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Friday, December 09, 2016

Happy Dance Time Again! A Contributor's Success!

Courtesy of GIPHY
My contributors to ASIM 60 have been doing well, it seems. First it was the delightful Michelle Goldsmith, whose second ever published story, which appeared in ASIM 60, was reprinted in The Year's Best Australian Fantasy And Horror

Now I have learned, quite by chance, that the amazing C. Stuart Hardwick, whose first sale was "Callista's Delight", published in ASIM 60, has sold a story to the world's top SF magazine, Analog. If you get into Analog, your career is really on its way. And I see that it has had good feedback so far, even the word "Hugo" being muttered by some. 

Well  done, Stuart! 

It seems always the way, though, that when you get them early, that's the last you hear of them. I mean, who wants to submit to a semiprozine paying about a cent a word when they have sold to the likes of Analog and Fantasy And SF?

ASIM has published the early fiction of some Big Names. Jim Hines. Aliette De Bodard. Rachel Swirsky.  Ann Leckie. People who went on to win Nebulas and Hugos. 

Mind you, we have had some stories from already-well-known people. Felicity Pulman. Sean Williams, who sent us a short, short story set in his Twinmaker universe. Sean McMullen. John Birmingham, better known these days for his journalism. Graeme Garden of The Goodies fame sent us a poem. I even had a poem by Darrell Schweitzer in my issue. 

But mostly, they go on to fame and fortune(or at least the chance to write full time, not to be sniffed at) and that's that. 

Well, I published six first sales and some second sales. I wonder if I should invite them to visit The Great Raven and let us know how they're going? 

And congratulations, Stuart! I am so proud! 

On Businesses Trying To Get Into The Blog Market

I get some strange requests. There are the freelance journalists who have come up with a novel way of making a living: they email you to offer a post on the topic of your choice, absolutely free - provided you let them slip in links to their sponsors. I delete those unanswered nowadays after putting something into my guidelines saying so. When I was answering I told them I don't advertise on this site, unless you count the promotion of great new books which I have read and loved. And occasionally I give a guest post to a probably self-published author who has taken the trouble to read my guidelines, without requiring a copy of the book, which I would then have to review, and what if I hated it? Besides, they're usually in the U.S. or Britain(mostly the U.S.) and postage costs are wicked! Everyone deserves a break. If the book sounds interesting I think perhaps it will interest my readers.

But I don't advertise accessories or furniture companies or any of the other stuff these journalists want to slip into my blog. This is a book (and sometimes movie) blog!

And there is another kind of inquirer who wants advertising. It's the kind who emails asking if you'll do a post on a theme that might interest their customers.  It might be on an appropriate theme, but in the end, it's about promoting their business. And I don't do that. Ever. See above about the links to advertising sites. I even had to start moderating comments when I was getting a lot of  spam comments that led back to advertising sites.

The last time I got an inquiry of the "would you post about this?" variety it was from an adventure travel company wanting a post about adventure. I said yes, but only as long as they understood I would not be linking to their web site or even mentioning their company. I suspect they didn't like that and I bet they never put in a link to my post on their web site. ;-)

This morning I got an inquiry from a business that hires out cars, wanting me to post about the vehicles of Harry Potter. I said no. I don't drive, so I have never fantasised about the flying Ford Anglia, and I don't promote businesses. I suppose I could have given them the same answer as I did the adventure travel company, but I just wasn't interested. And these people never follow my blog and rarely read the guidelines. If they do, they kind of hope I'll make an exception(and yes, I got that once or twice in an email too). This one could have worked out I like Harry Potter by the post on the side of the page, without ever reading the post itself, let alone any of the rest of the blog.

I suppose I'll have to rewrite my guidelines yet again, to make it clear what I do and don't post about, but it probably won't help. Sigh!

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Coming Soon To The Great Raven ... An Interview With Gillian Polack!

Gillian Polack, historian, History Girl, teacher, novelist and fabulous cook, has kindly agreed to pay a visit to The Great Raven to discuss her novel The Wizardry Of  Jewish Women, reviewed on this blog. We will be discussing in particular the Jewish elements, which are vital to the story, and not only because of the title. It is an amazing novel!

I'm about to start preparing questions, so if you've read the book and have questions of your own, get in touch either by email or in the comments section below. If you haven't read it, perhaps it's time to start! 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Holes By Louis Sachar...Rereading Just Because...

So, I was thinking about something else, as you do, when the novel Holes crept into my mind. I used to teach it to Year 8, before the decision was made to do Literature Circles at Year 7 and 8. Then I gathered a few copies as a potential Literature Circles text. It's a novel often studied at primary school, but really needs good readers to study it and understand it properly. We also had kids who requested it the year after it went off the booklist, so I checked it out to them. 

I simply love that story about a boy who is sent to a punishment camp for a crime he didn't commit, where the boys are required to dig holes in the desert, because the Warden is looking for something that is connected with the history of the place, which used to be a thriving town by a lake, instead of a desert. There's a wonderfully fantastical element  to it, as there tends to be in Louis Sachar's YA fiction.

It was also a good film, a classic in its own right. The young Shia LeBeouf played the role of the hero, Stanley Yelnats. In the novel, Stanley was overweight and took off weight during the story, but that was a bit hard to arrange in a film that is made out of order. They decided to go for a "young Tom Hanks" type instead. 

The delightful Eartha Kitt played the gypsy Madame Zeroni, who placed the curse on the Yelnats family in the first place, because their ancestor had failed to carry out his agreement with her.

 Stanley's gently nutty inventor dad was played by Henry Winkler, whom the older among us remember as "the Fonze" from Happy Days

The onion man from 19th century Green Lake was played by Dule Hill, who may be familiar to you as President Jed Bartlett's aide, Charlie(West Wing)and in one scene you see him selling an onion tonic to a townsman who was played by Louis Sachar himself. 

Sigourney Weaver, who has played many a heroine in her time, was the evil Warden, the villain of the film.

It's just such a wonderful novel that I had to read it again. So I downloaded it from iBooks and you know what? I'm finding myself slipping comfortably back into it. It will be a definite case of comfort reading. 

Not to mention a bad case of inability to defer gratification! Ah, well, them's the breaks. 

Anyone else have this problem with ebooks? 

Friday, December 02, 2016

Now Reading... The Golden Apples Of The Sun by Ray Bradbury

Can there be anyone who has read Ray Bradbury and doesn't love his stories? They are beautiful and poetic and speak to your soul all at once - and they're entertaining too! I remember reading Something Wicked This Way Comes in one sitting, and being swept into the world of the story, hearing the sounds of that night circus coming into town, feeling the fear of the characters...

The other day, we were talking about short stories at an English faculty meeting. The decision has been made to scrap Year 10's Romeo And Juliet unit yet again, and replace it with short stories. Easier to teach, more time to get through it. So yet again the kids miss out on Shakespeare and most of them will never have the chance again, and will go through life knowing - or believing, anyway - only that some girl called Juliet is asking where a boy called Romeo is, and that will be their only perception of the man who added so many words to the language and whose plays inspired so many of our modern stories and culture... And they were only doing the films anyway, not reading it. Oh, well. 

Anyway, there was some discussion of what the stories might be - still going on. And one of the suggested stories is the famous "Sound Of Thunder" - the one in which some man steps on a butterfly in prehistoric times during a carefully planned dinosaur hunting safari(they only kill dinosaurs that were about to get killed anyway)and completely changes the future. So as I sat around the table I opened my iPad at iBooks and bought The Golden Apples Of The Sun, the Bradbury anthology in which the story resides.  

And what a treasury of classic stories it is! I spotted a couple of his Family stories in there - the Family are a sort of extended Addams Family - and such classics as "The Fog Horn". His stories range from the regional America of his childhood to spaceships of the future, all wonderful stuff! 

And don't forget, he was friends with another amazing Ray, Ray Harryhausen, the wizard of movie special effects.

I was reading the anthology in bed this morning and had to share!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Just Finished Reading...Rivers Of London by Ben Aaronovitch

I bought this recently, after having heard the author talk about it on the ABC. Apparently, it's been around for some years, but hey, I'd never heard of it. Who would have thought someone I knew best from Dr Who would be writing urban fantasy? Though I can see the Doctor getting involved, with Peter Grant as a companion...

Peter Grant is a young policeman who has just finished his initial period of service and is about to be slotted into a section of the London Metropolitan Police. To his disgust, he has been put into the administration section, where he will be a glorified data entry clerk so that real coppers can get on with their business while someone else does the paperwork. 

Then he is spotted by the mysterious Inspector Nightingale, talking to a ghost, something most policemen can't do, and becomes a part of the smallest section of the London police force, one that includes only two people, himself and Inspector Nightingale. As an Apprentice wizard he learns spells, Latin, Greek and other wizardly things, and helps to solve a mystery that involves people's faces falling off after they have committed acts of violence. Supernatural forces are at play... and so are river gods and goddesses, most of the latter being stunning African women...

I couldn't get enough of this book. The characters were a delight - I can imagine Peter Grant played by a young Craig Charles - and the storyline over-the-top delicious. There are things I can't tell you because of spoilers, but read it, especially if you enjoy Neil Gaiman. It has the style of a Gaiman urban fantasy and the charm.
Oh, and if you want to know how the Thames river goddess is an African woman, you'll just have to read it and find out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Student Poet ... Another happy dance!

Today, young Dylan told me that he had won the secondary section of the Kororoit Creek poetry competion. It's a local thing, connected with the area where I work and he goes to school. I don't recall who gave me the competition posters, but I put it up on the library door and hoped someone might enter.

And it was this Year 7 boy. I don't teach him(yet. Maybe next year?) but he's a regular lunchtime library patron. A bit of a nerd, but he doesn't borrow much, because he reads books from home. He's been reading the Obernewtyn series by Isobelle Carmody, and after five books, he's ready for a break. Perhaps I can recruit him for Book Club next year.

Tomorrow he is having his photo taken, possibly for the local paper.

Anyway, it isn't the first time one of our kids has won a writing competition. One boy won a place in a writing workshop with Anthony Horowitz, his hero. The poor boy froze, however, as people do in the presence of their heroes.

Then there was Kayla, who won the Year 9 section of the annual Write Across Victoria competition. I went to see her pick up her prize at the Wheeler Centre, in th last day of school before the summer holidays. I remember that night, when it was pouring and I was thankful for the Principal's gift of a taxi voucher. I took lots of photos, as did her proud father!

Hopefully, we'll have another joyous experience of this kind next year! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

An Evening Of Classics...Prince Valiant

I have a confession to make: I have had this DVD for ages and only just got around to watching it. The last time I saw it was on late-night TV. 

It has quite a cast: Robert Wagner(best known for some later TV shows), Janet Leigh(who had a tendency to play golden-haired medieval heroines), Debra Paget(who went on to play Hebrew maiden Lilia in The Ten Commandments a couple of years later and got to play a Native American girl in Broken Arrow), with Sterling Hayden as Sir Gawain and a smoothly evil James Mason, who played a lot more villains than good guys. The music is by Franz Waxman and very familiar - I'm sure I've heard it recently. 

I can't resist having a giggle, though. The story is set during the reign of an elderly King Arthur, but the castles are Norman and the women's costumes are more Hollywood glamour than mediaeval. Most of the actors are American, and, Viking or Briton, the characters speak American English, something that was common in films made at this time. James Mason spoke with his own accent, of course, but he was the villain. Villains in those days did tend to be British.

The tournament was fifteenth century, but the knights jousted without much armour and Val, knocked off his horse, staggered to his feet, not much hurt. Actually, not hurt at all. 

And those Vikings! The evil ones go mostly bare-chested, the good ones(Valiant's people) cover up a bit more, but both varieties wear those horned helmets we used to believe Viking warriors wore before later discoveries were made. 

I'm watching a late scene now. Val is fighting the evil Sir Brack with his father's singing sword, and, by gum, the sword is singing a Franz Waxman tune! 

One more thing: the name of the fictional Norse kingdom from which Val comes is Skandia. I wouldn't be surprised to find this is where John Flanagan got his own Skandia, the Norse equivalent in the world of The Ranger's Apprentice. 

Why not? Flanagan's England equivalent has the name of a town in New South Wales!