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This is a book review and science fiction blog, for the most part, with the odd convention report and travel notes. And maybe the occasional Celtic goddess, such as the Great Raven...
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26. New Book I'm Reading...

I read a post on The History Girls blog, by my friend Gillian Polack, in which she mentioned a fascinating book she had read recently, A Drizzle Of Honey: The Lives And Recipes Of Spain's Secret Jews by David M Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson.

Of course, I had to have it and it was available on iBooks, so...

It's proving an enjoyable read. There are quite a few history-themed cook books out there, yes. I have a few myself. The Heston Blumenthal one about medieval cooking is great! But it's more of a history book than a cookbook. Which is fine for research and even a bit for cooking.

But this one has a bit of everything and it's not just "how to cook the way they did in medieval Spain" or even "how Jews cooked in medieval Spain" but about what could happen to you in Spain if you were caught cooking in a certain way or at certain times that might suggest you were secretly Jewish, especially after the Inquisition turned up. And a lot of these recipes are based on trial records, when people's neighbours and servants noticed that someone was doing things the Jewish way, maybe too fond of eggplant and chick peas, cooking your Saturday meal on Friday, having a salad with the girls on Saturday arvo... The evidence against one man who was burned at the stake included a type of casserole he had cooked! This has to be the first cookbook I've read where cooking could get you killed.

The authors have found recipes in a number of medieval Spanish and Moorish cookbooks that sounded like the ones mentioned in the trial records. They have made sure the ingredients were available in your average supermarket. And since so many have a lot of saffron in them(as they say, if you used the amount given in some of the recipes you'd have to take out a second mortgage!), they only include saffron where you really can't manage without it. If you just want the colouring, they say, turmeric will do.

Anyway, it looks good so far. I'm hoping to find something I can try, for which I have the ingredients in my pantry, fridge or fruit bowl!

Meanwhile, back to the book.

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27. Guest Post - Aleah Taylor

Today I would like to welcome to The Great Raven debut Aussie children's author Aleah Taylor who, like me, took a while to find her ideal publisher. I hope this is only the first sale of many, Aleah! 

If you want to buy the book, either in paperback or in ebook, you should be able to get it from Amazon here, from the publisher's web site and I see that in Australia you can order it through Gleebooks. There will be more web sites selling it soon - it has only been out for a week. 

I'll let Aleah tell you all about it. 

I’ve considered myself a writer since I could hold a pen. Some of my earliest memories are of looking at bookshelves and wondering when my book would be up there too. However, I never really attempted to write a novel until I was eighteen. Instead I wrote short stories galore and poetry, songs and scripts. I didn’t really feel a strong urge to write a book, until one day I looked at my son and just knew he had to be character in a book. So my book ‘Mystery on Mount Dusk’, started to come to life. I based both of the main boy characters on different sides of my son’s personality and the book flowed. I would sit for hours on end typing furiously, writing books for children is just so fun

My book is about a ten year old boy named George Mutton who moves to a mysterious little town on top of a mountain, Mount Dusk. There he discovers his new best friend Charlie Redwin and soon the boys uncover that Charlie’s evil guardian Uncle Hubert, is up to even more wicked things than they thought. Hubert Redwin is conjuring spirits back from the grave and entrapping innocent people’s souls in trees. The boys, with George’s little sister Maggie and Charlie’s twin sister Yvonne, vow to set the trapped souls free and rid the town of the evil man who has cursed it. But it’s all more complicated than they think and now they are the ones in danger from ghostly apparitions and ancient magic, darker than they could ever have imagined…


Every time I finished writing a chapter my heart would beat a little faster, I was one step closer to the vision of me holding a completed manuscript, ready to send it off to eager publishers. When that day finally came I typed the last sentence and squealed with joy, merrily telling all of my friends and family that I’d done it! I’d finally finished my book after a year of writing! But, of course, that’s when the real work starts. The fun part is over and now it’s time to convince people you don’t know that they should read your book and eventually publish it. The rejections hurt, I thought I was prepared for it but I wasn’t. My heart would ache with each line of the rejection letter, or I’d get no response and slowly day by day hope would wither away to dust.

After eight long years of looking for a publisher I’d had enough. I promised myself that I would contact one last publisher and if they didn’t like it, I was done. A year went past with no response and so I resigned myself to the idea that I might be left with self-publishing and that was okay. Dreams of traditional publishers are often dashed and I was just one of the many unlucky ones.

Then I got an email.

I was still in my pajamas, munching on breakfast and checking my inbox when I saw it, from NeverlandPublishing. I quickly threw my spoon down and tried to calm my pulse before clicking on the email. Finally I was reading it and tears instantly sprang to my eyes… I was going to be offered a publishing contract! I didn’t know what to do with myself, I laughed, I cried, I tried to call everyone I knew with shaky fingers eagerly tapping the phone screen. After running to my mother’s house and telling her it finally seemed real. I was a published author and people were finally going to read my book.

Now my book has just been released and slowly but surely the news of my book is spreading. Nine years of hoping, wishing, pleading my case and fiercely championing my work has paid off. I’ve heard a few comments from my first readers and each comment has sent a warmth through my heart. I just love hearing that something I worked so hard at is making people happy, making them love the written word that I too love so much. I feel like ‘Mystery on Mount Dusk’ is a child of mine, all grown up and out in the world doing fabulous things. I hope that every young set of eyes to devour my book lights up with glee at the words I put on the page. I also hope that new authors who might be reading this take heart that there is hope, even when you think you’re done with hope.

Aleah Taylor

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28. 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.

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29. 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? 



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30. 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.

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31. 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.

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32. 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.

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33. 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?

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34. 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!  

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35. 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!

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36. 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.

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37. 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.

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38. 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.

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39. 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?

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40. 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! 

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41. 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!

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42. The Survivor by Tom Doyle. Sydney: Macmillan, 2015


George rescues a baby in a burning building and, as a reward, wins a trip to Australia on an adventure trip run by a company called Ultimate Bushcraft. They send two young group leaders to collect the group of boys from the airport and, right from the time the plane leaves, nasty things begin to happen, starting with an anaphylactic attack suffered by a boy who has an allergy to nuts - an attack that is no accident. One by one the boys die in the wilderness. As the story is told in statements by various people - and the rants of the killer - the reader knows that it is over and that George has been accused of the murders.  

The author, a school principal(my guess is that it's a boys' school) who is writing under a pen name, knows how to keep boys turning pages. As a thriller it works well and I have no doubt that they will enjoy it; there are two other thrillers by this author that are doing very well. 

 The reader is fed quite a few red herring clues along the way as to who the killer might be, then they are all killed. That's fairly standard in a murder mystery, but it is usually possible to go back and realise the clues were there all along. I didn't feel that way this time. 

I also had my doubts as to the plausibility of a number of things that happened, not so much the killings as the group leader's response to them. I can't discuss many of them without spoilers, but one example is that when the first boy falls seriously ill(poison), he is left behind with a carer but not immediately sent off to hospital - flown off if necessary. I would have thought that the group leader would have a lot of first aid and possibly paramedic skills that would make him ask questions, check the symptoms and call for help, then wait until help arrived. But this doesn't happen; the rest of the group continue with their activities and leave without him. He goes to hospital too late. I realise that the whole point of the novel is for everyone to die except the hero(hence the title), but it just didn't make sense to me. 

In all fairness, I also thought a lot of things made no sense in The Da Vinci Code - it must be a thriller thing! They simply fall apart if the reader tries to make sense of them. 

Will work well for boys from about thirteen up. I already have one waiting for this when I finish reviewing it.

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43. August 31: On This Day

Well, it is the last day of August, the last day of winter - officially, anyway. The weather forecast for the rest of this week is still fairly cool - even with a bit of sun, it's likely to be windy. Thursday, my birthday, is predicted to be cold and wet. Rats!

Still, I thought it might be nice to have an on-this-day meme.

Not much in the way of books and writing., though poor Henry V of England died of dysentery, leaving his baby son, Henry VI, as king, and both of them were the subjects of Shakespeare plays.

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were chased by paparazzi and killed in a car crash, leading to thousands of words being written about it and a lot of fascinating conspiracy theories. Not the sort of writing history I'd like.

A lot of disasters happened on this day, which I'll skip here. 

Birthdays? A couple of Roman Emperors, Caligula and Commodus. Caligula had a chapter in The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, and that book inspired I, Claudius and Claudius The God by Robert Graves. 

There was DuBose Heyward, whose novel Porgy became, first a play by his wife, then an opera by Gershwin. I've never read the book or seen the show, but who hasn't heard at least a couple of those glorious songs? And speaking of musical shows, it's also the birthday of Alan J Lerner! 

There were some other authors, but the only one I have read was Leon Uris. I've read QBVII, Mila 18 and the blockbuster, Exodus. Trivia I read about that one says it has sold as many copies as Gone With The Wind

I read Exodus when I was in my teens - actually, about the time I was reading Gone With The Wind, come to think of it. I'm not sure where the battered paperback came from; my family had a lot of elderly books and recordings lying around. But I read it cover to cover and then, when I was in my later years of secondary school, I acquired a hardcover copy for 20c at a school fete. It was clean and in very good condition; I think it must have had a dust jacket at some stage, but without it, you wouldn't know it from new. It must have been donated by the teacher whose name was on it. 

Anyway, it meant I could read it again. And again. And so I did. 

The movie was a classic in its own right, but I couldn't help but feel that Paul Newman was miscast in the role of Ari Ben Canaan, the hero. He was just not the way I imagined Ari - and as for that American accent...! If Ari did speak perfect English - and I'm not sure he would - it would be with a British accent, not an American one, because that's who he learned his English from. Oh, well. The novelist was American. 

I do have a copy of the movie, but three hours is just too much for me - I've fallen asleep during the Tolkien movies, so would drop off in that.

I'd rather curl up with the novel. Off to the shelves to search!

Meanwhile, happy birthday, Leon!

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44. The Hugos: This Year's Rocket Design

Given that I'm here in Australia and this year's Worldcon is in Spokane, Washington, I thought it might be nice to check out this year's Hugo Award design, as the awards will be handed out in a few hours; by the time I head to the Melbourne Writers Festival, it will have been announced. Apparently, the rocket design is the same each year but the base is different, and this year's is designed by Matthew Dockery. The photo is taken by Kevin Standlee. The picture is okay to use by non commercial folk as long as the attributions are there, so here it is!


I'd be fascinated to know what the designer had in mind. 

I received the Australian Science Fiction Media Award in my day, as Best Fan Writer. That was designed to look like the Emerald City in the film of  The Wizard Of Oz and was designed and made by Peter Lupinski. It was made of green glass, it was gorgeous, but heavy! You could brain someone with it. Still, I treasure it. They haven't given out that award in many years now. 

I can't find a photo of it online and it's currently at my mother's place, but if you watch the movie, you'll see what it looked like in the scene where Dorothy and her friends are approaching the city.

I'll publish the list of winners as soon as I get hold of them.

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45. Melbourne Writers Festival 2

So, today I went to a couple more events at the MWF. It has been quite a while since I did that. Last year I went to nothing and the year before only one event and that was a free book launch. So it was nice to find something I wanted to attend a second day in a row.

I had intended to go to the panel on true crime as well, but I left home too late; there was plenty of time to get to the panel on historical fantasy fiction. The panellists were two women of whom I'd never heard, though one of them, C.S Pacat, is apparently a huge bestseller with her novel that started life as a web serial and went on to be self published before being picked up by Penguin. The other one, Ilka Tampke, was a debut novelist who seems to be doing well. Her novel is set in pre-Roman Britain, while the other one was not really historical fantasy at all, just the author's own universe, though she did research some historical periods. Both novels have  sex in them, including bestiality in the Britain one!  

To be honest, the discussion was very general and there was no mention of what the books were actually about. I had to whip out my iPad and ask my friend Dr Google for the story lines! The Pacat one sounded to me like old style slash fiction(including hurt/comfort? Hmm, I wonder...). Not my cup of tea, but this sort of fiction is very popular, hence the bestselling status. I might check out the other book, though the bestiality thing doesn't appeal. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Sharon, a friend and former colleague, who had come to hear Ilka, a friend and former neighbour. We sat together. I also met Virginia Lowe, who does Create A Kid's Book, and her husband, both of whom came with me to the next session.

That session, free, was on "modern mythologies" and much more interesting. The authors were Dolores Redondo and Samhita Arni. Again, I'd never heard of either of them, but I was interested in the idea of using mythology as the background for a novel. Both books, Invisible Guardian and The Missing Queen, were crime fiction/thrillers. Ms Redondo's book - which has so far sold 600,000 copies in Spain alone and been translated into many languages - has a theme taken from Basque myth and legend, while The Missing Queen was inspired by India's national epic, the Ramayana but set in the here and now. 

I bought them both in ebook on the spot. 

The Spanish lady had an interpreter who was very good, whispering to her and translating almost immediately. Through the interpreter, she said, among other things, that fans of the novel have been turning up in the area where it's set, much as there were Brother Cadfel tourists in Shrewsbury at one stage(I was one of them). Apparently, the murder victims of what seems to be a set of ritual killings are found with a certain type of local cake on them. Nobody actually sells these cakes nowadays, they are only home made, but tourists ask for them! Things left on dead bodies in the novel!  Sounds like a very popular series(it's a trilogy, but only one volume has been translated into English so far).

So, a good day at the festival. Not sure if I'll go to more this week, must check the program, but it has been good do fat.

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46. The 2015 Hugo Winners

And here's the full list of what you voted for if you were a member of this year's World Science Fiction Convention. I took it straight from the Hugo website, where it was posted by a guy called Kevin(Standlee?) Thank you, Kevin! I deleted everything that might be considered copyright except the bit about finding the details at the Hugo page.

 It will be a while before most people are recovered from their partying and ready to post. I have no doubt there there will be a lot of discussion and analysis that will go till the NEXT controversy, but my suggestion is to put it all behind you, guys, get on with reading new books and magazines and next time, nominate if you don't want someone else to do it for you. And my advice to the someone else is, start your own awards if you don't like the way these are run. 

There were, IMO, plenty of people on both sides of the controversy who behaved badly. Play nice, guys! You behaved like children, some of you. 

Congratulations to the winners, including the only Australian team to get a rocket, the Galactic Suburbia bunch. I've never got around to listening to their podcasts myself, but will. 

I'm not too sad ASIM didn't make it. A little, but not too much. I know how good it is and now several thousand people who wouldn't have heard of us otherwise also know. That has to be better than saying, "Hey, we got a Hugo!" only to have the reply, "Yes, but that was because..." 

If you read and liked your ASIM in the Hugo pack, do consider subscribing. Hey, consider subscribing even if you weren't a Worldcon member! ASIM 61 will be out very soon - they're working on the ebook version and no point offering without all the options available. I'm organising the art for 62, which should be out soon after.


The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books)


“The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt translator (Lightspeed, 04-2014)


Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)


Guardians of the Galaxy, written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)


Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”, ” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America)


Julie Dillon


Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant


Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Colin Harris, Alissa McKersie, and Helen J. Montgomery


Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)


Laura J. Mixon


Elizabeth Leggett


Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

Wesley Chu

The full order of finish in each category and links to the nomination and voting details are available on the 2015 Hugo Awards page.

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47. On Rereading The King Must Die

I have just finished rereading Mary Renault's classic The King Must Die. I first read it when I was about eleven. I remember, because, having heard a radio play, I bought a copy as a birthday gift...and kept it, giving the birthday girl something else. My paperback is falling apart from so many readings over the years, so for this reread I bought an inexpensive ebook version. 


For those who don't know about it, it's a novel about the mythical hero Theseus, written as a straight historical novel with just a touch of fantasy, a bit like Mary Stewart's Merlin novels - and even then, you ask yourself if this or that  happened or not.

The title is based on the charming custom of ancient times in which the sacred king of a matriarchal society ruled for a year or seven or nine, then was killed, to make sure that the king was always young and strong and the crops would grow. Robert Graves and other scholars believed that this is where quite a lot of mythology comes from. (And if you ever read the very Stephen King-style novel Harvest Home by Tom Tryon, you'll find a sacred king thing happening in rural America)

 And Mary Renault works it into her novel. Her Theseus is not a giant of a man as generally believed; if he had been, she argues, he would never have been chosen for the bull dance, which required dancers who were short, slim and agile. What he does have plenty of is brains. 

He believes in his connection with the god Poseidon, even after he knows he was fathered by King Aigeus of Athens and that his ability to sense when an earthquake is coming is a family genetic thing on Aigeus's side, not because his father was a god. Because he believes this, he also has a strong sense of the king's duty to his people, including the possible duty to die for them - and that when the god makes this clear,  the king needs to consent. If he hasn't consented the sacrifice means nothing. 

So the stories about his adventures on the Isthmus of Corinth start with his being required to wrestle and kill the previous king of Eleusis - in mythology he's a bandit called Kerkyon, in the novel Kerkyon is the king's title, and when Theseus has defeated his predecessor he is Kerkyon. 

This Theseus is cocky, assertive and likes women, plural. He falls in love, but that doesn't mean he's not going to sleep with captive women. It's one of the things a man does, as far as he is concerned. He doesn't mistreat them, though. He respects the gods of wherever he is, including the Goddess, but he's patriarchal to the core. 

When he goes to Crete, he becomes close with his team, closer than siblings, and as their chosen leader he feels the same responsibility as he would for a kingdom. 

To be honest, I wouldn't want to be married to this Theseus - he would insist on his right not only to sleep with whoever he wanted but have them around the palace - not mistresses, but women who do the housework and come to his bed when required. 

But I would be more than happy to have him for my ruler. I'd feel safe. He would always put his subjects first.

This reread picked up a few things that I hadn't noticed last time I read it(not that long ago!) One was that there's a reference to the Thera explosion. The island is called Kalliste at the time, but it's Thera all right. There's a suggestion that this explains the earthquake that knocked out Knossos. I really must go back and reread that story!  

Now I'm trying to decide if I'm going to reread The Bull From The Sea, which picks up just after the first novel and is, in a way, the second half of one book. It's so sad... Later, perhaps.

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48. ASIM 61 finally about to launch!

It has been way too long since my issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine came out and it will be just a bit longer because the layout artist is still finishing the ebook version, but here's a sneak peek at the cover:

And here's the blurb that goes with it, which you'll shortly find on the ASIM web site:

ASIM 61 Now In Pre-Launch, Still Waiting On Shipment Of Lemon-Soaked Paper Napkins
After much delay, ASIM 61 has arrived on the launch pad, packed with fiction, poetry and nonfic from David Barber, Mark Bondurant, Fred Coppersmith, A J Fitzwater, Kim Gaal, Sinthia J Higgen-Bottom, Kathleen Jennings, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Rich Larson, Sean Monaghan, Charlotte Nash, Patrice Sarath, George S Walker, and Sean Williams. The cover art (which shows a scene from Amanda Fitzwater's novella) is by Shauna O'Meara; other artists featured are SpAE and Lewis Morley. The print version is done; we're just waiting on the e-book editions before we press 'ignition', whereupon any small children still loitering on the launchpad will be instantly reduced to a charred residue.

All the contributors' copies are sent out, but I haven't seen it yet. Still, if our subscribers can be patient - not one complaint so far! - so can I. 

You'll notice there are quite a few local contributions on the list, including Sean Williams - welcome back to our pages, Sean!  Also Kathleen Jennings, who has usually done art for us, but shows her versatility here. Ambelin Kwaymullina's piece is her Continuum GoH speech. It was wonderful! It has been on the web site for some time, but it will be nice to have a copy in your hand. If you're a fan, her final Tribe novel has just come out, The Foretelling Of Georgie Spider. I am so jealous of that lady's ability to juggle while walking a tightrope and carrying things on her head, ie the fact that she could write all this wonderful stuff and do handcraft while teaching full time. She is an inspiration! 

If you want to order ASIM 61 when it's finally advertised in the near future, why not bookmark the website

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49. Melbourne Writers' Festival - Last Day!

So, I've had five sessions at the Melbourne Writers' Festival this year, which is five more than last year. It would have been more than five if I'd had the energy to go out on Tuesday evening to the Alice In Wonderland anniversary celebration. It's still winter, cold, wet and after a full day's work and a staff meeting, I really didn't feel like trying to find a place I'd never been.

But five sessions were good, three of them free! Of the two paid sessions, I think the Shaun Tan panel was the better. I've long been an admirer of his work and encountering the French artist Kitty Crowther was great. The historical fantasy session was a disappointment, I'm sorry to say. It should have occurred to me that for historical fantasy, someone like Kate Forsyth or Margo Lanagan or Juliet Marillier, for example, would have been the best. I'd never heard of either of the speakers and, though I'm only too happy to discover newbies, neither of them had written anything that grabbed me. One novel, though it might have been mildly interesting, featured bestiality, with the author not being asked to elaborate, and the other was, effectively, slash fiction, judging by the blurb online, and slash fiction has always left me cold, as has hurt/comfort, which is often a part of slash fiction. Just a personal thing, not the author's fault. I might have been more interested if the questions involved had asked them to talk about their stories as well as their writing techniques. 

The free session last Sunday, on Modern Mythologies, was very entertaining, and I bought both books as ebooks(so no signing for me).

Today I attended two free sessions and I thoroughly enjoyed both. 

The first one was an interview with Sophie Hannah by Jane Sullivan(a well known journo). Sophie Hannah is a well-known crime writer who has, in the last year, had published a new Hercule Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders. He's the only Christie character because, as she pointed out, it would have been just a bit much to try to get not only Poirot right, but also the right voice for Hastings. I can see that. I haven't read the book yet because I hadn't read all the originals, though several, and wondered if I should, but I downloaded it during the session. What the heck. Sophie Hannah was very entertaining, a lively speaker with a delightful sense of humour. Although she spoke casually about her parents as if they were just Fred and Maureen Bloggs, and her father's collection of cricket books which he didn't read, and her mother makíng her cringe at parent teacher night, her father was a big name university academic who lectured in politics and wrote a lot of books, and her mother is Adele Geras, a famous children's writer who blogs regularly on the History Girls website and boasted about her daughter's gig when she got it. Apparently, her agent happened to mention that she would be great to write a new Christie novel when he was at the publishers about something else and the very next day, the publisher was chatting with Christie's grandson who was remarking that it might be about time the estate allowed a continuation novel to be written...

The second session was Meg Mundell interviewing Mike Jones(never heard of him, but I bet I will!) and Kelly Link, an American horror writer and editor(I did a panel with her at a Continuum) on the theme of modern Gothic. Mike said that because he mostly does work for TV his writing methods are very different from those if the average novelist. You do everything as a team. So he's used some of this in his fiction. Kelly works with Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, and they act as each other's first editors. She was kind enough to refer to Australian Gothic writers such as Gary Crew, whose books she read when she was working at a children's bookshop, Margo Lanagn and, for some reason, Paul Jennings. (Huh? Over the top, yes, but GOTHIC? The definition must be broader than I thought)

There is a session about the PhryneFisher TV series this afternoon, but I'm not planning to stick around. I really must get on with my neglected house cleaning once I finish lunch at Young and Jackson's.

In all, I've been quite pleased with this year's festival. There could have been a bit more spec fic, but there was some, and I was very impressed with how many high quality free events there were.
Wonder what will be on next year?

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50. Rich And Rare: A Sneak Peek Cover Reveal!

This Ford Street anthology, in which I have my Eugowra robbery story, is coming out in late October, earlier than originally planned, yay!  It will be launched at whichever school wins the privilege(last time it was Princes Hill). I do hope it's somewhere I can reach easily. The book is the third Trust Me! anthology, but they've changed the title and they have certainly changed the cover. Take a look: 


It's by Shaun Tan. Not at all like the covers of the first two, with their photos of teenage boys! But Paul Collins said that the second anthology was so like the first in appearance that people were getting them mixed up and the second volume hadn't sold as well as the first. So here we are with a cover by one of Oz's top cover artists. 

What do you think of it?

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