Why Everything You Think About Ebooks is a Filthy Lie

So this is going to be a blog about book technology. And I want to kick it off by talking about the title … The Smell of Books. In the last few years I have read hundreds of pages of blogs and newspapers about ebooks. I’ve also been working in a publishing company, where people love to read books, love to talk about books and love to own books. There is a significant proportion of early adopters out there who love the very idea of ebooks and e-publishing, and criticise ebooks only in the way they might criticise any of their beloved gadgets.

And then there is everyone else.

I’d like to start with three misconceptions you might have about ebooks and why you’re stupid for thinking them.

The Smell of Books

The amount of newsprint that has been wasted on the latest prehistoric pundit slash columnist road testing an ebook reader and decrying it as ‘not the same’ as a paper book is absolutely shameful. Their biggest crime, of course, is talking about the smell.

The experience of reading on an ebook reader (or any kind of electronic reading) is self-evidently not the same as a paper book. Nobody is trying to make it so. The advantages of electronic reading are manifold (you can expect me to expound on these reasons in blogs to come), but they do not include any of the following: being able to hand down a worn electronic copy of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea to your grandson on his 21st birthday; sitting in a bubble bath reading Wuthering Heights to your girlfriend; or showing off to your friends how many of the Russians you have read.

From My Cold, Dead Hands

Nobody is trying to replace paper books with ebooks. Least of all traditional publishing companies. Most publishing companies are still making 95% or more of their profit from paper books, and most people still want to read dead trees. I cannot envision a point in my lifetime where there will no longer be paper books at all. There is no need to take a stand – you will only overbalance and fall over.

Why Try to Reinvent the Wheel?

Books have been in their current form for a long time. They are beloved objects of beauty. They are perfectly suited to all reading activities. Only two of the previous three statements are true. There are plenty of annoying things about dead tree books. Ever tried to haul a copy of Infinite Jest around over the course of the month or more it takes you to read? Ever got stuck reading Gravity’s Rainbow because you didn’t know what Poisson distribution was? Ever lived in a small town with a tiny library and no bookstore and couldn’t find the latest Dan Brown?

Ebooks have a place in the future of book selling, publishing and reading. It’s time to prepare yourself. Just because you don’t like the idea of them doesn’t mean you might not like them. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean they’re not here to stay.

[Image courtesy of smellofbooks.com]

There Was an Old Sailor Who came to Kids’ Book Capers

Today, the old sailor from Claire Saxby and Cassandra Allen’s lively new picture book, There Was An Old Sailor is visiting Kid’s Book Capers.

This man will eat just about anything – and he’s here to tell us how and why:

Old Sailor, in this book you swallowed a krill. Eww! What made you do that?

It leapt into my hand. What are the chances? It caught in my fingers. What else could I do? I ate it.

Sounds a bit fishy to me. Did swallowing the krill make you ill?

Not exactly, just left me with an unfinished feeling, that sort of ‘mmm that was tasty, but what else is there’ sort of feeling?

I know what you mean. I’m like that with chocolate.

Where/how did you first meet author Claire Saxby?

On a pier, planning my next voyage. She was planning her next book. There was an immediate connection.

Why did Claire decide to tell your story?

I guess girls are attracted to a man of mystery like me. Off the record, I think she might be clairvoyant. She seemed to always know what would happen next.

Do you really look like your picture in Claire and Cassandra’s book or has Cassandra deliberately made you younger and handsomer to disguise your identity?

Oh, no. I really am that gorgeous. Don’t you love my forearms? Strong as a whale I am. Cassandra captured my eyes exactly.  I look just like this. Don’t you want to hug me?

Umm…moving right along…what does it feel like to swallow a shark?

Rough-skinned critters, but worth it in the end. Cleaned off a few barnacles as it went down.

Gulp! Would you recommend swallowing sharks to others?

Don’t often get the chance to talk to anyone else – except the birds. Had a pet penguin once, but he didn’t talk much. Sorry, I digress. Would I recommend eating a shark? Heck yes!

How does it feel to have a book made about you?

Great! Posing for the pictures for Cassandra Allen wore me out, though. The jelly kept wriggling. The seal wanted a kiss. And the shark? Well, we’ve talked enough about the shark. I look for the book in every port. Briny barnacles, I’m proud of my story.

So you should be. It’s a great story. You’ve really got me hooked. Thanks for visiting us today old sailor. Bon Voyage.

To find out all about the other weird and wonderful things the old sailor swallowed you’ll have to read his book, There Was An Old Sailor

Please note that no creatures were harmed in conducting this interview.


A Booklover Moves House

The house movers are not impressed.

When we booked, we told them the move was for essential items and it wouldn’t take long. But, two hours in, it appears the problem is my definition of essential items. Namely, the boxes of books.

They were thinking essentials meant bed, sofa, washer, dryer; I was thinking Rough Guides, Bryson’s, Carey and Miller. I mean, what use is a sofa if you have nothing to read while sitting on it?

The movers are giving me The Look. It’s a hot humid day here in Sydney, and they’d rather be having a cold beer somewhere. They assumed they were done when they shunted over the last of our furniture.  After all, it’s clear we’re not moving our clothes or crockery today, none of those items are boxed. But the books are.

Surely, I can see them think, cooking and clothing yourself is more important than sending on books. What sort of madwoman would insist on sending a cook book (my deliciously new copy of the Australian Women’s Weekly Slow Cooking Cookbook for those of you wondering) before the cooking pots?

Um. This sort of madwoman, I guess. You know you have a book problem when you set up the bookcase before the bed linen. I know I’m not the only one out there this attached to my books. But looking into the aghast faces of the movers, I feel like I have committed a moving faux pas, akin to trying to high five the Queen or asking why there is beetroot in my burger.

Perhaps, as is my usual habit when I need to do something, I should have read up on it. There are plenty of books out there on moving home, but the closest I came to reading them was giggling at a Michael Bond’s Olga Moves House. This was a great read, but as it is a children’s book it wasn’t hugely helpful. Olga is a feisty guinea pig who, despite her immaculate taste, is more likely to shred a book to sleep in rather than read it. What would Olga do when confronted by reluctant and confused movers? Something involving high pitched squeaking, no doubt.

I decide to pass on that, and offer the movers a cool drink and some extra money. That seems to do the trick.

When the movers finally finish, the place is a mess. There are empty boxes and upturned furniture everywhere, bags and boxes strewn all over every surface. But the bookcase is been set up, all full of my favourite books. It’s going to take days to get the place set up and tidied, but one tiny corner of the flat looks like home.

Continue reading A Booklover Moves House

Welcome to Kids’ Book Capers

I’m so excited to be one of the new bloggers for Boomerang Books. My new blog, Kids’ Book Capers is going to be full of fun things to do with books, and the people who write and illustrate them.

Today is a special day for Australian Children’s Books with the announcement of the CBCA Shortlistings and Notable books for 2010 http://www.cbca.org.au

Congratulations to all the authors, illustrators and publishers whose books have been recognised in this year’s awards.

So many great books by so many wonderful authors and illustrators. And many of these talented people will be visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about how they write and draw, and create the characters and stories we love.

Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy is just one of this years worthy CBCA winners.

Pearl needs poetry to help her get through the hard things that are happening in her life – the illness of her granny, being accused of stealing someone’s boyfriend, and clashing with her teacher over poetry that doesn’t rhyme.

When you read Pearl Verses the World, you feel as if Pearl sat on author Sally Murphy’s knee and spoke to her – asking for her story to be told.

Sally says,

I had wanted to write a verse novel for some time – it was on my list of vague ‘to-dos’.  I loved the form and thought that one day I would sit down, really study the form in detail, look for books or articles on writing the verse novel and then eventually sit down and have a go at one myself. In reality, this isn’t what happened. Instead, the story came to me in verse from, and so that is how I wrote it. When the verses first started coming, I didn’t realise I was going to sit down and write a verse novel.

Over coming posts, we’ll be talking to other authors and finding out  about books to make you giggle, books to scare your pants off, and books that have just been released.

If you want to find out why some kid’s authors have never grown up, stay tuned to Kid’s Book Capers every Monday and Wednesday, and sometimes on Fridays.


Lost Booker Prize Shortlist Announced

The Lost Man Booker is a one-off prize to honour the books that missed out on the opportunity to win the Booker Prize in 1970.

The six books are:

The Birds on the Trees by Nina Bawden
Troubles by J G Farrell
The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard
Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault
The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark
The Vivisector by Patrick White

To vote for your favourite, click here.

On Inspiration

Inspiration is a tricky thing. It comes and goes, and mostly, its habits are unpredictable. If I knew how it all worked, believe me, my second novel would’ve been out by now. Usually someone in front of me has to do something stupid, or something horrible has to happen to me, and when I stop whingeing long enough to laugh and think, ‘Gee, that’d make a great story…’ – inspiration happens, and the words aren’t far off.

I’m not one of those gushing author fanboys who runs up to authors saying, ‘Wow, you inspire me so much.’ In fact, I was saving that baby up for when I met Terry Pratchett for the first time… but I found myself saying it to an author I’d only just met, and whose work I hadn’t read (obviously, since then, I’ve given it more than a glance, and it’s pretty awesome). That author was Patrick Ness, and that was Tuesday.

But our story begins on:

Monday: Melina Marchetta and The Piper’s Son Sydney launch

William Kostakis (moi) with Susanne Gervay

Book launches are great. They’re inspiring. I haven’t been to many (in fact, I’ve been to two, my own – which was pretty darn inspiring – and Melina Marchetta’s). It wasn’t being surrounded by peers in the industry (and making an awkward spectacle of myself as I was introduced to authors I’d been a fan of for a long time, and was trying to remain calm as I told them about a little blog I wrote for) that inspired me.

In fact, blame for inspiration rests solely on Melina Marchetta.

I haven’t known Melina very long. I met her a year ago. I was on a panel with her, scared to death of how I was going to introduce myself to the Melina Marchetta when the closest I’d ever come to reading her books was watching five minutes of Looking For Alibrandi on Channel Ten. So, I approached her, ready with a rehearsed and completely fake, ‘Whoa, your writing shaped my youth!’ (You know, the stuff she hears all the time.) Before I’ve started the spiel, she calls me by my first name (I haven’t introduced myself) and says how much she loved a short story I wrote in high school, and that she used to show it in class when she taught English. Cut to me thinking: ‘Melina… likes… my… writing?’ over and over and over. In fact, before our session, she didn’t even give me time to spew out the spiel. She just kept talking about me. I was struck by how normal, and humble, and nice, someone whose success can only be measured with ‘mega’s could be.

And Book Launch Melina was no different. Someone told me once, you’re not measured by how you handle the bad times, but the grace and humility you exhibit during the good times. There’s no doubting that, with her current career position, Melina is experiencing the good times. And you would never guess it. Having, since the panel, read all of her work, and knowing how successful she’s been (on account of my not living under a rock), I don’t know how someone can be as level-headed as she is.

Her writing inspires me as a writer (I hesitate to use the word ‘fellow’), but her personality, her warmth, and general Melinaness inspires me as a person.

Congratulations, Melina. Everybody here at Boomerang Books wishes you all the best with The Piper’s Son, and we’re already anticipating Book #5.

Tuesday: Patrick Ness speaks at Sydney Uni

To say Patrick Ness is popular would be to understate the fact considerably. I’d never read any of his work, but a lot of you have emailed me about him, so I thought I’d go along to see him speak (my class in the adjacent building finished at 6, he started at 6 – it was practically fate). I went expecting a room filled with teens, but what I found was a room filled with peers, authors I recognised, publishers, editors, and, granted, some teens.

He was a little late. The air was thick with anticipation – you could cut it with a [insert horrible pun with book title here]. Then, showtime.

“I think a reader can tell if the writer is joyous.”

After considering how daunting a task speaking without a topic is, he settled on establishing his own topic: joy. He said he never liked talking about author stuff, and proceeded to talk about his process: joy, joy, joy. To write is to write free of the mechanics of writing, and to just write joy.

It was great to hear such an acclaimed writer (he won the Guardian Prize), talking about writing for young adults like I do, albeit, with more flair, and more experience to back him up. It made me almost feel like I knew what I was talking about…

Namely, if you’re writing for kids: don’t write “lesson” narratives, with “issues” tick-boxes to work your way through, because they don’t equal good novels.

“Write for the teenager you were. If you think you were atypical, well, the point of being a teenager is being atypical.”

He emphasised not worrying about the genre and the audience. Cue the subtle glances from my editor – she was in the row in front, and had told me that exact thing about a bajillion times in the past year.

Just focus on joy.

“Write with joy, everything else will follow.”

The words made me want to whip out my pen and pad right then and there – well, my pen and pad were out (I was taking notes for Boomerangers), so I wanted to turn the page and plough through my new book then and there. He was really quite sensational to hear speak, and judging by what I’ve read of his work since, he has the words to back him up.

He made me want to write again, and not write to get the novel done, but write for joy.

Fans of both Patrick Ness and Melina Marchetta should keep their eyes on the blog, we have some really great prizes for you coming very soon. Signed prizes.

BOOK TRAILER: Gone by Mo Hayder

Okay, so yes, I was attracted to this trailer for Mo Hayder’s new release, Gone, because the publisher issued a strong warning about it. It’s very powerful, and perhaps the greatest example of a book trailer I’ve ever seen. Those that have been reading the blog will know that I’m very skeptical when it comes to book trailers, they’re usually amateurish, self-indulgent, over-long, boring, made by the authors in ten minutes, and mostly just text flying across the screen with a dodgy soundtrack – all the benefits of the visual medium are usually ignored. This trailer is nothing like most booker trailers. Short, slick, well-written, well-performed, and a great cliffhanger, I dare you to watch this and not feel compelled to read the book.

Upcoming Event: CBCA Triple A: The Shortlist

The CBCA will announce the 2010 list of Notable Books and the Short List for the 2010 Children’s Book of the
Year Awards in Brisbane on March 30. In NSW, they invite all children’s literature lovers to mingle with authors, illustrators, publishers and booksellers to enjoy a day of Professional Development. Join me, and a host of other members of the community as we:

Anticipate! the Short List with our five panelists’ personal choices;

Appreciate! the wonderful array of Australian children’s literature;

Applaud! the authors and illustrators whose books have been chosen for the 2010 Notable Booklist and the Short List.

Keynote Speaker—Dr Kerry White
(Bibliographer, Writer and Reviewer)

A panel of experts from the world of children’s literature will nominate their own Short Lists of children’s books published in 2009. They are:

Early Childhood Dr Sharyn Jameson (Senior Lecturer in English & Literacy, ACU)
Younger Readers Rachel Robson (Children’s Books Expert)
Older Readers William Kostakis (Award-winning author)
Picture Book Dr Robin Morrow (author, publisher, President of IBBY Australia)
Eve Pownall Chris Cheng (author, 2009 Lady Cutler Award recipient)

Where? Sydney Room, The Menzies Hotel, George Street, Sydney
When? Tuesday 30th March 2010, 8:30am—3.30pm

For more information, visit http://cbca.nsw.org.au or phone (02) 9818 3858.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Reviewed by Ann Skea ([email protected])

“A modern Love-story” says the blurb. But this book is more than that, and no brief description captures the freshness, the humour, and the sheer energy and variety with which Helen Simonson has shaped it.  As well as a wonderfully dramatic adventure and an hilarious and disastrous village ball, she has woven in plenty of things to think about. The conflicts created for her characters by the casual bigotry, class-discrimination and racism of ordinary and very nice people; the struggle to reconcile old traditions with modern materialism; a glimpse of family conflicts and the misunderstanding arising from the generation gap; and the common dreams of companionship and freedom which all of us share, no matter how old we are: all these are part of the mix. Simonson’s greatest achievement, however, is to make her main characters wonderfully fallible, complex, sensitive, stubborn, sharp and intelligent human beings, so that we feel for them and with them, and rejoice when they behave like a mythical hero and heroine and follow their impossible dream, to the outrage of their families and the censure and disapproval of society in general.

From the moment that sixty-eight-year-old Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired)  answers the doorbell wearing a clematis-patterned housecoat, it is clear that he is not your usual romantic hero. Nor is Mrs Jasmina Ali, the Muslim owner of the village Supersaver Supermart (the name says much about recent changes in village England), your run-of-the mill heroine. Both are strong, outspoken, independent characters with a wry sense-of-humour and a sometimes caustic wit, and both have lost a loved spouse in recent years and have adapted to a solitary life. Neither is looking for romance but a friendship with someone who shares their love of literature would certainly be acceptable.

Major Pettigrew (he is almost always ‘Major’, just as Jasmina is almost always ‘Mrs Ali’) has decided views on “honour, duty, decorum and a properly brewed cup of tea”. The society in which he lives is a conventional English village society, almost a caricature of such a place, and his position in it is established and taken-for-granted. Mrs Ali, is a fifty-six-year-old,  English born, Urdu-speaking widow, whose Indian relatives are starting to exert pressure on her to behave as a traditional Indian widow should, allow the men to take charge,  and retire into the family to look after an elderly relative. Circumstancs bring them together and friendship blossoms. But circumstances, relatives and the expectations of others also part them. The course of true love never did run smooth, as they say, but modern society seems able to throws more twists and turns into the course than might be expected and Simonson exploits a surprising range of them.

There are many different character is this book and some, especially the Americans in the story, are very close to caricature, but generally, all the characters are given a human side which saves them from being shallow stereotypes. Simonson is good, too, as suggesting underlying tensions without spelling them out. Altogether, she handles the story with great skill and although  she does not tell us the final outcome of the adventurous romance she allows us to dream on, happily convinced that love may, indeed, conquer all.

The advertising material sent to reviewers of this book suggests that if readers enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, which was published by the same publishers who are handling Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, then they will enjoy this book. They are very different books, but both treat the reader as intelligent, both deal with more than romance, and both are fresh and interesting first novels.

Copyright © Ann Skea 2010
Website and Ted Hughes pages: http://ann.skea.com/

Books for ANZAC Day

Under A Bomber’s Moon by Stephen Harris
They were the best of enemies – dedicated, skilled and deadly. In the night skies above wartime Germany an RAF navigator-bomber from New Zealand and a Luftwaffe pilot seek out their targets, testing the gap between success and their own destruction as they cross each other’s paths. The odds are heavily against either of them making it through the war, but as this sobering realisation displaces their initial exuberant adventurism, both come to see in their youthful sacrifice the survival of all they hold dear. Under a Bomber’s Moon reaches across the divide of years, of geography, of nationality to tell their story largely in their own words – describing both the breathtaking clashes in the air and the camaraderie, humour, patriotism and personal tragedies that became their war. Stephen Harris began his journey of discovery because he wanted to know the truth of his great-uncle Colwyn Jones’ fate. With Col’s vividly written letters and diaries as a starting-point, he set out to discover what really happened on the night Col’s extraordinary luck ran out. Little did he know that his quest would lead him to a meeting with a former Luftwaffe pilot who might well have engaged with his great-uncle in the skies over Germany. Otto-Heinrich Fries proved to be both co-operative and articulate, eventually allowing Harris to tell his story in this book. The result is a unique and personal account of two highly successful airmen from opposing sides.

Devil’s Own War by John Crawford
Brigadier-General Herbert Hart landed at Gallipoli on 26 April 1915, commanded the Wellington Battalion during the closing stages of that campaign, then served as a battalion and brigade commander on the Western Front between 1916 and 1918. Throughout the war he kept a diary, in which he recorded his experiences in the great battles on Gallipoli, the Somme and Passchendaele. Hart’s diary is now widely regarded as one of the most important personal sources relating to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Exceptionally well written, it includes gripping descriptions of both combat and life behind the front line and on leave in France and United Kingdom. While Hart can appear quite detached at times, he is also a very human observer of the events around him, understanding the plight of his men, finding humour in the most unlikely situations and noticing unexpected details at moments of high tension. As a first-hand account of life in the firestorm of World War One, The Devil’s Own War is hard to beat.

I was brave and shaved – support leukaemia research now

Today I (Clayton Wehner, MD of Boomerang Books) have lost my hair to help the Leukaemia Foundation raise money to provide practical care and support to patients and families living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and related blood disorders.  Wait until my wife sees this…roll on 5.30pm.

Boomerang Books supports a variety of Australian charities and the World’s Greatest Shave is one cause that we feel very strongly about.

We would really appreciate it if you would consider donating a small amount of money to the Boomerang Books Shave Team here…

We’ve raised $660 so far, but we’d like to nudge closer to our target of $2,000 – can you help?

After all, I have to look like this for the next few months – a $10 donation is a much easier way to show your support.

Donate today…


RECAP: Amanda McInerney at the Adelaide Writers Week 2010

We couldn’t make it to the Adelaide Writers Week 2010, but lucky for us, long-time Boomerang Books customer Amanda McInerney was a constant presence at the festival, and we were lucky enough to have her blog for us.

For those that missed her posts, here’s a recap:

Day One • Day Two • Day Three • Day Five

Amanda McInerney is passionate about books and reading.  She has recently started her own foodie blog at http://lambsearsandhoney.com/.

USER REVIEW WINNER: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Reviewed by TeresaS

Margaret Lea lives for books. When she is offered the challenge of writing the biography of the most famous writer in England, she finds uncanny parallels with her own life.

The Thirteenth Tale is a book for greedy bibliophiles. It’s a book for all those of us who know books as places to lose oneself, books as vehicles for travel in time and space, who feel sentimental about books as objects. Albeit if that sentimentality sometimes tips over into indulgent soppiness. Who cares?  This is a sometimes silly, entertaining, enchanting and engrossing story, with all the ingredients of a gothic novel. Set on the Yorkshire Moors, with massive old houses falling into decay, abandoned babies, topiary gardens, and undiscovered ancestry, it lays out a mystery which twists and turns through ghostly imaginings and haunted characters.

The thrill of this book is its challenge to the site of truth. What tells us more about the past, subjective unreliable narrative or factual evidence?

This is Dianne Setterfield’s first novel, though she is very well versed in 19th and 20th century French literature. All the way through this book, you get the feeling that she is having a great deal of fun playing with genre and image and language to produce a lovely bibliomystery.

The Thirteenth Tale could be criticised for its shameless evocation of the Brontes and Dickens, but that would be churlish. It’s not highbrow. It has a certain whiff of upstairs-downstairs. But as a whole, it’s a book to read in one gulp, curled up in an armchair, beside a pile of unread tomes!

A big thanks to the nearly 50 members who submitted reviews – keep entering for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, TeresaS has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Collins… Slightly Skewed

I started The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler about three years ago. However, about that time I thought I’d like to start publishing other authors’ books so I had two careers happening at once. The trouble is, I’d created a monster with Ford Street Publishing. Although publishing seven to eight books a year doesn’t sound too hectic, it’s easy to forget the major publishers have staff to edit, do accounts, market/publicity, proofread, design, liaise with authors and illustrators, write contracts, etc, etc. With a small press, it’s usually just one person that does all that.

Moi in other words.

So I wrote Toby in dribs and drabs whenever I had a chance. I knew I wanted a character, Fluke, to have a certain character trait. That is to say, words in sentences that change the meaning of the sentence.

I didn’t know what a malapropism was until I started researching for Fluke’s character. They’re sentences that have a substitution of a word that doesn’t really make sense but have a comic effect. So a “decaffeinated coffee” becomes a “decapitated coffee”; “for all intent and purposes” becomes “for all intensive purposes”; “charity begins at home” becomes “clarity begins at home”. The trick is to make sure the verbal gaffes all relate to the actual story. Some of my favourite malapropisms are: “the town was flooded and everyone had to be evaporated”; “dysentery in the ranks”; and of course, “Kath and Kim’s friends who are very effluent”.

The characters’ names come from anecdotal stories. Toby is nicknamed Milo, because he’s not Quik. Fluke was named after his mother tried conceiving on the IVF program, gave up, then conceived. Hence, Fluke.

Once I’d finished The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler I wondered which publisher I could send it to. After all, most know me as a science fiction writer – I don’t know why this is because I’ve written many more fantasy novels than science fiction novels, but there you are! So taking a leaf from Doris Lessing’s book (she also sent two manuscripts to publishers under a pseudonym), I sent the manuscript to all the major publishers under another name. Like Doris Lessing, it was rejected. One publisher did say I could send more of my work because I “showed promise”. But one editor loved it and recommended another publisher because his company was being subsumed by another publisher. So I took up his suggestion and waited . . . and waited. And despite having a great recommendation from this eminent editor, my manuscript waited in a slush pile for four months. I enquired about it, but received no reply. I waited another month before withdrawing the manuscript. The editor then said it was nearing the top of the pile to be read. Now this is a very subjective statement. The slush pile could be a mile high, and three quarters way near the top is months away from being read, but is still “nearing the top”, right?

I withdrew the story. I was then faced with a dire predicament. Where could I send my new book? I was judging a writing competition called the Charlotte Duncan Award at the time. Celapene Press was the publisher. So under the pseudonym I sent Toby to Kathryn Duncan, the publisher at Celapene. It was accepted within the week and within four months it was published. So, there you – this reads more like the slightly skewed life of the author, hey?!

Paul Collins

Free Shipping!

We’ve just activated Free Shipping on purchases made in-store!

What better way to celebrate the impending Labour Day, Eight Hours Day, Adelaide Cup Day and Canberra Day long weekends? Unless, of course, you live in Queensland, WA, NSW or NT – in which case, Happy March.

This great deal is available until midnight on Friday 12 March.  Feel free to pass the code onto your friends and family!

Visit Boomerang Books right now to redeem your free shipping…

How to redeem: We’ll take $6.95 off your order total when you enter the following code into our Promo Code slot on the payment page: freeship.

Some conditions: Free Shipping discount value is $6.95, which will be deducted from your order total when you use the promotional code on our payment page.  Overseas purchasers may use the promotional code, but only $6.95 will be deducted from the order total, not the full cost of overseas shipping.  Discount is only redeemable at the time of purchase by using the promotional code online.  It is not available retrospectively.

Adelaide Writers Week Day 5 with Amanda McInerney

Markus Zusak

Writers Week day 5 and Adelaide reverts to type –  a blazing hot day with everyone searching for a shady spot!

This afternoon my two daughters and I sat in on the “Meet the Author” session with the improbably youthful looking Marcus Zusak, who had the audience eating out of his hand!!  My daughters were very keen to see him as my eldest (19) had seen him some years before when he visited her English class and the youngest (13) has just about finished reading “The Book Thief”.  Zusak has a very natural and self deprecating way about him and obviously feels very strongly for his book, “The Book Thief”.  He told the very large crowd that the book really came out of stories that his Austrian parents used to tell himself and his siblings about their experiences during the lead up to the war, before they came out to Australia.  Some of the passages in the book, such as when the stepfather gives some bread to a Jew, were directly derived from his parents experiences and he is grateful to them for what he feels is their gift to him, in their stories.  He feels it is a book about people doing beautiful things in ugly times.

He also spoke about some of  the ways he approaches his writing,  trying to write simply, adding small details for authenticity to make the story more vivid to the reader and to try to use something unexpected to maintain momentum in the story.

The audience watching and listening to him was , as I mentioned, very large and entirely captivated as he read the first few pages of his next book, leaving us all keen to read more of it.  He was then available to sign books, which he did with enormous grace, engaging both my daughters – and I assume everyone else – in a little small talk.  No easy task as the lines for his signings were the longest that I have seen all week.

Support the ‘Baldies’!

Everybody here at Boomerang Books is shaving it off this month to help the Leukaemia Foundation to provide practical care and support to patients and families living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and related blood disorders. Want to shave with us? Join the Boomerang Books ‘Baldies’ team now and start raising money…

Don’t wanna get your head shaved or dyed?  Then you can still donate money to the Boomerang Books ‘Baldies’ here…

Raising Awareness

Initiatives like the Leukaemia Foundation’s Shave For a Cure not only help raise money, but also awareness. It’s really a great time to spread the word on the issue. This week, we’re asking you, what are the big books you’ve read that have helped shaped your perception of what it is like to live with Leukemia or with someone who has Leukemia? Leave the book title in the comments section, and I’ll add it to the list :-):

Keep Your Hair On! by Elizabeth Vercoe
Jess is 16 years old. She’s never wagged school. She’s on a netball team. Her best friends are Sara and Charlotte. She has cancer. Last week she kissed a boy called Dylan. Today her hair is going down the plughole.

Here is Jess’s life so far:
She is 16 years old.
She’s never wagged school.
She’s on a netball team.
Her best friends are Sara and Charlotte.
She has cancer.
Last week she kissed a boy called Dylan.
Today her hair is going down the plughole.

If Dylan finds out he’ll probably drop her — or worse, feel sorry for her.

Can she keep it a secret?

Allie McGregor’s True Colours by Sue Lawson
Allie McGregor’s list of problems is longer than movie credits. House renovations have forced Allie to share her room with mouse-loving little sister, Sarah. Her dad, Will, calls Allie ‘The Hormonal One’ during his popular radio program. Her brother, Riley, is just plain gross. Her best friend Lou is fighting with Allie’s new friend, Romy. Oh, and Allie’s mum has cancer.

Adelaide Writers Week Day 3 with Amanda McInerney

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Day 3 at Adelaide Writers Week and I could only pop in for a brief visit today.  I was running late and missed the first part of “Trainspotting” author Irvine Welsh’s discussion on his writing experiences, but managed to catch some of the question/answer time.  He was just as I expected him to be – blunt and forthright with that lovely Scottish accent and plenty of swearing.  He answered questions about his characters and how he gets around the issue of setting his books in places that he no longer lives.   This, he says, is sorted by visiting his old stamping grounds and taking old friends to the pub, plying them with drink and then quizzing them!

This was followed by  a panel session entitled “Mystery” with authors Sarah Dunant, Audrey Niffenegger, Sarah Waters and Marcus Zusak.  It was not necessarily about mystery writing, but about the notions of mystery in their work.  Niffenegger spoke of how writing genres seem to be bleeding into each other, to some extent, citing the example of how the simple mystery story is now evolving into a more literary form.  She also stated that she prefers to be a little mysterious in her writing, sometimes leaving things unsaid in order to leave “space” within her work for the reader to interact and, in a way, become complicit with the story.

When the very amusing Marcus Zusak was asked if he felt it necessary to temper ambiguity in his writing for younger people his delightfully refreshing answer was “I dunno!”  He went on to say that it was a mystery to him how he got to Writers Week at all as he seemed to be such a poor judge of the varying merits of his work.  He was unexpectedly surprised that “The Book Thief” was so very popular!   He made no mystery of the narrator and, in fact, states in the book that the concept of mystery clearly bores “Death” who much prefers the machinations behind it.

Dunant told of how the mystery for her is generally in the actual writing as she often has no idea of where the story will take her or of how the characters will develop.  Thus mystery, for her, becomes motivating and exciting and keeps her writing.  On the other hand, Sarah Waters was shocked at this as she could not contemplate sitting down to start a book without having a meticulously planned plot – in fact she often has a definite story ending before she starts! Clearly, there are as many ways for writing novels as there are writers.

March Book Giveaway

Another month, another giveaway for our Boomerang Books Members – and this month’s is one to get excited about. It includes:

All Boomerang Books Members are automatically entered into the draw to win our great monthly prize packs – for your chance to win, sign up today.


For the members of our Facebook Group, we have a special prize pack that includes:

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin,  Baby Ice Dog Press, Celapene Press, Ford St, Pan Macmillan, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.

Adelaide Writers Week Day 2 with Amanda McInerney

Day 2 of Adelaide Writers Week and another day of glorious sun with a gentle breeze.  Some past Writers Weeks have been blighted by scorching hot weather, so these mild days are very welcome!

My first session today was to hear Richard Dawkins, who spoke about his new book, giving a precis of the chapters before answering many questions from a very large and appreciative audience.  It really seemed  such an inadequate forum for such a huge topic, as the enormous audience would attest!

From there I attended a session called “Writers as Readers” with a panel containing Brian Castro – novelist and Professor of Creative Writing at Adelaide University, Kathryn Fox – Sydney doctor and very successful mystery novelist, Andrea Goldsmith – Australian novelist & Mirielle Juchau – Australian novelist and essayist.  They spoke about themselves as readers and how that has subsequently informed their various works.  Castro spoke of how his poor eyesight as a very young child led to him lurking about the house – under tables and behind doors – learning to read situations.  Fox spoke of the need, as a doctor,  for emotional intelligence and entertained with some personal anecdotes about reading people and their, sometimes unspoken, needs and rationales.  Her final story about an elderly patient and his penile implant had everyone in stitches!  Goldsmith told of her childhood as a very slow developer and how it has led to a fondness and need for solitude to indulge her passion for reading and Mirielle Juchau spoke about how reading helped her to uncover unspoken facts about her family history.  Her Grandmother was a survivor of Hitler’s Germany, coming to Australia in 1939.  While not exactly a secret, this was simply not spoken about and she worked it out for herself at the age of about 15.

With the exception of Brian Castro, they all spoke of their love for reading and the different ways that they use different reading habits when writing.  Startlingly, Castro told how he doesn’t enjoy reading at all, mostly finding it a necessary slog!!

My final writer for today was the very affable – and Prime Minister’s Award winning –  Steven Conte who wrote “The Zookeepers War”, set in Berlin during WWII, chronicling a marriage and a city under immense pressure and the possibilities for heroism within that situation.    He spoke of his early obsession with Berlin and how his experiences as a boarder at an all-boys boarding school helped him to relate to totalitarianism!!”