Saturday, December 31, 2011

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

John's birthday present this year was a rather extraordinary dinner party and his surprise present was a copy of Pratchett's latest book "Snuff".

It's a Vimes book, which is always a good thing, and features Sybil and Young Sam quite a lot too. I am pleased that Young Sam and Sybil were quite intrinsic to the story - too often, I think families get shelved while the main protagonist goes on their adventure, only returning home when everything is safe and they never know anything of import ever happened. Pratchett is always careful to try and portray the key people in his novels as best he can, and there was a lot about the book I really enjoyed.

But there were also some things I didn't enjoy. I really felt like Pratchett had a Message, and he was going to beat me to death with it as often as he could. I also felt that the narrative was overly complex, derailing me constantly by many short mini-stories which were not necessary to the over-all arch of the book, and because they happened so often, they weakened any relationship that might have been drawn.

Also, there was a key scene I found terribly confusing; I just had to accept that I either missed a step, or the step had not been well illuminated, and moved on.

So my end summary is that I enjoyed it but it wasn't as strong as some of his other Vimes stuff. I found myself tearing up once or twice as I remembered there won't be many more of these books to come.

Sarah P

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writing Books: Formatting Text, manuscript format, indenting first paragraph

To indent or not to indent... here's a link passed around during a recent batch of discussions by my writing group. Maybe this could be as contentious as the double space between sentences issues! Ha ha!


Writing Books: Formatting Text, manuscript format, indenting first paragraph

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'The Tinker's Girl' by Catherine Cookson

Catherine Cookson's 'The Tinker's Girl' was written in 1994, and is a really good read. It's been reprinted heaps of times, and I can see why!

The story follows a 14 year old girl who is bright, intuitive and intelligent, and she goes to live on a poverty stricken farm to help the Shaleman while their mother is dying. It's a fascinating 'historical fiction' (the word romance is not used anywhere on the cover) novel, that is richly detailed and incredibly in depth look at the hard life these people led.

As well as being an historical novel, it is also a sign to me that there has always been a call for strong female characters. Taking an in depth look at the lives and loves of these people of different classes and viewpoints, Cookson also deconstructs the constraints placed on the women of the time, and breaks them down with love and compassion.

I genuinely had no idea what to expect. Certain memes and expectations were derailed and lead astray. The evil older brother who becomes a sailor - I was completely expecting him to be in any final showdowns as the hero or heroine struggles to protect those they love - yet it was not to be. I was genuinely hooked into this novel because it subverts so many things about romances and women's fiction that I just wanted to know what happens next!

Our heroine grows, and Cookson's writing is delicious as she keeps out attention focused on her, and we see the development in the voice of the novel as Jinnie develops. She is outspoken yet obedient, a responsible maid living in abject poverty with some contentment. She learns a lot about life, but she never takes a back seat to the events that unfold around her. I loved seeing the inner workings of the family she lives with, and I loved seeing the way Jinnie defines the woman she becomes.

This is a great read. I'll be looking out for more Cookson as I'm fascinated that it still felt fresh even after almost 30 years and it also made me look back at the way I construct my novels. Cookson's novel felt rough and wild by design, and it was a feeling I really found caught me, and kept me tugged along until finally I finished the book and could go to bed! Yay!

This book kept me up late to see how it ended, and I enjoyed every minute of it. My copy is falling apart - I may have to try and fine a new one yet. I can easily see myself building a collection of them, ready to go next to my Viking romances!

Sarah P

Friday, December 23, 2011

Penumbra Speculative Fiction E-Magazine

An interesting in-depth interview with Celina Summers, Editor-in-Chief of Musa Publishing, about Penumbra, a speculative fiction e-magazine released monthly with themed stories from 500-3000 words, paying pro rates.
Take a look at the 2012 calendar for themes and get writing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I did it! I joined the Australian Women Writers Challenge

... and I bet none of you are surprised. I expect that a good percentage of the reviews next year will be of Australian authors, so buckle in and look for the tag AWWC to track my progress! I'm buying my Twelve Planets subscription soon, plus I have books lying around the place from heaps of Australian women. Watch out 2012, here I come!

Sarah P

Twelfth Planet Press Supports Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

Twelfth Planet Press | Twelfth Planet Press Supports Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012: Twelfth Planet Press is getting behind the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012. We are offering a 10% discount on all of our books which fit the challenge – ie written by women – for the whole of 2012.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sandra Hill's "A Very Virile Viking"

I picked up a cheap copy of Sandra Hill's 'The Very Virile Viking' on my last book buying jag. Spotting it in the pile made me squeal with delight. This is my eighth? Ninth? Something... Viking book by Sandra Hill, and I do enjoy them so much!

I was very curious about how this one would go, since we had come across Magnus and all of his children in other books in the series. He starts off this novel with nine children in tow, an automatically unusual preposition on which to base a romance novel.

I do enjoy Sandra Hill's work. She manages to convey a masculinity which is sexy and yet also is very much his own person. Our hero Viking is also a time traveller, and one of the first people he meets is his destiny, Angela. She, being the modern woman, refuses to believe he could really have come from the past, and refuses to be sweet talked into his bed.

Also, Hill's Viking books are rich with depth and detail. I remember reading a Goodreads review that said the book "Dark Of The Moon" had been richly detailed 1920s book. Yet that was the book that I didn't even realise was set in the 20s until page 117. How could that possibly be richly detailed? And yet in all of Hill's Viking books, you know instantly, in voice, personality and dialogue exactly where you are and who you are, and I love it. These are very silly books, a lot of fun to read, and I'm pleased Hill still seems to be writing them.

I find all of these to be a great romp. Not the most feminist friendly, sometimes, but at the same time the women give back as well as the men do, and the power struggles add to the story rather than distract. The sex (and almost-sex) scenes were really hot, and I do enjoy Hill's sense of humour. I'm really glad to add another Viking novel to my collection.

Sarah P

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

kateelliott: Do Females Write Epic Fantasy Differently Than Males Do?

Women writing fantasy has been a huge discussion in many places. Here's Kate Elliott's original post, asking some interesting questions and getting a lot of very interesting replies.

kateelliott: Do Females Write Epic Fantasy Differently Than Males Do?: "Do Females Write Epic Fantasy Differently Than Males Do?

This is more in the nature of a drive by post to note for the record that I'm on massive deadline doing revisions for COLD FIRE (Spiritwalker #2). Writing, as always, in my girly way.

I have literally not had time to refer to or discuss the various internet things about fantasy, nihilism, morals or lack thereof, beauty and truth, and so on and so forth except mostly to note that as so often, these conversations mostly seem to revolve around men and male writers. My god, people, were there not enough battle scenes in Crown of Stars? And yet, somehow this remains also a stereotype, that a sword fight, say, reflects masculinity and not femininity."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Australian Women Writers Challenge

From the AWWC2012 webpage:

Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge

Keen on romance, fantasy, crime, YA, literary, mainstream women's fiction? Contemporary or historical? Memoir, other nonfiction or poetry? 

Whatever your preference, whether you're a fan of one genre or a devoted eclectic, the 2012 Australian Women Writers Book Reading & Reviewing Challenge invites you to celebrate a year encountering the best of Australian women's writing.

This challenge hopes to help counteract the gender bias in reviewing and social media newsfeeds that has continued throughout 2011 by actively promoting the reading and reviewing of a wide range of contemporary Australian women's writing. (See the page on gender bias for recent discussions.)

Readers should approach this challenge with a spirit of willingness. There are no failures, just personal goals. Reviews can be long or short, favourable or "this book is not for me". Hopefully, along the way, we'll all discover some future classics and perhaps a few surprises among genres we're not familiar with. The main aim is to have fun.

Challenge period:  1 January 2012 -  31 December 2012

 For more information, click here! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose

Francine does not believe that any one can learn creative writing, but she does believe we can all learn to appreciate text in a deep and very satisfying way.

I have a pretty troubled relationship to the classics. I've always been pretty leery of Austen, never managed to enjoy the Russian masters, and in general I managed to skip a lot of the Classics with a Capital C. This is despite doing English and Comparative Literature at university! I was much more comfortable with modern novels than the old stuff, and I never quite understood why people enjoyed them so much when I often found them turgid and kind of boring.

Now, I'm not about to say I've had a full 180 change of heart... but may 120 degree change. My eyes glazed and my brain grew resistant during the chapter about reading the English classics like the Bronte sisters and Austen, but I did learn a lot about words, sentences, and paragraphs. I learnt enough to consider tackling the rest of the Chekhov collection I have stashed somewhere; and I am consider reading some of Shakespeare as well. (Someone told me it helps to know the story before you read it, apparently!)

So despite me being an uneducated lout, I do read quite widely, and with Francine's book it was a lot like re-training me to read more thoughtfully and with greater chance to chew upon the words in the text. I read fast. I always have. And while reading Kant and Strauss at uni slowed me down, I don't think I have ever learnt to read quite like this before. It's not changed my way of inhaling the current Harlequin and Teen Harlequin novels I am reviewing, but I think it's opened me up to the possibilities of read *gasp* Literature.

Thanks to this book, I have now purchased The Picture of Dorian Gray and Lolita. But the Austen is staying firmly at the back of my shelves.

Sarah Lee Parker

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Writers and Depression

The wonderful Allie (who blogs at Hyperbole and a Half) has recently updated her blog with an account of her battle with depression. She tackles the subject in her own special fashion illustrating the experience with a unique drawing style.

We have - fortunately - advanced in our acknowledgement of depression. It's regarded less as a stigma to be hidden and more as it should be - an illness that can be treated.

Given how common depression is among writers (I googled the topic and was quite shocked at just how many well known authors have suffered from this debilitating illness) perhaps this is something we should all think about. We might not be sufferers ourselves but the chances are we know someone who is so it pays to be aware.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is editing for me? � Donna Maree Hanson

Having recently finished a course on Editing, Donna Maree Hanson ponders what skills she has learnt, the value of the course and her editing experience, and what she wants to do next.

Is editing for me? � Donna Maree Hanson

Saturday, December 3, 2011

On Writing by Stephen King

I finished Stephen King's On Writing, one of a series of books I purchased on the advice of Adrian Bedford.Once again, this book has been a Win. It's a wonderful read, entrancing and engaging, and it really does seem to get across the feel of Stephen King's personality.

It's at once a warm memoir and an excellent book on writing. King takes the time to talk about his family and his home life, and for each of those sections I want to go through with a highlighter and untangle some of the techniques he uses to make me feel exactly as I am sure he wants me to feel in each vignette. I found the later discussion of his car accident so harrowing I had to put the book down and take a breather, needing to re-establish that distance between me and the book.

I also liked the fact he talks about his unexpected successes, never really imagining the level of fame he would eventually arrive at. On Writing paints King as someone we'd all love to go to the pub with, and the snippets he puts into the book are almost like a how to in developing likable, human characters. King's advice on writing is invaluable, and I love the maxims and advice people have given him over the years.

Things I want to remember: in times of trauma, it's all in the details. Second draft = First draft minus 10%. Write for yourself (with the door closed) and only open it when YOU are ready. A lot of this is advice I have already been told, but King puts his own spin on things, turning each story into his own and every anecdote a tale worth telling.

Very good book to have around.

Sarah P

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Award Winning Australian Women Writers

As part of the Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge, the industrious Tansy Rayner Roberts has compiled a list of Australian women who have won awards in science fiction, fantasy and horror. You can find it here. So far the list consists of novels - adult, YA and children, collections, anthologies and non-fiction but she intends to expand it to include short stories later.

I had not heard about the challenge before I came across this post but it seems an interesting concept. The aim is to read and, if so inclined, to review books written by Australian women. There are a number of options open to participants ranging from simply reading to taking on set challenges. It can be genre related or not as you choose. Sounds like a good way to widen the scope of your reading.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

YAY! Nanowrimo is done (for me)!

I hit my 50K! Yay! Only another 40K to go on this novel.

So, what did I learn? I learnt that I like a little bit of pressure. As in, milling around doing 2K a day is cruisy and it felt very peicemeal to be following a plan. As soon as I opened Write or Die and set that time though, my writing was a lot better, a lot smoother, and a lot more coherent. Interesting stuff!

See you all next year!

Everything I ever learned about marketing I learned from Dungeons and Dragons | Internet Marketing Strategy: Conversation Marketing

Everything I ever learned about marketing I learned from Dungeons and Dragons | Internet Marketing Strategy: Conversation Marketing

I think the title is pretty self explanatory, really!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Goddess Test by Amiee Carter

Continuing my explorations of Harlequin Teen, I picked up a copy of 'The Goddess Test' by Aimee Carter, another beautiful looking book aimed firmly at the YA market.

Our heroine, Kate, is eighteen and looks after her dying mother. She comes across a tall, dark and dead guy, and eventually they fall in love. I'm being very simplistic here, but overall the book was a tad simplistic anyway. I read this in a day. No highlighter was required. Our Kate seems like a lovely girl, though I found the romance between her and Henry a little cold. They barely seemed to even hang out together. I like my genre mixed with my romance, and this is definitely a genre work, but the romance seemed to be a prize rather than a discovery, and so it left me a little cold. Warmer than the tiresome vampire novel though.

Also: not a vampire novel! Yay!

I liked the fact that Kate was looking after her dying mother and struggling to keep her life together, including high school and hospitals. I found it a little Twilight-ish while we were in the high school, but thankfully we progressed out of there very quickly. I expect that's a problem any teen romance near a high school is going to have for the next decade or so. I also liked that even when she passed the test, she had to leave and I rather did like the ending. I liked the potential it left open... were it me, there would be a sequel, possibly called The Human Test LOL

I did find the renaming of all the Gods to be a bit confusing. I guess necessary during the plot, but in the great denouement, we could have stuck with the original pantheon names.

The cover for this book crossed my metaphorical desk a week or so ago in this article: Cover Trends in YA Fiction: Why the Obsession with an Elegant Death? where author (Rachel Stark) puts together some of the covers that are current and asks the deadly question 'Why?' Here in Australia, we get the live girl cover, however she seems to be dashing away in a rather Gothic manner, looking over her shoulder in fear. I'd like to point out that no one actually flees during the book, and as far as I can make out, none of the dresses had their colour described, so I don't actually know if any of them were blood red... but anyway, I once again digressed.

Also, this was a nice stand alone, so no floundering around wondering if I had missed something or not. I didn't mind this book, but I'm also sure I'm not going to remember it clearly by the end of tomorrow. Hell, I'm writing the review right now in case I do forget by the end of tomorrow!

Sarah P

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Livia Blackburne: The Blogification of Writing Tips

A quick critical view in the role of blogs and writing tips and lessons in helping writers. It's not always a gift, and we need to be aware of what advice we choose to follow! 

Livia Blackburne: The Blogification of Writing Tips

Obituary - Anne McCaffrey

Oh no! Not another one!

As my husband said "We seem to be losing the authors of our childhood at a ferocious rate."

I loved Anne McCaffrey. I loved her early stuff, which was rawe and exciting and new. I have Restoree, and really enjoyed that, but I loved the Dragonriders of Pern, and Menolly's books more than anything. I am incredibly sad to see her go. A lot of my early stuff is based on the rich ideas Anne McCaffrey wrote, and I will always owe her a debt of thanks for that.

Thank you, Anne McCaffrey, for making my childhood awesome, and for giving me some of the sparks that led me to write. You will be sorely missed.

Sarah P

Monday, November 21, 2011

'WTF?!' Anthology coming soon!

'"Corrective surgery gone wrong, punk rockers abducted by aliens, zombie sharks, dead matadors, exploding ice cream factories, and dwarfs obsessed with pomegranates are just a few of the things you will find in this anthology. From the quirky to the serious to the surreal, whatever happens in these stories is bound to leave the reader wondering WTF?!
This anthology of 37 original stories will be out in the first half of December in print and as an e-book from Pink Narcissus Press at It includes two stories from Perth-based writers; 'Cloudy with a Chance of Smoke' by Nikky Lee and 'Swan Wing' by Egoboo WA's Joanna Fay.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

'Dark of the Moon" by Susan Krinard

I don't know why, but I had a hard time finding the right cover pic to go with this review, which is a pity, because I found the cover immensely appealing! This was the second book I bought at Target the other day, along with that tiresome one, and this is YAVN in all it's glory.

It was a fun read. I had no problems with any of the language or stylistic choices, and it kept me amused for the whole book. My one big issue is that I didn't realise it was set in the 1920s until about the 117th page. And really, someone described the book as being a 'rich description of the 1920s,' and all I could think was "if it was that rich a description, surely I would have realised before the first twenty pages, let alone 120?'

Regardless, people do stuff, people get bitten, and people get sucked. The heroine was lovely, and I really liked the way she eventually took some things into her own hand. Our hero was also rather lovely, managing to be manly and yet not expire of masculine entitlement at the first sign of feminine independance. Not entirely sure what was with the story line of the brave plucky not-quite-ex boyfriend, but whatever. He seemed to have a sudden personality implant, from some one I wouldn't give the time of day to, to someone who seemed to care. About something other than himself.

Regardless, this was a nice solid read, and thoroughly innoffensive. There was, however, some sex. (Yay sex!) It was also thoroughly consensual sex (Yay consensual!).

Sarah P

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hewing Away the Rough Walls (Or, Five Ways to Put Your Story on a Diet) :: Shimmer

Here's an excellent article from Lisa L Hannett, author of the collection "Bluegrass Symphony." She makes a lot of sense, if you've ever wondered how to trim your wordcount, then check out her advice! 

Hewing Away the Rough Walls (Or, Five Ways to Put Your Story on a Diet) :: Shimmer

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nanowrimo Midway Update

Laura E Goodin

So... why are you doing Nano again?
I have a major project -- a novel -- in the works, and decided NaNo would be a good way to get a huge body of work all piled up (albeit in a steaming pile) so that I could develop a clearer sense of one way the characters and premise might play out.  I may stick with what I've got and just edit it, or I may decide it was a dead end, or something in between.  But I'll know more about what I both want and don't want to do with the story.  And it will take some pressure off me as the deadline approaches, because I'll already have thousands and thousands of words, at least some of which should be salvageable.  (And, indeed, I'm not unhappy with the ones I've been producing so far.)

Now you are at the half way mark, how is it going?
Slowly.  I have a lot of projects on the boil, including the research component of the Ph.D. for which the novel is the creative component.  I'm having trouble being able to sequester large chunks of the day in which to write (my preferred mode; I'm not all that comfortable with stopping and starting).

How are your wordcounts?
Not the worst ever, but I'm way behind the strict NaNo schedule.

Do you think you will finish on time?
I probably will, but if I don't I still will have gone a long way toward accomplishing my goal for NaNo this year (i.e., learning more about what I do and don't want to do with the story).  I'd like to, but I've won a few times before, so I don't really have anything to prove to myself.  I already know I CAN write 50K words in a month, so I don't HAVE TO.

What do you think you're going to learn from Nanowrimo 2011?
Hopefully, the story that emerges will be of sufficient quality that I can work with it.  I'm hoping to learn (or re-learn, more appropriately, as I keep seeming rediscover and then forget this crucial point at crucial points) that I can trust my intuition to come up with quality goods.

Sarah Parker

So... why are you doing Nano again?
To kick start my writerly habit. Plus I had a novel length idea. And it's fun!

Now you are at the half way mark, how is it going?
Really well, actually. I just had a three thousand word day, which is just brilliant. I am playing around with the way I write this time. I have a pretty strong plan, but I am allowing myself to play. I find that some parts I am in love with, and some parts of it will need a lot of fixing!

How are your wordcounts?
I have been hovering just under (by about 200 words or so) the expected wordcount on most days. I started late, have skipped a few days, and I have been ahead a couple of days. As of the end of the day today, I am about a thousand words over where I needed to be.

Do you think you will finish on time?

What do you think you're going to learn from Nanowrimo 2011?
This year I think I am learning to talk more about my writing! And to talk more to other people about writing in general!

Helen Venn

So... why are you doing Nano again?
I'd got a bit distracted by Real Life so my current WIP had slowed.  NaNo was just a way to jump start things again. It's worked but I'm not fussed if I don't get to 50,000 in new writing. I just want to keep things moving.

Now you are at the half way mark, how is it going?
Real Life has kicked me in the backside again which disrupted my routine a bit so I'm not up to the word count I'd hoped for but I'm happy enough with what I have. I've found and fixed some gaping holes too and that's meant less words on paper writing but it's just as important for the finished product so it's all good as far as I'm concerned.

How are your wordcounts?
Definitely not enormous but number of words is not the critical thing for me at this point.

Do you think you will finish on time?
Well, I'll have finished what I've set out to do which is to add a lot of useful words to those I started with but I won't have finished my novel . Fantasy novels are rarely only 50,000 words long and this is no exception.

What do you think you're going to learn from Nanowrimo 2011?
Tricky question. I'd say I've just had reinforced what I already knew which is to be disciplined, set goals and put in the time. Without those things no-one would ever get a novel written. The other thing is that the more you write the more your writing flows so having made a commitment to spend time writing every day makes it easier to continue and I find, although it mightn't apply to everyone, that the quality of my writing generally improves.

Sarah P

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Night of Writing Dangerously

Saturday night two of the Egoboo crowd made it to the Rockingham version of the Night of Writing Dangerously, generously organized and provided by the Rockingham Council and run by Lee Battersby.

Satima and I ended up at far ends of the room, probably a good thing as my laugh carries! Over twenty sponsors donated time, memberships, books, magazines, and flyers to help make the Write-In awesome.

When we walked through the door, we were greeted by a table full of packed bags and a sign-in sheet, and to the right tables of tea, coffee, and huge stacks of prizes. Over fifty odd writers joined us for the wild ride of talking to professional authors (Anna Jacobs and Bevan McGuiness) and settling in for some serious wordcounts.

I made 3250 during the night. Not words I am in love with, but they are words to work with none the less. Various partners in crime wrote between 200 words through to 4000, and given the number of people there, possibly even more!

Anna Jacobs was a delight to listen to. Not only does she have fifty five books published, but she is a Pantser. She does very little planning, but lots of research, and has no idea what is going to happen until it does. She stressed the important of learning how to write in ways that suit YOU and only YOU, and that there are no solid rules other than your writing must be gripping, interesting, and drag the reader along for the ride.

Bevan McGuiness was enthusiastic and energetic, bouncing around the desk to talk about how he balances writing and full time work. He talked about finding sources of inspiration to help us maintain the creative flow, and developing his works around trying to capture the feel of the inspiration source.

Once the authors had had a bit of a chat with us all, we settled in for the first round of writing. I think on our table, the bulk of our words were written now. Fire and energy ran through our veins; though I will point out it was rather disconcerting to sit next to Heidi Wessman Kneale, who hammered her keyboard so fast I thought I saw smoke.

Is this what people think when they sit next to me? I have had numerous comments about typing like a machine gun, for example. Just because I learnt on the old fashioned type writer, I may be a little hard on the old board, and having been an IRC junkie for a while, my keystrokes might be on the high side...

I managed about 1700 words in the first hour (I think) and then after that I was pulling teeth. I got a cup of tea; I gossipped with Lyn Battersby, I chatted with people.. and then we had dinner, courtesy of Subway. It was really wonderful to be in a space with so many other creatives hammering away, and food was a simple "walk up and get it" rather than a "plan, remove children, start cooking, remove children, eat and clean up, remove children..." type of affair.

All in all I found the experience amazing,  validating, and inspiring. I'm hoping I can make a few more writing nights happen through sheer force of will before the end of November, unfortunately much smaller ones, and ones with planning and children and cleaning involved.

Regardless, I would say my big lesson with this year's Nano is learning how to talk to other writers.

Once again, I'd like to say thanks to Lee Batterby for running the event, and also to Ace Cinemas; Adventure world; Asgard Games; ASIM; Australian writers Marketplace; Coeur De Lion Publishing; Cosmic Comics; Fablecroft Publishing; Fremantle Press; Fun Station; Harper Collins Australia; Island Magazine; Meanjin Magazine; Peter Cowan Writers Centre; Rockingham Shopping Centre; Serendipity MediSpa Baldivis; Sterling's Office National; Twelfth Planet Publishing; Walker Books and White Dwarf Books.

The prizes were very much coveted! I will definitely be keeping an ear out to see if this will run again next year.

Sarah P

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Twisted, Part 3 of the Intertwined Series by Gena Showalter

I am rather enjoying going through the current HarlequinTeen series. The look and flavour of these novels are simply fascinating to read! This book I found at Target, at about $14.

I picked 'Twisted' by Gena Showalter because it had a beautiful cover. The colour is gorgeous, the stance of the models electric and it looks like an awesome series to read. Plus an added dust jacket on the front that said "free ebook!" What it fails to mention is that to actually get your free ebook, you have to cough up all your contact details and you're not allowed to opt out of the 'feel free to contact me as you like' clause. Hmph.

So, I did not get to get my 'free' ebook.

Despite that little disappointment, how did I feel about this book? Well... it was very obviously a middle book. The characters seemed to have had their definition completed in the previous one? Two? books, and so there was very little development or definition added in this book. Despite that, we spend an awful lot of time inside their heads where they angst, whine, turn into different people, do unsavoury things, blame each other for it, and remain very much in lust with each other for the entire novel.

At least someone got laid.

I found it rather hard sometimes to figure out what was actually happening. We were so deep in the guilt and self-disgust that I often had no idea what was actually going on outside the grey matter. I think I could sum it up as "a bunch of teenage supernaturals/supranaturals run around doing stuff for quests starts in the previous books and which don't really get very resolved during this book."

I'm a bit disappointed in a way; I enjoyed Twilight, as I really enjoyed hanging out with the characters. The basic level of plot is basically the same, the level of emo angst is probably actually lower than in Twisted, but the key difference is that I enjoyed hanging out with Alice, and Rose and even Edward, despite his stalkery fetishy thing. In this novel, the characters were just dreary. I don't know if it's because I am reading this out of order, but seriously dreary. The vampirism is tiresome, people can't communicate to share a cigarette (metaphorically) and people do dumb things and then blame each other for it.

And I'm supposed to feel for these people? Or be interested in what they're doing?

Anyway, the language was fine and once again my highlighters just got dustier. I was mildly disappointed. The writing was perfectly acceptable, I think I just had problems with the plot. The plot sort of settles as a great empty frame in a desert, and in theory is strung with the bright ribbons of the characters to make it interesting. Unfortunately, the ribbons seem to be dull grey and black, and with no colour to spice the themes, I've already forgotten half the book and I only finished it an hour ago.

Plus I didn't really enjoy the ending. It just emphasized that this was a middle book, marking time until it's all supposed to get interesting. There was no solid information on the cover to tell me where this book fits into the Intertwined series either, just that it was an Intertwined novel. By rights, this should have meant the book was fine as a stand alone novel, however this was very much not the case. I'd say this book needs a warm audience (people who are already into the series) to be successful. As a cold audience, I just felt glad when it was over.

Sarah P

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pitching - and Other Writerly Things

Back in September, Nicola Morgan, an award winning UK author and source of much useful writing information, posted about how to put together a 25 word pitch on her blog, Help! I Need A Publisher! . A number of her readers put up their pitches for comment by Nicola and her blog followers. It made for an interesting learning exercise and proved very popular. So she did it again in October.

Stray pitches and synopses are still going up and being commented on and now she's started a series of free guidelines for writers, Crabbit's Tips For Writers. The first is here.

Always readable - as I think I've mentioned before - this is one of my favourite writing blogs and well worth a visit.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

World Fantasy Awards 2011

Congratulations to Alisa Krasnostein, winner of the Special Award Non Professional category for Twelfth Planet Press. There's a strong Australian representation in the short lists too with Jonathan Strahan, Angela Slatter and Shaun Tan also featuring.

The results are out here and you can watch the ceremony here. You might catch a glimpse of Egobooers Carol and Sarah in the audience. Alisa has blogged about her experience at Champagne and Socks.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Contribute to Westerly : Westerly Centre : The University of Western Australia

Contribute to Westerly : Westerly Centre : The University of Western Australia: "Westerly publishes lively fiction and poetry as well as intelligent articles.

Westerly differs from other journals in that its focus is more towards the west coast of Australia and the Indian Ocean region (including Asia and India).

All academic work submitted is subject to a double blind refereeing process and all creative work is chosen by the independent poetry and prose editors."

Poems: $75 for one page / one poem or $100 for two or more pages / poems
Stories: $150
Articles: $150

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

I got my highlighters and pen all ready for this one. It was $4.99 from the Post Office, and we bought it in a fine tradition of "OMG we haven't made the Eftpos limit, what else can we buy in a hurry so as not to upset the following customers?" So I ended up with "The Mermaids Singing" by Val McDermid.

I was mildly disappointed that the writing was perfectly fine, and I travelled through the novel with nary a blip on my "phrases to trip over" radar. I put the pens away, eventually. I think maybe I was more scarred by The Girl In The Steel Corset than I thought!

So, the writing was fine. The book tumbled along, neither exciting nor dull. The characters were also neither exciting nor dull. People died, people chased other people, people found out whodunnit. Yeah, OK, so I'm not a big reader of the genre.

Having said that, I bought the book based on the cover and the title. The copy I have actually has a different colour art, but this was the closest to the cover I have. There is no barbed wire in this book, nor barbed wire men. I was a sad panda. There were also no mermaids, nor singing. Cue a VERY sad panda.

So what is with the title? Am I missing something? Is there some obscure story that makes the title meaningful? Mermaids are cool - why use them in the title if they're not in the book? Regardless, I was a bit put out that such a cool title was wasted on an not-cool book.

And men women relationships. Really? Hello, people, women can work with attractive men and not develop crushes on them. Really. And, you know what? It happens EVERY DAY. Why is it that as soon as someone in a crime novel has a vagina, she has to fall in lust/love/crush or be the lust/love/crush object? Why can't she just be a person?

The opening was also kind of confusing for me. We start with multiple points of view of three people, but they're all doing the same thing. And they all sound the same! And then we drop down to two main points of view and I can only tell them apart because the female of the two has a crush!

This book has been out for a long time already, so I'm going to whine about the text itself now, so spoilers ahoy if you worry about that kind of thing. The book is rife with assumptions about men and women, and I spent a fair amount of time thinking "really? You don't think a determined woman would be able to do THAT?" and "This section is written rather neutrally, I wonder if the book is supposed to be playing with our gender assumptions" and the answer is yeah kinda. But also not. It's been a long time since I read the genre, but it doesn't seem to have changed much. The levels of gore vary, but there's a hunt for a killer and blah blah blah. I didn't feel like I was reading anything different from the suspense/crime books I used to read.

Can't be bothered reading this one again. Would any one like my copy?

Sarah P

Monday, October 17, 2011

Winds of Change & Yellowcake Springs to be Launched 13th Nov KSP Centre

The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild's latest anthology, Winds of Change, was launched at Conflux in September.

In Perth, Winds of Change, will be launched at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre

Date: Sunday 13th November
Time: 12:30 pm
Where: 11 Old York Road, Greenmount.

Please join us for Nibbles and drinks as we celebrate the year's end with our latest publications.

Perth Writers Joanna Fay, Naomi Mondello, Keira McKenzie and Carol Ryles are contributors to this antho.

Joanna's 'Stone-Singer' is a sliver of her current work in progress. It is set in the future of her epic novel series, a world she has inhabited since childhood.

Naomi's 'Gravity Express' is a steampunk adventure.

Carol's 'Saint Olivia's Light' was first drafted at Clarion West 2008, and is about a spirit trapped in a stained glass window.

Keira, who has recently joined Egoboo, illustrated Tsana Dolichva's 'Time Capsule'.

Table of Contents:

1. "Wraiths" by Jason Nahrung
2. "Gravity Express" by Naomi Mondello
3. "Time Capsule" by Tsana Dolichva
4. "The Tether of Time" by Leife Shallcross
5. "Trigger" by Zena Shapter
6. "Babel" by Robin Shortt
7. "Saint Olivia's Light" by Carol Ryles
8. "In Need of Assistance" by Chris Andrews
9. "After the Bombs" by Adam Tucker
10. "The Horns of Elfland" by Crisetta MacLeod
11. "Time Spent" by David Coleman
12. "Soul of the Machine" by Maxine McArthur
13. "Dream Shadow" by Alan Baxter
14. "Giant" by Annelise Roberts
15. "Evolution Baby" by Lesley Boland
16. "The Princess" by Valerie Y.L. Toh
17. "Children of the Ashes" by Greg Mellor
18. "By Watcher's Pool" by James Goodrum
19. "Turning the Blood" by Donna Maree Hanson
20. "Watching" by Nicole R Murphy
21. "The Stormchilds" by Helen Stubbs
22. "The Fool" by Jane Virgo
23. "Dragonfly" by Cat Sheely
24. "Stone-singer" by Joanna Fay

If you can't make it to the launch, Winds of Change can be purchased directly from CSFG's wordpress page.

Also being launched is Guy Salvidge's novel Yellowcake Springs, winner of IP Picks 2011.

Welcome to Yellowcake Springs; a pristine, friendly, secure community of citizens involved in the maintenance of one of Western Australia’s CIQ Sinocorp nuclear reactor facilities. You have nothing to fear inside the heavily-guarded community, nestled in the quiet streets between the radiation Red Zone and the razor-wired fences. Raise a family. Go to the park. Watch the sun set between the cooling towers. Lament the desperate lives of the lost ones living in the darklands outside the community, where overpopulation and starvation have created a lawless world. Feel lucky. You belong to CIQ Sinocorp now.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Laura and Sarah go Head to Head - Wanna Join Up Too?

Dear Author, 

Nanowrimo is fast approaching, and this year Laura and I will be going head to head in 30 days of literary brawling.

What is Nanowrimo, you ask? It's a month of writing dangerously, throwing all your preconceived notions about 'writing' out the window, and allowing you to do something you always wanted to do - prioritise your manuscript! The challenge is to write 50K over 30 days... merely 1667 words a day. It's a lot of a challenge, but it's exhilarating and fun and you get to do it with friends.

Two of the Egoboo group will be accepting the challenge this year, Laura E Goodin and my humble self. I can write like a demon when I need to - but the only person I need to beat this year is the 50K mark. I intend to write updates on Egoboo as often as I can face the keyboard, so expect to see some stats and mumbles as I stumble along.

Come and join up with us to join in the fun - there will be widgets! Yay widgets! I have a bit of a handicap this year, stepping off the plane on the 1st of November, either losing a day of writing or gaining a day strapped into a plane seat with nothing better to do (except maybe sleep.) Battling with jetlag, will I be able to produce anything at all?

So come on in and join us! It's bliss! (or a frantic scramble for your manuscript. One of the two!)

Plus only a few months after that Twelfth Planet Press is opening the doors to new manuscripts. This could be your year! Join up today!

Sarah Lee Parker
P.S. I wrote my post first dammit! :) 

Oh, yes, November will be intense.

I know, I know. I've heard all the objections and whining about NaNoWriMo. If you are one of the NaNo wowsers (a great word that I only learned after coming to Australia), I suppose you are performing a useful service for those who traffic in outrage. Me, I love NaNo. I love the camaraderie and the productivity and the buzz and the spirit of fun. Because, at its heart, it's a game. A fun, encouraging, energizing game.

This year, in fact, I'm deliberately breaking the rules of NaNoWriMo, in that I will be adding words to an existing work, rather than starting a new project. And for you NaNo rule heavies, well, I stick my tongue out at you, too. (To show just how much, or how little, the rules matter in this good-natured game, there's an "official" term for people like me: NaNo rebels.)

I look forward to the encouragement of my Egoboo buddies, and I look forward to getting a very large percentage of my novel-in-progress drafted, or at least raking together a big pile of word-leaves to jump in and scatter. (Ah, what you Australians miss, growing up amid a tragic paucity of deciduous trees.) And I especially look forward to the chance to cheer my buddies on, on, on! On to glory! On to victory! On to transcendent states of mind where the words flow like the Zambezi over the Victoria Falls!

Like Sarah & Laura, I've just decided I will do the Nanowrimo thing again this year.  Not sure I should be doing it, but last year, got a novel completed in 2 weeks (well, 3 quarters of it) so shall do it again.  Don't know if it will be in the same universe or something else entirely.  I shall just have to wait & see.
I will both curse and enjoy the challenge, as much as I do with all my writing projects.  It's a time to both be structured and free-flowing.  It involves and condenses all the joys and frustrations of what takes normally takes a lot longer.  It's writing in a time-box: all constrictions visible, no opening for escape, and yet, within that box, there are also no limits (TARDIS analogy, anyone?). 
So Sarah - Laura - I will be joining you.

Best of luck to all 3 of us!

(this is the 1st post from new member, Keira - hopefully it won't be the last)

A Plea to SFF Writers for Variety in Pregnancy and Childbirth Depictions |

Childbirth and pregnancy is a gray area in SFF, where the cliches seem to abound and no one does a bare minimum of research about what birth and child bearing is actually like. Kate Nepveu puts out a much more nicely phrased plea for people using child birth and pregnancy in fiction to think a little, and do a little more research. Not every one screams during child birth (actually, as far as I've heard, very few people do!) and some people don't even get morning sickness, for example!

A Plea to SFF Writers for Variety in Pregnancy and Childbirth Depictions |

Friday, October 14, 2011

One Cobble at a Time � When Critiques Wound

One Cobble at a Time � When Critiques Wound: "This is the hard truth about critiques which rarely gets mentioned: If the critique hits one of your writing insecurities, or if you’re uncertain about the relationship with the person critiquing you, then the process can be emotionally injurious. And the writer is not the only one at risk, the critiquer is taking a risk as well. People can get hurt. I got hurt."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Teen Harlequin - In The Arms of Stone Angels

I found 'In the Arms of Stone Angels' by Jordan Dane to be much better than 'The Girl In The Steel Corset' - to start with, it had some actual romance elements!

Stone Angels is described as a suspense novel, and I totally agree. It was a good solid read, without any language trips to throw me out of the book. I found it really very hard to read in parts as the ferocious maliciousness of teenagers was really hard to get through, but it did add some extra dimension and angles to the plot. I didn't guess who did it, which was also very nice, and the threads were all pulled together pretty tightly at the end in a way that satisfied me.

Nicely written, tightly constructed, it was a light read but really enjoyable suspense aimed at the young adult range. It included all the things I imagine are issues in YA lives - troubles with authority, self esteem/awareness, trust issues, and peer pressure to the max.

I also enjoyed the fact that the male of the romance didn't really exist as a person/character except in memories. In a way, the romance is a complete construction within the heroine's mind. He didn't need to have a completely active role, as the ploy was around him, but didn't need a male's agency to progress.

Our heroine's relationships are all quite troubled but believable. I really enjoyed this read, and will keep my eyes open for some other of Dane's books.

Sarah P

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

SF Conventions in Perth, 2012

On Sunday, Carol Ryles and I dropped in on Villaincon, a small SF convention in Perth. Sadly, it was nowhere near as well attended as it should have been. It seems to me that fannish conventions are not doing as well as they once did. There are so many other calls on our time these days, and besides, events such as SupaNova cast all smaller events into the shade.

But there is still a place for the smaller, more intimate convention, where you can catch up with your friends in the bar and pick up all the latest goss. There are many people I never see outside of conventions – due, again, to all myriad of little things that take up so much time. But you can go to a con knowing that you’re going to meet like-minded people, new ones as well as old friends. So I was really pleased to learn that next year there will be no fewer than four conventions in Perth!

The first is the annual Genghis Con. I must admit I’ve haven’t been to this one, because I’ve always thought of it a student gig and my student days are well gone. However, while it did indeed start out in 1992 as a student con, run by SF aficionados from our universities, I’m assured that while it retains its low budget profile, plenty of older people attend. The 2012 offering will be held from 20-22 January at St Georges College, UWA, and it costs only $25 to attend plus $80 per night accommodation – which includes breakfast.

Then comes Swancon, which I’ve been attending for about ten years. I’ve felt quite bereft the odd time I’ve had to miss a year! It’s held over the Easter long weekend (5-9 April next year) so there are four whole days of panels, discussions, academic papers, book launches and socialising. The venue for next year hasn’t been announced, but it will be at one of Perth’s many lovely hotels. It’s going to be called Doom-Con this time, to reflect an apocalyptic theme. The overseas guest-of honour will be no less a personage than Brandon Sanderson, while local girl turned Brisbanite Marianne de Pierres will be the Australian GOH. Fan GOH will be Chris Creagh, a lecturer at Murdoch University. (Chris is the initiator of the Murdoch University Science Fiction Foundation, which is helping with the preservation of the Murdoch Uni Library's valuable collection of speculative fiction material)

If you book and pay for Swancon before the end of December they’ll give you really good deal, too! Only $185 full price or $140 concession for the four days.

Next up will be one that’s close to my heart – the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre Mini-con on Sunday, 9 September. This one-day gathering of writers has been held at Greenmount in the Perth Hills every two years since 2004, so this will be our fourth venture into the convention business. It’s only a baby con – just the one day and well under a hundred attendees – but because of that it’s intimate and chatty, with interesting panels, a good lunch and lots of books to spend your money on. And the authors could well be in attendance to sign them, too. More news will be posted here closer to the time.

And lastly will come Crime Scene on the 29-30 September at Novotel. This is a new venture for Spec-fic in Perth, but a logical one because a lot of SF readers also read crime, and SF writers often need to research crime for their works. It’s hoped that guests will include crime writers and experts on police procedure, forensics etc. This con doesn't have a website yet but you can find them on Facebook.

So, add the various fund-raising functions and it will be a busy year on the SF front in Perth. And that’s without even thinking about cons in the other state capitals! Maybe we can give you a run-down on those events in another post.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Girl In The Steel Corset

I was poking around Big W the other day at the books. I love romances, so I was checking out the Harlequin section, which has quite a diverse range of books these days! I was quite confused for the amount of choices I had!

So of course, I picked one by cover! I got The Girl In The Steel Corset, by Kady Cross, which has a fabulous steampunk cover. Gorgeous image on the cover, with beautiful rich colours and a striking image. I was amazed to realise the book was a Harlequin Teen novel, and was officially YOUNG ADULT. I read the first two pages, and was even more amazed that it was a teenage romance novel. Except it wasn't.

The opening pages were interesting and did draw me in, hence buying the novel, but beyond that it didn't seem to deepen or mature in the topics it raised. The opening stuff was then basilly forgotten while every one ended up on this strange adventure where Queen Victoria was thrown in for good measure, and some of the characterisations didn't work for me. I wanted the lead heroine to explore herself more, to have more at stake with the story being told; I wanted her to learn and grow. And to be honest, I didn't realise she was sixteen. I thought she was mid twenties to late twenties! 

The other points of view felt quite similar to Finley's, and I found all of them to feel a little detached. It may just be the writing style is different from what I am used to, but I felt I was being told the character's emotional responses rather than feeling them, and the end scenes felt really forced. Also, Kady describes one of the girl's hair as 'ropey' about ten times. By the last quarter of the book I felt like shouting "I get it already! They look like dreads! Okay!" and I there was a LOT of discussion about what people were wearing that I thought was unnecessary. I would have preferred more time spent inside their bodies, and less outside.

Finley didn't really grow or develop as a character, and things seemed to happen where she then never really felt or did much about them after wards. After some shocking relevations about her parentage, she seems to just forget it, or have very little resonance with the big issue. I didn't feel for Fin much, and I didn't care if she did anything, and I didn't like her friends much either.

Things that didn't work for me - my favourite phrase which was TOTALLY out of place involved expecting some feathery wings to grow out of someone's arse. I was just so broken out of the book it took me a while to even try to read it again.

Despite all the negatives listed above, it was a very easy read. I can feel it draining from my head already, and expect to have forgotten the entire book within the week.

Sarah P

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Literature and Latte - Scrivener

I know I amlate to this boat, but I have fallen deeply and irrevocably in love with Scrivener. I have just done ten minutes of work on the novel I will be working on for Nanowrimo this year... and I have a fully fledged plan already. *SWOON!*

Literature and Latte - Scrivener

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Challenge for Everyone!

Good morning everyone,

The City of  Rockingham's National Novel Writing Month programme gets bigger each year, and the City is proud to announce award winning authors Bevan McGuiness and Anna Jacobs as guest authors for "The Night of Writing Dangerously", to take place at the Gary Holland Community Centre on Saturday 12 November from 5-10pm.

“The Night of Writing Dangerously” is a five hour writing marathon, with access to advice and consultation from professional guest authors who act as ‘bounties’ in a series of encouragement exercises with spot prizes throughout the night. All attendees will receive a 'show bag' of promotional materiel and there will also be a door prize comprising a basket of writing & reading related goodies, thanks to event sponsors Adventure World; Andromeda Spaceways In-flight Magazine; Asgard Games; Cosmic Comics; Coeur De Lion Publishing; Fablecroft Publishing; Fremantle Press; Fun Station; Harper Collins Publishers Australia; Island Magazine; Meanjin Magazine; Overland Magazine; Peter Cowan Writers Centre; Rockingham Shopping Centre; Serendipity MediSpa Baldivis; Sterling's Office National; Twelfth Planet Publishing and White Dwarf Books

Anna Jacobs writes historical and modern novels. She’s had 55 novels traditionally published so far, with others are contracted and in the pipeline. Her latest historical novel is ‘The Trader’s Wife’ set in Western Australia and Singapore in the mid 1860s. Her latest modern novel is ‘Moving On’, set in the UK and Western Australia, and she’s also had a book of short romantic stories published ‘Short and Sweet’. Anna is currently the 11th Most Borrowed Author of Adult Fiction in the UK and is doing equally well in Australian libraries, too.

Bevan McGuiness is the author of two fantasy trilogies as well as short stories, book reviews, a novel based on his experiences as a teacher, and pieces for texts on science education. He lives near Perth with his wife and daughter. Although he has worked as a factory hand, geophysicist and laboratory assistant, he is now a teacher of chemistry at a boys’ school in Perth, and is currently working on another fantasy trilogy and two children’s fantasy series.

Registration is free, but places are limited. To register, contact Lee Battersby, Community Development Officer (Arts & Culture), on (08) 9528 0386 or

Lee Battersby - Community Development Officer

PO Box 2142 Rockingham DC WA 6967
Civic Boulevard, Rockingham Western Australia
telephone +61 8 9528 0386 facsimile +61 8 9592 1705


Donna Maree Hanson interviews Ellen Datlow on editing. We all know the work of an editor is essential to the success of an anthology or magazine but just what that involves is often somewhat of a mystery. Here Ellen talks about the complexities of an editor's work and the different kinds of editing. The comments are worth reading as well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WSFA Small Press Awards Finalists

The short list for the WSFA Small Press Awards 2011 is up on the WSFA website. These awards are for short fiction published by small presses. Among the finalists this year is Enid and the Prince by R J Astruc, published in Worlds Next Door edited by Tehani Wessely, Fablecroft Publishing (June 2010). The winner will be announced at Capclave in October.

Last year's winner was Siren Best by Tansy Rayner Roberts, editor Alisa Krasnostein, Twelfth Planet Press (October 2009).

It's good to see Western Australian small presses is getting some recognition internationally.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction Awards 2011

The results for the awards are up on the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre website (they've accidentally been put in the Short Fiction Awards section). First prize went to Jack Nicholls of Victoria with Western Australian writers, Karen Dixon and Lee Battersby taking out second and third places.
Among the commended writers were two more West Australians, Lyn Battersby and Nicolette van Schie-de-Roos along with Victorian Glenda Janes and Elaine Kennedy and Kaylia Payne from NSW.

The Mundaring National Young Writers Awards winners were first prize Raeden Richardson (Vic), second Laura Potter (WA) with an encouragement award to Alice Johnson (NSW). All the commended writers came from WA - Eloise Caitlin, Will Donaldson, William John Nelson, Joshua Penkin and Alexandra Utley.

There's also a comprehensive Judge's Report that is well worth reading.

Congratulations to all.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

US Tropes in Storytelling

I was reading Champagne and Socks, Alisa Krasnostein's blog. Alisa is the editor and publisher of Twelfth Planet Press among many other things and periodically she puts up a list of links connected to the writing world. This is where I found this link to Aliette de Bodard's blog. The comments are as interesting as the blog entry itself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Just Had to Share This.

The Novel Doctor is another blog I discovered while wandering the net.
This link encapsulates the way I'm pretty sure every writer feels at some time and it turns out there's some other useful stuff on this blog too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jo Reads Her Winning Poem on ABC Radio

Last month, Joanna Fay (writing as Jo Mills) took first prize in the Banjo Paterson Award.

You can hear her reading her winning poem, Orpheus in the Desert, over at the ABC Radio Central West's Morning Show Blog. Here she also talks about the inspiration behind this beautiful and moving poem and how she takes the Orpheus legend and places it in an Australian desert landscape.

Congratulations Jo.


Monday, July 25, 2011

What's Happening to Publishing?

This week I heard about a successful writer who has not been able to sell her latest trilogy based on a proposal although she has been trying for nearly a year. She's gone ahead with writing it but has no idea whether it will ever sell. I wouldn't be surprised if this was a beginner but to hear it about an established author was, to put it mildly, unnerving. Even more disturbing, as I discovered in trawling the net, it appears she's by no means the only one in this situation.

There's more happening out there in the publishing world. On her blog, Pub Rants, Agent Kristin has something to say about Random House's recent decision to change the way it calculates royalties.

Then, as so often happens, I came across this on Nicola Morgan's blog, Help! I Need a Publisher linking to a post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Both are blogs I look at frequently because they are full of practical good sense for surviving in the writing world. It seems there's a lot to worry about if you want to be a writer these days but while Kristine Kathryn Rusch tells us quite bluntly about all the problems she also offers some good advice about how to survive this period of turmoil.

Have a look at what they have to say but try not to fall into despair. I don't know why others choose to write but I started because I had stories to tell and share and that will not change. Yes, the writing world is in a state of upheaval but the truth is we don't know what will emerge out of the present situation. All we can do is keep our heads down and have faith that story telling will survive. It will because it always has. It may have a different form but human beings have an insatiable thirst for stories and it will need to be satisfied. At the same time we need to keep up with what is going on in the industry and adapt to those changes. Hard? Maybe but writers are imaginative and creative. We can do that.

It's going to be a bumpy road but I'll see you at the other end.

Edit: apparently the page isn't showing from the link to Pub Rants. I'm not sure why. Here's an alternative option. This link takes you to the blog. If you go to her post of June 29 and scroll down past the details about Courtney Milan's Unlocked, which she is justifiably excited about, you will find the part on Random House. The previous post about Harlequin is also interesting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Congratulations to Helen Venn and Sarah Lee Parker for receiving Honourable Mentions in the Second Quarter of the Writers of the Future Contest.

Helen for her story, "Nightwraiths" and Sarah for her story, "Just Another Day in Traffic Control".

Woohoo to you both!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What I've Been Reading.

This year so far has been something of a case of swings and roundabouts for me. There have been all sorts of personal upheavals and several bouts of surgery which have made life difficult at times. But it turns out there is a side benefit to surgery. Confined to bed and with the options being daytime television or reading I devoured books. So here in alphabetical order by author are some of the books I've read - or reread - since mid March. They are a mix of adult and YA fiction and short stories.

Novels and Novellas:

Peter M. Ball Bleed, Twelfth Planet Press

Peter V. Brett The Painted Man, Harper Voyager

Kim Falconer Path of the Stray (Book One Quantum Encryption), Harper Voyager

Kim Falconer The Spell of Rosette (Book One Quantum Enchantment), Harper Voyager

Jennifer Fallon The Chaos Crystal (Book Four The Tide Lords), Harper Voyager

Jennifer Fallon The Gods of Amyrantha (Book Two The Tide Lords), Harper Voyager

Jennifer Fallon The Immortal Prince (Book One The Tide Lords), Harper Voyager

Jennifer Fallon The Palace of Impossible Dreams (Book Three The Tide Lords), Harper Voyager

Jennifer Fallon The Undivided (Book One Rift Runners), Harper Voyager

Richard Harland Liberator, Allen & Unwin

Richard Harland Worldshaker, Allen & Unwin

Trent Jamieson Death Most Definite, Orbit

Trent Jamieson Managing Death, Orbit

N. K. Jemisin The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Book One of The Inheritance Trilogy), Orbit

Dave Luckett Paladin, Omnibus Books

Juliet Marillier Seer of Seven Waters, Macmillan

Karen Miller A Blight of Mages, Harper Voyager

Nicole Murphy Secret Ones, Harper Voyager

Tansy Rayner Roberts Power and Majesty (Book One Creature Court), Harper Voyager

Tansy Rayner Roberts The Shattered City (Book Two Creature Court), Harper Voyager

Sean Williams The Changeling, Angus and Robertson

Connie Willis All Clear, Allen & Unwin

Connie Willis Blackout, Allen & Unwin


Listed by title:

A Book of Endings Deborah Biancotti, Twelfth Planet Press

Baggage ed. Gillian Polack, Eniet Press

Dead Red Heart ed. Russell B. Farr, Ticonderoga Publications

Glitter Rose Marianne de Pierres, Twelfth Planet Press

Heliotrope Justina Robson, Ticonderoga Publications

The Inheritance Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm, Harper Voyager

More Scary Kisses ed. Liz Grzyb, Ticonderoga Publications

Sprawl ed. Alisa Krasnostein, Twelfth Planet Press

This list is by no means complete. I've read at least half as many books again as those I've listed here in that period but I wanted whatever I included to be books I could recommend. In different ways, I enjoyed each of these enough to say they are worth a read and, in the case of the many starts to trilogies, I'm looking forward to reading the sequels too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dario Ciriello chats with EgobooWA

Dario Ciriello is a London-born writer, editor and publisher living in San Francisco, USA. He is a graduate of Clarion West, has been a finalist in the Writers of the Future Competition, and has had a number of short stories published in anthologies and journals. Panverse Publishing, which he founded in 2009, has released two anthologies of science fiction and fantasy novellas to critical acclaim, with a third volume forthcoming. Panverse has also published an anthology of short stories, Eight Against Reality, by the members of Written in Blood, the writing group Dario formed in 2007. Aegean Dream, Dario's tragi-comic memoir of a year spent on the Greek island of Skopelos, will be published this month.

Welcome Dario, it's great to have you here! Would you like to start off by telling us a bit about your journey as a writer? How did it start, and what experiences have most influenced its development?

My Father was a journalist, quite a heavyweight in his time, and my earliest memories are of going to sleep with him clacking away on his Olivetti Lettera 22 portable next door. My parents were both huge readers -- we had books everywhere -- and I've loved books since I can remember. As an only child, I had no distractions in my leisure time. I still have my first little story from when I was 9 or 10, and it's solidly in the SF/weird category with an oppressive overtone of cosmic dread. I was clearly already channelling Conrad and Poe, which just makes me wish I'd got serious about writing earlier instead of in my middle years. I guess my bottom line is that there are stories I want to read but which nobody else has written, so I'm going to have to roll my sleeves up and do it myself.

A writer's sensibility is no doubt inseparable from their tastes as a reader. Which writers and/or genres have touched you most deeply, and which writers do you see as prominent influences on your own style?

Yes. I think my trajectory's a pretty standard one for an SF & F writer who was a child in the 'fifties. After graduating from nursery and fairy tales I discovered Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. There's that great saying, the Golden Age of Science Fiction is thirteen, and I was certainly reading classic SF -- Asimov, Clarke, A.E. Van Vogt, Poul Anderson, E.E. 'Doc' Smith, and all the rest -- right around then. On the Fantasy side. I'd devoured everything by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard just in time to discover Hobbits in 1967.

But the real revelation that bonded me forever to the power of SF came when I came across Roger Zelazny at around age 15. The New Wave -- Zelazny, Ballard, Blish -- was reshaping SF at that time, and Zelazny just blew me away. (He still does, actually, and I re-read his work regularly). It wasn't just his astonishing stories but his wild, unique prose style as well -- there's been nobody like him before or since. The story that really did it was his novella, 'For a Breath I Tarry,' in which he seamlessly blended Genesis with the story of Faust and a few other things besides on a post-human Earth peopled only by robots. Unbelievable. The only perons who comes close to Zelazny in power for me is C.J. Cherryh. Though I find her work since the mid-90s a little tedious, she was producin both Fantasy and SF of astonishing quality for almost two decades. Anyone who hasn't read the Morgayne series (Fantasy) or the Chanur series (SF) is missing out. I'd definitely cite Zelazny and Cherryh as major influences.

I was always a style junkie, a throwback, and to this day resent Hemingway for the damage he did to English letters. His stripped-down minimalism is poison to me. Prose can be complex and beautiful wihtout being distracting. Which is why, outside of SF & F, I absolutely revere Jorge Luis Borges and John LeCarre (okay, Borges is borderline SF with a big side of metaphysics) -- nobody shapes prose so well as these two at the same time as telling a solid story. And LeCarre does character so well.

Written in Blood is a powerhouse of a writing group. Its members are widely published and some of them have gone on to gain novel publications with major publishing houses in the US and UK. What motivated you to form the group, and what brought this particular group of writers together?

I'd just moved to Greece in 2006, to this tiny island -- which suddenly became famous as the 'Mamma Mia!' island -- and I felt the need to stay connected to writers. So I had this idea of a distributed critique group with a twist: instead of a regular schedule we'd be an 'on-demand' group. So whenever anyone has a piece to crit the group would get a 24-hour heads-up and a short window in which to turn the piece around and deliver critique (we work on 5 days for shorts and a 30-day max on the longest pieces). And there'd be no flaking -- the group is called Written in Blood because we see our commitment to one another as a blood oath (I hate flakes!). I wanted people who were grown ups and took their writing seriously enough to commit at a professional level.

I'd met Juliette (Wade) at a con and invited her into a previous group when I was back in the 'States, and I knew she was frustrated, so she was the first invitee. Traci and Doug were old mates from my 2002 Clarion West, so they were invited. Aliette was an online buddy of Traci's through their shared interest in Aztec mythology, and Janice Hardy -- who writes YA Fantasy -- was a good friend of Juliette's via Critters. So we had our core group right there, and only added a couple more in the following year. I'd had this clear vision of the sort of group I wanted, capping it at eight, and it worked -- we've been solid for five years now. Amazing.

These people are awesome writers -- actually, Traci (T.L. Morganfield, who along with Aliette de Bodard, writes Aztec Fantasy) has just landed a terrific agent for her own two-volume Aztec epic. So of the eight of us, two have published trilogies, one (Juliette Wade) is rocking the SF world with a run of great stories in Analog, and another just got a major agent. Gives the rest of us something to shoot for!

Did Panverse Publishing evolve from your practice as a writer, or did you have a longer term goal of becoming a publisher? What inspired you to take the unusual step of specifically publishing scinece fiction and fantasy novella anthologies?

A good part of the impetus behind Panverse was frustration, frustration at the lack of markets for novella-length fiction, especially for newer writers; anger at the unprofessional way the industry in general deals with submissions -- nobody should ever have to wait more than 60 days in the slushpile; and above all frustration with what I perceived as the decline in the prominence of story in the genre. It seemed to me that SF & F had become so concerned with literary respectability that the field was losing sight of its core value -- story. Being the proud SoB I am, I believed I could do better!

Now I've always loved the novella form, and it's perfect for our genre. I missed the novella anthologies of old, and there were so few slots for stories over 12k words that I thought I could have my pick at a price I could pay. And I really wanted to give some newer writers a market -- not everyone can write to that popular 3-7k word slot. At the same time, Print on Demand was emerging, and gaining respectability. I figured that I couldn't lose much, and that in the process I'd be able to perhaps help some good work into print.

Panverse has expanded to publish a short story anthology, and your Greek odyssey of a travel memoir, Aegean Dream. What have been the highs and lows of Panverse so far, and what would you most like to see in its evolution from here?

The short story antho, Eight Against Reality, was something I really wanted to do for Written in Blood. It's a group anthology to which we each contributed a piece and which we shared the cost of.

The lows -- well, marketing is hell for me. Never been good at it, and starting Panverse in what has been the most financially challenged period of my life didn't help. Add to that the fact that it's impossible to get brick-and-mortar distribution as an independent using PoD technology, and getting significant traction is very hard indeed.

On the upside, Panverse has had some solid, even excellent reviews. Many critics were excited to see an annual all-novella anthology (and UNthemed at that!), and were happy to give this rare beast a look over. Alan Smale's AH story from Panverse Two, 'A Clash of Eagles', has just been nominated for the Sidewise award, and fully deserves it. But more rewarding than anything has been the knowledge that I've helped several new writers into print and recognition; like Mike Winkle, an unknown whose weird tale about Charles Fort and the Jersey Devil received high praise from several top reviewers. And all the writers have been great to work with.

I'm also hugely proud of the quality of the Panverse volumes. I was fortunate enough to find some terrific artists who'd work with me; and Janice Hardy from my crit group -- who happens to be a professional graphic and layout artist -- contributed all the layout work for Panverse One and Eight Against Reality and set the standard for me. Everyone is blown away by the quality of these books.

Finally, it's been a huge revelation to see how things look from the editor's side of the desk. It's just so important to OWN your story from the get-go. Now that I've started writing again after a long fallow period, I've learned a great deal that I can apply to my own writing.

As to Panverse's evolution, I'm pondering that. I dont' think I'll be doing any more Panverse novella anthologies -- it's a truly huge amount of work and I'm barely breaking even. I've considered digital-only editions, but with my sixtieth birthday coming up next year, I think I'm going to focus on my own writing instead. I'd like to make a mark of some sort before I shuffle off.

That said, I still have a handful of ISBNs, and with the current upheavals in the industry and editors terrified to take chances, I wouldn't be surprised if I end up publishing friends' books, or even something further of my own.

As a 'micro-publisher', how do you view the current upheavals in the publishing industry and what advice would you give to writers about navigating those changes when it comes to getting published (and/or self-publishing)?

Frankly, I think the traditional publishing industry deserves to die. Like the music industry, they do few favours to the artists who allow them to exist, and are -- in the main -- incredibly resistant to change. The booksellers aren't much better: between the mess of distribution and the insane 'returns' system, it's hard to imagine a worse business model. As Bob Dylan said, "Get out of the doorways, don't block up the halls!" If these people can't change, they just need to go away.

We're right in the the middle of a revolution, now. Digital books and sales of eReaders are achieving critical mass. With the switch to digital, traditional publishers have fewer bullshit ways to play games with authors -- the returns game is over and the cost of print and distribution becomes a non-issue. They're trying to draw some hard price lines on the basis of the cost of promoting and marketing books, but the average, non-celebrity author knows that the money the majors spends on marketing them is close to zero. It's becoming hard not to notice that the Emperor has no clothes.

I'm cautiously optimistic that the fallout of this will be mostly good for authors. I think Amazon and maybe Sony will get into the publishing business very soon and offer authors a far better deal than traditional publishers have or do -- certainly far higher royalties, though perhaps not advances. Others will follow. One or two of the majors and many of the smaller presses will adapt and survive what is certain to be a sizeable extinction event. I think print will certainly survive, but perhaps as a more high-end or collectable product...unless the Espresso machine, which prints books in five minutes on demand, becomes commonplace. Agents won't go away, and the smarter ones are already ahead of the curve on digital rights. Both they and their authors will see a more varied landscape as new players enter the field and experiment with different business models. It's a very exciting -- and very confusing -- time.

As for self-publishing, that's changing too. Right now it's still widely viewed as an exercise in ego, and professional reviewers have pretty much a blanket policy of not reviewing self-published work. It's true that 99.99% of it is dross, and -- worse -- dross that's poorly edited and produced. but by the same token, the vast majority of traditionally published books are dreck, only better packaged.

I think this will change. Some reviewers are already beginning to consider this policy, and there have been several instances of good self-published books seeing commercial pickup -- rare, but it's happened. The challenge, as always, is marketing, getting heard above the exponentially increasing static roar. But with some name authors experimenting with self-publishing and a growing number of authors choosing this option, it seems likely that channels will emerge for self-published books to be reviewed and noticed. Authors will likely have to be even more involved in marketing than they currently are -- which I think is not a good thing -- but that's the world we live in.

In conclusion, then, I'd advise a new author -- for now -- to go the traditional route of seeking an agent and publisher. But at the same time keep an eye on the industry, and in particular blogs like Kristin Kathryn Rusch's ( - her 'Business Rusch' section especially) and the guru megastar of self-publishing success, J.A. Konrath ( ).

The most important thing, of course, is to hone your craft. If you write SF & F, you're fortunate to have lots of pros and semi-pro markets that publish short fiction. Unless you only write novels, submitting and selling short fiction is a tremendous way to get real-world feedback and benchmark your progress, as well as learning to work with editors. And whether your fiction is long or short, a good crit group is absolutely vital.

But whatever the publishing landscape looks like, I do believe that success begins with a very simple formula: tell me a STORY, and make me CARE.

Thank you, Dario!

You can check out Panverse's current and upcoming publications at