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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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1. I'm Interviewed By ... N! (From Gillian Polack's Livejournal)


Some time ago, I had an email from Gillian Polack, uni academic, spec fic writer and historian, whose work experience student, whom she referred to only as N had read and loved Wolfborn. Would I be willing to do an interview with the young lady? What do YOU think? :-)

It was duly published on Gillian's Livejournal and I'm reproducing it here, because Livejournal is a much more intimate form of blog which is really for the author and friends. 

So here are the three questions she asked.


NAre the traditions and festivals used in Wolfborn based on existing religions? For example, when Lord Geraint performed the rites.

SB: Yes, sort of. Notzrianism, the main religion, is my own version of Christianity, though not quite - you may have noticed I have a female bishop in one scene. But you can't do a mediaeval fantasy set in a European-style world without some form of Christianity.  So much of mediaeval daily life and culture was based on it. The way people thought and behaved, even their hierarchy, was based on their faith. 

In my world, though, there's also a strong pagan element still around, tolerated if not liked. The celebration of such rites would almost certainly have been tamed quite a lot in a country that was otherwise Christian(or Notzrian). I mostly invented the rituals described, but not the festivals. The Celtic calendar had four major celebrations in the year and I used that. I assumed that local celebrations would vary.  There would have been some interesting things happening at local celebrations, even in Christian times. 

I did a short course on Celtic religions once and the teacher, a middle-European lady, I can't recall from which country, remembered her childhood when the local villages worshipped, more or less, their own statues of "Our Lady" who was, as far as they were concerned, just another version of "THE Lady", the mother goddess. They were Catholics, yes, but also,deep-down, had never stopped worshipping the Goddess. And this was well into the twentieth century! 

N: Is the castle based off any historical land marks? For example the landscape around it and its strategic positioning.

Nope. It's just a place that says "mediaeval daily life". Strictly speaking, a lord like Geraint would probably be moving around his manors, but I left him in one place, with my own choice of geography. It made it easier to have things happen as I needed them to. This is also why I created my own world, with three moons and all,  instead of setting it in mediaeval Europe.

NDo the kingdoms in Wolfborn embody countries of the era?

Yes, a bit, eg the Djarnish Isles, mentioned by Lady Eglantine, are sort of Britain, although the women's community she describes, in which the members get to do learned stuff, was  based on the community of Hildegard of Bingen, an amazingly multi-talented eleventh century German abbess, now a saint, I believe. Armorique is sort of, but not quite, Brittany, because the story was taken from the Breton Lais by Marie De France, but I introduced gods from other parts of the Celtic world and gave it its own history(I'm working on a novel set earlier in that history). Nearly everyone, I admit, has a French name(but "Geraint" is Welsh - I just liked the name, which is part of Celtic literature. For consistency, I shouldn't have done it, but I did. So sue me). However, some countries mentioned in this novel were from a world I created for a series of swords and sorcery stories about the adventures of a woman warrior named Xanthia, published back in the 80s in a fantasy magazine called Eye Of Newt, well BEFORE a certain TV series with a similar name. As for the era, it's vaguely 12th century. 

Please note: I admit I cherry picked what I wanted in my world building, but whatever sins I committed, I did my research. I read whole books on daily life, the role of women, cities, folklore, you name it! 

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2. Space...The Final Frontier.. Apollo II This Week In History!

If you haven't seen this pic,
you've been living under a rock!


This isn't really a book-related post, but as I've said before, I came to love science fiction because of the "sensawunda" thing. I dreamed of going to the moon from early days, played "moon-landing" with my friends and loved Star Trek from the first episode I saw. (As it happens, I even know what Trek episode was on the week of the moon landing, because I read the TV guide in the microfilm newspapers  at the State Library when researching for my short story "Countdown To Apollo 11". The episode was "The Enterprise Incident". There was no Dr Who, as it was off for a while.

This week is the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11. It's rather sad that all that excitement and wonder should have ended with the US space shuttles having to be retired and nothing being done for the moment, at least nothing immediate. 

Of the three astronauts who went to the moon, my favourite is Michael Collins, the one who didn't actually step on to the moon and was fine with that. He said that thousands would have given a lot to be in his place and that, as far as he was concerned, it was about flying and he had the best job of any pilot, ever!

He produced a number of books that were not ghost written - he said so and I believe him. His autobiography Carrying The Fire, has that true sensawunda you get in the best SF and yet was for real. I used that and his history of the space program while researching my own book, Star Walkers: Explorers Of The Unknown. Star Walkers sold out years ago and wasn't reprinted, so if you want to read it, you'll have to get it on eBay or ABE Books, but I used a lot of the information by and about him to help me.

Buzz Aldrin has at least one novel with his name on it, in which the hero is involved in a private space program, something Aldrin has always promoted, and with all those recent space program cutbacks, maybe he's right.

I have memories of the moon landing, because they let us go home from school to watch it. If it was now, we'd all be gathered in the school library or a hall - funnily enough my own school didn't have a hall and neither does the one where I work now - and the info tech teacher would set up a link to the Internet so we could watch it as a school.

I wasn't a great reader of SF till after my school days were over and I was babysitting for my sister and raiding her shelves, but I did read some of the classics by Verne and Wells. It's interesting to compare what the two of them had to say about moon flight. Jules Verne had his moon trip beginning in Florida and thought carefully about how it might work, whereas Wells just had some made-up stuff to make his spacecraft float. I think that after Wells was rude about the Verne book,Verne actually said something along those lines, that at least he'd done his homework instead of just making up something out of his head. But Verne really was a science fiction writer,  while Wells was more interested in politics and social justice, even if he used SF to talk about them.

There isn't a lot of written, as opposed to film, fiction bout Apollo II, as far as I know, though it is a part of Stephen Baxter's wonderful novel Voyage, which speculates what might have happened if the US had gone for Mars instead of the space shuttle. The heroine becomes the first person to walk on Mars.

Well, what do you know, I HAVE written about books in this post!

So before I go, here's a photo taken in Sydney at Mascot Airport on July 21 1969, which I found under the Creative Commons licences, from the days when there used to be TVs in shop windows. Enjoy!


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3. Downloaded This Week... Lots Of Classic SF And A Children's Book About The Great War...

I get this craving for classic SF by famous writers from the Golden Age, you know?  I just do.


Oddly, it started with a search for Darrell Schweitzer, who is very much alive and kicking and has a gorgeous steampunk poem in my issue of ASIM, #60, illustrated by the wonderful Lewis Morley, who loved it. Turns out he's in some of  the Megapacks available on iBooks because they have a mixture of Golden Age and contemporary SF. There's even a story in #6 by Pamela Sargent about Hillary Rodham - yes, THAT Hillary Rodham, Mrs Clinton - as an astronaut, based on a story she told about having sent an inquiry to NASA in her teens and been told "girls need not apply"(something they deny, saying that while girls were not in the space program at the time, they wouldn't have said "don't bother", just told the young woman to work hard at school and keep an eye out because it would happen at some stage). It's asking "what if"?  Hillary the astronaut is on her way to Venus with an all-woman team, including Judy Resnik and Jerrie Cobb(Resnik was the first Jewish woman in space, Cobb was one of the Forgotten Thirteen, women who wanted to become astronauts in the 60s and were told to go away. Perhaps it would have been better for her if she'd been a teenager writing to NASA instead of a skilled pilot!)

Anyway, I downloaded Megapack 6, which had some good stuff in it, including one by Philip K Dick and Arthur C Clarke's classic "The Nine Billion Names Of God", a story not in the Clarke collection I bought from Amazon with my prize gift voucher. These Megapacks are great value, costing the massive sum of 99c! And there are quite a lot of genres. I'd been looking for Mack Reynolds, a prolific writer who died in the 70s. Mack Reynolds wrote the very first original Star Trek novel, Mission To Horatius, before James Blish's Spock Must Die! It doesn't get much publicity, probably because it was for children. I bet it would be worth $$$$ on eBay now. I had read several of his novels, starting with Time Gladiator, which I found on a remainders table for 20c. It had a dreadful cover and title, but as it was SF I picked it up, browsed through and decided that for 20c it wasn't much of a risk. It was so very good I went in search of more. One of them featured a man who was attached to a computer that sent him into the mind of Horatius, that hero of the Roman Republic who guarded the bridge into Rome against the enemy with two comrades while others were busy cutting it down. Another predicted the current situation with credit cards replacing cash. In this society there's no cash at all, just cards, so if you're on the run, as the hero of that novel is, you can easily be traced by your card use. This was in the 70s!

I did find some of his books available online, but got a sudden craving for Fredric Brown and decided Reynolds could wait just a little longer. If you're a Trek fan, you'll know one of Brown's stories, "Arena", was adapted for an episode of the name. I'd read plenty of his tales, including "Arena". They tend to be quirky and often funny. And there was a Fredric Brown Megapack! With no fewer than 33 of his classic stories, including "Arena"! For 99c! I also bought from SF Gateway his novel What Mad Universe in which a pulp magazine editor finds himself thrown into a universe in which pulp fiction tropes are true. I'd read and loved it years ago and had to have it in ebook. I've reread it and loved it again.

And finally, this week, I discovered that there was a new book by Morris Gleitzman, a popular writer in my library. This one is called Loyal Creatures and is about a boy and his horse going to the Great War. A wonderful writer. Knowing what I do about what happened to the horses that went to war from Australia I don't hold out great hopes for a happy ending, but I refuse to read the end till I get there.

A fine haul. What are you reading, my readers?

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4. As Stars Fall By Christie Nieman. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2014

A bush fire, and its aftermath, links a Bush-Stone curlew and three teenagers experiencing loss, love and change.

The fire was fast and hot ... only days after it went through, there were absolutely no birds left. I should have seen it as an omen, the birds all leaving like that.

Robin is a self-confessed bird-nerd from the country, living in the city. On the first day at her new school, she meets Delia. Delia is freaky and definitely not good for Robin's image.

Seth, Delia's brother, has given up school to prowl the city streets. He is angry at everything, especially the fire that killed his mother.

When a rare and endangered bird turns up in the city parklands, the lives of Robin, Seth and Delia become fatefully and dangerously intertwined ...

Their lives certainly are intertwined. Seth and Delia are the children of the biologist who was killed observing a rare Bush-Stone Curlew. Robin was living in the area at the time and saw the bushfire. Her parents separated soon after for reasons we find out later. 

And Robin has a strange connection with Seth, who can see things through her eyes as well as the bird's.

Fire plays an important role in this novel - the bushfire that killed Seth and Delia's mother and brought the bird to the city, the fire with which Seth deliberately burns his hand in horrified fascination while grieving, Robin's nickname, Flame. Even the book's title, As Stars Fall, refers to sparks falling during the fire, which Robin saw on the night and thought beautiful despite the significance of them. The environment is also a major element and some of it is notes by Selena, the biologist mother, who had strong opinions about the cycle of life in the bush.

It's a sad but positive story, an interesting mixture of  mainstream YA and fantasy. The story is about coming to terms with grief, but it wouldn't have been quite the same without those touches of fantasy.

I can see this one working well in classroom discussion, perhaps as a literature circles text; there's a lot of meat for discussion. It's aimed at older readers and really is best for good readers who like to think deeply about what they read.


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5. Year 8 Stories - the Sequel!

Well, the holidays are over and I've just finished reading the last of my student stories. They have ranged from a hundred-odd words to what has to be at least six thousand! Twelve pages of small print? Has to be.

Two of  them were plagiarised, word for word, beginning to end, from online sources and what I'm going to tell the students I have no idea. Clearly they couldn't handle the story starters I gave them last term and were desperate enough to pinch something. I'd love to just say, "Look, I don't CARE if your writing is bad! It's my job to help you fix it and I can't do that if I don't know how you write in the first place." If I thought it would do any good I'd say that. But I don't think it will. All I can do is offer them the chance to do it again, with a different writing prompt, by hand, in a single session.

There was a very short piece from a student who asked me for help for the first time this year. It sn't much, but it was what he could do. He did his best. I will give him some more short pieces to do. Perhaps start with a Cloze activity in which he chooses his own words to fill the gaps?

There was a story that used one of the prompts to have one gory murder after another, but the student really, really enjoyed the writing. He ended it abruptly with "and then he came back and killed my uncle and me. The End." but I think he just felt he had to finish. I went cross-eyed trying to edit all the punctuation-free sentences and the switching between tenses - finally I gave up and put in notes to ask him to make up his mind which tense he wanted and stick with it.

A lot were unfinished. I will get them to do a story outline before continuing.

I really must mention the two who used "The Hero's Journey." One was unfinished, but long, an account of a girl who is approached by a long-lost brother under mysterious circumstances, and broke off just as the siblings were about to escape from a murderous millionaire older sister... I have told her it's an exciting story and I'm keen to see how it ends. She used the basic elements - the call to adventure, the journey...

The six thousand word story was less obvious as Hero's Journey, but it also used the elements. The call to adventure was a young boy from a village deciding to go to the city in search of his mother, who was taken away for medical treatment by a doctor whose name he knew, but not much else, some time ago, also fulfilling a mission for a neighbour whose children have vanished into the city, and returning to his reward. It was written with a Vietnamese accent, as the young lady has only recently decided to join mainstream English classes, so it needs work yet, incuding some tightening, but she is proud of it, and so she should be.

I think the Hero's Journey is not a bad place to start students off and will consider using it again, but it's a work in progress, always needing adapting.

People keep telling me that because I'm a writer I should therefore be able to teach writing. I really don't think it's that simple.  There are a lot of people out there teaching creative writing without ever having sold anything. Then they sell a first novel and write in their bio notes that they teach it and I say, "Hang on, this is a first novel, not even a good one, and she's TEACHING this? How did she get the job?"

In my case, I know how I write, but that doesn't mean everyone does it the same way. For example,
I just start writing and worry about the quality later. But kids can't always do that, or they don't understand the concept of "first draft." I can't even show them my own work in drafts, because even my first draft is better than their finished products in most cases. I am never going to write a long, run-on sentence with no punctuation or change tenses and even person.

Guess I'll have to write something awful and let them crit it.

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6. Vashti Farrer's New Book




Vashti Farrer, author of a whole lot of children's books and contributor to my favourite market, the NSW School Magazine, has recently done a true crime book for adults. I love true crime, having written some myself(check out the side of the page for a sample chapter from my book, Crime Time: Australians behaving badly but not till you've read this). This one, I see, is about Ellen Thomson, the only woman to have been executed in Queensland, back in the 19th century, for having murdered her husband. It may have been a miscarriage of justice, since she didn't get a fair trial.

There's something addictive about true crime. Crime fiction is good fun, but there's nothing quite like reading about dreadful doings that really happened. A piece of historical crime has a double attraction - and Vashti Farrer has done quite a bit of historical writing.

I hope this goes to ebook, as I simply have no space left on my physical shelves, but meanwhile, you can buy it at Booktopia if ordering on line and no doubt can order it from your local bookshop if they don't have it.

Ellen Thomson: Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, by Vashti Farrer. Sydney, Halstead Press, 2014.


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7. The Graveyard Book: the graphic novel, Volume 1, by Neil Gaiman. Adaptation by P. Craig Russell. Art by various artists. Sydney, Bloomsbury, 2014

                               

I read this novel when it first came out.  It was the author's tribute to Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books, only instead of Mowgli being brought up in the judge by animals, the Mowgli character, Nobody Owens, Bod for short, is bought up in a graveyard by ghosts, with Silas, a vampire who can leave the graveyard, bringing in food and taking charge of arranging his education. He's there because he toddled to the local cemetery when his entire family was murdered and the killer is still looking for him - a killer who is not quite human.

It was a wonderful book, but I'd forgotten it was written as linked short stories. In each one, Bod has a new adventure in a different part of the graveyard as he grows up, learning something new. In one, he is carried off by ghouls, but a language he has learned enables him to call for help. In another, he meets an unusual ghost, a young witch who never had a headstone. And lest you forget how much danger awaits him outside the graveyard, you're reminded. 

This format gives the opportunity to have the illustration done by individual artists - and it also means that, while you'd like to finish the book, it can be presented as Volume 1 without too much stress to the reader. And the next volume will be out in October, so be patient! The stories for this volume end with a chilling Interlude in which the killer stalking Bod makes an appearance.

I do love graphic novels; the art and text combine to tell the story and when it's a graphic version of a novel, as this one is, it tells the story in a simpler manner for children who might be reluctant readers. It's also able to show such awful things as the dead family, including a child, and little Bod, sucking on a mummy, toddling along towards the graveyard without knowing what has happened, rather than having to describe them.

It's a lovely book which will appeal both to fans of the original and new readers. Highly recommended!

Coming out in Australia on August 1, 2014.

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8. New On My Cyber Bookshelf!

I have just reread Pierre Boulle's Planet Of The Apes, which I downloaded after viewing some special features on my brother's DVD of the 1968 movie. I had read it before under the title Monkey Planet, but felt like reading it again. It didn't disappoint on a second reading. It's rather Swiftian, not a lot like the movie and if you're expecting the Statue Of Liberty at the end, forget it. I'd suggest that the book and the film are both classics in their own right, which have their own points to make. Apparently, Pierre Boulle HATED the Statue of Liberty scene(created by Rod Serling) but there's no doubt it worked.

I've finished Susan Price's Ghost World sequence - I think the original novels are out of print, but the author has made the trilogy available in ebook. It's a series set in a fairy tale version of Russia, or, rather, a Russian Czardom, over hundreds of years. She has taken bits of Pushkin(a story telling cat), of shamanism and Russian folklore and thrown them all together. It works well, though the novels don't feel like novels as we think of them, because we don't really see much of the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists, especially in the first story. There are different viewpoints, which let the reader know what's happening elsewhere, but can be frustrating for a reader who wants to stick with the  heroine. I did rather like the Baba Yaga hut with chicken legs being turned into a typical witch/shaman hut, with ALL the witches having homes that travel on different kinds of legs. The shaman looks for an apprentice, which can take all of her/his(mostly her) three hundred years of life. So the travelling hut is necessary.

I've added two more Josephine Tey novels, The Franchise Affair and The Singing Sands, to my shelves and begun reading Alan Baxter's Bound and Colin Falconer's East India, which were both going free as promos.

Courtesy of Project Gutenberg, I have a volume of Walter Scott's Minstrelsy Of The Scottish Border and one of Christina Rossetti's poems(I downloaded that to go with Tim Powers' Hide Me Among The Graves). I am rather fond of Walter Scott. I know his books have a reputation for being boring and waffling - well, the waffling is true, but there's something delightful about his footnotes, such as the one where he apologises for bringing back a character who was supposed to be dead, but hey, his editor hated it and the fans will kill him otherwise. There's another where he says that he's been told a bit of his heraldry was wrong but he's looked it up and he was right! I suspect this couldn't happen today unless the story was being serialised online. I also heard Scott was involved in preserving the walls of York which were going to be torn down - looks like developers have been around for centuries!

I think ebooks are the best thing since sliced bread.

What do you think?

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9. Writing Process Blog Hop # 5: Gillian Polack


I received Gillian Polack's Writing Process Blog Hop post this morning. Gillian, as well as bring a writer, is a mediaeval historian who also knows a lot about other eras. Despite that, she's written mostly fiction set in contemporary times, such as this one, which I have on my ebook shelf.


I also have this:


It's a fabulous description of how she and others researched, tested recipes and chose the foods for five historically-themed banquets run by the Conflux convention in Canberra(I was lucky enough to attend a repeat of the Regency one). It included the recipes, but as far as I'm concerned, the story of the work that went into those banquets is priceless. There are a few copies left, I believe, and no plans to reprint, so if you live in Australia, keep an eye on the Conflux stand at your next convention and grab a copy while you can.

I'm glad to hear Gillian is now using her skills in historical research in her writing! 

Without further ado, take it away, Gillian!

GP: 

I’ve been tagged by two people for this post, and life keeps intervening. Thank you for your patience, Louise Turner (http://endlessrarities.livejournal.com) and Sue (and thanks, Sue for hosting my belated answer). Since being tagged, I’ve received word of my next novel – it will be published in October.

1. What are you working on?

       I’m researching the year 1682 for a novel about a group of women travelling together.

2. How does your work differ from others in your genre?


       It’s not quite historical fiction and it’s not quite historical fantasy, either. Historical magic realism? Historical fiction where I trust the world-views of the period and give them their own character arc? The setting is the place and time where religion and science and magic were as close to perfectly balanced as they’ve ever been in a thousand years of Western Europe.

3. Why do you write what you write?

       I’m finally admitting that it’s possible to be both a historian and a writer and for my research into narratives to feed more openly into my fiction. I will still write contemporary works (I have one in the planning stages, in fact) but it’s a lot of fun to encourage readers to see the wires and know a bit more about how it’s all done.

4. How does your writing process work?

      My writing process is different for different novels. Illuminations was written sequentially, but the ancient part first and the modern second. Cellophane was written in small patches – a bit here and a bit there and then edited and edited and edited until it worked the way I wanted it to. The only thing that all my novels have in common is a long period of thinking before any writing takes place. Sometimes, it doesn’t look as if I’ve done that, for instance, in my soon-to-be-released Langue[dot]doc 1305) but that’s because I was thinking about it for twenty years.
      

Because I’m very late on this, I’m reluctant to nominate anyone. I’m going to tag Sharyn Lilly anyhow, because she has just published a rather interesting book, and I think there are a few people who wouldn’t mind knowing what’s happening next. Sharyn is a speculative fiction writer and editor and she can be found at http://eneit.livejournal.com

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10. On Finishing A Piece Of Historical Fiction

I've finally completed, edited and submitted my story for the Cranky Ladies Of History anthology. I haven't a clue what I'll do with it if it's rejected, as there's not much of a market for short historical fiction. The History Girls blog has done one, but it's by their own authors, all of them well known historical novelists. I can't even submit it to a possible third volume of Trust Me, if Ford Street Publishing does one, as the characters are all adults and, at 4200 words,  it's about twice the length of a Trust Me story. 

Still, I had to have a go. How could I not? And looking at the names of the others who are sending stories, pretty much everyone is a speculative fiction writer, so I'm not the only one who hasn't much experience in this area - with two historical fiction stories under my belt, I may even have more experience than some others. 

My other two stories were set in the 1960s, though, an era I know fairly well and even remember vaguely from my childhood. And you can go to the State Library and look up newspapers of the time. 

But what did I know about the Victorian era? Not a lot. If I'd had time, if I'd been writing a book, I would have bought or borrowed whole books about the era and the culture, as I did with my mediaeval fantasy fiction.

There were newspapers in the Victorian era, of course, but not where I can get at them. And there just wasn't time.

So I settled for researching the story I'd chosen and checking the other stuff as I went. I waded through web sites. I bought an ebook called Wild Women, which had a chapter on the subject I had chosen, the life of Dr James Miranda Barry, a wonderful army doctor who did some amazing things to improve the conditions and sanitation of hospitals and performed the first Caesarean in which mother and baby both survived and would have been remembered for those if "he" hadn't turned out to be a she! It's not that nobody now is interested in her achievements but web sites and books tend to throw all their energies into arguing about whether or not she was a transgender man. Who cares? It was over 150 years ago and we'll never know, unless some letters or a long-buried memoir turn up. 

I decided to keep it simple. Like Agnodike of Athens, I decided, she was a girl who wanted to do something only boys were allowed to do and was prepared to pay for it with her female identity, which was not a lot of use to her.

I made myself write the first draft, at least, because if I'd stopped to look everything up, it would never have been finished. Even so, I kept stopping to ask, "Hang on! How would you get new clothes in those days if you weren't rich and couldn't afford to have stuff made and didn't have time anyway? What about travelling to Jamaica from London in 1865? What about travel conditions?" And so on.

I at least was able to ask some of these questions of a couple of historians, Louise Berridge, author of many historical novels, including some about the Crimean War, and Gillian Polack, who specialises in things mediaeval, but knows a lot about other eras as well. Both ladies came up trumps and if my story doesn't make it, it won't be their fault. I asked them about travel from London to Jamaica and Gillian said "Bristol" which had a lot of connection with Jamaica and Louise agreed and also suggested Southampton, from which a mail ship went every fortnight, and even told me which railway station would have been used to go to each port. Gillian added that my hero, Dantzen, Dr Barry's manservant, had better take his own food, which was not supplied at sea in those days. 

I decided on Southampton; both ports are about the same distance from London, but Southampton had regular traffic to Jamaica.

By the way, a bit of Internet research told me that second hand clothes would be the way to go if you didn't have time to make your own clothes or money to have them made for you. 

And I even found an online scanned Victorian era newspaper about the discovery that Dr Barry was a woman! It was from New Zealand, so the story really got around.

Historical research is never going to give you a definitive answer to anything. For example,  there were two explanations of how she died. One was that she died of cholera, the other that she'd caught a chill which ended up killing her. I opted for cholera. Then there was a duel she fought with one Josias Cloete. One version said he'd challenged her because she'd said something ungentlemanly about a lady. The other version said she had challenged him because he'd said she rode like a girl. For the purposes of my story and the character, I decided to go with the latter. She was a truly cranky lady and this wasn't the only time she fought a duel. And the fact that she and Cloete became close friends for life suggested to me that the duel - which wasn't too serious in the end -  was about something not too serious in the first place. 

But you see what I mean. There are so many versions of history, you just have to choose what makes sense to you. I once wrote an article about the Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng. the material said, on the one hand, that try never worked for Barnum and Bailey, and in the other that they did and were cheated. I decided to say they hadn't; they were a shrewd, entrepreneurial pair who would never have let themselves be ripped off, in my opinion - and so I told my editor from the NSW School Magazine when he asked was I sure, because he'd read...

I think Josias Cloete may have descendants to this day, so if one of them is reading this and has a family tradition about something great, many times great, grandad said about that Dr Barry, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW, okay? Not now. Too late!

One web site I found said that the reason she didn't get a knighthood on retirement - something fairly standard - was that she had embarrassed Florence Nightingale in public, haranguing the Lady With The Lamp from horseback for keeping her hospital filthy and so causing unnecessary deaths. That was a scene I simply had to include, though not in huge detail. It gave me the chance to slip in Mary Seacole, a Jamaican/ Scottish nurse who wrote a memoir. Mary had asked to be a member of Florence Nightingale's staff and was refused, though not by Florence herself, so she made her own way to the Crimean War, where she sold drinks and tended the wounded anyway. I wanted to have her at James Barry's funeral, because she was in London at the time, but had no way to slot her in convincingly. She's there, though, in the Crimean War scene.

Now the story is done as best I can. If it's accepted, I'll go back and make sure the historical details are right. If not, it will have to stay on my computer till another opportunity presents itself.

Fingers crossed!

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11. Bloomsbury New Harry Potter Cover Reveal

I got these two pics from Sonia at Bloomsbury this morning. They're the new covers for the first two Harry Potter books. 


This.


And this.


The artist is Johnny Duddle, who, among other things, has done some illoes for Terry Pratchett books. If you look at the originals, the spirit is very similar, though taken from a different scene in the books. Here are the covers I saw when I was first buying them. They're by Thomas Taylor.

   

And this.


. I adore  the originals, they're what I picture when I think of the novels, because, unlike many adults,  it's never been a problem for me being seen reading a book with a children's cover...but these are also quite lovely and have a lot more going on. 

It probably won't matter now what the covers look like, the books are just going to go on and on selling, but it never does harm to refresh a franchise. I look forward to the day when someone does a Harry Potter cover art exhibition with covers from around the sod and different times.

So, what do you think of the new covers?

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12. Look What I've Got! Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book In Pics!




Some time ago, I received Neil Gaiman's children's book The Graveyard Book for reviewing. It was inspired by Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books, only this Mowgli was brought up in a graveyard instead of a jungle, by ghosts and other creatures of the night. Now it's out as a graphic novel - well, half of it is, anyway - and the lovely publicist Sonia Palmisano of Bloomsbury, who always seems to know what I'm likely to drool over, has sent me a copy. I will try to get it read and reviewed before I go back to work next week, so I can take it and get it processed right away, because I just know my students will love it. They've started asking for Neil Gaiman lately, anyway, and graphic novels are big in my library! Only thing is, they'll want to know when Volume 2 is coming out and I'll have to tell them I don't know.

Gorgeous, isn't it? What a lovely surprise to come home and find this waiting in the hallway next to the letterboxes!

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13. To Kill A Mockingbird Going To Ebook!

Rejoice! The wonderful, amazing classic To Kill A Mockingbird is FINALLY going to be an ebook, with the author's permission! I have just read it in Sunday's Age newspaper. I bought the fiftieth anniversary edition when it came out and treasure it, but it will be nice to be able to carry it around without having to add to the weight of my bag.

If you haven't read it, now might be a good time. It's not only serious, but funny at the same time. A couple of years ago, when I decided it would be my Banned Books Week Readout, I chose, not one of the dramatic courtroom scenes, but the scene where the heroine, Scout, is having her first day at school, with a new young teacher who really doesn't know anything about the community she is teaching in and, among other things, tells Scout that she shouldn't be reading yet! If you're interested, watch it here.

I simply adore this book and will be buying the ebook as soon as it's available so I can have it with me all the time.

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14. Ambelin Kwaymullina's GoH Speech Now Live!

Finally the wonderful Guest Of Honour speech made by Ambelin Kwaymullina at Continuum X is up on the ASIM website. Shortly after the convention, Ambelin emailed me to say she'd written it up as an article and did we want it for ASIM? We said yes, and it's set to appear in the next issue, #61, which is due out in October. But soon after that, she emailed again to say people had been pestering her to have it online. She wondered if we could put it online for her. As it's already slotted into ASIM 61, I suggested we do both.

People kept on pestering, so she asked for a date. The web site is being revamped, but Simon Petrie, who used to be the webmaster(and is publishing it in his issue) agreed to pop it up now, himself.



In case you missed the interview she did on this website, here's the link to that:

http://suebursztynski.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/the-interview-of-ambelin-kwaymullina-on.html 

And here's the link to the post just up on ASIM:

http://www.andromedaspaceways.com/ambelinkwaymullinagohspeech_continuumx/

Enjoy both!

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15. New Book Arrives!

And here it is! The book I won from the English History Authors blog!


Looking forward to reading it and letting you know what I think. I do love historical fiction, and this era is one I've been studying with my Year 8. 

I hope the sales are good on this one, Glynn. 

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16. July 4 Meme - Happy Birthday, Amelia!



Today is already July 4 here in Australia, so I'm going to do a July 4 meme, in honour of my niece Amelia, a gifted artist and handcrafter, whose birthday it is today. Because this is a book blog, I prefer to keep, as much as possible, to literary related events and birthdays, but hey, you can't leave out American Independence Day, can you? I can and will leave out the usual run of battles and other killings. 

So here are some dates for you!

Events

1054: sighting of a supernova by Chinese, Arab and maybe Native Americans, which was so bright it was seen by day for months. Its remains are now the Crab Nebula. Okay, not book related but as a lover of SF I'll always celebrate a celestial event over a battle. Mind you, I can only hope this supernova wasn't like the one in Arthur C Clarke's short story, "The Star" in which a priest asks himself if it was really necessary to wipe out a whole lovely civilisation to produce the Star of Bethlehem. 

1776: Signing of the Declaration of Independence by US. This is a compulsory mention, but it too has inspired a lot of writing, including the lovely musical 1776, which I saw when I was at high school, several times. In those days, the cost of going to see a musical was low enough that a school kid like me could get a ticket in the gods at child price with her pocket money. 

1862 -Lewis Carroll tells Alice Liddell the story that would become Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. 


Alice MS page. Public domain

1865: Alice's Adventures In Wonderland was published. If that isn't a day in literary history, what is?

Birthdays

1799: King Oscar I of Sweden, whom I'm going to mention because his mother was Desiree Clary, the subject of that gorgeous novel by Annemarie Selinko which I'm currently rereading. 

Oscar I: public domain

1804: Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of some truly scary fiction.
Mr Hawthorne. Public domain.

 I read The Scarlet Letter when I was in my teens. I believe he added the "w" to his name because he really didn't want to be related to John Hathorne, the only Salem Witch Trials judge who never repented. I see he also lived, at one stage, in a house formerly occupied by the Alcotts, as in the family of Louisa May, author of Little Women.

1927: The amazing playwright Neil Simon, whose comedies, such as The Odd Couple, have delighted us for a long time. Amelia's Dad, my brother Maurice, will be delighted to hear that, as he's a great fan.

Happy birthday, dearest Amelia! All those fireworks are for you.

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17. I Got Some Free Books!

I've recently won a book from the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, a novel by Glynn Holloway, 1066:What Fates Impose, which is winging its way to me from England, more when it arrives - I would have been happy with an ebook since I can't put it in my library anyway, but this is paperback. I will at least give it a plug. I showed Glynn the very silly 1066 history trailer I did on my iPad's iMovie app and uploaded to YouTube because I couldn't think of any other way to show it to my Year 8 history class before I make them do their own. He said he enjoyed it, the nice man.

This morning I downloaded the special free promotional copy of Colin Falconer's novel East India he was offering on his blog to his followers only. I follow it because, among all the promos for his historical romances, are some very enjoyable and entertaining thoughts about history and the people in it. Now and then one of his promos is a free ebook. I have two of his books on my Kindle app. One was a freebie, Anastasia, which I admit I havn't finished yetThe other was his novel Isabella: Braveheart Of France, about Edward II's queen, more often known as the She-Wolf Of France(uness you believe the nonsense shown in that Mel Gibson film). It also had a twist at the end which I found interesting if unlikely, but hey, why not? I bought that with an Amazon gift voucher I won on another blog in a competition I'd forgotten entering, along with some Arthur C Clarke. I'm glad though that this time it's an iBooks voucher, as I really don't enjoy reading on my Kindle app. And as I don't like giving my card details online unless I absolutely must, I prefer iBooks, which you can buy with an iTunes card. Even if the merchant is very careful with your details, there are a lot of complete and utter losers out there who think they might get some friends if they show how clever they are at hacking. Not to mention money.

However, this isn't telling you about Colin Falconer, an Aussie expat whom I remember as Colin Bowles, author of some YA fiction many years ago. Nowadays he writes for adults, historical fiction - mostly, I think historical romance - set in various eras. I am looking forward to reading East India. It seems to be set in the same time and place as the Batavia incident. Hmm... 

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18. Currently Re-Reading...

I'm halfway through a reread of Anne-Marie Selinko's novel Desiree, a delightful historical romance about the woman who was Napoleon's fiancée before he decided that Josephine was better for his career. She married Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte instead, who became one of his Marshalls and they ended up as King and Queen of Sweden, by invitation of the Swedes, not put there by Napoleon.

From what I've read, the historical Desiree Clary was a very strange woman, not at all like the one in the novel and certainly not like Jean Simmons, who played the role so beautifully in the film. But as a novel, it's very readable and it takes you through the whole of Napoleon's career, from beginning to end, through the eyes of his first love(who gets over him fairly soon, by the way). If Desiree wasn't like the one in the book, she should have been.

I've just finished re-reading Terry Pratchett's Equal Rites, about the Discword's first female wizard. It was written early in his career and introduces Granny Weatherwax.  I'm glad to have reread this particular novel, because Eskarina Smith, the young girl who has wizarding abilities, is also the first witch Granny trains and is not unlike Tiffany Aching, the heroine of the Wee Free Men series. And I've been re-reading those - currently reading A Hatful Of Sky, the second one. In fact, Eskarina returns in the fourth of the Tiffany series, as an adult, bouncing around time and space.

I'm also on the first read of some review books - watch this space!

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19. Writing Process Blog Hop #2: Sue Bursztynski


What are you working on?

Right now, a short story, straight historical fiction, about Dr "James Barry", a woman who lived as a man for most of her life in order to be able to have a career as a doctor, something not usually possible for women in the nineteenth century. I first heard of her when I was researching for my book Potions To Pulsars: Women doing science. She was passionate about her work, kept her hospitals clean, performed the first caesarean operation in which both mother and child survived and fought duels at the drop of a hat. A truly cranky lady of history! If I don't sell it first go, I may have to add fantastical elements to sell it to a spec fic market. Fingers crossed!

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

I've had some good reviews for my first novel and some awful ones, but none so far has said, "This is just like all the others." Not one. I did get some that said,"Well, that was different!"

I suspect I annoyed those who thought they were getting an urban fantasy in which the heroine would have two suitors, a smouldering Byronic vampire/Faerie Prince/Selkie Prince and a gorgeous werewolf, and readers could say they were "Team Fred" and "Team Joe"... and it turned out to be a mediaeval fantasy seen from the boy's viewpoint, in which he and the girl had to put off their romance till the danger to those they cared about was over.

Actually, some liked that. ;-)

Why do you write what you write?

Mostly, I write speculative fiction, with the occasional piece of historical fiction. I write it because I love telling stories and because what I have to say needs more scope than mainstream fiction affords. I write for children and teens because children's and YA fiction is one of the last refuges of story, as opposed to "beautiful writing" that isn't actually about anything in particular, and because you can't bullshit kids.

How does your writing process work?

It depends on what it is. If I'm writing to a deadline, I write late at night. I have to be up at six to get to my day job, so I don't sleep much at those times. I sometimes go to a local cafe, to get away from the distractions at home. I start with the germ of an idea and research the background, sometimes first, sometimes as I write the first draft. For my stories set in the 1960s I went to the State Library to read the newspapers of the time, not just the subject I was looking for - the Beatles in Melbourne, the day of the first moon landing - but letters to the editor, advertising, the TV guide, articles about what else was happening that week or that year. For my mediaeval stories, I have read whole books about the role of women, the church, life in the cities, life on the manor, knightly training. I also looked up stuff about real wolves as opposed to the were variety for my novel. I read books of folklore about faeries(I was pleased to see in Melissa Marr's bibliography that she'd used many of the same sources for Wicked Lovely). Anything that helps in my world building! I play mediaeval music to get me in the mood(though I often stop writing to get up and dance!)


So, that's me! Any writer out there who'd like to be hosted here for their writing process? Email me.

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20. Writing Process Blog Hop #3: Satima Flavell

Satima Flavell, who is a WA writer with the novel The Dagger Of Dresnia under her belt, actually has a blog of her own, at satimaflavell.blogspot.com, but thought it might be good to post here, to reach a different audience, and has invited me to post on her blog. So here it is, the writing process of Satima Flavell!



What are you working on?

The Cloak of Challiver, book two of The Talismans Trilogy. It takes place a couple of decades after book one, The Dagger of Dresnia (Satalyte Publishing, Foster, Victoria, 2014) and the main characters are Ellyria's grandchildren.


How does your work differ from others in your genre?

My protag, Ellyria, is a woman in her forties, rather than a young person. I think a lot of older women read high fantasy and they might enjoy seeing their own struggles mirrored in the trilogy. There are younger people in the sub-plots to provide romantic interest - and of course there are battles and lots of magic and intrigue as well!



Why do you write what you write?

Simple - because it's my favourite reading matter. I have loved fantasy ever since reading Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave when I was fourteen, and ever since, that imaginary medieval world and stories set there have shared a special place in my heart along with with historical fiction and non-fiction.


How does your writing process work?

First I get a character and a situation. These come pretty well fully developed - I know my character's name, occupation, social status, interests, family make-up and lots of other things - even their horoscopes! All I can do is start writing and hope the story will take shape as I work. When I first started to write fiction, I had heaven's own job trying to get a plot outline in advance. I just had to keep writing a mish-mash until I reached the end and then I had to bring some structure to bear. I'm getting better at this now!


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21. Teaching Year 8 To Write Stories ( from my other blog)

I'm a writer. I know how to write, but teaching Year 8 how to write stories? If it was that easy, everyone would be selling.

Yet it must be done. Next year they will have to do their NAPLAN test, designed by a former government to gain votes by making those lazy, good for nothing teachers accountable! And when they sit down to do their Year 9 NAPLAN test they will have to write either a persuasive essay or a "narrative"(that's a story to you and me) - not a choice but one or the other, you aren't told which. And the narrative may well be a prompt such as "The Box". And they will have 40-50 minutes to write it - heck, I'm still working on a story submission for "Cranky Ladies Of History" after months! And I'm a professional.

I did three things on Monday. One was to gather some copies of the school anthology, stories written by students and put together and edited by Chris Wheat, a wonderful teacher and YA novelist who works at my school as the English and literacy co-ordinator. Another was to print out my much simplified version of The Hero's Journey, which I did as a workshop at last year's Continuum convention, with Paul Collins. It makes a good adventure story outline. The third was to put together some links to appropriate movie trailers on YouTube

It was not a good start to the day. The interactive whiteboard room computer didn't work - someone had unplugged the important bits and I had no idea which they were or what to do. Luckily, the other Year 8 teacher had cancelled her booking for the computer room. So I took them there and gathered them around a computer. One of the students logged in and went to YouTube  for me. First, though, I told them the general story, about this ordinary guy who is visited one day by someone who tells him he's special and must go on a quest. Along the away, he makes friends and deals with a major enemy and comes back with a reward for all that trouble. I invited them to think of some stories that fitted that description. They did very well - Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Up, even a couple I hadn't thought of, such as Percy Jackson and Doctor Who!

We watched several trailers, both the ones I'd prepared and some the students had thought of. We discussed how they fitted the story outline I'd given them.

It was going very well, until I started trying to do a story together on the board. That has worked with other  classes and should have worked this time, but I suppose I was lucky that some of the worse behaved  students had lasted even that long.

I told them we were returning to our classroom, where they would do the rest by hand. My original plan was that after the story on the board they could get into groups to brainstorm, but it was not to be. They went ahead of me and I arrived to find that one of the more difficult students was being told off by a teacher whose classroom window he had broken by butting it with his head.

He was sent with a note and a reliable student to sub school while I tried to unlock my classroom. The door wouldn't open. Some students told me that this had happened when they were last there with another teacher, who had taken them to another room.

I had to find another room for them. We found one, where we read some stories from the anthology together, then individually, about all there was time to do by now. The vice principal brought back the boy who had broken the window and asked for information. Not being suicidal, the students kept silent, so he told them that they'd all do a week's lunchtime detention unless someone came to him and discussed the matter(that worked, by the way).

After all this disaster, you'd think the lesson would be a compete flop. It wasn't.

Even the difficult boys found at least one story that appealed, once I let them choose their own. One of them, mind you, was delighted to find a story with swearing in it - written, mind you, by a good student who was using it in context. One of the girls found a story that touched her and exclaimed, "Oh, how sad! Miss, do read this one."

And two other girls were so keen to write a story based on The Hero's Journey, they started immediately and took their English books home to get on with it. One is a student who, though she is lovely and works hard, has never been able to write a lot. She showed me, today, two pages of dense text about a Percy Jackson-style demigoddess who discovers she is the daughter of a fire god. On Thurday, while the others do the brainstorm, I'm going to let those two get on with their stories.

If I can get into the classroom.

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22. Writing Process Blog Hop #4: Mary Victoria

Mary and I first met when we were sitting near each other at the Aussiecon 4 signing tables. At the time, she had a novel out, mine was not out for another three months!(I had to sign bookmarks and sample chapters kindly supplied by my publishers). Mary has appeared on this blog before, interviewing the World Tree on which her novels are set.  As Mary's blog isn't doing much at the moment, I offered to host her Writing Process Blog Hop post, so without further ado, here it is!


What are you working on?

I just completed a draft of a manuscript which passed muster with my agents, and is now being sent out to publishers (I hope.) It’s a departure from my past books which were all young adult-centered, epic fantasy. In fact, this new story is about as far from epic as possible, though it contains a magical twist. It is set in the 1970’s on the island of Cyprus where I grew up.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

I have carried over my usual obsession with myth and legend into what is ostensibly a contemporary-realist tale. If the reader is so inclined, she may pick apart the story and find the original Greek myths on which it is based. But that isn’t necessary for a proper reading of the book – just a fun aside.

Why do you write what you write?

A story takes me firmly by the lapels, sits me down at the computer and requires that I write. There really isn’t much choice in the matter.

How does your writing process work?

While I have a project on the go, I grapple with it in an obsessive manner for as long as those working with me will allow. I do write chapter breakdowns, but if I have the luxury of throwing them out and reworking plot and character arcs on the fly, I will. Generally a manuscript is dragged from my bloody fingers at a certain point in this process. It’s never quite ready, in my opinion.

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23. The Caller (Book 3 Shadowfell) By Juliet Marillier. Sydney, Pan Macmillan, 2014



Summer Gathering, when the rebels of Shadowfell are planning to challenge the evil King Keldec, is approaching rapidly. Caller Neryn, with whom we have made a long journey, still has two Guardians to go before her training is complete. But the White Lady, Guardian of air, is not in the best state. The Master of Shadows(fire) is a trickster who may or may not advise her on how to protect the rebels' Good Folk allies from cold iron, which makes them sick and can kill them. Worse, Keldec now has his own Caller, who is less scrupulous about what he does to the Good Folk he calls. Neryn's beloved Flint, the rebels' double agent, known to his comrades as Owen Swift-Sword, is fed up with his life at court and what he's forced to do as an Enforcer, but has no choice. Can he trust his closest friends in the Enforcers or not? 

The story which has built up over the last two books has come to a dramatic climax. Neryn has to make some decisions she doesn't necessarily like. At the same time, she meets people from the other side whom she can like and respect - even finds herself, at one point, pitying the king and wondering what he might have been like under other circumstances.  She does some unexpected things which provide an interesting twist to the story - I won't say what they are due to spoilers, and how she gets around some of the impossible problems at the end is especially interesting. I wasn't expecting it, though it's not out of character.  

You do tend to forget the heroine is only sixteen, especially in a world where that's an age where you might easily be married, but I think that any teens who have read the other two books will be happy with this one. 

Don't read this without having read the first two books, but if you haven't, I do recommend this series. If you're in Australia, ignore the cover of the first book, which is nice if you have sentimental feelings for old-style children's books(I confess I do), but really doesn't suit a YA novel. Just read it. You won't regret it.

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24. The Interview Of Ambelin Kwaymullina: On Dystopian YA And The Tribe





Today I'd like to welcome the amazing Ambelin Kwaymullina to my blog. I had read both her wonderful novels and heard her speak at Reading Matters before actually meeting her at Continuum X. I'm just a bit envious of her multiple skills - writing, art, craft... And managing to do all that while holding down a full time teaching job! She's also a terrific person. 

If you haven't read any of her fiction, here's my review of The Disappearance Of Ember Crow, but go and read both books NOW!

 I'll let Ambelin speak for herself.


You have said that you started The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf with the title, given to you by your brother. How did you decide what it was to be about?

The story told itself. I heard the first sentence in my head – ‘he was taking me to the machine’ – and everything unwound from there. So I discovered the story in the same way that the reader does.

How long did the novel take to write, given that you have a full time day job to keep you busy?

Hmmm. It’s all a coffee-fuelled blur. 100 years? No, that can’t be right. 12 months. I think. 

Was it always intended as part of a series or did you ever consider it as a standalone?

Nah, I always knew there were four books in the story. I didn’t know quite what was in them – but I knew there were four. 

You feel you have an important story to tell in your Tribe series - why did you decide to use the YA format to tell it?

Because I am writing about someone who will save the world – and at this point in human history, evidence strongly suggests it’s not a grown up who will do it. The collective adults of this earth just don’t seem to be doing a very good job of leaving those who will come after us a better world than the one we inherited. I see the hope of the future in the young. 

How much scientific research did you need to do to build your particular world, in which all the continents are back to Pangaia status? And how did you do it?

I worked in environmental law for quite a few years – so while I did do some research, it was relatively easy because I was building on things I already knew. 

In my novels the world ends in an environmental cataclysm that the survivors refer to as ‘the Reckoning’. The Reckoning was inspired by the 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity (which was issued by 1700 of the world’s leading scientists, including most of the world's Nobel Laureates in the Sciences). It includes this passage:

“Our massive tampering with the world's interdependent web of life -- coupled with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss, and climate change -- could trigger widespread adverse effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand.”

You can read the rest of it online at: http://www.ucsusa.org/about/1992-world-scientists.html  

Did you build your world first or as you went along? 

The world revealed itself to me as I wrote. Of course, I’m seeing it through Ashala’s eyes, and her understandings (especially of political processes) is sometimes imperfect. Plus as it turns out there’s this whole secret history which is known only to a few. As Ashala herself thinks in The Disappearance of Ember Crow, there are layers and layers to the world.

How much revision did you do? Were there any major changes you made before submitting your manuscript?

I went through a lot of drafts – I can’t remember how many – and I made major changes at almost every stage. The overall shape of the story didn’t change, but ALL of the details did!

Do you have any favourite stories? Tell us about them!

Yeah, I’ve got lots and lots and lots…but actually my very favourite story at the moment is written by my brother Zeke. I think as a creator you always most admire the things you can’t do yourself, and (while I can string a rhyme together) I am not a poet. But my brother Zeke writes picture books that are poetry – he’s got one called Dreamers, which includes the following: 

“We are the dream and the dreamers
the rain jumpers and the cloud fliers
the sky sleepers and the earth swimmers
….
we are children wild and hope bright.”

I love those words. 

How much of the story of your series set in the future is inspired by the past?

So much of it is inspired by the past and, unfortunately, the present. I say unfortunately because I am writing of a world where children and teenagers are disempowered and disenfranchised. I drew a lot of the ‘feel’ of that from the experiences of my ancestors under Stolen Generations law and policy. But since the series has come out I’ve found that teenagers of all different backgrounds relate to a sense of powerlessness and injustice. Too many of them relate to it. I am glad that my books are speaking to my readers, but I want a better world for all of them than the one some of them are living in.  

You still have two more books in this series, but any ideas for what might be next after The Tribe?

I have a book in mind - in fact I've written a plan for it. It's YA speculative fiction but very different from the Tribe series. Although like the Tribe it tells a larger story through the individual struggles of the characters, this time about class and privilege. 

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I’m so rarely not writing! But I like to bead. In fact, I love my beads with their shiny surfaces and pretty colours and different shapes…I have literally thousands of them (in my defence some are very small, so its really not that many, they fit in quite a little container…okay, several little containers…okay, a cupboard full. But it’s not a big cupboard. Well, not that big.)

 What was your first sale and how did you celebrate it?

The first book I ever published was a picture book called Crow and the Waterhole, and I went out to lunch at a fancy restaurant. As it turned out it wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had because all the food had names I didn’t understand. Plus there was too much cutlery on the table and I didn’t know what fork to use (pretty sure I got it wrong). To this day I have no idea what I ordered, but I didn’t like it very much.

When my next book was published I went out for a burger.

Thanks for visiting The Great Raven, Ambelin!

 I really do recommend Ambelin's The Tribe series for anyone who loves some difference in their dystopian adventure.

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25. June 28 Meme

Today is my sister Mary's birthday, so I went online to see what happened "on this day" and who was born(apart from Mary, of course). Mary is a writer, though these days mostly articles. She did get a third place in the Scarlet Stiletto Awards some years ago for a very Roald Dahl-style crime story called "Chivas Regal And Me". And because this is a book blog, I thought I'd see if there were many writing-themed events On This Day. Alas, no. I did find the usual battles and killings, the excuse for World War I(assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand), the coronation of Edward IV and the premiere of the ballet Giselle by the Paris Opera Ballet(I saw them when they were in Melbourne years ago - it was a birthday gift from my sister's friend). Well, there have been a lot of books written about all those topics, many of them fiction. Scott Westerfeld wrote a trilogy of Steampunk novels about an alternative WWI with the adventures of a son of Archduke Ferdinand and a girl who had disguised herself as a boy to get into the English flying corps(GM whales). Edward IV has been in fiction since the time of Shakespeare! Giselle has characters out of folklore, the Wilis.

Birthdays? Well, there was the playwright Pirandello, very famous, but I'm not familiar with his work, alas!

There was also Peter Paul Rubens, the artist who painted pictures of large women, such as this one, The Judgement Of Paris(Image from Creative Commons), thus coining the term "Rubeneque".

There was also, I'm afraid, Henry VIII(Creative Commons image)

Well, in his time, he was passionately into music and poetry, I suppose. Pity about the wives, the treatment of his daughters and the  politics.

There was Richard Rodgers in 1902, the wonderful composer of all those musicals, seen in this Creative Commons image with Irving Berlin, his partner Oscar Hammerstein II and choreographer Helen Tamiris.


There's also the wonderful Mel Brooks, creator of so much amazing comedy, but I couldn't find a Creative Commons image of him and don't want to be sued, so just check him up on Google Images.

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