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Thursday, October 31, 2013

On Winning Giveaways You Don't Remember Entering!

For the second time in a row, I've won a book giveaway contest I don't remember entering.   The first time, it was an informal one on The History Girls website. That one I definitely didn't enter, because I checked. I simply put a comment on a post which they must later have decided was their September Giveaway. They give the prize to the comment they like best, in this case a historical novel from HarperCollins. In that case, I didn't actually get the book, because the publisher had specified  UK only, another reason I wouldn't have entered if I had known, but  they offered to send a copy to a British friend, so I put them in touch with my friend Jackie Marshall, who lives in Norfolk and loves historical fiction as much as I do.

This time, I won a $25 Amazon gift voucher from a website I don't recall visiting, but must have, because when I followed the website link, there was my name among the winners. I still don't recall the website, but I have a vague memory of entering one of those centralised giveaways which have a long list of sites giving away books. I don't do it, usually, preferring the more informal ones on English Historical Fiction Writers or, now and then, at the History Girls(rarely the latter, who offer only print books and so don't usually send books outside the UK).

But there are so many of these online giveaways and I must have thought, I have done this myself with very little to show for it, what the heck! And added my name to the Rafflecopter list.

So now, how do I choose? I have discovered that the book being promoted by this author is available for $1.99 on iBooks, so I will leave it for now and buy it later with my iTunes account. I prefer iBooks anyway; I don't have a Kindle and rarely use my Kindle app, which is clumsy, IMO, and doesn't make me feel like I'm reading a book, just a professionally laid out manuscript.

But I must be practical in my choice. A print book would waste several dollars of my precious voucher in postage. And this lady had to work to earn it in order to be able to give it to me, so I will buy as many good ebooks as I can find and get the best value out of it.

And thank you very much, Stephanie Carroll, author of Victorian Gothic novel A White Room!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Random Reading

I've been picking up books at random from my library library shelves lately and taking them home to read.

It's nice just picking up a book that I might never normally read - or, in some cases, never getting around to read - and taking it on the train with me.

One was ACID, a YA dystopian by British writer Emma Pass. I'm not hugely into dystopians, with a few exceptions, but this one was quite readable. In this novel, Britain has become literally a police state. ACID is an organisation that started life as the police force and took over after a global financial disaster known as the Crash, instead of the usual nuclear war. Different! In this country. - England only, it seems, not Europe or the rest of the world - you enter an arranged marriage(LifePartnering) at sixteen and go into an arranged job while you wait for permission to have a baby. The  heroine, Jenna Strong, is in an adult all-male prison for killing her parents, ACID agents. When a rebel organisation called FREE springs her from jail, she discovers her memories have been tampered with big-time. I enjoyed going along for the ride, despite some difficult-to-swallow premises and for an oldie like me there were hints of the 1980s British series Blake's Seven. No spaceships, of course.

I put that back and, yesterday, picked up a book by Heather Brewer, the beginning of the Slayer Chronicles. This one was American and featured something called the Slayer Society, built on the premise that vampire-slaying skills are genetic, running in families, and seen from the viewpoint of thirteen-year-old Joss, who has agreed to go into this because his little sister was murdered by a vamp. I couldn't help wondering whether the author gave the boy the same first name as the creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on purpose. Bet she did!

It didn't take long to finish this book, which is readable by a late primary/early secondary student reading at their right level. Today I finally borrowed Seraphina by Rachel Hartman,  which has had some good reviews and which I bought last year for a dragon-loving girl. It has dragons who can take human shape and a kingdom sort of like Renaissance Europe. The heroine is a part-dragon musician. So far, lovely, but I'm on page 47. It may take longer to read than the others, but never mind, there will be more random reading to come. Stand by for more reports!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gamers' Rebellion By George Ivanoff. Melbourne: Ford Street Publishung,2013

When the Ford Street anthology Trust Me! was published a few years ago, one of the short stories was "Game Plan" by George Ivanoff. It was based on a simple idea: where do the characters from video games go for their holidays? The real world,  of course! There, teen thieves Tark and Zyra become ordinary teenagers John and Tina, who do homework and go to school. It was an entertaining and amusing idea.

Who would have thought this little story would be expanded into not one but three novels? 

Tark and Zyra, after many adventures, managed to leave the Game, but we discovered that they had gone for their holidays to another game environment called Suburbia, not the real world. 

In this book, they finally arrive in the world outside the Game and it's not remotely like Suburbia. And the lovely Tina and John, on whom their own appearances are based, are respectively Designer Alpha and Beta and both are thoroughly nasty pieces of work who haven't been teenagers doing homework and going to school for years. Tina had managed to get John to spend all his time in the virtual world while she ran things from  the huge complex which houses the Game. Their former partner, Robert, is Designer Prime and works from his quarters, opposing them with the help of his clone assistant, who... 

You know what? It's a complicated story with a lot of running around, some tributes to Dr Who, teen rebels and much more than I can describe. Best just to read it - after the first two novels, Gamers' Quest and Gamers' Challenge. It won't make sense without them.
Reading this is like playing a video game without having the family complain because you won't get off the computer. Do yourself a favour. Do your family a favour. Read this instead of playing on the computer. The kids will thank you, at least until they pinch your copy of the Gamers' trilogy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Greylands By Isobelle Carmody. Melbourne: Ford Street Publishing, 2012

Jack is dreaming of his mother, who died after a fall from a height in a fun park. She had been suffering from a form of depression, whose cause we learn late in the book - and Jack blames himself, because it happened on his birthday treat. He is close with his young sister and their father, but since his wife's death, the children's father has been unable to smile or show affection. Soon after the dreams, Jack finds himself slipping in and out of the Greylands, which are strangely bare of humans, apart from a few individuals who appear now and then when necessary to the plot, and are colourless. The Greylands are, in fact, the country of depression and grief, where flying represents escape. There, he meets a little girl he calls Alice, who is clutching a bundle which she refuses to put down for even a moment, a caged being known as the laughing beast who laughs at the absurdities of life and so is not popular, and the terrifying creatures known as wolvers, whose howls and growls are heard, though you can only hope not to see them. There is a puzzle to be solved here, and Jack knows it's connected with Alice and her bundle. It needs to be solved, because another tragedy is on its way...

This novel, one of the author's few stand-alones, was first published some years ago by a much bigger publisher than Ford Street. It's strange to think that anything by a wildly popular writer like Isobelle Carmody would ever go out of print, but this one did, and is now back, in a revised edition with a new cover. The introduction speaks of the background to the novel, her feelings after her father's death, when the world was just going its normal way while her family was grieving its loss. I confess I haven't read the original version and would have liked some hint as to the difference between that and this version, but it doesn't matter, really. You take the story as is, and if you have read and loved the original, you will know as you read and can make your judgement on the changes. I get the feeling that this book is very important to the author, whichever version you read.

This is really something of a literary novel rather than a straight fantasy. There's enough adventure that children might find exciting, though it mostly involves escape from wolvers, but really, it's about family and what happens to a family suffering loss, and which family hasn't? There are some nice references to Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen and it's likely that the author has this in mind; Jack sometimes enters the Greylands through a mirror and his sister suggests that perhaps their father has a piece of mirror lodged in his heart, like Kay in the Andersen story.

Greylands is a bit too sad for me to think of rereading any time soon, but is worth recommending to a good reader of about thirteen upwards. It will become a classic.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thoughts On My Female Characters

Today, a Year 7 girl returning a copy of Wolfborn asked, "Miss, are you a writer?" - making sure I was actually the author of the book she had just read. When I said yes, she smiled and told me how much she had enjoyed the novel, adding, "especially the girl". It was not just a bit of egoboo, but it made me feel good that finally someone had said they liked my heroine, Jeanne. I have had far too many reviews that have said they liked the book, but not Jeanne, or that the romance was "tacked on".

It wasn't. Jeanne, daughter of the werewolf knight, Geraint, was strong, but vulnerable too. She wanted her father to be rescued and returned to his rightful place, but knew that if and when he did, she would lose the freedom of the forest where she had been brought up and be a castle-bound knight's daughter. And Etienne, the boy from whose viewpoint the story is told, made a huge sacrifice for her at the end, after making his love for her clear all through the story. If that's "tacked on", all I can say is, please, reviewers, go find a nice YA vampire romance. This book isn't for you.

One or two reviewers got it, and made me cheer.

This made me think of my female characters in general. When I wrote Wolfborn, I had fun with the wife of the werewolf knight, who had betrayed him. I deliberately gave her the soppiest name I could think of -  Eglantine, with a nod to Chaucer's Prioress. I ended up feeling a little sorry for her. She had a history, having discovered that a boy she had cared about and nearly married was a werewolf. Mind you, when I wrote a short story based on that incident ("Midwinter Night", published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, issue #54, edited by Simon Petrie) I went back to being unsympathetic toward Eglantine, indicating that it served her right to end up married to a werewolf after she had betrayed her previous fiance, though it would be best for her new husband if she never found out. But she was limited in many ways; still, I gave her a chance to make a better life for herself at the end of the novel. I just couldn't make her a total villain.

Geraint's first love, Sylvie, Jeanne's mother and the local wise-woman, was meant to be strong and was in some ways, but had made some mistakes in her life and never quite gotten over them. I have a confession to make: there's a scene between her and Geraint, late in the novel, which was inspired by one in that lovely movie Ladyhawke, which I was watching while working on the edits. She's tougher than Eglantine(who isn't?) but she lost her family at a young age, due to what she was born, and had to grow up fast, alone in the forest. Only near the end of Wolfborn does she find out what happened to her family.

Of course, she wasn't completely alone after a while. She had a teacher, Lysette, who doesn't appear in this book but is the heroine of the one I'm working on - minus a publisher for the moment, but sooner or later I will feel confident to offer it around. She gets a mention, because my editor wanted to make a sequel possible, but that hasn't happened - there was a shakeup in the company and the Woolshed list and I no longer know anyone in editorial at Random House Australia. On my own, I went back to a prequel I'd already been working on.

Alys is Eglantine's waiting-woman and the wife of the castle's steward. She is the real chatelaine of the household, a woman who knows her domestic tasks well and performs them because Eglantine won't; she never had to, as a spoilt child who went straight from home to court to marriage. Alys is a more traditional woman than the others, but she isn't weak or passive. Women who ran such large households couldn't be. In some ways,  they were like hotel managers who also had to look after the whole estate. Etienne mentions that before his birth, his mother once had to defend the household from invaders while his father was away. Alys doesn't do that, but without her, some of the vital things that happen in the book wouldn't have happened.

Lysette is the heroine of my as-yet unfinished novel set in the same universe, at an earlier date. She is the result of my wondering what would happen if you were born a werewolf in the peasant class. Mostly, they'd be likely to be killed, of course, as soon as they were caught raiding the flocks, but Lysette has to escape from a bunch of local louts, having turned into a wolf for the first time in their presence. After that, she meets a Merlin-like wizard she accidentally releases from a tree, and travels the country with him, searching for a long-lost prince who had gone missing when the wizard's previous apprentice had locked him in that tree.

I've found myself getting Lysette to make a decision, late in the novel, that will not make me popular with girls, hence the fact that I'm still working on it. The problem with prequels is that there are some things you can't change. And one of them is the fact that the romantic interest of the book is a long-lost king and they don't usually marry peasant-girls, let alone werewolf peasant girls. And we know what happened to her later, anyway. Help!

I'm starting to understand why there are so many YA novels where the girl has to choose between two or more boys!

If you don't know what I'm talking about, but are intrigued, I have read from both Wolfborn and the manuscript, The Sword And The Wolf, on Youtube, there's a Wolfborn sample chapter on this web site and you can always order a copy from your local bookshop or library.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Marketing 101: How NOT To Do It

So, I got yet another request for a book promo. I could have had a copy of the book, but the blurb told me it was not my kind of book, though YA. Because the PR firm handling the marketing had addressed me by name instead of making it sound like a mass mail-out, I replied. I wasn't really interested in reviewing the book, but that didn't mean it wouldn't interest my readers. I was prepared to offer the author a guest post. I've done this many times before and it has worked nicely.

They didn't get it. Either that or they hoped if they bustled about enough, I might just go along with what they had planned, which was a blog tour with a press release, a character profile from a book nobody has read yet and one of those fancy Rafflecopter giveaways. Giveaways have never had much success on this web site anyway, except once, when it was being hosted by another site that specialises in giveaways. I think the best result I ever had was about six entries and that included my Goodreads invitation. Honestly, you guys, anyone would think you don't want a free book! Maybe you just love reading my fabulous posts. ;-)

No, I said. I had offered a guest post and ONLY a guest post. I was, however, happy to include a less formal giveaway with the post. And I sent a link to a guest post on my site to give an example of what I had in mind. They admitted that the giveaway was US only. I don't live in the US and neither do half of my readers. I asked them to give my email address to their client so I could explain what was required.

This morning, they sent me their press release again, asking if this was okay for my post today! Today?

I said no, it's a press release. I don't publish them. I explained why the author should write it, and suggested that as I was clearly holding up their blog tour, perhaps we'd better forget about it for now and get the author to contact me later to do the guest post outside the blog tour. I would even CC them.

So that's that. Can you see what these PR folk have done wrong? The only right things they did were to choose a YA site and address me by name. After that, it was a waste of my time and theirs.

And it's a pity. I have, out of curiosity, visited the author's web site and was quite impressed. Yes, it's a self-published book, but this person didn't just rustle up something on CreateSpace or whatever and start emailing blogs to please, please review my book. It's bigger than Ben-Hur! A boutique publishing company with admittedly only one book, printers, distributors, editors, quotes from friends in the business and a crowd funding campaign. And getting copies into bricks and mortar stores. You have to take your hat off to that sort of enterprising nature. I was almost tempted to make direct contact, but thought no, that's what the PR firm is being paid to do. Up to them. They wouldn't like it.

I hope still to do that post, because I think this person deserves promo, so I'm not naming author, book or PR firm.

So, what do you think? I know I did the right thing for my blog, but what would you have done if you had offered one thing and they had tried to push something else on to you? I know it's a PR firm's job to be pushy, but I don't like pushiness. Sorry!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

SF To Science Fact: Michael Crichton's Mosquito

Anyone out there read the novel Jurassic Park? I did, a while before the movie came out. Remember the mosquito trapped in amber with a bellyful of blood and they used the DNA to create a dinosaur? Well, they've found a fossil prehistoric mosquito with a bellyful of blood, though they won't be creating dinosaurs any time soon. For one thing, it was about twenty million years after the last dinosaurs  died out. For another, the DNA wouldn't have lasted.

Still, it's exciting. And it was lurking in someone's basement in Montana, US., for about twenty years.  I love it when science fiction becomes science fact, which it has been doing for a very long time now. For example, those mobile phones with the flip tops. The inventor admits he got the idea from the original Star Trek communicators. We'd never have had them if Captain Kirk and his crew had tapped their shoulder gadgets to contact each other, as they did in the later series. And floppy disks, which we admittedly don't use any more, first appeared in Star Trek. And then there was Murray Leinster's A Logic Named Joe, which predicted the Internet, back in the 1940s.

Is it any wonder I love science and science fction?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Parke Godwin, 1929-2013

Having read a post this morning that reminded me that in the northern hemisphere it was still October 14, anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, which brought Norman rule to England, I thought it might be fun to discuss Parke Godwin's Sherwood, which sets the story of Robin Hood in William's England - it makes as much sense as Richard the Lionheart, which was basically Walter Scott's idea. I went searching for a suitable picture of the book's cover when I discovered, to my dismay, that the author had died in June this year!

So let me be a little broader. Parke Godwin could  and did write fantasy, award-winning fantasy, but he was also, in my opinion, America's answer to Mary Stewart in writing historical fiction with just a touch of fantasy, and, at that, an American who wrote some of the best fiction about British legendary heroes I have ever read. He comes close behind Rosemary Sutcliff and Mary Stewart in my favourites list.

Let's start with his two Robin Hood books, Sherwood and Robin And The King. Robin is actually Edward, a minor English country gentleman when the Normans arrive. Robin is his mother's pet name for him - "Puck Robin". For various reasons not his fault he is outlawed and his property given to Ralph, the new Sheriff of Nottingham. But Ralph is actually a decent man who treats Robin's peasants well and when the loony Earl of Huntingdon tries to start a rebellion that Robin knows will lead to civil war, he finds he can't support it. As he and Ralph are locked up in the Earl's dungeon together, they must co-operate to get out. What happens then, I will let you find out.

It was a delightful book, though the sequel was much darker. There are also implications about what Robin wrote, once he learned how, and became interested in law, which I won't go into due to spoilers. Just read them, but keep a few hankies for the second book. It's sad!

The Arthurian duo is Firelord and Beloved Exile. They're set in fifth century Britain. Arthur is a stiff -as-a-poker Roman officer. One day, he is kidnapped by the faerie, who are neither Tinkerbell nor Galadriel's relatives, but the indigenous folk of Britain, scorned and mistreated by everyone, the poorest of the poor. And they're his mother's people - Ygerna was left by a faerie midwife with a Roman matron who hadn't been able to give birth to a live child and was persuaded the little girl was her own. Arthur becomes third husband to Morgana, the polyandrous tribe's leader, who loves him but says she can't just dump her other husbands for him. He must leave her to solve an emergency among his own people and never returns, leading to tragedy much later. But he becomes a king who has empathy for the poorest of his people.

The second book, Beloved Exile, is seen from the viewpoint of Guinevere, after Arthur's death. This Guinevere is tough, intelligent and arrogant. She also has a way of staying friends with men she has let down, such as Ancellius(Lancelot), whom she used when depressed and dumped to return to her husband. Now she has been kidnapped and sold into slavery among the Angles. Over several years, she comes to have a respect for the people who were her enemies, and see things their way, impressed by their democratic system.

Both books drew me in and swept me away. The characters were ones I cared about, but not perfect. They had major flaws and so were human and believable. And one of my favourite bits in Firelord is where Arthur tells a Christian knight, "Oh, go and look for your silly cup!" ( The Holy Grail). 

Americans, be proud you produced a writer who could do such a wonderful job with other people's stories! 

I'm going to miss him.

Image taken from Creative Commons.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Launching Murder And Mendelssohn

This morning I left my mother's place early, to go across town to the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville, which is in the nicer part of the western suburbs(the nicest is Williamstown, which is by the sea). The occasion was the annual launch of Kerry Greenwood's latest piece of crime fiction. Usually, she alternates between the Phryne Fisher mysteries, set in the 1920s, and the present day stories centred around Corinna Chapman, baker extraordinaire who lives in a wonderful block of flats in Melbourne's CBD.

No one gets murdered in the Chapman mysteries. Teens go missing. Shonky televangelists do their thing to make money. The local chocolate shop's products are sabotaged, mysterious drugs are causing unintended deaths, but not murders. That sort of stuff. I love them and was looking forward to the next one for this year, but instead, there was a new Phryne Fisher adventure with not one, but two murders! Both victims are choir conductors of the same amateur choir about to perform Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah. And we discover that Phryne has choral experience(what has this chick not done?). The author has fun with Sherlock Holmes, creating a character who is like Holmes in personality, suggesting that a real-life Holmes, as opposed to Dr Bell, his inspiration, would be impossible to live with for most of us. The venue is Scots Church on Collins St, which is still there, and I think one of the characters lives on the site where the Education Department was located when I started teaching, a tower building considerably bigger than the digs of the choir's accompanist. This is one of the things I love about the series - Melbourne is familiar, and not.

I arrived at Yarraville in plenty of time and as I approached the bookshop, a voice called to me from behind: it was Kerry herself. We sat on a bench for a chat before going on to to the launch. She was wearing a robe which had hand painted titles of all her books on it.  I think she may have done  that herself. She is multi-talented.

As usual, there were plenty of people, though I only saw one familiar face apart from Kerry and her partner  David - a gentleman called Steve, whom I have known since my days in the SCA and now see at the Nova Mob science fiction club meetings. He knows Kerry and  David through the SCA. However, it was a nice event as always. David, who sings, runs the launch and organises the choir
which sings every time.

The bookshop is next to the Sun Theatre and the launch spills over into the cinema foyer. I bought my book - I had already bought the ebook, but I share these books with my family - and wandered into the foyer.

They always have munchies, soft drink and celebratory champagne and catering people hired to serve them. I enjoyed some sushi, cupcakes and toast with cheese.

It was impossible to get a decent photo with my poor little phone; every time I tried, someone woud wander past or bob up in the crowd to put their heads in front of me. And when I did get in a shot, there was strong light coming from outside, removing David's head! Ah, well...

Afterwards, I lined up to have my book signed - ony one this year, alas, since my poor friend Jan Finder the Wombat passed away.

I asked Kerry's Mum to be in a pic with me for my mother, whom I couldn't persuade to come along, though she loves Kerry's books, because she doesn't like travelling all that way from home; Jean Greenwood is five years older than Mum and more fragile. She kindly agreed and one of her other daughters took the photo. I came out blurry, alas, but never mind.

I believe that this afternoon there's to be a singalong of Elijah, but I am home, writing this and about to watch this week's Miss Fisher's Murder Mystery which is the Jock McHale's Hat story with a murder added to it. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Chopper Is Gone

Chopper Read is dead. The professional criminal is gone. Why mention this on a book blog?

A few years ago, I wrote Crime Time: Australians behaving badly, a children's book about crime in this wide brown land. And Mark Brandon Read, the Chopper, was in it. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer and he was being overwhelmed with offers of organ donations.  He said that  no, he wouldn't accept; sick children deserved it more.

The man was a criminal, no doubt about it. Of course, he only picked on fellow crooks, not out of any nobility, but because, after all, as he said himself, they weren't going to call the cops, were they?

But there has to be something about a criminal who could become such a celebrity that people were offering him organs! Something charming? Charismatic? I don't know. I just researched and wrote about him, along with the serial killers and the stupid thieves and the gangsters.

I wrote that book on commission and as usual, I learned a lot about the subject I was researching, but unlike other times I couldn't write about people my young readers could admire. At best, I was playing with them in a whimsical way, showing them as the idiots they were. At worst, they were scary, as one student said recently when another student was borrowing my book from the library. And then there was Chopper, who wasn't an idiot as such, but wasn't a serial killer either. It was hard to know what to make of him. In the end, I just showed him as another crook who, somehow, became a celebrity.

I will be grabbing a few quiet moments to read my chapter about him on to a video for YouTube. I'll add the link here when it's done.

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

Monster School. City of Monsters Book 1. By D.C. Green. Melbourne :Ford Street Publishng, 2013

Thomas is the Prince of Monstro City, heir to the throne since his father and brother were carried off by vampires. His mother has been lying comatose in hospital. And Thomas is virtually imprisoned with an ogre bodyguard called Erica, as, ruler of a dying species - humans - he is in constant danger of being assassinated by anything from Bloody Mary, who reaches out from the bathroom mirror to vampire mosquitoes.  

But there is something fishy in the state of Monstro City and it isn't necessarily the swamp monsters. Thomas goes undercover - literally - at the local monster high school to find out. There, he meets sweet mummy girl Scarab, a wisecracking giant spider called Bruce, maggot-riddled zombie Zorg, cynical goblin girl Greta and Stoker, a mohawked vampire who looks oddly familiar.

I should add that, despite the title, the novel takes off from here. The school is only there early in the book, to introduce the characters and give some background to the universe. And the author does find ways to explain the world he has created, partly through the teachers and partly through a volume called The Monster Guide by one DC Greengoblin. Interestingly, the monster characters aren't merely cutesy fantasy critters. The mummy is a genuine mummy, woken from death only four years ago. The zombie was once a human boy, as was the vampire. We learn that the monsters of various kinds always existed, they simply had to go underground during the human era. After a major flood, they returned.

When Thomas and his new friends find out what has really been going on and why the palace is broke, they go on a quest to save the kingdom. Starting with collecting back taxes from a dragon...

There is plenty of action, adventure and humour, with excellent cartoon illustrations and cover by Danny Willis, who has done the art for some of Paul Collins' books. There is also an oddly serious flavour to the later parts of the book and be warned, it ends on a cliffhanger, with a few pages of the second volume. 

An entertaining book for good readers in late primary and early secondary school.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Donating To The Library - When You KNOW You Won't Read It Again

As a teacher-librarian, I get a lot of would-be donations, but rarely something the kids will actually want to read or use. Like the old textbooks the faculty is cleaning out because they're no longer using  them, but for some reason think we're going to be able to use it. And the Jackie Collins epics. And a class set of someone's self-published semi-autobiographical novel, handed to the principal who, looking sheepish, hands them to me, arguing,"She's a former student!"

Once in a while, there's some good stuff - once, I scored twenty-five Aurealis Award YA entries. And of course, my friend Stephanie Campisi gave me a pile of her wonderful YA review copies. I have been donating my own review copies, though recently, I have only been receiving books from Ford Street and Bloomsbury; not sure what's happened to the others, but at least one of the other publishers which had been sending me review books has gone cheap and now offers only Netgalley ARCs for review. I might accept their excuse of,"It's about being environmentally friendly" if they'd stopped printing hard copy books, but they haven't. So I explained, twice at least, that I only review print books, because I can't put ebooks on my library shelves.

Now, I've gone to my own shelves for books that are perfectly good, but which I know in my heart I will never get around to reading again. It will help make space on my home shelves and hopefully the kids will enjoy books that I loved when I read them. A couple of them are personally autographed to me, which makes me feel bad, but what the heck! I bought them, they weren't gifts, and better for them to be read again by the age group for which they were  intended than sit around gathering dust on my overflowing book cases. They 're in excellent condition - I never give away stuff that isn't.

But I feel a little sad. There's a Richard Harland book there, a Scott Westerfeld one(one of our students has recently asked for one of his other books), a wonderful novel by Archie Fusillo... And of course, a couple of recent titles I got for reviewing and have reviewed recently on this site. I am less attached to those ones, because I always intended to donate those. The others were books I bought for me.

So I will have something new to show the students this week.

Meanwhile, I do have some Ford Street titles to finish and review before they land on my library shelves. I am reading DC Green's Monster School, before getting back to review George Ivanoff's final Gamer's novel  and two by Paul Collins which I haven't finished reading and a Tanya McCartney picture book, which I need to unearth from my pile of books and papers.

Better get on to it!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Books I Just Couldn't Resist

I've just put together all my spendings for tax - tomorrow I see my tax agent - and have realised that in this financial year, I've bought far more ebooks than print. I claim all my books, because of my dual role of writer and teacher librarian. Non fiction is used in my research and fiction both for my market research and doing my job as a schoolmarm properly.

Sometimes I have downloaded a book the kids are reading - last year we ran out of copies of Gabrielle Wang's A Ghost In My Suitcase, for example, and I was sitting with that group reading it aloud, as one of the students was a dyslexic. It seemed simplest to download and read immediately. This year I bought ebooks of some of the CBCA shortlisted books as soon as the list was announced.

And sometimes, I just read about a new book or an old favourite and yield to the temptation to download. I seem to have done that a lot this year. It's so easy just to open iBooks and start downloading. Which is what I did during the Reading Matters conference, often while the authors were speaking. So when autograph time began, I had nothing for them to sign.

I have downloaded Harry Harrison's The Technicolor Time Machine. That's an old favourite of which I never tire. And my print copy is falling apart. I got a Howard Myers book from the Baen free web site - never read any of his work before. A good time to try it. I bought Kerry Greenwood's new Phryne Fisher novel, Murder And Mendelssohn, though I will also have to buy the print copy because I share these with my mother and sister, but I just couldn't wait. I have to say that for the first time I figured out the murderer before the end and thought,"Oh, no, I will HATE it if the killer turns out to be..." and suspected that it would. And it was. But the book was fun and as so often, Kerry has written about a subject she knows - in this case, choirs. There was also Trust Me, the anthology in which I have a story, because I can't recall where my print copy is and before the holidays, a student asked me if I had anything similar to the title story of the anthology, and, to my shame, I couldn't remember the story. So I will make sure I read the lot.

The thing is, it 's just so very EASY to do this. You don't have to go to the bookshop or the library and when you finish one book, there's plenty more on your little computer to read. A very good thing for soone like me who can't do the deferred gratification thing, eh?

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

On Editing My Science Fiction Magazine - Latest Thoughts

I have been browsing through my stories for ASIM 60, having sent off my editorial yesterday. There are still some book reviews to slot in,but that has to wait until Simon Petrie, our wizard of everything, has finished the layout and can tell me how many words we have left. There also has to be space for the advertisements that help keep us going.   I am still awaiting the art - the cover artist, Eleanor Clarke, emailed the other day to say she had done some initial sketches she would send on as soon as she got access to a scanner. Eleanor is a wonderful artist - I feel very old, because I remember when she was born.  Now she is the young mother of two bright little boys, and doing very well with her art.

Reading through my editorial, I have suddenly realised that almost half of the contents are space-themed. Oh, dear. I hope we don't get any rude letters about it. I remember when someone who loves horror fiction made an entire horror-themed issue and lost us some subscribers.

But there's fantasy. There's humour and serious. There's a little bit of horror, because we need it to balance an issue, though I confess to knowing very little about horror fiction. As I have said, I'm not a fan. I chose stuff that worked well for me, but wasn't too horrific.

 So it balanced, sort of. I could only work with the stories available to me, and I would receive a wonderful story, cry out,"YESSS!!!" and suddenly there's a full table of contents and about seven of them are about "strange new worlds" . Whoops! And yet, they're mostly about what people do on those worlds. Because when we're out there, we will still be human, with human faults and dreams.

 I have a confession to make:  my love of speculative fiction is based on something called "sensawunda", ie "sense of wonder", and for me, that means, "Space, the final frontier!"

But I think it's going to be a great issue and I am really chuffed at how many first and second sales I have among the veterans. When the cover is ready I will show it off here to my readers. Stand by.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Richard III is 561 today!

It's October 2nd in this part of the world, though northern hemisphere folk won't be able to celebrate till tomorrow. Last year, I posted a Richard III birthday celebration. Here's the link:

Since then I have reread Daughter Of Time, The Sunne In Splendour,  and the two Rosemary Hawley Jarman books, We Speak No Treason and The King's Grey Mare. I think the last-mentioned is not as good as Jarman's first book. It could have been a good historical romance except that the heroine stops being the heroine early in the book. She gets Edward as a husband using witchcraft and is horrible to people we care about. It was just too hard to write a novel from her and the Lancastrian viewpoint when cheering for the other side. We Speak No Treason was wonderful except that I kept muttering, "Richard, you idiot! Stop forgiving everyone! Lock up Stanley, execute Morton, do it NOW!" And her saintly Richard III really was an idiot. I think The Sunne In Splendour was more believable in this respect. But still a beautiful book.

I wish I could find my copy of the children's book, A Sprig Of Broom, part of the Mantlemass series. There are a lot of books out there if you can find them, which give Richard fictional descendants. And there's Margaret Campbell Barnes' The King's Bed, which features Dickon, a bastard son of Richard who may have lived a long life as a stonemason. Well, you never know.