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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

First post for 2012 - I hope you enjoyed last year's posts! Have a happy new year, all my friends and followers, and here are some resolutions:

1. Write as much as I can, short fiction and long.
2. Finish the Wolfborn-universe novel and have a go at selling it.
3. Read and review as many books as I can, YA and speculative fiction.
4. Get my oven fixed so I can bake again, something I find very soothing and creative. Now I've discovered that wonderful  YA writer Sophie Masson has a recipe blog and seem, for some reason, to be picking up followers on Twitter who have their own recipe blogs, it's time I got stuck into it. You CAN write books and cook.
5. Get my library doing lots of good stuff, as I did last year.
6. Score some speaking invitations..? Well, I can only try.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Giveaway deal up

I've put in a page for the January 6 to 12 YA fantasy novel giveaway. It's on the side as "Wolfborn Giveaway". Go check it out. You do have to be following me, here, on Twitter or Goodreads, to be eligible. If you're not following me yet, go ahead and join - it just takes one click of your mouse! For Blogger, you'll need to be following publicly, because I have no way of knowing who's following me privately.

Good luck!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Crime Time Sample

If you take a look to your right on this page, you'll find I've now slipped in a sample chapter from my children's crime book Crime Time: Australians behaving badly. I had a lot of fun writing this book, which is definitely not aimed at helping kids with their homework, though there are a few chapters about bushrangers. For this sample I've chosen one of the sillier stories, that of the April Fool's Day robbery attempt.

I remember going into Borders and browsing through the children's section. I asked a staff member where I could find books on crime. I knew they had it, but not where. And it's always hard to find non-fiction in the children's section, anyway.

"A crime book? In the children's section?" he asked, startled.

It was in the adult true crime.

This is what you get for writing something unusual.

Anyway, take a look at my sample chapter and if you like what you read, go to your local bookshop and ask for a copy. If you live outside Australia, you may have to look it up in ABEbooks, but don't stress over the horrendous prices - those are for shipment to Australia from the UK or US. Just check with the bookshop if it's in your country.

The Glasshouse by Paul Collins. Illustrated by Jo Thompson. Melbourne: Ford Street, 2010

Cover blurb:

Clara lives in her balanced world where everything is perfect.
Her glasshouse is free of bugs, her prized pumpkins free blemishes. But then one day a boy walks into her life and slowly Clara realises that her world is not perfect at all. paranoia spreads and she loses all her customers. Finally, she must face up to the realisation that her world is not perfect, and she must make allowances and compromise she is to survive.

 I have to admire anyone who can tell their story in picture book format. You have to make your point in only a few words and make it in such a way that children will understand and enjoy, without talking down to them. And this one is a good start for classroom discussion – or parent discussion – of themes like perfectionism and about living in a world of your own, without being willing to communicate with others. 

I may just use it as a start to Literature Circles this year, because there are only a few words, but you can use it for a good discussion.

It’s not for three-year-olds, although you can probably talk to younger ones about the silly girl who’s so crazy about her perfect pumpkins when there’s a lot of other people out there she could be talking to.

The art is gorgeous – and it’s a nice touch to have the last three pages absolutely without text but making the point.


My YA Crush

I have received a request from Strange Chemistry, the YA branch of Angry Robot Books, for a YA crush, i.e. which character from a YA novel is your crush? Well, I thought I'd blog about it here rather than on their blog, although they may reproduce it if they like.

And my YA crush is Aubrey Fitzwilliam from Michael Pryor's fabulous YA steampunk series The Laws of Magic. Maybe he's a crush for a mature woman rather than a teenager. When you're in your teens you want a prince to sweep you away on a white horse (or to a dark vault or into the realms of Faerie or whatever).

But I like Aubrey. And I did even before his image started to appear on the covers of the new edition of this series. Okay, he does dumb things now and then. That only proves he's human. But Aubrey is not only a strong character in his own right - clever, funny, great at improvising in a nasty situation, a genius with magic - but he likes his women strong. Well, his woman. And this is the hitch. I'd never be able to pry him away from his beloved Caroline. :-( And you do have to be careful, now I think of it. Caroline could warn any potential Aubrey girlfriends of the sneaky thing he did to get her on-side in Heart of Gold, the second book in the series, when he needed her help. Lady Rose, his mother, was not at all impressed with him in that case!  At least you'd have her on-side if he stuffed you around. Aubrey does have strong women in his life from childhood on - his mother, a scientist in the parallel Edwardian era, his grandmother... Aubrey reminds me a bit of my other main crush in fiction, Miles Vorkosigan.

Okay, if I couldn't have Aubrey, his best friend George is also pretty good. He's handy at just about anything, considerate, also likes his women strong (woman - Sophie the journalist and potential magician - drat! Taken, again) and best of all, he can cook, and looking after people, feeding them, is the dream that comes up in one of the books when they're in a fantasy world where you get what you really, really want. He's also got common sense and is able to hold Aubrey back when he gets an idea that's just too insane.

If you haven't read the series, go get it! Both boys and girls are borrowing it from my library and loving it. I'm going to see if young Shane (see the interview with gabrielle Wang - that Shane) is interested in it this year, when she finishes with Terry Pratchett's Discworld books...

Look What I Found - My Heraldic Device!

While I was writing a guest post on Wolfborn for Chelsey Carter at Starry Sky Books blog, I unearthed my old SCA device. I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism to get some idea of how to write fight scenes; at the time, I was writing a lot of swords and sorcery and having great fun doing it, but Sean McMullen, who was already a big noise in the SCA, said, "If you're going to write this stuff, you'd better know how it works."

In the end, I was in the group for a couple of years. It was fun and one of the things we did was put in a request to the College of Heralds in the US for a name and a personal device. We did this with the help of our own herald, Steve, whose Society name was Thorfinn.

I'm no artist, so I asked Robert Jan, who has now been doing his own radio show on 3RRR for many years, to do it for me, and a fabulous job he did, too!

The device has been up on the web site of Lochac, the Australian kingdom, for some time, and I've used it to show Year 8 art students an example of what they could do. My friend and colleague, Jasna the art teacher, used to get them to do a shield of their own. She pointed out to the students that in some ways we're still doing it, with logos that we recognise immediately, and that, really, was what the devices were for - you'd know immediately who was on that prancing horse in front of you - or who that man-at-arms was working for.

Here it is, with the heraldic terms:

Vert, two unicorn's heads couped respectant, horns crossed in saltire, in base a crescent, a chief argent.

My Society name was Gwenddydd Rhosyn O Gymru Newydd.

At the time, Robert and I were writing stories set in a place called New Wales, so I asked for that. You weren't supposed to be from somewhere fictional,but no one queried it and I created my persona to go with it. The two unicorns and the crescent moon were to symbolise my status as a female warrior, though it didn't take me long to realise I was never going to be that. Not with my lack of fighting skill!                        

When my guest post goes up on Starry Sky Books, I'll put in a link here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ships In The Field By Susanne Gervay. Illustrated by Anna Pignataro. Melbourne, Ford Street Publishing, 2011

A girl lives with her refugee parents in Australia. She shares everything with her soft toy dog, Brownie. The new life is good, with weekend trips to the country, where they can enjoy the forest and the river and the fields, in which are “ships” (sheep). But not everything can be forgotten. The old life, before the world changed, is still there, along with the experience of flight from nightmare.

What do you get when you put together two creative people with refugee experiences of their own? Probably something like Ships In The Field. Susanne Gervay’s background is Hungarian, Anna Pignataro’s Italian, but both are daughters of families whose old lives were destroyed before they came to Australia.

I can relate to that! A country like Australia has many stories like this one, including my own family’s.

The story in the book is more or less autobiographical, Susanne Gervay’s memories. It is gentle, a gentleness reflected in the beautiful, soft water colour art. It doesn’t hit you over the head with the message, either, for which it is to be commended. The message is there, but told gently and sorrowfully, yet with hope.

A good one to read with your small children. The recommended age is from seven up, but if you read it with them, you can give it to slightly younger children.

Remembering Dad

My dad, Baruch Bursztynski

Today is the second anniversary of my father’s passing. It is too painful to think about that day, so let me tell you about Dad as he was.

Dad was my biggest fan. He thought Shakespeare was over-rated – why read his stuff when you could be reading Monsters and Creatures of The Night by Sue Bursztynski? And when Potions To Pulsars, my women scientists book came out, he had a go at the local bookshop owner for putting books about Hitler in the window when he could have been putting in this wonderful book with all this useful information in it.

Which didn’t stop him from making sure the shop got sales. He hung out with a group he called “the geriatrics” all of whom had grandchildren. Nothing would do but that every one of them must buy a copy for their grandchildren. When anyone protested that his grandchild was only a year old, Dad would say, “So? Is it going to go off?” He would argue that all the information crammed into this little book was the equivalent of a library of books about women in science. And then he’d send them off to buy it at the shop. What the shopkeepers made of this parade of elderly men asking for my book, I don’t know, but I would have liked to be a fly on the wall… J

Dad read all of my books, except the last one, which came out after he was gone. If you have a copy of Wolfborn, you’ll find a dedication to him in it. (And if you don’t have it, what are you waiting for? Go get it! Dad would have said)

He came to two launches with me. One of them was the launch of Ford Street’s Trust Me! in which I had a story. It was at the State Library and what a day it was! Food, booze and fifty writers and artists signing! Dad had a fabulous time; he drank champagne and ate the foods on offer and took photos. And he said hi to Mitch Vane, the wonderful artist who had illoed my spies book, Your Cat Could Be A Spy. They’d met before, you see; he was at the local photocopy shop, doing a copy of the cover of Cat. He asked the nice lady next to him in the queue for help and she said, “Oh, I illustrated this!” It was Mitch.

The other launch was the one I arranged with Sisters In Crime, for my Ford Street book Crime Time: Australians behaving badly. While we sat at dinner, Dad told me he’d been to the Cuckoo restaurant, robbed a couple of years before, and they’d told him that they were now keeping a bag of rolls at the counter in case any more idiots did a repeat of the April Fools’ Day robbery attempt. It made a great story to tell when I got up to launch my book. Dad had a great time there too, and had a long chat with Kerry Greenwood.

Dad was a fan of all his children and grandchildren’s creative efforts – there’s a framed article about my nephew Mark, a musician, above the computer Dad learned to use very quickly when, in his seventies and eighties, he became a “silver surfer”. (And believe me, he very quickly picked up the art of Googling, looking for any references to me!) Even when he was dying in hospital, he lent a copy of Mark’s CD to a doctor. He went to every one of my nephew Max’s school concerts to hear him play.

Here’s a toast to you, Dad, which I will drink later today, perhaps with my family. I may never have had an agent, except very briefly, but you were my fan club, my promoter, the terror of bookshop owners everywhere. I will never forget you.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ford Street Creative Net

The last few days I've tried to get through to "add a gadget" on Blogger layout and failed. Not sure if it's my computer or Blogger dropping out on that page, but for the time being, before I add the permanent link, I'll just give Creative Net a well-deserved plug here. If you're a teacher-librarian or a teacher trying to get guest speakers, you should definitely consider Ford Street's speaker agency, Creative Net. I'm on there, although I really need to re-write my bio. I put too much emphasis on the fact that I'm a teacher-librarian good at speaking to kids (well, I am, but that's not the point)and not enough on the fact that I'm a writer with a couple of Notables under my belt and that kids love my books.

However. This isn't a Sue plug, it's a Creative Net plug. Paul Collins knows EVERYONE in children's and YA writing in Australia, having been around for decades, and publishes a lot of great writers from his home in Ford Street. And he has an impressive list of speakers there, not all of them published by Ford Street, but all of them well-known.

So, why this particular agency? If, like me, you've booked guest speakers, you know that whatever the fee, you have to add the booking fee for the agency.

Creative Net doesn't do that, because it charges us for getting us work. So whatever you're quoted for booking one of us, that's what you pay.

And no, Paul hasn't paid me to say this. He has been really supportive of my writing over the years and supportive of the writing of a whole lot of others and any way I can help him I will, but I wouldn't plug this unless it was worth doing.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Have A Cool Yule!

Have a cool Yule, a sparkling solstice (a few days ago), a happy Hannukah! Whether you're with family around the tree, having a Christmas picnic with friends or grating potatoes for tonight's latkes, have a great time.

I'm just finishing off Michael Pryor's new steampunk novel which will be reviewed here soon, and will take that and something I haven't read to the beach with me as soon as I finish rustling up my picnic lunch. And don't forget to give a goat, a mosquito net, a set of school supplies, a kitchen garden to someone somewhere else in the world. I have, and would love to do more. That link was for Oxfam. There's also TEAR Australia and many others to choose from and you don't have to wait till December to do it. Go on - do it after Christmas lunch. Why not have everyone chip in for something big, like a cow, a donkey,  a year's education?

One nice thing about having joined Twitter is that I'm now following Father Bob Maguire. The man is amazing! His tweet this morning said he was going over, after Mass, to help Les Twentyman serve brunch. Coz it isn't only the developing countries where people get a raw deal.

GAMERS’ CHALLENGE By George Ivanoff. Melbourne: Ford Street Publishing, 2011

In Gamers’ Quest, Tark and Zyra, two teenage thieves in the world of computer games, decided, finally, not to play any more, and looked for the way to Designers’ Paradise. Now, they’re back. As they’re no longer part of the game, nobody can see or hear them and they can’t ever go back to their old lives.
Then they discover that they’re not the only game characters who are refusing to play, and so begins the next part of their lives - if they can survive long enough, that is, and avoid being absorbed by the balls of static known as VIs, which are pursuing them and the other non-gamers.
But who is the Ultimate Gamer - and can he help them finally to escape the game? And that man Tee, who can see them and is so helpful - why does he look so familiar?
The only way to find out is to read the book and I’m not telling you more, for fear of spoilers.
I believe this one is even better than the first, unlike to many sequels; there’s plenty of adventure, as well as humour, but the humour is less of the slapstick variety that characterised Gamers’ Quest, and there is more character development, which may be appropriate for computer sprites who aren’t having to act according to the plans of the Designers any more. 
Just adding that before this author got to write for a living, he designed computer web sites, so he knows all about computers,designing and, no doubt, games as well. believe him! Enjoy his tongue-in-cheek presentation of such cliches as chanting monks and absent-minded professors.
Read it if you liked Gillian Rubinstein’s Space Demons and films such as Tron. Or, what-the-heck, just read it! But make sure you read Gamers’ Quest  first. If you haven’t read it yet, check out my review of that book here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Links

The other day, when I wrote my post about the wonderful Howard Fast, I was thrilled to get a comment from Mimi, his widow. Mimi suggested I check out a video on Open Road Media, which I did, and it was fascinating - only a couple of minutes, but well worth a look. In it, you see the bit where he was up in front of the McCarthy witch-hunters (House UnAmerican Activities Committee) and interviews with his son, Jonathan (SF writer), daughter-in-law, Erica Jong - a VERY famous novelist in her own right - and Mimi herself.  I have put in a link to this at the side, so if you're interested, not only in Howard Fast but in this period of American history, do yourselves a favour and go take a look. I first researched this when I was teaching The Crucible in my first year as a teacher. Amazing how many big name writers and actors and other artists were black-banned at this time. Quite a few appeared in Woody Allen's The Front. And did you know that the British children's TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood was written by Americans fleeing McCarthy?

Another link is to my sample chapter of Wolfborn, so if you missed out when I was offering to email it, now is your chance. It isn't going anywhere now and hopefully there will be another sample up when I can arrange it., for one of my other books.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Give-away

Give-aways seem to be a big thing on YA book blogs, so I'm joining the YA Fantasy Book Giveaway on I Am A Reader Not A Writer and have added the Great Raven to the list. I will add the information to the permanent Pages on the side of this web site in the next day or two, but basically, it works like this: I have two copies of Wolfborn to give to two lucky readers who make contact in the period January 6th to 12th. If I can, I'll put up one of those Linky forms, otherwise it will just be a matter of asking and if I get a few I'll draw names out of a hat. You have to follow me, either on this web site, on Twitter or on Goodreads, to enter, so if you aren't already following, why not do yourself a favour and start? :-) Keep an eye on this page. Oh, and check out the sample chapter. It's there permanently now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Welcome Amie Kaufman!

Not long ago, I was on my way home from work, wearing my Aussiecon 4 t-shirt, the one designed by Shaun Tan. A lady stopped me as we got off, saying she liked the t-shirt and had been at Aussiecon herself - had, in fact, attended a panel I had done, when I was coughing so badly one of my co-panellists had to hand me a bottle of water. We started chatting and she told me she'd sold her first trilogy, overseas yet. The lady was Amie Kaufman, who has joined us on this site. so welcome, Amie! I'll look forward to reading the first of her books when it's out.

At some stage Iwill add her web site to my links, but meanwhile, why not look her up?

Chanukah and Howard Fast

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah - here I am, lighting the first candle! This evening, on the way home, I bought some potatoes to make latkes, potato pancakes. This is the time of year when we're encouraged to eat fried things; for the next eight days., we eat things cooked in oil, to remember the miracle of the lights meant to last only one day, which lasted eight. In Israel, people have doughnuts, but I'm more than happy to cook savoury latkes for dinner.

Another tradition - my own - is to re-read Howard Fast's novel My Glorious Brothers, his left-wing re-telling of the story of the Maccabees, who led a rebellion against the might of the Syrian/Greek empire - and won. In case you haven't heard of Howard Fast, he also wrote Spartacus, on which the movie was based.
 Howard Fast was a member of the Communist Party, which he eventually          left, for reasons he explained in his autobiographical book The Naked God. He began writing Spartacus in prison, where he'd been put for refusing to give names during the McCarthy witch hunts. Unfortunately, he had to self-publish it - and then the Communists hated the book as much as the witch-hunters!

Back to My Glorious Brothers. I remember when I first saw it, on a rack of paperbacks in the local milk bar. I was there to buy a few groceries and homed in on it. It cost me about 40c, a small thin paperback - not the cover above, one I couldn't find in Google Images. It has almost fallen apart from all the times I've re-read it.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Simon, last of the five brothers, now an old man, looking back over his life. As an adult, sadly, I know how it all ended, with the Romans conquering the country (they had actually helped the rebellion succeed) and the descendants of the heroes fighting among themselves in a style worthy of Hollywood soap opera.

But I was about twelve then. The story won my heart, leading me to read a whole heap of his historical novels, such as Spartacus, Agrippa's Daughter (the story of Queen Berenice). April Morning, Freedom Road, Moses, Prince Of Egypt... That one was set in the time of Rameses II, and ended when Moses left Egypt and walked into the desert with his servant and friend, Nun. The premise was that Moses's adoptive mother and some priests were dreaming of returning the worship of the Aten. Like his other novels of the time, it was a left-wing interpretation. There was meant to be a trilogy, but it never happened, though there was a sort-of-sequel, a novella set on the last day of Moses's life and seen from the viewpoint of Joshua. There were just hints that it was connected with the previous book.

And he wrote science fiction as well. The first story he ever sold, when he was in his teens, was SF, and he wrote a number of SF short stories and novellas, published in such collections as The Edge Of Tomorrow and The General Zapped An Angel. The title story of the latter has, in recent years, been updated and adapted for theTV series Masters Of Science Fiction.

Fast's SF is thoughtful stuff; you won't find light space opera or straight adventure here. Notice the cover of the first one? The story is called "The Large Ant". A man on holiday wakes up to see a giant ant standing by his bed. He kills it and takes the body to a scientist friend. Turns out it's not an ant - it's an alien, and the question is - was it actually a threat or did the man just assume it would be because we're scared of big insects? In another story, a company finds a way to drill very deep for oil and what comes up is not oil but blood. If that had been written today, reviewers would have complained about bloody greenies and cliches.

Why do I love his work so much, even today? I love his characters. They are a bit black-and-white, but he cares about them, deeply, so you do too. His language is beautiful. He cares about the story he's telling and can send a message without hitting you over the head with it.

Most of his historicals are about America, and that's fine. He loves his country, but isn't a flag-waver.

Most of all, I have been moved enough by his work that it has had an influence on my own style.

I've become the kind of writer I am because of my love for Howard Fast's writing. Whether that's a good thing or not, you will have to decide when you read my books, but for me, it works.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Writing cards instead of stories

Ah, what a time of year! It's a time for writing cards instead of fiction (or non-fiction as the case may be - I do both). I'm partway through a story submission for an anthology on the theme of beginnings and won't get much further till Christmas is over. I have a lot to write still, and I'm way overdue for overseas friends, who will now receive theirs after the festive season, along with, in some cases, something very special that I have prepared for them.

I've picked up a couple of Bob Shaw books in the second-hand bookshop (later! later!) and I'm looking longingly at something about which I will write more very soon. Kevin Lee, who is a regular friend from the Centre for Youth Literature and was lucky enough to be chosen as an Inkys judge this year, has done something remarkable. He has translated a book from German into English, using the translators on the Internet to help him! He was kind enough to give me a copy which he has bound nicely at his work.

More of this later!

Some of the cards I wrote tonight were to the folk from the Centre for Youth Literature. I don't imagine I'm by any means the only person to receive a card from them, but the thing is, it was personalised. Those of the staff who actually know me have put in comments I know are just for me when they could just have written their names or, at best, "Merry Christmas". or "best wishes".  But they did better. Christine, whom I have known since she was working for the Little Bookroom, said how nice it was to see me again, finally. Liz thanked me for my "words of wisdom" on the Insideadog web site - lovely to know someone was reading and enjoying! I mean, know it for sure.  And while Heath's comment was brief, I haven't forgotten the lovely review he gave Wolfborn when it came out. So, of course, I had to send them each a card, just so they know I appreciate it, even the ones whose wishes were short. With all the work they have to do, it's nice to know they took that trouble.

Now, what I would really, really like if I had just one wish for a gift, is to be invited to speak at the Centre for Youth Literature next year, to be recognised as a writer, not just a librarian who turns up at Booktalkers. Sigh!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Now Tweeting

Okay, after holding off for a long time, I'm now on Twitter. It seems to be the simplest way to get information out to the most people. If you'd like to follow me on Twitter, my name there is SueBursztynski. I'm still trying to work it out.

***Currently listening to ABC radio. They're discussing bande dessinee (graphic novels). Great! Mike Shuttleworth talked about it at a Nova Mob meeting. He went to Belgium on a Churchill Fellowship to attend the festival.

The Importance Of Being Earnest

This evening I was lucky enough to see the MTC production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest. It's a play that means something to me; I played Lady Bracknell in my last school play, back when I was in Year 12, and I seem to still remember all the lines, which I found myself muttering during the performance (luckily my sister didn't mind!). I had a terrific time doing this. None of us in the production at school ever went on to do anything professional (although two of our drama club members did go on to professional acting, they weren't in this play), but I think, even after all these years, that as school plays go, it was rather good, so there! ;-)

This is the same production the MTC did some years ago, when Ruth Cracknell was still alive to play  Bracknell and Frank Thring, as I vaguely recall, played the two butlers. The set was the same design - it's a giant pop-up book with a handbag on the front cover - the handbag in which Jack Worthing was found. The butlers turn the pages with each page being a set.

This time, the fabulous Bob Hornery played the dual butler role and he played them very different from each other - Lane the standard butler who manages to keep a straight face through all Algernon's nonsense talk, and Merriman as an elderly, doddering retainer who is going deaf.

Geoffrey Rush played Lady Bracknell and really, after a few minutes, you forgot he was a man or Geoffrey Rush and just went along with the delicious silliness of the play and the character.

There was one member of the original MTC cast - Jane Menelaus, who played Gwendolen way back when, came back as Miss Prism and the character was played as a nod to Margaret Rutherford, who performed the role in the original movie.

At the very end, during the curtain calls, Geoffrey Rush did a small tribute to the more recent movie, in which Judi Dench played Lady Bracknell.

I had such a good time, I just had to share it here, even though my usual reviews are of books.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DIVERGENT By Veronica Roth. Sydney: HarperCollins, 2011

This is one of the books I got in my goody bag at the last Booktalkers for the year. It is, of course, the Australian edition.

In a future, dystopian world, your friends, job, lifestyle, all depend on a choice you make when you turn sixteen. That’s when you’re tested for the “faction” which suits you – Dauntless, Amity, Candor, Erudite or Abnegation. You’re advised on the basis of this test, but make your own choice, after which you go to live with your faction, possibly leaving your family behind. And even that is uncertain; if you fail training in your new faction, you become “factionless” and get all the dirty jobs no one else wants and live in the shabbiest part of town. The government of the time is made up of Abnegation members, because it was decided some time ago that the job should go to people who don’t want it. This leads to major problems later in the book.

Tris’s family are members of the Abnegation faction, living an unselfish lifestyle dedicated to helping people. Tris’s test results are inconclusive. She learns that she is Divergent – one of the few who don’t quite fit in with any faction. She decides to join the Dauntless, who jump on and off moving trains, get piercings and tattoos and believe in courage. Sounds good, right? And Tris finds she’s very good at what she’s required to do to become a Dauntless member.

But something nasty is going on at the top levels of Dauntless – and Tris has been warned not to reveal her Divergent status if she wants to stay alive…

Things that worked for me: Tris is a strong character, and one who captures the reader’s sympathy. She doesn’t whine and she does show the unselfishness she feared she didn’t have, at the beginning of the novel. The romantic interest, Four, is a decent young man who respects Tris’s strength and has his own problems, so isn't there to lead her, except as her teacher in the initiate training. It’s a good, exciting adventure story, and it is not implied that there’s anything perfect about any of the factions, with the possible exception of Amity, whose members are cheerful and kind and play folk-music in between tasks… And this is only because no major characters in the book seem to be Amity, so we never really find out. Possibly they will play a larger role in the next volume.

Things that didn’t work quite so well for me: the whole notion that a working society could be created based on such simple qualities. And - Jeanine? What kind of name is that for a villain? I was also uneasy with how comfortable Tris was with a gun, once she learned to use it, and even more uneasy with the suggestion that the faction dedicated to learning and reading was so generally nasty, as if we should be suspicious of anyone who lives by their intellect. Maybe we'll find out in the next book that the Erudite don't generally approve of what happens in this volume, but meanwhile, the message seems to be: "If you're smart enough to be in Erudite, you're a slimy, sneaking baddie."

There have been comparisons with The Hunger Games and I can see how this idea came about, but I much prefer The Hunger Games.

Still, there’s enough here to interest both girls and boys, and not many YA books can say that.

And I believe that Tris and Katniss would get on well!

Angry Robot Books Opens A YA List

Here's a press release I got yesterday, at the same time as the other one I've posted. Angry Robot is a press of which I've heard; Joanne Anderton, a wonderful Aussie writer, sold them a novel which has been published recently, and this one doesn't seem to restrict itself to US writers, so if you want to go take a look at their web site, give it a go. You may sell them something! :-)

Angry Robot announces new YA imprint, Strange Chemistry

Angry Robot, the award-winning publisher of SF, F and WTF are pleased to announce their newest venture – a sister imprint, Strange Chemistry, which will publish Young Adult genre fiction.
The imprint will launch in September 2012, with five titles appearing before the end of that year, before settling down to one book each month. Strange Chemistry will follow AR’s strategy of co-publishing its books simultaneously in the US and UK, in both eBook and paperback formats. Subject matter will include fantasy, science fiction, supernatural and horror, and as with Angry Robot the lines between those genres are likely to be very blurry at times.
Running the imprint will be Amanda Rutter, until recently best known as the tireless blogger behind genre review site, Floor-to-Ceiling Books. She takes up her position in Angry Robot’s headquarters in Nottingham on December 12th.
Angry Robot’s managing director Marc Gascoigne said: “The key to any truly successful genre imprint is the personality of its editors. In Amanda we’ve found the perfect mix of editing skills and wild, wild enthusiasm for the subject. Her first signings are already making us jump up and down in excitement. We’re beyond delighted to welcome her to the team.”
Amanda Rutter commented, “Angry Robot have quickly become one of the most exciting and challenging genre publishers around, and I have so much admiration for the types of novels that the guys are bringing to the world of speculative fiction. I’m absolutely thrilled that I have the opportunity to join the team, and create a list full of Young Adult novels that share the same sharpness and passion as those in the AR list.”
More information can be found at Strange Chemistry and Angry Robot Books. You can meet Amanda at http://floor-to-ceiling-
Angry Robot is a new genre publisher, bringing readers the best in new SF, F and WTF?! All titles are released as paperbacks and in all major eBook formats. Distribution
is through Random House (North America) and GBS (UK). Angry Robot is part of the Osprey Group.
For more information, review copies, interview and feature requests contact our Marketing Manager, Darren Turpin at or +44 (0)773 – 410 4792

Books for Darfur! And A Competition for new (American) YA writers

Today, I got this request. It seems like a very good deal and support for a good cause. The bad news is that you have to live in the US to enter, but with luck there are some US folk reading this, so I thought I'd put it up on my blog anyway. I work with a lot of African students, including plenty of Sudanese, and knowing what they've been through, I'd like to cheer this cause. Even if you don't win the competition, the anthology seems well worth buying. Just follow the link and decide for yourself.

Dear The Great Raven, 

Can you share this new Essay Contest for Aspiring Writers of YA/middle grade fiction with the readers of your blog?  Thanks if you can.  Please contact us if you have any questions.  Lorraine Kleinwaks, Book Wish Foundation, 571-281-3117.

Win a literary agent or acclaimed author's feedback on your unpublished manuscript for young adult or middle grade readers.  This rare opportunity is being offered to the six winners of an essay contest recently announced by the literacy charity Book Wish Foundation.  See for full details.

You could win a manuscript critique from:

  • Laura Langlie, literary agent for Meg Cabot
  • Nancy Gallt, literary agent for Jeanne DuPrau
  • Brenda Bowen, literary agent and editor of Karen Hesse's Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust
  • Ann M. Martin, winner of the Newbery Honor for A Corner of the Universe
  • Francisco X. Stork, winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
  • Cynthia Voigt, winner of the Newbery Medal for Dicey's Song and the Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue

All that separates you from this prize is a 500-word essay about a short story in Book Wish Foundation's new anthology,What You Wish For.  Essays are due Feb. 1, 2012 and winners will be announced around Mar. 1, 2012.  If you win, you will have six months to submit the first 50 pages of your manuscript for critique (which means you can enter the contest even if you haven't finished, or started, your manuscript).  You can even enter multiple times, with essays about more than one of the contest stories, for a chance to win up to six critiques.

If you dream of being a published author, this is an opportunity you should not miss.  To enter, follow the instructions at

Good luck and best wishes,

Logan Kleinwaks
President, Book Wish Foundation

What You Wish For (ISBN 9780399254543, Putnam Juvenile, Sep. 15, 2011) is a collection of short stories and poems about wishes from 18 all-star writers: Meg Cabot, Jeanne DuPrau, Cornelia Funke, Nikki Giovanni, John Green, Karen Hesse, Ann M. Martin, Alexander McCall Smith, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Joyce Carol Oates, Nate Powell, Sofia Quintero, Gary Soto, R.L. Stine, Francisco X. Stork, Cynthia Voigt, Jane Yolen.  With a Foreword by Mia Farrow.  Book Wish Foundation is donating 100% of its proceeds from the book to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to fund the development of libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Monday, December 12, 2011

THE KING’S BASTARD: Book 1 of The Chronicles Of King Rolen’s Kin, By Rowena Cory Daniells. Oxford: Solaris, 2010

Byren Rolen Kingson, a prince of the kingdom of Rolencia, is only seven minutes younger than his twin, Lence, making Lence the heir to the throne. That is fine with Byren, who has no interest in ruling Rolencia, but strange things are happening. Suddenly, the brother with whom he has been close all their lives, is not happy with him, and the terrifying forecast made by the old seer at the start of the book seems all too possible.

And Byren has other troubles. His cousin and best friend, Orrade, is declaring his love for Byren, the girl Byren loves thinks he prefers her brother, warlords out in the mountains may be on the rampage and Byren’s father is sending him into the middle of it.

At some time in the past, during King Rolen’s teens, there was a rebellion by the Servants of Palos, an organization with gay links and renegade Power Workers supported them, killing Rolen’s father and brother. As a result, gay men are definitely not welcome in Rolencia and anyone born with something called Affinity is banished, executed or sent to an abbey where he or she will be trained to use their power for the benefit of the kingdom. The youngest son of the royal family, Fyn, is there already – and there may be another family member with the unwanted gift…

The world-building in this book is fascinating and, to be honest, my favourite part of it.  What is Affinity? While you can be born with it, there are things called seeps that bring it up from under the earth, so is it a genetic thing or is it to do with the planet? Perhaps this will be revealed in a future volume.

The society is more or less mediaeval Europe, but with additions. Instead of a Church, there is a god and goddess, although they are served by monks and nuns with Affinity. The entire novel takes place in winter, when the lakes, rivers and canals are frozen hard, making skating a viable form of travel, sometimes faster than going by horse, where there is a short cut. Everyone skates. Such heraldic animals as manticores and phoenixes (or, in this world, foenixes) are real and have a normal life cycle like any other animal, although they are known as Affinity beasts. There are unistags, rather than unicorns and leogryfs rather than hippogriffs (although the hippogriff is, I have read, a joke animal created long after heraldry came into being), but when you carry a unistag on your shield, you know there are real ones out there.

I quite like all the politics, which is reflected in a game called Duelling Kingdoms, not unlike the game of Thud in Terry Pratchett’s novel of the same name.

I did wonder whether King Rolen had thought out his strategy of putting all those people with powers into abbeys, where anyone with ambition or resentment has access to followers with a variety of powers. If it was me, I’d be putting my son there to make sure he became abbot and supported me, not to get rid of the runt of the litter.

But then, King Rolen isn’t the smartest character in the book and has issues that blind him.

And there are two more volumes to come, tying up all the ends. Hopefully, they will answer all the questions this book raises.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Picking Names For Fiction

Recently on Goodreads, I came across a post by an author who is working on a novel. One of her minor characters had a name the publishers didn't like, so she was inviting her fans to suggest names. It made me think about how I choose names for my characters. I'm not -

Interruption! We have our first Children's Laureates, just heard it on the news! About time. They've had them in England for YEARS. Did you know, at one point, there was serious danger of there being no money to run the Children's Book Council of Australia awards? That hasn't happened, fortunately, but it goes with the attitude of folk who ask me when I'm going to write an adult, i.e. a "real" book. (My response is always, "Never!") The first two Aussie Laureates (for two years) are Boori Monty Pryor and Alison Lester. They will have the job of getting kids to read. I will be following this with great interest, and mention it on this blog whenever I hear about it. I am thrilled to bits! Here's a link to a news article on-line, though there must be more; today's Sydney Morning Herald.

Now, back to the topic of this post - names, as I do them. In a previous post I discussed names in Harry Potter (and recently I wandered back to Insideadog and found, to my delight, that a young reader had commented on that post after all and liked it. Which reminds me, I owe Cara some bookmarks, must email the CYL and ask for them to pass them on, as I don't have the young lady's address.). I noted that the names in JKR's novels generally have meanings that are appropriate for the characters concerned. I think it's wonderful the way she has worked them out, but me - I mostly pick names because I like them.

This was mostly the case for Wolfborn, though I did have some characters with names that meant a little more than that. The wise-woman was called Sylvie because she lived in the forest. The werewolf knight's fief was originally called Lupin ... until I read the third Harry Potter novel and realised that it was no longer an in-joke - someone else had got to it before me. I called him Geraint, even though it didn't fit in with all the French names, because I liked it and because it was a name associated with mediaeval romance.

Eglantine, another of my characters, was named for Chaucer's Prioress for reasons I can't reveal without spoilers, but also because I thought it a good, soppy name for a soppy character, and from what I've read, it may be that Chaucer also thought it a nicely soppy name. ;-)

The Faerie characters were originally named after the ones in Shakespeare. "Come on, Sue, you KNOW Oberon and Titania didn't appear till much later than this story!" said my editor (it was my own universe, but yes, it was meant to be a sort of twelfth century Europe) so, grumbling to myself, I found them other names - the names of a couple of Celtic gods who were appropriate for these two characters - a horned god and a goddess of the grove with whom he was associated. But personality-wise they remained Oberon and Titania.

My short story called "Brothers", which is being published in the Specusphere anthology Mythic Resonance, early next year,  was based on Snow White. I called the princess Blanche (White) and because I'd decided that my seven dwarfs were going to be seven Dwarves a la Tolkien, I gave them Norse names.

You do have to be careful with name choices. Justin D'Ath wrote his novel Pool with a heroine called Audrey who had nearly drowned in a pool as a child and had miracles associated with her. All he had in mind, he tells me, was Audrey Hepburn, but some of my students, researching for their creative responses to the book for English, stumbled across information about an American girl called Audrey whose story was uncannily like the one in the book! Now, it may be he read about it in the news some years ago and forgot, but as far as he knows he had never heard of the real-life Audrey.

At least he got to choose his names. Try writing for the education publishing industry and thinking carefully about your names!

Publishers there will change your names at the drop of a hat, without consulting you; the first you know of it, often enough, is when you get your contributor's copy!

I wrote two chapter books for the education industry, The Sea's Secret and Grey Goo. The former was about a hunt for a painting donated to the school before the artist arrives for a visit. Nobody knows what happened to it, since it was twenty years ago, and there are rumours about the Principal of the time having kept it. I had three siblings, Ariel, Hanna and Nehama.

Ariel became Adam, Hanna became Hannah. Oddly enough, even though these and other names in the book were Anglo-ised, the youngest sister, Nehama, remained Nehama. In the American edition, the Principal's name and gender were changed. I wouldn't have minded so much if they hadn't been changed halfway through the book! I remember reading my contributor's copy of the US edition and saying, "Hang on, who's ... ? Oh. The Principal? " The thing is, somewhere in the US, someone is reading my book - a teacher, a librarian, a parent - and thinking, "What sort of an idiot can't remember the names and genders of her own characters?" Sigh!

Grey Goo had a heroine called Amelia, named for my little niece. In the original manuscript and right up to the page proofs, her brother was called Max, the name of the real-life Amelia's brother. Proudly, I showed the kids the page proofs, promising them a copy of the book when it came out.

Problem: when I got the book, the heroine was still Amelia, but she now had a brother called Mark. When I inquired, I was told that there was a character called Max in another of their books, so they had decided to change this one. I still can't see any reason for it, but there you are. They weren't the ones who had to break the news to Max that he had been bumped from my book. I let him keep the page proofs.

Whenever I need a teacher, I call him Mr Pearl after my brother-in-law, who is the best primary teacher I know, but as it happens, he will appear in my short story "Call Him Ringo" in Trust Me Too, being put out next year by Ford Street Publishing, for a different reason. It's about the Beatles' visit to Melbourne in 1964, and my brother-in-law, long before he met my sister, was at the Southern Cross on the day the fans gathered outside the hotel because their heroes were staying there. How could I not give him a walk-on?

There are plenty of on-line name generators which are no doubt fun, but even choosing a name just because you like it is no reason to choose one at random, without caring about the character, however minor. I am never going to do that.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

After Midnight, Still Going

I've spent the evening at the opera (and couldn't believe that parents would bring children to see an opera about a dying courtesan in 19th century Paris, but serve them right if they have to explain it). Now, I'm sitting here on-line, after midnight, loading my students' book trailers on to iMovie, adding them to the Literature Circles movie, so I can burn more discs. Today I showed my class the last of A Midsummer Night's Dream (they loved it! I hadn't intended to show them the lot, but they wanted me to, so...) and then, with a few minutes left, I showed them the book trailers done by some of them. They were interested and when I asked them who wanted a copy of these and the Literature Circles movie (they've seen bits of that before I edited it on iMovie) nearly every hand went up. So, because next Friday will be our last class together (sob!) I thought I'd present each student with a DVD.

And there were some nice trailers there, though everyone chose music which cut out before the trailer finished (but the music was appropriate in all cases). Andy and Amadeu did theirs on Dragonkeeper, using almost the same images and the same music, but they were different. Andy asked me if he could fix his up because he spotted some errors. He can, of course, though if he doesn't get it to me by tomorrow, I won't have time to add the corrected version to the student DVD - I want to do some on the weekend. Andy is our computer genius, but it was Amadeu who knew how to convert raw Moviemaker files to WMV(and then I converted them again, using Handbrake!). Michael's trailer for Once was beautiful.  Minh had done his on the novel his group read, Cirque Du Freak (Darren Shan). I watched him research it, looking for pictures of freaks from freak shows. They aren't exactly the ones in the novel, but impressive all the same, with a good musical soundtrack. Taylor kept looking through Google Images for just the right pictures to use to represent Wolfgang and Audrey and families for her trailer of Justin D'Ath's Pool (and I will be sending Justin a copy at some stage, as promised). Emily did a very good trailer of Marianne De Pierres' Burn Bright, with music changing abruptly when she got to the bit about Ixion, the isle of Evernight, to a loud rock beat, appropriate for a place where teenagers party all night. "Hey, I did one on Burn Bright!" called Brittany and I suggested she gets it to me so I can add it to the DVD. It was supposed to be a part of the assessment. She was actually studying Pool, but loves Burn Bright. Elizabeth and Rana did A Ghost In My Suitcase, but it was too late to add music. I'm putting on the silent trailer anyway.

I will be adding Paige's lovely, if short, trailer for Fallen, because the rest of the class admire it.

Gotta go to bed, guys! I still have to be up at six, but Amadeu's trailer is taking ages to load.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Pepa and Shane Interview Gabrielle Wang

 One of the nicest things about being involved in children's and YA writing is the people you meet. Gabrielle Wang, the author of several lovely, gentle fantastical books for young readers, is a Melbourne writer, so we've met at a number of events at the Centre for Youth Literature and other places. Two of my students, Pepa and Shane, absolutely loved her novel A Ghost In My Suitcase, which they read for English, as a part of Literature Circles - so much that they hunted up her other books to read. Pepa is currently enjoying Little Paradise. It seemed a logical follow-up to ask her some questions - and Gabrielle very kindly agreed to answer them - not only that, but to publish the interview on her own web site. But for now, you've read it here first! Take it away, girls!

P/S: Did you write this book to help children face their fears against ghosts they are afraid to find?

G. I wrote A Ghost in My Suitcase to explore ghosts and ghost hunters and the Chinese idea of death. Hopefully along the way, children will also be able to overcome their fears. The idea came from the character Por Por in The Pearl of Tiger Bay. She was so strong she needed a novel written all about her.

P/S: Have you seen ghosts?

G: I haven’t seen a ghost but I have heard them calling my name. I’ve also had strange, ghostly things happen like doors opening and even words that suddenly appear the next time I open the word document on my laptop.

P/S: According to your site, you have used ghost-hunting equipment. What equipment have you used?

G: Did I say that? I’ve never actually used any ghost hunting equipment but I do have some coin swords and mirrors.

P/S: Why was the sequel, The Pearl of Tiger Bay,  published before this one?

G: I have already answered this in Question One. When I wrote The Pearl of Tiger Bay I had no idea I was going to write a prequel.

P/S: Okay, I’m going to ask about the characters now, the places and the culture.

About the Characters –
How come Celeste is the only one who has the ability to fight ghosts with her voice? Is she the chosen one? Because according to Por Por, she never found information about this ghost ability she has.

G: Yes, Celeste is the chosen one. It came naturally to her. That’s why she was destined to be a ghost hunter. She was the first ghost hunter to use her voice as a weapon.

P/S: What caused Celeste’s mother to die?

G: She died of cancer. Even though this is not written in the novel, a writer has to know her characters’ complete background.

P/S: About Ting Ting, how did you develop her character?

G: When I first began writing A Ghost in My Suitcase, Ting Ting was Celeste’s Shanghai cousin, a university student called Ky. He was also a boy. But I grew bored with Ky and I thought that if I’m bored with him so will my readers be. As soon as I changed Ky into a moody girl, the story suddenly took off.  

About the places –
Does Isle of Clouds exist? It seems so real! I want to visit it!

G:The Isle of Clouds is based on an ancient water town near Shanghai called Wuzhen.

P/S: Does Bao Mansion exist?

G: Bao mansion is based on an old house in the hills overlooking West Lake in Hangzhou, China. When I was writing the scenes with Bao mansion, I pictured the old house in my mind.

P/S: s the story based on true events?

G: Everything in the novel is made up except for the historical parts about China and the international settlements.

P/S: If you caught a weak ghost, can you actually turn them into goldfish?

G: I made that up too. I thought it would be fun and far less violent than destroying the poor ghosts. Only Shen Da Pai needed to be destroyed because he was Celeste’s enemy, and an enemy of her family for generations.

P/S: If you were trapped in a mingshen mirror, could you really get out with the help of pure or holy water or tears?

G: I am told you can trap a ghost in a mingshen mirror but the part about using tears I made up.
What do you think it would be like to be trapped in a mingshen mirror if it was possible?
It would be like being trapped in a goldfish bowl. You would be able to see the world outside but not be able to escape. It would be like torture.

P/S: Celeste’s mom made a short appearance in the book. During that short appearance, she was planting tomorrows. What are tomorrows? I tried surfing the net about it and I ended up with ‘How to plant tomatoes’.....-_-.

G: I made up ‘tomorrows’ to symbolise the future. Celeste’s mum was planting them because she knew she didn’t have many ‘tomorrows’ left. She died young.

P/S: About the types of ghosts: were those types of ghosts (such as fat belly etc.) real in Chinese culture? Are there more types of ghosts?

G: All the different ghosts came out of my imagination. It’s so much fun writing novels!

P/S: Are there different techniques to catch or fight ghosts?

G: Some of the techniques I researched are real, like trapping ghosts in mirrors and controlling them with coin swords.

P/S: With all the ghost and supernatural books you have been writing, do you actually believe in supernatural things such as spirits and an afterlife?

G: I do believe in an afterlife. I am not Buddhist but I lean towards that belief – that we are reincarnated.

P/S: Do you celebrate any of the things the Chinese culture celebrates, such as hungry ghosts, mingshen mirrors and others?

G: We celebrate Chinese New Year with a big family dinner, the Autumn Moon festival with moon cakes and grave sweeping day where we clean the grave of my father.

P/S: Do any of your books describe yourself or any of your own memories?

G: Much of what I write is from personal experience. For example the scene in A Ghost in My Suitcase where Celeste is in the bus on her way to the Isle of Clouds is from a real experience. While I was studying painting in China we went to sketch in the mountains. To get there we rode for hours in a rusty old bus. That chapter is exactly how I experienced it including frogs jumping around our feet and the big hole in the roof. I really did have to put up my umbrella. My YA novel Little Paradise was based on my mother’s story. And my first novel, The Garden of Empress Cassia is based on how I felt when I was a child. 

P/S: In the middle of your writing, do you feel that you are the characters or the main character?

G: I am definitely all the characters - even the bad ones. They are parts of myself.

Post To Come - Interview With Gabrielle Wang!

Two of my students, Shane and Talapepa, have interviewed Gabrielle Wang, author of some fabulous books, as their creative response to their Literature Circles book, A Ghost In My Suitcase. Gabrielle's answers have just arrived in my cyber-letterbox and when I have been able to get it into a readable order, I will be sharing it with you. Gabrielle was impressed with the girls' questions and I must say, I've learned quite a lot from her answers that I didn't know before! :-)

So stand by. If you're not yet a Gabrielle Wang fan, what are you waiting for? Go check out some of her books right now!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Riffling through my bookmarks

Over the years I've been on-line, I've collected an awful lot of bookmarks on my Safari browser. The thing about web sites is that you can never tell whether they will still be there when you come back, but they form a history of my on-line research. There are a large number of crime-based web sites from when I was looking up stuff for Crime Time: Australians behaving badly. There are some on spy-related themes from when I was writing Your Cat Could Be A Spy. The CIA web site was especially terrific for that, with all sorts of stuff about spy gadgets, which they have in a museum - much more entertaining than the Australian version, which was just a dull public service thing back then. There are the teaching-based ones which I looked up whenever I was desperate because they'd just given me a class in an area in which I had very little experience, or none.

And then there are my favourites, the ones that helped me research my fantasy fiction.  Monstrous is an encyclopaedia of monsters and such creatures of the night as fairies (or even Faeries!) and where they came from. Gosh, I wish I'd had this one when I was researching my first book, Monsters And Creatures Of The Night! I did go on-line for that - once a week, for an hour, at an Internet cafe on Glenferrie Road, Malvern,back in the early days of Internet cafes, when you could actually buy food there. But mostly, I was researching in the State Library of Victoria, using books. Twice a week.

Omniglot is an encyclopaedia of languages, where I went to look up Breton, in case I needed some words. And speaking of languages, there is the one I have only discovered recently, the translator in Dictionary which lets you translate from one language into another. For example, "On Saturday I'm going to the football" translates into Irish as Ar an Satharn, tá mé ag dul go dtí an peile. The only disadvantage is that if the language doesn't have Roman letters, you'd better know how to read Arabic or Hebrew or whatever! But it comes in handy if you need a character to say something - briefly! - in another language. It's a great web site anyway, with a pile of other sections. There's the Reference section, which has stuff like the word of the day (frondescence is today's, meaning  "leafage/foliage" - what a cool word!) and a hot word (did you know in Old English the word "gift" referred to a dowry?) or you can look up something as you would in an encyclopaedia.

I stumbled on to Mysterious Britain and Ireland when I was trying to remember where I'd come across the story told by Armand, the hero's friend, in Chapter 3 of Wolfborn. For some reason I'd vaguely recalled it being French, but it was Irish and, in fact, comes from the Travels of Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), who lived in the time of King John. The web site has a link to another one which tells the story. The stories on this web site are short, but useful, and range from water horses to werewolves.

An amazing web site I heard about from Juliet Marillier at her Swancon workshop on fairy tales is "Sur La Lune fairy tales" which gives a huge variety of fairy tales from all over the world, including variations on the same story from different countries. It has its own blog, which, right now, has a video of “The Lady of Shalott in art” with Loreena McKennitt’s song. It has a lot of annotated fairy tales, which have comments on the different themes in the story. I really love the variations. You think "Snow White" is just a Brothers Grimm story? There are versions from Italy, Turkey, Romania, even West Africa! I checked this out when I was doing my story "Brothers" for the Specusphere anthology on myths and legends. Mine, in the end, was fairly straight European, but if you want to try something that starts somewhere else, this is a fabulous web site.

If you're planning to write a Celtic fantasy or just want to have a browse among all the things available, why not  check out these web sites?

Personally, I just love the browse. You know how it is? You're looking for something and there's a link to something else, which is so fascinating you have to read it and that has yet another link and before you know it, you've gone a long way from where you started and you've learned a lot more than you expected.

Ah, I love the Internet!