The agony of writing a synopsis! For writers who find it hard to chop their synopsis down to size, this video from Nicola, senior editor of HarperCollins Publishers, steps us through a seamless 500 word synopsis. It will grab that attention your manuscript deserves. And, yes, a synopsis does include plot spoilers.
Read why the first page of a manuscript is so important. Anna Valdinger, HarperCollins commercial fiction publisher knows – she reads a tonne of submissions every year.
Click Importance of Manuscript First Page
The Banjo Prize
HarperCollins is Australia’s oldest publisher and The Banjo Prize is named after Banjo Paterson, Australia’s first bestselling author and poet. His first collection of poems The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses was published in 1895. Who’s up for 2019?
The Banjo Prize is annual and open to all Australian writers of fiction, offering the chance to win a publishing contract with HarperCollins and an advance of AU$15,000. Submit entries via HarperCollins website. Entries opened 25 March 2019 and close 5pm AEST on Friday 24 May 2019. Good luck!
Cesare Pavese was an Italian novelist, poet and translator, and an outspoken literary and political critic.
Not well-known outside Italy, Pavese is numbered highly among the important 20th century authors in his home country.
Born in rural Santo Stefano Belbo, he often returned to the area, enjoying the solitude away from his turbulent career and heartbroken love life. Pavese was not destined to live long, he died just before his 42 birthday.
Is acknowledgement a cherished goal? Is reimbursement the final accolade? Or will a writer write regardless?
On a writer’s wishlist, there would have to be the thrill of seeing their name in print. My name under a bold heading on a hardback cover would show that I’ve made it. Throw in a display stand, a book launch with signing table, coffee and cupcakes, and I would be in literary heaven. No doubt hell would follow with the necessary writing of a sequel…
Recently a member of my writers group asked the question “Why do you write?” which seemed innocuous enough but there were vastly different answers—-see below.
My earnest reply went something like “Because I think in words hence the title of my blog. Most things I experience can become a potential story.” I am always mapping out first lines, or an introductory paragraph, or setting the scene. This, however, does not mean I will be traditionally published. I just keep doing it.
I believe a writer’s inner core is made of words and emotions which must be written down.
If I’m undertaking a complex household chore like chopping carrots, I may not jot down a sudden literary gem, but, no matter, I will find myself composing another while out grocery shopping.
For example “See that bloke over there, he’s uncomfortable and he’s trying to get up the nerve to...”
(1) ask the sales assistant out (2) steal that expensive car polish (3) abandon his trolley at the checkout (4) inquire about a job (5) hide behind the refrigerated cabinet to avoid his mother/parole officer/ex-boss or chatty neighbour.
See, I can’t help it!
GENUINE RESPONSES FROM 31 WRITERS WHEN ASKED THE QUESTION “WHY DO YOU WRITE?”
A form of self-expression, the joy of crafting something meaningful.
I write because I can’t imagine my life without writing in it.
I started writing because I wanted to explore my creative side.
Because I can’t dance.
Mostly it’s because I have loads of inspiration and story ideas and I need to write them to get them out of my head!
It sets my soul free and my heart on fire….storytelling is an inextricable part of who I am.
I write because I want to.
I write because ideas, images and words come to me and they seem important to share.
I can’t help it, stories bubble and whirl around in my head all the time.
So I can draw the pictures, to be honest I find writing really tedious – I just want to illustrate.
I do not know why. It just is. And sometimes or often, it isn’t.
Because I like making people laugh and feel other feelings.
I’ve always imagined myself writing one day, but now that I’m finally trying to make it actually happen I’m finding it a lot harder than I expected.
If it’s any help, writing for me is mostly agony.
Starting is great fun…I love cracking the problems.
Because I know how it feels to not create.
Writing is, for me, a personal freedom.
Because I like making things.
Because I think in words, the title of my blog is Thoughts Become Words.
For me it is almost a subconscious act that I’m completely driven to do.
Because I have to, it’s not a want or a need, it’s an in-the-bones thing.
Writing is always there with me, sometimes we’re best of friends, often we’re not.
Cos I have to! I do my best to avoid it, I really do.
Can’t help it.
To put something wonderful out into the world.
It does get easier especially when you get a download in your head.
I think it’s a wonderful form of escapism.
It’s part of me.
At the moment I’d say that writing is a kind of masochism for me.
I love writing and hate it in equal measure.
Because it’s fun and because I find it impossible not to.
Imagine a world where human inhabitants must bulk-up and hibernate through brutally cold winters, watched over by armed Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently guard the susceptible sleeping citizens. Or do they?
“Early Riser” is the latest novel from bestselling author Jasper Fforde.
A unique and inventive writer, Welsh resident Jasper Fforde creates a mystery novel with skewed social values, high level corruption, bureaucratic cover-ups, bad dreams, mindlessness and the ever-present fear of freezing to death, all set in a bleak yet frighteningly droll otherworld in Wales.
Perfect for the cold northern hemisphere and a cool read for the hot southern hemisphere.
SPOILER ALERT – Jasper Fforde should have his own genre, writing a review is difficult! Please note the book contains references to real food brand names.
Jasper Fforde is known for creating strong female characters and in “Early Riser” he does not disappoint. Aurora and Toccata immediately spring to mind but I won’t go into details. Let’s just say they are not related to Thursday Next, although there are a couple of fan-fic moments.
In this speculative postmodern standalone, the protagonist is Charlie Worthing, a novice Winter Consul who has been trained to stay alive through the bleakest of winters.
Although rather young and innocent, Charlie is chosen to accompany notable Winter Consul and hero, Jack Logan, to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of snow-covered Wales. It’s an honour but Charlie is not at all prepared for what awaits in frigid Sector Twelve.
Part of Charlie’s job is to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation and, first up, there’s the care and delivery of a vacant Nightwalker Mrs Tiffen which causes an unexpected disaster.
With a facial deformity which quickly earns him a nickname, poor Charlie learns dreaming is not encouraged. Especially not about a mysterious blue Buick or a large beach parasol, part of the main “Early Riser” plot. He floats in and out of another Charlie’s dream, and also has problems with a young woman, Jonesy, who takes a fancy to him and decides to create their own backstory as if they are an old married couple.
Winter Consuls carry a Thumper and a Bambi which are deadly guns or, for extra grunt, a Vortex Canon is deployed when necessary to blast snow and anything in it. Thus Deputy Charlie begins Pantry Duty, guarding the winter pantry, under the tutelage of seasoned campaigner Fodder – and things get even weirder!
"Dark humour and entertaining pseudo geek-speak punctuate an otherwise intense novel which touches on community issues relevant today" GBW.
In “Early Riser” prominent themes are human relationships, mental health, bad coffee and sugary food as the isolated enclave carbo-load in preparation for the enforced SlumberDown. Certain behaviour, although legal in this story, is reprehensible by our standards. In Sector Twelve nothing is wasted, so-called Vacants become unpaid workers or body-farmed for those who have lost limbs due to rat gnawing or frost bite.
In most of Jasper Fforde’s tales, the world is run by an evil corporation and here we have HiberTech which supplies Morphenox drugs and encourages the growing of a winter “coat” for hibernation. Charlie encounters The Notable Goodnight, shivers hearing the maybe-less-than-mythical Gronk, and has a shock meeting with posh Villains. Snowy dangers abound, like WinterVolk and Campaigners For Real Sleep. Classic Fforde!
I listened to the “Early Riser” audio book and narrator Thomas Hunt does a variety of accents which keep the pacing levels high. His Attenborough-like chapter introductions are hilarious, a blend of hushed tones and Fforde’s dry wit. Wales comes across as a kind of decimated never-never land, and I’m sure it’s not, but thankfully snow is a rare commodity in Australia otherwise I’d be shaking in my shoes.
+ PLUS Innovative story with a world in a world, the snowbound and the dream-state. – MINUS Some repetition and some chapters are heavy with world-building.
Book rating 4-Star and recommended for readers who can handle comprehensively quirky writing.
Who’d have thought it? Margaret Eleanor Atwood (1939- ) author of The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and more than forty other books of fiction, poetry, critical essays and a graphic novel has written children’s books.
Margaret Atwood also wears various hats, from activist through literary critic, inventor, environmentalist and award-winner with honours and degrees, yet for me this news was surprising. Not so surprising is the quirky nature of her children’s stories!
♦ With grateful thanks to online friend and blogger BookJotter Paula Bardell-Hedley for alerting me to these little gems within a comprehensive list of Margaret Atwood’s literary output—
Up in the Tree (1978) Anna’s Pet (with Joyce Barkhouse) (1980) For the Birds (1990) Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003) Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (2004) Up in the Tree (facsimile reprint) (2006) Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery (2011) A Trio of Tolerable Tales (illustrator Dušan Petričić) (2017)
Being a kidlit fan, I immediately wanted to read several of those earlier Atwood books but found they (like this non-fiction For The Birds) were no longer in print, or libraries, but may be available through state archives or second-hand book merchants. I will track down her first children’s book Up in the Tree (with her own illustrations and hand-lettering, quite possibly written for her young daughter) because the story intrigues me.
Along the way, Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery was adapted into the children’s television series The Wide World of Wandering Wenda aimed at early readers with different adventures using words, sounds, and language.
Happily, in 2017, three of Atwood’s books were re-published, printed and bound in Canada into one compilation A Trio of Tolerable Tales. I was able to buy a new copy with Serbian Dušan Petričić gorgeous drawings. Atwood’s alliteration is absolutely awesome!
♦ Here are my reviews of these alliteration-filled, tongue-twisting tales…read on….
♦ Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes
The reader follows the adventures of Ramsay and Ralph the red-nosed rat as they traverse various repulsive obstacles to find a round, Roman-vaulted rat hole leading to food nirvana – round red radishes ready to be devoured. The radishes revolt and start to attack but thankfully owner Rillah comes on the scene. She forgives their trespass and shows them around her romantic rectory, rotunda, rococo artworks and rumpus room. There’s a bit of a ruckus with Rillah’s relatives Ron, Rollo and Ruby, so Ramsay & Co beat a hasty retreat back outside and romp rapturously under a radiant rainbow. There is a very clever twist regarding the radishes and how they repel intruders! A fun story which needs patience on the part of the reader, especially reading it out aloud for small children. Laughs are guaranteed and you will marvel at how many ‘R’ words exist in the English language. GBW.
♦ Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda
Bashful Bob was abandoned in a basket outside a beauty parlour and nobody claimed him. There is a neglected dog park across the street and the resident dogs are Bob’s best buddies. There is a beagle, a boxer and a borzoi who believe “We must be benevolent” and they look after young Bob. On the next block lives Doleful Dorinda. She’d been dumped with despicable relatives who say “Dorinda is a dope” and make her sleep beside biohazard material. Her food is awful and she is treated like a slave. Finally Doleful Dorinda runs away and meets Bashful Bob on the vacant block. You will have to read this story to find out how their names were turned into Brave Bob and Daring Dorinda but it makes a jolly rollicking tale especially if you like dogs! The plot and resolution are more conventional, even with the proliferation of ‘B’ words. A flowing, tangible fairytale and I found it easy to absorb. GBW.
♦ Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery
Wenda is a willowy child with wispy hair and wistful eyes. Her parents are whisked away by a weird whirlwind and thereafter Wenda wanders aimlessly. She makes friends with Wesley woodchuck and they share food scraps and wodges of wieners until one day they are kidnapped by Widow Wallop. She takes them to her Wunderground Washery to “wash whites whiter than white” every day. Between the drudgery, they feel sorry for Widow Wallop’s white Welsh ponies and three other waifs, Wilkinson, Wu and Wanapitai. Together they plot their daring escape, only to encounter wolves along the way. How will they evade Widow Wallop’s clutches now? There is an unexpected reveal at the end! I think some of the scenes may disturb younger children, particularly those with separation anxiety. Older readers will chortle at the profuse ‘W’ words and idiosyncratic wordplay. GBW.
QUOTATION: “Comfort with reading begins in childhood, when parents or other loving adults read to children. It creates a ‘safe’ place where — nevertheless — dangers can be explored (and, in children’s books, hopefully, overcome)…. I think my children’s books function as protected spaces for me. I look at darker things quite a lot, but the kind of children’s books I write are light, and have happy endings…. That’s a relief, when I can manage it.”
—Margaret Atwood, author.
♦ The interior of this book is printed on paper that contains 100% post-consumer recycled fibres, is acid-free and is processed chlorine-free so there’s nothing to worry about, Wenda.
“Stella Montgomery is in disgrace. The awful aunts, Aunt Condolence, Aunt Temperance and Aunt Deliverance,have sent her to Wakestone Hall, a grim boarding school where the disobedient are tamed and the wilful are made meek. But when a friend disappears, Stella is determined to find her – no matter what danger she encounters. Soon Stella is thrown headlong into the mysteries surrounding Wakestone Hall. Will Stella save her friend in time? And will she discover – at long last – where she truly belongs?”
Stella Montgomery and Wakestone Hall – the intrigue draws to an exciting close!
Wakestone Hall is Book 3 in the Stella Montgomery Intrigues and this series has captured my imagination. My inner child responded to the mysterious and creepy goings-on in the first two books, beautifully complemented by author Judith Rossell’s own illustrations of the Victorian era. The third book is out now with a book launch due in a couple of days. I can’t wait to read it! GBW.
Information: HarperCollins Publisher Published: 22 October 2018 ISBN: 9780733338205 Imprint: ABC Books – AU Number Of Pages: 280 For Ages: 8+ years old
Children’s, Teenage & educational / Fantasy & magical realism (Children’s – Teenage)
“For a consciousness to be capable of imagining…it needs to be free.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘The Imaginary’.
“In a work of fiction, everything is invented, even the things that are not, because once a true event is brought into the realm of the imaginary, it becomes imaginary.” ― Paul Auster, American writer.
“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.” ― Neil Gaiman, ‘The Sandman #19’.
“Creativity is the brain’s invisible muscle that, when used and exercised routinely, becomes better and stronger.” ― Ashley Ormon, writer and poet.
“Living alone, with no one to consult or talk to, one might easily become melodramatic, and imagine things which had no foundation on fact.” ― Agatha Christie, ‘Murder Is Easy’.
“It is only through fiction and the dimension of the imaginary that we can learn something real about individual experience. Any other approach is bound to be general and abstract.” ― Nicola Chiaromonte, Italian author.
Seniors Week 2018
Celebrating a Queensland for All Ages Seniors Week provides the opportunity for older Queenslanders to explore programs and services, events and activities, connect with people of all ages and backgrounds from 18-26 August. Celebrate the many contributions older people make in our communities. Visit https://www.qldseniorsweek.org.au/
Fabulous stage and screen actors reading gloriously fun books. I listened to eight beautifully narrated sound clips by Kate Winslet, Hugh Laurie, Richard Ayoade, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Fry, Andrew Scott, Chris O’Dowd––and I’ve just drooled over Dan Stevens short reading of Roald Dahl’s famous ‘Boy’. What a selection!
Reviewed by Rachel Smalter Hall for Book Riot way back in 2013 who gushed:
“Rioters, I’m so excited. I just can’t hide it. I’ve been holding my breath to share this with you for weeks! The new upswing in audiobook publishing has sent lots of publishers to their backlist to record beloved classics, and one of my favorite projects in this vein is from Penguin Audio, who just released several Roald Dahl audiobooks in July and will release several more this September. The series features some of the UK’s best known screen and stage actors. Here are sound clips from eight of the narrations that have got me squealing like a thirteen-year-old at a slumber party.”
I SAY IT’LL MAKE YOUR EARS HAPPY––SMILES GUARANTEED
TAP ON EACH INDIVIDUAL TEASER WHICH I HAVE CAREFULLY SELECTED FOR YOU FROM A LOVINGLY CURATED ROALD DAHL SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLIST
“No compulsion in the world is stronger than the urge to edit someone else’s document” said Herbert George Wells, and I know the feels––Herbert is better recognised as H. G. Wells, an exceptional English author, satirist and biographer (21 Sept 1866 – 13 Aug 1946) who famously wrote The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.
I can understand how the fingers of Mr Wells must have itched, his brain must have misfired and his breath must have been shallow as he read a paragraph which badly needed editing. Indeed, I often wonder how some books (or e-books) get into print when it is glaringly obvious they need a bit of trimming and correction.
Just recently I read an e-book with blurb announcing an award, author kudos and high sales. Undeserved as far as I’m concerned. Why? The author had no idea of descriptive body language. The best he could do was “He frowned”, “She frowned”, and for variety “He scowled”, “She scowled” until I deleted the book at “She wrinkled her brow”.
How did this get loose and launched on the general reading public? I’m sure Rule 101 is “If in doubt, substitute ‘said’ and let the dialogue do the work”. Don’t repeat yourself. Unpublished as I am, I guess the writer can sneer and say “Well, I got the pay cheque and you didn’t” but I can retort with “Have some integrity.” Or go back to writing classes.
It’s easy to think “Not all publishing houses are that blind” but, oh, many are. If you haven’t read a book with an error, you haven’t read enough books. Pathetically, hardly a week goes by without my subconscious editing a typo or tidying a sentence. I will never know how efficient I am, whether I am always right, but, man, it makes me feel better!
My short story mentions a rural event known as a show.
Alternate names can be exhibition, county fair or agfest.
Looks of disbelief washed across the children’s faces. Robbo’s face shone with a self-satisfied smile. Next to his work boots lay Dugger, his Labrador dog, who raised an eyelid then went back to sleep.
A snort came from school teacher, Miss Evelyn, and all eyes turned to her as she gathered up her patchwork squares.
“What a lot of nonsense,” she said as she stuffed sewing material into her carrybag. “Brookfield Show eve and you’re going to fill their heads with fantasy.”
One of the younger children put his hand up.
“Did it really happened, Robbo?”
Robbo said “Yes” at the same time Evelyn snapped “No” and the young boy retracted his hand in disappointment.
“Can you prove it?” asked Angela, an older girl with jet black hair and thoughtful eyes. She was one of many third generation Brookfield students whom Miss Evelyn had known from babyhood.
“Hmm,” Robbo said thoughtfully. If he had a beard, he would have stroked it in contemplation. “I reckon I can try.”
Robbo was a well-known local figure, a carpenter by trade who could turn his hand to any odd job around the residences in the area. He and Dugger were a volunteer Story Dog team at the local school.
Today they had veered off topic and instead of the slow readers reading, Robbo had tantalised them with an opening salvo to his tale.
“Start from the beginning,” Miss Evelyn sniffed “so we can get into the right mood.”
The children chuckled nervously and settled themselves back on the kindergarten cushions. Some of the older boys had objected to being in the kindy room but the seating arrangements were more comfortable than their classroom, currently overflowing with paintings and craft waiting transfer to the Show pavilions.
Miss Evelyn settled herself down again like a kookaburra shuffling her feathers. A couple of the young ones inched closer to her, hoping for motherly support should the need arise.
“Okay,” Robbo rubbed his hands together. “Here goes!” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. A security thumb or two was popped in, soft toys were hugged and someone let off a smell.
“It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, in fact, it wasn’t dark but there was a rain cloud,” began Robbo, lowering his voice, “and two small brown wallabies grazing in a paddock near the Showgrounds.” His eyes roved the attentive audience. “A large crow was sitting high in a nearby gumtree when––” Robbo clapped his hands and everyone jumped. “A bolt of lightning struck the gumtree and the crow flew away. The lightning had ignited the tree and fire was crackling fiercely through it branches before someone in the general store rang the fire brigade.”
Everyone wriggled then settled again, eyes just that bit wider. “The flames had reached the ground and were burning towards the Brookfield Showgrounds at a furious pace.” Robbo looked around. “Where are those two wallabies?”
A hand shot up and the timid voice of Frederick of the smells said “They ran away to safety.”
Robbo shook his head. “No, they were still there. And you know what?” He raised his calloused hands high in the air above his head. “They had turned into giant wallabies.” Then, for extra emphasis, he stood up and reached for the ceiling. His fingers almost dislodged a butterfly mobile but it added to the atmosphere as they fluttered wildly around his uncombed hair.
“These were energised wallabies, they had super powers and were big enough to roll the Ferris wheel away.”
The group froze; Frederick crouched ready to run.
An older boy scoffed “Yeah, but what can they do about the fire?”
Nodding heads inspired him to add “Maybe the crow flew to get help?”
Robbo pulled a face and told them the crow was another story. Sitting down, he attempted a sage storyteller voice.
“They bounded over a fence to Moggill Creek and began drinking lots and lots of water. It tasted a bit like dirt and leaves and stuff but they guzzled until they were full. It was difficult for them to walk so they sort of rolled back towards the outer fence. It flattened and they put themselves right in the path of the oncoming blaze. With puffed cheeks and one big blast like a wall of creek water, they hosed over the flames until they went out.” He cleared his throat. “Of course, the smoke made them cough and they had to wipe their eyes but all in all they didn’t even get their fur singed.”
“What happened next,” shouted two girls in unison, grabbing each other’s hands. “Did they get a medal? Or a free pass to the Show?”
Miss Evelyn pursed her lips and shushed them.
Robbo’s expression sobered. “Not that simple, I’m afraid.”
Dugger shifted position on the floor and put his bony jaw on his paws, the seams of his orange vest creaking beneath him.
“The two giant wallabies heard a sound,” continued Robbo, “and turned to see that stray sparks had ignited inside the main Showground and were crackling and spitting across the dry leaves, past the arena, towards the agricultural buildings and meeting hall. Oh no, historical buildings.”
Nobody saw Miss Evelyn trying to swallow a laugh and regain her composure.
“Surely the local fire brigade would have arrived by now?” she said.
“Their siren could be heard in the distance,” said Robbo, “and the general store had put up makeshift road blocks to stop traffic. The store owner was hosing down the store and the giant wallabies knew if they were seen by him, their cover would be blown. After one mighty spurt of water, they shrunk and hopped off into the distance, far away, up towards Mount Elphinstone. There is a cave high on Mount Elphinstone where, legend has it, two wallabies sit and keep watch over the dry land.”
Robbo surveyed his listeners. “The paint had been blistered off some buildings, and a palm tree was sooty but it survived and a quick paint job fixed the rest.”
“Phew, that’s a relief,” said one of Angela’s younger siblings and everyone laughed. Apparently they shared similar thoughts – the cake pavilion housing their entries sitting under cling wrap on paper plates. “And sideshow alley,” thought Miss Evelyn.
“However,” Robbo spoke at full volume, causing several children to squeak, “whenever there is lightening in Brookfield, or a barbecue out of control, you are wise to stay away from the flames because the giant wallabies will activate.”
“But,” said Frederick gravely, “they are our friends and they would protect us.”
“True, true.” Robbo was momentarily fazed. Even asleep, Dugger thumped his tail in encouragement. Robbo rallied “Just don’t get in the way of giant wallabies at work. Like flood waters, giant wallabies could unleash a wave of water which would wash you off your feet and into Moggill Creek.”
Miss Evelyn puckered her brow. “Robbo, please. No more scary stories.”
Robbo avoided her gaze, patting Dugger and adjusting his leather collar.
“Show’s over, kids.”
Determinedly, single-minded Angela spoke up. “You said you had proof.”
Judging by the looks Miss Evelyn saw on the younger faces, caps nervously twisted between little fingers, they did not want proof.
“Sure,” replied Robbo with an airy wave of his hand. “If you go into the pony club grounds near the Brookfield Cemetery, you’ll spy a bleached eucalyptus tree trunk. That’s the one which got struck by lightning.”
“Also,” piped a helpful voice from the sidelines, “I’ve seen wallabies.”
The collective chatter was enough to wake Dugger. He got to his paws, shook his furry head and looked around. He let out a sharp bark and ran to the open door. With a slight pause to sniff the air, he bounded out of the room.
The space Dugger left seemed suspended, a motionless void.
“Wallabies,” whispered Frederick.
The electronic school bell sounded, breaking the spell.
“Lunch time, children.” Miss Evelyn rose and smoothed her tartan skirt. “After lunch we have choir rehearsal for the opening ceremony.”
As the children helped stack cushions in the corner, Miss Evelyn turned to Robbo.
“Was Dugger motivated by the aroma of tuckshop pies or something bigger?”
Robbo shrugged. “That dog has a great sense of theatre.”
She wagged her finger. “Giant wallabies or not, the Show must go on.”
AUTHOR NOTE: This short story is dedicated with love and respect to Kookaburra Kat of KR, a long-time friend who supports and encourages my literary endeavours and is a passionate wildlife warrior, nurturing and caring for all creatures. GBW.
An interview extract on the writing regimen of Monica McInerney, best-selling Australian-born, Dublin-based author of twelve novels, Monica was voted into the top ten of Booktopia’s “Australia’s Favourite Novelist” poll 2014, 2016 and 2018.
The following quote is from Books+Publishing Q&A and Monica mentions two of her earlier novels which I can highly recommend:
Q: Could you describe your approach to writing and your working regimen?
A: “I spend about six months plotting in my head before I sit at the computer and start writing. There’s usually an overlap between my books. I had the idea for ‘At Home with the Templetons’ about three months before I finished ‘Those Faraday Girls’. Similarly, I had the idea for what will be my next book halfway through writing the ‘Templetons’.
I aim for 2,000 words a day minimum in the early stages of writing, getting very attached to the word-count button. A day always comes when the word count is irrelevant, when all I want to do is be at the desk writing.
The final six months are usually seven days a week. I edit as I write, and also show the manuscript to two people in the early stages, my husband, who is a journalist, and my younger sister, who is an editor. I completely trust their feedback, and their encouragement keeps me on track until the manuscript is as polished as I can make it before sending it to my publishers. I also love deadlines. They terrify me into finishing.”
Synopsis of Monica McInerney’s latest novel ‘The Trip of a Lifetime’
“I always thought memories were unchangeable. Set in stone, shaped by the years. But there are always others too, ones you haven’t let yourself remember ...”
The wilful and eccentric Lola Quinlan is off on the trip of a lifetime, taking her beloved granddaughter and great-granddaughter with her. More than sixty years after emigrating to Australia, she’s keeping a secret promise to return to her Irish homeland. But as she embarks on her journey, the flamboyant Lola is still hiding the hurtful reasons she left Ireland in the first place. What – and who – will be waiting for her on the other side of the world?
Katrin Dreiling went from language teacher to illustrator and received prestigious recognition for her picture book illustrations in “The World’s Worst Pirate”. This book, written by Michelle Worthington and published by Little Pink Dog Books, has been awarded Notable Book of 2018 by Children’s Book Council of Australia.
It’s wonderful to have you here, Katrin, I love your beautiful art techniques and I’m excited to learn about your journey as a children’s book illustrator. First, here’s a sneak peek at this special pirate story:
William is The World’s Worst Pirate so does that suggest he’s rude and nasty? Read on…
“Pirates are swashbuckling, treasure hunting, buccaneers of the seven seas. But if your mother is the Pirate Captain and you can’t stand on deck without getting seasick … that makes William The World’s Worst Pirate.” However, young William does have a special talent. Can he use it when the ship is under attack? Save the day, me hearty!
Q&A illustrator background
Katrin Dreiling, originally from Germany, loves to come up with quirky creations that inspire children to get creative. She enjoys giving colourful and messy art classes and says “Children are the true perfect grown-ups. Their hearts and minds are pure and good and it is important to nurture this – I strive to do that with art.” On the studious side, she provided the characters for animated University lectures and Government staff coaching videos that attracted over 320,000 views worldwide. In her free time, Katrin relaxes with her husband, three children and their Golden Retriever.
Q1. What is your favourite part of “The World’s Worst Pirate”?
Thank you, Gretchen, for this interview! My favourite part text-wise is when the Kraken attacks and everyone is supposed to run for their lives. Then there is a silence and Will quietly throws a cupcake to tame the beast. I like the contrast between noise and quietness and that it is such a peaceful, gentle approach. In terms of illustrations I think I like the cover the best. I just really enjoyed doing those ocean waves.
Q2. Of all your creations, who is your best loved character so far?
That would be Anton the Pig. This character has been in the works for a while now and so I really got used to him being around. He is also very sweet-hearted and funny and reminds me of a certain someone…
Q3. Where did the inspiration for this character come from?
Anton and his world are certainly inspired by my German background. The region I grew up in is known for their excessive bicycle riding because it’s very flat. So Anton is a passionate cyclist but I merged the landscape with a lot of ideas I picked up while living in Brisbane, Queensland. The inspiration for Anton’s story, though, came from years of working with children at school and my own three kids.
Q4. How would you describe your creative process on an average day?
My working day usually starts with a good walk with my Goldi to keep him happy and clear my head. Then I usually work down a list of things I have to do for my illustrating business. Once this is done I start creating. This can include simple sketching, commission work or extending my portfolio.
Q5. Do you like working in a group or home-office environment?
I am very happy to work by myself from home but I do seek professional input from other industry professionals on a regular basis. There is the Brisbane Illustrators Group where I made many good friends, WriteLinks and our local SCBWI group. I think it is very important to stay connected in which ever way you prefer, be that online or in real life.
Q6. Was it enjoyable working with writer Michelle Worthington?
Absolutely loved working withMichelle Worthington and would always choose to do so again. She is professional, smart and supportive and I felt very appreciated in my illustrating.
Q7. What is it like collaborating with an editor and publisher?
In the case of Little Pink Dog Books it was the perfect synergy between author, publisher and illustrator. Kathy and Peter Creamer were very inspired to keep this project a creative process which involved everyone in the same measure, and I believe the result reflects this very well. When I worked with other publishers it was a different, yet also enjoyable experience. I had to meet more firm requirements and learned new things along the way. I think you have to be adaptable as an illustrator in order to deliver the best possible outcome for the project.
Q8. Do you like to work with artistic freedom or a strict deadline?
I can do both 😊
Q9. Have you stayed up past midnight to finish an assignment?
Yes. I have worked through nights but if the work does not feel like work it is not a problem.
Q10. Have you ever received harsh criticism for your work?
I have been very lucky so far and mostly received constructive criticism which I value a lot. It’s easy to get too complacent and lose distance to your work. This is why I regularly book in for portfolio assessments with editors to get a fresh perspective on my work.
Q11. What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
I mix a lot of media together because I enjoy many things at the same time. I seem to always come back to ink in some form, though.
Q12. What colour would you be if you were an extra pencil in the box?
Q13. What are your thoughts on hand-painted vs computer generated artwork?
It works really well TOGETHER if you know how to.
Q14. Who are your favourite artists and have they influenced you?
Absolutely adore the work of Beatrice Alemagna. She has inspired me to go my own way, like she did. Then there is the quirky and unconventional style of Russell Ayto that I love. I think both artists truly work to delight and inspire children.
Q15. Are you involved in teaching workshops for children?
Yes, I will be giving workshops with Michelle Worthington to children at selected libraries in Brisbane during school holidays in July 2018. Also I give workshops for both children and grown-ups at a bookstore in Red Hill, Brisbane, as well as giving regular extra-curricular art classes once a week at New Farm State School.
Q16. Do you have a special creative goal for this year or is it a secret?
For my Anton the Pig story, I’d like to finish the manuscript and illustrations completely. Also getting published by one of the ‘big’ publishing houses has always been my dream and I’m still working towards this goal.
And this Q&A draws to a close
My sincere thanks, Katrin, for your personal insights into the world of picture book illustrating. I am sure you will reach your goal and I look forward to reading all about Anton!
Hey, is anyone else left wondering who that 'certain someone' is and why Katrin would be a black pencil...
With a knowing smile, this Victorian-style book of manners is reminiscent of the period of parenting when misbehaving children were given orders and told dire consequences would ensue if they did not obey. Despite warnings, when a child in this book ignores an instruction, there is an aftermath of great magnitude.
In “A Garden of Lilies: Improving Tales for Young Minds – by Prudence A Goodchild” children’s author and illustrator Judith Rossell has produced an atmospherically illustrated and tightly written volume. She has also mastered the art of a left-right jab, hitting with swift endings which leave the reader breathless.
Each punchy short story closes with a judicious moral. For example, Isadora daydreamed too much during her chores. One day she daydreamed while idly brushing her hair. Let’s just say she didn’t get to finish the task. “Moral: For hair that’s glossy, clean and bright, Two hundred strokes, both morn and night”.
After Isadora’s tale, there is what appears to be a lovely page entitled “Care of the Hair” with a recipe for making Soft Soap which “…will improve both the texture and colour of the hair” until things get a bit nauseating. Apart from kitchen scraps, the mixture must boil for hours until it forms a clear, thick jelly.
Basically the stories are about kids being kids and the 21st century reader should see the endings for what they are – a sample of Victorian etiquette and psychology which we would not dream of using on children today. Right? Okay, explain that to your child and laugh.
This slim book is approximately sixty pages (with attractive binding and colour plates) and scattered throughout are “Interesting Facts” and helpful hints like An Economical Recipe for a Plain Cake, A Useful Compass, Parlour Games and my personal favourite, An Album of Sea-Weeds. I will work on drying and pressing seaweed during my next holiday! Hmm, would seaweed smell like that starfish I once brought home?
In closing, I will give a shout-out to Mr Lindon of Woolloongabba, Queensland (Page 45) who grew a giant marrow. I think he must have read the book’s suggestion To Grow a Giant Marrow which signifies “A Garden of Lilies” is indeed a versatile volume!
I cannot give you a childproof safety rating but I think it is suitable for a sliding age scale and my own rating is 5-star.
Judith Rossell — Biography
Judith Rossell is the multi-award-winning author-illustrator of the bestselling Stella Montgomery series (Withering-by-Sea, Wormwood Mire, A Garden of Lilies and forthcoming Wakestone Hall). Judith has written thirteen books and illustrated more than eighty, and her work has been published in UK, US, Germany and translated into more than twenty languages. Before beginning her career in children’s books, Judith worked as a government scientist (not a mad scientist, a normal kind of scientist) and also for a cotton-spinning company (which made threads for T-shirts, denim jeans, mops and teabag strings). Judith lives in Melbourne, Australia with a cat the size of a walrus.
ACCLAIM FOR WITHERING-BY-SEA AND WORMWOOD MIRE:
Indie Awards – Winner 2015, Shortlisted 2017
Australian Book Industry Awards – Winner 2015, Shortlisted 2017
CBCA Awards – Honour Book 2015, Notable Book 2017
Davitt Awards – Winner 2015, Shortlisted 2017
Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – Shortlisted 2015
ABA Booksellers’ Choice Awards – Shortlisted 2017
Australian Book Design Awards – Shortlisted 2017
Aurealis Awards – Shortlisted 2015
In a dread-laden atmosphere of shocking sights and smells, the transportation of four convicts to the women’s gaol Parramatta Female Factory is as grim as their backstory. Although hiding a terrible secret between them, these young women are resilient and struggle against the harsh conditions.
The Convict Girls four-book series written by Deborah Challinor follows four bonded female convicts Friday Woolfe, Rachel Winter, Sarah Morgan and Harriet Clarke who are shipped from London’s infamous Newgate Prison to the penal colony of Sydney Town, New South Wales, to work off their sentences. The penalties for petty crime, like the strange new land, are unforgiving.
Set in 1832, the travails of Friday, Rachel, Sarah and Harrie jump off the page as each book tells the story from each woman’s perspective while moving the narrative forward. Titles are Behind the Sun, Girl of Shadows, The Silk Thief, A Tattooed Heart. As they work through their bond in different forms of servitude, the reader follows their friendship, the physical and mental strain, and their all-important futures.
Author Deborah Challinor skilfully expands and elaborates on their new lives (the homebody, the thief, the seamstress, the prostitute) while keeping the voice true. She gets the more risqué messages across without unnecessary crudeness. Her well researched, well written plots and strong supporting characters, like cruel Bella Jackson and handsome Dr James Downey, blend together to spin a gripping yarn, spiced with highs, lows, loves, laughs, drama and murder.
I love good historical fiction, this quartet is superb (look beyond the chick-lit cover art) and Deborah Challinor knows how to lure her readers. The outstanding imagery, ripe for screen adaptation, kept me reading long after I should have turned off the light. I strongly recommend this 5-star series and suggest reading the stories in sequence so they unfold in all their splendour.
AUTHOR BIO: Deborah Challinor is a writer and PhD historian from Waikato in New Zealand. She lived in Australia while researching the stories for her Convict Girls series. The books follow four young woman transported to New South Wales for petty crimes. The character of Friday Woolfe is loosely based on her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Mary Ann Anstey who was caught stealing a silk handkerchief and sent out to Sydney Town on Lady Juliana, a convict ship dispatched in 1789 from England to Australia. Deborah Challinor has written over 16 books, historical fiction and non-fiction titles. Website http://www.deborahchallinor.com/index.html
American author Sue Grafton passed away in Santa Barbara on 28 December 2017 after a two-year battle with cancer. On hearing the sad news, millions of readers, writers and fans must have screamed “Noooo” and fallen to the ground, arms raised to the sky, wailing “Why, Sue Grafton, why?” Well, at least I did, and that’s no lie.
Famous for her 25-book Alphabet crime series, Sue Grafton’s last Kinsey Millhone book Z will remain unwritten. To quote her family “The alphabet stops at Y” and this has been echoed around the world.
Sue Grafton single-handedly brought me back into reading and showed me the joys of a good detective novel. I was floundering in a bad ten years of my life where I’d lost my father and was struggling with the care of my ailing mother while battling my own ill-health when, quite out of the blue, I was given a second-hand paperback of Grafton’s book “K is for Killer”.
PI Kinsey Millhone walked into my life. Grafton’s detective series – “H is for Homicide”, “N is for Noose”, “V is for Vengeance” and so on – transported me into a place I understood, 1980s an era I knew, yet detailed the life of a woman in a job which was so foreign, so far removed from my own experiences that I was immediately entranced. Or as my father would have said “Caught, hook, line and sinker.”
This fortuitous state of affairs meant I had many books to read before I was up-to-date with the current publications. Here I would like to thank my cousin Laurie who willingly sent me several paperbacks to feed my addiction. So I read one and moved straight onto the next, graduating from that first battered paperback to hardcovers and finally e-book editions.
The major characters are unchanging; Kinsey is a private detective in California who joined the police force then left to acquire her detective licence; landlord Henry Pitts is now forever in his kitchen; gregarious Rosie; love interest Cheney Phillips and Robert Dietz. It was fascinating watching Kinsey evolve, if that’s the right word, because in all she only advanced a couple of years and is destined to remain immortalised in her thirties.
It seems Sue Grafton did not even draft a copy of her final book. The old adage “Leave them wanting more” is true but not the case. Her family is adamant that although Grafton had a working title (prophetically) “Zero”, there will be no final book, no ghost writer, no movie and no happy ending – just a blank space on the bookshelf.
My condolences to her family. The final chapter has ended for Sue Grafton and Kinsey Millhone RIP.
Sue Grafton Alphabet Crime Series Featuring Kinsey Millhone
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
Quote from G. K. Chesterton who was an early 20th century British writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, art and literary critic and biographer. Apart from many literary works, Chesterton is well known for his book series of Catholic priest-detective Father Brown. These books were produced for television by BBC One with Mark Williams in the lead role.
Here is a small selection of Chesterton novels:
The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)
The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
The Ball and the Cross (1910)
Man Alive (1912)
The Flying Inn (1914)
The Return of Don Quixote (1927)
Chesterton once said “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”
It’s 1987 and things are still nasty in riot-torn Northern Ireland. The Troubles in Ulster won’t go away. A dreaded mercury tilt bomb causes a fatality in the Royal Ulster Constabulary ranks when least expected. In fact, many things happen when least expected. The old ‘dead body in the locked room’ scenario rears its ugly head again. The unassailable Carrickfergus Castle location is picturesque but the freaky circumstances are not. Pretty reporter Lily Bigelow’s body is found sprawled in the snowy courtyard at the base of the castle keep. The castle is locked. Nobody went in and nobody came out, so what’s the deal? The facts don’t add up and it’s a case of did she fall or was she pushed?
Without much to go on, DI Sean Duffy of Carrickfergus RUC uses dogged police work, video tape footage, and many repeat suspect interviews, until small pieces slowly emerge. There is an outline to this puzzle but can it be filled in? Convincing evidence is hard to come by. Much in all as I love Sean, I do think he took two matters at face value even though I was shouting at him to double check. And he does appear to be maturing, perhaps a little bit more circumspect, managing to curb his anger when insulted by hostile Larne CID Chief Inspector Kennedy at a horrific crime scene.
We are left to wonder what part Sean’s old friend and ex-cop Tony McIlroy has to play in his role as protector of the visiting Finnish delegation Mr Laakso Mr Ek & Company. They are on a tight schedule, which involves finding a suitable factory location to manufacture Lennätin mobile phones, so these dignitaries are unhappy when Mr Laakso’s wallet is stolen. Sean is unhappy too. More so later when he has to interview them on the ice-road island of Hailuoto near Oulu in Finland.
The series regulars appear, solid unattractive Sergeant McCrabban and intelligent handsome DC Lawson who steals the limelight with a couple of excellent ideas. Some of my favourite cameos are from vague Chief Inspector McArthur and major irritant Sergeant Dalziel (gotta wonder about that name) and Sean’s lady love Beth plus the ever-delightful Mrs Campbell from nextdoor, married with kids but oh-so-smouldering. The only thing which grated on me was the dead giveaway of the chapter titles. I like them a bit more esoteric.
It seemed to be the year for paedophilia in crime fiction; the RUC Sex Crimes Unit at Newtownabbey gets involved and Jimmy Savile puts in an appearance. On a different note, Belfast has a visit from world heavyweight boxer The Champ, Muhammed Ali. I do enjoy Adrian McKinty’s diversions, these little re-writings of history. I wouldn’t class Rain Dogs as a scary thriller but in a gripping scene, Sean knew he ‘was afraid and fear releases power. Fear is the precursor of action’. McKinty also writes the dread and tedium of everyday life in succinct wording (without me needing grim online images) and Sean’s days are peppered with music and references. Which incidentally are where the titles of the books are derived.
Now living in Australia, Irish-born author Adrian McKinty has again worked his magic with Sean, maybe with a little help from St Michael (or St Francis de Sales) and no doubt book six in the Sean Duffy series Police At The Station And They Don’t Look Friendly is equally as good. At least I hope so because I don’t think readers are ready to kiss this Carrickfergus detective goodbye just yet. I can recommend Rain Dogs if you want to sink your canines into a distinctively styled crime novel.
Books in the Sean Duffy series:
The Cold, Cold Ground 2012
I Hear the Sirens in the Street 2013 – my first favourite
In the Morning I’ll be Gone 2014
Gun Street Girl 2015 – my second favourite
Rain Dogs 2016
Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly 2017
Correct thinking and clear vision are applied to wunderkind Ariel Panek, a computer scientist and associate professor but he is powerless when heavy fog sees him stranded overnight in the rambling, dilapidated Cliffs Hotel on the Suffolk coast. Without connectivity, Ariel is tormented by the “no network” signal because he is overdue to talk at a conference in Geneva where he will meet his undergraduate girlfriend Zeva Neely.
Meanwhile the odd hotel staff and weird guests are making Ariel feel uncomfortable. A bizarre set of circumstances conspire to prevent him leaving the hotel. He must fend off unwanted attention, cut through the Borgia family secrets and subterfuge, and try to battle his way back to normality.
Reclusive, modernist Booker prize-winning author DBC Pierre has loaded this eerie Hammer Films-inspired novella with his trademark blend of social, scientific and spiritual matters. Gradually the layers are peeled back to reveal the chilling truth behind this unsettling tale.
1. The woman in the story who shares my first name is definitely not me!
2. If you are reading this, Peter, I’d love you to autograph my copy of the above.
3. My review of “Release the Bats: Writing Your Way Out Of It” by DBC Pierre.
4. Synopsis quotation: “You can be insecure and be a writer. You can be unsuccessful and be a writer. You can be a bad person and be a writer … You just have to write. That’s where it gets tricky”.