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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Various promos for my book

I've been very lucky in the promotions field. If anyone wants to hear the interview I did with Robert Jan on Zero G, there's a direct download up - and scroll down to Zero G. It came out well, I think, though I'm cringing at the sound of my voice, as we all do, I guess. You never sound the way you do in your head.

Recently a lady called Rachel, who had reviewed Wolfborn on her blog, Fictional Fantasy, asked me for an interview, and it's just gone up. She asked me for a picture of my writing space and I just don't have one - I write all over the place - so I sent along a pic I took for a previous article in which I'd commented on the perception that writers do all their work in cafes, like J.K.Rowling, who actually did. It was a joke picture of me in my local cafe, with glass in one hand and a Harry Potter book in the other. I actually did work on one book in that cafe, but it was less the writing than the research - the place has free wifi and I'd run out of dialup time.

Anyway, the interview is up and it looks great.

My editor from January Magazine, Linda Richards, has kindly given the book a plug on her web site. She has a policy of not reviewing books by her reviewers, but still gave it a plug, which was nice, I thought.

Back to work next week and I will soon see what those students who borrowed the book for the holidays or got their own thought of it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Look What I Found! A new Barbara Hambly book!

Yesterday I was in the library when I stumbled across a brand new book in the series that started with a book that's called either Immortal Blood or Those Who Hunt The Night, depending where you live, and continued with Travelling With The Dead.

I read both the books about James Asher, university lecturer and spy in the Edwardian era, and his intelligent wife, Lydia, who found the various vampire residences through checking paperwork. They're exciting and entertaining, occasionally funny and deeply touching. Barbara Hambly's vampires can be likable, but she never gets sentimental about them, reminding her readers constantly that the charming, witty Don Simon Ysidro, who came to England with Phillip of Spain when he married Queen Mary, is a killer thousands of times over and, like every other vampire, is a selfish bastard, because you have to be, to survive as a vampire - even Ysidro admits this.

Imagine my delight when I found this brand new book in the series, admittedly with a rather dreadful cover and title of Blood Maidens. If it had been anyone but this writer, I probably wouldn't have bothered even to open it, but once open, the book is as wonderful as the others. I'm halfway through it and trying unsuccessfully to slow down and relish it. Alas, I will be finished very soon and have to wait for whatever is her next offering.

I am a fan of Barbara Hambly. I began with Dragonsbane, in which an earnest young man goes looking for the only knight who ever managed to kill a dragon and finds out that he is a man who'd rather be reading than fighting and that he did it with poisoned harpoons because it had to be done, and that was the only way. I had to read more.

I love the way all her stories are just a little bit different from others of their genre. You care about her characters. A woman who is a history scholar saves the universe using her research skills. A wizard hero has been locked up for years because his mentor was an evil dark lord (The Silent Tower)That was, of course, Antryg Windrose, my favourite of her characters. He was so very like the Tom Baker Doctor, except he wore cheap jewellery instead of long scarves. He even had his own "Council of Timelords" who hated him!

The Magicians of Night was also just a bit different. The hero, a magician from a world where the mageborn are persecuted, is lured into another universe by a cry for help from people he thinks are also being persecuted - only to find himself in Nazi Germany, summoned by Hitler's magicians! It was the sequel to The Rainbow Abyss, but i think a better book.

When this writer turned to historical mystery, I followed, being a lover of crime fiction, and was pleased I had. Benjamin January, her African-American doctor/musician/investigator, lives in New Orleans during the era of slavery. Ex-slaves have only so many options. However he feels about it, Ben's family live there and he has to work around it. The city is a character in its own right; you can hear, see, smell it.

Excuse me. I have to get back to my book, before I read the latest YA vampire novel.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I enjoy reading non-fiction. Sooner or later you have to look up stuff for what you’re going to write, but in between books it’s good just to read anything that comes your way and looks interesting. Sooner or later you can use it – and if you don’t use it directly, you at least feel you know what you’re talking about.

I read New Scientist quite regularly – I’m still making my way through the Christmas/New Year issue, which always has something amusing in it, such as what cheese does to you overnight. I’m just reading the article about robot actors. I got a real taste for layman’s science when I was working on my second book, Potions To Pulsars: Women Doing Science and really had to understand what my heroines had achieved. I used children’s books that could explain it in simple terms and dictionaries of physics, biology, etc. That was around the time I started to read New Scientist and found an article about Hedy Lamarr who, apart from being a beautiful woman and actress, was an inventor. She created a communications thing to help in the war effort, based on the way a pianola works, and while it wasn’t used till after the war, it did end up forming the basis of the mobile phone. She got a much-belated award for services to science.

You never know what you’ll find that helps in the writing and meanwhile you have a lot of fun.

I pick up most of my books in second-hand bookshops, Collected Works Bookshop in Melbourne and remainders book stores – you know, the kind which open up a few weeks before Christmas to sell off stuff and close by about February? It’s amazing what you find there. Among other things I’ve found a history of coffee, a history of chocolate, of sweets and a history of tourism. Tourism was fascinating, from Romans trotting around the empire to mediaeval pilgrims and Thomas Cook’s arrangements for people to go to temperance meetings. There was a wonderful story in the book about the White Ship, a ship which was supposed to carry the heir to the throne of England and his mates back to England after partying in France. This was the son of Henry I. The night before the voyage, lots of booze was sent to the ship from the party. The sailors got drunk, the ship smashed on the rocks and the passengers were drowned. They were, in fact, a lot of the young aristocrats of England. As a result of this incident, the new heir was Henry’s daughter Matilda, the mother of the future Henry II. This led to a civil war between her and her cousin Stephen. Eventually, he got to be king for life and her son became the next king, bringing us the Plantagenet dynasty, and what followed on from that. So our European history is the way it is because a bunch of sailors got drunk one night early in the 12th century. I found that delicious and thought, one of these days I’m going to play around with the alternative universe history that comes from this. Not yet, but eventually….

I’m reading a book called Drinking For England, a history of boozing and lechery in England. Oh, that Prince Regent! I recently finished a history of the Roman games, which taught me that in ancient Rome, executions in the arena happened at lunchtime. That stuck in my mind more than anything else in the book, though I am certainly impressed by the rest of it. Think about all those stories of Christian martyrs being thrown to the lions – and then get it into your head that it was just not all that important to the Romans, just another lunchtime event while you waited for the gladiators, who were what you'd really come to see. While the martyrs were singing hymns and facing their deaths, in the stands above people were rummaging in their picnic baskets for the last of the olives and debating whether they should take the chance of losing their seats by going to the lavatory or finding the Roman equivalent of the hot dog stand. The richer patrons, of course, had a season ticket and went off to a much better lunch somewhere else.

In other words, that scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian in which the rebels are sitting at the games, buying hot nibbles from Brian and sneering at the Judean People’s Front was not that far off the mark. Of course, the Pythons were a pretty scholarly bunch. They met at university and at least one of them, Terry Jones, is still writing very enjoyable books of history (get hold of his book on the murder of Chaucer if you can. He sure convinced me Chaucer was murdered!).

I have just started to read a book about clothes in Anglo-Saxon England – fascinating! And perhaps useful for my next book...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Andromeda Spaceways 50th anniversary issue

You all know, by now, that I've been involved with Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine for some years. I read slush, I answer inquiries, both general and art-related and I occasionally select and edit a story. We're making a big thing of our 50th issue, which is the next - and I have chosen a story for it! There's some good stuff in there, so even if you haven't been subscribing, you might like to check out this one.

Edwina Harvey says it better than I could, so here are her words:

With Andromeda Spaceways Inflight magazine issue 49 printed and distributed, we're working our way towards our half century.

ASIM issue 50 promises to be a bumper issue, with a solar-system of editors selecting their favourite stories to bring to you, a wrap around cover by our founding cover artist, Les Petersen, and featuring a "Where are they now" special looking at what people who have belonged to the ASIM co-op at various times have acheived iover the years (and if you were a member of the ASIM co-op, and this is news to you, send me an e-mail real damn quick so we can include you in our spread)

IIf you are a former ASIMite you probably know Edwina's email address, but if you don't and want to contact her, ask me.

To celebrate our milestone, we're looking at running a few special deals, so keep watching this space. {I'll add anything new as I find out.)

And of course, if you're a writer with a book being published soon, or an editor of another magazine, or even a craftsperson, and you wouldn't mind advertising in ASIM 50, please contact me because our prices are negotiable, and we will consider contra deals.

You all know we're slowing down a little after issue 50, don't you? We'll be cutting back to 4 issues a year but gracefully giving over to middle-age spread by upping our page count per issue, so our subscribers don't miss a single word for their subscriptions.

Just so you know, the reason for cutting back numbers of issues per year is not because we couldn't be bothered or are about to close but because it's got to the point where these are only so many deadlines a year we can meet and do it right. And we all have Real Life and writing of our own. But the issues will be longer, so subscribers will still get the same amount of new fiction.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More publicity!

The interview went well, I think. The information is up on the RRR web site under "Zero G" and the podcast will be up as soon as Rob Jan, the host, can put it up. That should be in the next few days, so if anyone is interested, go check it out on

Meanwhile, there's a Q and A up on Good Reading Magazine - fantastic publicity!

Also, Random House, my publisher, asked me for five entries for their blog - two are up already! Nice!

This is my two hundredth post on this blog, so it deserves a bit of fuss. I originally started it because there were some books that weren't possible to review for january Magazine, but deserved reviewing, and I wanted a place on-line that was mine. I do have Livejournal blog which I don't do a lot with, because I put most of my energy into this one, and I have another Blogger one whichI set up as an experiment and still use for everyday stuff, such as what I'm doing with my students. I doubt it gets anywhere near the number of hits this one does, but people do occasionally tell me they've been reading it and finding it interesting. I sometimes copy and paste between blogs because most of my Livejournal "friends" don't read this one and vice versa (some do - hi, Morva!)

Because this is a book blog, I'll just mention what I'm reading right now. Scott Westerfeld's Behemoth is proving just as good as Leviathan, to which it's a sequel - more of this when I finish and review it - and finishing up Melissa Marr's Fragile Eternity, which I've borrowed from my school library, third in the Wicked Lovely series of novels about Faeries. I like that this writer has done her research on the subject. The first book had quotes from a whole range of classic texts about Faerie folklore, some which I've read myself. Faeries are not nice or sweet and I like the way she has made the Summer King, looking for a queen, not the ideal boyfriend. This one, I think, is getting a little more into Faerie politics than I would have expected, but we'll see how it's used in the next book. Meanwhile, the students at my school are reading them and enjoying. You can't ask more than that.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Interview on RRR

For anybody who has time to turn to 3RRR, I will be doing an interview about Wolfborn on Rob Jan's science fiction program, Zero G, Monday at about 1.00 p.m. Rob's program has been running for quite a few years and he manages to get interviews with some big-name writers, actors and other big names. If you miss the program, there may be a podcast at some stage, as well as streaming on the day.

If you do listen and manage to record, please let me know. I'm still trying to get the hang of podcasts on my new computer and broadband connection.

I hope it goes well! I haven't done a radio interview in quite some time and my first interview I stuffed up beautifully. Well, I think I did, anyway. It was going fine and the interviewer, who had told me off-air that she hadn't actually had the chance to read the book because the publisher hadn't sent her a copy on time, was doing very well bluffing her way through the cover blurb when she mentioned "the woman scientist who had disguised herself as a man" and unthinkingly, I asked, "Which one did you mean?" (There were two in my book). We did manage to bullshit our way through the rest, but still... This interviewer has read the novel, though. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Follower, New Link

I've added a link on the side to a web site called Marcus Marcus And The Hurting Heart. The author, Rab Fulton, who has just joined this site, is an Irish storyteller and poet, currently doing a writer in residence post, who is writing a speculative fiction novel on-line, as a blog. I don't know if I'd ever have the courage to do that!

Go check out his ghostly murder mystery set in the future, which he's writing a chapter at a time. I certainly intend to read it.

Welcome to The Great Raven, Rab!

Monday, January 10, 2011

H.I.V.E; Zero Hour. By Mark Walden. London, Bloomsbury, 2010

In the first novel of this series, H.I.V.E: Higher Institute of Villainous Education, we met Otto Malpense, a computer genius who also had the uncanny power of connecting with computers, who found himself in H.I.V.E, a sort of Hogwarts for training super-villains, after showing his skills by making the Prime Minister drop his trousers on national television. There, he meets other young criminal geniuses who become his friends. The original novel was very funny indeed, throwing in cheeky references to spy movies, such as the white cat with a jewelled collar that sits in the villain’s lap; at H.I.V.E, the white cat is one of the teachers, who had been trapped in her cat’s body by accident, and the jewelled collar is her communication device. The “Neville Longbottom” character created a giant plant that almost ate the school.

As the novels continued, the humour mostly disappeared, to be replaced by straight action adventure with a speculative fiction twist. The main villain of the series was an AI called Overlord, which had gotten out of control and wanted to take over the world. We did eventually find out why Otto had those abilities and in the last book, H.I.V.E: Rogue, Otto was taken by the enemy and taken over for most of the story.

In this latest offering, the baddies – and you have to remember that everyone in this series is technically a baddie – take over the school and scatter the council of GLOVE, the organisation governing the “good” baddies who just want to make lots of money, not rule the world. They take hostages at a secret American military base and start issuing orders to the president. Now Otto, his friends Laura, Lucy, Shelby and Wing and the school’s headmaster, Max Nero, are on the run, fortunately in a fabulous piece of technology called Megalodon, trying to stop Overlord, who has demanded Otto as part of the price of releasing those hostages. If Overlord wins this time, everyone in the world will be taken over. But Max Nero has one ace left up his sleeve – something known as Zero Hour, planned years ago…

I suppose I can see why the over-the-top humour was dropped after the first novel, apart from the occasional amusing scene. The point had been made and after that, it wouldn’t work any more. The story wasn’t finished. So the direction changed and the last few books, this one included, are more like the many action-adventures being written for teenagers in recent years. This series is likely to appeal to teens who have been reading Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider novels and Charlie Higson’s Young James Bond books. There is an appendix at the end, which invites readers to find out for which stream of H.I.V.E they would be suitable, then whether they have what it takes to be a super-villain anyway. I got into the Political/Financial Stream, but wasn’t quite villainous for the big time.

The series has gotten to the point where books can't be read stand-alone, so read the others first. It's worth the effort.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Toast To The Professor!

Yesterday, January 3rd, I was sitting on the beach, re-reading Lord of The Rings and loving it as always. I remember the first time I read it. I was tired after a year's work and just wanted to go somewhere that I didn't have to go out for coffee with friends or family and lie on the beach and read. I went to Sorrento, where I stayed at the YHA. The hostel owner was trying to impress a lady who was there to work on a tourist information book by telling me all the things I could do in Sorrento and all I wanted was to get to my dorm, dump everything and take my book to the beach. After listening for a while, I interrupted as politely as I could and said thanks, but I just wanted to go lie on the beach.

I am very lucky the tide didn't come and sweep me away that day. The book sure did! Since then, I have re-read it every now and then - often on the beach - whenever I feel the need for comfort and rest. I love the fact that it suggests ordinary people can be heroes - and gives ordinary problems to the epic hero types. There aren't many women in it, but when they do appear, they're strong. Even Lobelia Sackville-Baggins turns out well in the end. (I'm a member of a Tolkien list under the name of "Lobelia"). I find myself re-reading a chapter and saying, "Oh, great, this is the fabulous chapter where Aragorn..."


So today I'll find a nice pub somewhere and go in to toast "the Professor" and if you haven't done so yet, please do!