Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Review Policy

As much as I adore arriving home to books in the post I have fallen woefully behind in my reviewing. I am not holding up my end of the implicit contract by reviewing these books so as of next week I won't be accepting review copies any longer.

Also, I feel sort of funny about having a book coming out and reviewing...I'm still working out these feelings. Bear with me.

I will still be reviewing books, but these I will have bought myself or borrowed from the library.


If you are an Australian YA speculative fiction author I am happy to be contacted if you're organising a blog tour or want me to review your book or interview you. In fact, contact me for a coffee, a chat, a hug!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Blog Tour: The Rosie Black Chronicles: Genesis author Lara Morgan on Writing Sci-fi

Today I am thrilled to have fellow Australian writer Lara Morgan guest blog on writing sci-fi. Lara Morgan is the author of the brand-spanking new sci-fi series The Rosie Black Chronicles, the first of which is Genesis. I'm reading it right now and it is fantastic! So good to read sci-fi with a female MC, and one that is such a rollicking adventure.


When I was a kid I wanted to be Princess Leia. Okay I wasn’t much taken by that buns-stuck-on-the-side-of-her-head hairdo, but she was a princess, she flew around in space ships and got to kiss Han Solo so it seemed like a good deal. Now things have changed a bit, for one I’d rather be Zoe from Joss Whedon’s Firefly, but I still love sci fi and space ships so when I thought about writing a YA series I had a natural inclination toward science fiction.
I suppose that, technically, The Rosie Black Chronicles is more dystopian than sci fi though. It’s set five hundred years in the future after climate change has broken borders and drowned cities and Earth is being slowly overrun by a new incurable disease that has killed Rosie’s mother, but it does also have space travel, a colony on Mars and Rosie’s main ambition is to be a spaceship pilot so if you want to call it sci fi I’m not going to argue.

Writing a book like this involves, as do most, a lot of research. I read plenty of books on climate change, space exploration, Mars, social collapse and physics and spent a ridiculous amount of time on the web going through NASA’s website, Googling Mars and the planets and occasionally getting sidetracked by Twitter and You Tube...okay maybe not so occasionally, but the point is I had to bury my head in some hard science to make sure I was getting at least some of the details right.

That said though, this book is far from hard science fiction. Writing sci fi for me is more about serving up a story that is essentially about how my characters cope in a future world rather than detailing the technical side of that world. I need to know how things work so the world feels authentic when I write about Rosie in it, but I don’t stop the story narrative to go into a long spiel on the specifications of the city’s transport system. That’s called info dumping and avoiding it is one of the unique challenges of writing genre fiction, be it fantasy, paranormal romance or science fiction. You have to be able to insert small details throughout the story that shows the reader how the world in your book differs from the norm, but do it without being obvious. You can’t, for example, have one of the characters suddenly start talking about how their communication system works in their world, it just doesn’t make sense and throws the reader out of the story. It would be like me suddenly explaining to me friend how mobile phones work. It’s just weird and people don’t do that in real life, so you can’t have your characters doing it. It’s also important in writing sci fi that you never let this great dystopian, or super advanced world, you’ve created take over from the characters. Regardless of the wonders that may be in your world, or the over arching theme you might be trying to get across, at the heart of every story is the people. Story is character, as many great writers have said, and you have to make your book about the people who inhabit your world because no matter how shiny your space ship is, no one can care as much about a hunk of metal as they can about a person.


Lara is giving away a copy of Genesis on her blog, so to be in it pop over for a visit, and view the amazing trailer here. I am green eyed with envy over this trailer.

Thanks for being my guest, Lara! The next stop on this tour is at YA Reads.

Look out for my review of The Rosie Black Chronicles: Genesis very shortly.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I just typed

The sweetest words.

I've written all year.


I'm crying. For many reasons. I started it on April 6, 2009 and I have gone through querying, submissions (still going through those, man!), family tragedy, two (TWO!) break-ups and a failed novel. So it feels bloody good to get to the end. Sort of like closing a door on a lot of crap.

70,286 words. They're all sweet of course, but tonight...I like the last four best.

And now to print it out, give it a hug, and pick up my red pen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

REVIEW: The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, Stieg Larsson

*Some spoilers for the first two books herein*

The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest
is the final installment of the Millenium trilogy, Stieg Larsson's worldwide best-selling tale of violence, fascism and journalism in the IKEA capital of the world. At the cliffhanger conclusion of The Girl who Played with Fire, Lisbeth Salander was left for dead by her father, defected KGB agent Alexander Zalachenko, with a bullet in her brain and found at the eleventh hour by her sometime lover, journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

Books one and two in this series I loved despite their slow beginnings and preoccupation with Blomkvist's sexual adventures. Oh, normally I find these things quite interesting, but when the story itself hasn't yet got going, being informed that Erika Berger's husband is a little bit gay seems rather far from the point. There is a moment in Larsson's books, however, where everything explodes with a mighty big bang and the story starts to happen. It's in this moment that I forgive any and all of Larsson's indulges and would throw a mighty big tantrum if anyone tried to take the book away from me.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest does not suffer from a slow beginning. Larsson has 600 pages to dig Salander out of a constitutional mess of espionage, cover-ups, corrupt secret police and evil psychiatrists and has little time to waste. But Salander has Blomkvist on her side, crusading journalist extraordinaire. And this is what endears this series to me so much: the hero is a writer. I could read about Writers Doing Cool Things all day.

The Millennium series is pure entertainment. I have been raving about these books to my friends, mostly because they are so entertaining. There aren't many books I have enjoyed more this year. The other reason is that my friends' eyes tend to glaze over when I go on about the apocalypse, zombies or (brace yourself) books for teenagers. This is a series they will actually read upon my recommendation. Oh happy days.

But the Millennium series has also made me rather miserable. I wept buckets at the of Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, but I have his next book to look forward to. Larrson died in 2006, shortly before The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was published. There has been speculation that he was offed by the secret police he so roundly denounces in his books, but the truth is far more mundane: a heart attack. According to his discoverer in English, “Sixty cigarettes a day, plus tremendous amounts of junk food and coffee and an enormous workload would be the culprit. I gather he’d even had a warning heart murmur." I was rather miserable for days after finishing the last book, and though there are rumours of a fourth (which is actually the fifth) I don't hold much hope for it being particularly satisfying. It's gone from "the outlines and initial scribblings of a fourth" in October 2009 to "nearly finished" according to Larsson's family in this article published this weekend, which is perhaps Larsson's most astounding feat yet.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Princess Pink

When I was two or three my mother lovingly made me a pair of overalls with shorts. The fabric had little beetles on it or something equally adorable. My response upon their presentation? NO. Boys wear shorts, and I was a GIRL. I probably didn't come past her knee at the time. What an ungrateful little brat I was.

During my psychology degree there was much discussion of the gender programming we subject children to literally from birth. Pink for girls, blue for boys. Barbies versus Tonka trucks. The ways we encourage play. I had my fair share of pink and dollies, but I also had a big brother (who turned 29 yesterday! Happy birthday!) with whom I played Lego war and block war and Transformer war. We made bows and arrows out of hibiscus branches and rubber bands. It worked the other way too--one year he got a doll for Christmas, because he wanted one. He went to ballet classes.*

But I knew I was a girl, and dammit, all the playing war and little green plastic soldiers couldn't change the fact that Girls Wore Skirts and I Liked Pink. I called it (sigh) "pinky-dinky". I may have done this for a long time after it ceased to be cute.

When I was plotting my novel, originally the main character was a servant to a royal. I knew there was going to be a lot of trekking about in trousers for her and plenty of times she would be filthy and bloodied and half starved. I thought about that for a day or so and then the I Like Pink part of my brain took over: if I made her a princess I could dress her up like a Regency debutante. I don't like to count how many dresses are mentioned in the book (lots; she has more costume changes than Katniss Everdeen) but from that moment on there was an explosion of satin and lace and thorough girliness all over the book.

It's my book and I wanted the best of both worlds: Princess Pink meets Xena Warrior Princess.

Here's Princess Pink herself, in all her pink tutu-ed glory, aged nine at a dance recital.


My dad posted this to Facebook last week and I tried to be embarrassed. I really did. But the Princess Pink part of my brain went into overdrive. Unfortunately I can't get away with tutus anymore.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

In My Mailbox (37) and weekend update

This meme is hosted by The Story Siren.

Spring has FINALLY sprung! It's T-shirt weather, there's some vitamin D circulating through my body and I bought a pair of new sunglasses. Actually I went a bit nuts on the shopping yesterday. Two new outfits and a bra set from Pleasure State, who make some of the prettiest lingerie around. I am in saving-for-OS mode, but when I went to cancel my mobile phone carrier so I could switch to another they offered me a crazy huge discount to stay. So I did. Which means I had several hundred dollars worth of FREE MONEY to play with and what do you do with free money? YOU GO SHOPPING.

I have been finishing up book two in my series, which is oddly PANIC INDUCING. I have set myself a deadline: October 5. Which is in TWO DAYS. It doesn't have to be perfect then but it needs to be done. There's only about 1500 words left to write and I'm probably going to bawl all the way through them.

There's a video on YouTube that's a friend sent to me this morning and I am dying to post it here, but it's not very PG-13. Actually, not at ALL. It's an homage to Ray Bradbury and it is the funniest thing I have seen all year. Girl after my own heart! If you've seen it you'll know what I mean. Even funnier than the one that came out of Alabama a few months back. ("Run and tell THAT, homeboy!") There are some very funny and talented songwriters out there.

For review:
Embrace, Jessica Shirvington
(Hachette Australia, October 14)

Violet Eden is dreading her seventeenth birthday dinner. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. The one bright spot is that Lincoln will be there. Sexy, mature and aloof, he is Violet’s idea of perfection. But why does he seem so reluctant to be anything more than a friend?

After he gives her the world’s most incredible kiss – and then abandons her on her front doorstep – Violet is determined to get some answers. But nothing could have prepared her for Lincoln’s explanation: he is Grigori – part angel and part human – and Violet is his eternal partner.

Without warning, Violet’s world is turned upside down. She never believed in God, let alone angels. But there’s no denying the strange changes in her body ... and her feelings for Lincoln. Suddenly, she can’t stand to be around him. Luckily, Phoenix, an exiled angel, has come into her life. He’s intense and enigmatic, but at least he never lied to her.

As Violet gets caught up in an ancient battle between dark and light, she must choose her path. The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity...

Jessica Shirvington is Australian and married to Matt Shirvington, the Olympian athlete and FOXTEL presenter.

Woo! Aussie books rule! Happy weekend all.