Goodbye Joel, hello Charlotte

As you would have read in the preceding blog post, our Smell of Books blogger Joel Blacklock has moved on to greener pastures and will be heading up Pan Macmillan’s new digital-only publishing house, Momentum.  Unfortunately his new job precludes him from continuing his blog on Booku.  Doh.

Joel, a big thank you from all of us at Booku/Boomerang Books – you have done a magnificent job and the number of followers and commenters that have responded to your posts is testimony to your fantastic writing ability.  You will be sorely missed.  We all wish you the very best of luck with the Momentum venture.  With you involved, it’s sure to be an absolute winner.  Be sure to enjoy your Unwin Trust Fellowship trip to the UK…and do stay in touch.

So we say a sad goodbye to Joel, but we’re really pleased to welcome Joel’s replacement, Charlotte Harper, who will be taking over the Booku blog mantle under the new handle, uBookish. Some of you will know Charlotte from her existing blog, eBookish, and she’s chosen to adopt a natty hybrid name from her existing blog and the Booku name – hence uBookish!

Charlotte is a Canberra journalist, editor and publisher who has worked in newspapers, magazines and online. She has written on developments in digital publishing and social media at since early 2010, and likes to spend her holidays at book industry conferences and festivals. A former literary editor of The South China Morning Post, Charlotte has also reviewed books for and contributed author profiles to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. She has written on technology on and off for 15 years, once edited a mobile phone and gadget magazine, and is a published author, of a book about digital publishing – Weird Wild Web (Penguin Australia 1999).

We would like to welcome Charlotte aboard and look forward to her insights about the world of digital publishing and the future of books. We hope that the bevy of Joel’s followers will continue to follow and interact with us via Charlotte’s posts.

Clayton Wehner


It’s Father’s Day this Sunday so we thought we’d pay a tribute to all dads and grandads this week at Kids’ Book Capers by featuring some great books about these very special people.

Today we’re looking at Why I love my dad and Why I love my grandpa.

These gorgeous new books are in the popular Why I love my… series by Alison Reynolds and Serena Geddes.

They’re perfect partners for Why I love my mum and Why I love my grandma released earlier this year from The Five Mile Press.

Why I love my dad and Why I love my grandpa are written in an appealing style with fun illustrations.

They’re also books that can be personalised for the reader, allowing them to insert a photo of their own dad/grandpa on the front cover.

Alison Reynolds’ quirky text is full of warmth and humour, and Serena Geddes’ illustrations capture the hilarious antics of Dad and Grandpa.

Why I love my dad

Young readers will relate to all the antics of this scooting, hulahooping, kite flying dad. They’ll love him for the way he’s prepared to give just about anything a go, even if it’s not something he’s good at.

Why I love my grandpa

Who could not love a stilt-walking, hand shaking, VERY flexible Grandpa? This Grandpa clearly enjoys spending time with his granddaughter doing the things that make her happy even if they’re not the kind of activity he might normally do.

My grandpa can’t wear a ponytail and My grandpa can’t climb trees were the pages that gave me the biggest giggle but I’m sure young readers will enjoy every single one of the double page spread.

I enjoyed these books for their ‘have a go’ Dad and Grandpa and their warmth and colour.

Why I love my dad and Why I love my grandpa come in a durable hardback format that can be slipped easily into a nappy or other carry bag – and they’re the kind of books to encourage discussion about what family truly means.

They even have space at the back for the reader to fill in with favourite things they like about or like to do with Dad or Grandpa.

Tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers we’re featuring Nick Bland’s, Some Dads.

MWF Lament

As you all no doubt know, the Melbourne Writers Festival is currently taking place in Melbourne — that would be Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; not Melbourne, Nova Scotia, Canada; or Melbourne, Derbyshire, UK; or even Melbourne, Izard County, Arkansas, USA. The festival is on, people other than me are attending interesting and informative sessions about writing, while I’m lamenting my non-attendance.

I missed out on last year’s festival because of its proximity to Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention (see my post, Aussiecon 4 Memories). I simply could not afford the time to attend both. But that wasn’t so bad, as my attendance at Aussiecon consoled me.

This year, I’m missing the festival as well… but with no consolation. This time around it’s a case of bad timing. Coming off a busy Children’s Book Week, I find myself struggling to get back on top of the writing that I wasn’t doing last week, especially all the promotional stuff I’m supposed to be getting ready for the imminent release of Gamers’ Challenge on 1 September. Then there is also the fact that I’m a stay-at-home dad as well as an author, and I passed off my youngest for much of last week, and I have to make arrangements to also get rid of her next week while I’m off doing a day-long school visit — so, I don’t feel like I can dump her this week as well.

Yes, I could probably find a little time off somewhere to go to one or two sessions. And I had been hoping to arrange that. But the sessions that interest me most are the ones that have the most inconvenient timing. Dammit! It’s not fair.

Even though I’m not there, I thought I’d mention a few of the sessions that I really wish I could be attending…

And that’s just a small selection.

I’m going to have to plan things a little bit better for next year. Maybe what I should be doing is pestering the organisers and trying to get myself onto the programme. If I’m on the programme, then I know I’ll arrange the time to actually be there. 🙂

Oh well… at least I shall not be completely festival-less this year. The Thousand Word Festival is coming up on 23-24 September and (halleluiah) I can actually make it to part of that. And I will be appearing in the writers’ area at the Armageddon Expo on 22-23 October.

If anyone who is attending the MWF would like to leave a comment and rub some salt into the wound by giving me some first-hand insight into what I’m missing, feel free to do so.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or, if you are at the MWF, follow them instead.


Interview with former international cricket umpire Darrell Hair – author of In the Best Interests of the Game

MD of Boomerang Books, Clayton Wehner recently caught up with former international cricket umpire Darrell Hair to talk about his new book, entitled In the Best Interests of the Game.  The book is one of the 50 Books You Can’t Put Down in the 2011 Get Reading! campaign – buy a copy and get a free book.

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me, Darrell, and congratulations on the release of your new book, In the Best Interests of the Game. You controversially no-balled Muttiah Muralitharan seven times in three overs for a suspect action during a test match between Australia and Sri Lanka in Melbourne in 1995, and subsequently claimed that his action was ‘diabolical’ in your earlier autobiography.  Given that the incident contributed to you being sidelined from the elite umpiring panel by the ICC, do you regret calling Murali?

No I don’t regret it one bit. The fact that ICC several years later changed the regulations to permit bowlers to straighten their arms by 15 degrees only validated my decision.

Murali announced that he had ‘forgiven’ you when he last toured Australia – what were your feelings towards that statement and have you had any contact with him since?  If you were to meet him again, would the conversation be icy?

I guess the conversation would be “icy” as I still believe he broke the Laws as they were back then and continued to operate with immunity for the remainder of his career. He was in fact “too hot to handle” for other umpires. And what do I have to be forgiven for anyway?

Your new book deals specifically with another more recent controversy that you were involved in – the ball tampering incident involving the Pakistani cricket team at The Oval in 2006, which resulted in Pakistan refusing to return to the field of play and forfeiting the match. Again, this incident resulted in you being sidelined by the ICC and eventually being forced into retirement.  Clearly the Asian bloc countries hold much sway in international cricket – what can be done to change this power imbalance, one which seemingly threatens the traditions of the game of cricket?

The “power” of the Asian Bloc is not the issue. If certain regions generate a large percentage of cricket’s revenue, that is fine but it doesn’t necessarily mean we get better governance of the game. Whilst I was sidelined due to the backlash from decisions made during the forfeiture of The Oval test match, I believe the reasons behind that were more poor governance and weak leadership by ICC Management rather than the power of the Asian Bloc. One must also understand that whilst India generates most of the game’s revenue, it is also responsible for the majority of illegal gambling on the game. Where are the ethics behind that?

We’ve seen a significant spill of Cricket Australia coaching staff and selectors in the past month and just last week the ICC Test team of the year was announced without a single Australian player.  What do you think about the current state of Australian cricket?  How has Cricket Australia become unstuck?

Australian cricket is generally in good shape – its just that the rest of the world has caught up with us and our proven methods.  I don’t believe it has come unstuck – there has just been some bewildering decisions on team selection and talent identification.

How does Australia reclaim its mantle as the top Test playing nation in the world?

Focus on the strengths – the Sheffield Shield for example is still the toughest first class competition in the world. Make certain it stays that way and remains the nursery for our future test players.

Twenty-20 cricket is getting really serious in Australia with the enhanced 8-team Big Bash competition starting this summer.  Your strong actions against suspect bowling actions and ball tampering suggest that you’re a traditionalist – what do you think about Twenty-20 cricket and how is its popularity impacting upon Test cricket?

I don’t believe it will ever impact on Test Cricket because the majority of players still want to represent their country at Test level. Sure, there are so-called specialist T20 players who seem to provide the power hitting and excitement that crowds want to come along and watch. In addition, the revenue stream created by T20 is something that cannot be underestimated. The game needs every spectator it can find and needs to keep them coming back. If they continue to watch and support T20 then that’s good for the game overall.

Now that you’re no longer jetsetting the world to officiate in cricket matches, I’m assuming that you have a little more time on your hands.  Are you still involved in cricket?  Do you get back to Mudgee or Mosman to umpire a local game from time to time?  Has your knee recovered sufficiently to allow you to have a trundle?

Yes, I am still involved and work for Cricket NSW as Executive Officer for the NSW Cricket Umpires Association, this job also entails acting as State Director of Umpiring and developing and coaching the next generation of 1st class umpires. I don’t umpire anymore even if my wonderful friends in Mudgee or Mosman ask me to. I prefer to say once retired, always retired. My knees are not in any state to be sending down any more vicious outswingers or bouncers.

Finally, a question that you’re likely to be asked regularly – who are the three best cricketers that you have had the pleasure to umpire?  And who is the best umpire on the international circuit?

Brian Lara, Shane Warne and Curtley Ambrose.  The best umpire on the international circuit was Peter Willey – unfortunately he refused to travel on a regular basis so his career was curtailed when ICC insisted on having their panel on the road so much.

Thanks for your time, Darrell, and best of luck with the sales of your book.

My pleasure.


Beer Me Up – drinking my way on your bookshelf

When I was a young girl I wanted to be a writer and write books about ponies.

Well, I wanted to be my version of a writer. Which involved penning best-selling books for an hour or two a day before wandering off to enjoy my house located on a horse stud and puppy rescue centre. My house was also somehow no more than 10 mins from both a beach and the middle of some major international city – I think I had vague plans that I would be able to fly my own helicopter from my patio to the city centre when I needed to get milk. Flying ponies may also have been involved. They usually were with my fantasies.

When I was in college I wanted to be a writer and drink beer.

This version of writing  involved working on the next great American novel in my garret by day, and drinking beer with lots of artistic friends by night. Ponies were still involved – after all, I had to leave the garret and the pub to get some fresh air occasionally. I think I planned to use horses as my major form of transport all the time until someone revealed that you could, in fact, get demerits on your license for horse-riding while drunk. (He had actually managed it. The police apparently didn’t accept his defense that the horse knew exactly where it was going.)

Now I am (technically) an adult I still want to be a writer. I’ve accepted that it involves a lot less money and a lot more work than I had originally presumed, and the odds on it ever paying for a helicopter is pretty slim, but it will occasionally shout me a round in the pub. I might not be a novelist with titles on the New York Times bestseller list but I get paid to write features and articles. I have seen my work  published under my name in magazines, national newspapers and online.

But – while I know now that features suit me better and novel-writing is not my forté – I have always wanted to see my name on a book. So I’m delighted to announce that my writing has finally made it on to the bookshelves, if only as a chapter of a travel guide. If you flick to page 42 of the Ultimate Beer Guide, you’ll find my name there at the top of my guide to Sydney’s beer, breweries and best days out. It took two months and far too many hangovers to research and write and I am looking forward to seeing if the ATO will accept receipts from pubs as tax-deductible.

The Guide aims to offer beer-loving visitors the low-down wherever they find themselves, covering 33 destinations in Australia and listing 1200 beers and ciders across Australia and New Zealand.  If you’re at a loss for what to get your Dad for Father’s Day and he likes his craft beer, this might be just what you were looking for. Anyone who is as passionate about beer will find plenty of inspiration for new things to try in it, even if that just means discovering a few new breweries close to home. (When I was writing this piece, I found 5 craft breweries I never knew about within 30 minutes of my house. Sydney really has a lot of beer.)

I had a lot of fun writing this piece and I particularly enjoy  the way it combines my dreams; my childhood dreams of seeing my name on a book, and my college dreams of drinking lots of beer.

Well, some of those dreams at least. The flying ponies are pending.

More James Roy

Last post, I interviewed Australian author James Roy about his Edsel Grizzler novels. James has written a whole bunch of other books and won a whole bunch of awards. Today, he returns to talk a little more about his writing…

Quite a few of your books have won or been shortlisted for various awards. Town, in particular, has done well, winning a NSW Premier’s award. Has becoming ‘an award-winning author’ put extra pressure on you, or is it something you don’t really think about?

Actually, being recognised in that way relieves pressure more than it builds it. It gives you confidence, and helps you recognise that maybe you are OK at this writing thing, rather than being the fraud that most writers’ internal monologue tells them they are. I suspect that a great many artists spend a lot of time worrying that they’re going to be caught out, and exposed as pretenders. Winning a big prize helps to quiet that annoying little voice of doubt, at least for a while.

The only real pressure I feel is that of a major deadline. As an example: the German edition of Town was recently shortlisted for the German Youth Literature Prize, which has already opened doors into the European international schools, as well as the international publishing market. This means that the follow-on from Town (another collection of short stories, called City) needs to be written, and soon.

And to answer the last part of your question, someone once said that while they know that money won’t make them happy, they’d still prefer to be rich and miserable than poor and miserable. Pressure or not, I’d much prefer to be able to put “award-winning author” after my name than not.

You wrote The Gimlet Eye for the Quentaris series of books, created by Paul Collins and Michael Pryor. What was it like writing in someone else’s universe?

It was fun, and open-ended enough to allow me some real freedom. What was more difficult was working with the characters that had been created and handed on to me. I’m predominantly a character-driven writer, so using someone else’s cast was occasionally a little tricky, but it was an exercise which forced me into a more plot-driven approach.

You’ve written for young adults as well as kids. Do you approach the books in different ways?

Not really. I start with a character, chuck stuff at them until they react, and watch the carnage unfold. I know that that sounds fairly flippant, but at its core, it’s exactly what we do as writers. To some extent the age of the character, and the nature of the stuff I chuck at them, determines what audience the book is for. Obviously the language changes a little depending on who it’s for, but for the most part I just go with it rather than squeeze it into one shape or another.

What’s next for James Roy?

I have to finish City before I go to Frankfurt for the German Youth Literature Prize announcement. After that, I’ve got a book called Miss Understood for middle readers that is developing nicely, and a humourous book with Gus Gordon. I’m hoping to be doing some study next year, so whatever the work linked to the thesis turns out to be will be my next thing after that, I think. But who knows? The best part of doing this for a living is that it’s just one big adventure.

George’s bit at the end

A huge thank you to James for answering my questions. I’ve just finished reading Rescue Mission and I’m about to start the final Edsel Grizzler book. I’ll review the two of them together in a future post. In the meantime, check out James’s website for more info about him and his writing.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.


Indigenous Literary Day approaches – Wednesday 7 September 2011

Boomerang Books will donate 10% of its takings on Indigenous Literacy Day — Wednesday 7 September 2011 — to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Can you imagine not being able to read a newspaper, a road sign or directions on a bottle of medication? Sadly, this is a reality faced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in remote communities today.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) aims to raise literacy levels and improve the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Australians living in remote and isolated regions.

The Foundation first began in 2004 when educator and bookshop owner, Suzy Wilson (Riverbend Books in Queensland) set up a Challenge in partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation and Ian Thorpe’s Foundation for Youth Trust, to raise money for Indigenous literacy. Suzy wanted to help people in remote Indigenous communities where there is little access to books and where children often grow up with little or no ability to read. She posed the question, ‘Can you imagine a world without books and reading?’

Over the past two years the project has sent over 60,000 books to more than 200 remote communities across Australia. It has launched Book Buzz, an early literacy project and has worked with communities on specific literacy projects, including translating books into local language and recording indigenous stories.

The project has raised over $1.3 million in the past five years thanks to the generous support of publishers, booksellers, schools, businesses and individuals.

2011 Activities

In 2011 The Indigenous Literacy Foundation will provide books and literacy resources in homes, community centres, women’s centres, schools, health centres and other organisations in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.  On Indigenous Literacy Day, 7 September 2011, events will be held around Australia to raise awareness of indigenous literacy issues.  Boomerang Books will donate 10% of its takings from 7 September 2011 to the foundation.

A special book for Indigenous Literacy Day – The Naked Boy and the Crocodile

A special book, entitled The Naked Boy and the Crocodile, is being published in 2011 to support indigenous literacy.

In the past few years as an ILF ambassador, Andy Griffiths has travelled around Australia with other members of the Australian book industry to conduct writing workshops with students in remote communities.

The students were given small blank “books” and invited to fill these books – using both picture and words – with a story based on their own lives. These stories could be true or fictional or a mixture of both. They could be dramatic, funny or simply about an activity they love.

The thirteen stories included in this book tell tales of playing with friends, riding motorbikes, picking berries, hunting for emu eggs and wild pigs, terrifying turkeys and angry mamus.

‘The Naked Boy and the Crocodile’ will be published by Pan Macmillan Australia in September 2011.

You can buy a copy of The Naked Boy and the Crocodile here and contribute to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation…



Gamers’ Challenge is the action-packed sequel to Gamers’ Quest by George Ivanoff.

Zyra and Tark are shocked to learn that they are not the only Zyra and Tark in the game…and in fact, Zyra has a daughter, Hope.

Now that Zyra and Tark have broken the rules, they can no longer play the game, but how will they find their way out of it? Now they have a new mission, to find The Ultimate Gamer who just might have the key to solving their problems.

For Tark and Zyra, life was literally just a game, controlled by the all-powerful Designers. But then they broke the rules and life got a whole lot more complicated…and deadly.

Pursued by a powerful computer virus they must locate the Ultimate Gamer with the help of some unexpected allies, and face their greatest challenge – finding a way out of the game.

And with the VIs hot on their trail it’s going to take all their stealth and ingenuity to escape. According to Professor Palimpsest, the VIs are some sort of virus and they’re not going to be easy to defeat.

Gamers’ Challenge has everything – dragons and knights (the sort of players you’d expect to find in a quest), and even zombies and unicorns.

Zyra and Hope whirled back to the doorway. As the row of zombies stumbled along, one of them stepped out of line towards Zyra. It held a dismembered human in its hand, blood still dripping from the end. And it was looking straight at her.

It soon becomes clear to Zyra and Hope that the zombies and other creatures in the game can see them, even though they’re not playing anymore – and this makes their attempted escape a lot more dangerous.

Gamers’ Challenge offers another thrilling ride for readers. It’s fast and fun and full of the same complex detail, and twists and turns that kids enjoy in a computer game.

There are all sorts of quirky challenges for the characters to face like the game of Sudden Death Pinball where you get hit by the ball and you die,

And once they find the Ultimate Gamer he’s not what they expected – and he has no interest in leaving the game because he says it offers him all the freedom he wants.

“The freedom to play. The freedom to win. The freedom to be whoever I want to be.”

But he’s not going to let them out of the game either unless they fight him and win. And what will that really mean for the victor?

Readers who enjoyed Gamers’ Quest will love Gamers’ Challenge and the new action-packed adventures of Tark and Zyra.

Gamers’ Challenge is to be released by Ford Street publishing on 1st September, and there’s an official Gamers’ Quest website at:

Gamers’ Challenge is written by my fellow Boomerang Books’ blogger, George Ivanoff who blogs at Literary Clutter.


An awesome guide to reviewing awesome things

Have you ever tried to describe a great book and been unable to think of a word for it other than “great”? Want to throw terms like “luminous”, “lyrical” and “magisterial” around, but not actually sure what they mean? Do you find yourself using the word “awesome” to describe everything from fantasy epics to political memoirs to cookery books?

If so, join the club.  While my last post was a peon of praise to non-fiction generally, and Moby Duck in specific, I try not to fill this blog with book reviews, even though I read countless books well deserving of an individual recommendation. This is partly as that’s not what this blog is for but mainly as I write terrible, terrible reviews.

It's, um, awesome. And really, really good. And stuff.It’s a bit embarrassing that – despite loving books and working as a writer – when I am asked to why I am recommending a book, the ensuing explanation  tends to be along the lines of, “You should read this. It’s brilliant. It’s really good, and funny and good. And stuff.”

Or “awesome”. Almost everything is awesome.  Stephen King’s On Writing is awesome. Machine Man by Max Barry is awesome as is anything by John Birmingham. Finding five dollars in a wallet I thought was empty is awesome and so is passion-fruit yoghurt. Everything is awesome.

Sometimes so many things are awesome in a short period that I have come up with a term other than awesome, which is usually “really, really good”. (I tend to wave my hands a lot too while saying this, as though physical gurning can make up for the poverty of my vocabulary.) I know I should branch out but I am intimidated by the idea of using the effusive terms I see on book jackets. Isn’t all writing, by nature, “literary”? Shouldn’t “dazzling” be limited to books with foil covers viewed in bright sunlight and doesn’t “luminous” mean it glows?

Apparently not. According to journalist and critic Janice Harayda (whose blog “One-Minute Book Reviews” normally contains – you guessed it – short book reviews) “luminous” or “lyrical” actually means “not much happens”. “Literary” is the nice way of saying “plotless”, “long -awaited” means late and “continues in the proud tradition of  Tolkien” translates as “this book has a dwarf in it”.

With the help of publishing professionals, writers, editors and other bibliophile malcontents, Janice broke down the language of reviewing in her recent post titled 40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms Decoded. Some descriptions – such as “accessible” meaning not too many big words – are kind if evasive. Others – “absorbing” apparently means the book makes a good coaster – are not. “Stunning” implies that a major character dies and “definitive” suggests that the book could have really used an editor. There’s enough information and interesting terms there to have you merrily bamboozling your book club or blog for months to come.

Now I just need to find the fancy publishers’ term for “awesome” and I am all set to go.





Warambi is Aleesah Darlison’s latest picture book and it’s a delightful story about a young bent-wing bat’s journey from just born and totally dependant on her mother to becoming independent and able to leave the forest cave that is her home.

She was no bigger than a bean. Her eyes were sealed shut and there wasn’t a scrap of fur on her body.

In the safety of the nursery cave, she practiced flying with the other pups until she was ready to go outside.

This simply told story manages to endear Warambi’s character to the reader and at the same time introduce them to the reality of the life of a baby bat.

One day Warambi’s world is thrown into turmoil by an excavator that destroys the bat’s cave home and separates her from the rest of the colony. Wanting to know the young bat’s fate will keep readers turning the pages..

One of the things I enjoyed most about Warambi was the way three important threads were woven seamlessly together – Warambi’s story, facts about bats and the impact of man on the environment.

The author uses beautiful imagery to allow the readers to picture the world in which Warambi lives. “Sunlight and metal burst into the darkness.”

Warrambi is a narrative non-fiction picture book and the text is taken to a new level by the illustrations of former zoologist, and well-loved illustrator, Andrew Plant. His understanding of, and appreciation for wildlife are apparent in his stunning pictures.

As well as being a visual delight, Warambi offers many layers of meaning for the reader, and the end papers are full of additional interesting facts about bats.

Lower Primary readers will find a lot to enjoy about Warambi. The story is based on a real event and has been released in the “Year of the Bat.”

This book tells two stories – the true life story of a bat’s life cycle and Warambi’s journey.

Warambi is published by Working Title Press.




Catching up with James Roy

Last week I reviewed Voyage to Verdada, the first book in the Edsel Grizzler trilogy by James Roy. And today I get to talk to James about this trilogy…

The concept of Verdada, a place for lost things, is really fascinating. How did you come up with it?

This is a question that has plagued man for millennia. When you lose your socks, where do they go? Who decides whether you find them again or not?

OK, so maybe it’s not one of the great philosophical conundrums, but it’s still something I used to think about as a kid. Then I began to take it one step further: what if there are people — kids — whose job it is to make those arbitrary decisions about whether you get your iPhone charger, your socks, your gloves, your bike, your lunch money back? And what if those kids are lost things themselves, either because they’ve fallen through the cracks in society, or because they’ve lost their sense of perspective, or have lost their original birth parents for whatever reason. I have a friend who was adopted from overseas as a baby, and he had no hope of ever finding out who his birth parents were. But then, one day, he did find out, and he got to meet his birth mother, who was lost to him, just as he was lost to her. Of course that was the beginning of a much more complicated kind of very different journey, but it did make me think about the nature of fate and loss and belonging.

Edsel Grizzler is an odd name. Why did you choose it as a name for your protagonist?

Edsel’s name came from a car model, the Ford Edsel (Henry Ford’s son’s name was Edsel). This is the kind of car that almost runs over the baby Edsel Grizzler in his cardboard box in the front driveway when he is left for his adoptive parents to find. I ultimately abandoned the box idea because JK Rowling used that in Harry Potter, and even though I’d written that part of Edsel Grizzler before HP came out, I knew that no one would believe that I wasn’t just a big old plagiarist, so I changed that. But I still thought the name was interesting enough that I should keep it.

Why a trilogy?

This was originally going to be a stand-alone book. But once I got into the story, I began to see that there was a much larger story to tell. Good characters go on a journey, and while the first book does do that for Edsel, I felt that there was a longer and more interesting character arc to follow. I wanted Edsel to go from a slightly disconnected loner to someone with friends, as well as someone who understands who he is a little better, just as we all would like to do.

This isn’t to say that it was easy. I’m not a traditional plotter — I tend to be a “pantser”, as in I fly by the seat of my… This usually works for me, except when I hit book three of this series and began to wish I’d foreshadowed some of the plot points I was now developing back when I wrote the first two. But just as I always do, I scratched around and fumbled along, and I’m really happy with what I ended up with.

On the media release for Ghostly Shadows you are quoted as saying “If a kid were to read my book and, as a result, begin to think about how they can find joy in the everyday, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.” Was this something that you consciously had in mind while writing the book?

It wasn’t the main point — I’m not really into “morals”, as such. But I also believe that we only get one life, and if we spend that wishing for something better, we miss the opportunity to “smell the roses”, as they say. This is hard for young people to understand, since the size of their future is much greater than that of the sum of their memories, but as I say, if a child reads my book and goes, “My life isn’t all that bad, even though I don’t have the latest generation of the latest gadget”, I’d think that was a bit of a win. There’s an internet meme called “first world problems”, such as “I was all warm and snuggled up in bed before I realised that I hadn’t plugged in my iPad charger.” I’m aware that I’m a bit of a bleeding-heart lefty, but those sort of problems, when compared with what’s happening in places like Somalia and the Middle East, seem rather shallow. I think that story is a very powerful way to express that idea.

George’s bit at the end

James has written a whole lot more than the Edsel Grizzler books. To find out a little bit about his life as a writer, tune in next time for part two of this interview. In the meantime, check out his website.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.


150 Blogs = $50 Boomerang Books Voucher Giveaway!

Three things went through my mind when WordPress told me I was fast approaching 150 Boomerang Books blogs. First: WordPress can’t count. Second: Actually, I can’t count—two blogs per week multiplied by about 18 months of blogging equals around about that number. Third: Holy moly! What ever have I blogged about for those 150 blogs?!

I can’t quite fathom how many posts have been composed and published and how much time has passed since Boomerang Books took a chance on me as a blogger in about March 2010.

Nor can I believe the scope of the blogs I’ve written, with them ranging between non-fiction heavyweights about piracy, human trafficking, and vast and depressing environmental issues, and slightly-less-depressing fiction of the likes of Twilight, Harry Potter, and the oft-mentioned, oft-bemoaned Vampire Academy (just in case you weren’t aware: new book released 23 August).

Underpinning all of these varied themes is an unadulterated love of books and a need to read so strong I’ve earned something of a reputation for poaching books from family members. But I’ve written about that plenty of times. Instead, I’d like to hear about you and your habits.

To celebrate 150 blogs (and to prevent me from writing some blog that rings like Sesame Street’s Count Dracula going ‘150 blogs, ah, ah, ah!’), I have a $50 Boomerang Books voucher to give away. All you need to do to enter is tell me in 150 words or less how far you’d go (or have gone)—legally, of course!—for your love of books. The winning entry will be posted here on the Book Burglar blog. Head here to the giveaways page to enter. Good luck (or is that Happy Book Burgling?!).

Catching up with Edsel Grizzler

To celebrate the release of Ghostly Shadows, the third book in the Edsel Grizzler series by James Roy, I decided to read the first one. How did that happen? Well, I got a review copy of the new book, and because I had not read any of the series, the lovely people at UQP also sent me a copy of book 1.

With a mile-high pile of review books, it was my intention to read the first book, to get the gist of the series, and then skip over to book 3. But I just couldn’t do it. I loved the first book way too much to miss any of Edsel’s adventures. In fact, I was halfway through that first book when I hopped online and ordered book 2, Rescue Mission. And because I then finished the first book on the same night, I now find myself waiting impatiently for book 2 to arrive. Dammit! Why can’t the postal system be instantaneous?

Anyway… on to book 1, Voyage to Verdada.

Edsel is not a happy boy. He doesn’t have any friends, he’s not allowed to do anything that is even remotely dangerous and his parents are super-embarrassing. He is sick of his life and desperately wants to escape. The opportunity to escape is presented is a rather odd way — a large egg-shaped thing, big enough to fit a seated person. The egg wisks Edsel away to the land of Verdada — a place full of kids, and fun and food and friends… and lost things. It’s a never-never land where Edsel can stay forever young.

“Forever young in a place of forever fun.”

But, of course, things are not quite as they seem. Verdada is not as real as it first appears and there are mysterious entities in control of it. Even though kids are enticed into staying with the promise of receiving their “heart’s greatest desire”, happiness may not necessarily follow… especially not for Edsel.

I thought I had this book pegged after reading the back cover. As I started reading the actual book, I was sure I knew where it was going and how it would get there. I was wrong. Every step of the way, James Roy managed to surprise me and take me in directions I did not expect to go. There are not many books that manage to do that.

I was expecting Edsel to get transported to Verdada fairly promptly, so the adventure could get going. But the author takes his time, giving the reader the opportunity to get to know Edsel and his parents. Rather than delay the adventure, it grounds it and makes Edsel’s decisions understandable.

There’s a lot to like in this book, but what stands out for me are the characters. Edsel is a wonderfully realised character. He could easily have been a whinging stereotype… but he’s not. He feels real. He is easy to sympathise with. He is easy to care about. And I found myself caught up in his personal journey as well as in his extraordinary adventure. The other characters, from his parents to his new friends in Verdada, are equally well written. I found his parents particularly poignant — their love for their son and their tragic past coming together to make them so over-protective, so difficult for Edsel to understand and to love, and yet so caring and, well… understandable.

Voyage to Verdada is the first book in a trilogy. It is complete in itself, giving the reader closure and a definite conclusion. But the epilogue is a teaser that sets things in motion for the next book. I can see that epilogue hooking the kids in and making them desperate to get their hands on the next book. It’s certainly done that to me. 🙂

I will report on books 2 and 3 after I’ve read them. But tune in next time as I interview James about the Edsel Grizzler series.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.



Before reviewing The House of 12 Bunnies, I have to declare for the record that I live in a house with two bunnies, so this book was always going to have appeal for me.

But I was also drawn to the fun of a houseful of young rabbits causing chaos as they go about their business. I enjoyed their childlike actions – and the way they cover just about every piece of floor space with their toys and precious belongings.

Sophia, a cute white bunny is the star of The House of 12 Bunnies due for release by Little Hare books tomorrow.

Being completely white she is easy to distinguish from the other bunnies and can be seen peering over fences, among toys and between boxes; her little white face sometimes only just visible.

Written by mother and daughter, Caroline Stills and Sarcia Stills-Blott, The House of 12 Bunnies is an entertaining read with beautiful illustrations by Judith Rossell. She has drawn each rabbit with its own endearing personality.

Sarcia was 8 when she wrote the first draft of this story and seems to have injected a child’s sense of fun into The House of 12 Bunnies.

This picture book has so many layers and Judith Rossell’s images offer something different for the reader every time they open the book. The closer you look the more you realise how much fun these bunnies are truly having.

The storyline is something small children will relate to – losing an important  possession just before bedtime. I’m not going to give away the ending but the resolution will leave the reader content and ready for sleep.

There is also a learning component to the book with opportunities to count and add up and to identify different animals and objects.

“In the playroom there are 5 teddy bears, 3 dogs, 2 cats, 1 duck and a giraffe with stuffing coming out.”

There was so much to enjoy about this story and the gorgeous pictures, that I couldn’t choose a favourite scene, but bunny bathtime and bunnies bouncing on the bed sure brought back memories of when my kids were little. And that’s where I think The House of 12 Bunnies will have appeal for small children and adults alike.

As the blurb on the back of the book says, “When twelve messy bunnies live under the same roof, the rooms nearly bust with fun things…”

And of course there’s the fact that The House of 12 Bunnies is published by Little Hare


New Direction, New Momentum

Plenty of things have been happening in the world of ebooks over the past few weeks, but for the first time I’ve been too busy working on an exciting project of my own to post about them. That project is Momentum, a new digital-only imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia, which was announced today. As a publisher for Momentum, I’ll be looking for books to publish globally, from writers who are digitally savvy, switched on to the possibilities of electronic publishing and, perhaps most importantly, know how to tell a good story.

Momentum will be launching in February 2012 with a truly amazing stable of frontlist authors. I am honoured to get the chance to work with each of these writers, and I look forward to the opportunity to work with new and established authors alike in the future.

We also want to hear from authors who have older titles that are out of print or yet to be digitised who want to inject new life into their old books. There are potentially thousands of books out there that can no longer be accessed online or off and no longer provide an income for the authors who wrote them. Momentum will give these writers the opportunity to breathe new life into previously published work and make them accessible for a new audience of digital readers.

Accessibility is going to be the name of the game for Momentum. Momentum ebooks will be available globally and at an affordable price. The Smell of Books has provided me with a wonderful excuse to listen to digital readers, and I think there is a lot I can do to make the relationship between readers and publishers as open as possible. This is going to be a tremendously exciting time, so I hope you’ll spread the word and contribute your thoughts, ideas and hopefully your books!

As part of this new direction, I’ll be shifting the Smell of Books to a new independent location. I’ll still be blogging on all things bookish, digital and tech, but as the demands of Momentum will be a bigger drain on my time, I’d like to make room for new voices here at Booku. If you’d like to keep up with the Smell of Books, please head over to where I’ll continue to post rants, analysis and news about the digital publishing world. You can also follow me on Twitter @joelnaoum. It’s been a blast, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the people here at Booku and Boomerang Books, especially Clayton Wehner and my fellow bloggers over at Boomerang.

To find out more about Momentum, visit the website at and follow Momentum on Twitter @momentumbooks.



Today, illustrator of The House of 12 Bunnies visits Kids’ Book Capers to talk about being an illustrator and why she chose bunnies for this book.

Have you always enjoyed illustrating?

Yes, when I was small, like many kids, I liked to write stories and illustrate them.  I was one of those children who was always getting in trouble for drawing in class, when I should have been doing something else.

How did you become an illustrator?

I used to do greetings cards and other small illustration jobs all the way through school and uni. I remember doing a design for the mining engineering student society’s badge, and getting paid $20 and some beer. I was pretty happy about that! I studied science, and worked for 7 or 8 years, and later I became a full time illustrator. I started out mainly illustrating educational books, greeting cards and a bit of commercial illustration. Now I mainly illustrate children’s books. I’ve been doing it for about 12 years now.

Where does your inspiration come from?

From all around the place! Recently, I’ve been doing more drawing from life, which is good practice for me, and also makes me look at things properly. I also like to look at other illustrator’s and artist’s work.

What inspired you most about illustrating this book?

I liked the idea of a house full of messy characters. I have friends with little children, and a messy house gives you the impression that there are lots of  fun things going on! Originally, the text was for a house of 12 children, and I made a start drawing them, but it wasn’t really working, and so I tried creating 12 rabbit characters instead, and they seemed much more appealing!

Who is your favourite character and why?

I tried to give each of the 12 rabbits his or her own personality. In each picture, there is a sad little grey rabbit who often misses out. He might be my favourite, I feel a bit sorry for him.

How did you decide what the main character would look like?

The main rabbit is Sophia, who is looking for something. I chose to make her a plain white rabbit, so she stands out from the others and is easy to recognise even if you can only see a tiny part of her, like the tips of her ears.

Can you tell us about the illustrating process for this book?

Firstly, I planned the characters, and it was at this stage they changed from being people to being rabbits! Then I made pencil drawings of all the pages, and sent them off to the editor for her feedback. The designer used these pencil drawings to make the layout, which was great, because then when I came to make the final illustrations, I could incorporate the changes she wanted. It’s great to work with a good designer! Then I went ahead and transferred the pencil drawings to the watercolour paper. Then I painted them.

What was your favourite part of the illustration process?

I quite like making the final artwork. I tend to watch DVDs when I work, and make lots of cups of tea. I like colouring in!

What was the hardest part of the illustration process?

Doing the rough drawings is sometimes quite difficult. In a book like this, where each page has the 12 rabbits in a different room, I tried hard to make sure that all the pages worked together, but that there was also enough variety on each page so they didn’t look too similar.

Did you get to collaborate with the author or did you work fairly independently?

Fairly independently. I didn’t have any communication with the authors.

Can you tell us about the medium you used to illustrate this book?

Pencil and acrylic (which I use like watercolour).

How long did it take to illustrate?

About 6 weeks.

How many books have you illustrated?

About 80

What number is this one?

Perhaps 81?? I’m not sure.

Any tips for people who would like to become children’s book illustrators?

Practice drawing things! In particular, children and animals. Be brave and take your folio around to show publishers.

Anything else of interest you might like to tell our blog readers?

People might be interested to know that my cat Fidel now weighs more than 7 kg!! (haha!) Also, a picture book I wrote and illustrated, ‘Oliver’ is going to be published by Harper Collins in the US next year. I’m very excited about it!

You can find out more about Judith Rossell by checking out her new website at



Today, Caroline Stills is back at Kids’ Book Capers to talk about how she collaborated with her daughter, Sarcia (aged 8 at the time) to create their new book, The House of Bunnies.

What inspired you to write this book?

The House of 12 Bunnies started with my daughter, Sarcia. Like a lot of children, she has always been very creative, and spends lots of her spare time typing up stories or drawing pictures. A couple of years ago, I was reading through some of her stories, and one in particular grabbed me as a great idea for a picture book. It was called The House of 99 Kids, and in the story Sarcia (aged 8 at the time) imagined what would be in each room of a house where so many children lived.

I worked on her initial manuscript, adding more rooms to the house and expanding the text, and sent it to my publisher at Little Hare Books. She liked the idea, but preferred to target it to a younger age group, so I re-wrote it as The House of 12 Children, as most children can count to twelve by the time they start school. Then, together, my publisher and I worked on several more versions of the text, adding layers so that we were educating readers in a subtle way as well as entertaining them, and creating a fun narrative, until we were both happy with the final version. And lastly, after seeing the lovely bunny illustrations created by Judith Rossell, we changed the title to The House of 12 Bunnies.

(They are gorgeous illustrations, aren’t they, Caroline? Tomorrow we’re talking to Judith Rossell about how she created them.)

What’s The House of 12 Bunnies about?

This is what is written on the back cover: When twelve messy bunnies live under the same roof, the rooms nearly burst with fun things to find and count. There are twelve chairs, twelve beds, twelve towels, and twelve of just about everything else! In the middle of all the muddle, Sophia searches for the one thing that will get the bunnies to bed on time.

What age groups is it for?

Children aged 2 to 7. The younger children can have fun helping Sophia find what she is looking for and seeing what the bunnies gets up to in each room. Most readers will be able to find the 12 things on each page, and older readers can even attempt some simple addition.

Why will kids like it?

It’s interesting to imagine living with lots of others, and seeing what each of the bunnies is doing. And it’s essentially a fun search-and-find book to learn about numbers and counting.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

I’m proud to have written this book with my daughter. I hope it encourages lots of other children to try writing their own stories. You never know what could happen.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I love that this book is a real group effort – starting with Sarcia’s original story. I really enjoyed the collaborative process working with the fantastic team at Little Hare Books, who truly care about creating fabulous books for children.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Nothing. It was a terrific experience and process.


National Bookshop Day to be celebrated on 20 August 2011

Support your community by joining with your local bookshop to celebrate the inaugural National Bookshop Day on Saturday 20th August, 2011.

Boomerang Books applauds this initiative by the Australian Booksellers Association to provide publicity for local bookstores. Although we’re an online bookstore, we wholeheartedly support the future prosperity and longevity of Australian bricks-and-mortar booksellers, both chains and independents. These stores enable Australians to access books – a critical requirement in our community.  Unfortunately most Australian bookstores have been doing it tough over the past 12 months and we hope that the the National Bookshop Day will give these stores some of the attention that they deserve.

About National Bookshop Day

On Saturday 20th August 2011, in hundreds of locations across Australia, bookshops will be holding their very first National Bookshop Day. Individual shops will be focusing on their uniqueness, inviting local authors and all members of the community to participate in readings, conversation about books, book busking and a wide range of other activities.

Supported by the Australian Booksellers Association, bookshops will promote the message that local bookshops are an integral part of the Australian way of life. They are the first point of contact between the reader and the books. They care about the customer, the reader, and the books they want to read.

In 2010 66.2 million books were sold in the Australian retail book trade representing $1,257 million*. Based on US research, for every $100 of this spent locally, $68 of that stays in the community. Just under a quarter of all books sold in Australia are children’s books.* (Nielsen BookScan)

“Bookshops have always been an anchor for the cultural and retail communities within Australia.  National Bookshop Day is a time when we can celebrate the unique role of bookshops within the community, and highlight the many ways in which bookshops contribute to the local community and to Australian literature, culture and society.” Joel Becker, CEO, Australian Booksellers Association

So come together at your local bookshop on Saturday 20th August, and celebrate.

Weird Al’s picture book

Weird Al Yankovic! The name is synonymous with clever pop song parodies. A comedic and musical genius (No really, he is a genius… have you ever seen him play a polka on his piano accordion? If you had, you’d agree.), Mr Yankovic has now turned his hand to children’s picture books with When I Grow Up.

I’m a long-time fan of the amazingly talented Weird Al, following his career since he first burst onto the charts in the 1980s with “Eat It”, a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. (Okay yes… he had another album before this one, but it was the “Eat It” single that really propelled him into the limelight.) His popularity and wit have continued through the decades, with songs like “Smells Like Nirvana” (a parody of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) in the 1990s, through to the 21st Century with his latest hilarious offering — “Perform This Way”, a parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.

Now Al is following in the footsteps of pop stars like Madonna and Hilary Duff and becoming an author. (Check out my earlier post, Pop star Authors.) His first book, When I Grow Up, is a kids’ picture book illustrated by Wes Hargis.

You may think it a little odd for a comedy musician to write a kids’ book, but it’s not actually that big a stretch. Although Weird Al’s music is not specifically aimed at kids, his fan base seems to include a fair few young people (when I went to his Melbourne concert a few years ago, a large portion of the audience was made up of families with kids), and his humorous lyrics are often driven by a child-like enthusiasm and a childish irreverence. And he is no stranger to the realm of specific children’s entertainment. In 1988 he narrated a rather unique version of “Peter and the Wolf” on a children’s album made in collaboration with pioneering synth musician Wendy Carlos.

But what about the book? How does When I Grow Up hold up? You know what? It’s funny! It’s a bit weird! And it’s wonderfully entertaining! I loved it… and so did my eight-year-old… and so did my two and a half-year-old.

If you’re a Weird Al fan (and, just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I AM), you’ll immediately recognise his style — the weird leaps in logic, the bizarre juxtapositions — as a young Billy tells his class what he might like to be when he grows up. The humour is good-natured, child-like and delightful. As well as being funny, it’s also a testimonial to the importance of education, good teachers… and leaving your options open.

The illustrations compliment the text very well indeed — not an easy task given the bizarre potential occupations Billy comes up with.

All up, this is pretty much a perfect picture book — a book that adults are likely to find just as entertaining as the kids they are reading it to. A big thumbs up for Mr Yankovic. I hope he writes more books.

NEWS FLASH: Latest news is that When I Grow Up is now available as an iTunes app for iPad, iPhone and iTouch. (Okay, okay, a newspaper article dated 17 June doesn’t constitute latest news given that it’s now August… but it sounds more dramatic that way.)

Oh, and here’s a book trailer…

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll “rip my heart right out of my ribcage with my bare hands and then throw it on the floor and stomp on it ’till I die”. 🙂


The Naked Boy and the Crocodile book to raise funds for indigenous literacy

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile, thirteen stories written by Aboriginal kids from some of the remotest parts of Australia, will raise funds to help more children in the bush gain literacy skills.  You can pre-order the book now from Boomerang Books…

The stories have been edited and collected by Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s ambassador and bestselling children’s author, Andy Griffiths, and will be sold on Indigenous Literacy Day, Wednesday 7 September.

Every book sold will help raise funds to provide books and literacy resources to over 200 communities across Australia.

Griffiths conducted writing workshops with kids aged 6 years+ and traveled as far afield as the edge of the Great Sandy Desert to the Kimberleys and right to the very the heart of Australia. Some of the communities he’s visited in the past three years include Manyallayuk (NT), Wyndham (WA), Warburton (WA) and Wilcannia in NW-NSW.

In some remote Indigenous communities only one in five children can read at the accepted minimum level. And for many of the children Griffiths worked with, English was their third or sometimes fourth language.

But Griffiths encouraged them to write down stories of their lives — and then illustrate them! The Naked Boy and the Crocodile is the result.

“These lively stories tell of ‘riding motorbikes … hunting for emu eggs and wild pigs’ and include ‘tales of terrifying turkeys, angry spirits, farcical football matches’. And there’s one about a very hungry crocodile with a preference for eating naked people!”, says Andy in the introduction.

Visiting the communities, the city-dwelling Griffiths has been constantly reminded of how much reading and writing are taken for granted in our print-soaked culture — and of just how much he doesn’t know.

“Sharing stories is a two-way street,” he says.

Every copy sold of The Naked Boy and the Crocodile will support these young, enthusiastic emerging authors — and provide funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation to continue its vital work of promoting literacy in remote Indigenous communities across Australia.


Indigenous Literacy Day is a national campaign on Wednesday 7 September that aims to raise funds and awareness of literacy issues in Indigenous communities in the remotest parts of Australia. Run by The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, funds raised go to buy books and provide access to literacy resources to help improve the lives and opportunities of Indigenous children living in remote and isolated regions of Australia.

Over the past 2 ½ years The Indigenous Literacy Foundation has sent over 70,000 books to over 200 communities to the remotest parts of Australia, launched an early literacy project in three communities and worked with remote communities on literacy projects including language translations and recording of local stories. The foundation is an initiative of the Australian Book Industry. Go to: for further details.

Boomerang Books is a proud sponsor of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Video Post: On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry

As they used to say in Ireland, the devil only comes into good things. Narrated by Lilly Bere, On Canaan’s Side opens as she mourns the loss of her grandson, Bill. The story then goes back to the moment she was forced to flee Dublin, at the end of the First World War, and follows her life through into the new world of America, a world filled with both hope and danger. At once epic and intimate, Lilly’s narrative unfurls as she tries to make sense of the sorrows and troubles of her life and of the people whose lives she has touched. Spanning nearly seven decades, it is a novel of memory, war, family-ties and love, which once again displays Sebastian Barry’s exquisite prose and gift for storytelling.

Buy the book here…

All books by Sebastian Barry…

Sebastian Barry Discusses ‘On Canaan’s Side’ from FaberBooks on Vimeo.

Sebastian Barry Reads from ‘On Canaan’s Side’ from FaberBooks on Vimeo.

The Problem With Ebooks

Eat Pray LoveForget the debates about format and whether or not their rise heralds the death of the physical book. I’ve realised the fundamental flaw with ebooks is that they drive sticky beaks like me mental.

It goes like this: As an avid reader and poacher of books, I’m perpetually on the lookout for my next acquisition. Public transport has traditionally been a place of inspiration, as I get to see what everyone’s reading and work out whether I want to read it myself.

Admittedly there’s also a bit of judgment thrown in with said checking out of books, and I’ve often been surprised as the titles people have unashamedly been reading in public.

I mean, Eat Pray Love/Vom, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?, and various other titles that cover relationship woes or suspicious health symptoms are best left on the bedside table.

But the advent of the eBook means that I can no longer easily tell what anyone’s reading and that I realised—as I found myself not-so-subtly leaning in to try to read the ink on the reader’s virtual page—I’m reduced to committing crazy-train-lady social faux pas.

Men Are From MarsFortunately, the person whose ereader I was leaning over didn’t look up. The book she was reading was apparently so incredibly absorbing she didn’t notice someone invading her personal space.

Frustratingly, I still don’t know which book it is—the snippets of text I caught didn’t give me any hints, and even those snippets were difficult to catch as her ereader of choice wasn’t backlit.

Possibly, though, others on the train noticed what I was up to and cast me into the crazy lady who reads over others’ shoulders. That or they think I’m a complete tight ass who doesn’t buy her own books and instead freeloads off others. Not altogether unfair judgments, really.

Of course, the upside to ereaders is that people can read otherwise embarrassing books about relationship heartache and suspicious, potentially communicable health issues.

I personally will be able to read the latest edition of Vampire Academy without having to almost do myself a contortion-related injury trying to conceal the soppy, Mills-and-Boon-meets-young-adult-fiction cover that draws both the eye and the you’re-reading-that incredulity…

If I'm So WonderfulI guess I should rephrase that opening statement to say that I’ve realised the fundamental flaw with others’ ebooks is that they drive sticky beaks like me mental.

It’s ok for me to conceal what I’m reading, but the fact that I can’t see your book cover means I absolutely have to know what’s being read. Do us a favour and tilt your screen a little so I can see the text without having to lean too far in, will you?

Rubber Ducky, you’re the one

When people think of engrossing stories with fantastical and multi-layered plots they normally envisage novels but non-fiction can also sweep you far away from the shores you know. If you’ve ever wanted to get lost in a good (non-fiction) book, Moby Duck is non-fiction release that allows you to get as engrossed and lost in the tale as the author did in the researching of it.

Moby-Duck is, to use the very long subtitle on the book-jacket, the true story of 28,800 bath toys lost at sea and of the beachcombers, oceanographers, environmentalists, and fools, including the author, who went in search of them. In 1992, a container crate of  “Friendly Floatees” bath toys washed off a container ship travelling from Hong Kong to the US, throwing more than 28 thousand bath toys into the ocean. Liberated from the confines of their damaged crates, the little bath toys bobbed to surface, transforming their patch of ocean into the world’s biggest bathtub – perfect for the bobbing rubber ducks.

And so they bobbed their way through the oceans currents before eventually some washed up on the beaches of the USA and Canada. Andso Donovan Hohn, author of Moby Duck, decided he would track them down and tell their story and be home, metaphorically, in time for tea and for when his heavily pregnant wife gave birth.

It seems like it should be  very short book with a very long title but curiosity can make Ahabs of us all and Hohn’s quarry – the boggle-eyed yellow rubber duck escaped from the ships – is an elusive target. The story keeps changing. The Floatee toys weren’t made of rubber. Or ducks – only a quarter were the bright yellow bathtub toy so ubiquitous in our bathrooms (the rest were beavers, frogs and turtle). And yellow isn’t a normal colour for duck. And, in addition to wondering where all the bath toys ended up, Donovan finds out more about how they ended up in the container in the first place; where do all these bath toys get made, how are they shipped and what what happens when they end up somewhere other than on your bathroom shelf?

Like Captain Ahab, Donovan Hohn finds himself sailing the breadth of the seas in his search for answers; from exploring life as a hobbyist beachcomber to close quarters with passionate enviromentalists, from the decks of passenger ferries and research vessels to some of the most remote beaches in the world, from penetrating shipping conglomerates to Chinese toy factories. Moby-Duck journies accross the sea and through science and myth in its quest for answers and with every new answer, Hohn finds another question, and comes closer to understanding where his castaway quarry comes from and where it goes.

I’m a dabbler in other types of books but what brings me back repeatedly to non-fiction reading is – when done well – the sheer breadth of subjects it takes on and the passion that it devotes to it. Moby Duck is a great new offering in that tradition; a treasure hunt and an enviromental analysis, an account of one man’s obsession, his life as a new father and how the seas sailed by his rubber ducks – and the processes that brings them to our bathrooms – affects us all.

Moby-Duck The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them


L-R: Sarcia and Caroline Stills with their new book

Caroline Stills and her daughter Sarcia are the authors of a gorgeous new picture book, The House of 12 Bunnies due for release on 20th August. Today, Caroline visits Kids’ Book Capers to tell us about her writing journey.

How did you become a writer?

I started to take my writing seriously when my first daughter was born, back in 2000. No longer in the paid workforce, I figured that I would have plenty of time to write – after all, babies spend so much time sleeping – right? The reality of the emotional rollercoaster of being a new parent – and sleep deprivation – soon set in, but I did start putting pen to paper, and joined a writers’ group for added support. My first attempts at writing were for adults, but inspired by my children, I wrote the text for a picture book a few years ago, and was extremely fortunate to have the result “Magic Mummy” published as my first picture book.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

I love being a writer – it’s fun creating new characters, stories and worlds. The best part is being able to work from home, so I can combine my writing with being a mum, which is my most important job.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Having a manuscript rejected is never easy. And it’s hard to make a living solely from writing, but I’m working on that!

What were you in a past life (if anything) before you became a writer?

Immediately before I started writing, I was co-running a business designing and selling maternity wear, which my business partner and I started from scratch. Before that I worked as a remuneration analyst at a bank and as a Tafe teacher. And before that I did lots of odd jobs to pay my way through University.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

I can’t name an achievement as my greatest – maybe it’s still to come – but I do feel chuffed each time I walk into a shop and see one of my books on the shelves.

What are you working on at the moment?

I always have a picture-book or two on the go, but I am also trying other types of writing. I have just finished my first novel manuscript for middle school aged children, and have just started my first attempt at a Young Adult novel, which I’m excited about and very much enjoying.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

If writing is your passion, enjoy the journey. I also think a good writers’ group is really invaluable, both for what you can learn from each other, but also for the emotional support from those who know just how you feel.

How many books have you had published?

Three picture books:

Magic Mummy, illustrated by Christina Miesen, published by Black Dog Books in 2009.

An A to Z of Pirates, illustrated by Heath McKenzie, published by Little Hare Books in 2010.

The House of 12 Bunnies, co-written with my daughter, Sarcia, illustrated by Judith Rossell, and published by Little Hare Books, has just been released.

Book number four – An A to Z of Fairies – is due for release in a couple of months.

Anything else of interest you might like to tell our blog readers?

We will be celebrating the release of The House of 12 Bunnies, on August 20, 2011. Please see my website for more details;

On Wednesday, Caroline is back at Kids’ Book Capers to talk about how she and Sarcia wrote The House of 12 Bunnies. Illustrator, Judith Rossell is visiting on Thursday to talk about how she created the wonderful pics, and on Friday there will be a bunny review here at Kids’ Book Capers. Hope you can join us.


Writing Bites

It’s endlessly fascinating how and where great writers create their masterpieces—perhaps in part because writing is so damn difficult we figure there must be some secret place these guys go or some divine muse they tap into. As an emerging writer myself, any crumbs of information or inspiration I can glean are invaluable.

This Guardian newspaper black-and-white photo series of writers with their typewriters is something I return to regularly. It comforts me that the greats did what I do daily, which is to sit and think and attempt to tap out thoughts via a word processor. It takes away a bit of the mystery and reminds me that there aren’t any secrets to writing—just lots of slog.

These photos also give some insight into those writers who do their best work surrounded by stuff—other books, older drafts, and coffee cups. Me? I need to have a space completely free of clutter.

And stimuli, if I’m being honest. Save for a single white orchid and my laptop stand, my desk and office are empty of anything to look at or play with. The walls are art-free and the blinds are pulled down so I can’t see out the window. The latter also has something to do with my propensity for developing migraines and the unfortunate backlighting-glare the window casts over my desk.

It’s never occurred to me, though, to wonder what those writers ate/eat while they pen great works. Most of the iconic photos show them existing on a steady diet of cigarettes and coffee. Then there’s the general notion that many writers are fuelled by alcohol.

Turns out some writers consume/consumed slightly more than that, although the quirky variety of foods of choice displayed here visually also made me chuckle. I’ve long been infamous among family and friends for my strange eating habits, and my writing diet sees me exist fairly steadily on things like Diet Coke, dried apricots, pistachio nuts, milk bottle lollies (the proper, expensive lolly shop-bought ones; not the nasty supermarket imitators), steamed green beans, pumpkin soup with lashings of sour cream and salt, and strawberries.

Sounds like a not entirely awful mix, but I tend to eat only one or two of them at a time. Seems my eating habits are no more odd than many of my more famous and successful counterparts. Byron had a propensity for vinegar. F. Scott Fitzgerald combined apples and Spam (the faux meat, not the emails).

Steinbeck didn’t believe fresh is best, with stale coffee and toast on the cards (although I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was probably because he was so absorbed in his work and so inspired and free-flowing in his writing that he forgot about his food until it was in such a state).

Lemony Snicket author Daniel Handler eats raw carrots (which I give the thumbs up, also being a fan), but leaves the leftover tops around his desk (which I give the thumbs down—see previous para about not being able to write with clutter).

Emily Dickinson’s home-baked bread sounds like heaven, and Joyce Maynard’s lime popsicle eating makes writing almost sound fun. I’ll be aiming to adopt these two in coming months—let you know how I go (and if it helps my writing).

Browsing the bookshelves of the rich and famous

Ever wandered into someone’s home and made a beeline for their bookshelves? I’m betting you have. Few things are as enticing to the bibliophile as unfamiliar shelves – and few things as revealing as the books that people choose to read. Does your host prefer weighty historical reads or hot romance novels? Glossy biographies or modern poetry? War and Peace or Shane Warne’s biography? Or all of these and then more?

I am informed that browsing the inside of their bathroom cabinet is the best window to average person’s psyche. (I did meet someone who converted their bathroom into a library, possibly with the urge of making the contents of their cabinet less appealing. Bookshelves adorned two of the four walls from skirting board to ceiling, making a quick trip to the loo all but impossible as you kept finding things you wanted to read while you were there.)

But skimming through closed cupboards seems both invasive and unlikely to throw up good recommendations for future reads, so I am going with flicking your eye over their book collection as the window to the soul.
I’ve had a good browse through many of my mate’s books but the homes and libraries of the rich and famous have always been out of bounds – until recently when I stumbled across a site called Beautiful Libraries. It compiles pictures of lush and lavish libraries, from open-to-all public libraries and to the collections of corporations to those kept by royalty and the church, as well as those owned by famous actors, entertainers and politicians.

I’m not normally much interested by celebrities but this is fascinating. Who knew that Karl Largerfeld had one of the world’s largest private libraries, with over 60,000 books, mostly on fashion or art, arranged on steel shelves three stories tall in his photo studio apartment in Central Paris? That Nigella Lawson’s appetite for books would be near prolific as her passion for food?

Or that Keith Richards would devote such a glorious space, a massive octagonal chamber lined with shelves from floor to ceiling, to holding his favourite reads? (I did have a good squint, but couldn’t spot his own book in there. Nor could I find a copy of the hilarious and oddly thoughtful What Would Keith Richards Do, presumably as he doesn’t need to check its pages to find out.)

It begs the question – with unlimited time and dedication to build a reading room, what would you do? Surround yourself with steel and white light like Largerfeld or build a cosy den like Christina Ricci? Would a few shelves content you or, like Keith, do you want a huge room walled with books? Fireplace or airy windowsill?

And would you consider shelving up the smallest room, or do you think it would be simpler to just put a lock on the bathroom cabinet?

In defence of eBooks

.    Image: Tina Phillips /

Yesterday’s post had the inflammatory, and slightly misleading title of “The anti-eBook rant”. So to balance things out a bit, today I present to you, “In defence of eBooks”. Of course, as with yesterday’s title, it is a bit misleading. I’m not really going to defend eBooks — they don’t need defending… they’re doing quite nicely without my metaphorical sword and shield.

Yesterday I outlined why I don’t currently read eBooks. Today I’m going to tell you under what circumstances I would use them in the foreseeable future.

Remember what I wrote about my need for a physical product? About how I purchase music on CD and then transfer it to my iPod. Well, if the dead-tree books that I purchased came with a digital copy as well… then perhaps I could be enticed into giving it a go. I can imagine a scenario…

I have purchased Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy in lovely hardcover volumes. They come in a limited edition, collectable slipcase, which also contains a medallion of the Magicians’ Guild logo with an engraved code. I hop online, enter my code and download my digital copy of the trilogy. I load it up onto my mobile phone. I then proceed to read the lovely hardcovers. But then I get stuck on a train that has broken down between stations… and I finish the first book… and I don’t have the next one with me… oh wait… I whip out my phone and begin to read book two.

But am I going to go out and specifically puchase an eBook copy of every dead-tree book I buy, on the off chance that I’ll need it in an emergency? I don’t think so.

So, under what other circumstances could I be enticed over to the digital side?

If I was to go back to study (and I do occasionally toy with the idea of a PhD), I think that I would use eBooks. The idea of heading off to Uni with just an iPad, rather than a bagful of books is rather appealing. As is the ability to search reference books. Yes, if I were a student I would definitely use eBooks.

What else?

Sometimes, my wife and I talk about our retirement — about a not-too-distant future, after we’ve kicked the kids out and earned enough money to do some extensive travelling. We talk about selling our house, downsizing to a small apartment, and heading off to explore the world in six-month long expeditions. And if this were ever to come true, I think I’d much rather pack an eBook reader than a suitcase full of books that I’d have to carry from one country to the next.

But, until the world travel or the return to study begins, or until dead-tree books come with a digital copy enclosed… I’ll stick with the good, old-fashioned dead-tree books.

Readers of eBooks, feel free to hurl abuse at me in the comments section below. 🙂

Oh, and check out this really good blog post about eBooks from Melbourne author Narrelle M Harris — I don’t love books! (I love stories.)

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… you know, if there was a dead-tree version of Twitter, I’d be using it! 😉



Nog and the Land of Noses is Bruce Whatley’s hilarious new picture book.

It’s the story of Nog who is the only one in town who doesn’t have a nose that does anything useful. His family and friends have noses that can do all sorts of things; sniff out a bargain, play music and even catch fish.

But all Nog could catch was a cold.

Nog would dearly love to have a nose that had some use, but one hasn’t been discovered yet. Grandma has always said Nog has a nose for trouble, but that hasn’t come to fruition yet – until the day Nog sniffs out a pepper storm and saves the town from catastrophe.

Nog didn’t know he had a nose for trouble until ‘trouble’ came to the Land of the Noses!

Kids love playing nose games and the things that come out of noses are of particular fascination so this book has plenty to tickle their sense of humour.

I found so much to love about Nog and the Land of Noses. The text is clever and the illustrations are hilarious. I think my favourites were the blocked noses, the running noses and the picked noses.

While this book is funny and colourful and quirky, it has an important underlying theme – that everyone has their own special qualities.

I can imagine readers of all ages from 0 to adult having a lot of fun with this book.

Nog and the Land of Noses is published by Scholastic Australia.

The anti-eBook rant

How’s that for a catchy title? It’s a bit inflammatory isn’t it? A little over-the-top? And actually, it’s not very accurate either. But I thought it made a great title for a blog post, so there you have it.

Image: Maggie Smith /


I’m not actually going to rant against eBooks, because… well… I don’t really have anything against them. What does it matter if you read eBooks or dead-tree books, so long as you read? But I am going to tell you about my relationship with eBooks — which is currently non-existent. That may well change in the future — but for the moment, I don’t read eBooks and I don’t have any intention of reading eBooks.

So why am I writing about them? As an author, people keep asking my opinion of them. Will they change the face of publishing? Will they result in the downfall of the bricks and mortar bookstore? Will people’s reading habits be changed forever? Am I worried? Do I care?

I can’t answer any of those questions. But what I can tell you about is why I don’t use eBooks.

Firstly, there is that whole ‘smell of books’ argument, that’s been written about a lot already. I like the feel of a book — the experience of turning the pages, touching the paper, and yes, the smell of a book, old or new. Reading, for me, is more than the words on the page — it’s the all-round experience of discovering a book, holding it in my hands, feeling the weight of it, touching the cover and turning its pages. And while I can’t deny that there is a certain experience to the eBook, my preference is for the dead-tree experience.

Secondly, I am rather attached to the old fashioned notion (and I acknowledge that in this digital age it is an extremely old fashioned notion) that when you pay for a product, you actually receive a physical product — something that you can touch and feel; something that has substance; something that has a physical presence. The idea of a book, sitting in digital form, on my computer or eBook reader or iPad, simply does not appeal.

It’s the same, for me, with music. Just because MP3s are available for purchase at the click of a mouse, I have not been inspired to stop collecting CDs (and, in case you’re interested in knowing, I still have a large collection of vinyl as well… yes, yes, I’m old and living in the past). Now, I don’t entirely shun new technology. I happen to love my iPod — I am totally enamoured with the ability to take my entire music collection with me wherever I go. But I do not buy MP3s. I buy CDs and then transfer them to MP3. When I purchase music, I like to have a physical product — a case, a booklet and a disc. And so it is with books.

Thirdly, there is the fact that I don’t have a great need to change the format of what I read. I work from home and I rarely use public transport — and when I do, carrying a book with me is not an inconvenience. In my current position in life (with a young family) I don’t do a huge amount of travelling. When I do travel, the trips are fairly short and one or two books are enough to take with me… and they don’t take up too much room.

Would things be different on longer trips? I’m not sure. Thinking back to the longer pre-children holidays, I didn’t need to bring many books. During a four-week trip to Egypt, I did hardly any reading. Days were spent sightseeing, and by the time evening came around I was too tired to read and would fall asleep. There was only a short period of relative non-activity — a three-day boat ride along the Nile. I read the one book I brought with me during that time — Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. And then there was a four-week holiday in England. I brought two books with me and didn’t read either of them, because I was too busy reading the plethora of books that I bought during the trip.

Fourthly, if I drop a book into the bath it will get soggy, but after it dries, I’ll still be able to read it. 🙂

So… will I forever avoid reading eBooks? Find out tomorrow in my next post, entitled “In Defence of eBooks”.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… in the digital world, where I promise you will not be able to touch or smell me. 😉



Button Boy is a charming new picture book by Rebecca Young and Sue deGennaro.

Lots of kids love to collect things and in Banjo’s case, it’s buttons. He collects buttons of all shapes, colours and sizes and grandma sews them onto his jumper.

I liked Banjo’s quirkiness, that he finds something a little different to do to keep himself busy. Buttons seem to be such an easy thing to lose so it’s not surprising that Banjo manages to collect so many.

He has a jumper full of buttons but one day he goes to the banyan tree and finds an unhappy little girl who has lost a button.

Grandma Woolly had sewn the girl’s missing ducky button on his jumper just a week ago.

Banjo gives the little girl back her button and this starts him on a quest where one by one he returns the buttons he has found. Soon people are gathering at the banyan tree to collect their missing buttons.

After he has given all the buttons back, Banjo looks around for something else to collect and discovers something that can bring him even more happiness.

Button Boy is a gentle story about a boy’s journey of discovery, about friendship, love, honesty and how the search for one thing can lead to another.

This sensitive text is created by Rebecca Young and the joyful illustrations are by Sue deGennaro. Button Boy is published by Scholastic Australia.

Dracula down under

Vampires! Lots of them! And they are in Australia. In our past, our present and our future. Thirty-three blood-sucking stories in one huge book — Dead Red Heart.

Lately, I’ve been hearing talk that the vampire has had his day in popular fiction, at least for the time being… That the sparkliness of some recent vampires has dulled the appeal of the blood-sucking genre. And yet they keep showing up. From the recent YA novel Department 19 (reviewed here) and its upcoming sequel, to a new picture book by Margaret Wild and Andrew Yeo, called Vampyre. Despite what some people may say, I don’t think there’s any danger of the fictional vampire fading into obscurity.

I’m particularly enamoured with vampire stories set in Australia. Apart from a simple interest in my homeland, the concept of vampires in ‘a sunburnt country’ is rather fascinating. One of my favourite vampire novels is Narrelle M Harris’s Melbourne-based tale, The Opposite of Life. I’m told that a sequel is on the way, and I’m very much looking forward to it. Then there’s the Sydney-based Solace and Grief by Foz Meadows. The sequel, The Key to Starveldt, comes out in October.

But while I’m waiting for these two sequels, I’m satisfying my bloodlust with Dead Red Heart. Edited by Russell B Farr and published by Australian small press publisher Ticonderoga Publications, it contains stories from writers both established and new. Even I feature in its pages with a little story called “Vitality”, about a vampire and a hill hoist.

Dead Red Heart is large book, and I’ve got a stack of review books to get through, so I’ve been dipping into this anthology rather than working my way from cover to cover in one go. I’ve been picking out a couple of stories between each of the novels I’m reading. I’m not even half the way through but I am enjoying it immensely. Despite the common subject matter, there are such a variety of stories. My favourites so far are Felicity Dowker’s wonderful tale of vampires, tattoos and revenge, “Red Delicious”, and Jeremy Sadler’s take on the Ned Kelly story, “Such is Life”.

“Such is Life” deserves a bit of a special mention in that it is the author’s first professionally published story. So I asked Jeremy to tell us a little about his publishing experience…

It did not feel real until the book was in my hands. I had sent my story, “Such Is Life”, off into the wild with the expectation that I would never hear about it again. Though secretly, deep inside, metaphorical fingers were crossed.

Everything I’ve written up to this point that appeared in the public domain has been self-published. From various fanzines to a partnership in producing Frontier: The Australian Science Fiction Media Magazine, to articles and reviews on the Internet, it has always been my hand that has delivered my words to the world.

This makes it a momentous occasion for me when someone else deems something I have written as worthy of publication. I never anticipated my first “professional” published work would be Australian vampire fiction — but then it seems so appropriate.

The book in my hands finally gave substance to the excitement, and there was a certain joy in re-reading what I had written, as if it was new. It sat among fabulous company from notable authors. How could I not be pleased?

Now it’s a matter of using that excitement to feed more writing and having more items published, and to enjoy even more “now it feels real” moments.

My thanks to Jeremy for sharing his “now it feels real” moment with us. If any other first-time authors would like to share their experiences, leave a comment. And if you’ve got a favourite vampire book you’d like to tell everyone about… yes, you guessed it… leave a comment!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll bite ya!


The There’s No More Vampire Academy Books Mourning Period Is Almost Over!

Vampire AcademyIrony is finding out that after months of moaning and moping about (and subjecting others to it) that there’s a new book coming out in the series you desperately love, then realising that you will neither be in the country when it’s released. Nor will you—even if you somehow manage to get it into your hot little hands—have the time to read it. Gah!

For those of you who will be available and keen to read such a title, news has it that there will be a new Vampire Academy book available in less than three weeks. Yep, as of 23 August the There’s No More Vampire Academy Books mourning period will be over.

Or at least, it’ll be over until I’ve finished Bloodlines, which will realistically take (once I get hold of it) about a day. Then the There’s No More Vampire Academy Books mourning period will recommence.

It will, of course, also be temporarily be replaced by I’m Overseas Working My Patootie Off And Unable To Get Hold Of An English Version Or Even Find The Time To Read Said Book If I Had It moaning. And a strictly enforced technology black out as I attempt not to inadvertently read some massive plot spoiler, such as ‘OMG Dumbledore is dead?!’

Replace ‘Dumbledore’ with ‘Dimitri’ and the scale of shock is the same (arguably even larger, with heartbreak thrown into the mix). But that—spoiler alert—has already been done in this series. Surely it can’t happen again. Can it?

The plot so far revealed to us is as follows:

Blood doesn’t lie. Sydney is an alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of human and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives. When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she thinks she’s still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway.

But what unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir—the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir—is in mortal danger, and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydney is called upon to act as Jill’s guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the last place anyone would think to look for vampire royalty—a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California.

But instead of finding safety at Amberwood Prep, Sydney discovers the drama is only just beginning. Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive—this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone’s out for blood.

I know. It’s guaranteed to be spring break meets vampires. Any money there are jokes at vapid American high schoolers’/High School Musical’s expense. Any money there’s a hot human love interest for Jill and/or Sydney. That and that Dimitri and Rose simply must make an ass-kicking appearance—after all, they’re the best and the ones we fell in love with.

You’ll find out first how accurate or otherwise these predictions are, as I’ll be overseas working insane hours and being torn between wanting to hear your verdict and not wanting to know anything at all. Before you mention it, I’ve considered the ebook option. The work time constraints have already kyboshed that. No really, I’ve already been explicitly told not even think about bringing a book I want to finish as there will be no time for reading and maybe not even much for sleeping.

I’ve tried to score myself an advanced review copy from Penguin so I could tackle it before I go, but they clearly don’t deem me large enough fry to warrant one (or even an email reply). They clearly don’t realise how many people I’ve rabbitted on to about it (even my friends’ boyfriends and husbands are completely aware of who Dimitri is). Instead, I’m going to ask you a favour. Come August 23, can you please make sure you don’t tell me the plot, but do tell me if you’ve enjoyed it?

Puntland’s Pirates

Deadly WatersWith stories about Somali pirates confined to 30-second, us-v-them news grabs, few of us (including the journalists putting together those news grabs) understand the complex reasons why these pirates exist. One Canadian journalist—a fresh-out-of-uni freelancer, no less—set out to find out precisely what drives people to roam the ocean with not even enough fuel or food to see them safely back to shore and to kidnap ships and crews in the hope of extracting large ransoms.

The answers Jay Bahadur found are surprising and show the greyness of the issues underpinning piracy. These include the fact that rampant and illegal over-fishing by the kinds of commercial ships the pirates now kidnap killed off the fish stocks and left some of these former fishermen with no choice but to turn to piracy. Throw in a mysterious-sounding place called ‘Puntland’, a special kind of ‘pirate math’, and a reference to the game ‘Whac-a-Mole’, and what you have is a compelling read.

I spoke to Bahadur ahead of his Australian tour to find out a little more about Deadly Waters, his experiences while writing it, and what he’s got planned next…

I’ve got to admit that I’ve never heard of Puntland and that I think the name sounds made up. Is that the reaction you had when you first discovered it?

It’s hard to remember my exact reaction on discovering Puntland, because it would have been when I was studying Somalia in university, seven years ago. But the name ‘Punt’ is taken from the Ancient Egyptian accounts of a land rich in ebony and frankincense, which may (or may not) be the same as the Puntland of modern times. Puntland’s founders apparently thought it was.

You were a new graduate and freelancer when you tackled this project—something that many more established journalists hadn’t and haven’t. How important do you think a bit of naivety and enthusiasm were to making it happen? How has it influenced your career/others’ opinions of you since?

Many people I’ve spoken to (including close friends) thought that what I was doing was insane, but I never saw it that way; I saw it as a justified calculated risk. In my mind, the book was already a reality—all I had to do was to go to Somalia and bring it into being.

It may sound odd, or arrogant, but I never really doubted that some publisher would end up buying the book…the subject matter was just so engrossing, and I was really the only foreign journalist staying in Somalia long enough to get the whole story.

The book opens with you taking a fairly dubious flight and you require personal security throughout the trip. Did you feel safe at any stage? Were there any hairy moments that didn’t make it into the book?

The scariest moments were during the flight on my first trip into Somalia, not knowing if I was going to be picked up at the airstrip (I had not yet met my host and partner, a local journalist named Mohamad Farole). A lone white man hanging around a Somali airstrip would be prime kidnap bait, and I was ready to beg any of the other passengers to take me home for the night if my ride didn’t show.

There were also a few dodgy moments when I was in the coastal areas, questioning a pirate gang that had gathered in anticipation of an impending ransom delivery. I started asking the wrong questions, and one of the gang leaders took exception…but you can read about that in the book!

You note that there wasn’t much research available and that most major media organisations give 30-second sound bites that don’t delve into (or even understand) the complex issues that underpin piracy. How much of the book could you research/plan?

The best information available at the time I began working on the book was contained in a handful of UN reports, which were by then already out of date. I had composed a list of very basic questions—who are the pirates, who is funding them, do they have links to terrorists, etc.—but mostly I tried to keep an open mind and figure things out when I got there.

What’s the reaction been to/action inspired by your book?

The reviews have been very positive, so far. It’s a little too soon after the launch to judge what action it has inspired, but I hope it will stimulate a more serious policy debate about potential solutions to the piracy problem. With some exceptions, I haven’t been too impressed with the quality of the current scholarship.

You note the unreliability of your sources, including that they don’t give you full information or that their figures don’t add up/dates don’t match. How frustrating was that for you? How did you overcome it?

Yes, ‘pirate math’, as I call it, often didn’t add up. Ombaali, a hostage guard whom I interviewed soon after I first arrived in Puntland, was a prime example. He claimed to have worked for Abshir Boyah—a veteran pirate boss who became the main character in my book—but Boyah denied ever having employed him.

He also claimed to have made $50,000 over the course of three hijackings, but when I worked through his numbers (he told me that the guards collectively earned 30% of the ransom), I discovered that he couldn’t have made much more than $19,000. I strongly considered completely junking the interview, but in the end decided to use it; it was the sort of decision that journalism school definitely could have helped me with.

I was really surprised that the victims you spoke to didn’t seem too traumatised by the experience. Is that across the board or were they exceptions to the rule?

I’m not really sure, having only spoken to two former hostages. The ones I interviewed, however, were treated relatively well; in more recent days, hostages have been subjected to escalating brutality, as the pirates have employed methods such as beatings, mock executions, and using prisoners as human shields.

More than one has committed suicide; on the MV Iceberg, a vessel that has now been held captive for well over a year, one crew member jumped overboard and drowned while trying to escape. With the ransom money going through the roof, the international naval forces more willing to use violence, and the pirates increasingly paranoid and jittery, the plight of hostages is likely only to worsen going forward.

My favourite diagram is where you show the expansion in piracy. The dots are incredible, but at the same time don’t feel real. Is that perhaps the issue with Puntland’s piracy? That we recognise it in theory and know that’s expanding, but we don’t quite know how to tackle it?

The problem is that the international naval forces cannot possibly cover an area of almost eight million square kilometres—roughly four-fifths the size of the United States—with a few dozen warships. The prospect of addressing the problem on land immediately conjures up images of the 1993 ‘Black Hawk Down’ incident, in which 18 US Army Rangers were killed and mutilated by Somali militiamen. Somalia is such a mess right now that no Western country would ever seriously consider putting boots on the ground.

You liken the efforts to contain pirates like playing a game of ‘Whac-a-Mole’. If you could recommend three strategies to implement right now to address the issues, what would they be?

A solution on land is a must. I suggest a five-point plan in the book, including the establishment of coastal garrisons in Puntland—equipped with radar stations, high frequency radios, and all-terrain vehicles—as well as local ‘pirate hotlines’, which would offer small rewards for intelligence tip-offs from local informants. The pirates are almost universally hated in the local communities, which is a resource that should be exploited.

You note that as big/even bigger than the issue of piracy is the issue of what to do with pirates once they’re caught. How can we address this human rights issue?

Deciding what to do with pirates is more a legal, logistical, and financial issue than a human rights issue. While most countries have a direct interest in ending piracy, none want to deal with the cost of dozens, or even hundreds, of essentially stateless persons clogging up their legal systems. In some countries, such as the UK, pirates may even be within their rights to claim asylum.

In the book, I suggest setting up regional tribunals, and ultimately funding prisons in Puntland and Somaliland where convicted pirates can serve out their terms. It’s the same approach as the one currently advocated by the UN special adviser on piracy, Jack Lang, but UN machinery is notoriously slow and cumbersome. These things take time.

On pay day, pirates throw their mobile phones into the water so no one can organise an ambush back on shore. Is it just me, or is that a problem environmentally? I’m envisaging a lot of toxic chemical-laden phones on the bottom of the harbour.

That was the practice of one pirate gang I investigated while in Puntland’s coastal areas. Even if it were a common occurrence, a few mobile phones on the ocean floor would be the least of Somalia’s problems.

Knowing what you know now, would you go in and research and write this book again?

Without a doubt. It’s worked out even better than I could have imagined. It was a sort of counter case for Murphy’s Law: everything that could have gone right, did go right.

What can we expect next from you?

I’m working with several colleagues on launching a citizen journalism website, Journalist Nation ( In a nutshell, our aim is to become a home for the numerous newsworthy cell phone videos ones sees floating around YouTube. My hope is to use the publicity surrounding the book to promote Journalist Nation (like I’m doing right now!).

You’re coming to the Brisbane Writers Festival (I’m currently based in Brisbane so am looking forward to it). Where else can we catch you in Australia?

After the festival I’ll be heading to Gleebooks in Sydney and also the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. I’m really looking forward to it. This will be my first time in Australia.

I’m looking forward to it too. I’ll be in Jay’s Brisbane Writers Festival session(s) if you’d like to join me.

Richard Harland and Liberator

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reading Liberator, the sequel to Richard Harland’s YA steampunk novel, Worldshaker. Having loved Liberator just as much as Worldshaker, I contacted Richard and asked him for an interview. Here it is…

Did you always plan to (or at least hope to) write a second book? Or was Worldshaker meant to be a stand-alone novel?

It happened the way it usually happens for me. I planned Worldshaker as a stand-alone, but on the way through writing it, I started to think about possible future developments. By the time I reached the end, I knew what strands I needed to leave open to bud the sequel from.

The big difference this time was that I actually planned a sequel and a third book, making a trilogy. But my publisher said too much time would have passed by the time book two appeared, so why not create a duology rather than a trilogy? When I started putting the material for books two and three together, it locked in perfectly. That was never planned at all.

Was it difficult getting back into the heads of the characters for the sequel?

No, but then I didn’t have to get back to them in the same place where I’d left them. Liberator starts three months after the end of Worldshaker, and the whole situation has changed in those three months. So it was more a matter of working out how the characters would have adapted in their new circumstances. Which took a whole lot of thinking and imagining — but it was great fun, new creation and not just more of the same.

Worldshaker was very well-timed, as steampunk was rising in popularity. Was this a conscious decision on your part?

The only conscious decision was that I didn’t start writing Worldshaker until I could see some hope of getting it published in Australia — and that depended on the first signs of the steampunk trend appearing. But I’d already been planning the novel for ten years, like a private hobby. Steampunk was what I’d always wanted to write — I just didn’t know it could be called ‘steampunk’!

Maybe I was also lucky that it took me five years to write. Jay Lake told me at the Melbourne Worldcon that he thought his steampunk novel Mainspring (great imagination, I highly recommend it!) came out too early, before steampunk really hit its straps.

I love the way you people your novels with bizarre characters — they’re often weird, but with enough grounding that the reader still cares about what happens to them. Do you consciously plan to include ‘odd’ characters, or do they just come out that way?

I guess I create the kind of characters I love reading about in other people’s books. Larger than life, high energy … Fabulous monsters! But I’m glad you feel they’re always grounded, because I do base them on real people and real traits in myself and others — only carried to extremes. Worldshaker and Liberator are very Dickensian novels in many ways, but I try to avoid Dickensian caricatures.

I hope the reader cares about them, because I do — very very much!

You’ve written quite a few books over the years. While they have all been successful, it’s Worldshaker and Liberator that seem to have propelled you into the limelight, both here in Australia and overseas. What is it about these books?

They’re my best books, for sure, and from what people have said, they’re the most compulsively readable. I aim to write a story that’s impossible to put down! But it’s also the sheer luck of producing the right story at the right time. The planets have come into alignment for me!

Has the success of Worldshaker and Liberator changed your life as an author? Are publishers now banging on your door, vying for your next book?

Well, at least I don’t have to worry about finding a publisher. The time when success really came home to me was when I did the tours of US and UK for Worldshaker — getting put up at the ritziest hotels, expense account, escorted everywhere, chauffeured limousines. For four weeks I felt like a rock star!

But no, nothing much has really changed. I still start writing straight after breakfast, I still get caught up in the world of what I’m writing — still the same boring writer’s routine. The outside world at home is the same as it always was, and the inside world, the world I get into in my head … Truth is, I enjoy that more than any rock star existence!

You refer to Worldshaker and Liberator as a duology. That implies no more sequels. But the end of Liberator, while finishing the story, would certainly allow for more. Is there any chance of a third book?

Not immediately. I’d like to come back to further developments of the story at some stage, but Col and Riff won’t feature as main characters any more. After all, their romance has wrapped up — what more can they do after that?

What’s next for Richard Harland? Will it be more steampunk?

I’ve started work on another steampunk novel. I think it’s the same world as Worldshaker and Liberator, but a different time and place (without the juggernauts). I’m very very excited about this one!

George’s bit at the end

My thanks to Richard for stopping by. To find out more about him and his writing, check out his website. You can read my review of Worldshaker here, and my review of Liberator here.

Tune in next time for a bit of Dracula down under.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.



What young child doesn’t know and enjoy the song, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”?

In P Crumble and Chris Kennett’s colourful new picture book, If you’re HAPPY and you know it!, this song is used to form the basis of a cute Australian tale showcasing some of our best-loved native animals.

This Aussie edition features a climbing possum, a digging wombat, a nose-twitching bandicoot, a bouncing wallaby, a flapping galah, a goanna with a long tongue, a laughing kookaburra, a scratching dingo, a snapping crocodile, a growling Tassie Devil, a spiky echidna and a sleeping koala.

Each animal performs an action that kids will enjoy doing too and at the end of the book there’s a complete verse for each bush creature that young readers can sing.

Kids will love the expressions on the faces of Chris Kennet’s hilarious characters. This book is bright, colourful and full of fun.

Young kids will enjoy having this book read to them and getting involved in all the actions and being able to sing along.

If you’re HAPPY and you know it!, is a great interactive book for young readers.

It’s cleverly written by P. Crumble with beautiful illustrations by Chris Kennett. If you’re HAPPY and you know  it! is published by Scholastic Australia.


Bilby Secrets is Australian author, Edel Wignell’s latest book and it’s part of the acclaimed Nature Storybooks series from Walker books.

The bilby is an endangered Australian marsupial and Bilby Secrets reveals how it manages to survive the harsh desert environment. Readers discover so much about the bilby – where it finds its food, where it sleeps, who its predators are.

One of the things I liked about this book is the way that the true story of how a bilby lives is presented in narrative so the reader is carried into the bilby’s world.

The reader gets to take a peek inside Mother Bilby’s burrow as she gives birth to her baby and keeps him safe inside her pouch.

The young Bilby grows and becomes independent and finally gets to leave the burrow, cantering behind his mother. Young bilby is introduced to the desert and taught how to find his own food and about the dangers lurking there.

Alongside the bilby story are lots of great facts – the bilby secrets that Edel Wignell reveals. The fact that bilbys have around four litters of young a year but the number varies depending on the food and water supply.

Bilbies have sharp teeth. As they hunt, they store food in their cheeks.

A bilby may have up to twenty tunnels in its feeding area.

Bilby Secrets, the story of mother and baby bilby’s journey is beautifully illustrated by Melbourne-based artist, Mark Jackson. His pictures depict the rich colours of the desert and reflect the busy but perilous life of a bilby.

Edel Wignell’s fluent narrative is accompanied by well-researched facts to engage the curious young reader.

Bilby Secrets is published in hardback for readers aged 3+





Melbourne vs everywhere

There’s nothing like getting a new phone or signing up to a new social network to get you thinking about your contact list. Looking over my burgeoning Google+ profile, I realised one thing: I know too many writers. And then I decided to amend that to “I know too many writers from Melbourne”.

And it’s not just showing up in the shiny new depths of Google+. Have a look at that blog-roll at the side of this page – there’s 6 recommended blogs, of which 4 are authors living in Melbourne.

  • Jay Kristoff – Literary Giant – based in Melbourne, his debut novel, Stormdancer (a Japanese Steampunk Fantasy) will be released in 2012. His blog has plenty of helpful information for first time writers from  what to do  on your first phone call to agent (now with sad kitten photo!) to his on-going series of posts on the history of steampunk.
  • Max Barry’s blog – Max is a Melbourne writer whose playful but scientific approach to satire is exemplified by the just-released Machine Man, a book which was written through his site with a page a day being published online. It took on feedback from readers as it grew, from what they liked and didn’t to what cover the book should have,  and it’s a fascinating experiment in writing as well as a damned good book. Buy it. Buy it now.
  • John Birmingham’s Cheeseburger Gothic – John Birmingham is an Australian writer who blips from writing fiction to non-fiction (including one of my favorites, a warts and all history of Sydney called Leviathan) to political and personal rants that amuse while they inform (unless you are Andrew Bolt).  This blog aggregates all his various writing (for the Brisbane Times, the ABC, and others) to one page, which is useful as he writes a lot. He’s not based in Melbourne, but then, he always seems to delight in breaking people’s expectations.
  • Patrick O’Duffy – Author, editor and e-publisher – Patrick is an editor and a writer who lives in Melbourne. His blog has both examples of his own short fiction and tips for writers, including excellent advice on the mechanics and nuances of writing and a large amount of musing about Batman (and often, posts that combine the two).
  • Wait Here For Further Instructions – Cam Rogers – from Cooktown, QLD, but based in Melbourne (seeing a theme here?) Cam can often be found in other places as well – he’s a novelist, a travel journalist and a photographer. His blog veers between serious and heartfelt thoughts on great acts of creativity, connecting with people and writing for a living to hilarious anecdotes that will make you laugh even as you wonder how the hell he is still alive. Often in the same post.
  • Writing Bar – blog of the Sydney Writers’ Centre – not in Melbourne! But also not a writer. None the less, this is a really useful blog for inspiration and information about writing, writing news and occasionally hilarious writing stuff they find on their travel through the web.

Now, I love Melbourne but I suspect I am maligning the creativity of the rest of the country by only have two links from outside of Victoria.  So, anyone have any suggestions for great Australian blogs by authors or about reading and writing that I should absolutely be keeping an eye on?

Please let me know in the comments, either here or on Boomerang’s Facebook* page when this post makes an appearance there.


* Is talking about Google+ on something that will come up on Facebook considered bad form? Like, bringing up your new partner and how great they are when you meet your ex, or talking about your new job in front of your old boss? Actually, if there is anyone out who wants a Google+ invite, feel free to drop me a comment and let me know. Because if I am going to be rude to Facebook, I may as well do it properly.

July Cookbook Heaven

Now that July and my pre-occupation with mushrooms has run its course, I’ve had time to turn my attention to two promising tomes which have been sitting patiently upon my desk, awaiting my attention.  The first is another gem from Adelaide’s own Wakefield Press.  Just in case you need reminding, Wakefield Press is one of Australia’s leading independent publishers -they publish between 40-50 titles per year and regularly win literary, design and production awards, both nationally and internationally.  They are South Australian based and we are just a little bit proud of them in this neck of the woods.

Launched last month, “Making a Meal of It” by Jane Willcox and Rosemary Cadden, is a member of one of the relatively rare categories of cook books that makes it a very useful and practical addition to just about any kitchen bookshelf.  From an idea sparked by the authors nagging sense of guilt over their own kitchen waste, this book will have you looking at the sad remains in the bottom of your fridge in a new and more productive manner.  While it is all very well for television chefs to bang on about the importance of using the very best and freshest produce, we all know only too well what can happen to that same produce when real life gets in the way of enthusiasm, good intentions and meal plans.  Food wastage is a major issue in modern society (see here and here) and this book will help you take a big step towards reducing your own.

Set out alphabetically and covering most of the major fresh food items we would all deal with on a regular basis, each chapter offers recipes and  tips on buying, storing and using fresh produce and, most importantly, using up the left-over bits of the same foods.  From how to put over-ripe avocado to good use, to what to do with a bunch of bendy carrots, the seeds from your pumpkin or a handful of parsley stems, these ideas are practical, accessible and tasty.  This is a brilliant gift for the budget conscious novice, but even if you’ve been cooking for years, I guarantee you will find at least one or two ideas in this book that you hadn’t thought of before and that you are going to want to try.

As a great Aussie icon used to say, do yourself (and the planet) a favour and check this book out!

The second book which has been winking at me for the last week or two from the corner of my desk, “The Good Life” (Pan Macmillan), is actually written by one of the afore-mentioned televison chefs – Adrian Richardson.  Richardson, who began his cooking career at the age of 14,  has appeared on several Australian  food shows, including MasterChef and Ready, Steady, Cook and is also well known as the owner of the Carlton (Melbourne) restaurant La Luna Bistro, popular for its fresh and modern Mediterranean cuisine.

Keen to pass on his personal philosophy – that things taste better if they’re homemade – Adrian presents us with a handsomely bound book brimming with photos of achievable, delicious family foods.  Divided into sections for each of the four seasons, this book will take you back to the more interesting basics of modern family food with recipes for things like “Cauliflower, Currants & Pine Nuts in Brown Butter”, “Pissaladiere (a personal favourite) and “Braised Lamb with Moroccan Spices”, all of them presented with colour photographs and simple, non-threatening instructions.   For those of us who like a bit of a challenge in the kitchen, there are also nine master-classes on skills such as bread making, salami, sausage and pasta making and fish curing – each set out in an easy to follow, step-by-step fashion and accompanied by photographs numbered for each step.

I really like the approachable feel of this book.  The food is not tricky, pretentious, grand-standing cuisine, but interesting, honest, flavourful dishes that anyone could quite happily put in front of either their family or guests with a sense of pride.  It will appeal to cooks of all skill levels and contains the broad range of cuisines that many of us have become familiar with in modern Australian kitchens – quite the keeper, in fact.

Amanda McInerney


From the newsroom to Hazard River

How do you go from television news to children’s books? Author of the Hazard River series, JE Fison, worked in television news in Australia, Asia and Europe, before turning to kids’ fiction. Today, she’s visiting Literary Clutter to tell us how she made the change and how her years as a reporter have helped and hindered her adventure-story writing.

From television news to kids’ fiction
By JE Fison

It’s a Sunday morning in June 1989 and it should be a quiet day in Hong Kong’s Asia Television newsroom. Instead, as I walk into the office, the place is buzzing with emotion – a couple of veteran reporters have tears in their eyes, others are grabbing at the wire service copy and reading out the developments in Beijing, the news editor is barking down the phone to our correspondent on the ground. Within minutes I’ve cobbled together a story, slapped on some makeup, and I’m in the studio, delivering a news bulletin – troops have opened fire in the Chinese capital, unleashing what will become known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and ending the student protests that many hoped would bring democracy to China.

It’s a day that stands out from my memories as a television news reporter, partly because I was in Beijing when the student movement first took off and because the bloodshed had such a profound effect on China and Hong Kong, which was home to me at the time.

The fourth of June, 1989 certainly wasn’t a typical news day but I mention it because it sums up the essence of being a news reporter – most of the time you’re trying to pull together facts that no one wants to give you, rushing to meet a deadline and flying by the seat of your pants to get a story to air. Then, when the bulletin is over, you do it all over again for the next one.

Writing fiction can be as far from that as possible – it’s more about waiting for the muse to strike, then writing, rewriting, rewriting some more, then waiting, waiting, and waiting some more to find a publisher, then waiting again for the story to hit the bookshops. For an impatient former news reporter all that waiting can be a killer. But I don’t feel like I chose fiction writing as a career path – it really chose me.

I gave up television news after having children and moved into freelance feature writing and marketing because it was more family-friendly. The idea of writing fiction for kids crept up on me a few years ago, during a family holiday on the Noosa River. My two sons teamed up with friends and spent the summer building rafts, exploring sand banks, setting up camps, dodging stingrays and avoiding snakes. I had to write about it.

I’d had plenty of experience as a writer, so I knew I could string a sentence together. I also thought my ability to write to a deadline would be helpful in the future. But my first attempt at fiction was mired in my eagerness to report what had actually happened on the Noosa River. I had trouble breaking away from the truth and it took several rewrites before the Hazard River series came together – full of adventure and action, that is inspired by (rather than based on) real events.

Apart from having to make stuff up, there were several other challenges I faced – writing 10,000 words on one story wasn’t easy and I had to learn to use description to draw in the reader. As a reporter, the focus is on boiling down a complex story into one minute and thirty seconds worth of information, and using the visuals to help convey the message. The words just back up what the audience sees. Writing fiction works the opposite way and that’s something I’ve had to work at. I’m constantly fleshing things out when I rewrite a story to build up the scenes, so they’re not just sketchy outlines of what’s going on.

I have done plenty of reading and listened to the advice of experienced writers to improve my work. I also get lots of advice from my two sons. They never let facts get in the way of a good story. And if they think I have, they let me know – with a fat, red marker pen.

George’s bit at the end

The latest books in the Hazard River series, Toads’ Revenge and Blood Money were released today. For more info about the books visit the official website. For more info about Julie, check out her blog.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll switch from children’s books to tv news… and I’m much too verbose for news. 😉