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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review Coming...Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers ...X Marks The Spot

I've written the review for the newest book about our favourite Captain Cook wannabe and his latest adventure. It will appear on March 29, as that's the embargo date, so don't forget to wander over to this site for a look!

By that time, the book will be in the hands of my second-youngest family member, Eden, who has the first book and who is having his eighth birthday this week. Enjoy, Eden!

Monday, March 20, 2017

My Banned Book - A Follow-Up!

Yesterday I attended a Ford Street book launch, where I met both friends and new acquaintances. One of the latter, who had read and reviewed Crime Time when it first came out(she loved it!) told me that she had been talking about it at the time and even then it had been banned for being too un-PC!

Who would have thought it? I do know that when Paul Collins was sending promotional emails to schools, some told him never to darken their doorways again because of this undoubtedly-evil book!

Personally, I think that wonderful Grant Gittus cover helped. But then, it also attracted the young audience for whom the book was intended.

My evil, un-PC book!

  • The only time I was truly offended by a review for this book was when Sally Morgan suggested it might be okay for helping kids with their homework. (How dare you, madam! You, whose first book ended up on the VCE syllabus where kids did have to read it for homework. It made a lot of sales, though.) I'd rather my book was considered evil by those who haven't read it than homework material by someone who has. Oh, well. She admitted she didn't read kids' books, so was probably puzzled. I've long forgiven her. Besides, her book has probably been banned somewhere, anything worth reading usually is.

But kids don't use it for homework(except one student who needed information about Mary Wade, the child convict who became the ancestor of an Aussie PM).

Oh, no. And today I met the young man I gave a copy last week. I'd forgotten, but when I asked had he enjoyed his weekend, he smiled and said, yes, he'd been reading my book and was nearly finished.

That doesn't sound to me like someone reading for homework! 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Randomly Reading...Fateful by Claudia Gray!

This one turned up when I was helping a young lady in my Book Club with her binge of Evernight vampire novels. I'd forgotten about it. I only ever got around to reading two of the Evernight books, though I quite liked them. They took place in a school for youthful vampires who needed to be kept up to date so as to continue passing for ordinary teenagers in a world very different from the one into which they had been born(one of them was a boy from Saxon England!). There were a few human students there and they were out of bounds - you want to bite something, you go out into the woods and catch an animal, thanks!

And the author visited Australia at one stage and gave a free talk at the Melbourne branch of Dymock's Bookshop, so of course I went. I think that might have been the one to which I took three students, Brittany, Taylor and Paige, who were fans of YA vampire fiction. She stepped up on the tiny stage, ordered, "Look scared!" and snapped a photo for her blog. I was one of only two who followed orders, so if you find that page I'm one of the two scared people in the audience.

She was finishing off Fateful at the time and that was when the Titanic exhibition was on in Melbourne, so she went. I did too, and wow, what a cruise that would have been for the rich people, if it hadn't ended in tragedy! According to the heroine of this novel, even third class was not too bad, though you did have to share a four-bunk cabin, potentially with strangers, something YHA backpackers would be quite comfortable with. I got my photo taken at the "Grand Staircase" and goggled at the luxurious stuff that they managed to pull up from the bottom of the sea. You were given a boarding pass with the name of a real passenger, then at the end of the exhibition there was a wall with the passengers' names and you found out if yours had survived or not. I think mine was second class and, remarkably, survived.

Fateful is set on the Titanic. With werewolves yet! I'm only a few chapters in, but the heroine, a ladies' maid called Tess, is already being stalked by a scary character called Mikhail, and has fallen in love with a rich boy called Alec, who has,so far, saved her twice from Mikhail. As it's in first person, I'm going to assume she survives...

More to tell you later! 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I'm The Author Of A Banned Book!

Yea, I too have joined the ranks of those heroes who have written banned books! Rejoice!

Well, at this stage it's one primary school, but there may be more, probably are - I wonder if I can do a reading from my own book for Banned Books Week? Opinions?

See, I have a huge pile of copies from when the distributor moved to Sydney and refused to take Ford Street books with them. I bought 500 at author's price. I couldn't bear to think of the fruit of many months of research and hard work bring trashed. I was fairly confident I could sell them at events, but so far, I've sold three to a boys' school and given away a fair few.

And this year I have begun to give copies to my younger admirers in Year 7. Yesterday I gave a copy to a student whose two older sisters and a brother were all in my book club and one of whom was in my Year 8 class. Another boy in the class saw it and said, "Oh, wow, Crime Time! That's so cool!"

I asked him if he'd read it and he said, "Well, yes, I started to read it in 2012, when I was in Grade 2, but the library took it away because too many younger students were reading it."

Now, I'm the first to admit that Crime Time: Australians behaving badly is really not suitable for children of that age, though I suspect young Eden, my nephew Mark's elder boy, would enjoy it, and he can have a copy any time he likes.  He is in Grade 2 and reading several years ahead, just like his old auntie Sue(I was tested in Grade 4 and found to be reading at Year 7 level). And perhaps the librarian was worried about angry parents complaining. Maybe some had complained. 

But as a librarian, my own philosophy is, either they can handle a book or they can't. If they can't they will realise it soon and bring it back. If they can, then they should be allowed to try. And believe me, I am careful that what goes on my shelves is mainly YA. I have said no to several requests for Fifty Shades Of Grey, but I suspect they were not serious ones. They knew I'd say no. I did see one girl with a copy, but it was her own. The most they will get from me is, "Isn't that a bit hard for you? Have you read a page or two or only the cover?" But if they still want it, they can borrow it.

Still, I don't know what was behind the ban. I can't judge. 

Which brings me back to my question: shall I, dear readers, do a virtual readout for Banned Books Week? Or is it tacky to read your own book?

By the way, the boy got a copy today. I signed it,"You are now old enough to read this - hope you enjoy it! From your favourite teacher..."

Monday, March 13, 2017

Where Are They Now? - Dan Morley!

A while back, I emailed contributors who had sold their first or second stories to my issue of ASIM - or, in Anthony Panegyres' case, who sold his second story to ASIM #50, an issue in which we all chose a story to edit (I chose his), asking them if they would like a guest post or interview about where they were now.  I didn't hear from all of them, which is a pity, but recently I received the response below from Dan Morley, who had been busy moving house when I emailed.

Sounds like he has been busy since making his first sale!

If you'd like to read some of his work, here is a link to his home page, which includes some fiction.

Dan wrote a delightfully funny story set in the world of Norse mythology, seen from the viewpoint of a gambler who makes the mistake of trying to get one up on the trickster god Loki.

Enjoy this interview!

 You made your first sale to ASIM. Your story Planeshifter was published in issue 60. What did you have in mind when you wrote it? 

I’d been mucking about with the title for a while and tried a few ideas around it. I wanted to write a story where death wasn’t so much an ending as something that took you elsewhere, and when that life ended, shifted you somewhere else. A bit like Quantum Leap but with the trickster god, Loki, having full authority over where you go and when, and the character is not so much trying to help as get one up on his tormentor. Mythology has always been an interest of mine, particularly Greek and Norse, and I found this an entertaining way to explore the Norse realms.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself - day job, where you live and why you love/write SF/F?

Sci fi and fantasy, particularly fantasy, has always got my inspiration going. I’m a software developer by profession but cyberpunk really isn’t my bag. It was way back in the depths of time as far as I can remember, either sitting down to play Hero Quest with my family one Christmas morning, or listening in while my older brother had The Hobbit read to him at bedtime. Either way, far off worlds and magic had me hooked from a young age.

Reading SF/F has given me a great deal: escapism, guided a moral compass and shown me different ways of looking at and understanding the world. I believe that a story doesn’t have to be set in reality to offer a perspective on it. When I write, it always feels like I’m doing something worthwhile, perhaps offering some of what I gained from reading to someone else. Or maybe, at least giving them a bit of a laugh.

I live in Staffordshire, England, so I’m surrounded by greenery with the Peak District National Park on my doorstep. Always good for inspiration. Creative productivity waxes and wanes with work and life, but this year I’m lucky enough to take a sabbatical from work and get 6 months to write and travel.

Have you had anything else published since then? Title? Publication? Or is something of yours about to be published - title, publication, etc.  Non fiction, poetry, blogging, whatever...

I mainly work at novel length but I’ve sold a couple more short stories since Planeshifter. The first, Wardens Legacy, is a prequel to my novel series, Legacy of Torr. The novels were a near miss with a few small publishers but the short story was published in Swords and Sorcery Magazine. The other short story sale got stuck in the publishing process. I’m actually not sure whether this saw the light of day. If you ever see a quirky fantasy called Dish of the Asparamancer (yes, a cookery based magic system), then it’s probably mine.

I also worked with Awaken Realms on the rules and supporting fiction for their tabletop game, The Edge, in the capacity of tester, proof reader and copy editor. Working on a project in the gaming industry was great fun and something I quite fancy for the future.

Are you working on anything writing or writing-related now? 

Right now, I’m working on a novel set in the Age of Sigmar. That’s one of Games Workshop’s Warhammer worlds. Since I’m not under commission for it, I suppose you’d call if fanfic. I had a cool idea, and wanted to explore the concept regardless of whether it gets published or not, so pushed on with it. One of my biggest writing ambitions is to be published through the Black Library so this process can only be good practice.

I also write narrative scenarios for tabletop games (Frostgrave, Warhammer, etc.). Some, I share on my blog, others I keep within my gaming group. It’s interesting to see people interacting with your narrative, and you can be right there with them while it unfolds. After all, a story is a story, no matter whether delivered through words on a page or through another medium.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Latest Review Copies From Allen And Unwin!

This morning, I stayed at home, after an exhausting night of tossing and turning and barely any sleep. Teaching is one job in which you just can't fake it. If you're too tired to teach properly the kids will notice. And it's no good either for them or you. 

So I stayed in bed for two hours more, made breakfast a bit later than usual and went outside my door to collect my box of fresh fruit, delivered fortnightly, to find an exciting-looking parcel on top of my fruit box. It contained two brand new books for reviewing. 

And here they are!

This is the sequel to Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers The Third Grade, which is on this year's CBCA long list. So far, the same over-the-top humour and cartoons, which is good, because young readers want more of the same. I haven't finished it and anyway, the embargo is the end of the month. This will go to my nephew's older boy, Eden, when I have finished with it. I gave him the first one and saw him reading it. Hopefully, he enjoyed it and will like the sequel.

And here's another sequel.

As you can see, it's Volume 2 of "Quest Of The Sunfish", a sequel to Escape To The Moon Islands, in which four children are having adventures on a boat in a world whose geography has been altered through climate change. 

I'd forgotten about it, to tell the truth. I have heard no promotions, and I get through so much children's and YA fiction in a year. This is definitely children's fiction, which will, all going well, be donated to the primary school down the road from my secondary school, which has a small but decent library. It's likely to be a good adventure story, if it's like the first one. In fact, the cover is oddly like the Famous Five novels, isn't it? Thank heaven there's no Julian!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Just Finished Reading... Becoming Aurora by Elizabeth Kasmer(from my Goodreads account)

I picked this one up from my library display because it has been long listed for the CBCA Awards. The heroine, Rory, hangs out with a gang, of which she seems to be the only female member. Before the story begins, the gang was responsible for a racist attack on an Indian restaurant and Rory took all responsibility for the attack, which got her a community service order, requiring her to work over the summer holidays at an aged care facility. There, she befriends a former boxer, Jack, who was a tent boxer in his time and has been a mentor to young boxers since, including some friends of the family who had been the victims of the attack.

The theme seems to be her journey towards being once more Aurora, named for a Burne-Jones goddess in the Queensland Art Gallery. And that works well and it's a good story, which will probably win some awards, but I've deducted a star for a number of things.

Firstly, Rory just seems too *nice*, too decent, for the crime she was involved in. She does have some issues in her past, her feeling of guilt over her father's death, but that doesn't lead, surely, to joining gangs? There is a childhood friend in the gang, true. But it's never made clear that this is why she joined - and he has more reasons for messing up his life than she does.

Secondly, there are one or two issues that are never resolved and one that I, as a reader, never saw as an issue, that was. I can't go into detail here because spoilers.

There is at least one character, Malik, who attacked her early in the book, who never seems to play any important role after that. I assumed something dramatic was going to happen, but all that did happen was that every time she turned up with his friend, Essam, a protege of Jack, was that he would yell, "What's SHE doing here?" His sister, a beautiful young woman, tells Rory off at one point, then appears again as a potential source of jealousy on Rory's part. But again - nothing. In fact, she was even less necessary than Malik, who did need to be there at least once more after his attack.

I think this book was good - I read it quickly - but could have done with a bit more editing.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Vale Peter Lupinski!

Peter Lupinski died this week. I heard about it from my friend and fellow SF fan Susan Batho.

You probably haven't heard of him unless you were a media fan in Australia back in the 1980s and 1990s. And really, he wasn't a personal friend of mine; we only ever met at science fiction conventions. Specifically, media conventions. 

In those days, media conventions in Australia were run by fans, for fans. They were small and friendly, with an average of 150 attendees, and the committees would work their guts out fundraising to bring guests of honour to Australia. We only ever had one GoH at a time, whose job was to make a speech, judge the masquerade or art show(that was Bjo Trimble, best known for her Star Trek connections, who was also an amazing handcrafter - and she loved my needlepoint!) and do a bit of autographing. The rest of the convention was panels which featured anyone who was willing to do a panel, just like mainstream literary conventions. They might be about anything from science fiction art to the latest SF movies.

These days at a media con you go to a huge hall somewhere, pay extra to sit near the front and are entertained by the guests, usually the second Romulan from the left in some Trek movie, pay even more to get a picture taken with them... I'm afraid I refuse to go to those, with the occasional exception of a pop culture expo. Those are not expensive and you get to hear a number of guests, whether writers like Peter David or a couple of former stars of Dr Who. You do have to sit in a large area with the noises of the rest of the con going on outside. But they still do costuming (known as cosplay these days), something that has disappeared from most other conventions.

And that's another thing about media cons, there was the masquerade. Media fans were generally better costumers and artists than their counterparts in literary fandom - who sneered at them. If your interest is in things visual, you like to make things that are visual and do them well.

Peter was a costumer and an artist. He knew all about glass, and, among other things, he designed and created the ASFMA (Australian Science Fiction Media) Awards, which were handed out at the National Media Conventions. They were for a number of things including best art and best fan fiction.

Here is a picture of Peter and me, with me holding one of the beasties, of which I won three, for fan writing.

Peter and me, photo courtesy of Susan Batho.

I see I'm also holding a yellow ribbon, which must have been for art or craft. I can't recall, but it must have been the year I received my third award, because it has a cover. The others didn't. They were big and heavy because they were made of glass - that's what Peter did for a living, glassmaking, I mean. 

But they were beautiful, and inspired by the Emerald City from the film The Wizard Of Oz

Peter inspired me to try my hand at costuming and handcraft. He was a very good costumer himself, as you can see from the picture above. One time he turned up dressed as a wizard, with a gorgeous staff. When I admired the staff, he said, "Oh, it was easy!" and explained to me how he had made it. 

Of course, it was only easy if you were an artist, but when he told me of the simple items he had used in the making of the wonderful staff, I began to think that perhaps it might be fun to try some handcraft myself. I was never going to make anything that spectacular, but I didn't need expensive equipment or to be able to wield a blowtorch or whatever. I just needed my hands, some stuff I could buy anywhere and my imagination. 

I was already doing science fiction-themed needlepoint, drawings traced on to blank canvas. Now I began to make jewellery and my simple costumes became decorated with embroidery and sequins. I began to look for interesting fabrics and metallic paints, so I could create something in the spirit of Peter Lupinski, who could make something amazing from something simple and inexpensive.

The next time I see The Wizard Of Oz, I will wipe a tear from my eyes as I remember him.