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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

SheKilda Again!

A few years ago I went to SheKilda, ("No she didn't!" people cried out) a convention on women's crime fiction run by Sisters In Crime, held at the St Kilda Town Hall. It was great fun - and you couldn't throw a stone without knocking over a science fiction fan! There's this overlap, which I understand because I'm a part of it.

Well, there's another one coming up in October, though at a different venue, and this time I have been invited to do a panel on writing crime for children. Hopefully, I can use the opportunity to promote Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly, and you never know - people might ask for it in bookshops before then once they see the program. It's my only crime-themed book, but it's a good one, if I do say so myself, and I need to let people know it's there.

It will be a good con, if it's anything like last time and I hope all my Aussie blog readers will come.

More later.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reading Matters - Back From the Con!

I had to get up almost as early for this event as to go to work. I was taking some things to show around and some bookmarks to hand out and needed a good breakfast before leaving home. At least I didn't have to make lunch! I made sure I was wearing my Wolfborn t-shirt, of course. It was a good event for me as a teacher-librarian, but I also meant to make sure I promoted my books.

When I reached the venue, RMIT's Storey Hall, which is a strange building with some decorative green lumps on the roof, I found that the booksellers had ten copies of Wolfborn. They took three of my Notable stickers in case they had to send back the rest. In the end, they sold nearly all the books! :-)

The first presentation was Markus Zusak's, including a performance from his novel The Book Thief. I remember coming across a book trailer for that, which won the Random House teen competition a few years back. It was terribly elaborate and sophisticated, with live action. Never mind, it doesn't have to be live action to be wonderful!

Markus Zusak spoke and read from his newest book, that he's still working on, warning that he's the worst reader ever (he was okay!). I haven't ever been able to get into his books, but I might have a go now. He looked about sixteen at the first SLAV/Viewpoint conference I saw him at, and still looks pretty young.

This was followed by some panels by other guests such as Lucy Christopher, Karen Healey, Kirsty Eagar and Brenton McKenna, whose graphic novel Ubby's Underdogs. is set in Broome in the 1940s and whose heroine, Ubby, is based on his own grandmother.

We were all given free copies of Karen Healey's new book, The Shattering, which I'm enjoying so far, and will review before donating it to my library.

After lunch, we had another panel, which included Markus and Cassandra Clare and Melina Marchetta, who is apparently writing a sequel to Finnikin of the Rock, her fantasy novel about the refugee experience - damn. I'd always thought it was a perfectly good stand-alone novel that had made its point first time around and had a happy ending. Possibly, she'll throw her heroes into more angst. Oh, well.

There were a lot of good offerings over the weekend, but so many I'll just mention some that were highlights for me.

Cassandra Clare was a jolly American lady who did a very entertaining talk that made me want to read at least her first book in the angel series. It was interesting to hear Rebecca Stead, who told us all the autobiographical elements that went into her time travel novel When You Reach Me, which was set in New York City during her own childhood.

I ran into Kirsty Eagar during the morning tea and she asked me if we knew each other, she'd swear she had met me. I said I hadn't met her, but had loved Saltwater Vampires, with its nasty vamps and its Batavia incident background. I gave her my card so she could look up my review.

There was an enjoyable panel on the subject of book design, with a panel of artists who had been given a brief to design a cover for a new book. When they had shown their own designs, explaining their thoughts on the matter, there was a panel of "experts" to comment on them - a librarian, a bookseller and a boy from Melbourne High, who was apparently "Captain of the Book Club", whatever that is. Hmm, wonder if any of my book clubbers would like to be captain? I thought perhaps it might have been better to get an ordinary student who didn't go to a selective high school, because his thoughts on the matter didn't mesh with what I know from our students that they like. Still, it was good to see some of the work behind book design.

There was a very fine panel by Cath Crowley (Graffiti Moon, her latest) and Leanne Hall, talking about how they researched the urban bits behind their new novels, complete with breathtaking photos they took of night time Melbourne, to go with their night-themed novels.

My favourite was the panel with Richard Newsome and the delightful Oliver Phomavanh, a double comic act, with Oliver zooming around on his scooter and making his soft toys "speak". Oliver said that his over-the-top teacher in Thai-Riffic! was based on himself - he'd also mentioned this on the student day and showed pictures of himself with his class and some of his bizarre class competitions mentioned in the novel.

Argh, I have a LOT of reading to do! Just as soon as I've prepared classes and cleaned the house and ...

I met several CBCA judges who told me how much they'd enjoyed my novel (even if not enough to short-list it, but you never know, apparently to get on the Notables six judges have to think it should be short-listed and I may have met those judges). One even complimented me on Crime Time, which she thought had been a Notable. I said it hadn't, because I would have known from my publisher, but I checked the list this morning just in case and sure enough it wasn't there. Oh, well. She'd also been on the committee when Potions To Pulsars got a Notable and loved it. A little egoboo now and then is nice and even nicer, though only one person I know personally from Booktalkers asked for a signed copy, they sold pretty much all of the copies of Wolfborn they had at the table. There was only one left of ten copies at the last afternoon tea and for all I know they may have sold that too. They didn't have Crime Time, I'm afraid, but yesterday I was wearing my CT t-shirt and made sure I had bookmarks for both books to hand out. And when I was at the MSFC mini-con the other week, I made sure that every copy of Wolfborn I sold had a CT bookmark in it. ;-)

It was nice that they had at least my latest book; I spoke to Pam Saunders the other day, who said that they'd asked the booksellers to bring books by about six writers, including me, who weren't on the program. I had sent my emails to request it, but you can never be sure whether they'll do it or ignore you.

Afterwards, I had a lovely chat with one of the CBCA judges and she, like me, loves reading over-the-top non-fiction and adores Geoffrey Trease and Rosemary Sutcliff. We hoped that the movie of Eagle Of The Ninth, which still hasn't turned up here, will get more children and teens into reading her books - some at my school are already re-discovering her.

I'm just going to add a photo of myself with Kevin Lee, a gentleman who works in a bank, but is passionate about YA literature, whom I know from many a Booktalkers event, and then go off to breakfast. My smoke alarm has warned me that the egg i put on to poach has started to burn! Looks like it's fried now.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Off to the conference!

Today and tomorrow I'm going ti be at Reading Matters. It's a conference that happens every two years, organised by the Centre for Youth Literature at the State Library in Melbourne, held at RMIT's Storey Hall. I have been to all of them. It's a great opportunity to find out what's new, see writers I otherwise might never see or hear speak, mingle with fellow teacher-librarians - and, okay, promote my latest book!

I shall wear my Wolfborn T-shirt today and take along bookmarks for both Wolfborn and Crime Time. I'll wear the crime Time T-shirt tomorrow. And I'll be taking along some "Notable" stickers in case the bookseller actually does have copies of my book. One of the organisers told me last night that they had asked the booksellers to bring copies of books by about six writers coming to the con but not on the panels, so that's nice. I did email the lady from Reading's some time ago and hopefully, between us the CYL and I have persuaded them.

Time for breakfast and printing out the program! More tomorrow night, when I hope I have time to write a con report and maybe put up some pics.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

EXILE By Rebecca Lim. Sydney: HarperCollins, 2011

In Mercy, we met the fallen angel of that name. At least, that’s what she calls herself for convenience, because she doesn’t remember what her actual name is. All she knows is that she was once big in heaven and somehow stuffed it up, hanging out with her beloved Luc (Lucifer?), who led the rebellion. For thousands of years she has been thrown into different human bodies and lives, leaving when the time was right – or necessary!

I saw the first book as Quantum Leap with angels, with Mercy as a sort of female Sam Beckett who didn’t have the benefit of the friendly hologram Al to help her work out what she was there to do.

Mercy was a mystery-adventure in which the heroine helped both Carmen, the young soprano whose body she was inhabiting and Ryan, a boy whose sister disappeared a couple of years ago, before “leaping” from Carmen’s body into another life.

Now Mercy is inhabiting Lela, a Melbourne waitress whose mother is dying of cancer. And Luc is back in Mercy’s dreams, urging her to return to Paradise, the town in which she met Ryan, and find him again. Only this way, he tells her, can she and Luc be re-united. Because Ryan had seen and cared for her even when she was in Carmen’s body, Mercy finds the idea rather appealing. After all, Lela will soon be alone and free to run off with Ryan, if she can find him. And there is this thing called the Internet, which can be used to find just about anyone.

Why, she thinks, shouldn’t she consider herself for once?

But things are not that simple in the human world or in angelic warfare. Is Luc quite as wonderful as he seems? Are the group of angels known as “The Eight” quite as dreadful as Luc would have her believe?

And who is going to die on the same day as Lela’s mother?

Despite her tendency, in this novel, to stuff up, Mercy still manages to help some of the characters whose lives cross Lela’s, including an ageing stripper escaping an abusive ex.

I like this series so far, for its difference from other novels of the genre. The fallen angel is female and it’s implied that she did something very stupid way back when, rather than evil. I’m sure we’ll eventually find out what. Meanwhile, the idea of having her occupy human bodies and lives makes it possible to keep the series going and perhaps try something different in each.

Will it work for teenage girls? Well, there are enough hot males in it to keep them interested and meanwhile, I have to take this book back to my school, because there’s a teenage girl who’s waiting for it.

Recommended for girls from about fifteen upwards.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The MSFC mini-con

Yesterday I went along to the Melbourne Science Fiction Club mini-con as the invited GoH. Very nice, my first time as a guest speaker at a con!

It was a freezing day when people would rather stay at home and the audience was not very big although it was bigger by the time I began than when I arrived. I forgot to take my camera, but thank heavens, that indefatigable photographer Helena Binns was along, snapping pics, and here is one of them.

I arrived at just after 11.00 a.m. with my ten copies of Wolfborn and, seeing how few folk were there, wondered if I'd have more copies than audience! However, I found a table and set up, popping Crime Time bookmarks into them, with a special con price; I'd bought the books from Random House at author's price and could sell them cheaper than RRP and still get the equivalent of my royalties out of them.

(I've had my first lot of royalties for Wolfborn, by the way, much to my delight! It's been YEARS since my advance was earned back that quickly - since the GST, in fact. At this stage, however, the only book that hasn't yet earned back its advance is Crime Time, and that's because of the messiness of putting children's non-fiction anywhere kids will actually find it. Bookshops never seem to know what to do with them. One book store manager told me that when he put the books facing outwards, he sold them right away. It's done well in school libraries, though, and I'm going to wear my Crime Time t-shirt to Reading Matters conference and see how many can sell that way. Not that the booksellers will bring any with them. But it might remind people).

To my delight, I actually sold three copies before I even started my talk. People stopped to chat, whether I knew them or not. The first talk was by a teenage boy called Duncan, who was keen to discuss computer games, which have really become elaborate since the first few games like Space Invaders and Pacman. I can remember when Prince of Persia was a basic animated figure jumping across chasms.

I hadn't thought I should have the cheek to ask for equipment to show my very silly crude book trailer, but as they had the equipment set up I asked if they could keep it that way and they saved the thing on to the desktop so I could put away my USB stick.

I explained that I'd prepared it for my students, who will be making their own book trailers later this term. It won't be going up on YouTube, even if it was good, because I've used copyright material, but it makes a good example that they can have a laugh at and do much better. I was pleased when the audience had a laugh over my "big soppy dog" slide - you know, "Faerie! The Lord of Animals! Ruthless Villains! And a big soppy dog."

That made a good start to the talk. I talked about the background to the novel and the research and the editing done on it. One lady asked if there was anything I'd rather had not been edited out, i.e. "will there be a director's cut?" and I admitted the book looks much better for the editing, because you can't always see things when you've been so close to it, and the editors were pretty good; when I said, "I don't think this should change and here's why" they said, "Fair enough." I told them about the Year 8 students who had read bits of the novel because I wanted them to be involved, and how supportive my students were of all my writing.

I spoke of the long time it took to get the thing published and the problems with publishers who moved from one company to another and then rejected your book again! In the end, it was lucky for me that one particular publisher did move, because she was finally able to accept my book that she'd had to reject last time even though she'd liked it.

After the talk, I sold some more books. Altogether, seven copies out of my ten left the hall with new owners, which was nice. Believe me, there are ALWAYS people who just want to browse and keep you talking and have no intention of buying. Always. So you're lucky to sell everything and there were not a lot of people there.

I gave the last few Crime Time bookmarks to Sue Ann Barber, a fellow teacher-librarian who was on another stall, and left around 3.00 pm. I was lucky enough to get a lift all the way home from Bruce Barnes, a gentleman I've known for years.

I appreciate having been invited and maybe it's the first of many such invitations by conventions. I can only hope.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

LIBERATOR By Richard Harland. Allen and Unwin, Melbourne, 2011

This is the sequel to the YA steampunk novel Worldshaker, which was set in a world dominated by the huge dreadnoughts, which roam the planet bearing the descendants of the various monarchies of nineteenth century Europe.The dreadnought Worldshaker was ruled by Queen Victoria III and her husband, Albert, in a perpetual Victorian era, not much changed from the original Victorian era.

At the end of Worldshaker, the oppressed slave class, the Filthies, had rebelled against their rulers, assisted by some of the upper class who supported their right to justice. Col, whose family were high up in the rulership, has fallen for Filthy Riff and the last book implied that there was a future for them, when he stayed on board while other ruling class members left.

Two months later, the Worldshaker, now the Liberator, is ruled by a committee of Flithies. Like many revolutions, this one has started to turn against those who helped it to happen and Col finds himself and his family in an uncomfortable position. Does Riff, now a ruler, still care about him? Does she understand that he is sincere in his support for the rebels? And who is the saboteur who has been destroying the fragile relationship between "Swanks" and Filthies along with the equipment? Does any of it matter with other dreadnoughts on their way to put down the rebellion?

Read and find out!

Richard Harland's tale is non-stop action while carefully making sure the characterisation doesn't suffer. At the same time, there's still the sly humour that made Worldshaker such an entertaining read. The last novel was pretty much all set on the ship; in this book, we get to see a lot of the world outside, including the convict colony of New South Wales, and learn more about how this world diverged from our own. The author refers to actual events in our own history and then asks, "What if this had happened just a little differently?"

It's a fine addition to the recent spate of Australian-written steampunk.