‘The Last Dragonslayer’ by Jasper Fforde

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The Last Dragonslayer novels by Jasper Fforde

While Thursday Next lives in a parallel universe, The Last Dragonslayer is set in a world of myths, illusions and modern magic.  Orphan Jennifer Strange, a practical teenager, runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management with eccentric magicians who create irregular spells.  But magic and dragons are losing power and Jennifer discovers evil King Snodd IV wants to grab the Dragonlands, 350 acres of prime real estate.  She dislikes the King’s greed and so does the last Dragonslayer, an old wizard named Brian who controls dragons with an ancient sword.  Helped by her cool friend Tiger Prawns, and a metal-munching Quarkbeast with frighteningly sharp teeth, Jennifer rallies to protect the Dragonlands.  Meanwhile, wizard Brian is hatching a secret plan.  Jennifer doesn’t realise she is part of that plan.  This is the first book in the Last Dragonslayer/Kazam Chronicles by Jasper Fforde and I loved reading their vital quest.  Suitable for 12 years and up, the second and third books are The Song Of The Quarkbeast and The Eye Of Zoltar.  There will be a fourth book in the series but at this stage only working titles have been released; possibly Humans vs Trolls or The Strange And The Wizard or The Great Troll War.  Guess we’ll just have to wait for the next quirky edition!

Author Jasper Fforde

Publisher Hodder & Stoughton UK

Movie by Mallinson Television Productions on Vimeo screened by Sky1

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

The Last Dragonslayer Jennifer Strange

‘Don’t Keep History A Mystery’

Read a story which is thousands of years old.  I’d like to share the email I received from Mr Miller on National Sorry Day and to commemorate National Reconciliation Week––

“My name is Glen Miller, I am a Board Director of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and a descendant of the Butchulla people of the Fraser coast (Queensland). Today we acknowledge the 10th anniversary of National Sorry Day, a milestone in Australia’s history. This National Day of Healing is at the heart of our steps towards reconciliation. Tomorrow marks the beginning of National Reconciliation Week and we reflect on this year’s theme: ‘LEARN, SHARE, GROW – DON’T KEEP HISTORY A MYSTERY’. Here, we are invited to explore our past as a country; learn, share and acknowledge the rich histories and cultures of the First Australians; and develop a deeper understanding of our national story.

“Today I would like to share a story that is thousands of years old, that has been passed on from one generation to the next, and nearly came to be lost…

ILF Legends of Moonie Jarl Banner

“For many thousands of years the Butchulla people have been travelling between Queensland’s K’Gari (Fraser Island) and the mainland; catching winter mullet in stone fish traps set along Hervey Bay and trading with the mob up around the Bunya mountains. There are three laws that the Butchulla people live by: 1) What’s best for the land comes first, 2) If you have plenty, you must share, and 3) Do not touch or take anything that does not belong to you.

“While these were the laws that were taught to the children, they were also told stories that describe the origin of the land: The Legends of Moonie Jarl. These stories tell how the wallaby got its pouch, how the boomerang was invented, and how the little firebird came to have that bright scarlet spot on its back. These stories were told to me as a boy by my uncle Wilfy in the The Legends of Moonie Jarl. The year was 1964 and it was the first Aboriginal children’s book published and authored by Aboriginal people.

“Three years after its publication, Indigenous people were finally recognised as Australian citizens and 50 years on the stories continue to be shared among the Butchulla people. In 2014, our Foundation re-published The Legends of Moonie Jarl so now the stories are available to share with all Australian children.

Indigenous Literacy Foundation“A book isn’t just for reading; it’s more powerful than the information it provides. Reconciliation Week is an opportunity to look at the truths that need to be told and  celebrate our stories. This National Reconciliation Week I invite you to learn and share these rich histories and cultures of Indigenous people, and develop a deeper understanding of our national story. Please support the work of our Foundation by purchasing a copy of The Legends of Moonie Jarl or making a donation.”

Glen Miller
ILF Board Director
May 2018

“It was written by Uncle Wilf Reeves and illustrated by my mother Olga Miller” – Glen Miller.

Indigenous Literacy Foundation
PO Box 663 Broadway NSW 2007
Australia
info@ilf.org.au

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Sisters in Crime 25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards

The 25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards have been launched – with a body or two in the library – and I have reblogged the exciting news:

Sisters in Crime Australia’s 25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards were launched by Dr Angela Savage at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Library on 27 April, 2018. Almost $10,000 is on offer in prize money.

The event included dramatic readings of three winning “body in the library” stories – “Jane” by Narrelle M Harris (read by Jane Clifton), “Caught on Camera” by Jenny Spence (read by Susanna Lobez) and “Brought to Book” by Kath Harper (read by Leigh Redhead).

Dr Savage (below), the 2011 shoe winner and now Director of Writers’ Victoria, declared the awards “a milestone for Australian crime – at least of the literary persuasion”.

The awards, she said, had “spring-boarded the careers of many writers, including myself. To date, 3084 stories have been entered with 23 Scarlet Stiletto Award winners –including category winners – going on to have novels published.

“Like many of Sisters in Crime’s best ideas, it sprang from a well-lubricated meeting in St Kilda when the convenors debated how they could unearth the female criminal talent they were convinced was lurking everywhere.

“Once a competition was settled on, it didn’t take long to settle on a name – the scarlet stiletto, a feminist play on the traditions of the genre. The stiletto is both a weapon and a shoe worn by women. And of course, the colour scarlet has a special association for us as women. And they were right – talent is lurking everywhere, sometimes in the most unlikely places!”

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The success and longevity of the Awards have been hugely dependent on the generosity of Australian publishers, booksellers, the film and television industry, authors and other parties.

Sisters in Crime had been uncertain that the launch would go ahead because, at the eleventh hour, the First Prize Sponsor, Bonnier/Echo Publishing, was closed down by its overseas arm. Luckily, Swinburne University and the ever-resourceful Dr Carolyn Beasley, Acting Chair of the Department of Media and Communication, stepped into the breach.

Sisters in Crime spokesperson, Carmel Shute, said, “We were also lacking a Young Writer Award sponsor because Allen & Unwin pulled out last year after more than 20 years of sponsorship. We were chuffed to get support at the last minute from Fleurieu Consult run by South Australian member Jessie Byrne, who is researching her creative PhD exegesis on Sisters in Crime Davitt Awards for best books.”

There are two brand-new awards on offer this year: Writers Victoria Crime and Punishment Award ($660) for the story with the most satisfying retribution (the winner gets a three-month spell in prison in the guise of a studio residency at Old Melbourne Gaol) and the International Association of Forensic Linguistics (IALF) Award for Best Forensic Linguistics Story ($1000).

IALF President, Dr Georgina Heydon (left) from RMIT, told the crowd that the award was designed to foster understanding of forensic linguistics which uses a scientific approach to language analysis in legal and criminal investigations.

“Typically, a forensic linguist is engaged to analyse the authorship of an anonymous document, to determine what was said and by whom in a covert recording, to identify coercive or oppressive questioning by police, or to determine the need for an interpreter. It’s not to be confused with the analysis of hand-writing styles.”

The full list of awards is:

  • The Swinburne University Award: 1st Prize: $1500
  • The Simon & Schuster Award: 2nd prize: $1000
  • The Sun Bookshop Award: 3rd Prize: $500
  • The Fleurieu Consult Award for Best Young Writer (18 and under): $500
  • The Athenaeum Library ‘Body in the Library’ Award: $1000 ($500 runner-up)
  • International Association of Forensic Linguists Award: $1000 for Best Forensic Linguistics Story
  • The Every Cloud Award for Best Mystery with History Story: $750
  • Kerry Greenwood Award for Best Malice Domestic Story: $750
  • Writers Victoria Crime and Punishment Award: $660 (studio residency, Old Melbourne Gaol) for the Story with the Most Satisfying Retribution
  • HarperCollins Publishers Award for Best Romantic Suspense Story: $500
  • Scarlet Stiletto Award for Best Financial Crime Story: $500
  • Clan Destine Press Award for Best Cross-genre Story: $500
  • Liz Navratil Award for Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist Award: $400
  • ScriptWorks Award for a Great Film Idea: $200

Nine collections of winning stories are available from Clan Destine Press.

Closing date for the awards is 31 August 2018. Entry fee is $20 (Sisters in Crime members) or $25 (others). Maximum length is 5000 words. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Melbourne in late November.

To download an entry form, pay the entry fee and read the FAQs, click here

Sisters in Crime Awards Judith Rossell 01
Recent winners of the affiliated Davitt Women’s Crime Book Awards https://www.sistersincrime.org.au/the-davitt-awards/

Media comment: Carmel Shute, Secretary and National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia:
0412 569 356 or
admin@sistersincrime.org.au

Visit the Sisters in Crime website and sign up for their newsletter.
It would be criminal to miss out on this great opportunity!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Monica McInerney’s Writing Regimen

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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.”


Monica McInerney Author

Author http://www.monicamcinerney.com/
Interview Books+Publishing https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/
Booktopia https://www.booktopia.com.au/

 


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?
Books by Monica McInerney:
  •    The Trip of a Lifetime
  •    Hello from the Gillespies
  •    The House of Memories
  •    Lola’s Secret
  •    At Home with the Templetons
  •    All Together Now
  •    Those Faraday Girls
  •    Family Baggage
  •    Alphabet Sisters
  •    Spin the Bottle
  •    Upside Down Inside Out
  •    A Taste For It

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Q&A Katrin Dreiling Children’s Illustrator

Katrin Dreiling World's Worst Pirate 04

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.

Willkommen! Welcome!

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.


Katrin Dreiling World's Worst Pirate 02Q1. 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.Katrin Dreiling World's Worst Pirate 08

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.

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In costume The World’s Worst Pirate book launch

Q6. Was it enjoyable working with writer Michelle Worthington?

Absolutely loved working with Michelle 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.

IMG_20180422_234859Q10. 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?

Black.

Q13. What are your thoughts on hand-painted vs computer generated artwork?

It works really well TOGETHER if you know how to.

Katrin Dreiling The Princess and The Pea 02Q14. 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...any ideas?  Let me know...

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Katrin Dreiling World's Worst Pirate 05Information:
Katrin Dreiling Illustrations https://www.katrindreiling.com/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/katrinartworks/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/katrinartworks/
Twitter https://twitter.com/dreiling_katrin

‘A Garden of Lilies’ Tales from Judith Rossell

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Page 39 “Peregrine was a disobedient child…”

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.

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Page 28 “Jesephany and Keziah were unruly and wild…”

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.

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“A Garden of Lilies: Improving Tales for Young Minds” by Prudence A Goodchild (author Judith Rossell) ABC Books Australia

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.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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

DHQ: Wales Dewithon19

My foray into reading Welsh authors began with Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next) Paula Brackston (Shadow Chronicles) and Bill James (Harpur & Iles) and now, thanks to Book Jotter Paula Bardell-Hedley and Dewithon19, I have a wonderful list to continue reading in more depth.  “dw i’n hapus iawn!”

Find more about reading, writing, reviewing Welsh literature on Dewithon19–––

Book Jotter

#dewithon19 logo

1st to 31st March 2019

Welcome to DHQ (Dewithon Headquarters), the nerve centre for Reading Wales 2019!

The people of Wales celebrate St David’s Day annually on 1st March – the date of our patron saint’s death in 589 CE. In honour of this traditional anniversary, and also in recognition of the time of year when daffodils (the national flower of Wales) explode into bloom, we will hold the very first Dewithon – Dewi being the diminutive form of the Welsh name Dafydd (David).

Throughout March 2019 the international book blogging community will be invited to write about the literature of Wales. This will include reviews and articles about novels, non-fiction publications, short story anthologies, biographical works (by or about Welsh writers), travelogues, volumes of poetry (or single poems), essay collections, or indeed any texts with a meaningful connection to Wales.

You may write in either Welsh or…

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‘Behind the Sun’ Series by Deborah Challinor

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.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR BIODeborah Challinor Author PhotoDeborah 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

Adam Ant ‘Stand and Deliver’ Book Review

You will recognise the name Adam Ant if you were young in 1980s and into the romantic New Wave neo-punk era of glam pop music.  Adam and The Ants created a unique niche for themselves with significantly different music and lyrics, fantasy and plenty of make-up and dress-up.  The title of his autobiography is from their popular song “Stand and Deliver” wherein the video Adam famously dives through a glass window onto a medieval banquet table.  The Ants topped the charts and in 1981 had seven singles including “Stand and Deliver” in UK Top 40 simultaneously.

At this time, Adam was a hugely successful singer/songwriter/performer and his onstage fashions were widely copied.  He was a manic whirlwind of an entertainer, which the fans adored.  His antics usually eclipsed his Ant band, although they were immortalise in “Ant Music”, a single which spent five weeks at No.1 on the charts in Australia.  Mostly, it was all about Adam.  This subsequently took a terrible toll on him physically and mentally.  After detailing his early life, which drastically shaped his adult life (explaining why he didn’t drink or smoke hence the satirical song “Goody Two-Shoes”) his autobiography takes off.  It chronologically details his dysfunctional private life, diagnosis of bipolar disorder, knee reconstruction surgery and the highs and lows of his career.

THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS, MAYBE NOT…

Fans know that Adam is not his real name and I was surprised by the chapter on how and why he had the sudden idea to reinvent himself.  After a failed band, a suicide attempt, and recovering from a bout of depression, he walked away from it to start afresh.  He ditched his old name Stuart Leslie Goddard and adopted the persona of Adam.  He married young and his estranged yet loyal wife touchingly changed her name to Eve.  The Ant band came later, named after ants because they are industrious little creatures and I think he respected their work ethic.  Adam Ant was born.

Press quote: “Adam Ant’s tongue-in-cheek tunes are delivered with an excess of flair and good humour” 

My main impression of Adam during the peak of his fame is handsome, self-obsessed, cheekily image conscious when his mood was good; a control freak and not a particularly caring person when he was down.  His personal album photographs show women or band members draped around or nearby Adam but never him exhibiting any closeness to them.  Not so much a character trait, as an example of how his early family life shaped his view of the world.  No Commitment seems to be his subconscious catch cry.  Listen to the insightful words of his song “Friend or Foe”.  Even by fickle music industry standards, he never stayed in one place too long.  The only place he maintained for any length of time was his beloved London flat in Primrose Hill so when he burned out, he took time out.

Over all, I feel he keeps the reader at arm’s length, divulging certain things (often what was already public knowledge at the time – I know ‘cos I was an admirer) and keeping some juicier bits for another time.  Understandably so, particularly in the areas of his love life.  Adam gives the impression he expected fidelity from the woman who shared his life at the time but when it came to his basic urges, he had no misgivings.  Adam used women as one would use headache tablets.  If he was depressed, a woman became his natural high, a temporary escape from his troubles.  Troubles both real and imagined.  He slept with many female friends, fans and famous ladies who appeared to fall under the spell of his charismatic personality.  Many found out after a couple of weeks that he had a “glitch”.  Some struggled bravely to help him, he married twice, his mother stayed supportive, two creepy women stalked him, but most just walked away.

Adam has loaded his book with crazy incidents and name-dropping snippets like meeting Queen Elizabeth II, dating film stars or how a current friend would turn up in his rock video.  He had No.1 albums, knew influential creatives in the music business and certainly mingled with some high profile, artistic people.  A point which stands out for me is when Adam Ant became famous outside UK, he had no problems with money.  Sure, he had to criss-cross the Atlantic at various times during the year to avoid British taxes but he never seemed to want for anything. He’d buy a new house or jump onto a plane like the average person might catch a bus.  This did not help his mental stability and he suffered sleep deprivation, hallucinations and irrational fears which undermined his future.

Adam Ant tattoo: “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes”

This autobiography has an epilogue but it finishes prior to his comeback.  Adam Ant has since added movies and further tours to his list.  He will again be in concert 2018 touring UK and USA.  He’s now older, stockier (due to medication side-effects) and much wiser with a grown-up daughter Lily Goddard.  Anyone who reads this book will applaud his struggles and triumphs in the volatile and demanding world of music.

Number 1 ‘Stand and Deliver’
From: ‘Prince Charming’ (1981)
Number 2 ‘Antmusic’
From: ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ (1980)
Number 3 ‘Dog Eat Dog’
From: ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ (1980)
Number 4 ‘Beat My Guest’
From: Single B-side (1980)
Number 5 ‘Car Trouble’
From: ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’ (1979)
Number 6 ‘Physical (You’re So)’
From: ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ (1980)
Number 7 ‘Vive Le Rock’
From: ‘Vive Le Rock’ (1985)
Number 8 ‘Prince Charming’
From: ‘Prince Charming’ (1981)
Number 9 ‘Killer in the Home’
From: ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ (1980)
Number 10 ‘Desperate But Not Serious’
From: ‘Friend or Foe’ (1982)

Ten Best Adam Ant Songs : courtesy of Dave Swanson on Diffuser FM.
http://diffuser.fm/best-adam-ant-songs/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

WordPress 100 Posts Milestone

Assassin and the Actress ‘Reckoning: A Memoir’

A highly charged and deeply honest memoir, ‘Reckoning’ combines research into the life of assassin and Polish World War II survivor Zbigniew Szubanski , father of Australian actress Magda Szubanski, and Magda herself as she struggles to come to terms with her father’s legacy and forge her own career within the world of television and movies.  This absorbing, eloquently written book contains remarkable revelations of wartime espionage, emotional family ties and facing the truth, and I was enthralled to the very last page.

First published in 2016, ‘Reckoning’ is Magda’s debut novel, and courageously written.  I must admit my initial thoughts were ‘Wow, she’s brave putting that in writing’ but it made me love this book even more.  Definitely a five-star read!  Magda relates one of those true stories from childhood to adulthood which hits the right cord with just about everyone.  We’ve had similar feelings and domestic issues and career changes and sexuality debates and, yes, sadly, the father we got to understand a little too late.

‘Reckoning’ has gone on to bigger things but here’s the first results:
Winner Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award, 2016
Winner Book of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Winner Biography of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Winner Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, 2016
Winner Indie Award for Non-Fiction, 2016
Winner Victorian Community History Award Judges’ Special Prize, 2016
Shortlisted Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Shortlisted Dobbie Literary Award, 2016
Shortlisted National Biography Award, 2016

Website https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/reckoning
Twitter https://twitter.com/magdaszubanski

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Magda Szubanski is one of Australia’s best known comedy performers.  She lives in Melbourne and began her career in university revues before writing and appearing in a number of comedy shows.  Magda created the iconic character of Sharon Strzelecki in ABC-TV series ‘Kath and Kim’.  She performs in theatre productions and has acted in movies – notably ‘Babe’ and ‘Babe Pig in the City’ – and currently ‘Three Summers’ directed by Ben Elton and ‘The BBQ’ directed by Stephen Amis.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

DBC Pierre Writes at Feverpitch

DBC Pierre Photo Montage 02
Photograph of novelist DBC Pierre by Murdo MacLeod for The Guardian.

“I wrote 300 pages in five weeks,” says novelist DBC Pierre, who made his debut with Vernon God Little, a Booker Prize winner, and delivers writing guidance in his contemporary work Release the Bats.

I enjoyed his gutsy and wildly perceptive advice which perhaps appeals to a ‘pantser’ style of writing rather than a ‘plotter’ but the quotable gems will stick with me.  Wisdom with a 21st century twist and language to match.

“A few pages into writing and find yourself drowning, as I did.”  DBC Pierre.

“When I started to write,” says self-confessed bad boy DBC Pierre in The Guardian interview, “I wasn’t particularly well-read, but I found two things critical. Together they can turn a pile of thoughts into a novel, in case you’re at a loose end next weekend, or are in prison. They’re also helpful if you’ve swum a few pages into writing and find yourself drowning, as I did.”

“The first might seem stupid but I actually found it the main hitch in getting words down and ‘letting rip’, ‘sticking with it’, and all that noble stuff we’re supposed to do. ‘The responsibility of awful writing’ was Hemingway’s twist on his own phrase ‘the awful responsibility of writing’. As the man who also said ‘first drafts are shit’, he pointed to a truth: if the key to finishing a novel is sticking with it, then the main challenge is to face writing crap.”

DBC Pierre Vernon God Little Bookcover

“All I liked after writing the first page of Vernon God Little was the voice. It had things to say about everything. I could feel it wanting to say them. But I went on to write 300 pages that didn’t make a book. I wrote them in five weeks, in a fever, without looking back. And at the end, I still liked the voice – but it hadn’t really said anything. Or rather, it had said plenty but nothing else had really happened. I soon found advantages to having done it that way.”

“Even writing 50 pages of crap gives a sense of achievement.”  DBC Pierre. 

“For one thing, I would usually find it hard to move on to page two if I didn’t like page one. I bet you could wallpaper the planet with books that never got to page two. And it’s a circular trap, in that some of the energy you need to forge ahead and push your page count up is generated by forging ahead and pushing your page count up. Even crap gives a sense of achievement when you get to 10, 20, 50 pages of it. When you don’t get past page one, you lose the spur. After that, the thing spirals into bad feeling and dies while you check email.”

“Half the problem is the expectation that we’ll see finished writing at once, more or less in its place. But I wouldn’t have written what I wrote if I’d thought about structure and form at the time. Obviously, if we’re writing about a boy going to the river, we make him go to the river. I don’t mean write without an idea – just that better ideas will come later. They attract each other and grow. We write crap in the meantime. It can work like a compost.”

“If you watch a dieter breaking their diet, you’ll see that they gobble things before they can stop themselves, before the internal arguments, before the shame. Guiltily and fast: that’s how to approach a first draft. A free writer is not something you are, but a place you can go. To start that climb: speed. Don’t look down. Keep a note of your page or word count, watch it grow like an investment. Amp yourself up. When we do things this way, a phenomenon comes to bear that justifies our approach: art. Some of what we write will crystallise for reasons we can’t explain, and the story comes into a life of its own.”

“If the job gets boring, loosen up…throw in a new character.”  DBC Pierre.

“Eventually, take that feverish pile, bravely or drunk, and read it back. Get over the cringing and find a glimmer, see what sentence or idea intrigues or excites you. Start from there and build out. If the job gets boring, loosen up, take a tangent, throw in a new character. In this process, the work begins to show itself. We show ourselves. When gems have grown into paragraphs, paragraphs into pages, look again. Find the part that works best and lift the rest up to it. This is how it climbs, by following what pleases us most.”

“We can’t compete with Shakespeare or Hemingway, nor should we try. Our particular feeling is all we can bring to this party, and our whole job should be to wrestle it into a story that works for us alone. After that we can dress it for others to read. A different job entirely. Save that for a strong coffee on a Monday.”

One of three different interviews by Chris Wiegand, Dave Simpson and Homa Khaleeli.  Wed 22 Feb 2017 06.00 AEDT “Culture” The Guardian newspaper.
https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/feb/21/frank-turner-dbc-pierre-creative-industry-advice
Heading : So You Want To Be An Artist? Then Let The Pros Show You How It’s Done.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Jasper Fforde 2018 Author Events

Excited beyond belief when I found out Jasper Fforde, my all-time favourite post-modern author, has some cool events coming up!  Including another book.  And the eponymous Fforde Ffiesta rolls around again next year.  If any reader attended a recent US event, or may be attending a future UK event, I’m jealous, but hoping I will read your WordPress review.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Photos by Mari Fforde (hover to see date)
Information from Jasper Fforde website (see below)


APPEARANCES

 Jasper Fforde says:  As usual, please call the venue to check times and dates before you set out just in case I am kidnapped by badgers, eager to promote their dangerous monochrome agenda.  Updated 22nd Jan 2018:


2018


Feb 21st-22nd, Casper, Wyoming:
Wyoming Humanities Festival 2018

Book signing and lectures. I’ve never been to Wyoming, and the frightfully pleasant people at Casper have been asking me for a while. Talk and Book Signing Courtesy of Windy City Books, and a lecture plus Q&A the following day. Full details at the Humanities Festival website.


1-2nd March 2018, Cardiff Library:
Crime & Coffee Festival, Cardiff

First Crime and Coffee Festival at Cardiff Library. More details to follow, but I am assured the coffee is the crime, and there will be no actual murders of crimes taking place. Either days, or both, details to follow. Cardiff Library Website.


24th May-3rd June 2018
Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales:
May or may not be attending this year––One of the UK’s most imaginative and entertaining authors creates hilarious, often absurd but always compelling adventures within bizarre and zany worlds.  Jasper Fforde’s hugely popular The Last Dragonslayer series is packed with trademark magic and invention.”
Information brochure Hay Festival, Wales.
Gretchen’s book review The Last Dragonslayer.


August 2018
Launch of Early Riser in the UK:

About bloody time too, say I.  Likely 1st to 12th August.  More details to follow.


August 13th – 18th, 2018, Wales:
Ty Newydd writing retreat, Wales

With Belinda Bauer, the course is called: Crime Fiction: A Twist in the Tale and from their website: “This course is designed for those who would like to write best-selling crime fiction – with a twist. Whether you’re writing your first novel, are switching from another genre, or have only dreamed of being a published author, we hope you’ll enjoy this down-to-earth, fun, and practical course. In workshops and one-to-one mentoring sessions, we will be sharing our tried and tested methods of creating character, plot and tension, while helping you to avoid some common pitfalls. We’ll offer advice on a range of issues, from writer’s block and the art of pitching, to how to cope with bad reviews!”
For more details, please mouse you way to the Ty Newydd Website.


2019


25th-26th May 2019, Swindon, UK:
Fforde Ffiesta VIII, Swindon, UK

These Festivals are held biannually and oh, what ffun we have – and hopefully a lot more to talk about this year as I will have at least one more book published… Their website is here.


FUTURE ENGAGEMENTS


March 02031:   Asteroid belt and Saturn (technology permitting) More details TBA.

October 02042:   81-year-old Fforde talks to other members of old people’s home: “I used to be a novelist, no really, I did. Is it lunchtime?” More details TBA.

July 02175:   Semi-lifelike cloned Ffordesque replicant to tour Gamma Quadrant in the Cygnus Cluster. More details TBA.

Setember 03431:   Much improved Fforde cloned back to life to face execution for sedition; all works consigned to erasure.

Janfebry 008910:   Last evidence of Fforde’s books vanish forever with the removal of the ‘Formerly Thursday Street’ plaque from what is now W23-61 Rd in the conurbation known as EuroWest-79.

00012972:    Visiting archaeologists from Thraal-7 discover incomplete copy of Well of Lost Plots from excavation in landfill. Deciphering takes seven hundred years and a further four hundred years of academic scrutiny before being accepted as historical fact.


More ffun, books, merchandising, photos  Jasper Fforde Grand Central
For those who like a bit of backstory  Wikipedia – Author Jasper Fforde
Twitter  @jasperfforde
Instagram  Jasper Fforde
Facebook   Jasper Fforde Writer


Book Covers Tell Too Much

Books Bookshelf Old Volumes

Can you tell a book by its cover?  Sure you can!  Just the same as an individual’s personality and clothing can tell something about them, a book lures the reader with an enticing cover image.  That visual reveal, a hint of what’s hidden within the book is a very important marketing tool.

A contemporary bookcover, no matter what the genre or category, has to be identifiable.  It has to look good on publicity material, it has to create a mood and it has to appeal to its target audience.  The font style, back cover blurb and all-important artwork join together to get you interested enough to part with your money.  Unless you are borrowing the book from your local library.  Nevertheless, you will still be interested in that lurid hardback in your hand because it promises so much…just look at that out-of-context quote from a famous author who said “chilling depth” and “sizzling romance” from a “writer with imagination”.

Today, millions of modern eye-catching bookcovers are perfectly serviceable and practicable and sensible and don’t mislead the intended reader.  It can be argued that bookcover images only hint at a small portion of the entire book.  But, as a person who reads books very closely, I disagree.  I like to make my own assumptions and not be misled by skewed artistry.

Thus I start my LONG bookcover show-and-tell, documenting that which has annoyed me for some time – the all-to-obvious artwork on bookcovers, those illustrations which give the game away.

  • The reveal: I loathe it when the crime bookcover shows the pivotal moment in the book. A dead giveaway!  Is that the graphic artist’s fault for reading the front and back page?  Is it the publisher’s fault for handing out the last chapter?
  • Bookcover clue giveaway: I have just finished a police procedural and the creepy black-and-white cover photo with a rundown house on the hill encircled by barbed wire is actually where the bodies are buried. No kidding, I knew every time the detective went up that hill, he was darn stupid.  Or the one with the sketch of a child on a rocking horse holding a scythe over her shoulder – storyline crumbles before it starts.  Worth mentioning that a rocking horse was not even in the story.
  • Vignettes snipped from a chapter: Like historical fiction “Golden Hill”, where a sketch of the hero is seen on the bookcover leaping across a roof top in true Hollywood style, no doubt aimed at action-loving readers, when the bulk of the story revolves around cruel social hierarchy.
  • A mystery novel: Well, murder actually because several people end up getting killed. This illustration managed to ruin the first three punchlines in the first three chapters.  Not to mention the good guy is seen working in the downstairs office window when his office is upstairs.  Plus the red motorbike heading up the road outside is meant to be him, at the same time.  Lovely drawing but couldn’t they have chosen something more accurate?
  • Overcooked Clones:  There’s the hand frozen in ice (guess how the victim dies) there’s the bridge across the river (guess how the victim dies) there’s the threat (a big dark old building) there’s a corrupt political serial killer millionaire mowing his way through rich widowed neurotic socialites on board his yacht (guess how the victims die) or bones poking out of the earth…black crow…wolf in snow…lonely highway…stark tree…dropped gun…body part…the train racing through the underground station…all overdone crime tropes.
  • To quote Tim Kreider, essayist: “The main principles of design—in books…is your product must be bold and eye-catching and conspicuously different from everyone else’s, but not too much! Which is why the covers of most contemporary books all look disturbingly the same, as if inbred.”  Which leads into––
  • Dark silhouette: I, for one, thoroughly dislike the brooding male or female silhouette in a heavy coat, head down, walking toward a menacing city skyline/bridge on a rain-soaked evening. Boring!  The stock standard photo silhouette has been on countless bookcovers for years.  Think of Lee Child.
  • Expected bookcovers or Clone II:  Why does (1) Romance have the obligatory well-developed over-muscled man and well-developed bust-overflowing woman, and (2) Literary fiction has a sedate, toned, almost elegant layout with a design which purrs good taste?  (3) Non-fiction is so varied it usually has just a colour photo with a word overlay.  (4) Historical fiction will have a woman in period costume gazing at house or hillside.  (5) Children’s books, fantasy and science fiction have a place all their own.  Renegades breaking up the predictable.
  • Flip side: An irrelevant illustration. There are obscure bookcovers like “The Midnight Promise” with two hands shaking as though in agreement when the Promise is nothing like that image.  At least it gave me something to ponder.
  • World-wide: I’m commenting on English language publications and referring to p-books and e-books. I’ve mentioned arbitrary books I have read and tried not to name them.  However, the same book published in different countries gets a different bookcover.  This is where designers and image stock can become tricksy.  I have seen translated children’s books looking very adult, young adult books looking too adult, and adult books looking sugary sweet, e.g. cosy mystery covers with blood-thirsty content between the pages.

Book Sliced Up on Plate with Knife

BONUS:  Terry Pratchett’s bookcovers by artists Josh Kirby and Paul Kidby tell a detailed story.  With fiction, decide how closely you should look.  Decide if you want to undermine the plot.  You may not even notice pictorial clues!  Ask yourself if you are exercising your own freewill, or are you conditioned by a generic bookcover image.

Link to superb 20th century bookcovers from The Paris Review:
https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/02/22/twelve-illustrated-dust-jackets/

Today, the mass market book illustrators, the image makers, appear to acquire design inspiration from their clinical, perfectly sculptured computer programs.  Perhaps they should visit an art gallery, or see what’s shakin’ in the real world, then tell that miserable silhouette model to get lost.

Never stop reading!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Postscript : A Tiny Bit of History : Literature has changed in more ways than one over the centuries.  Illuminated manuscripts gave way to smaller volumes with dust covers/jackets in 1820s Regency, then refined in 1920s to make hardback books more attractive.  Before this the majority of bookcovers were a plain single colour with gold embossed wording and little adornment.  Swanky ones did have lithographs or a portrait frontispiece.  It is considered that 1930s paperback printing changed the course of bookcover art.

Lorna Doone by R D Blackmore
Lorna Doone by R D Blackmore

‘The Witch Finder’s Sister’ by Beth Underdown

A witch-finder compiles his list … To me, prologues are an unnecessary extension of the backcover blurb and I often don’t read them.  Resistance is futile when it comes to Beth Underdown’s deep dark 17th century historical novel based on the real witch-finder Matthew Hopkins.

When I read the prologue to The Witch Finder’s Sister I tried not to become smitten with the words, tried not to be intrigued by the premise nor overcome with a desire to read what sister Alice has to say, but I am already into Chapter 8 even though historical fiction is not my preferred genre.

As absorbing as I’m finding this tale, this is not a book review and “no correspondence will be entered into”.  But I will say Chapter 1 is claustrophobic and tension-filled, a classic example of how thoughts become words to become other people’s thoughts.  There is an epilogue under the guise of Author’s Note which I can live without reading.  If you wish to pursue the Prologue & Epilogue debate, check out  WordPress Blogger theryanlanz A Writer’s Path

The Witchfinder's Sister Bookcover 03

I will leave the review to Suzi Feay of esteemed The Guardian newspaper:

The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown review – puritan or serial killer?
The Guardian Review of The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

 

The Witchfinder's Sister Bookcover 01

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Here is the prologue to The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown––
“1645, and the Civil War in England has begun its fourth year.  It is a war about God, and how best we should worship Him.  It is a war about who should govern, and why; whether the Parliament should rule, or whether the ousted King.  It is a war of thoughts, of words printed or hurled in anger: but this is also a war of guns.  Last year, at Marston Moor, more than four thousand men were killed.  Before this, women have seldom been hanged for witchcraft – one or two, every five years, or ten.  Eight were sentenced in Pendle, thirty years ago, when the land still knew peace.  But now this country is falling apart at the seams.  Now, all England is looking the other way: so there is nothing to stop Matthew Hopkins stepping forward.  Starting to make his list of names.”

‘Work-Life Balance is a Myth’ Review

Integrate by John Drury
Whole-of-life plan

Traditional work-life balance means separate compartments in our lives, but lines can become blurred, pressure can build and conflicts emerge.  Instead of working against each other, integration means all parts can work together to achieve a positive outcome for our lifestyle expectations.  Then realisation that your work-life balance is “out of kilter” will no longer apply.  I wish I had read this book before my divorce!

John Drury is a presenter, trainer, facilitator, and author of new book “Integrate” which challenges busy people to rethink their approach to life and work.  “The demands of work have never been greater.  A balancing act is not the answer.  Work-life integration is the only way forward in a 24/7 world” says Drury, whose painful personal experience with burnout, and subsequent recovery while in a senior leadership role, motivated him to start helping other high achievers create and maintain a realistic lifestyle.

In his book, Drury outlines a way to align all the parts of your life so they work in unison.  He says “This takes effort, but it’s well worth it and the end result will give you a schedule far easier to work with than just a big juggling act which no-one ever seems to make work.”  He believes that you must look after yourself at your very core; respect your health, your wellness, your relationships and your work commitments.

In John Burfitt’s interview, Drury explains that self-care and implementing achievable self-management strategies are essential.  Drury goes on to say that once important areas are defined and outlined, it becomes a matter of making decisions and planning goals “And you must do that, as a goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Integrate by John Drury 02
Image is an edited extract from Chapter 3 of “Integrate: Why work-life balance is a myth and what you need to create a fulfilling lifestyle” by John Drury  John Drury.biz

Further reading: “Integrate” by John Drury

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Why, Sue Grafton, Why?

Sue Grafton Bookstack

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.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Sue Grafton Alphabet Crime Series Featuring Kinsey Millhone

  1. A is for Alibi (1982)
  2. B Is for Burglar (1985)
  3. C Is for Corpse (1985)
  4. D Is for Deadbeat (1987)
  5. E Is for Evidence (1988)
  6. F Is for Fugitive (1989)
  7. G Is for Gumshoe (1989)
  8. H Is for Homicide (1991)
  9. I Is for Innocent (1992)
  10. J Is for Judgement (1993)
  11. K Is for Killer (1994)
  12. L Is for Lawless (1995)
  13. M Is for Malice (1996)
  14. N Is for Noose (1998)
  15. O Is for Outlaw (1999)
  16. P Is for Peril (2001)
  17. Q Is for Quarry (2002)
  18. R Is for Ricochet (2004)
  19. S Is for Silence (2005)
  20. T Is for Trespass (2007)
  21. U Is for Undertow (2009)
  22. V Is for Vengeance (2011)
  23. W is for Wasted (2013)
  24. X (2015)
  25. Y is for Yesterday (2017)

‘Kitty Peck Music Hall Murder Mysteries’ Review

London winter 1880, Limehouse, and chorus girls are disappearing from music halls in Paradise, the criminal precinct run with ruthless efficiency by the ferocious and opium addicted Lady Ginger aka The Lady.

Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders
Published 2013
(First book in the Kitty Peck series)
A novel by Kate Griffin

Seventeen-year-old Kitty Peck, a seamstress at The Gaudy, is summoned by The Lady and blackmailed to perform a hair-raising act every night to uncover vital information about the missing girls.  Kitty is taunted by The Lady who withholds the truth about her family, particularly her beloved brother Joey.  Before long Kitty becomes the talk of London with her daring show and the plan begins to work.  Gradually she’s drawn into the world of high society ‘toffs’ and embroiled in depravity and murder.  With only her two friends Peggy and set painter Lucca for support, Kitty is shocked to find herself facing an adversary more horrifying than The Lady crime baron.

First of all, the pace and atmosphere is superb throughout the books.  Immediately I was right in the action and swept along on a very dark ride.  The characters evolve nicely and flesh out into interesting and tortured human beings who find themselves in rather bizarre circumstances.  They have subplots with much to hide, emotions seesaw as their personal history gradually unfolds.

There’s a heavy dose of Cockney slang which, due to an Anglophile father, I picked up quickly enough.  Some reveals are to be expected but one took me by surprise!  The novels have adult content.  However, don’t expect true romance.  It’s the Queen Victoria version of an action movie.  Grim, grimy, cold, damp London of the 19th century is a backdrop to dirty deeds done by black-hearted people and Kitty must keep her wits about her to survive.  The endings are cliff-hangers which lead into each book.

Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill-Fortune
Published 2015
(Second book in the Kitty Peck series)
A novel by Kate Griffin

Due to spoilers, I cannot reveal too much about Book Two or Three.  Certain text in the following review has been taken from the book blurb:

London’s East End, March 1881 and Kitty Peck, a spirited but vulnerable young woman, is the reluctant heiress to Paradise, the criminal empire previously overseen by the formidable Lady Ginger aka The Lady.  Kitty is now The Lady, with all that entails; servants, buildings, stock, music halls and vicious crime barons.  Far from the colour and camaraderie of the music hall where Kitty had been working, this newfound power brings isolation and uncertainty, and a disdainful lawyer Telferman.

Desperate to reconnect with Joey, her estranged brother, Kitty travels to Paris with Lucca.  She is unable to refuse the request of a handsome stranger to take a child back to London.  Within days of their return, it’s clear she has been followed by someone, and this someone is determined to kill the child and anyone who stands in their way…starting with Kitty.

There are mesmerizing and harrowing scenes throughout this book which serve to shape Kitty and her world.  More of the secondary characters emerge and betrayal rears its ugly head.  Tension builds as Kitty nears the deadline to meet the other Barons of London, merchants, jewellers, bankers, the controlling elite who are rotten to the core. Will they break her and destroy the Paradise she has inherited?

Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow
Published 2017
(Third book in the Kitty Peck series)
A novel by Kate Griffin

London, the hot summer of 1881, and the streets of Limehouse are thick with coal smoke and opium; and Kitty Peck is choking on the ever-present bitterness of evil.  At eighteen Kitty has inherited Paradise, she is The Lady of a sprawling criminal empire on the banks of the Thames.  Determined to do things differently from the fearsome Lady Ginger, she now realises that the past casts a menacing and treacherous shadow.

Plagued by city heat, haunted by a terrible secret and facing more deaths, Kitty is stalked by a criminal league intent on humiliation and destruction; she should never go out alone.  But she’s ready to fight for the future of everyone she cares for and more.  Including journalist Sam Collins?

Always difficult to review books with clever twists and turns one cannot expose.  ‘Descriptive’ and ‘gripping’ hardly does them justice.  Sense of place, POV and clothing are beautifully transcribed.  There is one minor point I noticed when reading––there is little mention of food.  Tea and gin are drunk habitually, and champagne is used as a lever, but food is not often consumed.  No matter, they are gritty stories which had me on the edge of my seat.  While it is not an era I would like to inhabit, I can highly recommend this series with a shiny five star rating.

To be concluded in Book Four – Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Griffin was born within the sound of Bow bells, making her a true-born Cockney.  She has worked as an assistant to an antiques dealer, a journalist for local newspapers and now works for The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.  “Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders”, Kate’s first book, won the Stylist / Faber crime writing competition and she has written other genres.  Kate’s maternal family lived in Victorian Limehouse and her grandmother told her many stories of life around the docks.  Kate lives in St Albans, north of London.

Further reading  Author Kate Griffin is interviewed by Sarah Oliver  a close look at her lifestyle and writing methods.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Australian Editors and Publishers Set Bar Too High

I have come to the conclusion that the Australian publishing industry and its associated editors and reviewers have set the bar way too high for Australian writers.  Emerging authors have a pretty slim chance of being published with huge odds against hitting the big time.

Strong-willed literature-controlling gurus rule our domestic market like school teachers from the 1950s.  They seek perfection, the best book of the year, often cerebral stuff ignored by half the population, and they disregard perfectly serviceable down-to-earth Aussie authors.  Also, when did parochialism creep in, e.g. Melbourne is the hub of all things literary?  Let’s focus on inclusive Australian content.  Oh, and stop changing words to suit international readers, they’re cool, they can work it out.

Publishing houses receive thousands of unsolicited manuscripts each year and the selection process is fierce.  Only a handful of authors are chosen, gather a following, write more books and hopefully make money.  The untried crime writer, for example, may not appeal to the literati judges, but, hey, there’s always that coterie of readers who will love them.  The way it is now, their work may never see the light of day.  Dive deep into that slush pile!

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Sure, there’s always the internet, WordPress, e-books, self-publishing, writing competitions (see below) and a gazillion non-traditional ways to be seen but nirvana is a publishing deal with a real-deal publishing house.

 

“Relax,” I say to publishers from my seat of ignorance.  “The shock of ebooks has faded, so forget micro-niche and churn out those books, get those names in print.”  What?  Too much of a risk, not financially viable?  Yeah, I guess that’s right.  Nobody wants risk in business.  I say “Lighten up, people, offer a broader spectrum of books to the general public”.  Stop book snobbery because, meanwhile, mediocre books with typos are flooding in from overseas and I’m getting a bit sick of it.

Did I hear our aspiring authors cannot compete with the overseas calibre?  Our readers are not savvy, interested or sincere enough to try a reasonably good newbie?  Come off it!  Peel back those layers.  An Australian author or reader is as good as the next person but needs the exposure, the push, the shove, the necessary connections and circumstances to make it work.

Chips on shoulders, the need to prove we Australians are well-read, has past. Forget the Cultural Cringe, dismiss ‘benchmark’ literary awards and too perfect prose and embrace the mass production of typically Australian-written and illustrated books and be proud of them.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

FURTHER READING:  https://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3353/3030  with quote taken from “Non-Traditional Book Publishing” by Jana Bradley, Bruce Fulton,  Marlene Helm, Katherine A Pittner in “First Monday” Journal and, although somewhat passé, it shows foresight.  EVEN FURTHER READING:  https://www.theliftedbrow.com/liftedbrow/2017/11/22/keep-your-eyes-on-the-prize-unpublished-manuscript-competitions-and-you  The Lifted Brow is a not-for-profit literary publishing organisation based in Melbourne, Australia, and Martin Shaw’s article explains an awful lot about the hidden terms and conditions of competition entry.

{NB. Gretchen has reviewed books, worked in the library industry and reads extensively.  As an aspiring writer, she may have shot herself in the foot}

Silent Reading and Socio-Cultural Development

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Among scholars, says Thu-Huong Ha, there is a surprisingly fierce debate around when European society transitioned from mostly reading aloud to mostly reading silently.  Thu’s latest article for Quartzy shines a light on the evolution of reading silently––

Finding Space
“The beginning of silent reading changed Westerners’ interior life”
By Thu-Huong Ha
Tuesday 19 November 2017

People think of reading as the introvert’s hobby: A quiet activity for a person who likes quiet, save for the voices in their head.  But in the 5,000 or so years humans have been writing, reading as we conceive it, an asocial solo activity with a book, is a relatively new form of leisure.

For centuries, Europeans who could read did so aloud.  The ancient Greeks read their texts aloud.  So did the monks of Europe’s dark ages.  But by the 17th century, reading society in Europe had changed drastically.  Text technologies, like moveable type, and the rise of vernacular writing helped usher in the practice we cherish today: taking in words without saying them aloud, letting them build a world in our heads.

Among scholars, there is a surprisingly fierce debate around when European society transitioned from mostly reading aloud to mostly reading silently—some even say the ancients read silently just as much as they read aloud—but there is one scene in literature they agree is crucial.  In St. Augustine’s Confessions, the titular professor describes the reading habits of Ambrose, the bishop of Milan:

But when Ambrose used to read, his eyes were drawn through the pages, while his heart searched for its meaning; however, his voice and tongue were quiet. Often when we were present—for anyone could approach him and it was not his habit that visitors be announced to him—we saw him reading in this fashion, silently and never otherwise.

The fact that this was so remarkable to Augustine, some scholars argue, is because in the 400s, silent reading wasn’t really a thing.

Other researchers say that this passage is meant more to point out Ambrose’s rudeness.  “It’s really that Ambrose would go on reading silently while he was there, like someone going on texting while you’re trying to talk to them,” says D. Vance Smith, a medievalist in the Princeton English department.  “[Augustine is] surprised by his rudeness at not reading out loud to share with him.”

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“The default assumption in the classic period, if you were reading around other people, you’d read aloud and share it,” says Smith. “For us, the default is we’ll read silently and keep it to ourselves.”

If silent reading was in fact rare or rude in ancient times, then at some point the expectation of readers in society shifted.  As late as the 1700s, historian Robert Darnton writes, “For the common people in early modern Europe, reading was a social activity.  It took place in workshops, barns, and taverns.  It was almost always oral but not necessarily edifying.”

But by the time Marcel Proust was writing in the late 1800s, his narrator hoping for time to read and think alone in his bed, reading privately had become more of a norm for wealthy, educated people who could afford books and idle bedroom rumination.

This came with the spreading of literacy and diverse kinds of reading material.  Writes Darnton, records from until as late as 1750 showed that people who could read had only a few books: perhaps the Bible, an almanac, and some devotionals, that they read and re-read. But by 1800, he writes, people were reading more voraciously—newspapers and periodicals—and by the late century they had branched out into children’s literature and novels.

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As reading shifted away from the social, some researchers believe this helped create what we now call an interior life.  Writes Alberto Manguel in his 1996 book, A History of Reading:

But with silent reading the reader was at last able to establish an unrestricted relationship with the book and the words.  The words no longer needed to occupy the time required to pronounce them.  They could exist in interior space, rushing on or barely begun, fully deciphered or only half-said, while the reader’s thoughts inspected them at leisure, drawing new notions from them, allowing comparisons from memory or from other books left open for simultaneous perusal.  And the text itself, protected from outsiders by its covers, became the reader’s own possession, the reader’s intimate knowledge, whether in the busy scriptorium, the market-place or the home.

“Psychologically, silent reading emboldened the reader because it placed the source of his curiosity completely under personal control,” librarian Paul Saenger writes in his 1997 book, Space between Words.  “In the still largely oral world of the ninth century, if one’s intellectual speculations were heretical, they were subject to peer correction and control at every moment, from their formulation and publication to their aural reception by the reader.”  As Saenger writes, asocial reading helped facilitate intellectual rigor, introspection, criticism of the government and religion, even irony and cynicism that would have been awkward to read aloud.

This strange new trend of reading to oneself naturally had its detractors.  Skeptics thought silent reading attracted day-dreamers and the “sin of idleness,” as Manguel writes.  And worse: it let people learn and reflect without religious guidance or censure.  Silent reading by the late 19th century was so popular that people worried that women in particular, reading alone in bed, were prone to sexy, dangerous thoughts.

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There isn’t much consensus between historians on why people would have started reading silently.  Saenger hypothesizes that a shift in the way words were laid out a page facilitated the change.  Latin words once ran all together, makingithardtoparsethem. Saenger argues that Irish monks, translating Latin in the seventh century, added spaces between words to help them understand the language better.  This key design change, he argues, facilitated the rise in silent reading.

B. Parkes, in his 1992 book, Pause and Effect: Punctuation in the West, argues something similar.  He writes that a “grammar of legibility”—the visual changes made to texts, like punctuation and word spaces—changed the way we read.  This early book technology was premised on the idea that the scribes, the people writing, didn’t know who their readers would be, or how fluent they might be in reading Latin, and so had to find a standardized way of telling them how to read: pause here; these are two separate words; this is a long “a.”

This scholarship applies for the most part to the Latin-based writing and reading of Europe.  In other major reading cultures of the world like Chinese, whose script doesn’t have spaces between words, and whose literature depends heavily on prosody, silent reading may have developed differently.

Mainstream historical accounts would have us think that the end of oral reading in the Middle Ages was part of the Renaissance, a new European preoccupation with the individual.  But it’s possible humans’ desire for privacy, the carving out of a little pocket in which to escape by way of a book, was there all along.  We just needed a little help getting there.

Written by Thu-Huong Ha for Quartzy newsletter, a weekly dispatch about living well in the global economy.  Original webpage The Beginning of Silent Reading was also the Beginning of an Interior Life.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Let Your Heart Be Light

Jen Storer is an established Australian children’s author brimming with imagination and inspiration. This post encapsulates her talent, personality and future plans. Jump into The Duck Pond and start paddling with emerging writers and illustrators!
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

girl and duck

Hello!

I like writing blog posts at Christmas. No one expects much. Do they?

IMG_3967Writing: I finally finished Truly Tan: Baffled! (book seven) and delivered it to my publisher on time (working right up until December 15, the day it was due). Phew! Next year I’ll be waaaay more organised. Ahem.

Finalising: We signed off on Danny Best: Me First! Check out the full cover. Talk about The Best! 😉 Due out in Feb 2018.

DB_MEFIRST_FC2Receiving: I received a Christmas card from a Tan reader. The letter attached said, I know you like wolves. So here’s a card with a fox on it. God, I love my readers.

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Planning and: pondering 2018. I have some lovely plans for girl and duck, including a Scribbles Boot Camp in Feb, and an IRL (in real life) Scribbles master class in Melbourne in May. We will also be launching the Girl and Duck…

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