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Monday, September 28, 2015

Just Finished Reading... The Man In The High Castle by Philip K Dick

I admit this is my first Philip K Dick novel, though I do have a collection of his short stories. There's a little introduction at the start, by Eric Brown. Apparently, he didn't become really famous till the year he died, when the film Bladerunner came out. Then his SF books were reprinted and his mainstream stuff finally got an airing. Well, Bladerunner has become a classic in its own right. Pity he didn't live to see his massive success.

What I find fascinating about this alternative universe novel is that there's another alternative universe novel inside it.

The novel is set in a world in which the Axis won World War II. The year is 1962 and Martin Bormann is in power. The Germans and the Japanese have divided the world between them - especially the former US, in which the story is set. The Japanese - who are not so bad - rule the West Coast, the Germans the East, and in between are the Rocky Mountain states, which don't quite belong to either. The Japanese have brought with them the I Ching and many of the main characters use its wisdom as an oracle to help them make decisions.

But in this AU world, the man of the title has written a novel that is banned in the Nazi states and officially banned by the Japanese, who are more laid-back about it. In any case, it's a hugely popular novel, an AU tale in which the Allies won the war. Of course, everyone reads it or wants to read it.

The story is seen from a number of different viewpoints. That happens a lot in Harry Turtledove, but somehow I never got lost in this one as I do in the more complicated Turtledove novels.

I did find the ending a bit strange - and most of the ends were left untied - apparently deliberately. I think I may need to do a reread at some stage. But I'm glad I finally got to read it; I suspect it has had a lot of influence on later AU novels of this kind.

It's currently going cheap on iBooks if you want to give it a go.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

On This Day: September 27

Events: tonight a supermoon/harvest moon/lunar eclipse...Anyway, be outdoors between around 9.00 and 10.00 pm and the moon will be up there, big, round and red! If there isn't a cloud cover.

On this day in history: 

1822: Jean-Francois Champollion announces he has translated the Rosetta Stone. Very exciting event for the likes of me. It made a huge difference in the study of ancient Egypt, reading hieroglyphics. Yay!

1905: Albert Einstein's paper on E=mc2(squared) is published. Huge difference both to science and future science fiction!

1968: the musical Hair opens in London, where it keeps playing until 1973, when it's shut down by a collapsing rooftop! I saw that show when I was in high school. I felt a bit naughty because of all the fuss about the nude scene, but when it happened, it was a few seconds and the lights were dim - you couldn't tell the difference between male and female, even!  I remember thinking, "What was all that fuss about?" And in the end, it became a classic show with music we still hum.

1998: This year, Google has claimed this date for its 17th birthday, though it has claimed several other days over the years. Anyway, some time in September. Happy birthday, Google. I've had a lot of use from you - and who would have thought the word would become a verb?


 I could only find one of writerly interest to me, that of John Marsden, author of the Tomorrow series, about "what if Australia was invaded and a bunch of teens were out on a hike at the time?". The heroine, Ellie, told it from her viewpoint. This was long before books like The Hunger Games and such, with their tough, strong heroines. I have to admit that I only read the first four in the series - I felt at the time that it could have ended with Book 3. But the kids didn't, and it was, for some years, a series that was borrowed constantly from my library. These days they mostly gather dust, which is a pity, but every now and then a student discovers them...

His books have sold in the millions and he has written novels that appealed both to boys and girls, not an easy job!  It does help that he's a teacher, but still - not easy. Happy birthday, John! 

There's also Greg Morris, who played Barney, the technician in Mission Impossible, a series I loved in my teens. Not a writer, but something of which I have fond memories. Barney didn't go out and act during the missions; he sat quietly building, fiddling with switches and dials and generally creating the stuff without which the others couldn't have carried out their missions. Mr Morris made a guest appearance in the remade series, in which his son, who played Barney's son, was a regular cast member.   

I must add that I enjoyed the remake too - it was filmed here in Australia, one season in Melbourne, and it was great fun spotting familiar landmarks made up to be other landmarks. The National Gallery of Victoria was the New York Museum of Modern Art. The State Library became the Cairo museum of antiquities. Even our Chinatown, Little Bourke St, was "somewhere in Asia". And the Sovereign Hill gold rush theme park was some American millionaire's private Western town.

Today is World Tourism Day - a pity I haven't done much tourism in recent years.

And it's the feast day of St Vincent De Paul, one of the Church's nicer saints, in whose honour we have the Vinnies, who do a lot of good for people who need it. He had quite an exciting life, possibly more exciting than he would have liked, before he died on this day in 1660, but did a lot of good. 

Check out this public domain portrait of him - isn't that a benign face? 



Theophilus Grey And The Demon Thief by Catherine Jinks. Sydney: Allen And Unwin, 2015.

Twelve year old Theophilus Grey(generally known as Philo) is the leader of a team of link boys. In eighteenth century London, theirs is a necessary job, escorting clients home late at night by torchlight. There is rivalry between them and the newer lamp lighters, but they still have plenty of work. Philo and his crew work for a former law clerk, Garnet Hooke, who is too ill to leave his home and has made a new career both as the employer of the team and someone who gathers information for the magistrates, for payment. A third occupation is as a "cunning man", a sort of male version of a wise woman, giving advice. That becomes important in the course of the novel.

Now some people in London's underworld are beginning to drop into unconsciousness for no apparent reason, and the word is spreading that the reasons are supernatural. Philo is prepared to consider that possibility, and try to find out who - or what - is behind it all. Is there a connection between this and the sudden crime wave in the area? Will he find out what is going in before anyone he cares about is hurt?

This book, like Catherine Jinks's other historical novels, has clearly been thoroughly researched to draw the reader into the era in which it is set. There is the sight, smell and flavour of eighteenth century England, and the slang of the time, with a handy glossary at the end for anyone who couldn't work it out from context. It's a world in which a twelve year old boy is mature enough to lead a team and feel responsibility for them. His quick wits and knowledge of the streets and lawbreakers of London save his clients from being robbed on the way home and even save lives. 

I couldn't help thinking, as I read, of Leon Garfield, who wrote a lot of children's historical fiction set in the same era - and I must dip me lid to this author, who has written convincingly about a number of eras, from the Middle Ages to the time in which this novel is set. 

It would have been nice to have a brief note at the end about the historical background, especially as the. author refers frequently to a certain magistrate whom young readers wouldn't know was a famous novelist as well. 

 I did feel it took a while for the story to build up, perhaps a little too long before the hero began to move from wondering what was going on to try to do something to find out. But it did speed up after the slow burn. 

Recommended for children from late primary to early secondary school.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Finally Finished Reading... Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

I bought this at the Reading Matters conference earlier this year. Laurie Halse Anderson is new to me, but she spoke very well at the conference. She does both contemporary and historical fiction. Forge is the sequel to Chains. Both are set during the American Revolution. In Chains, the viewpoint was that of Isabel, a slave whose mistress had left Isabel and her younger sister, Ruth, their freedom in her will, but whose nephew sold them anyway. Isabel's sister was sold away during the course of the novel. Understandably furious, Isabel had made plans for her escape, after being let down by the Patriots for whom she had been stealing information from her Tory master. She'd been doing that on the understanding that these were the good guys, who would help her get her freedom and find her sister. She had been persuaded by a fellow slave, Curzon, who was working for the Patriots.

The two of them have escaped together, after she helped him out of a Tory prison, but between Chains and Forge, Isabel has left Curzon and this novel is seen from his viewpoint, though he does meet her again later in the book. And Curzon, unlike Isabel, still believes that the Patriots are the good guys. He has been fighting with the American army after his master promised him freedom and money for doing so, and hadn't intended to do any more fighting, but somehow he does end up back in the army, with real friends as well as a nasty enemy or two, and while it's no fun - this is Valley Forge, where a lot of stuff ups led to the men going cold and hungry and getting sick - at least he gets some respect. At least until his former master turns up and has changed his mind...

I remember hearing the author talk about how she came to write these books, about how she would "totally have dated" Benjamin Franklin, till she found out he was a slave owner, who freed his slaves only in his will(and he died in his eighties). That led to more research and she has done quite a lot for both these books. The fact is, of the first eleven US Presidents, only four didn't own slaves, one of them being John Adams, which pleases me since I loved the musical of which he was the hero. And while the Patriots of that time rambled on about freedom, they weren't including African slaves in "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". That didn't stop them from recruiting African Americans when Washington finally decided it was a good idea to let them join.  And, as the author says in her notes, there just wasn't anywhere they could go to escape from slavery altogether, since it was legal in all thirteen states and Canada. Understandably there were quite a few who fought for the British, who had promised freedom to any who joined them. Unfortunately, when the Americans won and the British fled, many of these were abandoned to their fate.

I really must check out some of the books in Laurie Halse Anderson's bibliography!

Meanwhile, I'm wondering if the third book in this series is available yet. It's wonderful historical fiction and I'd like to see what happens next to Curzon and Isabel.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Finally Got Around To Reading... The Fuller Memorandum By Charles Stross

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who buys a book that looks good and then puts it on the shelf for who knows how long before getting around to reading it. In the case if thus one, I'd actually read the first two in the series and loved them. So why has it taken so long?

I haven't a clue. But I've been in bed with a bad cold and this one fell off the pile next to my bed and - well, next thing I knew I was reading it and finishing it within a day. And very pleased I am, too. Someone had warned me that this novel was grimmer than the first two in the Laundry series, and it was, but there was still plenty to chuckle over.

In case you're not familiar with the Laundry books, the Laundry is a British Civil Service organisation which has its agents working against creatures from a Lovecraftian otherworld - something like Terry Pratchett's Dungeon Dimensions, which were also inspired by Lovecraft. There really are scary things out there and our hero, Bob Howard, and his colleagues and his wife, a fellow agent, are battling against them when not battling against the administration's need to count the paperclips(in this novel you find out why the paperclips are important). The author has great fun with it all.

This novel is pretty gruesome, with horrible things happening to innocent people. There's a wacko religious cult that figures since the world is going to be overwhelmed by Dungeon Dimensions critters in only a couple of years, they might as well bring it on now. Bob and his wife Mo both have their hands full.

But there's still humour. I couldn't help chuckling over Bob's purchase of what he calls a JesusPhone -  an iPhone which he insists must have a glamour over it to make someone otherwise sensible like himself fork out a lot of cash for it - and then some pals from his work turning up that night and installing some apps which you'll never find on a real world iPhone, but which come in very handy later on when he's battling evil creatures. Almost enough to make me go and buy an iPhone!

And those paperclips...

I believe there have been more Laundry stories since then, must chase them up.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

New Goodies On My Cyber Bookshelves

Yesterday I stumbled across Philip K Dick's classic AU novel The Man In The High Castle, on the short-time $4.99 or less shelf in iBooks. Of course I had to have it. I'm guessing it has been out of print for some time, but everywhere, everywhere, I read about it. This is an AU what-if-the-Axis had won WWII novel written long before everyone else caught on to the idea. It was written in 1961, before Turtledove became the premier writer of this kind of AU! I've just made a start.

I've bought two Judy Blume novels in honour of Banned Books Week, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Forever. Both of them are on the ALA most-challenged list. Yeesh! Some folk seriously need to get a life instead of interfering with the reading lives of others. And I say this as one who runs a school library. There are books I won't have in my library because they aren't suited to younger readers, just as films are rated G to R, but if the kids want to get their own copies, that's their business, between them and their families. And they do, believe me! I've seen some of them taking those books to their literacy classes. They'll outgrow their understandable urge for the sensationalist and I'll be there with real books for them, the kind that  won't make huge sales for a few years and then be forgotten when the next bit of sensationalist reading comes along. And if they don't outgrow it, well, again, up to them.

Next up: The Last Train From Kummersdorf by Leslie Wilson, a History Girl who talked about it on the blog. I thought it might be of interest to kids who had read and loved Morris Gleitzman's Once series. So far, not really similar, but interesting. The characters are older and smoke, and neither of them is Jewish. I'll see how I go, anyway. I think the older ones might like it.

I have downloaded my friend Lan Chan's new novel, Poison, and have read the only the first few pages, but it looks good so far.

I acquired Suetonius's The Twelve Caesars, because I couldn't find my own copy and desperately needed the bit about Julius Caesar's encounter with the pirates for my work in progress. I've had a copy since I was thirteen, a birthday gift from my school friend Andrea, who knew of my love of history. This one is a classic which was translated by Robert Graves, who used it as inspiration for his novel I, Claudius. It's the basis for how we see the early emperors of Rome in general. Any cliche you've ever heard about them - Nero's "fiddling while Rome burned" , Caligula's horse made a Senator, etc. - it all came from Suetonius. I love it, because some of it is memory of his own - for example, his memory of seeing, as a boy, a ninety year old man stripped to find out if he was circumcised, because Emperor Domitian was going after Jews. And some of it is his father's memories, from when his Dad had been serving the Emperor Otho. "I remember my father telling me..." It feels real, it's not just some dusty old academic writing from hundreds of years later. After I've finished my story, I will go back for a full reread. Of course, I chose the Robert Graves translation, the familiar one, even though I could have had the Project Gutenberg version for free.

I've re-acquired two Andre Norton novels which had disappeared after my first iPad broke and hadn't been saved in my backups. Did you know a few of them are now out of copyright and available on Gutenberg? I didn't till now - I got them first on the Baen free web site. Andre Norton was a favourite writer of mine when I was first discovering science fiction. I still love her, though I haven't been reading the books in a while.

I bought Lee At The Alamo, a Harry Turtledove novelette which was not too expensive, though what I really want is Guns Of The South, one of my favourites, which doesn't seem to be available at this stage, or not in the Australian iBooks page, anyway.

There's Nicola Upson's Fear In The Sunlight, an Archie Penrose novel. It's part of a series of novels in which the crime writer Josephine Tey is a character, but the real protagonist is policeman Archie Penrose, who actually solves the mysteries. In this one there's something about Alfred Hitchcock and the specially-built village of  Portmeirion. I think that's where they filmed that spec fic TV series The Prisoner? It cost me about $2.99 on iBooks. I thought, Why not? I quite enjoyed the first one after it became clear that Josephine Tey, author of the Inspector Grant novels, wasn't the sleuth. I'm not generally keen on books with real people as sleuths, though I have read some out of curiosity. 

I originally got Murray Leinster's collection, A Logic Named Joe when it was going free on the Baen web site, but it went missing after its backup failed me and I had to pay for it this time. I had to have it, of course. Apart from my love of Murray Leinster's classic science fiction(and I still can't find his story "First Contact" online anywhere)who can resist the title story in which the author predicts the Internet back in the 1940s?

I got a copy of Green Valentine(already reviewed on this site) and finally, the two Agatha Christie Project Gutenberg books which had gone missing on my cyber book shelf. The Mysterious Affair At Styles even had a nicer cover than my original copy. I took the version of The Secret Adversary with the original Gutenberg-supplied cover.

So, my recent ebook acquisitions. Got any of your own to share?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Just Finished Reading... Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson. Melbourne:Allen and Unwin, 2015

When Astrid and Hiro meet they give each other superhero names. She's Lobster Girl and he's Shopping Trolley Boy. Not an auspicious beginning. But it gets better. Then it gets worse. Much worse. Classic romantic comedy: girl-meets-boy, love blossoms, and is derailed.

Environmentalist girl meets comics-loving boy while wearing a lobster costume, then realises this intelligent, funny, likeable boy is the one who has been getting into trouble non-stop at school, while she is a straight-A student of a kind he sneeringly calls Missolinis. He has fallen in love with Lobster Girl - how to tell him who she is, while he's sulkily doing a term's worth of detentions in her woeful kitchen garden at school? 

Hiro is a fabulous gardener - he has an Italian Nonna who grows all her own food. Together, Astrid and Hiro do some late-night guerrilla gardening in their dull, ugly suburb, Valentine, saving the world one fruit, flower and vegetable at a time, and growing their romance as well. 

But the local council and the developers have plans that don't include gardens...

A typically humorous, over-the-top Lili Wilkinson novel which girls should enjoy. Astrid may be a straight-A nerd, but she's also a klutz you can't help liking. If you want a kick-ass heroine, forget it - but few kick-ass heroes/heroines are to be found at your local high school in real life. And however useless she may be at getting her environmental message across in her suburb, Astrid is passionate about saving the planet. 

Astrid's friends in the school's popular group are not snobby or cheerleader types. They're kind and helpful, patient even when she makes excuses for not being with them(she's out gardening and has to keep it quiet). Paige is the girl all the boys want to date(Astrid gets to date her refusals) and Dev is openly gay and no one is harassing him for it. It must be a nice school where not only is no one using "gay" as a pejorative term but the nerds are popular!  

Lili Wilkinson is herself a keen gardener, and it shows. Her love of things that grow shines through. 
And for romantic YA comedy, there's no one better. Sometimes, you just don't feel like vampire/werewolf/fallen angel romance and just want something funny and gentle. When our girls come to me for a romance that doesn't involve any of the above, I steer them to the W's. 

That's when they are available; her books are rarely on the shelves in my school library!  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Belinda The Ninja Ballerina by Candida Baker, ill. Mitch Vane. Melbourne: Ford Street, 2015

It’s every little girl’s dream to be a ballerina, right? Well, not in the case of Belinda, the ninja ballerina. Enrolled in ballet classes against her will, Belinda would take a headstand over a pirouette any day. But nobody will actually listen to Belinda’s protests that she wants to be a ninja, not a ballerina. That is until Belinda stages a one-girl protest and demands her rights. Her teacher has to put her thinking cap on and finally comes up with a solution that will keep everybody happy.

I wondered, when I was looking for this image, whether there was any connection with Belinda The Ballerina, another children's picture book, about a small girl who wants to be a ballerina but has big feet. However, I gather its's a coincidence. According to the post by author Candida Baker, she got the idea during a Queensland holiday trip, thinking of her own daughter and imagining a girl doing ninja moves instead of ballet ones.

Anyway, the book is a delight, something any mother can read with her little girl and remember her own childhood. I remember my own ballet lessons when I was about seven. I wasn't very good, though. The teacher put me in the back row at the concert. If only she'd made me a spider...

And lucky Candida Baker, having Mitch Vane to do her art! Mitch illustrated my own book for Allen and Unwin, Your Cat Could Be A Spy, and though there was a lot more text than in a picture book, she made herself my partner and interpreted the text, not just illoed it. If you weren't smiling at the text, you were chuckling over Mitch's wonderful cartoons.

So imagine what she can do with a picture book. This artist is perfect for this kind of book.

Another wonderful book from Ford Street!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Contributor's Copy Arrives!

Yesterday I went to the PO to pick up a parcel. I was able to do it on a week day because I spent the day at our Senior campus with the students involved in the school concert and was allowed to leave when they did. And the Senior campus is near the station...

Anyway, I picked up my Ford Street title in its padded post bag and thought, "Oh! Another review book," and felt guilty thinking of those I still haven't done and thought, well, the weekend is coming and Belinda The Ninja Ballerina shouldn't take long to write about, though I'm less than half way through the Gary Crew novel - Gary Crew is unquestionably one of our top YA novelists, but his books are not for the faint hearted and you need to give them all your attention when you read them. 

But when I opened it and that gorgeous Shaun Tan cover began to appear I knew what I had! 

Yay! My contributor's copy of Rich And Rare, working title Trust Me 3, with its intro by Sophie Masson, comparing anthologies to patchwork quilts in their way of combining all sorts of different bits and pieces into one beautiful thing.

There are a lot of the usual suspects plus more. And this volume is illoed! My story has a picture by Paul O'Sullivan, of the bushranger Frank Gardiner and a hand with a pocket watch(read the story to find out what that's about). The other artists include Shaun Tan and Leigh Hobbs, who have illoed their own work, Judith Rossell(who is also an amazing novelist, the author of the wonderful, twice-shortlisted Withering-By-Sea), the inimitable Mitch Vane, who illoed my book Your Cat Could Be A Spy and David Miller, who has had picture books of his own published. 

As usual, there are some of the top names in Aussie children's and YA fiction, names I'll leave you to look up on the Ford Street web site. I'm always one of the  "and many more" anyway. ;-) 

As usual, the stories are arranged by genre. Mine, of course, is under historical fiction with only one other story, by the very popular Deborah Abela! But there's also quite a long list of contemporary this time, SF, fantasy, crime, horror, ghost and romance. Take your pick! My plan is just to read it in order from beginning to end.

I've started reading it. Even if I am biased, I think this is the best of the anthologies so far.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rejoice! Ranger's Apprentice Prequel Coming!

I just received the info today via email, and followed the link to the Random House website, which has announced that both paperback and ebook will be out this week, on September 16. If you live in New South Wales you can attend the launch next weekend at the St Ives Renaissance Faire. John Flanagan will be there if you want an autograph. 

Here's the blurb for the book:

Before they became the most famous Ranger in the land and the hard-working Ranger Commandant, Halt and Crowley were young friends determined to change the world. 

The scheming Baron Morgarath is drawing other power-hungry knights and barons to his banner. King Oswald is wasting away and, if gossip can be believed, Prince Duncan is causing havoc in the north. 

Halt and Crowley set out to find the prince, uncover the truth, and re-form the weakened Ranger Corps. Once-loyal Rangers are scattered across the country, and it will take determination, skill, and leadership if they're to come together as one. Can the Rangers regain the trust of the Kingdom, or will the cunning Morgarath outwit them at every turn? 

And here's the cover!

The only problem with a prequel, of course, is that you know which characters will be there for The Ruins of Gorlan and that no, the villain won't win, because if he did the good guys wouldn't be there in the first book of the series. I'm having a similar problem with my prequel to Wolfborn, in which the villain of the next book appears - you know he has to survive unpunished and that means the new king has to make a huge error of judgement...

But still, it will be great to see our favourite characters again. I'm loving the spinoff, but honestly, Hal is just too perfect. I'm wishing that just once he would make a mistake and have to deal with it... Though it wouldn't fit in with the humour of that series.

Anyway, I will be downloading the ebook and hopefully buying a copy for my library as soon as I can.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix. Sydney, Allen And Unwin, 2015


Truthful Newington is an heiress in an alternative universe Regency England. In this world, magic is everyday, with everyone having one ability or another - the heroine has some small weather making abilities and animals like her. Her maid is part-fay and can't touch iron(which must be disastrous in a world where iron is becoming a large part of the technology!). Napoleon is imprisoned, not on St Helena, but inside the Rock of Gibraltar. Truthful's mother owned the magical  Newington Emerald, which is given to the women of the family. Nobody knows quite what it does, apart from affecting weather, but it's powerful. Very powerful. And on the day of her eighteenth birthday, when her father brings it out to show her and her three cousins, it disappears. Truthful's father takes to his bed and Truthful, disguised as a young man, must try to find it before the thief makes it do something terrible...
If you're expecting another Old Kingdom novel, you will be disappointed. This is a Regency romance with magic, as advertised on the cover. If it resembles anything, it's Gail Carriger's delightful Umbrella Protectorate novels, which started with Soulless. (And I see from the Goodreads reviews that Gail Carriger herself likes it). It is funny and exciting and has a number of delightfully over-the-top characters, such as Truthful's three boy cousins, and her great-aunt, Lady Badgery, who wears a fez and knows a lot more than you'd expect about male clothes. (The reason for that is given late in the novel). Lady Badgery is a skilled scryer who can also cast glamours to help Truthful pass as a boy when she needs to.

The love interest is not quite what or who he seems. There's a lot of humour as he tries to explain and is interrupted each time, soon after he finds out that the young man he has been with is a young woman(something to do with a moustache that has had a glamour put on it to enable Truthful to swap back and forth easily, which falls off when soaked...).

It's a frothy romp in which Mr Nix lets his hair down and plays. The novel was actually written back in the early 1990s, as part of a modern-day, never-published thriller set in a publishing company, before the author became famous for his Old Kingdom series, so in a way this is the original Garth Nix. 

Read it, have fun and don't get annoyed if Sabriel doesn't wander through. You can always go back to the serious stuff later.

Available in bookstores and on-line from September 23rd.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Real And Literary Dads

First, happy Father's Day to all the Dads in my family - my nephews David and Mark, my brother-in-law Gary and my brother Maurice.

My own wonderful Dad passed away nearly six years ago and is still terribly missed by all of us. He was the silver surfer who discovered the Internet in his eighties and read the papers online every day, as well as Googling me regularly. He built me a literary shrine that consisted of colour copied book covers of all my books to date, the first page of my first sale and photocopies of every newspaper reference to me. He would come over when I was out, do repairs and leave a note with one of his delightful cartoons of himself smiling broadly at me. He built me three floor to ceiling book cases and transformed an ancient office desk into something people pay $$$$ for.

Literary Dads I'd love to have in my family start with Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. I haven't yet read the second book, I must explain. I do have it, but am making myself wait till I have finished my reread of the first book.

But really, wouldn't you love to have such a wise, wonderful Dad in your family? He is gentle, kind, firm, all at once. He can shoot amazingly when he needs to, but won't otherwise.

If I couldn't have mine, I wouldn't mind having a Dad like Mr Stanton, the hero, Will's, father in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series. He is also wise and comforting, a person in his own right,  not just Dad; usually in children's fiction, parents are missing so the kids can have adventures.  He won't stand for racism, among other things. And it can't be easy being the father of so many, very different kids!

Speaking of which, you can't possibly not love Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter books - he is funny, gentle, wise in his own way, but quirky  and over the top. And brave, no question about it! He and Molly make a great couple - and face it, he needs her!

In that same series there is Ted Tonks, a minor character who only appears in the last book, but is one to respect. He's the father of "don't call me Nymphadora" Tonks, and falls foul of the Deatheaters. It's nice that his grandson is named for him.

Do you have any favourite literary Dads?

Happy Birthday, Kate Constable!

Today, September 5, is the birthday of some writers I greatly admire. Two of them who are no longer with us are Arthur Koestler(The Gladiators, Darkness At Noon, The Thirteenth Tribe, etc.) The other is Frank Yerby, author of many historical romances, some of them made into Hollywood movies.

But today I want to wish a happy birthday to a wonderful Melbourne writer whom I have actually met - Kate Constable(At Allen and Unwin parties and, I think, State Library events).

I first discovered her writing through her Chanters Of Tremaris trilogy, which were the sort of fiction which I, as a teacher-librarian, would recommend to kids who had enjoyed Tamora Pierce's fiction. For some reason, I had mostly boys reading that trilogy - the sort of boys who had read and enjoyed Garth Nix's Old Kingdom novels and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.  There was a sort of sequel to the trilogy, The Taste Of Lightning. The world building in this series was great and the ending ... Well, I won't tell you, because spoilers.

But after these, she started writing some Australian-themed fiction for a younger audience. Two of them are time slip novels - Crow Country and Cicada Summer, both wonderful. 

The girls at my school were discovering those by word of mouth. There were also some Girlfriend Fiction novels for them to enjoy, my favourite being the very funny Dear Swoosie, which she wrote with Penni Russon.

More recently, there was New Guinea Moon, which was a CBCA shortlist book.

Kate is a wonderfully versatile writer who deserves to do well. I hope he has been having a fabulous day - it was warmer and sunnier than my own birthday on September 3. Happy birthday, Kate! 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Birth Of A Literary Baby

I've been following Lan Chan's blog, The Write Obsession, for some years now. We've even met, since we both live in Melbourne. And I have to say, I really admire someone who manages to write a novel a year for NaNoWriMo. In the end, the only way to be a writer is to write, which makes Lan very much a writer. 

Isn't that a great cover? Unlike those of us who write for regular publishers, Lan got to choose her artist and commission exactly the kind of cover she wanted. I have had some wonderful covers, but some not so crash hot, so I'm kind of envious!  

I am giving you the blurb below. Lan was too modest to do a guest post, but the offer is open any time. Congratulations on the birth of your literary baby, Lan, and I hope it sells masses of copies! 


Since the night her mother was murdered, sixteen-year-old Rory Gray has known one truth: There are no good Seeders. 

In post-apocalyptic Australia, the scientists known as Seeders have built a Citadel surrounded by food-producing regions and populated with refugees from the wars and famine. To maintain their control, the Seeders poisoned the land and outlawed the saving of seeds. 

It’s been six years since Rory graced the Seeders’ circus stage as the Wind Dancer and still the scars on her body haven’t healed. Even worse are the scars on her heart, left by a Seeder boy who promised to protect her. 

Now the Seeders are withholding supplies from Rory’s region for perceived disobedience. Utilising the Wanderer knowledge she received from her mother, Rory must journey to the Citadel through uninhabitable terrain to plead for mercy. 

However, the Citadel isn’t as Rory remembered. The chief plant geneticist is dying and rumours fly that the store of viable seed is dwindling. The Seeders are desperate to find a seed bank they believe Rory can locate, and they will stop at nothing to get it. 

To defy the Seeders means death. But Rory has been close to death before--this time she’s learned the value of poison. 

Recommended for fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, strong protagonists, minority characters, circuses and nature! 

Appropriate for readers 13+

Buy at these addresses:



And Smashwords: 

It's also available on IBooks if, like me, you hate the idea of handing over your card details online and you have an iPad. The price is only $3.99!