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, a novel by Glynn Holloway, 1066:What Fates Impose, which is winging its way to me from England, more when it arrives - I would have been happy with an ebook since I can't put it in my library anyway, but this is paperback. I will at least give it a plug. I showed Glynn the very silly 1066 history trailer I did on my iPad's iMovie app and uploaded to YouTube because I couldn't think of any other way to show it to my Year 8 history class before I make them do their own. He said he enjoyed it, the nice man.

This morning I downloaded the special free promotional copy of Colin Falconer's novel East India he was offering on his blog to his followers only. I follow it because, among all the promos for his historical romances, are some very enjoyable and entertaining thoughts about history and the people in it. Now and then one of his promos is a free ebook. I have two of his books on my Kindle app. One was a freebie, Anastasia, which I admit I havn't finished yetThe other was his novel Isabella: Braveheart Of France, about Edward II's queen, more often known as the She-Wolf Of France(uness you believe the nonsense shown in that Mel Gibson film). It also had a twist at the end which I found interesting if unlikely, but hey, why not? I bought that with an Amazon gift voucher I won on another blog in a competition I'd forgotten entering, along with some Arthur C Clarke. I'm glad though that this time it's an iBooks voucher, as I really don't enjoy reading on my Kindle app. And as I don't like giving my card details online unless I absolutely must, I prefer iBooks, which you can buy with an iTunes card. Even if the merchant is very careful with your details, there are a lot of complete and utter losers out there who think they might get some friends if they show how clever they are at hacking. Not to mention money.

However, this isn't telling you about Colin Falconer, an Aussie expat whom I remember as Colin Bowles, author of some YA fiction many years ago. Nowadays he writes for adults, historical fiction - mostly, I think historical romance - set in various eras. I am looking forward to reading East India. It seems to be set in the same time and place as the Batavia incident. Hmm...

***Additonal, additional! I have just added to my cyber shelves  Bound by Aussie writer Alan Baxter, the first in his Alex Caine series, which the publishers have made free for download in Australia and New Zealand this month. Alan had a story in the anthology Mythic Resonance in which my story "Brothers" also appeared a couple of yeas ago, so I've been following him on Twitter, on which the offer was made. It's a nice idea, something that wouldn't have been possible before ebooks. Publishers might have reprinted Volume 1 of a trilogy to promote the latest volume, but would then have to hope they would sell instead of sitting in the warehouse. I'll look forward to reading this...and then, if I enjoy, might buy the rest... Which is the idea of such freebies. ***

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Currently Re-Reading...

I'm halfway through a reread of Anne-Marie Selinko's novel Desiree, a delightful historical romance about the woman who was Napoleon's fiancée before he decided that Josephine was better for his career. She married Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte instead, who became one of his Marshalls and they ended up as King and Queen of Sweden, by invitation of the Swedes, not put there by Napoleon.

From what I've read, the historical Desiree Clary was a very strange woman, not at all like the one in the novel and certainly not like Jean Simmons, who played the role so beautifully in the film. But as a novel, it's very readable and it takes you through the whole of Napoleon's career, from beginning to end, through the eyes of his first love(who gets over him fairly soon, by the way). If Desiree wasn't like the one in the book, she should have been.

I've just finished re-reading Terry Pratchett's Equal Rites, about the Discword's first female wizard. It was written early in his career and introduces Granny Weatherwax.  I'm glad to have reread this particular novel, because Eskarina Smith, the young girl who has wizarding abilities, is also the first witch Granny trains and is not unlike Tiffany Aching, the heroine of the Wee Free Men series. And I've been re-reading those - currently reading A Hatful Of Sky, the second one. In fact, Eskarina returns in the fourth of the Tiffany series, as an adult, bouncing around time and space.

I'm also on the first read of some review books - watch this space!

Friday, June 27, 2014

June 28 Meme

Today is my sister Mary's birthday, so I went online to see what happened "on this day" and who was born(apart from Mary, of course). Mary is a writer, though these days mostly articles. She did get a third place in the Scarlet Stiletto Awards some years ago for a very Roald Dahl-style crime story called "Chivas Regal And Me". And because this is a book blog, I thought I'd see if there were many writing-themed events On This Day. Alas, no. I did find the usual battles and killings, the excuse for World War I(assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand), the coronation of Edward IV and the premiere of the ballet Giselle by the Paris Opera Ballet(I saw them when they were in Melbourne years ago - it was a birthday gift from my sister's friend). Well, there have been a lot of books written about all those topics, many of them fiction. Scott Westerfeld wrote a trilogy of Steampunk novels about an alternative WWI with the adventures of a son of Archduke Ferdinand and a girl who had disguised herself as a boy to get into the English flying corps(GM whales). Edward IV has been in fiction since the time of Shakespeare! Giselle has characters out of folklore, the Wilis.

Birthdays? Well, there was the playwright Pirandello, very famous, but I'm not familiar with his work, alas!

There was also Peter Paul Rubens, the artist who painted pictures of large women, such as this one, The Judgement Of Paris(Image from Creative Commons), thus coining the term "Rubeneque".

There was also, I'm afraid, Henry VIII(Creative Commons image)

Well, in his time, he was passionately into music and poetry, I suppose. Pity about the wives, the treatment of his daughters and the  politics.

There was Richard Rodgers in 1902, the wonderful composer of all those musicals, seen in this Creative Commons image with Irving Berlin, his partner Oscar Hammerstein II and choreographer Helen Tamiris.

There's also the wonderful Mel Brooks, creator of so much amazing comedy, but I couldn't find a Creative Commons image of him and don't want to be sued, so just check him up on Google Images.

The Interview Of Ambelin Kwaymullina: On Dystopian YA And The Tribe

Today I'd like to welcome the amazing Ambelin Kwaymullina to my blog. I had read both her wonderful novels and heard her speak at Reading Matters before actually meeting her at Continuum X. I'm just a bit envious of her multiple skills - writing, art, craft... And managing to do all that while holding down a full time teaching job! She's also a terrific person. 

If you haven't read any of her fiction, here's my review of The Disappearance Of Ember Crow, but go and read both books NOW!

 I'll let Ambelin speak for herself.

You have said that you started The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf with the title, given to you by your brother. How did you decide what it was to be about?

The story told itself. I heard the first sentence in my head – ‘he was taking me to the machine’ – and everything unwound from there. So I discovered the story in the same way that the reader does.

How long did the novel take to write, given that you have a full time day job to keep you busy?

Hmmm. It’s all a coffee-fuelled blur. 100 years? No, that can’t be right. 12 months. I think. 

Was it always intended as part of a series or did you ever consider it as a standalone?

Nah, I always knew there were four books in the story. I didn’t know quite what was in them – but I knew there were four. 

You feel you have an important story to tell in your Tribe series - why did you decide to use the YA format to tell it?

Because I am writing about someone who will save the world – and at this point in human history, evidence strongly suggests it’s not a grown up who will do it. The collective adults of this earth just don’t seem to be doing a very good job of leaving those who will come after us a better world than the one we inherited. I see the hope of the future in the young. 

How much scientific research did you need to do to build your particular world, in which all the continents are back to Pangaia status? And how did you do it?

I worked in environmental law for quite a few years – so while I did do some research, it was relatively easy because I was building on things I already knew. 

In my novels the world ends in an environmental cataclysm that the survivors refer to as ‘the Reckoning’. The Reckoning was inspired by the 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity (which was issued by 1700 of the world’s leading scientists, including most of the world's Nobel Laureates in the Sciences). It includes this passage:

“Our massive tampering with the world's interdependent web of life -- coupled with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss, and climate change -- could trigger widespread adverse effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand.”

You can read the rest of it online at:  

Did you build your world first or as you went along? 

The world revealed itself to me as I wrote. Of course, I’m seeing it through Ashala’s eyes, and her understandings (especially of political processes) is sometimes imperfect. Plus as it turns out there’s this whole secret history which is known only to a few. As Ashala herself thinks in The Disappearance of Ember Crow, there are layers and layers to the world.

How much revision did you do? Were there any major changes you made before submitting your manuscript?

I went through a lot of drafts – I can’t remember how many – and I made major changes at almost every stage. The overall shape of the story didn’t change, but ALL of the details did!

Do you have any favourite stories? Tell us about them!

Yeah, I’ve got lots and lots and lots…but actually my very favourite story at the moment is written by my brother Zeke. I think as a creator you always most admire the things you can’t do yourself, and (while I can string a rhyme together) I am not a poet. But my brother Zeke writes picture books that are poetry – he’s got one called Dreamers, which includes the following: 

“We are the dream and the dreamers
the rain jumpers and the cloud fliers
the sky sleepers and the earth swimmers
we are children wild and hope bright.”

I love those words. 

How much of the story of your series set in the future is inspired by the past?

So much of it is inspired by the past and, unfortunately, the present. I say unfortunately because I am writing of a world where children and teenagers are disempowered and disenfranchised. I drew a lot of the ‘feel’ of that from the experiences of my ancestors under Stolen Generations law and policy. But since the series has come out I’ve found that teenagers of all different backgrounds relate to a sense of powerlessness and injustice. Too many of them relate to it. I am glad that my books are speaking to my readers, but I want a better world for all of them than the one some of them are living in.  

You still have two more books in this series, but any ideas for what might be next after The Tribe?

I have a book in mind - in fact I've written a plan for it. It's YA speculative fiction but very different from the Tribe series. Although like the Tribe it tells a larger story through the individual struggles of the characters, this time about class and privilege. 

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I’m so rarely not writing! But I like to bead. In fact, I love my beads with their shiny surfaces and pretty colours and different shapes…I have literally thousands of them (in my defence some are very small, so its really not that many, they fit in quite a little container…okay, several little containers…okay, a cupboard full. But it’s not a big cupboard. Well, not that big.)

 What was your first sale and how did you celebrate it?

The first book I ever published was a picture book called Crow and the Waterhole, and I went out to lunch at a fancy restaurant. As it turned out it wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had because all the food had names I didn’t understand. Plus there was too much cutlery on the table and I didn’t know what fork to use (pretty sure I got it wrong). To this day I have no idea what I ordered, but I didn’t like it very much.

When my next book was published I went out for a burger.

Thanks for visiting The Great Raven, Ambelin!

 I really do recommend Ambelin's The Tribe series for anyone who loves some difference in their dystopian adventure.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Caller (Book 3 Shadowfell) By Juliet Marillier. Sydney, Pan Macmillan, 2014

Summer Gathering, when the rebels of Shadowfell are planning to challenge the evil King Keldec, is approaching rapidly. Caller Neryn, with whom we have made a long journey, still has two Guardians to go before her training is complete. But the White Lady, Guardian of air, is not in the best state. The Master of Shadows(fire) is a trickster who may or may not advise her on how to protect the rebels' Good Folk allies from cold iron, which makes them sick and can kill them. Worse, Keldec now has his own Caller, who is less scrupulous about what he does to the Good Folk he calls. Neryn's beloved Flint, the rebels' double agent, known to his comrades as Owen Swift-Sword, is fed up with his life at court and what he's forced to do as an Enforcer, but has no choice. Can he trust his closest friends in the Enforcers or not? 

The story which has built up over the last two books has come to a dramatic climax. Neryn has to make some decisions she doesn't necessarily like. At the same time, she meets people from the other side whom she can like and respect - even finds herself, at one point, pitying the king and wondering what he might have been like under other circumstances.  She does some unexpected things which provide an interesting twist to the story - I won't say what they are due to spoilers, and how she gets around some of the impossible problems at the end is especially interesting. I wasn't expecting it, though it's not out of character.  

You do tend to forget the heroine is only sixteen, especially in a world where that's an age where you might easily be married, but I think that any teens who have read the other two books will be happy with this one. 

Don't read this without having read the first two books, but if you haven't, I do recommend this series. If you're in Australia, ignore the cover of the first book, which is nice if you have sentimental feelings for old-style children's books(I confess I do), but really doesn't suit a YA novel. Just read it. You won't regret it.

Writing Process Blog Hop #4: Mary Victoria

Mary and I first met when we were sitting near each other at the Aussiecon 4 signing tables. At the time, she had a novel out, mine was not out for another three months!(I had to sign bookmarks and sample chapters kindly supplied by my publishers). Mary has appeared on this blog before, interviewing the World Tree on which her novels are set.  As Mary's blog isn't doing much at the moment, I offered to host her Writing Process Blog Hop post, so without further ado, here it is!

What are you working on?

I just completed a draft of a manuscript which passed muster with my agents, and is now being sent out to publishers (I hope.) It’s a departure from my past books which were all young adult-centered, epic fantasy. In fact, this new story is about as far from epic as possible, though it contains a magical twist. It is set in the 1970’s on the island of Cyprus where I grew up.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

I have carried over my usual obsession with myth and legend into what is ostensibly a contemporary-realist tale. If the reader is so inclined, she may pick apart the story and find the original Greek myths on which it is based. But that isn’t necessary for a proper reading of the book – just a fun aside.

Why do you write what you write?

A story takes me firmly by the lapels, sits me down at the computer and requires that I write. There really isn’t much choice in the matter.

How does your writing process work?

While I have a project on the go, I grapple with it in an obsessive manner for as long as those working with me will allow. I do write chapter breakdowns, but if I have the luxury of throwing them out and reworking plot and character arcs on the fly, I will. Generally a manuscript is dragged from my bloody fingers at a certain point in this process. It’s never quite ready, in my opinion.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Teaching Year 8 To Write Stories ( from my other blog)

I'm a writer. I know how to write, but teaching Year 8 how to write stories? If it was that easy, everyone would be selling.

Yet it must be done. Next year they will have to do their NAPLAN test, designed by a former government to gain votes by making those lazy, good for nothing teachers accountable! And when they sit down to do their Year 9 NAPLAN test they will have to write either a persuasive essay or a "narrative"(that's a story to you and me) - not a choice but one or the other, you aren't told which. And the narrative may well be a prompt such as "The Box". And they will have 40-50 minutes to write it - heck, I'm still working on a story submission for "Cranky Ladies Of History" after months! And I'm a professional.

I did three things on Monday. One was to gather some copies of the school anthology, stories written by students and put together and edited by Chris Wheat, a wonderful teacher and YA novelist who works at my school as the English and literacy co-ordinator. Another was to print out my much simplified version of The Hero's Journey, which I did as a workshop at last year's Continuum convention, with Paul Collins. It makes a good adventure story outline. The third was to put together some links to appropriate movie trailers on YouTube

It was not a good start to the day. The interactive whiteboard room computer didn't work - someone had unplugged the important bits and I had no idea which they were or what to do. Luckily, the other Year 8 teacher had cancelled her booking for the computer room. So I took them there and gathered them around a computer. One of the students logged in and went to YouTube  for me. First, though, I told them the general story, about this ordinary guy who is visited one day by someone who tells him he's special and must go on a quest. Along the away, he makes friends and deals with a major enemy and comes back with a reward for all that trouble. I invited them to think of some stories that fitted that description. They did very well - Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Up, even a couple I hadn't thought of, such as Percy Jackson and Doctor Who!

We watched several trailers, both the ones I'd prepared and some the students had thought of. We discussed how they fitted the story outline I'd given them.

It was going very well, until I started trying to do a story together on the board. That has worked with other  classes and should have worked this time, but I suppose I was lucky that some of the worse behaved  students had lasted even that long.

I told them we were returning to our classroom, where they would do the rest by hand. My original plan was that after the story on the board they could get into groups to brainstorm, but it was not to be. They went ahead of me and I arrived to find that one of the more difficult students was being told off by a teacher whose classroom window he had broken by butting it with his head.

He was sent with a note and a reliable student to sub school while I tried to unlock my classroom. The door wouldn't open. Some students told me that this had happened when they were last there with another teacher, who had taken them to another room.

I had to find another room for them. We found one, where we read some stories from the anthology together, then individually, about all there was time to do by now. The vice principal brought back the boy who had broken the window and asked for information. Not being suicidal, the students kept silent, so he told them that they'd all do a week's lunchtime detention unless someone came to him and discussed the matter(that worked, by the way).

After all this disaster, you'd think the lesson would be a compete flop. It wasn't.

Even the difficult boys found at least one story that appealed, once I let them choose their own. One of them, mind you, was delighted to find a story with swearing in it - written, mind you, by a good student who was using it in context. One of the girls found a story that touched her and exclaimed, "Oh, how sad! Miss, do read this one."

And two other girls were so keen to write a story based on The Hero's Journey, they started immediately and took their English books home to get on with it. One is a student who, though she is lovely and works hard, has never been able to write a lot. She showed me, today, two pages of dense text about a Percy Jackson-style demigoddess who discovers she is the daughter of a fire god. On Thurday, while the others do the brainstorm, I'm going to let those two get on with their stories.

If I can get into the classroom.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop #3: Satima Flavell

Satima Flavell, who is a WA writer with the novel The Dagger Of Dresnia under her belt, actually has a blog of her own, at, but thought it might be good to post here, to reach a different audience, and has invited me to post on her blog. So here it is, the writing process of Satima Flavell!

What are you working on?

The Cloak of Challiver, book two of The Talismans Trilogy. It takes place a couple of decades after book one, The Dagger of Dresnia (Satalyte Publishing, Foster, Victoria, 2014) and the main characters are Ellyria's grandchildren.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

My protag, Ellyria, is a woman in her forties, rather than a young person. I think a lot of older women read high fantasy and they might enjoy seeing their own struggles mirrored in the trilogy. There are younger people in the sub-plots to provide romantic interest - and of course there are battles and lots of magic and intrigue as well!

Why do you write what you write?

Simple - because it's my favourite reading matter. I have loved fantasy ever since reading Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave when I was fourteen, and ever since, that imaginary medieval world and stories set there have shared a special place in my heart along with with historical fiction and non-fiction.

How does your writing process work?

First I get a character and a situation. These come pretty well fully developed - I know my character's name, occupation, social status, interests, family make-up and lots of other things - even their horoscopes! All I can do is start writing and hope the story will take shape as I work. When I first started to write fiction, I had heaven's own job trying to get a plot outline in advance. I just had to keep writing a mish-mash until I reached the end and then I had to bring some structure to bear. I'm getting better at this now!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop #2: Sue Bursztynski

What are you working on?

Right now, a short story, straight historical fiction, about Dr "James Barry", a woman who lived as a man for most of her life in order to be able to have a career as a doctor, something not usually possible for women in the nineteenth century. I first heard of her when I was researching for my book Potions To Pulsars: Women doing science. She was passionate about her work, kept her hospitals clean, performed the first caesarean operation in which both mother and child survived and fought duels at the drop of a hat. A truly cranky lady of history! If I don't sell it first go, I may have to add fantastical elements to sell it to a spec fic market. Fingers crossed!

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

I've had some good reviews for my first novel and some awful ones, but none so far has said, "This is just like all the others." Not one. I did get some that said,"Well, that was different!"

I suspect I annoyed those who thought they were getting an urban fantasy in which the heroine would have two suitors, a smouldering Byronic vampire/Faerie Prince/Selkie Prince and a gorgeous werewolf, and readers could say they were "Team Fred" and "Team Joe"... and it turned out to be a mediaeval fantasy seen from the boy's viewpoint, in which he and the girl had to put off their romance till the danger to those they cared about was over.

Actually, some liked that. ;-)

Why do you write what you write?

Mostly, I write speculative fiction, with the occasional piece of historical fiction. I write it because I love telling stories and because what I have to say needs more scope than mainstream fiction affords. I write for children and teens because children's and YA fiction is one of the last refuges of story, as opposed to "beautiful writing" that isn't actually about anything in particular, and because you can't bullshit kids.

How does your writing process work?

It depends on what it is. If I'm writing to a deadline, I write late at night. I have to be up at six to get to my day job, so I don't sleep much at those times. I sometimes go to a local cafe, to get away from the distractions at home. I start with the germ of an idea and research the background, sometimes first, sometimes as I write the first draft. For my stories set in the 1960s I went to the State Library to read the newspapers of the time, not just the subject I was looking for - the Beatles in Melbourne, the day of the first moon landing - but letters to the editor, advertising, the TV guide, articles about what else was happening that week or that year. For my mediaeval stories, I have read whole books about the role of women, the church, life in the cities, life on the manor, knightly training. I also looked up stuff about real wolves as opposed to the were variety for my novel. I read books of folklore about faeries(I was pleased to see in Melissa Marr's bibliography that she'd used many of the same sources for Wicked Lovely). Anything that helps in my world building! I play mediaeval music to get me in the mood(though I often stop writing to get up and dance!)

So, that's me! Any writer out there who'd like to be hosted here for their writing process? Email me.

Writing Process Blog Hop # 1: Ambelin Kwaymullina

The other day I received an email from Rhiannon Hart, a YA author currently living outside Australia. It was about a "Writing Process Blog Hop". You ask three writers you know to answer questions about the way they write, along the lines of last year's Next Big Thing. It's meant to be done on your own blog, but not everybody has one, so I offered to host Ambelin's post. Ambelin Kwaymullina is the author of two YA novels so far, plus the author/illustrator of several children's picture books, plus a handcrafter, plus working full time teaching law stuff at university...Some people have all the talents!

There will be a proper interview with Ambelin as soon as I get the questions worked out, but meanwhile, here are the answers to some things you might have wondered. 

What are you working on?

The Foretelling of Georgie Spider, which is the third book in my Young Adult dystopian series. This series tells of a future world where people with special abilities are persecuted by the government and centres around the struggle of a group of teenagers and children to change their world for the better.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

My work is strongly drawn from and influenced by my Aboriginal culture. This means that while my work is often seen as being very different to that of non-Indigenous writers, it contains a lot of similarities with speculative fiction written by other Indigenous authors, including (for example) non-linear elements to the story. I'm really proud to be one of a number of Indigenous people writing speculative fiction here in Australia and worldwide, I think we have a lot to contribute to the genre.

Why do you write what you write?

The story itself drives me, and the characters. I couldn't not write the stories; they demand to be told and that I do the best job I possibly can of telling them.

How does your writing process work?

Generally my 'process', such as it is, runs on coffee and desperation to meet a deadline!

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Beatles In Melbourne - Writing About It

Fifty years ago this weekend, the Beatles were in Melbourne. That is certainly something to celebrate. I've been to the exhibition at the Melbourne Arts Centre and it's great! I do recommend it to anyone in Melbourne over the next few weeks.

A couple of years ago, I was invited to submit a piece of historical fiction to Ford Street's new anthology, Trust Me Too. I'd already done a story set in 1969 on the day of the moon landing for the first anthology, so I decided that this, too, would be set in the 1960s. The question was - when? It needed to be centred around an important event, to give me a framework in which to tell the story. So much was happening that it was just a choice of which event. 1967, for example, was a big year in history. In Australia alone there was the referendum on Aboriginal rights. In February that year, Ronald Ryan was hanged, the last person in Australia to be executed. At the end of the year, PM Harold Holt disappeared, his body never found, leading to all sets of conspiracy theories. But the disappearance of a politician wasn't really of importance to anyone in their teens, the execution horrible and the referendum was huge, too huge for me to do all the necessary research in the time - and, not being indigenous myself, how could I know how they felt?

In the end, my friend Edwina Harvey made the suggestion I used. "How about the Beatles visit?" That happened in 1964. It would work well.

I wanted a heroine affected in one way or the other by the visit. She was to be a huge fan, but not one of those who fainted and screamed and had to be carried off to the first aid station.  I couldn't, just couldn't, see things from the viewpoint of such a fan. Instead, I made her a young musician still at high school, a drummer who admired Ringo Starr.

I decided that the story would centre around the matter of Jimmie Nicol.  Jimmie Nicol was a drummer, a session musician hired by the band to cover Ringo, who was in hospital at the time. He did a lot of the tour, but by the time they got to Melbourne Ringo was better and joined his band mates and Jimmie was surplus to requirements. The saddest photo I've seen was one of him alone at Essendon Airport, where he had been taken and dumped hastily as soon as Ringo arrived. Oh, he was well paid - well enough to have a go at his own band( it didn't work out). But it's a sad ending to the excitement for him. And, you know, he could have cashed in on his time with the Beatles, with interviews and such, but, from what I read, refused to do so. 

Thing is, I had never heard of him before I started doing background research for my short story. And suddenly I had my story outline: my young heroine had been invited to play with a band at school, it's two weeks before the school dance, and she's been told that the drummer she was replacing is coming back. Not very subtle but what the heck! It worked.

I read and read. I looked at pictures, mostly from the Sun(now the Herald Sun), though there were also some impressive ones in the Age, of fainting girls being carried off by mounted policemen. The Sun had a lot more human interest stories in it and when you're writing fiction, you need that. There was a picture of a thrilled hairdresser clutching shorn Beatle locks, and another of two girls kissing a less than thrilled Beatle. I went on YouTube and watched bits of the concert, muffled in the sounds of young women screaming. I read, online some personal accounts of people who remembered the event and had gone to see it.  One young woman was sacked because her boss saw her, somehow, among the thousands on TV!

  I wrote about the crowds outside the Southern Cross Hotel, where they were staying, and I inserted my brother-in-law, as a young music teacher from my heroine's school. Gary was there, after all, though somewhat younger.

All this for a 2500 word story. Was it worth the trouble? Oh, yeah! 

Continuum Day 1 And ASIM 60 Arrives!


I had to get up at the same time as I do to go to work today, because I was doing my first panel at 9.00 am, a " Meet The YA Author" event, where I was to interview my old friends Edwina Harvey and George Ivanoff and the delightful Ambelin Kwaymullina(watch this spot for an interview with her which I will put together in the next few days). Well, we had an audience. It was Jake, the son of Dirk Flinthart, ASIMite and writer and musician. Jake had the choice of going to a panel on YA with us or listening to his Dad speak for the millionth time. He chose us. As he was the only one, we made it informal, invited him to the panel table to share our sweets and water and just talked. Jake said he didn't care for YA books whose authors clearly didn't remember what it was like to be a teenager, so generally preferred adult books, although he just reads what is on his parents' shelves and anything that works for him, adult or YA, was fine. I was a bit surprised when he said he'd been forced at school to read Tomorrow When The War Began which, at one time, was a bestseller among boys and girls alike. I gess nothing is fun if you have to read it.I invited Edwina, George and Ambelin to talk about their books, and what was behind them and was very interested to hear how much science was behind Ambelin's universe in The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf. She has a background in environmental science. Jake was quite interested in reading her book by the end and told his Dad he had enjoyed it. 

After the panel I was going to get a takeaway tea and help out on the ASIM table, but was lured away to a kaffeeklatsche with Ambelin, so I had my tea, but not takeaway. It was Iron Goddess, which I chose   because in the Phryne Fisher novels it's the favourite of Phryne's boyfriend Lin Chung. Interesting, but not hot enough for me to get the taste properly.

I went back to the ASIM table and, while helping Simon Petrie, got my copies of 59 and - Ta Da! - 60. In the picture above, you will see me flanked by two of my contributors, Paul Hughan(the bearded gentleman) and Kiwi Dan Rabarts. Wish I'd thought to grab a pic with the wonderful Lewis Morley,who did my internals. Tomorrow. Terry Morris, who's now a member of the ASIM Association, came along with her husband Hung and offered to do some time on the table in the afternoon. It was lovely to see her. 

Twelve o'clock I went off to the GoH speech by Jim Hines, which was short, but very enjoyable, and stopped to get my programme signed and tell him the ASIM table was around, because he wrote three stories for us, including his first Goblin story(he's since gone on to do a lot more in that universe). I sat at the ASIM table for a short time with Dirk, who was relieving Simon, and that's when the photo was taken, by Dirk.

At one I was scheduled to do a signing in the foyer. I was sitting and chatting with Gillian Polack and Ambelin, but Ambelin was the only one who had any requests for signed books. Pity I forgot to bring my bookmarks. I have a stack at work. 

I had to leave early because I had a theatre ticket(Ibsen's Ghosts) and had a belated lunch with Edwina first, at a rather nice hotel where they have a $12 lunch deal, and I had a yummy pasta dish, fettucini with smoked salmon and spring onion and a creamy/wine sauce, and we caught up. I never feel as if time has passed when I meet Edwina. 

I'm back from the theatre and letting my iPad charge while I write this. Tomorrow's panel on why adults read YA and why we write it isn't until ten, and I can just go out and catch a tram, so no 6 am rising. In the afternoon I have Live Slushpile and a small press panel which I'm moderating.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

History Is...?

Today, June 4, is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tianenmen Square Massacre in China. In it, pro-democracy students were mowed down by the army. If you want full details of the event, just Google it. There are plenty of newspaper articles on it today anyway. We still don't know how many people died because the government suppressed all that and made sure that future generations wouldn't hear about it.

But this is a far more linked-up world than it was, and whatever did get out is known everywhere else. It gets to show the importance of studying history - rigorously. One government in this country wants it known what happened to the indigenous people over the last couple of hundred years, the next government declares this is a "black armband view" and decrees that children will be taught all about the heroic(white) pioneers and explorers instead. So, even in Australia, history can be what the government of the day decrees. At least till the kids get online, anyway. Or even books - they can't prevent books from being published, though the current conservative government has recently stacked the board of the Prime Minister's History Award with conservative old men who are likely to hand out the prize to the books that support their view of the world. (I should mention here that one of my children's books, Starwalkers:  Explorers Of The Unknown, a history of space travel, was shortlisted for a NSW Premier's History Award. I was highly chuffed!).

To get back to the topic, few years after the Tianenmen Square massacre, an Australian writer, Alan Baillie, wrote a YA novel, The China Coin, which featured the event in the course of a young girl's trip to China with her mother on family issues. It was only a few years after, and no doubt the author thought it contemporary fiction, but for me it already felt like history, even though the incident was fresh in my memory from the news,  and it changed my perception of historical fiction. Twenty-one years later, will it feel even more like historical fiction? I admit it has been a while since I read it.

It told me that historical fiction doesn't have to be set a hundred or five hundred years in the past. It can be about something that happened in your lifetime. So when I had my first commission to write a short story set in the past, from Ford Street Publishing, for the anthology Trust Me! I decided to set it on the day of the first moon landing. For me, it was a part of my life, but for the children who would be reading it, it would be history. Researching for it in old newspapers at the State Library, I was amazed at how much the world had changed since 1969. I was a lot younger then and it was just everyday life, so I had forgotten.

History is people. It's only a small amount about kings and queens and politicians. It's nit for nothing that there are oral history projects and that children are asked to go and interview their grandparents. I live with history even in my working life. The very school where I spent eight years, our current senior campus, was once a school set up in 1913 by the owner of Sunshine Harvester, after which the suburb was named, to get apprentices for his factory, and in the 1940s it was visited by Helen Keller - yes, THAT Helen Keller. I remember one day when an old gentleman walked into my library and told me all about the people in the 1920 staff photo. He had been dux of the school in 1927! That was history. Well, for me it was. For him it was just his life. 

So, what is history to you? Any suggestions? There will be a copy of my children's history of crime in Australia for the answer I like best. You have a week. Local or international. Don't forget to put in your contact details.