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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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Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 3
1. New Page On The Great Raven(and an update)

Okay, firstly, I've updated the page on the side where it tells you where you can get my books. Now that Crime Time is available in ebook, I fixed that up, adding another website, Boomerang Books, which now has Crime Time in paperback, as well as an interview with me, a very good one, by Julie Fison, a fellow Ford Street writer who writes for Boomerang, as does my friend George Ivanoff. Go check it out here, when you have time.

I have also added a page.

I have spoken to you of the story I wrote as a submission for Fablecroft's Cranky Ladies Of History anthology. It was a story I worked hard on and love. Trouble is, it's historical fiction. It's very difficult these days to sell historical fiction, especially in short form. I know the lovely History Girls did an anthology, but it was only written by their members, all top historical novelists. I was worried about what I'd do with it if it didn't sell. Well, it didn't sell.  Not because it wasn't good enough, but because my heroine might have been transgender, if that's what you call someone who feels like a man trapped in a female body. Personally, I don't think so, with all the research I did, just that she was a girl who wanted to be a doctor and took the only way she could, and I don't think it matters anyway after all these years, but when you have an anthology called Cranky Ladies Of History, I guess you don't want to take a chance that one of the ladies might have been a lad, if a lad who almost certainly had a baby. (Nor could I try for an LGBT anthology, if there was one, because I present her as, well, a her).

But that's publishing for you. No point in getting cranky with the publishers, who will, I have no doubt, produce a fabulous collection. Writers have to develop thick skins to survive.

If this was speculative fiction, I'd simply find another market for it. But it's historical fiction. Right now, there are no other markets for it. It would be a shame to leave a story I put so much work into in the metaphorical bottom drawer, so until there is another market, I'm giving it to you, my readers. I have copied and pasted it into that page for those who just want to read it, and made a basic ePub ebook on Creative Bookbuilder for those of you who'd like it in ebook - just follow the link to Dropbox. Sorry, mobi readers, my app doesn't do mobi. But you can read it online.

Do take a look.

After having been burned by one attempt at historical fiction, I'm about to see if I can produce something usable for Paul Collins, who has kindly invited me to submit historical fiction for his next anthology for children. He really prefers bushranger fiction to stuff set in the sixties or seventies, the era I know best, and he has been very supportive of my writing over the years, so it's off to the library to immerse myself in the Victorian era in Australia, and see what I can come up with. Fingers crossed that this one will happen for me! 

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2. Newest Ford Street Event

If you live in Melbourne and want to hear a couple of great Aussie children's writers/artists, I just got this from my lovely publisher, Paul Collins. It's to be held in their new warehouse(Paul tells me it's not huge, but still...). I haven't seen it yet, myself. The event is on November 14 and all the details are below. Should be a fun evening. I might wander along once I check my calendar to make sure it doesn't clash with anything. This is the booking slip, if you want to fill one out, just go to the Ford Street Publishing web site; Creative Net is the Ford Street speakers agency(I'm on the list, but no one has asked for me yet, dammit!)



An Evening with...

Flyer-10-10-2014

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3. Jenny Mounfield Is Interviewed By Alanah, Gea, Mady, Chloe, Hope, Zoe, Deetroyt and Eric

If you've followed this blog long enough, you will know that I am sometimes able to offer our English students the opportunity to interview some of the wonderful authors of books they read for Literature Circles. We've come a long way from the old style book report and the days when it was really exciting if you could make a book cover. This year's interview is with Jenny Mounfield, author of the very exciting thriller for teens, The Ice-Cream Man. In it, three very silly boys have a go at an ice cream man on a hot summer afternoon, when he doesn't stop for them, and spend the rest of the novel regretting it. But things aren't always what they seem...

Thank you very much, Jenny, for taking time to speak with our students. Because our school is in Sunshine, Victoria, Jenny has kindly added a couple of pictures from her childhood, when she lived there.


The Ice-Cream Man—Q&A



How did you come up with the idea of The Ice-Cream Man?

The idea came from my eldest son, Dan, who was around 13 at the time. We’d recently moved house and Dan had a friend over. The boys decided to go for a walk one lazy Saturday afternoon to check out the neighbourhood. When they came home they told me how they’d played a game of cat and mouse with the ice-cream man: following him from street to street, waving him down and then running off etc. The poor man was quite irate by the end of it, which Dan and Tom thought hilarious – as boys do! I, on the other hand, was horrified, imagining all sorts of dire consequences: What if the ice-cream man had seen where Dan lived and wanted revenge? The next morning I had the plot for The Ice-cream Man firmly fixed in my mind.

Note: The ice-cream man (thankfully) never sought revenge on Dan and Tom.

We heard of Marty in the wheelchair and how that character was based on your son. Can you tell us anything about that?

Since Dan inspired the story, I felt it only fitting one of the characters should be based on him. Like Marty, Dan used to get up to all sorts of mischief in his wheelchair. There was nothing he couldn’t do in that chair. It was only after I’d written the first draft of the story that it occurred to me how important it is to have characters like Marty in books. 

Dan, who is now 24, has cerebral palsy. He’s been in a wheelchair since the age of 10 when surgery on his Achilles tendons didn’t go to plan. Rather than make him more ‘disabled’, the wheelchair gave him a freedom he’d never had before. I hope that Marty changes a few people’s view of what disability is – and isn’t.

What was your favourite part of the book and why?

The climax, of course! I love it when a story comes together.


4. Was The Ice-cream Man based on a true story?

See above.

5.Are your characters based on real people?

Apart from the connection between Marty and Dan, Aaron is loosely based on a boy Dan went to school with (no names).

6. How many other books have you written and can you tell us a little bit about them?

I’ve had three other books for younger kids published: Storm Born, The Black Bandit and Haunted Beach. To varying degrees these three involve supernatural elements. Storm Born features a horse that is made from storm clouds; The Black Bandit is about a crow seeking revenge on a car, and Haunted Beach is about ghosts and spells.



7. What other genre do you like besides thriller?

I love SF - but not too techie – and some fantasy (I’m over swords and dragons). I’m rather partial to a good mystery, too, and anything that can be classified as ‘weird’.

8. What would you say to someone if they wanted to be an author?

Only do it if you love it. Don’t do it because you think it’ll make you rich because odds are it won’t. 

9. Do any other authors inspire you, or used to?

Stephen King and Paul Jennings – both for their incredible imaginations.

10. Are you currently working on any books?

I’m taking a break at the moment. Over the past couple of years I’ve become bogged down with all the technicalities of writing and publication that I lost touch with the magic of simply creating. I’m taking time out this year to paint, which I’m enjoying very much. When I’m ready to write again, I have about a dozen stories at various stages of completion – as well as many new ideas. New story ideas never stop flowing!

11. What inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always LOVED books, but never seriously considered trying to write one until my youngest son was starting school. I felt I needed something to fill my newly empty days and read an ad for a children’s story writing course. It took me awhile to sign up because I was afraid I’d suck at it. But I had a wonderful tutor who encouraged me to keep going until I found success. 

I should note that even if I had never had a story published signing up for that course would still be one of the best decisions I ever made. When we create, whether it’s stories or pictures or cakes, we can’t fail. The act of creation is what matters, not the result.

12. How old were you when you became an author?

I’m living proof that it’s never too late to try something new! I was 39 when I enrolled in the writing course and 44 when my first book, Storm Born was published.





AUTHOR BIO

Jenny Mounfield



Jenny Mounfield lives north of Brisbane with her husband, two of her three grown children and assorted pets. She spent most of her childhood travelling around Australia, living everywhere from Lord Howe Island to Darwin. 

Jenny has published four novels for young readers—Storm Born, The Black Bandit, The Ice-cream Man and Haunted Beach—and had a number of short stories included in Pearson and Ford St anthologies.


Jenny at primary school in Sunshine.


Jenny's old home in Sunshine.

If you want to buy The Ice-Cream Man, here's the Ford Street link.

 http://www.fordstreetpublishing.com/ford/index.php/ford-street-titles/books/140-the-ice-cream-man

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4. Getting In Touch With Well Known Writers In The Days After Snail Mail


Many, many years ago, when the Internet was unknown, I found a wonderful book directory to children's writers. Many of the bios featured a mailing address. I sent a letter - not an email - to Susan Cooper, author of The Dark Is Rising series, who was a huge name in those days. She replied. The typewriter was manual and the print a bit pale. As a children's writer, she was used to being in contact with her fans. I have to say, things have changed even with her since then. She has a profile on Goodreads, but you can only become a fan, not a friend. You can't contact her any more. Perhaps she can't cope with all the fan mail any more or maybe she is simply fed up with emails from yet another PhD candidate doing a thesis on her work. 

I don't really blame her, if that's the case, though there are other children's writers who have found ways around the hugeness that is the Internet and stayed connected with their young fans. Tamora Pierce, for example. You can still friend her, and unlike many other writers who are only on Goodreads and Twitter because their publishers advised them to have a social media profile,  but don't actually write about the books they read or do any tweeting, she blogs and reviews books by other people. Plenty of Australian children's writers still communicate, too many to list here. Barbara Hambly has a Livejournal, as does George R.R.Martin(and I got a response to a comment even from him once). 

Some folk say, "I can write more books or I can communicate, not both." Some can theoretically be contacted via their agents, but only theoretically. Agents make their money on their clients' sales. If a client had to reply to the people who read their books, they would have less time to write more stuff or appear at writers' festivals and make money for themselves and, through them, their agents. I totally get that. 

I just don't think it's very polite to ignore reasonable inquiries or, at best, reply and tell the inquirer to piss off. One such agent replied to my inquiry a few years back. I found another writer for my wonderful student Selena to interview, one who was just as well known, but checked his own web site and was willing at least to hear what I had to say. 

It feels weird, in this day and age, to think that it's harder to contact some writers than it was back in the days when you could only make contact by snail mail. If nothing else, you could write to their publishers, who would pass it on. 

In the last couple of years, I have been able to arrange for interviews for several of my students with the authors of books they had read and loved in Literature Circles. Last year, the delightful Felice Arena answered questions from our kids, making one young man so happy that he carried around a printout of the blog post for weeks. Li Cunxin, author of Mao's Last Dancer, who had a ballet to direct and a tour to organise, nevertheless responded to questions by some other students. True gentlemen both! I wouldn't have blamed them if they'd said no, but they said yes.

This year, I have been able to arrange for an interview with Jenny Mounfield, author of The Ice-Cream Man, a children's thriller published by Ford Street(Stand by!).

But two of my other students, very good readers and intelligent kids, have asked to interview a well known US writer who has a Twitter account(nine tweets, all on the one day, then never again), who writes for a big name US newspaper, who is on the books of a speaker agency. He has a Goodreads profile, but no friends and no books, just an option to be his fan. I could understand a no, though I'd be disappointed, but no reply at all? That is just rude! 

I have emailed on their behalf to his publisher, his agency, his newspaper. I have even tweeted. So far, no response, not even a "piss off, he's too busy". 

I will have to tell the kids to do something else, though they have, just in case, prepared some good questions.

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5. Stalking Book Bloggers


Yesterday I tried to make a comment on a blog I enjoy, the cheerful YA Yeah Yeah, published by Jim Dean, a gentleman who likes YA mainstream fiction, though he does occasionally review genre fiction. (A blog I highly recommend, btw, check it out at www.yayeahyeah.com) I have always been able to comment on this blog, but I received a message saying that you could only comment if you were part of the "team". As Jim and I follow each other on Twitter I sent him a Direct Message, asking what was happening, and he explained that he had switched off comments because of a recent incident where an author upset over a bad review had actually stalked a reviewer! He seems to have even deleted his contact details on the blog.

Now, Jim doesn't do bad reviews; he only reviews books he likes, as "recommendations". But there are some scary people out there, who might take offence at the mildest criticism. I've had some strange folk submitting comments to this blog, though I don't publish them these days. My comments setting is on "moderation" so comments are published when I've had a look at them. So far, though, it's only been weird, not abusive, and I certainly haven't been stalked.  In some cases I even published the comments until they were just too much. There was one writer who complained and argued about some things I said in my review. It wasn't a bad review, because like Jim, I mostly stick to books I like - life is too short to finish books I hate and I'd have to do that to review them fairly. I just said what I thought about certain aspects of the book that made no sense to me. This wasn't good enough for that author, who argued with me. I published the comments, but I won't be reviewing anything by that author again. As she's a well known writer, she probably doesn't need my publicity, but it all helps, doesn't it? So not a good idea on her part.

At least she didn't  phone me up or turn up at my home, let alone write an article about it for the Guardian!

I'm a writer. I will admit to hating some of the reviews on Goodreads. My own books have been subject to extreme rudeness now and then from people who have read about eight pages. I've seen people giving five star ratings to books that haven't been published yet. Now, that is weird! So is giving a one star rating without reading a book. By all means, say you refuse to read something, but if you haven't read it, don't rate it.

I know at least one reviewer who said horrible things about a particular book, then read not one but both the sequels and was rude about those too - really, would you read a sequel to a book you hated? I wouldn't. I came to the conclusion that this particular reviewer enjoyed saying witty things about the books she hated and having around 1000 admiring comments from her followers.

But hey, you need a thick skin to survive in this occupation. As a slush reader, I have come across whinges and whines on author blogs and writer forums about those horrible people at ASIM who were rude about their babies when they rejected their works of genius. Get over it, guys! Grow a thicker skin and just submit somewhere else, or you might have an even harder time when you do have something published.

The thing is, when I was growing up, there was no Internet. Books were reviewed in newspapers and magazines by professionals. Now, anyone can be a reviewer, just as  anyone can be a published writer. It's a different world. We just have to live with it and hopefully we can do that while remaining civil to each other.

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6. Of Grammar And Communication

There was an article on grammar in yesterday's Melbourne newspaper, the Age - no point  putting in a link as you have to be a subscriber to read most Age items online. The comments section has now closed, so I thought I'd put in my penny's worth here instead. It's all about writing, after all

The author made the very good point that, however you feel about it, grammar is about communication. A lot of once-ironclad rules have been dropped over the years. Few people these days worry about ending a sentence on a preposition or starting a sentence with a conjunction. I know I don't. These days, who cares if you use "their" with "everyone" instead of the awkwardness of "his or her"? And there is, of course, the most famous split infinitive of all time - "to boldly go" ! It's poetic. In that particular case "to go boldly" would be jarring. They did fix the political incorrectness of "where no man has gone before", of course, with the almost as poetic "where no one has gone before" (strictly speaking, it's still politically incorrect, because of all the non-humans living on those planets the Enterprise visits, so clearly, someone has gone there before, but you can't keep a good line down, so stuff correctness!)

I hated the dullness of doing grammar from the textbook when I was at school, because I was good at it. I was naturally good at it. I couldn't explain why you said this instead of that. Heck, I couldn't even tell you the definition of a dangling participle till about five minutes ago. I still can't explain it, though examples are good. The Dictionary.com example is: "Plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge, we saw Yosemite Falls." You can see why it's not a good idea to write this unless you're writing about a bunch of tourists noticing things as they fall into a gorge, just before they go splat at the bottom. It's not something I would ever write, myself, because it doesn't make sense, does it? 

Most people, though, aren't naturally good at it. And many would not see anything weird in that sentence about the suicidal tourists. I'm betting most of my Year 8 students wouldn't. They would say, "But we know what that sentence means, Miss," and they probably would, damn them! 

That doesn't mean it's okay to get it wrong. In the end, it is about communication. Everyone has to be able to get it. Everyone includes grammar nazis and also people for whom English is another language. We need to have an agreed set of rules if we want to be able to teach the language to others. We should be able to break them sometimes, but only if we know what we're doing. You have to know what the rules are before you can break them confidently. If you break them just because you don't know them, that's when you're not communicating. 

It's kind of hard to teach grammar, though, especially if you're naturally good at it. You can't explain. You just know what makes sense and what doesn't.

And then there are the textbooks. There are textbooks now which look cute and child-friendly and aren't. The textbook formerly used at my school is one of them. I hardly used it when it was on the book list, because you had to explain the contents of each page before the kids could do it. I used it only when I felt guilty - they had paid for it, after all. 

The other day, I had to look after the Year 8 ESL students, whose teacher was absent. She had left them work, but some didn't have the worksheet, for some reason. An obliging colleague gave me a page from the Year 7 textbook. I also had to look after my integration student, who just couldn't do the writing the rest of the class was doing, so I offered him the textbook page the ESL students were doing. He looked at it and said,"It's too hard!"  And, looking at it again, I realised that, for him, it was. 

Nevertheless, you do have to get grammar right if you want everyone to understand you. That said, there are some differences between English-speaking countries. Americans, for example, say, "of a" when the rest of us just say, "a". I know that for them, it's correct(just as it's correct to pronounce "herbs" as "erbs") but it drives me nuts when I get it in my slushpile. 

And then there's spelling. A lot of kids spell texting style. When you text someone, the more characters you use, the more it costs, so you text "Wot r u doing?" and when you aren't texting, you will probably write the same way out of habit. However, there are also rules in text(or txt?) speak. You have terms such as LOL and ROTFL which everyone understands. I have heard of someone,unfamiliar with these rules, who texted LOL meaning "lots of love" not "laugh out loud". This was not a good idea, as the person was sending a condolence to a friend who had just lost a family member!    

See? Communication! 

I teach literacy four mornings a week and have to explain to my students that when they do their spelling test after we've finished a word list, they must listen carefully to the sentence in which I put each word, because there are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and mean completely different things. Mind you, I sometimes have to explain also that the rules of spelling are often messy and nearly always have exceptions, probably because of all the different people who invaded Britain over the centuries and left their own marks on the language. I tell them that sometimes you just have to know it.

But don't forget that spelling has changed over the centuries and at one time people didn't worry too much about it at all. Just look at a poem in Middle English to see what I mean. Or at Shakespeare that hasn't been fiddled with by modern editors.

And then there's American spelling, which is yet another kettle of fish. I won't go into that here, because it would take a post of its own!

What do you think? Is grammar and spelling important for communication?

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7. Look What I Got! My Contributor's Copy!

Look what I have just picked up from the PO!


Isn't it lovely? My first sale for the year(so far my only - still waiting to hear about the others...)

And here's the page with my name on it.


I don't care how many sales I make, it's always, always exciting to see a printed page with your story and your name  on it. 

And lastly, here is the illo, done by the amazing David Allan, a regular artist for Christmas Press and me of the three who run it.


A great book, with stuff by a mixture of new and established writers. Buy it! 

Thank you to Sophie Masson,who invited me to submit something, and to the editor, Beattie Alvarez,and the   rest of the Chrissie press bunch.

If you want to know more, look them up on www.christmaspress.com.au

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8. Bloggers Like Me And Marketing Companies

I have had three inquiries in the last two days from marketers paid by "indy" writers to organise blog tours for them. I've deleted all the inquiries without reply because they didn't bother to read my guidelines, such as checking their market. 

Well, they don't. Time - their time, not yours - is money. Like spammers, they figure if they send their inquiry to 1000 blogs, at least some will reply. And they're probably right about that. I'm just one of the many who won't.

I've seen these websites when, out of curiosity, I followed a link or looked them up after deleting their inquiry. They have scales of payment according to the services offered. Bug 100 blogs for you, $275. Pester 1000, $500. Organise fifty blog tours for you... And so on. If the inquiries I've had over the years are any indication, they don't do a very good job. 

Things have changed a lot since I started writing and being published. Promotions and marketing are HUGE now, since anybody and everybody can and does publish, even if they have to do it themselves. Services flow in to fill the space. It must be a bit like running a shop on the goldfields - why go and dig for gold that might never turn up when you can make definite money selling to the diggers?

Of course, goldfield shopkeepers had to supply the product or they ran the risk of being bashed up by crotchety diggers. Whereas many of these businesses don't. You can't get bashed up on the Internet, can you? Though you might just get a mention on such web sites as Writer Beware... And you have to be able to wade through them to find out which are value for money. Personally, if I was a self publisher I'd rather spend my money on a decent editor and a great cover artist and do my own marketing. Goodness knows, even as someone who doesn't self publish, I have to do quite a lot of marketing myself, because publishers don't bother with you any more once the book is out. The only publisher I have ever had which gave me ongoing support is Ford Street, a small press. And even Ford Street can't do everything. 

I don't always get responses myself, even though I do the right thing - I check out the potential blog "market", I email personally. Once, when I did send out a group email, I apologised to the bloggers, explaining it was a matter of urgency, but assuring them I had checked all of them out carefully before choosing them to approach. I think I heard from about three out of several. 

When I do reply, it's because the inquirer has done the right thing, addressing me by name, mentioning the name of my blog and showing me they have read my guidelines. Even if my answer is no, I am always polite and sometimes suggest another blog that might work better for them.

And I do get some interesting requests. Recently I heard from a young blogger, a girl of fourteen(about the age of my Year 8 students) who's blogging about classic novels and is a Tolkien freak. She asked me for a review of something by one of a list of classic writers, because she was doing a section on her blog about this and had noticed I do these things. I sent her a copy of a post I did on this site about one of Rosemary Sutcliff's books. When I hear from her that the post is live I will put the link up here. If I don't hear from her again because her mother is making her do her homework instead of blogging or school has started or whatever, well, it was an interesting experience and her blog is very pretty. 

Sometimes I offer a guest post to someone who has done the right things, but whose book I really don't have time to read, or who lives in the US or wherever, from which postage is just too much, since it's my policy not to review ebooks. I ask them to give me a post which is more than just a press release. When they send me a post that does it right - tells me about the author and why they wrote the book and what they had in mind and maybe the research they had to do - it makes a great post. When they ignore my request and send me a press release - usually via the marketing company they have hired -  I say no. My readers deserve better when they visit this site than advertising. I have unfollowed a few blogs that started off promising but whose posts  ended up as pure advertising. 

So it's rarely that I respond to professional marketing companies. Sometimes, yes, when they follow the guidelines, but rarely. I know they're just doing their job, but there's something heartless about this procedure.

What do you think? What would it take for you to employ a marketing company? 


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9. On This Day: September 30 Meme

What happened:

Lots of battles! Too many, in my opinion. Never mind

1399: Henry IV, the subject of a lot of literature(Three plays by Shakespeare, if you count Richard II, plenty of novels) is proclaimed King of England.

1791: First performance of Mozart's gorgeous opera, The Magic Flute. There's also a Marion Zimmer Bradley novel inspired by it.  Being MZB, of course, she had to be terribly serious about it. Can't recall the title.

1955: Death of young actor James Dean, at the start of a promising career. Jack Dann's novel, The Rebel, is an alternative universe tale in which he survived.

Birthdays:

1913 Screenwriter Bill Walsh. Never heard of him? Well, if you saw Walt Disney movies in your childhood, you've probably seen at least one of his films. The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel, Son Of Flubber. Mary Poppins. The Love Bug. Bedknobs And Broomsticks. And more.

1924 Truman Capote. I bet you've heard of him, even if you've never read his work. I have just learned that he was not only a childhood friend of Harper Lee, he was the inspiration for the character of Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird and some of his experiences were written into the novel.

There are some writers, including a number of spec fic writers but I haven't heard of them, so I'll add one death, in 1987, Alfred Bester, a big name spec fic writer, who was honoured in Babylon 5, by having a villain named after him, the Psi-Cop Alfred Bester. The telepath situation in the series is similar to that in his fiction.

And today, never mind what the Blogger date says, is International Blasphemy Day, when you are encouraged to go and say something rude about religion! :-)





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10. Vale Eugie Foster! (Reposted from the ASIM blog)

In yesterday's ASIM list, I read the sad news below. I posted it to the official ASIM blog, but thought it might also be worth posting it here. Eugie isn't the first ASIM writer to pass away in the last year. We also lost the delightful Gitte Christensen, who will, I hope, be the subject of another post.

Sad news this time. Sorry to hear that Eugie Foster (an author we published in ASIM) has lost her fight with cancer.

bests

Eds
__________________________________________________________________________________________
Eugie Foster, author, editor, wife, died on September 27th of respiratory failure at Emory University in Atlanta.
In her forty-two years, Eugie lived three lifetimes. She won the Nebula award, the highest award for science fiction literature, and had over one hundred of her stories published. She was an editor for the Georgia General Assembly. She was the director of the Daily Dragon at Dragon Con, and was a regular speaker at genre conventions. She was a model, dancer, and psychologist. She also made my life worth living.
Memorial service will be announced soon.
We do not need flowers. In lieu of flowers, please buy her books and read them. Buy them for others to read until everyone on the planet knows how amazing she was.
--Matthew M. Foster (husband)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Issues of ASIM in which Eugie appeared:

Issue 14 Body And Soul Art
Issue 18 The Life And Times Of Penguin
Issue 37 The Better To...

The first on the list, from an issue edited by Zara Baxter, is still available on the web, including in ebook, so it must have been a story of which she was proud. The third story is one I got in slush. It's a futuristic version of Little Red Riding Hood, as I recall, though not played for laughs, with a male RRH character.

Condolences to the family - and to the spec fic community, who have lost far too many storytellers in recent years.

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11. On This Day: September 27: A Birthday Meme For Jonah!

Today is my great-nephew Jonah's third birthday. When he was born, I couldn't get the "Jonah-Man Jazz" out of my head and found it on YouTube. 

But today, my dearest Jonah, I will find some famous events and birthdays for you. Not all of them are going to be book-related, since there are so few, but all of them will be interesting - and as colourful as I can find.

On This Day: 

1066 - William of Normandy sets off to conquer England. (They'll teach you all this in Year 8)

1822 - Jean-Francois Champollion announces he's translated the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone was a stone found in Egypt that had three forms of writing on it - Greek, Egyptian "demotic" script and hieroglyphics. Now, in those days they could read Ancient Greek and demotic script, but not hieroglyphics. It was nothing very exciting, just something about the new king, but the thing is, it was the same decree in both the known scripts, so Champollion figured the hieroglyphs probably said the same thing. Tad da! Code cracked! Ever since then, when someone mentions that "this is the Rosetta Stone of..." whatever, it's about code cracking.

1905 - First publication of a blues song, this one called "Memphis Blues"

1998 - Google is launched! 

Birthdays On This Day

John Marsden, author of the Tomorrow When The War Began series and lots more. How cool is THAT! 

Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, which was turned into a classic movie. 

And because I couldn't find any other writers I'd heard of, I'm slotting in an actor, Greg Morris, who played the technician Barney in the original Mission Impossible series - his son was in the remake, which was filmed here in Australia, as Barney's son, and his Dad made an guest appearance in the series as Barney.

Today is also World Tourism Day, which is kind of nice, since Jonah's Dad, my nephew Mark, is a travel agent when he isn't performing with his rock band or composing new songs. This year's theme is Tourism And Community Development. 

Happy birthday, Jonah!


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12. To Kill A Mockingbird Now Digital!

And I have bought it from iBooks!

I was thinking abut wat I might read for Banned Books Week before it's quite over when I suddenly remembered tat this amazing book is now available in digital form. Wondering if it was out yet, I opened iBooks at a bus stop... And there it was!

This is a book of which I will never tire. The students at my school do ask for it now and then. The only copy we had was a battered old paperback with the same yellow colour as it had when I was in my teens.

I must add it to my shopping list.

I know that some of my favourite students who had to study it didn't like it, which is a pity, but one of them, Ryan, chose it for his Banned Books Week reading - and he read it well and chose a very good bit that said something of what the book is about.

It's about so many things - not only racism, but growing up - and it's not only sad, it's funny and gentle and it also makes a point about prejudice against people who are simply different.

In The Help, one of the maids, who ges to clean at the home of a woman who has been snubbed by the community. By the bedside, she finds a copy of Mockingbird, which was new at te time hen the vl is set.

It also has mentions in various other books, such as another wonderful banned book my students were loving, The Perks Of Bring A Wallflower, in which the hero is reading a bunch of classics as extensions English. Even if I didn't like the book, I'd be pleased at how many classics are discussed in this one.

And there's a cheeky reference to the film in Pleasantville - no, I won't ell you, get yourself a copy from the video library and watch.

Any other Mockingbird fans out there?

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13. ASIM 60 Is Now Up!


Okay, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, the issue I edited, has actually been out since June, when we took it to Continuum 10, the Natcon. But you could only get it at conventions, because the ebook was not yet done and until the book version was available, it couldn't go up on the ASIM website, in the shop.  

I am so very pleased. I have already informed my contributors, some of whom wanted to update their websites, some who wanted to let their family and friends buy copies. 

Anyway, it's a gorgeous issue. The cover is inspired by a story in the issue, "Callista's Delight", and shows the planet Mars in the first steps of being terraformed. The artist, Eleanor Clarke, offered me three possible covers, but this was the most breathtakingly beautiful. 

The stories and internal art(by award winner and all round nice guy Lewis Morley) are also amazing. 





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14. Marianne De Pierres - Spec Fic Masterclass In Melbourne And Geelong

I have only just heard about this from someone on the Andromeda Spaceways list. If you write speculative fiction or have ambitions in that direction and live in Melbourne, you might like to try Marianne De Pierres's Masterclass this weekend. It will be on in Geelong on Saturday and at Melbourne's Wheeler Centre, which is at the side/ back of the State Library in the city. It's $180 for an all-day workshop, well worth doing.

I first met Marianne at the Aussiecon 3 writers' workshop, where we all had to send in 4500 words of a work in progress, read it and discuss. I missed a lot of that workshop because I had to go off and arrange Terry Pratchett's talk to the children, but I do remember how nice she was. She has since visited my school for free and talked to my book club and popped up stuff about it on her web site.

And is a big name local writer who has created some amazing worlds from cyberpunk to space opera to YA dystopia. Onya, Marianne!

Do go if you can!

Here's the link for you - you can book online.

http://writersvictoria.org.au/what-s-on/event/spec-fic-masterclass/

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15. Vale Notions Unlimited!

Years ago, I used to go regularly to my favourite SF bookshop, Space Age, where I bought some of the books that are among my most prized possessions, and recordings that would probably be worth a mint on eBay these days.

When that closed, we eventually got Slow Glass on the same site. Slow Glass, like Space Age, was a shop where SF fans could congregate before meetings, where writers would sometimes come to do signings. It was brighter and less musty than Space Age.

That too closed when the landlord tripled the rent, as they tend to do when they want to get rid of a tenant and replace them with a fast food joint; the owner, Justin Ackroyd, did open a small shop somewhere in the suburbs, which I never saw and which was open odd hours according to who had to look after the child at the time. Justin is still in business but online and at conventions, where I have to say he always brings my books.

Still, it's not a bookshop. And much as I love my ebooks, there is something about browsing in a shop that downloading just can't match.

For a while, there was Of Science And Swords in the CBD - gone.

But then, out in the suburbs again, was the wonderful Notions Unlimited, run by that very funny man, Chuck McKenzie. I couldn't go regularly, because it was in the outer suburbs. But whenever I went, I'd buy $80 or so worth of books, if not more. It was like having Slow Glass back. It had a lot of classics, some small press books and non fiction which I bought eagerly. There was a Dalek and a comfy chair area around a coffee table where games were played on the weekends.

This is the thing about fans. I don't know about the game players at NU, who were, after all, doing what they had been invited to do and no doubt bought plenty of books, but quite often, when a place becomes a centre for fannish gatherings,  the fans gather and socialise and don't actually buy anything. And it's not that they have no money, more likely that they spent it on something else, somewhere  else.  Games. The latest season of their favourite TV show.  Something on eBay. Or they simply couldn't be bothered waiting for an ordered book to arrive, when they could get it quicker online.

Now this wonderful shop is closed, with no plans to reopen anywhere else, and it's our fault for not supporting a local business. Even friends I urged to go along and try it didn't want to bother travelling to that side of the city, though it was close to the station.

It had been in trouble for a while and I admit I always wondered how long it would last in that
location. In the suburbs, you can't discover a shop you wander past, you have to go there - and this
one was in an arcade. You had to know it was there.

Still, a lot of us did know it was there.  And now it's not and all we have left is Minotaur, which is just too big and commercial for my tastes. It used to be a fannish shop, but no longer.

Maybe that's why it has survived.

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16. This Weeks Downloads, Especially Freebies!

It's amazing what you can get free, legally, on the Internet's book sites. Would you believe there are items on Project Gutenberg that you would never have thought were out of copyright?

I have been able to download early novellas by the likes of Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber and Harry Harrison.  Do you like the Stainless Steel Rat, Slippery Jim DiGriz? There's a story called "The Misplaced Battleship" on Gutenberg. I also found his short story "The Repairman".  There are some Fritz Leiber stories I have read and loved before and am pleased to have in ebook form, "The Big Time" and "No Great Magic". I have both of these in a collection somewhere on my shelves, but it's nice to be able to carry them around on my cybershelves. I've also found some I'd never heard of. Can't wait to read them!

There are, of course, the classics. I found an Andrew Lang book I didn't know about - Lang did all those fairy books back in the nineteenth century and I have his edition of Kirk's Secret Commonwealth of Elves(I did have to pay for that one a while back, but it was worth it - you could read it online, but I prefer ebooks). This one is called Helen Of Troy;  I've been back in the mood for  things Trojan since my nephew Mark rang me last week, asking for evidence of the Trojan War, to help with an assignment he was doing for uni. I found him some good web sites and then felt hungry for Trojan War stuff myself.

There's The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I'm having great fun rereading. It has occurred to me that both Percy and Marguerite are blonde, something I've never seen in any film version - the closest was the telemovie with Anthony Andrews, who is blonde, and Jane Seymour, who isn't, but made a lovely Marguerite. Mr Andrews, incidentally, is the only actor who's played Ivanhoe who fits Walter Scott's description of the character. That was a great telemovie, by the way. It was generally well-cast, in my opinion, with Olivia Hussey as a gorgeous Rebecca, Sam Neill as Brian De Bois-Gilbert, James Mason as Isaac of York, Lysette Anthony as a wonderfully whining Rowena and Athelstane played perfectly by the actor who played Arthur's Saxon foster brother Cei in Arthur Of The Britons. And a Robin Hood who could have done his own Robin Hood movie.

I've downloaded John Buchan's The Thirty Nine Steps, which I read years ago. It will make a fun reread. And Andre Norton's All Cats Are Gray, which came with the original SF magazine cover.

It's worth looking in the iBooks store because there's often a first-of-a-series offered free temporarily by publishers. I managed to get hold of Kerry Greenwood's first Corinna Chapman novel, Earthly Delights, which was being offered free that week. I have it, I've read it, but this is a series I read and reread. There was a first of a series Jessica Shirvington novel being offered free this week. This is an  author I haven't read, but our students like her, so time to check her out.

This week I discovered why the University of Adelaide web site is able to offer free ebooks of Joephine Tey's books: they're out of copyright in Australia. The books are not the best; the covers don't show title or author and the text is crude. But they're free if you live here and better than Australian Gutenberg, which doesn't offer mobi or ePub, only HTML which you have to read online, text or zipped versions which you have to unzip and can then read in Pages. There are ways to convert, but too much bother.

The Baen web site is worth checking out. It offers some ebooks by their authors free. These are mostly temporary, so good to go back now and then to see what's up.

I did buy some books this week. I'm enjoying the Agatha Raisin whodunnits, by MC Beaton, who aso wrote Hamish Macbeth, and also bought Keith Roberts' Pavane, through SF Gateway, a project that is digitalising quite a few classics.

A nice haul this week!


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17. On This Day: A September 20 Birthday Meme

For me, in the Southern Hemisphere, it's September 20, though Blogger, a Northern Hemisphere program, will stick September 19 above this post. Ignore it. I'm going to write about September 20, okay? 

There is no real literary-related stuff happening on September 20 in history, so here is the closest I can get: on this day, the Greeks defeated the Persians in the Battle of Salamis, in 480 BCE. A lot of stuff has been written about that, starting with Herodotus, the "Father of History" and one of the veterans of that battle was Aeschylus, one of the big three playwrights of ancient Athens. 

There's plenty more if you like wars, plagues, suicide bombings and such, plus a mention of the creation of the first petrol-fuelled car, leading to the great age of pollution and fights over oil that we all know and love, but I might skip it. I only mentioned Salamis because there was a famous writer fighting in it. 

Let's get on to the birthdays.  


There was Arthur, Prince of Wales, born in 1486, to Elizabeth of York and that nasty man Henry VII. Imagine how much would never have been written if the poor boy had survived to become king instead of his brother Henry VIII! I mean, really. The history of Europe would have been so very different, whether for good or ill. A lot of people writing about the reign of Henry would never have had the chance. For starters, no Wolf Hall and Bringing Up The Bodies. ;-). No Six Wives Of Henry VIII. No Anne Boleyn websites. No opera Anna Bolena. Though, knowing Henry, he would have found his own ways to power, even if he was just the kid brother of King Arthur. And maybe Alison Weir and Hilary Mantel would have found plenty of material about the reign of Arthur to inspire them. Still, we'd have missed a lot of literary enjoyment.

Then there's Steve Gerber, a big man in the world of comic book writing, specifically Marvel comics. He's dead, alas, but did a lot during his lifetime, quite apart from his creation Howard the Duck. He has an entry in Wikipedia if you want to look him up for his long list of works.

Today, September 20, is also the birthday of George R R Martin, author of the great mediaeval epic fantasy soap opera The Game Of Thrones! If you don't know about him, you have been hiding under a rock. Who would have thought when I read the first novel of the series back when it first came out, that t would go on to be so huge? To be honest, while I do like it - it has such a wonderful feel of grubby "real" Middle Ages - there are other books of his I like better. 


One of them, Fevre Dream is unlikely ever to be made into a TV series, unless they want something to follow up GOT once it's finished. There are some hints on the Internet that they might be able to get some interest in a film rather than a series. I'll believe that when I see it.  It's standalone, not too thick, and it has vampires in it, but Martin's vampires are a race, not undead. One of them who is tired of killing, has come up with a formula that will enable vampires to avoid drinking human blood. He orders a magnificent paddle-steamer built so he can travel up the Mississippi river finding other vamps with his attitude to join him. It's set in the pre Civil War era because, as Martin said at a Melbourne con I attended, it was a time when slaves could be killed easily without anyone asking questions. Another Martin book I like better than GOT is the delicious Tuf Voyaging, a series of connected short stories set in a seed ship travelling through space, with the title character and his many cats. A good book for SF reading cat lovers!




It's also the birthday of Keith Roberts, author of the wonderful alternative universe novel Pavane, a classic of AU fiction, which starts with the assassination of Queen Elizabeth I and goes on to speculate on a world in which the Church rules.

Today is the birthday of the totally un-writing-related Sophia Loren, but what the heck! Such a beautiful woman and fine actress!

There are a number of Christian feast days, but it's also the seventh day of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which play a big part in literature. Mary Renault's The King Must Die is in there, among others. That's a wonderful book I first read when I was about twelve. My copy is falling apart. I'm holding out for the ebook which isn't yet on iBooks, though some of her other books are.

So, what do you think of this day in history? 

 

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18. Crime Time Is Now An Ebook!



This evening I had an email from my publisher, Paul Collins of Ford Street Publishing, to say that you can now buy Crime Time:Australians Behaving Badly from Amazon, both in paperback and for Kindle. Yay! About time! 



Apparently, if you buy it in paperback from Amazon, they'll sell you the ebook much cheaper. 
Not sure how many people would want to buy both but hey, you can always give the paperback 
as a gift to the child in your life and enjoy the ebook yourself. 
If you prefer ePub, iBooks already 
has it in this part of the world and I imagine the US page 
will be  taking pre-orders already and selling in a few days - 
Paul assured me it would be up on iBooks -presumably
 the US iBooks page - soon. 

I'm quite excited. This is one book that I worked my guts out on and for which I had such high hopes 
and it made so few sales it never earned back its advance despite excellent reviews and the fact that 
when kids saw it, they wanted it. Not sure how well it will do in the US, where it's likely to 
get banned for violence(well, it IS a history of crime, what are you expecting, fairies and butterflies?). 

But the thing is, neither bookshops nor the distributor website knew what to do with it or where to put it. The cover, which was designed by Grant Gittus, who did the posters for the Word Science Fiction Convention, is simply gorgeous, but it made the book end up in adult  true crime. I remember asking in Borders for the section on crime and the young salesman saying,"What, in the CHILDREN'S section?" On the distributor's website it was under non fiction. Even my local library put it in the wrong section till I told them it was a children's book. 

So this new thing gives me some hope that there will be a new lot of reviews, including some overseas. And maybe some sales.

There's a sample chapter on this site(check out the side of this page) both in HTML and in ePub, in case you want to see what you're getting - well, you can do that on iBooks anyway, and Amazon gives you a peek inside too. But this is a favourite chapter of mine, about the April Fool's Day blunder by two dimwitted robbers.

I will probably do a Goodreads giveaway to celebrate even though I have had little luck with giveaways in the past. 

I also have some great bookmarks, both Crime Time and Wolfborn, for consolation prizes.

What do you think? Should I do another giveaway? 


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19. Browsing My Old Trek Fanzines


Anyone reading this who knows me personally or has been following this blog for long enough will be aware that I was once a writer of media fan fiction - Star Trek (mostly the original series, though I did write a few crossovers when the first spinoff came out. Just a few.  And that was because original-series characters sometimes appeared in STNG). Blake's 7, a series fondly remembered by anyone old enough to have seen it and probably unknown to others, except the occasional child named Cally, Dayna or whoever, after a character in the show. One or two Dr Who stories. Quite a few based on the fantasy series Robin Of Sherwood, though I was put off the fan fic of that universe when so many writers got enthusiastically into The White Goddess for their inspiration. I mean, I love The White Goddess, but you can overdo it. And most of them really hadn't done their research. I at least did. And when I published my own Robin Of Sherwood fanzine, Under The Greenwood Tree, I asked a contributor to rewrite just a bit to fix a glaring historical inaccuracy. 

But mostly Star Trek. Today I found an issue of the Austrek club fanzine, SPOCK, which was published until Paramount started to close down fanzines based on the series, in countries where there wasn't the loophole that allowed other countries to continue publishing. While Gene Roddenberry was alive, he allowed it, unofficially. But he was dead.

This one, #57, was edited by Wendy Purcell, a fine artist in the club. In the centre is an art portfolio, by her and others, dedicated to the issue's theme, "the women of Star Trek". I had a story in it, in case you're wondering. It was inspired by the episode "The Enemy Within" in which Captain Kirk is split into two separate people, one totally good, but wimpy, one totally nasty but decisive. My version was set in the nasty Mirror Universe.

I thought it might be fun to go through the table of contents and see who has gone on to bigger and better things.

Helen Sargeant, now known as Helen Patrice, contributed a short piece called "Beginnings". Helen later wrote quite a bit for a women's magazine, Australian Women's Forum. Okay, it was a DIRTY women's magazine - Helen always said that she was good at this particular form of writing and they paid well. Why not? More recently, she has released two volumes of science fiction poetry. Helen was a regular contributor to SPOCK and we even co-edited an issue once.

Tracey Oliphant eventually sold a five book fantasy series under the name Kate Jacoby(there was already a Tracey Oliphant on the publisher's books). Her contribution to this issue was called simply "Chess".

Geoff Allshorn isn't a writer as such these days, but is working on a Master's degree in history.

Robert Jan, another regular contributor, whose work in this issue is in the art portfolio,  concentrates on costuming, at which he is very good. He also has a long-running radio show about SF on community radio and interviewed me when Wolfborn came out. I think he may have had some art in the revised, updated edition of the Star Trek Concordance. His partner, Gail Adams, is also a wonderful artist. She has some illustrations in this issue and did the cover. Gail is also a costumer, who  produces costumes good enough to wear in the street. Both of them are well known in the fan community.

The biggest success is George Ivanoff who, after doing around sixty books for the education publishing industry, is gradually making a mark in the trade industry. In other words, he's making a living out of his writing, something rare in Australia. 

Art was contributed by Marianne Plumridge, some of whose paintings I am lucky enough to own. She married a well-known American cover artist and moved to the States, where she makes money out of her own artwork. 

There are others, in other issues, but this is the one I happen to have on me.

I love fan fiction, though not so much what I've read in recent years. Many of my high school students are regular readers of fan fiction online and some write their own. It's nice to know the old, old tradition is continuing and wonderful how much more you can read now, in any universe you like, but it's just not the same. I'm sorry, it's not. I loved the entire process of putting together a fanzine or picking up one at SF events or even from overseas. It was a community thing in a way it isn't now. I'd receive my contributor's copy fanzine and curl up in bed with it to read the latest adventures of whoever the characters were. I think these days the equivalent - at least here in Australia - is the small press stalls you see at every con.

To be honest, the fact that you CAN get so much fan fiction now is as much of a disadvantage as a good thing. It means you have to wade through  a good deal of rubbish before you find a story you enjoy. At least the print fanzines acted as a filter, through their editors. You soon got to know which ones were wonderful and which you'd never read again. 

And with most fan writers going under pen names it will be a lot harder to work out who has gone on to bigger and better things in the current generation of fan writers, though I'm assured it has happened. One successful YA novelist, I hear, once wrote Harry Potter fan fiction. 

I won't know about others, though, unless someone tells me.

Any fan fic fans out there? Anyone who can tell me about former fan writers who are now in print? 

**Just thought of one you have probably thought of too, but won't mention her name. You can, though. Go ahead!**

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20. Judging Has Begun: A Learning Experience

Just saying here that all this is my own opinion and has nothing to do with what the AA judging panel thinks or is deciding! And no, you will not hear from me here any juicy gossip about what we're discussing or who thinks what. This is just about what it's like to be a first-time judge, with bits about the CBCAs.

Judging the Aurealis Awards has been a fascinating experience so far. When I haven't been wrestling with the difficulties of making changes in the spreadsheet I've been reading the submissions for the children's section so far.

It's a mixture, so far, of middle-grade, junior and YA that has probably also been entered for the children's AND fantasy sections to give it a better chance. 

I've been finding this all a learning process - there are criteria, of course, including a "yes, but is it really suitable for children of this age?" field in the spreadsheet, but so far, we haven't gone into whether or not books we consider aren't really for younger readers  should be judged. And then there's one writer whose books read like YA but are also read by many, many primary school children. Middle grade? I think so.  Another whose characters are a bit older than the target audience, but whose book definitely IS middle grade.

Doing this, though, I've come to see the wisdom of dividing into sections. In the CBCA Awards, all the judges have to read ALL the books, totalling in the hundreds. It usually works because the judges are mostly high-profile teacher-librarians who can't stop for a minute and get bored if they have five minutes' break. I've interviewed two on this web site, Miffy Farquharson and Tehani Wessely, and both say they'd do it again without hesitation. 

To be honest, I don't think I could. I don't have the knowledge of everything from picture books to literary novels that espouse "beautiful writing" at the expense of story and character. I have a good idea of what my own students enjoy and why, but that's all. And I don't have the time. I really don't. Apart from class preparation and such, reading hundreds of books by other people wouldn't leave time for my own writing. It's also why I limit the number of slush stories I read for ASIM.

But yesterday, when the Little Bookroom sent out a survey from the CBCA on how people feel about the current structure of the awards, and one of the questions was about whether the judging should be split into sections I said that it works for the Aurealis Awards and would give judges the time to focus on the area they know most about instead of trying to judge absolutely everything. 

It was an interesting survey that gave me the chance to have my say on a lot of things I've been thinking for years. Politely, of course. 

It will be good to see whether anything comes out of it.

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21. Machine Wars By Michael Pryor. Sydney: Random House, 2014

Disclaimer: I received this book for judging of the Aurealis Awards children's section. Anything I say in this review is my own opinion and nothing to do with the awards, the Aurealis committee or the children's section of the AAs. It's just me, because I couldn't resist reviewing. It's what I do.

Teenager Bram Argent comes home from school one day to find his parents are gone. He knows what this means: his mother, a brilliant AI scientist, has done something that has gone out of control. She needs three weeks to put it right. The family has an agreed plan for what Bram should do if this happens.

With a schoolfriend, Stella, and a wisecracking AI toy duck called Bob, he is now on the run, at least till his parents have done what needs doing to stop the crazed virtual being Ahriman...

Who has seen the Dr Who episode Terror Of The Autons? In the 1970s, when it was made, there was a common product that was simply everywhere - plastic. Anything from a garden hose to a plastic daffodil could attack you and a comfy chair could get too comfortable and swallow you!

Have a guess what the "simply-everywhere" product is now? Right! The Internet. Wifi. Everything is linked up. Even a pool cleaner can be connected. Some time ago I read of a fridge that would let you know when it needed restocking.

Now imagine that pool cleaning hose or fridge being sent after you. A kettle. A coffee machine. A photocopier - anything with links to the WWW - spitting out boiling hot metal. Scary, isn't it?

It's what happens to Bram and Stella. They need to stay alive and running long enough for Mrs Argent to produce something to destroy Ahriman, her own creation. If caught, they will be hostages at best, slaughtered at worst, on the orders of a creature that has become self-aware and wants to take over the world. And its "junkbots" are becoming more and more smooth and properly built.

The book is great fun, with nonstop action and humour. It's not The Laws Of Magic, but it isn't meant to be. Despite the age of the main characters - fourteen - it's really a middle-grade book, quite accessible and readable to primary school children, who will enjoy it.

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22. ASIM Needs Slushreaders!

Some months ago, I posted to ask for new members of the ASIM Association. We got some and have some wonderful new team members.

Now, we need some more slush readers. Actually, we always need more slush readers!

Really, considering how few slush readers there are, we get through an awful lot of submissions. Hundreds a month. Thousands a year. Some are very short, others up to 20,000 words! Some of us are reading unlimited weekly submissions and still Lucy the slush wrangler tells me she has twenty parked in her files that she can't send out. I only read three a week, six in an emergency, but I have books to read for the Aurealis Awards. I can't take on any more.

How about it, my readers? Ever thought you'd like to see behind the scenes of a publishing enterprise? Have you wondered how we sort through stories submitted, perhaps including yours?Here's your chance to find out, and to have your say in what goes up to the next round of reading.

Even if you want to go on submitting your work, that's fine; we read all stories blind. And you'd learn what we want and what we don't.

You don't have to live in Australia or be an expert. You just have to love  speculative fiction.

We can't pay you, only add your name to the list at the end of each issue. But it's a good thing to add to your résumé and if you do happen to be looking for a job in publishing, a good way to keep your hd in while you look.

If you're interested please email Lucy Zinkiewicz at asimsubmissions@gmail.com.

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23. Free Ebooks From This Site

If you take a look at the side of this page, among all the links to my reviewing policy and such, you'll find some things I've ebooked for you and put on Dropbox. I don't know how long it has been since anyone downloaded any of them - it's too easy not to notice stuff on the side - but there's some good stuff there. There are free samples from two of my books. There are some of my published stories. There is a book of interviews with the likes of Juliet Marillier and Marianne De Pierres, Charlie Higson and Mark Walden and Melbourne writer Gabrielle Wang and CBCA judges Tehani Wessely and Miffy Farqharson. There's a little book of student writing so you know what good stuff is happening in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

Help yourself! And do let me know what you think.

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24. Re-reading Now...The Songkiller Saga

Here I am, in the middle of the Aurealis judging and I'm re-reading. I have read as far as I can with the books I have - I won't read the new Brotherband book till I've caught up with the others, I'm getting there... Still have Brotherband 3 to read before picking up 4. This week a courier left a message on my doormat, so I will have to phone before I can get my next bunch of books.

But I discovered that my old Elizabeth Scarborough favourite, the Songkiller Saga, is available in ebook, only $3.99 a volume. I remember discovering the first volume, The Phantom Banjo, on a remainders table. It wasn't out of print. Ironically, the only volume I had trouble getting was the final one, Strum Again? 

Finally, though, I had the lot, and what a story it was, with Hell deciding to wipe out folk music because it kept humans hopeful. Folk musicians forget the words or are killed off, the entire Library of Congress archive is burned down. It only seems to be happening in the US for the time being, though, so a bunch of intrepid musicians escape to Britain, where their songs came from, to retrieve them. 

I have always loved folk music, but this trilogy opened my eyes to just how much there is out there, including some songs that I hadn't realised were traditional or that were from places other than the British Isles. The books of Charles De Lint have also done this for me, and he gets a brief mention in this series. I ended up buying a lot of CDs as a result of reading these books - Songkiller and De Lint alike(I had the privilege of doing a panel with him once, at a Swancon, and hearing him and his wife jamming with Anne Poore, a local harpist)

So now I'm re-reading and loving it just as much as the first time around. I may just download some more  Scarborough books when I've finished. She's written some lovely stuff over the years and I haven't read all of it. 

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25. This Week's Book Downloads!

Four this week. I downloaded Anh Do's The Happiest Refugee because my school is considering replacing Deadly Unna, which has been the Year 9 text for some years, with this one. I admit I was offered a copy for reviewing and never got around to it. It didn't seem to be for kids. Let's see how I go with the ebook.

I once read and loved The Three Musketeers and yesterday it was on TV, the old version withGene Kelly   as D'Artagnan, June Allyson as Constance and Lana Turner as Milady.and, I think, Vincent Price being a villain as usual. I confess I prefer the later version with Oliver Reed as Athos and Michael York as D'Artagnan. And Charlton Heston, of all people, as Richelieu! But the book is wonderful.  I got it from Project Gutenberg.

Harry Potter's Bookshelf by John Granger looks promising as a discussion of the great books behind the Potter series. We'll see.

Lastly, I've just downloaded an anthology called Firebirds Rising with some of my favourite fantasy writers including the likes of Charles De Lint, Kara Dalkey, Tanith Lee, Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Pamela Dean and there's even a story in there by Aussie Alison Goodman, whom I've known since we were on the Aussiecon 3 committee together and who first mentioned Harry Potter to me. I've watched her career as she's gone on to become someone who can make a living from her writing, something very few Australian writers can claim - even the fabulous Ambelin Kwaymullina, author fthe  Tribe series, has, like me, a full time day job as a teacher! Alison made her first school visit to talk to my very first book club; she wanted the practice, so I invited her to talk to the four Year 12 students who were coming along to book club meetings. I'll look forward to reading her story in Firebirds Rising.

When I've read some more Aurealis books, anyway. I'm currently reading about the adventures of a child fairy called Daisy. Have to get those finished, then the John Flanagan Brotherband novel. 

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