Happy Birthday, Penguin – You’re Looking Well For 75!

Penguin Publishers – you’ve gotta give them props. As they reach their 75th anniversary this week, they’re still the movers and shakers of the publishing world, with a vigour we don’t see in many publishers half their age! Their Aussie contingent flies the flag well – I’ve grown up on Penguin books, and it’s nice to know that some things haven’t changed. Whenever I see that cute little penguin symbol on the binder, I know the book’s going to be an interesting and inexpensive read that’ll probably end up being a classic one day, if it isn’t already.

So why a penguin, Penguin?
Allen Lane, founder of Penguin, wanted a symbol for his new business that was “dignified but flippant”. The woman behind the man, his secretary, suggested a penguin, and so publishing history was made, with another employee sent straight to London Zoo to commence sketching.

Alison Flood from The Guardian has written a crowd-pleasing article for Penguin’s 75th, quoting straight from avid Penguin books collector Steve Hare’s mouth:

“We’re an educational charity, not a bunch of sad anoraks,” said Hare. “[We’re] not simply about collecting, but for anyone interested in graphic design, publishing history, illustration, and the joys and pleasures of the physical book.”

And so while Penguin Publishers have well and truly jumped on the e-book gypsy caravan, in these times of uncertainty it’s nice to know that people still see the value of a good hardcover book. The Penguin Publishers main website has long been a fascination of mine: whoever they have working there employing designers is s-t-y-l-i-s-h and knows some opportunistic art when they see it. Many of us swooned at the sight of Coralie Bickford’s baroque beauties, but I especially love the project they’re working on at the moment – the Penguin RED series, where 50% of profits from books sold go to AIDS relief in Africa. Covers are adorned in scarlet, crimson, black and white, with an emphasis on typography design – a memorable quote from each classic skips, shouts, dances about from the confines of the bookshelf. Some are already available, with more in the works to be released later on this year. Aren’t they eye-catching?


So many happy returns of the day, Penguin – I hope you get everything you wish for this week. And here’s to another 75 – even if it is in e-book form!

Kids’ reading — Boots, Rufus the Numbat, and a Fairy Empire

As a proud parent, I find it endlessly interesting to watch my kids’ literary tastes developing. So I’m now going to make an enormous leap of (perhaps faulty) logic and assume that all you people out there will find it just as interesting. And thus I shall blog about the books that my daughters have been reading, or, in the case of the younger, chewing on.

My youngest, Alexandra, is just 18 months old. She loves books. She loves it when I read them to her — but she also spends ages turning the pages by herself, giggling at the pictures and pointing things out on the pages. Her current favourites include A Friend For Boots and Bath-Time Boots, both by Satoshi Kitamura. These board-books are absolutely brilliant! Simple yet delightful words combine with simple but charming illustrations, to tell the story of a cat named Boots. Alexandra delights in pointing out Boots and the various toys depicted on each page.

My eldest, Nykita, is 7 years old. She is currently obsessed with the Rainbow Magic fairy books by the pseudonymous Daisy Meadows. Daisy, or rather the four authors from Working Partners who write under this pseudonym, have built a Rainbow Magic empire. There are already over 90 titles in the series, and no doubt, they’ll keep churning them out for as long as little girls keep getting their parents to buy them. Nykita has been borrowing them from her school library. She is finding this rather frustrating as she only gets to borrow one book a week, and she usually finishes the book on the night she brings it home. But fear not… I went to a recent department store toy and book sale. There, amongst a sea of mothers with shopping trolleys stacked twice their height in toys, I wandered around with an armful of books. I got two boxed sets of the Rainbow Magic books, comprising books 71 to 84. And then to balance things out a bit, I also got a boxed set of Enid Blyton books. These should keep her entertained for a week or two.

With two young daughters who love books, I was delighted to receive a review copy of David Miller’s new picture book, Rufus the Numbat. This is Miller’s second book for Ford Street Publishing, after the critically acclaimed Big and Me. And he’s done it again — a lovely book with a unique look and a story that works on two levels. Kids can simply enjoy the madness and mayhem that ensues when Rufus the numbat wanders into the city, while adults can appreciate the subtle statement on humans encroaching on the natural habitats of native animals.

But don’t just take my word for how good it is… let’s get some expert opinions as well. It got a definite thumbs up from Nykita. She spent ages studying the intricate paper sculptures that Miller used to illustrate the book. “I like the way everything is made out of paper,” she announced. She also said that it was “a very creative story”. Her favourite bit was when Rufus rode a skateboard away from the city to the bush. I read the book to Alexandra, who kept pointing to Rufus each time I turned the page, giggling with enthusiasm every time she spotted him.

So Miller has managed to please an 18 month old, a 7 year old and a 42 year old with Rufus the Numbat — a pretty good achievement!

Anyone out there want to share with us what their kids have been reading? Leave a comment.

And tune in next time so I can tell you about how much I love old books.

Catch ya later,  George

PS – Follow me on Twitter.



Like many of Sally Murphy’s stories, Toppling started with a character. John is a boy with the slightly nerdy hobby of domino toppling. He has a very stable, happy home life, and a good strong friendship group at school. But Sally started to wonder what would happen if something went wrong in John’s life.

Using the metaphor of  toppling, Sally decided that John’s best friend is in danger of toppling. He has cancer, and John and his other friends need to figure out how best to support Dominic  while still carrying on with their own lives.

John is a year six boy who is pretty normal. He isn’t a big fan of school, but likes the chance to hang out with his mates. He has a big sister who rubs him up the wrong way.

John is honest and he is a first person narrator who can be self-deprecating, and admits to insecurities.

Toppling is for middle and upper primary aged children but is also being used in secondary schools because of the subject matter and the verse form.

It covers a tough topic, but kids will enjoy that it is a positive story, which offers hope. Also, it has humour,  and lots of slice of life scenes. The verse novel format makes it very accessible to readers.

I found the verse format of Toppling very easy to read and engaging and as Sally says,

When I see how kids love this format I wonder why there aren’t more verse novels made available to them.


I  had fun weaving domino toppling through the book, and trying to weave just a little humour into what was, by necessity, a fairly serious tale. The humour helps to ease the tension.


Writing on such a heart-wrenching topic – childhood cancer – can make the process very emotional. I cried when I wrote it and still get teary when I read certain scenes.

Toppling is published by Walker Books


This book sprang from two words – fluff and gruff – which ended up being the first two end rhymes in the story, which is told in rhyme. Sally wrote the first two lines when they sprang to mind, then had to sit down and plan the rest of the story.

It’s about a teddy bear – Pemberthy – who doesn’t know how to have fun, and a doll, primula, who is determined to get him to join in her games.

It’s mainly for kids aged 2 to 6, although Sally says she has  shared it with much older kids (even high school boys).

It’s a feel-good book, with beautiful pictures by talented illustrator Jacqui Grantford. And, because it is written in rhyme, it makes a good read-aloud for story sessions.

Kids are amazed when they realise that the bear on the cover is an illustration, not a photo. The artist is so clever!

Pemberthy Bear is covered in fluff but, as the opening page reveals, he is mean and gruff.  But really, he isn’t so tough – he’s just shy and a little insecure, and he learns to be braver.

Sally says that the hardest thing about writing Pemberthy Bear was getting the rhyme and rhythm just right. Writing in rhyme is far more difficult than many people think.

I wrote many, many drafts of this story to get it just right.

Pemberthy Bear is published by New Frontier.

SURVEY: Who is your favourite (or most unfavourite) villain in a book?

Our Tuesday Survey on 20 July 2010 posed the following question:

Who is your favourite (or most unfavourite) villain in a book?

Some of the responses that we received via Facebook and Twitter were:

Voldemort, Big Brother, Nurse Ratched, Hannibel Lecterand many more…

What do you think?  Add your suggestions to the comments below…

How The Booker Was Won

Imagine me, swaggering out of the saloon doors into the dusty cross-section of town, whisky firing my gut. The unwelcome sun beats and blinds me for a moment – then I see in the middle of the dirt-lined street, a little way down the road: a gunslinger stands at ease, fingers playing invisible piano keys by each slim hip, its shadow a stretched twin, right down to the same arrogant ‘tude.

This ‘cowboy’ goes by the name of Man Booker, and he hasn’t been welcome in this part of town for years.

I don’t when me and this Booker’s feud started exactly. Chock it up to a number of run-ins on opposite sides of the law: The Line of Beauty too pretentious; The Gatheringdeathly boring. The White Tiger and The God of Small Things? Well. You know what mother says. Keep your meanest thoughts to yourself.

And now its time to blast this rattlesnake for good.

As we take 3 paces, backs to each other and ready to swivel for our lives, I remember that pretty little sweetheart Possession. You know the type: big blue eyes, characters in love, writin’ you could grow old with. And then rememberin’ all of a sudden, like old friends, Life of Pi, with his crazy eye-deers, and The Blind Assassin. What a beyootiful book.

And I gets to-thinkin: Hey, maybe this fella aint too bad after all.

The long list is out for the 2010 Booker, and he has a chance to make things right with me; just about square. There’s only room for one horse in this town. Goes by the name of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. And what’s more? According to The Guardian, ol’ man Mitchell has a fightin’ chance. I ain’t a bettin’ man, but…

[A tumbleweed skips, stumbles and stutters away through the middle of our stand-off…]

So here, right now, me and Booker – we’re at an uneasy truce. And so, pistols untouched, we suddenly find ourselves more in the mood for a hearty saloon-served meal than a bloody battle and a death, possibly a double, in a dead-end town.

A final spit in the dirt serves as his warning and we make our fragile peace.


The sun drops like a drunken head finding a pillow. Our star-spurred boots scuff lazily under the swinging saloon doors, Man Booker keepin’ his distance behind me, of course.

A little later: a saucy wench on each lap, and we have a real man’s fight, via a well-played four-hand poker. But not before I let my feelings be known: this town’s a one-horse type of town, cowboy. You better live up to your promise this year. Or else.

Tweet Writer: The Cardboard Box For Adults

The best entertainment often comes from the simplest, most unlikely sources—just ask parents whose children derive hours of play from the empty cardboard box rather than the expensive toy that came in it.

For me, today’s surprise fun came courtesy of the Melbourne Writers Festival’s Tweet Writer website, which my sister phoned me all the way from Melbourne to point out.

The premise? You enter your Twitter account name and it analyses your tweets to create mock book covers, titles, artwork, and blurbs.

The outcome is a rotating 3D book cover with a title drawn from words contained in your tweets—yes, you will wonder what you wrote—as well as a logo or image to make a sort of headshot.

It’s a kind of virtual publishing meets comedy and is, quite simply, pure genius on a simple web page.

Tweet Writer does multiples, so hitting ‘republish’ on the right-hand side sends it back trawling to create a new book for you. Ah, the thrill of new and seemingly limitless combinations!

The best part is perhaps that it’s not confined to your own Twitter account. With only the correct account name required, you can enter anyone’s and determine what sorts of book titles they’d have.

I’m not overly active on Twitter (I’m yet to be convinced that it’s not boring and over-run by marketers), but from the few tweets I’ve made in the years I’ve had the account, mine included many Book Burglar-themed titles:

  • The Burglar of the End
  • The Unfairly of the Embracing
  • The Book of the Talk
  • The Reputation of the Edition
  • The Book of the Talking

Yes it’s a time-sapper. But it’s a fun time-sapper. One that is as much—if not more—fun than a cardboard box.

Man Booker Prize 2010 Longlist announced

parrot and olivier in america
Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

The judges for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction today, Tuesday 27 July, announce the longlist for the prize, the leading literary award in the English speaking world.

A total of 138 books, 14 of which were called in by the judges, were considered for the ‘Man Booker Dozen’ longlist of 13 books.

The longlist includes:

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber and Faber)

Emma Donoghue Room (Pan MacMillan – Picador)

Helen Dunmore The Betrayal (Penguin – Fig Tree)

Damon Galgut In a Strange Room (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Books)

Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)

Andrea Levy The Long Song
(Headline Publishing Group – Headline Review)

Tom McCarthy C (Random House – Jonathan Cape)

David Mitchell The Thousand Autumns of Zacob de Zoet (Hodder & Stoughton – Sceptre)

Lisa Moore February (Random House – Chatto & Windus)

Paul Murray Skippy Dies (Penguin – Hamish Hamilton)

Rose Tremain Trespass (Random House – Chatto & Windus)

Christos Tsiolkas The Slap (Grove Atlantic – Tuskar Rock)

Alan Warner The Stars in the Bright Sky
(Random House – Jonathan Cape)

The chair of judges, Andrew Motion, comments:

“Here are thirteen exceptional novels – books we have chosen for their intrinsic quality, without reference to the past work of their authors. Wide-ranging in their geography and their concern, they tell powerful stories which make the familiar strange and cover an enormous range of history and feeling. We feel confident that they will provoke and entertain.”

Peter Carey is one of only two authors to have won the prize twice, in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda and 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang. In 1985 his book Illywhacker was shortlisted for the prize and Theft: A Love Story was longlisted in 2006.

Three authors have been shortlisted before: David Mitchell (twice shortlisted in 2001 for number9dream and in 2004 for Cloud Atlas), Damon Galgut (in 2003 for The Good Doctor) and Rose Tremain (shortlisted in 1989 for Restoration). She was also a judge for the Booker Prize in 1988 and 2000.

Howard Jacobson has been longlisted twice for his book Kalooki Nights in 2006 and for Who’s Sorry Now? in 2002.

The 2010 shortlist will be announced on Tuesday 7 September at a press conference at Man Group’s London headquarters. The winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2010 will be revealed on Tuesday 12 October at a dinner at London’s Guildhall and will be broadcast on the BBC Ten O’Clock News.

The winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction will receive £50,000 and can look forward to greatly increased sales and worldwide recognition. Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, will receive £2,500 and a designer bound edition of their shortlisted book.

Chaired by Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate, the 2010 judges are Rosie Blau, Literary Editor of the Financial Times; Deborah Bull, formerly a dancer, now Creative Director of the Royal Opera House as well as a writer and broadcaster; Tom Sutcliffe, journalist, broadcaster and author and Frances Wilson, biographer and critic.

Get Reading! 2010 is coming!

Only four more weeks until the nation-wide Get Reading! 2010 promotion kicks into gear.

Formerly known as ‘Books Alive’, Get Reading! is the book industry’s own annual promotion of books and reading – the largest in Australia. You can get involved in Get Reading! without even leaving your desktop.

Since we’re a participating retailer, if you buy one of the ’50 Books You Can’t Put Down’ online at Boomerang Books from August 25-September 30, you will receive a free collection of Australian short stories.

Visit on August 25th for a full list of all of the books that have made the list of the year’s best, and that will entitle you to a free book. 🙂

So, join us in the coming months, as we Get Reading!


The Man Who Stares At Goats And Them

Jon RonsonSome weeks ago I asked about the merit or otherwise of re-reading books, but have since realised that I’ve forgotten one key reason for re-reading: excellent authors who have released few books.

It starts with a book recommendation or a simple stumbling across a writer whose fabulousness you can scarcely believe and whose writing you wonder how you previously existed without. It finishes with a mad dash to find and devour their back catalogue of books. Which is great, until you exhaust the supply.

Then begins the trawling of the internet and the author’s and publisher’s websites to find out if or when the next book will be released. When there isn’t the promise of a forthcoming fix, you’re left with the option of either re-reading the published works or reading nothing (ok, or reading something someone else wrote, but bear with me here).

In spite of my reluctance to revisit books—largely because I worry that re-reading one book means potentially never reading another in this lifetime—after writing the blog about it I found myself lured back to Jon Ronson’s works.

He’s best known for The Men Who Stare At Goats, which was recently made into a film that I haven’t yet seen. But my favourite of his books is the simply titled Them: Adventures with Extremists.

The Men Who Stare At GoatsRonson (whose name I constantly have to check in my head as I can never remember if it’s Jon Ronson or Ron Jonson; and even though it’s the former, it’s the latter that always springs to mind) is a creative non-fiction writer and journalist with a knack for finding the interesting in the apparently ordinary.

I spend half my time marvelling at how and where he finds his subjects and stories and the other half at how powerfully he conveys them through understated writing.

For example, in The Men Who Stare At Goats, Ronson investigates a secret, unacknowledged arm of the American army dedicated to researching how mind power can give them the upper edge.

These are the super-educated, super-intelligent men who try to walk through walls or who stare at goats in an attempt to will them to drop dead (for the record for other animal lovers out there, they weren’t overly successful—one goat fell over once).

In Them, Ronson seeks out and embeds himself in the daily lives of the people we’d label ‘extremists’ and who are, given that he’s Jewish, unlikely to let him in. There’s Omar Bakri Mohammed, who’s living on social welfare in London and who’s both applying for British citizenship and openly plotting to overthrow the UK and turn it into an Islamic country.

There’s the media savvy Ku Klux Klan leader who’s trying to preach love for white people rather than hate for black people, and who discourages his followers from wearing the famed hooded outfits or use the N-word.

There’s the people who believe that the world is controlled by the Bilderberg Group, which comprises of a small, select group of all-powerful people who meet annually in secret locations. Then there’s David Icke, who actively believes that the world is actually being run by extraterrestrial, shape-shifting giant lizards. For real.

Part bumbling Bill Bryson, part David Sedaris, Ronson is a writer and speaker with whom I’ve fallen in love. Which is a problem, because his books take an eternity to research and write. Which means that he doesn’t release them all that regularly. Which means that in the absence of new Ronson releases, I need to revisit his books to get my quota of his writing.

Christine Bongers on HENRY HOEY HOBSON

Christine Bongers, a former radio and TV journalist, is celebrating the release of her new novel, the riotously funny, fast-paced Henry Hoey Hobson, a novel aimed at upper-primary readers. For those unfamiliar with Christine’s work, her Dust was released to critical acclaim in 2009, and went on to be selected as a CBCA Notable Book for 2010. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the book launch – geography’s always working against me – so to make up for it, I invited Christine around to introduce her new novel, and discuss just how Henry Hoey Hobson popped into her life.

When inspiration happens…

Dark figures slipped out of the shadows. Warlocks and witches, monsters and vampires, circling the open coffin. Pale hands, fingertips dipped in black, reached in and pulled out bottles of liquid that gleamed red in the moonlight…

Halloween 2007 and Brisbane’s spec fiction writing community was partying at the home of my very favourite vampire writer, Jason Nahrung.

In the flickering flames of my memory, I was the one who didn’t fit in. Wrong outfit, wrong genre, and running late for a rival function that was more twin-set and pearls than fangs and gothic horror. I stood at the edge of the crowd, gazing with longing at the fabulous creatures cavorting around the coffin…

My mind is like a messy desk, crammed with memories, embellished by imaginings that I stack into wobbly piles that inevitably collapse and are restacked with other random musings. The bits that slip down the back I forget; the carnivorous dust bunnies can have them. The bits I hang on to are those that I instinctively feel will make a good story.

For a couple of years I held onto that image – a coffin, brimming with drinks, circled by those wondrous creatures of the night. But as a writer of realistic fiction, I wasn’t sure when, or how, I would use it.
In 2008, I made a half-hearted start on a children’s story called My Very Favourite Vampire Writer but lost interest after only eight lines. I pushed it to the back of the messy desk in my head and got on with the adult crime novel I was writing.

Then in 2009, Henry Hoey Hobson stalked into my consciousness. A likeable kid that nobody liked. How was that even possible?

His story came together in my head as a three-way collision between groups with seemingly nothing in common, and a boy who didn’t fit in.

If true character is revealed under pressure, then I wanted to crush Henry Hoey Hobson into diamond.

I made him non-Catholic, non-anything as far as he knew, dumped him into a little Catholic school, stripped him of friends, family and options, and made sure his single mum was too busy to throw him a life raft when he looked in danger of drowning in the dangerous waters of Year Seven.

I made him an outsider, and gave him just one shot at making friends – the creepy new neighbours, owners of a coffin, the only people in the street less popular than he was…

I had a ball writing this book. I not only found a use for my coffin scene, I also found a use for my very favourite vampire writer (for those in the know, he was the inspiration for the character of Caleb; his muse, the gothic and mysterious Vee is another story altogether).

Henry’s resilience in the face of adversity made me laugh… made me cry… and ended up making me proud.
CBCA National President Marj Kirkland agreed. When she launched Henry Hoey Hobson in Brisbane, she told the crowd that she’d fallen in love with a twelve-year-old boy.

I did too and I thank the high heavens that I went along to that Halloween party… Henry Hoey Hobson would never have been written but for those drinks around the coffin.

Christine Bongers

Henry Hoey Hobson is Perpetually Adolescent’s Top Pick this fortnight – grab a copy today!


Pit of Shame by Anthony Stokes
Reviewed by GavelBasher [Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers]

You may or may not have thought of a gaol – even a famous one—as anything worth writing a book about, but fortunately and perhaps predictably, the author, Anthony Stokes does not agree with this view. He is a prison officer at the once infamous Reading Gaol immortalised by its most famous inmate, Oscar Wilde – and now a Prison and Young Offender Institution.

Pit of Shame is the product of ten years of archival research into the gaol’s 500 year history and if that’s not fascinating enough, check out the thought provoking foreword by Theodore Dalrymple, contributor to “the Spectator” and a former hospital and prison doctor.  Reading’s current Governing Governor, Pauline Bryant – the first woman to be in overall charge at Reading – also adds a note of appreciation for the ‘initiative and hard work’ which resulted in the publication of ‘this great book’.

Here is a book which will be of interest not only to criminologists and penal reformers – who should all read and note Dalrymple’s remarks in the Appendix – but to students of English literature.

‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ was the last literary work written by Wilde, who might have been somewhat gratified to learn that, after his death, some two years after his release, the poem occasioned many a re-think about prison reform.

To those in the know, however, the poem speaks the truth about the prison although not necessarily the prisoners.  Wilde, it seems, was selective in his choice of anecdote and comment regarding, for example, the murderer he cites as CTW, who, killed his wife ‘the thing he loved…murdered in her bed.’

Either deliberately, or because he was not familiar with all the facts, Wilde excites our compassion for CTW by omitting to add that he actually lay in wait for his wife with a razor, cutting her throat three times.  Due to what was noted at the time as ‘an unforgiveable degree of premeditation’, CTW’s plea for clemency was turned down and he was subsequently hanged.

What we find particularly apposite and insightful in this intriguing volume is the insight Dalrymple offers into Wilde’s mind-set.  Months before he went to jail Wilde penned a few maxims proclaiming his cherished beliefs in an Oxford undergraduate magazine called ‘Chameleon’, writing that ‘any preoccupation with ideas of what is right or wrong in conduct shows an arrested intellectual development.’

Well — whatever your attitude is to an attitude like that, Dalrymple — and presumably author Anthony Stokes – doesn’t like it.  He condemns ’the sheer callow, shallow, ‘spoilt-child’ silliness of all this…upon…which the brilliantly gifted Wilde wasted so much of his life and energy….’

‘Wilde was never a wicked man,’ adds Dalrymple.  ‘It was nevertheless only in prison that he learned the value of truth, sincerity and goodness, and by then it was too late.’

If you want to read more, including the research and bibliography at the back of this very readable book, (which makes it a boon to scholars) buy it. (5 stars)

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, GavelBasher has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

Does Your Local Library Deserve to Survive?

Come on a hypothetical journey with me. Imagine a future where ebooks are the dominant format of books. It’s a world many people don’t think will ever exist. Boomerang’s own Aimee Burton is one of them (I’ve challenged her to a blargument, but until she picks up the gauntlet I threw down this will just have to be hypothetical). But let’s just imagine dead tree books are now the poor cousin of ebooks. Kind of like CDs already are to MP3s. In this world, there are still rabid collectors out there who buy every antique Stephenie Meyer out there, but for the most part, most people do their book reading electronically. In this world is your local library something you want your tax money spent on?

Before the mouth-breather with the orthopaedic shoes starts throwing the kids’ books around in the quiet corner, just think about it. I love local libraries. I love how empty they are. I love how many books are there. I love the crazy old cat lady who works there two out of every four days. But in the world I’ve just mentioned, what role does a local library have that cannot be fulfilled by every person’s internet connection in their own home?

The answer, at least for now, seems to be free access. Try as they might (read: they are not trying) the publishing industry is yet to come up with a way to make the full range of ebooks that are out there commercially available to government subsidised libraries. John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan US, recently described libraries in the digital age as a “thorny problem”. As the excellent Eric Hellman paraphrases:

In the past, getting a book from libraries has had a tremendous amount of friction. You have to go to the library, maybe the book has been checked out and you have to come back another time. If it’s a popular book, maybe it gets lent ten times, there’s a lot of wear and tear, and the library will then put in a reorder. With ebooks, you sit on your couch in your living room and go to the library website, see if the library has it, maybe you check libraries in three other states. You get the book, read it, return it and get another, all without paying a thing.

It’s hard to see a sound business reason why a publisher would ever want a workable system for library ebooks. And yet, as it stands, it’s up to publishing companies to come up with a solution to this problem. Ultimately, however, when you look at the depth and breadth of knowledge available for free on the internet nowadays, it’s hard to make an argument that every person needs free access to books. Many libraries are already shifting their focus away from merely being repositories of dead trees. Knowledge is no longer contained solely within paper covers. But, of course, knowledge was only one reason I used to go to libraries. Without my local library, there are a number of dodgy fantasy writers I never would have read.

So my questions today are these: Does your local library deserve to be saved? If so, how? If not, will you mourn the passing of the local library? If so, why? Share your library stories in the comments below.

Tripods Rule!

The Earth has been invaded — conquered by aliens in huge walking, metal tripods. For generations the people of Earth have been kept under control by caps — metal mesh, implanted into the flesh of a person’s head when they turn 14 years of age. Once capped, people loose their curiosity and creativity, become docile and feel compelled to worship the Tripods. But not everyone is capped. There is a resistance movement of free people, hiding out in the White Mountains, gathering more to their cause and searching for a way to defeat the invaders.

I discovered John Christopher’s Tripods Trilogy when I was a teenager in the early 1980s. I fell in love with it. I read the three books — The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire — many times over. When the BBC turned the first two books into a television series in the mid-1980s, I watched it eagerly, recorded it on VHS and re-watched the tapes until they practically wore out. And then, in 1988, there was a new book — a prequel, When the Tripods Came. With all the recent talk of a new film based on the first book, I thought it would be a good time to revisit my teenage obsession.

I am very pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading the books. I still have the copies I bought in 1983 — a terrific set with covers that lined up to form a large picture — as well as several different editions. Like a true obsessive I went through a phase of collecting different editions of these books… and there have been many.

The original trilogy follows the adventures of an English boy, Will Parker, who teams up with two other boys to escape the capping and set off in search of the free men of the White Mountains. By the end of the first book, after a long and dangerous journey, they reach the mountains. In the second book, there is an undercover mission into one of the Tripod cities to discover the alien Masters that drive them and to look for weaknesses. And the third book is all about the defeat of the Masters and their Tripods.

Originally published in 1967/8, these books hold up pretty well by today’s standards. They are exciting, well plotted and thoughtfully conceived. The writing style is a little dry and dated, particularly when it comes to the dialogue, although somehow is seems to work just fine. An interesting thing to note is the almost complete lack of female characters, apart from an occasional love interest.

The prequel, When The Tripods Came, published in 1988, is quite a different kettle of fish, with several major female characters and a more easy-going writing style. The main character, however, is again an English teenage boy, Laurie. The story follows him and his family as they try to escape the mind-control being used by the aliens to subjugate the people of Earth. Given that this prequel is all about how the Earth came to be conquered, you could expect a dark and hopeless tale… but it’s not. The story of this family and their escape concludes with hope and sees the seeds of the resistance that will feature in the trilogy, being sown.

I’m now part-way through the 1984/5 BBC series, which has been released on DVD. The series made numerous changes (some that worked, others that didn’t) and although somewhat dated in its look and feel, it is still highly entertaining. The musical score by Ken Freeman is a particular highlight, and the effects (especially the close-up model work on the Tripods) better than the average BBC stuff from the same era. The big disappointment of the series, however, is that it was cancelled before the third book could be filmed, leaving the story incomplete and the characters facing a bleak future with a very down-beat conclusion.

Apparently, Disney acquired the film rights to the Tripods in 1997, and finally, in 2005, announced that pre-production would soon begin with Australian director Gregor Jordan at the helm. Jordan has said in interviews that the film will remain faithful to the books and that the only significant change he intends to make is to swap one of the main characters from a boy to a girl. The film is currently slated for shooting in 2011 and release in 2012. I can hardly wait!

Anyone else out there read the Tripods Trilogy? Or seen the series? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

And tune in next time to find out what my kids have been reading.

Catch ya later,  George

PS – Follow me on Twitter!


Author Sally Murphy grew up writing stories and planning that she would one day be a published children’s book author.  She says that when she grew up she found it a little harder than she imagined to get published.

But I didn’t give up on that dream. I kept writing and submitting and learning the craft and, with persistence, I finally managed to get my first books published.

Sally is the author of thirty books ranging from educational resources, to fiction and nonfiction reading books, picture books and verse novels. The thing she enjoys most about writing is knowing that children are actually reading and enjoying her stories.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than having a young reader telling me they like one of my books. Seeing my name on a front cover comes a pretty close second. It is pretty awesome seeing something I wrote produced as a real book.

On the downside, Sally says, you can sweat for months or years on a story and then not get to see it published.

Sometimes that is really tough. But I have learnt that no piece of writing is wasted, because with every new story I write I get better and better – and some of my early stories which were rejected I look back now and realize they simply weren’t good enough.

Sally says that when she realized she was going to need a day job she became a high school English teacher. She figured that a job which involved books and kids would  be a good start until she became an established author.

I did like being a teacher, but I am not currently teaching, although I still need a part time day job to supplement my writing income. These days I  work in local government, running a community resource centre.

According to Sally, her greatest writing achievement has been managing to get published. She says the fact that a publisher takes a risk investing time and money producing one of your books is a huge achievement for any writer.

Another awesome thing has been the awards and shortlistings which my verse novel, Pearl Verses the World, has achieved. Most recently, that book has been shortlisted for the CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Awards, which is a dream come true for me.


I think each of my books is very different, though I guess many of them show a child character trying to figure out their place in the world, in the midst of whatever problem is confronting them.


Number one tip is to spend as much time reading as you do writing. If you are not reading new release children’s books all the time then you you have little chance of success. You need to both know the market and also watch and absorb what does and doesn’t work in other people’s writing. If you don’t have time to read then you don’t have time to be a writer.

Secondly, develop patience and resilience. Getting your work to publishable standard takes time and perseverance. And getting it accepted is hard. be prepared for rejection, and don’t give up if it takes years to get published. If you are serious about being published, don’t take rejection personally. Your first book may never be published. But by the time you have exhausted all avenues with that manuscript you should have been busily producing the next one, and the one after that.


I have had a little hiatus the past few weeks because I’ve been travelling and got a little overwhelmed with commitments. But I am just about to get back into editing another verse novel which I think is getting close to finished. I am also researching a picture book, and have some rewrites to do on a longer novel.

When Sally is not writing or working her day job, she is busy looking after her six kids (aged 9 to 23), reviewing books (she runs website www.aussiereviews.com), blogging or updating her facebook and Twitter accounts.

Learn more about Sally and her work at www.sallymurphy.net

We’ll be featuring Pemberthy Bear and Toppling this Friday on Friday Book Feature

Mark My Words: The E-Book Will Never Be Victorious!

It seems like everyone is talking about Amazon’s recent emission that e-books have surpassed the sale of hardcover books. Our fellow blogger, Joel Blacklock, has been writing some fabulous articles on the whole phenomenon. Til now I have attempted to stay out of this debate, but I feel that the time – to step forward and offer my own two cents on the matter – has come.

Let me get one thing straight first – I don’t want e-books to fail. They represent an important movement in reading books that I embrace wholeheartedly – anything that purports to make reading easier and more accessible has a two-thumbs-up from me! So they’re preaching to the converted! But they’re also preaching to the wrong type of audience. Sure, there will be readers who enjoy being ‘up’ on the latest technology and so will be the first in the lineup for the latest Kindle or Sony e-book-related product. But unlike the fact that pretty much everyone likes to listen to music (the iPod) or talk to others (the iPhone), it’s a sad truth that not everyone likes to read books.

Reading’ll probably always be considered the archaic art that has the characteristic of the mythical phoenix, seemingly dead but rising from the ashes with renewed vigour with every passing generation.

Rather than it being an either/or scenario, I feel like e-books will become part of the book industry, and some readers will find it most convenient to gravitate towards this medium. I am sure the e-book will experience significant growth for consumers, but it ain’t gonna happen for a while yet. Society is experiencing nostalgia as well as progress – it’s why things like Harry Potter (based in an era where magic rules and the computer is exchanged for spell scrolls) and Twilight (based on the supernatural goings-on in the small town Forks where I bet they only just got wireless broadband) have succeeded for the Y Generation. Fantasy is never really about the present – magic concerns the past long-gone, Sci Fi is about the future, and dystopian fiction is an undesirable view of the future. We may be the generation that enjoys progress, but I like to believe we’re all for freedom of expression, and don’t want to be confined to one type of reading outlet. If companies continue to push, push, push this commercial enterprise it’ll just cheapen reading to the point where no one’ll bother – some of the wonderful things about books is the ability to ‘covet’ certain exxy paper editions; ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over gorgeous covers; and yeah, romanticise over the musty/ freshly-pressed ‘smell of books’.

And I’m pretty sure the world is still full of rebel romantics.

Festival Of The Book

Imperial BedroomsHighlighters and pens ready? Check. Reading positions selected? Check. Sleep caught up? Er, who needs sleep?

The launch today of the Brisbane Writers Festival program, coupled with the fact that the Byron Bay and Melbourne Writers Festivals’ programs are already out, means that we are officially entering the festivals of the book, writer, and reader.

Which means that I am madly highlighting, circling, and agonising over which sessions to attend when. And which session to attend when there is a clash, as there invariably regularly is at such high-calibre events.

For booklovers, be they readers or writers or both, writing festivals are akin to annual religious pilgrimages, with enlightenment found courtesy of the authors and panels.

The festivals are also likely to clean out our bank accounts, with book-buying fiends such as myself best frisked for our weapons-of-choice credit cards on the way through. Nothing short of confiscation or cutting up of credit cards will prevent me from (legitimately—I only steal from family) obtaining the books of the authors whose stories (and stories behind stories) the festival unveils.

This means, of course, that my mini mountain of un-read books doubles in size. But so too—if it’s at all possible—does my desire to take the phone off the hook, take the internet offline, and to hunker down and read.

American PsychoI’m excited every year by the festival line-ups, but this year I’m particularly stoked as two of my long-time favourite writers are heading down under. Bret Easton Ellis, he of the likes of American Psycho, Less Than Zero, and the freshly minted Imperial Bedrooms, which is currently in transit to me courtesy of this online bookstore (see, that credit card again—and the festivals haven’t even started) is making his first trip to Australia courtesy of the Byron Bay Writers Festival.

Meanwhile Joss Whedon, the genius behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and more recently The Dollhouse, will be packing out the Melbourne Town Hall on the first night of the Melbourne Writers Festival. I say packing out because his session has already sold out—I missed out on a ticket, am completely gutted, and am very seriously wondering what Eliza Dusku’s Dollhouse character Echo would do to get herself in there were she me…

Regardless of whether I manage to make it in to see Whedon (thankfully I at least have a ticket for Easton Ellis), nothing quite matches the buzz I get from writers’ festivals. I’ll be blogging about the sessions I attend at each of them, kicking off with the cosy Byron Bay.

I have highlighters and pens ready to plan out the session logistics. I am testing out the best reading positions as I read authors’ back catalogues in preparation. Sadly the two former mean that the latter—catching up on or stockpiling sleep—is impossible. But when it comes to writers’ festivals, I’ll take the two out of three.

Tastes Better, Sits Better.

It Tastes BetterAs someone who’s infamous for going through phases of eating only one food at a time and then never being able to eat them again—ah sushi, how I miss you—and as someone who finds constant, blatant, viewer-assaulting advertising masquerading as entertainment—ala Masterchef—equally as difficult to stomach, I’m afraid the fascination with the celebrity chef and the suburban wannabe chef has largely passed me by.

Couple that with a sizeable concern about the ethics and environmental impact of our food choices and food production practices and I’m, well, perhaps not cooking shows’ and cookbooks’ target market.

How I recently signed up to go see chef turned author turned presenter Kylie Kwong (about whom I had only the vaguest of notions) speak about her new book, It Tastes Better, I’ll never know. But I’m very glad I did—it turns out that Kwong is not your ordinary celebrity chef and her and my thinking are quite closely aligned.

Ahead of the it’s-cool-to-be-seen-to-be-green fad, Kwong, who trained with Rockpool’s Neil Perry before opening her own restaurant with Bill Granger, implemented some seriously, not-just-for-show green measures way back in 2004.

Among its thumbs-up practices, her restaurant uses only sustainable, locally sourced, fresh, seasonal produce and serves filtered tap water instead of the bottled variety. In fact, the restaurant’s so groundbreaking and green it was awarded The Sydney Morning Herald’s inaugural Sustainability Award in 2009.

Kwong possesses the energy of someone who’s living their dream. She’s passionate, she’s compelling, and she’s incredibly, infectiously funny. It Tastes Better is the print realisation and recognition of her beliefs. It’s also a tribute, if you like, to the producers who provide food for her restaurant and their willingness to stick to their principles and pursue their dreams when there are other more efficient but ultimately ethically or environmentally unsound production alternatives. In this tome, Kwong pairs over 100 salivation-worthy recipes with stories of, and interviews with, the producers themselves.

Then there are the spectacular, hearty, textured photographs. The book is good enough to eat, and the rich images and text give me hope that we’re starting to move in the right direction for food production. It helps that we’re being led by someone as knowledgeable, down to earth, committed, and downright likeable as Kwong.

Will I be buying a copy of It Tastes Better? Yep. Will I be visiting her restaurant next time I’m in Sydney. Of course. Any chef/author/presenter who can almost turn a non-foodie environmentalist like me into a foodie must be very, very good at her job. The food might taste better, but the philosophies and practices behind it also sit better with me.

Paul Cornell talks about writing

Today, we welcome back British writer Paul Cornell. Last post we chatted about his Doctor Who writing. This time around we’re focusing on his other writing… and man, has he done a lot of other writing! Scripts, novels, novellas, short stories, comics… you name it, he’s done it.

The Interview — Part Two

You’ve written lots of stuff other than Doctor Who. In fact, you’re a rather versatile writer, having written books, comics and television scripts. Do you have a preference for any particular medium?

Prose, every time. You can just do anything, with time, character, budget, all within your grasp absolutely. Comics are a joy to me, but there are still limitations. With television I’ve always found that achieving anything is a major victory. I’ve enjoyed some of those, but it’s much, much tougher to get anything made, let alone anything good. I’ve been wondering for years if television is worth it.

Is it difficult constantly switching the mediums you write for?

Yes, it’s hard to write for two in the same day. Prose to television is like putting on a pair of those mechanical arms and working remotely.

You have two nominations in this year’s Hugo Awards — “One of Our Bastards is Missing” (published in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction Vol3) has been nominated for best novelette and Captain Britain And MI13. Volume 3: Vampire State has been nominated for best graphic story. Huge congratulations! Can you tell us a little about each of these?

Well I’m just ecstatic about this. My two previous Hugo nomination pins are my proudest possessions, and now I have two more! And getting one for prose feels especially impossible and grand. The novelette is my take on Ian Fleming’s novels, the questions those raise about masculinity, with perhaps different answers. It’s set in a world where something fundamentally different happened in the history of science, the details of which I haven’t revealed yet, and so the great game, the balance of power of nineteenth century nations, has continued.  It’s also me talking about nation states again, which I’m fascinated by and don’t see going away. Similarly, Captain Britain is all about the vampire diaspora looking for a home.  I’ve seen some very kind reviews that confirm my feeling that you don’t need to be immersed in Marvel continuity to enjoy it. Bastards is available for free from my blog, as are the first two issues of Vampire State.

“One of Our Bastards is Missing” is the second story to feature your character Jonathan Hamilton, who first appeared in “Catherine Drewe” (published in Fast Forward 2). Any plans for more in the series?

Yes, I’m several thousand useless words into a rubbish third one, The Copenhagen Interpretation, which is flying like a sack of potatoes at the moment, and will need some savage rewriting. I think I now know what to do, though.

Your latest piece of television writing is Pulse, a pilot which recently screened in the UK. Can you tell us a bit about Pulse and whether or not it will become a series?

I don’t know yet, we’re still waiting to hear.  It’s a techno medical horror thriller show, dark doings in the health service.  It’s wonderfully directed by James Hawes and we have a great cast lined up. All we need is the go-ahead.

You’ve written for both DC Comics and Marvel, for a number of established comics series from Dark X-Men to The Fantastic Four. Is there any series you found more difficult than others to come to grips with?

That Black Widow mini-series, I didn’t make that work at all. Entirely my own fault, down to my belief that all continuity counts. To tell her origin in that space, I shouldn’t have also tried to do a modern story.

If you had the chance to actually meet one of your characters in real life, which one would you choose, and why?

I think Pete Wisdom and I have a lot in common.

Do you have a dream project (something that you would love to work on but are not sure will ever happen)?

There are some DC books I’d like to write, but that apart I’d like to get on with establishing myself as a novelist. That’s the next thing.

So, what’s next for Paul Cornell, assuming your next project isn’t top secret?

I have a novel coming out from Tor next year, about which I can tell you very little. Before then, I’m very much looking forward to Worldcon in Melbourne. I love Aussie, and I’m looking forward to touring around before the event and seeing a lot of old friends.

George’s bit at the end

Many thanks to Paul for taking the time to answer my questions. For more info about him and his writing, check out his blog. You can also follow him on Twitter. And if you’d like to hear Paul speak, he will be attending Aussiecon 4 (the 68th World Science Fiction Convention) in Melbourne in September this year. For more info about Aussiecon, check out their website.

And tune in next time to find out about a world dominated by invading tripods.

Catch ya later,  George

PS – Follow me on Twitter.

The Value of Edtiors

The advent of ebooks and online writing often brings to light an old argument about the value of editorial. The cost of printing and distributing a book, while hardly insignificant, is generally not as large as many people think. Nonetheless, ebook prices are set far lower than print books (compare the $AU14.99 average on the Kindle store to the $AU34.99 average RRP for a new release book). And this seems to be a persistent trend for digital content in general. People expect to get digital products for free or for a reduced price relative to the old analog version – irrespective of whether it is the same or better than the original. Nonetheless, the non-physical costs of producing a book are rarely seen as valuable. At their most powerful, editors are portrayed as dictatorial gatekeepers, controlling what the public gets to see and stopping true gems from seeing the light of day. At worst they are seen as insignificant – costs to be cut from the bottom line.

I’ve spoken about the value a publisher adds to books, but a blog post this week on Digital Book World has made me hone in more specifically on the value an editor adds to book publishing. The DBW post is specifically about the role of editorial in internet writing – a role that can be measured in a number of ways, as they detail in the post. The value of editing when it comes to trade publishing, however, is far harder to measure. You can’t, for example, release two versions of a book – one edited and the other not – just to see which one will sell better. (Would anyone choose the unedited version? Would any author allow their unedited manuscript to be printed?). The editor’s role in trade publishing, in almost all cases, is to remain invisible – to support the author and the author’s brand, to create the illusion that the books that authors write spring from their minds fully formed and are never touched again. Some books, of course, do spring fully formed from authors minds and require no editing. Some books are entirely re-written. The secret to editing is not being able to tell the difference.

Non-editor friends have often confided in me that this or that book was badly edited. However, the fact of the matter is, it’s impossible to tell from the quality of the book alone how good a job the editor has done. They may not have had much time to work on it or they may have had an obstinate author with a love of inconsistent spelling. Reading the book in a vacuum – as it should be read – is not conducive to understanding that process.

My question is: in a world where, increasingly, views, clickthroughs and even eyeball tracking can be used to measure the efficacy of different marketing, sales and writing techniques, how does one measure the value of an invisible job like editing? Can it be done? Should it be done? And if not, how can it be preserved? Should it be preserved at all?

NOTE: Hopefully by now you will have spotted my massive intentional typo. If not, read it again.

This Is Why We’re Fat – The Book Version (Part 1)

Aside from the obsession with literary blogs, lifestyle blogs and design blogs, I also adore a good many food blogs. A popular website This Is Why You’re Fat, has the public sending in photo evidence of the fattiest, sugariest treats humans could ever dream of consuming. If gluttony was a crime as well as a sin, Net Nanny would be blacklisting that site faster than I can ask: “Does my butt look big in this?”

Thankfully, we can look at these savage morsels without the repercussions ending up on our bellies, hips, thighs…our tastebuds can tremble, but that’s as far as it goes, and we are saved from at least one guilty pleasure in life. Or so it would seem…

Why is it that certain books feature the most mouth-watering, epic feasts known to mankind?!

I blame Enid Blyton (in part). One of the first books I ever read, a picture book of hers entitled The Little Button Elves, was about several identical little elves who could only be told apart by the amount of buttons on their jackets, and so the numbers became their names (“One”,”Two”,”Seven” etc).

On their adventures in the woods they meet an old dame who has a number of freshly baked pies sitting in a glorious pile on her windowsill. The woman tells the elves not to eat the pies, but of course as soon as she leaves the room the pies are devoured and the elves run off. Turns out, however, that the old dame is a witch and enchanted the pies, knowing that the elves couldn’t help themselves. A little while away, the elves’ bellies full of pie are growing at an alarming rate until the buttons on their jackets begin to pop free! And so they can’t tell one another apart! Distressed and dismayed, they return to the dame’s house filled with remorse, and she is kind enough to sew their buttons back on their jackets (but not without telling them first that all they had to do was count the buttonholes – hah)!

I suppose the moral of the story is DON’T BE GREEDY, but I remember often flicking back through the pages to the picture of the pies on the windowsill, and thinking in my child-mind: “I wouldn’t mind growing fat by enchantment if I could eat one of those pies.” And so it began.
Nosiree, this isn’t where Enid Blyton’s literary food crimes end. I can’t count the number of times I attempted to host a Secret Seven clubhouse in our backyard, roping my mum into providing the scones and homemade lemonade that Janet’s mum seemed to whip up so effortlessly each meeting. And the Famous Five picnics! With ginger beer and those thick slices of ham on heavily buttered bread! The Folk of the Faraway Tree wasn’t doing me any favours either – I could literally feel the flood of honey from Silky’s pop biscuits and smell the deliciously steamy google buns offered by Moonface.

But it was the midnight feast in The Adventures of the Wishing Chair that undid me each and every time- had me begging my parents to go to the nearest grocery outlet in search of treacles and raspberry tarts, chocolate eclairs, marzipan and scotch eggs…I didn’t know what half these things were, but I knew they were disgustingly droolworthy and it ruined shaped my healthy eating habits childhood for a very long time forever. 

Yet as much I would like to place the blame squarely on her, Enid Blyton isn’t the only author sending me subliminal messages to eat, and I intend on outing these literary food criminals in Part 2 of ‘This Is Why We’re Fat – The Book Version’.

A Life in Words – Seanan McGuire on Aussiecon, the Campbell award and the end of the world

Campbell award nominee Seanan McGuire is a busy woman. The author of the Toby Daye fairytale noir series, of which novels Rosemary and Rue and A Local Habitation have been released, she is currently hard at work editing and writing the next three. When not writing she composes and performs science-fiction, fantasy, and horror-related songs, with 3 released CDs and another in the works. She is working on Midnight Blue Light Special, the second in a series about cryptozoologists with a surreal approach to monster-hunting; researching Nativity of Chance, an urban fantasy in the Tim Powers style of weird; working on Deathless, a supernatural romance with a Romero twist; and working on Sit, Stay, I Hate You, the second novel starring teenage shape shifter Clady Porter. She also writes “science fiction zombie political thrillers” as Mira Grant, with first of Mira’s books, Feed, out this year.

She took a few moments out from writing, planning an Australian visit and probably world domination to answer a few questions for us.

1. Are you looking forward to meeting some of our fascinatingly dangerous wildlife here in Australia, and are there any Australian tales just begging to be told?

I have wanted to go to Australia since I was five years old and they started showing the Dot and the Kangaroo specials on local kiddie TV.  I can’t begin to express how excited I am.  I’m going to a bunch of reptile parks and zoos, I’m setting up a few tours, and I really hope I get to see lots of wonderful things we don’t have in California.  (I refer to my home state as “Australia West,” due to our large number of venomous creatures, and fondness for being on fire.)

I want to set one of the later InCryptid books in Australia.  I think Jonathan and Shelby Price would have a really lovely time there.

2. Can you tell me a little about the 2010 Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and what it means for you to be nominated?

The Campbell Award for Best New Writer is given in conjunction with the Hugo Awards, and is essentially a shiny gold star that says “well done, you.”  Also, you get a tiara.  New speculative fiction authors are eligible for two years from their first publication.  Being nominated is…I cried.  I really, truly cried.  I never thought I’d make the ballot, and being nominated is a crazy fever dream honor.  And if I win, I get a tiara in Australia, which is like being crowned Princess of the Kingdom of Poison and Flame.  That’s like a life’s goal, right there.

3. What will you be bringing to read on the trip, and what can’t a writer travel without?

I don’t know what I’ll be bringing to read, other than probably The Stand by Stephen King (one of my favorite books of all time), and probably some guide books.  I have a lot of writing to do while I’m traveling, so I figure most of my “free time” will be spent doing that.  A writer’s work is never done! 

As for what a writer can’t travel without…in my case, that means laptop, power cord, adapter (for local plugs, as many countries have different outlet types), iPod, good speakers, day planner, pens, notebooks, and the sheer stubborn will to ignore interesting things in favor of editing.  A digital camera is also good, since that helps with using things you saw in your travels accurately when incorporating them into future stories.

4. A lot of people would imagine that writing fiction – especially supernatural and horror – would let you off the hook in terms of keeping it real, but you have said that research is crucial to writing. What’s your approach to making the impossible all too possible in your books?

Research, reading, and logic.  For example: What makes a mammal?  Most people answer “warm blood, has hair, nurses its young,” while making all sorts of other assumptions about internal biology.  But not all mammals are warm-blooded — the naked mole rat is an ectotherm, just like a lizard.  Not all mammals actually nurse their young — some, like the echidna, lactate through specialized sweat glands, instead of through teats.  In the end, all that matters is hair.  So I can use real-world biology to justify a species of telepathic parastic wasps that look just like human beings…right up until they decide you’re a danger to the hive.

Reading non-fiction, travel, and being willing to learn lots of details about horrible things will go a long way toward making the unreal as realistic as possible…and sometimes that’s the scariest stuff of all.

5. For Feed, a book on journalism in a post-zombie apocalypse world, you did a lot of learning on virology while coming up with a zombie strain. What stranger than fiction fact could you not have made up, and should we really be worrying about a world ending virus? 

Oh, most of them.  Viruses are some of the scariest things in the world.  They’re all around us, they’ve always been with us — hell, there’s DNA evidence to indicate that they made us.  Probably the creepiest thing I learned while studying virology was that every species has its own pox virus.  Cowpox can give some protection from smallpox (chickenpox can’t, because it’s not actually a member of that family).  So the chance that, say, kangaroopox will someday jump to the human population isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility.

I think that worrying about a global pandemic is, sadly, only sensible.  People don’t respect quarantine procedures very well, they don’t necessarily think about what they’re doing before, say, going to an area where malaria is endemic without taking their anti-malarial drugs, and new diseases are arising every day.  Travel means things can spread before we even know that they exist.  I highly recommend reading The Return of the Black Death: The World’s Greatest Serial Killer, The Speckled Monster, and Virus X if you want to know more.

6. What advice would you give a budding writer with a big idea for a story?

Don’t feel like you have to write it right away, or like you have to get it right the first time.  I have some big ideas that I’m still holding off on, because I’m not quite where I want to be as a writer before I tackle them.  At the same time, don’t shy away from a challenge; tackle it with both feet, and see where it takes you.  You can always revise things until they work.

Never give up.  Nothing is perfect right out the starting gate; that’s what drafts are for.


If you want to catch her, she will be visiting Melbourne for Aussiecon 4 (Worldcon 2010) from Sep 2-6, 2010, and would love to chat about the supernatural, the bizarrely natural, virology, fantasy and funny genre fiction and My Little Ponies. And writing, of course.


I’m currently reading Fiona Capp’s My Blood’s Country, and loving every word of it, so I thought I’d invite Fiona onto the blog to share some of her words with us, an invitation she has kindly accepted. For those that don’t know My Blood’s Country, it’s a memoir of sorts, as Fiona takes us on a tour of revered poet Judith Wright’s “Blood’s country”. This truly Australian story is a must-read for all poetry lovers, and lovers of language.

Visiting a poet’s world

I was about twelve years-old when I took a book from the shelf next to my oldest sister’s bed. It was Judith Wright’s sixth collection of poetry The Five Senses, published in 1963, the year I was born. At this time I was mad about Romantic and Victoria poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Tennyson. All dead white males. I knew that Judith Wright was a major figure on the Australian literary landscape. Perhaps this is why I assumed she too must be dead.

I looked at the biographical blurb and did a calculation, or perhaps I noticed that she was described in the present tense. Then it registered. Judith Wright was not only a woman and an Australian but she was alive. The whole lofty business of writing felt suddenly much closer to home. The fact that Wright was a living, Australian, woman – as opposed to a dead, European, male – changed everything. I had recently started scribbling poetry myself. I knew that tingling, dizzying feeling of a poem coming on, that sense of connection with forces beyond oneself that Judith Wright wrote about in her title poem ‘The Five Senses’. In my early twenties I realised that I was not really a poet, but I’ve never forgotten that feeling. A few years later Judith was invited to speak at my school speech night. I met her and began corresponding with her and this continued until her death.

This personal connection forms the framework for my journey through the landscapes that inspired her writing, which I made 30 years after we first met. I went to New England where she grew up on a sheep and cattle station, to Mt Tambourine in Queensland where she spent her married life and then to the bush property near Mongarlowe, 100 kilometres east of Canberra where she spent her final years. It was an incredibly rich experience, one that helped me better understand her writing, her activism and her life, particularly the tragedy that shaped Judith’s childhood, her complex relationship with her family, and the two great loves of her life.

Inevitably, not everything about these places was as I had imagined it from reading her poems and so this journey was at times a confronting and disturbing one as I struggled to reconcile my expectations with the reality. Above all, the experience of writing this book brought home to me what a visionary Judith Wright was; how she sensed in her bones that something had gone profoundly wrong with our attitude to the earth, long before the term ‘conservationist’ entered public discourse. Her work and her message remain as urgent as ever.


Bernadette Kelly is currently best known for her pony tales (stories about horses), but she’s about venture into YA fiction and if early drafts of her manuscript are anything to go by, it’s going to be a fantastic read.

Today though, we are going to be talking about Bernadette’s Horsy adventures.

Bernadette started writing in 1995 after her  second child was born and she began to think about a new career where she could work from home around the needs of her children.

I began by completing a one year short story course, and when that went well I enrolled in the professional Writing and Editing Diploma at RMIT. While I was studying at RMIT I made contacts in the publishing industry, which ultimately led me to writing for children.

Bernadette began her writing career with educational books, and  she has eighteen primary-level educational titles, both fiction and non-fiction. Before children’s books she wrote for newspapers and magazines, and worked as a freelance editor.

As well as writing, she has been involved with teaching creative writing and numeracy and literacy to school children and adults

How The Pony Patch series came about

The Pony Patch series came about after the success of the Riding High books, a series of eight novels about a girl called Annie and her horsey adventures.

My publishers, Andrew Kelly and Maryann Ballantyne of Black Dog Books, asked me to submit another ‘pony’ story line, but for younger readers.

Pony Patch is a set of stories about a very naughty pony called Norton and his owner, Molly, who thinks Norton can do no wrong. The gorgeous illustrations by Liz Alger show Norton behaving badly in every situation, while Molly’s narrative offers an excuse or blames somebody else for all of Norton’s terrible behaviours.

The books are illustrated chapter books aimed at children aged from about six to ten.

Not surprisingly, kids love the humour of these books and the way that Molly explains away all of Norton’s  bad behaviours, beautifully illustrated by Liz Alger.

In the first book, Naughty Norton, it takes Molly the whole book to catch her pony.

In book two, Losing Norton, Norton goes missing and Molly becomes a detective while trying to track him down.

For book three, Norton Saves the Day, Norton almost causes a nasty accident but Molly gives him all the credit for saving her life.

Bernadette says her favourite is book four, Norton’s Blue Ribbon, in which Norton and Molly attend the local show and Norton causes havoc but manages to win a first prize Stephen Bradbury style.

Where Bernadette’s ideas came from

Norton is a conglomeration of every naughty pony I have ever known, of which there have been quite a lot. His behaviour is truly awful most of the time but, like Molly, I can’t help but love him.

Molly, like many kids, will put up with anything just to be doing the thing she loves. Writing the Pony Patch books was a joy. I had the indulgence of being able to call on my own childhood experiences and those of my children and their friends.

Horses and Ponies have minds of their own and they don’t always agree with humans. Norton’s adventures are exaggerated but fairly typical examples of the kinds of things that go wrong between horses and riders.

The hardest thing when writing the Pony Patch stories was not being sure if the illustrator would see the story as I did. But when I saw the gorgeous illustrations by Liz Alger my fears were put to rest. She totally nailed it!

Teacher’s notes for Pony Patch can be found on the Black Dog Books website, bdb.com.au.

The books have been re-published in a bind up, The Pony Patch Collection, and are also published in the United States by Capstone under the title of Pony Tales.

For more information about Bernadette and her work, visit www.bernadettekelly.com.au

For enquiries regarding author visits to schools and community groups, call 0417083929

Kindle Sales Outstrip Dead Tree Books: Nobody Makes Money

Amazon announced this week that for the first time sales of Kindle ebooks have outstripped the sales of hardcover books. Is this a surprise? Not particularly. Amazon have been flogging their ebooks to death since the release of the Kindle, they’ve done a fantastic job getting publishers on board, and have the biggest range of ebooks of any store on the web. If it was going to happen to someone, it was going to happen to them. However, the news comes with some pretty massive provisos.

Firstly, the question of how much money is being made here is completely opaque. I know it’s gauche to wonder about the money – but for there to be a future to this ebook game (or any book industry at all) we need to know if there’s money and how much of it is being made and for whom. Amazon has been incredibly tight-lipped about sales of both the Kindle reader and ebooks. They’ve reported that the Kindle itself is now the single highest selling item on Amazon, but that doesn’t give us a clear idea of whether they’re making money from it. The prices for the readers are dropping, but all this proves is that Amazon is getting increased competition from Barnes & Noble’s Nook and to a lesser extent from Apple’s iPad. Despite the shift to the agency model, many publishers are still selling their books for the $9.99 price that Amazon set for Kindle books more than a year ago. What this shows is that, just as they did for selling dead tree books online way back at the beginning of the decade, Amazon are willing to be loss leaders to capture market share. As I’ve mentioned before, maintaining a profitable industry is a mug’s game when it comes to technology – market share is where it’s at. The fact of the matter is, if Amazon were making truckloads of cash on ebooks and Kindles, they would be reporting that, not the proviso-riddled fact that they have sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardbacks.

So is this announcement, as the New York Times said, ‘one for the history books – if those will even exist in the future’? Not quite yet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite impressive that Amazon have managed to increase sales of ebooks to such a huge extent so quickly. But this isn’t the death knell of the dead tree book – or even of the hardback. Until someone starts making a lot of money from ebooks – and can show that the money will keep flowing – the ebook will remain the poor second-cousin of the mighty hardback*.

*Australian readers can feel free to substitue trade paperback for hardback here, but it doesn’t sound as good to say ‘mighty trade paperback’.

Paul Cornell and Doctor Who

Being a long-time Doctor Who fan, I am very excited to be interviewing British writer Paul Cornell for Literary Clutter. Paul is well known for his Doctor Who writing, but he’s also written a heap of other stuff, including radio and television scripts, short stories, novels and comics, and has had four Hugo Award nomination.

Paul came to notoriety in the 1990s, writing numerous Doctor Who novels, including Timewyrm: Revelation and Human Nature. He went on to write several scripts for the Doctor Who audio dramas and for the revived television series, including a two-part adaptation of his novel Human Nature. So, I thought I’d begin the interview by focusing on his Doctor Who writing.

The Interview — Part One

Can you tell us a bit about your first Doctor Who writing experience?

That would be the fan fiction I wrote at school. Some of that got published in fanzines, and one of those fanzine stories (Revelation) was made into a Doctor Who book, and one of those books (Human Nature) was turned into a TV story, so I’ve been lucky enough to have a ladder leading from my earliest amateur Who work right to the show itself.

You adapted your Doctor Who novel, Human Nature (featuring the seventh Doctor), into a two-part script for the third season of the new Doctor Who series (featuring the tenth Doctor). How did that come about? And was it difficult changing the story from one medium to another, and from one Doctor to another?

Russell phoned me up and asked me to do it. “How did it come about” stories, at least in TV, are rarely more exciting. And well, yes and no. Doctors, not so much, it’s just one voice to another, but there were a lot of other things to consider, like how long Smith and Joan had known each other, and how much a product of his time Smith is. In the book, he’s still kind of an outsider… in the TV version, an upstanding member of society.

You wrote the animated webcast Doctor Who story “Scream of the Shalka“, which featured Richard E. Grant as the Doctor and Sir Derek Jacobi as the Master. This story played around with Doctor Who mythology and took the Doctor/Master relationship in a new direction. Were you given free reign when writing this story or were you given a direction to follow? And were you happy with the way it all worked out?

I was given free reign, just about, to create the format. And then Richard E. Grant added loads of lines of his own! I was really happy with it. The animation looks primitive now, but won awards at the time. I like the things it tries out, things the TV show would decide against, and some it went in the same direction with.

Okay… Now for the nerdy fan-boy question: Who’s your favourite Doctor?

Old show, either Davison or McCoy. New show, can’t choose between them. All brilliant.

You created the character Bernice Summerfield for the New Adventures series of Doctor Who books (introduced in the novel, Love and War). Since then, Bernice has spun off into her own books and audio adventures. What it’s like for you, as a writer, to hand over your character to other writers?

It’s a joy to see her continue to grow and flourish without my help. I think it’s a good sign that she was made sturdy in the first place.

George’s bit at the end

Paul’s Doctor Who books include, Timewyrm: RevelationLove and War, No FutureHuman NatureHappy Endings, Goth Opera and The Shadows of Avalon. His Doctor Who television scripts include, “Father’s Day”, “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”.

My thanks to Paul for dropping by Literary Clutter. For more info about him and his writing, check out his blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.

And tune in next time when Paul returns to chat about some of his other writing, including the new television pilot Pulse and his Hugo Award nominated novella “One of Our Bastards is Missing”.

Catch ya later,  George

PS: Follow me on Twitter!


Congratulations to Kathryn Apel whose gorgeous picture book This Is the Mud! is making it’s television debut this week.

This Is the Mud ! will be read this Wednesday 21st July at Play School on ABC 1 (around 9.30am)

So we thought it would be a great time to talk to Kathryn about her tale of mud and mayhem.

Kathryn started writing when she was reading picture books to her rural babies and couldn’t find stories that reflected their rural lifestyle.

She has always enjoyed writing and was good at high school English, but says she  never would have imagined she would be an author.

What inspired Kathryn to write this book?

This Is the Mud! was written after yet another enjoyable reading of Jez Alborough’s Duck in the Truck. We (I!) loved that muddy book. I don’t recall my train of thoughts that led to my writing, but by my bedtime that same night, I’d written This Is the Mud .

This Is the Mud is about a cow goes for a drink in a dried up waterhole. She gets stuck in the mud. And somehow everyone who tries to rescue her gets stuck too. (You’d think it was fun, playing in the mud!)

Kathryn says the book was written for preschool age – plus or minus a few years

But I know a fair few adults who’ve been in similar situations and have given a snort of laughter on reading!

My 6 year-old son chose it as my entry for the CYA, otherwise it might still be tucked away.

Why kids enjoy This Is the Mud ?

Muck, mess, mud and mayhem? What kids wouldn’t like that! Not to mention the machines… I think it also appeals to kids because of the easy rhythm and rhyme – and the gorgeous illustrations!

I know rural kids love it because it’s a story they own. It looks like their farm, or their cow, or it happened to their dad… but it’s a fun read for all kids.

About the Main Character

(Smiling) The main character is a placid cow chewing her cud – though there is one page where she looks a little less than friendly, which gets a great reaction from kids.

What I love most about her is the fact that Warren Crossett has based her on one of my hand-reared, pet cow, Amber who I see everyday wandering around my paddock. (The story isn’t about her, though!)

What sets this book apart from others?

It’s rural Australian farming-ness. And the fact that kids aren’t belted over the head with it. It’s NOT educational – totally written and illustrated for fun.

Kathryn says the book fits themes about farming and Australia within the school curriculum, but it is also a good model of natural rhythm/rhyme for poetry studies.

This Is the Mud! is Kathryn’s second published book  – though it was my first acceptance. Picture books just take longer to publish.

Find out more about Kathryn and her work at katswhiskers.wordpress.com

It’s My Party And I’ll Knit If I Want To

It's My Party And I'll Knit If I Want To!Some months ago I visited a knitting club—the sassily named Stitch ‘n Bitch—for a story I was working on. To my surprise, I loved the group so much that I upped needles and joined. I’m now the most novice of novice knitters, but am also one of the most proud.

Each week I have to ask for help to cast on and then cast off (were it left up to me, there would be dodgy knots at both ends) and I’ve succeeded in knitting wonky rectangles that aspire, if you squint a little and imagine a lot, to be scarves.

Depending on how you look at it, I’m an unlikely knitting convert candidate. On the one hand, I keep myself so busy working, playing sport, and reading that I couldn’t possibly slow down to fit in knitting (or shaft reading for it).

On the other, I’m perhaps the prime candidate: someone who needs the soothing, meditative quality of knitting, while still getting that sense of achievement of doing something with her hands and having something to show for it at the end (even if it is a dodgy rectangle that not even a mother would love).

Turns out knitting is undergoing something of a revival, with it no longer being the realm of nannas or cat-owning spinsters, but of educated, articulate, funky, young professionals. I’m reasonably late to the party and have been grappling with just what makes knitting so much fun and what’s bringing it out of the closet and into the pub. I’m not the only one. Sharon Aris arrived a little earlier and wrote a book covering such questions.

SnB Brisbane organiser Fiona Smith loaned me her copy of Aris’ It’s My Party And I’ll Knit If I Want To!, a light-hearted book that examines why the traditionally daggy knitting is the new cool. I’ll admit that a book pertaining to chart the history of knitting might well be considered as enthralling as watching paint dry, but Aris is a woman after my own heart. Her journey mirrors mine (ok, arguably mine mirrors hers, but semantics peoples)—a sort of cynic who is now a complete, utter, and unashamed knitting convert.

And the book is funny. As in witty, amusing, tongue-in-cheek. Aris has chapters that include such titles as ‘Knitting is the new yoga’ and ‘Knitting is the new feminism’, and starts sections with agony aunt-style questions such as ‘Should one share needles?’

Through reading the book and attending knit club, I’ve learned such terms as ‘yarn barf’ (when the middle of the ball of wool explodes outwards) and ‘UFOs’ (un-finished objects they started knitting but have now discarded for the latest project). In It’s My Party, Aris also examines knitting faux pas and meets a guy who’s knitting a sock for his nether regions for an upcoming planned sporting event streak. Alright, not quite rolling-in-the-aisles stuff, but still chuckle-worthy.

Of course, the irony is that taking up knitting hasn’t taken me away from books—it’s introduced me to ones I would otherwise never have known about, much less read. Now that I’ve devoured It’s My Party And I’ll Knit If I Want To!, I plan to improve my knitting sufficiently to be able to follow a pattern. Then I’ll buy up big on cute and quirky knitting books—of which, I’m suddenly discovering, there are many. Stay tuned.

Celapene Press

Small press publishers are an extremely important part of this country’s literary landscape. Over time, I hope to profile a few of them here on Literary Clutter. Today, Kathryn Duncan from Celapene Press has dropped by to tell us a little about her publishing venture.

Celapene Press: creating books and supporting the community
By Kathryn Duncan

When I was in Primary school I fell in love with the idea of creating books. My Grade 2 teacher would type up our stories, we would draw the pictures, cut out cardboard to use as covers and design them and then join it all together with staples and sticky tape — it was the 70s, so technology was not on our side. It was fun and I remember trying to start my own book-making group with my friends. I still have all the books I made in school.

After having children, I rediscovered my love of picture books and thought I’d give it a try. I went to a one day writing class and the day after enrolled in the Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing and Editing) at Box Hill TAFE, also doing my children’s writing subject at Holmesglen. During the course, I discovered that I was much better at editing than writing and focused on the editing and production side of publishing. It was around this time that I also completed a self-publishing course at The Victorian Writers Centre. A week or so later I had set up Celapene Press, determined now that I could do this.

The first book I published was Page Seventeen, an anthology of stories and poems. This was a joint effort with Tiggy Johnson, and it was a huge learning curve, but I am still proud of that first effort. In 2007, I decided to publish a collection of stories and poems with a twist, Short and Twisted. The 2010 issue, the fourth, has just been released.

In 2009, I was approached by several authors wondering whether I would be interested in publishing their work. The first was Machino Supremo, a collection of children’s poems about machines. This was released in late 2009 and is a black and white illustrated collection of poems by Janeen Brian and Mark Carthew, illustrated by John Veekan.

The second book is The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler by Paul Collins. Paul sent me the manuscript under a pseudonym. I loved it after the first line and within days contacted Paul and told him I would love to publish it. It was released in November 2009, and the first print run had sold out before it was released. This was a huge achievement for a small press. It has also been short-listed for the Speech Pathology Australia Awards.

I would love to publish more Australian junior fiction and see this as the area I would like to focus on in the future. Finding the right book is the hardest part. Being a small press publisher, you need to be selective in what you choose because you invest so much of yourself into the process. There are so many great stories out there waiting for the right opportunity, but when you are small, it’s not that easy to say yes. I do not actively look for submissions, but I receive a lot.

A major importance for Celapene Press is supporting the community and I would like to be in a position to donate a percentage of all sales to two charities that I am involved with. Amongst other support services, Teddy Love Club Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support donates teddy bears to bereaved parents in memory of a baby who has died, and is a group I became involved with in early 2009 after the death of my baby daughter. They commented that they wanted to publish a book of bereaved parents stories and I offered to do it for them. You are not alone: Stories from Australian families who have suffered the loss of their baby was released in April 2010. Emotionally, this was a very hard book to publish. I read the stories many times and each one broke my heart. Pregnancy loss and neonatal death are almost taboo subjects still, but they affect so many people and it still upsets me that we don’t talk about it. The feedback from this book has been wonderful and parents comment how much it has helped them realise that they are not alone in the grief that they feel after losing a child.

Celapene Press also supports the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. Not long after our daughter died I established the Charlotte Duncan Award. The winners for 2010 were announced in June and all profits from the Award are donated to the Children’s Hospital. In the past two years, the Award has donated over $900 to the hospital.

Where to from here? I am still looking for the next book to publish and would like to publish 3-4 books a year. As with Toby Chrysler, I will know the next book when I read it and look forward to it arriving on my desk, or in my emails.

George’s bit at the end

My thanks to Kathryn for stopping by. To find out more about Celapene Press, check out their website.

I’ve read Machino Supremo and The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler — both are excellent books. You can read my review of The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler on the MC Reviews website.

And tune in next time for Part 1 of an interview with British author and scriptwriter Paul Cornell.

Catch ya later,  George


Today I wanted to talk about two beautiful new books for younger readers where the main characters go out to explore the world and in the process, discover new things about themselves.

Both are baby animals, each with unique physical characteristics and the inquisitiveness and innocence of the very young.

Puggle, the echidna from Puggle’s Problem is missing his spikes and goes out seeking advice from other members of the animal kingdom to see if he can find a way to make them grow quicker.

Leon in Look Out Leon is a chameleon learning all about the advantages of changing colour.

Here’s a closer look at these unique, vibrant and appealing books.


Pipp is a baby echidna who is the same as every other echidna his age…except that he doesn’t yet have his spikes.

Koala thinks that eating lots of gum leaves might make them grow. Wombat advises that digging is the solution. Puggle even tries hopping like a kangaroo, but nothing seems to work.

In Puggle’s Problem, Pipp learns the importance of patience and perseverance, and that every problem has its up side.

Puggle’s Problem is the work of talented new writer, Aleesah Darlison who has six books being released in the next six months. Award-winning wildlife artist, Sandra Temple has stunningly illustrated this feel good tale which show-cases some of Australia’s best-loved native animals and their unique characteristics.

This books is beautifully illustrated and I loved the gentle humour reflected in both the text and the pictures.

Puggle’s Problem is published by Wombat Books.


A vibrant and simple novelty book about Leon, the chameleon who can’t go out exploring until he learns how to blend into his surroundings and hide from hungry eyes.

There are crocodiles, hippos, snakes and other creatures who look at Leon as a possible source of food so which colour should he blend in with?

This is a delightful interactive book in which young readers can pull the tabs to change the pictures…as if by magic.

The simple repetitive text and vibrant illustrations are bound to appeal to young readers.

Jez Alborough is a hugely popular author and illustrator of books for children, well known for his stories about Bobo the chimp, star of Hug & Yes.

Look Out Leon is published by Walker Books.

What I enjoyed about both these books was that as well as being thoroughly entertaining, they provide plenty of opportunity for young readers to learn, and explore.

Microsoft Turns Over an Old Leaf

News circulated around the web last week that Microsoft has filed a patent application for the visual look of the page turn on touchscreen devices. According to the NY Times:

The patent application states that when “one or more pages are displayed on a touch display” a “virtual page turn curls a lifted portion of the page to progressively reveal a back side of the page while progressively revealing a front side of a subsequent page.” Just like real pages in a paper book.

The application was apparently filed back in 2009, when work on Microsoft’s Courier tablet was still going (the device’s development was cancelled in April this year). What’s odd is not that Microsoft had the temerity to patent something that a few other companies had already implemented in their touchscreen applications (the Classics app on the iPhone was one, and the iPad’s iBooks app uses the same visual effect now). It’s not even particularly odd that a tech company can patent something that is so blatantly silly. There are some extremely weird software patents already floating about: Microsoft patented that creepy paperclip with eyes and no legs that used to ask you if you needed help writing a letter, and Facebook has a patent for the newsfeed (a concept which clearly derives from multiple other sources). No, the odd thing about this patent is that the technology itself seems so … unnecessary.

I mean, I’ve shown quite a few people the page turning animation in iBooks, and they have ooh’d and aah’d  as you might expect. It’s a very pretty animation. But having now used the iBooks application to actually read books, the animation is kind of a pain in the arse. It’s nice for showing off the touchscreen technology, and for making iBooks look more like a real book. But it offers no other functionality. For someone who is already used to reading ebooks, it is a superfluous, annoying bit of frippery. Most of us are already used to scrolling to read text, and if the page metaphor is important to the idea of the book, then nothing’s stopping an instant flick that changes the page. Why the extra trouble to make it look like paper? It reminds me of a learn-to-type program I used as a kid that made every key press sound like the a typewriter key, and every press of the ‘return’ key like an actual carriage return. It was absolutely maddening. Surely the noise was the worst thing about the typewriter? And surely the pages in a book are – if not actually annoying – then superfluous to requirements? What do you think? Are you so wedded to the dead tree format that even an ebook should have pages that can be turned? Or do you just want to get at the content? Sound off in the comments.

To Re-Read Or Not To Re-Read: That Is The Question

The Secret HistoryGiven ever-increasing work and study loads and ever-diminishing leisure time (not to mention the ever-increasing demands on that leisure time,) it’s getting harder and harder to carve out dedicated, uninterrupted reading time.

Stand that fact next to the bucket loads of books published annually around the world, and that there are bucket loads more that were published before I was born, and I’m realising that I’ll never be able to read all the books I want to in this lifetime. It’s with this in mind that I feel as though I’m cheating myself and as-yet un-read books each time I consider revisiting a book.

A friend once told me that books should be treated like ex-partners—it was fun while it lasted, but you can never go back. Things are never as good as the second time around, he said, and that short-lived comfort of returning to what you know is replaced by long-term dislike as previously unnoticed or unacknowledged flaws stampede you.

When I put this to some friends via those handy crowd-sourcing tools called text messages and Facebook, the response was varied. One friend was adamant that he’d never re-read a book, but the rest sat somewhere in the middle.

Two friends said they went back to books in preparation for future releases in a series: if you like, a re-read refresher. One (also named Fiona) said she re-read books if they were so good that she read them ‘too quickly’ the first time around, before acknowledging that her busy life meant that the books needed to be pretty special in order for her to do so.

Mardi said that ‘the really good ones are worth a second going over’, before adding: ‘Now I’m married, I only apply that rule to books!’ For other friends, like Amber, the quality of the book made the difference: ‘Lit fic ones where the prose is just gorgeous are long-term relationships. Mysteries or thrillers are one-night stands: once you know whodunit, it’s over.’

Others said that they will re-read books if a long, long time has passed, which arguably renders the book brand, spanking new. Such revisits help you ‘discover things you missed the first time around’, but can be, as Carody noted, a double-edged sword: ‘When I re-read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, it wasn’t as awesome as I remembered it being, which made me sad.’

The Catcher In The RyeShe has, she says, ‘been meaning to re-read The Catcher in the Rye for, oh, ten years’, but wonders whether she will still love Holden Caulfield, ‘Or will I now want to punch him in the face to stop his adolescent whining?’

I’m facing similar issues myself, having noticed that my copy of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History was missing from my shelf. No one owned up, much less returned it, and my brother is again under suspicion. I then noticed that The Secret History is now available for less that $10 as a Penguin Modern Classic, which meant I had to replace it. It’s now sitting on my shelf, orange spine uncracked.

I overwhelmingly want to re-read The Secret History, although in truth my memory of the book is fairly hazy—something about students at a college studying Latin, a murder, and a character called Bunny—and I’m terrified that Tartt’s masterpiece won’t stand up the second time around. I mean, I already suffered trying to read the book she produced through her second book syndrome: The Little Friend. I’m not sure what state I’d be in if her first book too was revealed to be a clunker.

The Little FriendMy friend Katy took the ex-partner analogy to a new (and potentially unpublishable in this family forum) level, saying that there are too many fish in the sea and that life is too short to go back. But she did make me think about experiencing books in a different format. She says she wouldn’t re-read Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, but she did listen to them as audio books after she finished the paperbacks. I guess it’s not dissimilar to seeing the book turned into a film and, as I’ve previously noted, I’m fairly ok with that.

So should I be a re-reader? Or should I cut all ties to a book, as with an ex, once it’s over? I’m honestly still undecided. Perhaps revisiting The Secret History will help me make up my mind…

The Red Queen, by Philippa Gregory

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive an advanced review copy of Philippa Gregory’s The Red Queen, her latest novel and Book 2 of her War of the Roses series. As it is not due out for another two months or so in Australia, I’ve refrained from linking to it, and have posted an image and link to the first book in the series which is for all reading purposes the CURRENT book, or at least until September sometime.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series about The White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, who seems to have ascended the English throne as both Queen Consort and Queen Mother thanks in part to her feminine charm.

Margaret Beaufort, The Red Queen, is an entirely different specimen. Idolising Joan of Arc, Margaret was first married at the tender age of 7, before papal dispensation was granted to the newlyweds as they were found to be too closely related. Her second marriage as a pious child-bride to Edmund Tudor resulted in the birth of her only child, Henry, a son. By the end of her teens, Margaret Beaufort was widowed and felt herself governed by God, apparently having received a number of visions telling her that her son would be the King of England.

As fate would have it, Henry Tudor does eventually become King in line with Margaret Beaufort’s prophecy (Henry VII), but I suspect that Philippa Gregory’s point of view is that it was less divine intervention and more a mother’s plotting that gave Henry the beloved throne.

I’ve enjoyed collecting this series partly for the story of the women involved -the third instalment is about Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter, The White Princess– and partly for the glorious covers.

Caution must be taken with evaluating The Red Queen for its historical contribution to the world of literature, as Philippa Gregory’s work is often (highly) fictionalised in parts. The tone is, as always, engaging, personal and dramatic, but even so I am not sure I enjoy this book quite as much as her earlier works (which includes The Other Boleyn Girl), perhaps because I couldn’t identify with Lady Margaret Beaufort herself. To me this story painted her as a conniving horror of a woman, jealous of Elizabeth Woodville’s beauty and grace, and capable of organising the murder of children just to have the crown for her son.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given the atmosphere of the times, but nevertheless, whilst it was an enjoyable and quick read about the (possibly) power-hungry grandmother of that other insane person, Henry VIII, I am looking forward to catching up with The White Princess later on next year for some much-needed R & R .

What a horrible, power-lusty character Lady Margaret was in The Red Queen! I’ll be interested to see who agrees with me when the book is released – perhaps I have become fragile over time, and everyone else will think she was absolutely grand. I bet Henry VII thought so.

The Severus Snape Guide to Literature’s Bad Boys (cont.)

It must have begun at a young age for me, though I can’t remember my first ‘bad boy’ book character. Was there an evil male character in One Fish, Two Fish? Doubt it.
The first memorable one was Colin, from The Secret Garden. Forget Dickon, Colin’s where it’s at, with his petulance and consistent weeping and general hysteria when his authority is questioned. Mary was the only girl who knew how to handle him…how I wished I was Mary!

And in highschool, when I was introduced to Ol’ Willy Shakespeare, I wasn’t so much taken with Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other as I was infatuated with Macbeth’s ambition and his romantic willingness to do whatever Lady Macbeth said! Dreamy.

When I was started on Anne Rice a little later, Lestat was perhaps the most conventionally dashing element of my book character fetish. It didn’t matter to me whether or not he sucked people’s blood, sometimes to the fatal point. What mattered most was that he made sure he looked his best every time he was on the prowl – he was like the century’s first ever metrosexual, and darn proud of it!

But before you judge, cast your mind back to your book crushes. Even the best of girls have trouble resisting Mr Darcy’s charms from Pride and Prejudice. I preferred Captain Wentworth meself. And those fans of Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester? Go read Wide Sargasso Sea and get back to me on that one. It’s like everything I thought about him when I read the original text, but even juicier and more damning to his character.

It seems that the one thing I cannot stand as my tastes in fictional characters have “matured”, is a male lead being rude to his fellow females (Colin was the early departure from the rule but I have remedied that with my later bad boy choices). Give me a character who wants world domination, who sells his soul for three wishes, who creates an alter ego of himself so he can do evil things without suffering the consequences, rather than a gentleman who treats his lady with disdain. Mr Darcy, it’s just not on!

Draco Malfoy has managed to escape my lusty bookgirl advances because he’s under 18 years of age. Whenever I take a Harry Potter quiz, I’m a Ravenclaw girl (the bookish group), with one point away from being Slytherin (the “evil” group). My guess? Slytherin guys and gals are just misunderstood. They don’t REALLY want to be bad…it’s just that the GOOD guys are so, infuriatingly…well, good. And that would annoy just about anyone, wouldn’t you agree?

So I figure the thing that all my bad boys have in common, perhaps, is that they’re really good boys at heart.
Or at least, that‘s what helps me sleep at night. Heehee!

The Severus Snape Guide to Literature’s Bad Boys

You know, he may not be much of a looker, but I had a mad crush on Severus Snape throughout the entire Harry Potter series. He was quite possibly the drawcard for me to keep reading all 7 books … it wasn’t that I didn’t like the series, I just didn’t love-them-so-much-I-will-dress-like-a-wizard-at-the-midnight-release-and-name-my-firstborn-Voldemort.

But Severus, oh Severus. I shall wait with baited breath for the end of the year when the first part of the final story is released at the cinemas, and I will cry my poor little heart out at that bit (do not click if you’re one of the three people left who hasn’t read the series and you don’t like spoilers). Turns out I’m not the only one. There are a number of sites dedicated to the character of Snape and this isn’t where the obsession for the bad-guy-who-is-really-a-good-guy ends.

In real life, I do not find myself much attracted to the tattooed bikers of the world or the James Dean rebels-without-a-cause (I’m sure some are very nice, I’m just swaying with stereotypes here). I tend instead, to gravitate towards the business suits and the crew cuts. I never had the pleasure of blessing my parents during my teenage years with a cigarette-swilling boy who looked like he could ruin my future with one well-timed wink. But when it comes to reel life, and literature in particular, I just can’t help myself.

It is funny, thinking about how universal this idea of a ‘bad boy’ is. Twilight is said to have started the trend for a possessive romance, but this is really nothing new. No one could doubt that gothic legend Heathcliff loved Cathy to death. And in comparison to the old Byronic men, Bella’s Edward isn’t even that bad. The idea has been around for donkey’s years – probably since the princess fell in love with the dragon rather than the heroic prince, all because the dragon offered her a very beautiful necklace (albeit a very beautiful stolen necklace), from his hoard of treasure.

Adele Walsh does a wonderful post on the bad poster boys of YA literature; but beyond YA, there’s a smorgasbord of fiction (including the classics) which still holds to the famous adage: “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”…


Goldie Alexander became a professional writer after 25 years of teaching English and History in secondary schools.

She was  commissioned to write 4 YA novels for the ‘Dolly’ imprint, dealing with contemporary issues that were important to teenage girls eg body image, education, acceptance by one’s peers etc etc.

I asked Goldie, “What do you enjoy most about being a writer?”

Being forced to use my imagination when I create interesting characters and then the plotting. There’s the sheer happiness of working as hard and long as I feel like without having a boss breathing over my shoulder. The downside is far less money.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Finding an appropriate publisher for a particular book and then marketing that book.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

Others would say it’s my historical account of the First Fleet ‘My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney Cove” which is now in its 10th edition with a brand new cover. I think that still having passion for my craft and still being published after so many years rates as my major achievement.


Persistence is everything. Be aware that writing is one part inspiration and 99% perspiration. Edit! Edit! Edit!


Hedgeburners: An A~Z PI Mystery was inspired by Goldie’s love as a child of Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’.

I decided it was time to write a contemporary version. I had already published 2 adult mysteries UNJUST DESSERTS and UNKIND CUT so I had a fair idea of how to go about it.

Hedgeburners: An A~Z PI Mystery was loosely based on a series of actual crimes committed in the recent past, this suspense-filled detective book with a difference poses the question:  Who is setting fire to the old cypress hedges? Anna Simpson insists that her best friend Zach Santisi help her find the culprits. Just about everyone these 13yo detectives come across has a motive, and as time goes on there are more and more fires and more serious confrontations.

Hedgeburners: An A~Z PI Mystery is a humorous story exploring hobbies that kids enjoy eg Zach who tells the story is mad about animals. He keeps cats, dogs, gold fish, breeds budgies and chooks and never gets around to completing his homework.


Zach and Anna are best friends, but it is Anna who wants to find the arsonist and she forces Zach to help her.  They are joined by Ruby who wants to be a famous wrestler, Brett, a nerdy journalist and of course M, Zach’s rat. Each helps bring the criminals to justice.

Goldie’s says that the thing she enjoyed most about writing this book was creating the characters.

I loved my characters. Because there are five I could makes them quite disparate and have them reflect lots about kids I know and meet.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Finding an interesting crime that didn’t involve murder or anything I considered unsuitable for young readers. Then making the whodunnit not emerge until the very end. I had to use lots of red herrings.

You can find out more about Goldie at her website www.goldiealexander.com Teachers Notes for all her books can also be found here.

Random literary quotes

Last time it was first sentences. This time, I’m quoting memorable bits from anywhere within a book or short story. These are just the quotes that have come to mind while putting together this post. Given the vagaries of my memory, there are bound to be other bits I should have quoted… but hey… with my memory the way it is, consider yourselves lucky to be getting this!

As with my last post, I’m listing the sources at the end of the post so you can all play guess that quote.


As Yone had predicted, it was deserted — tourism was a thing of the past, along with parliaments and television chat shows, universities and churches, human disorder and human freedom.


The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.


He looked at her as though seeing her for the first time, and kissed her as if they were not yet married.


Teddy and Vern slowly became just two more faces in the halls or in 3.30 detention. We nodded and said hi. That was all. It happens. Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, did you ever notice that?


In the space it took to read the few dozen words, Danny learned two crucial things, vital to learn at any age but so powerful to have at fourteen: that you always had to grant unlimited possibility, and that happy endings were as fleeting as you let them be.


She was a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such a sweet mocking mouth. Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East, however many you discover there is always one more; and her sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner.


All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others


The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man; but already it was impossible to say which was which.


I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.


I’ve been on quite a trip, though I don’t have much to show for it — a book of Rolling Stones’ lyrics, some coins with Arabic writing on them, a headscarf with crocheted fans around the edge. I’ve learned how to say “bread” and “water” in eight different languages and I can swear in Dutch.


Fa’red was not the sort of wizard who muttered arcane spells over foul-smelling cauldrons in dark cellars. Although he was a very inventive man, his ideas far exceeded his ability to carry them out personally. As such, he had learned to delegate work.


‘You asked me once,’ said O’Brien, ‘what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.’


“And as their lips met, everything changed.”

Got a favourite quote? Leave a comment and share.

And tune in next time to find out about Celapene Press.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Here are the books:

1. When the Tripods Came, John Christopher, 1988.

2. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dauglas Adams, 1979.

3. “Add a Dash of Pity”, Peter Ustinov, from Add a Dash of Pity and Other Short Stories, 1958.

4. “The Body”, Stephen King, from Different Seasons, 1982.

5. “The Saltimbanques”, Terry Dowling, from Blackwater Days, 2000.

6. Peter Pan, JM Barrie, 1911.

7. Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945.

8. Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945.

9. “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Edgar Allan Poe, 1843.

10. Sugar Sugar, Carole Wilkinson, 2010.

11. Drangonfang, Paul Collins, 2004.

12. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1949.

13. Gamers’ Quest, George Ivanoff, 2009. — Yeah, yeah! I know! Shameless plug. 🙂

Adele Walsh on Mary Sues

Adele Walsh is another, and possibly my favourite, perpetual adolescent. She’s taken another break from her review/commentary website Persnickety Snark (which is really quite awesome and bookmarkable), to grace us with her ever-appreciated presence (and snark… the snark is always appreciated).

Mary Sue? No, thank you

I hate Mary Sues.

I loathe them.  I want to hurt them.  I want to ruffle their hair and kick their butts.  I want them to have sharp edges and quizzical thoughts.  I want them to be more concerned with life’s bigger mysteries than whether or not they should go with a shoddy pallor and fangs or long incisors and excessive body hair.  I want them to want more for themselves.  I want them to seek more than romantic entanglements because without them, they find themselves just as uninteresting as I do.

When I started blogging I didn’t know what a Mary Sue was.  I did.  But I didn’t. 

For those of you unfamiliar, you will soon realise that you are on first name basis with Mary Sue.  Wisegeek defines Mary Sues as “…a character in a work of fiction who exists primarily for the purpose of wish-fulfilment on the part of the author. She plays a prominent role in the work, but she is notably devoid of flaws or a complex personality, and she usually represents the pinnacle of idealized perfection.”  Crack open a fan fiction story anywhere and you will have yourself a Mary Sue.  It was so prevalent that the readers of fan fiction were the ones to coin the term.  And some say no good can come of fanfic?

Mary Sues are the current literary trend in young adult literature.  There are many that buck the trend but it seems like so many of the books that are making the serious money are the ones that are shells rather than fully formed, well crafted beings.  To put it bluntly…that blows.

This week alone I have read a handful of books, none of which have a shadow as their protagonist.  One or two might flirt with the idea but for the most part they are representations of teens in a myriad of settings reacting in understandable ways and piquing interest through their motivations rather than who they snog.  I love a saucy kiss as much as the next person but it shouldn’t propel the plot (and the personality) of a protagonist for an entire afternoon read.

Cath Crowley’s Charlie longs for country boy Dave but also writes and performs music, speaks to her dead mother and grandmother, befriends old enemies and struggles to connect with her father. Released as Chasing Charlie Duskin in 1995, Crowley was shortlisted for the CBCA’s Nook of the Year Award for Older Readers and deservedly so. This year, five years after its Australian release, the book will be released on US shores rebranded as A Little Wanting Song

The new name doesn’t really spin my wheels but titles like this give me hope. Hope that some readers who find so much joy in the insipid goings on of Mary Sues in paranormal love entanglements with vampires, angels or flying monkeys (a girl can dream) might also pick up a novel like this. That her sweeping prose and relatable characters might spurn on more discerning reading choices. 

If not Crowley, then perhaps they should dust off an oldie but a goodie. If they like snoggable rogues, how about Tamora Pierce’s George? Alanna: The First Adventure introduces the reader to a world of heightened emotion, a magical setting and some swoon worthy fellows.  And the female protagonist kicks ass…literally.  Maybe we can sell them on the Disneyfied idea of a sweltering hot prince and a dashing but naughty King of Thieves?  What girl wouldn’t want to delve into that world? 

Or perhaps I could shove Kristin Cashore’s Fire into their arms if fantasy’s their bag?  Or Kathy Charles’ study of a death hag if the morbid side of life and a dark sense of humour is their kind of thing?  Or maybe I toss Lili Wilkinson’s Pink at them and hope they have an appreciation for musical theatre?  The point is… (and yes I have one) readers will only move away from their Mary Sue fondness if they develop a more discerning appreciation for a well rounded protagonist. 

Many teens became reacquainted with reading through Twilight, Hush, Hush and Fallen but that isn’t all there is. If that’s all they want to read then we have to get creative.  Find ways to hide the carrots in the mashed potatoes, make distracting plane sounds as we shove the spoon into their mouths.  There is a bigger world of fantastically amazing protagonists out there and I want to share them.  I want to see these layered women of wonder be immortalised on the big screen, to have the tomes grace bookstore shelves in numbers more than one.  I want a lot for these characters.  They deserve more. 

Ultimately, readers deserve more.  We need to want more, find more and push more.  But how will they know this if they continue to re-read the same Mary Jane tomes over and over again?  I will have to satisfy myself with those of my circle who want the same thing I do, to encourage those in my wider sphere to read one of my recommendations and world domination will soon follow… won’t it?

VIDEO POST: Curtis Stone wants you to win $1000

We’ve just received word of a new competition that’s sure to get your inner-chef excited:

For your chance to win $1000 to spend at the Curtis Stone shop, simply cook a recipe from Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone and take a picture of you, Curtis’ cookbook and the dish, and send it to [email protected] along with a review of the dish in 25 words or less.

For full terms and conditions, click here.

“For me, there are few things that are more relaxing than lingering at the table with good friends… But I know that for a lot of people, putting together a meal, especially for guests, is the opposite of relaxing… I’m here to tell you: It doesn’t have to be that way.”
– Curtis Stone, from the Introduction

Australian chef Curtis Stone, host of US TV’s hit Take Home Chef and regular judge on Channel 10’s ratings-busting Masterchef, is best known for his laid-back approach to cooking. Though he’s worked as head chef in several Michelin-starred London restaurants, some of his most memorable meals are the ones he’s shared with friends at home. Now, Curtis shows you how to have as much fun in the kitchen as your guests are sure to have over a comfortable, unforgettable meal.

Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone, you’ll find everything from ‘First Thing in the Morning’ bites and ‘Brunches to Blow Their Minds to ‘Weekend Lunches’ and ‘Something to Eat on the Sofa’. With the home cook in mind, Curtis avoids off-putting culinary lingo and hard-to-find ingredients. Instead he picks what’s in season and just around the corner. This down-to-earth approach results in wonderfully interesting and flavourful taste combinations that are perfect for parties or just hanging out with a close friend or loved ones.

VIDEO POST: Michael Porta reflects on Sydney-shattering crimes

Evil In The Suburbs by Cindy Wockner and Michael Porta
Sydney will never be the same. In August 2000 a gang of rapists lured 12 victims from train stations and via the internet in a series of planned attacks. One 16-year-old was staked to the ground by a dozen men and raped repeatedly. Another young teenager was assaulted by 14 men up to 25 times at three different locations. Last week the ringleader of the rapists was sentenced to 55 years for his part in the gang rapes, making headlines across Australia and internationally. His brother is due to be sentenced next week. Apart from the acts of violence, the rape cases have caused volatile debate about race and religion in Australia. The rapists were Lebanese Muslims and, in several cases the men used racial slurs, calling their victims “Aussie bushpigs” and telling them they should try it “Lebo style”. The cases have focused attention on the whole idea of multiculturalism and what it means to be Australian and they have split the Muslim/Christian communities of western Sydney. This book will tell the full story of each of the cases – beginning with the first rape which occurred just as Sydney was dressing up for the 2000 Olympics. It will cover the police investigations, the crucial role of an Arabic speaking, Muslim police officer who first discovered a link between the attacks, the stories of the women and their vindication after the massive jail sentences delivered in court, and the thinking of men and women in the Muslim community so wounded by the actions of its 14 sons.

Click HERE for an interview with former police officer and co-author Michael Porta.