No Book Left Behind

Fifty ShamesI’m heading to Mexico City this Friday. It’s hosting this year’s Homeless World Cup (HWC), to which I take my annual pilgrimage. Which means I’ve done the only things rational: no packing whatsoever, but plenty of agonising over which books to take for the trip.

I don’t yet own an ereader, not because I’m against them (in fact, I’m wholly for them as yet another and complementary opportunity to fit more reading into our lives), but because Apple haven’t yet released one. Sadly, I’m not even kidding.

I’ve found the existing ereaders by non-Apple companies not well-enough designed functionally and in terms of being pretty. And don’t even get me started on the difficulties of region-specific availability and being locked into certain file types or not-author-or-reader-friendly online behemoth bookstores.

Apple-versus-the-rest-of-the-world arguments aside, I’m tossing up between taking which and how many of the following physical books.

(In case you can’t see them clearly, they from left to right include: I Lost My Love in Baghdad, Bossypants, Desert Flower, The Elephant Whisperer, The Coke Machine, Madlands, Silent Spring, Call of the Weird, and Behind The Beautiful Forevers. Fifty Shames of Earl Grey is on backorder and I’ll not deny that I’m hoping and praying it arrives before Friday.)

As I well-documented (read: moaned) at the time, I foolishly took the rational, weight- and spacing-saving option of packing too few books to the 2010 HWC, then spent three quarters of the trip with my sad face pressed up against the glass of bookstores that sold books I, in my non-Spanish- and non-Portuguese-speaking incapacity, couldn’t read.

I also spent considerable time hatching plans to order an ereader to be shipped to me, with the only thing preventing my purchase was that I couldn’t be certain of the delivery timing and I was moving around. Ugliness, availability issues, and locked-in formats and stores be damned, I’d have paid anything for any books in any format I could read at all.

I Lost My Love In BaghdadWhich is a long-winded way of saying that I’m prepared to sacrifice underpants and other essentials in order to ensure my luggage is choc full of books. But even I know the above are too many. I’m only going for two weeks and they’re two 18-hour-days-of-work weeks. One or two or three of these books need to go.

The question is: Which ones? Every fibre of my being is screaming in the ultimate cliche: No book left behind.

Six-Figure Harrumphing

OutliersI’m not proud of the fact that I harrumphed when I read on this here very blog that an 18-year-old girl from the UK has been awarded a six-figure book deal. I know, right? If I had to bet six figures on it, I’d wager that you’re harrumphing just a little too.

It’s not that I’m not happy for any writer who hits jackpot. It’s just a wee bit hard to hear when you find out said jackpot-hitting author is also a practically-still-in-nappies prodigy. But that harrumphing says a whole less about her than it does about me.

Closer inspection and words issued from a friend far wiser than me pointed out that Abigail Gibbs ‘took three years to become an overnight success’. That is, she actually put in a bunch of work to: a) write the book; b) hone her craft; and c) develop a readership courtesy of an online blog.

She’s still a prodigy in my book, but one in the hard-grist-plus-talent rather than the just-penned-something-on-a-whim-and-got-plucked-from-obscurity sense. And when you think of it in those terms, the six-figure deal isn’t so surprising or she’s-too-young unwarranted.

I mean, Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller Outliers argues that while we often attribute success to brilliance and luck, it’s more likely practice. 10,000 hours of practice, to be precise. And the earlier you get in those hours of practice, the sooner you can become a success. Gibbs kicked this book off when she was 14 and she was likely writing long before that.

TwilightI’m sure Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampire is actually an excellent book. And I’m sure I’ll absolutely have to read it. As with such blockbusters as Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, and The Da Vinci Code, the hype has so tsunamied us that it’s become a book you have to read in order to be across the industry chatter and pop cultural memes.

Not that you’d have had to twist my arm much anyway—being YA fiction written by a vegetarian and animal rights advocate who’s almost as squeamish as I am, it’s kind of up my alley.

The book’s premise is interesting too. To paraphrase:

Protagonist Violet Lee is the only witness to a horrific mass murder dubbed ‘London’s Bloodbath’. Shown unexpected mercy by the culprits, Violet’s faced with an impossible choice: never returning to her old life or joining the vampiric villains. As she discovers the past behind her captors—the Varns—Violet also happens to develop a soft spot for handsome fourth son Kaspar, who also happens to be the heir to the throne.

Fifty Shades of GreyI think there are some more interesting elements to Gibbs’ worldwide publishing deal than her age and break-out success, not least that this is yet another bestseller that’s been inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight.

Do we need to give Twilight credit rather than the more common disdain? Or is it a sign that if you write a chaste book, we humans will in turn write sex-filled iterations? And if it’s the latter, what does that say about us?

Also worth noting is that in the same manner as EL James, Gibbs developed and published the work online before being picked up by a traditional publishing house. She turned the traditional publishing model on its head by writing and publishing the work and developing a readership independently and then having the agent and publishing house come to her.

Gibbs also grappled with the issue of the content already being out there and how then to convert people to paying readers once the book was out. Her agent savvily told her to withhold publishing the final chapters online.

I’ve stopped harrumphing and am instead intrigued. Is this the future of publishing? If so, the creative and financial control seems to be happily heading towards authors’ hands.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Crime Time

Crime. Violence. Nasty things. Could there be anything more appealing to kids? Crime Time by Sue Bursztynski has it all… and here’s your chance to win a copy.

Crime Time is a who’s who of Australian crime. From infamous past criminals such as Ned Kelly, to more current underworld figures such as Tony Mokbel, there is plenty in this book to entertain and horrify kids who are hungry for a little mayhem and blood. Sensitive parents need not fear too much, as the book doesn’t get overly graphic.

Sue is visiting the Boomerang Books blog today to give away a copy of her book.

Crime Time giveaway
By Sue Bursztynski

A while back I received an email from Paul Collins of Ford Street Publishing. His partner Meredith Costain had done a book called Fifty Famous Australians — would I be interested in doing a children’s book on the theme of fifty infamous Australians, as a sort of companion volume?

Was the Pope a Catholic?

I’d written several non-fiction books and plenty of articles, including one on forensics. Research was second nature. For the next few months I plunged into books, websites and newspaper articles about the most evil and the plain silliest criminals this country has produced, starting from the Batavia hijacking in 1629 and going right up to the story of Tony Mokbel, who had just been arrested in Greece. When I was sickened by serial killers I found ridiculous stories like the one currently on my website about two idiots who tried to rob a restaurant and got away with … Well, check it out. There were fifty main stories, but a whole lot of snippets as well. There was no shortage of stories to choose from, and I made sure I chose those which kids would find most entertaining. Adults have also found them entertaining; I know of one who bought a copy for her nephew and never passed it on.

Now you can win a copy of Crime Time: Australians behaving badly, by leaving a comment at the end of this post and answering one of the following two questions:

In one or two sentences, name your favourite Aussie crime story, eg “The story of Snowy Rowles, who used an Arthur Upfield plot to commit the perfect murder, because he nearly got away with it.”

OR

Which Australian criminal would you invite to dinner, eg “the runaway convict Alexander ‘Cannibal’ Pearce, but I would supply the meat.”

These are two stories from my book, but you can use any name you like, including ones from the newspapers — I can look up any I don’t know. I will choose one entry and explain why.

Good luck!

George’s bit at the end

Okay everyone, getting your criminal mastermind thinking caps on and start writing those entries. Post your answers in the comments section below.

Entries close on Friday 5 October 2012 at 5pm Australian Eastern Time.

Thanks for the giveaway, Sue.

Catch ya later,  George

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It’s a long way from Hogwarts – J.K.Rowling’s gritty new novel

J.K.Rowling’s new novel was released yesterday. But before you rush to the shops with the kids in tow, be warned; if you’re expecting a bedtime story or a little light reading, her latest novel may surprise you.

Described as her “first novel for adults”, The Casual Vacancy is a complete departure from the world of wizards and the J.K.Rowling that readers have come to know. It’s a novel set determinedly in the real world, telling the story how an unexpected death and local election exposes secrets, lies and treachery in what is a seemingly idyllic English town.

There’s little magic, friendship or magnificence in the new world she has created. Rowling’s not afraid to dirty her pen, whether it be words, thoughts or deeds she’s describing. She takes on drug addiction, poverty, abuse, assault and neglect through a host of characters less interested in redemption and nobility and more interested in getting their own fix.

Allison Pearson, reviewing for The Daily Telegraph, describes it as “the Archers on amyl nitrate” and recommends hiding the book from any children. There’s certainly enough swearing in the book to justify withholding it from the kids:  Sherryl Connelly of the New York Daily News quips, disappointedly, that “J.K. Rowling has gone from Potter to potty-mouth”.

Many more reviewers have commented that it seems that Rowling was so eager to throw off the title of a children’s writer that she as gone too far in the opposite direction, penning a novel that will only be appreciated by adults interested in a dark dissection of human folly.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Rowling  – who has spoken freely about her own struggles with depression, povery and suicidal thoughts – has more than a little darkness to get out of her system after several years of writing for an audience that demanded optimism. If you think The Casual Vacancy might not be a book for you, there’s no need to give up on Rowling as she said in a recent interview with the BBC that, while she is proud of her latest novel, the next book she works on will be for children.

“I think it very likely that the next thing I publish will be for kids. I have a children’s book that I really like, it’s for slightly younger children than the Potter books. I loved writing for kids, I loved talking to children about what I’d written, I don’t want to leave that behind. But I wanted to write this as well.”

For the moment, if you’re looking for a little magic and escapism, The Casual Vacancy may not be the book for you. But if you are willing to keep the faith with Rowling’s writing skills and her knack for getting into her character’s heads (unlikeable as they may be), it could well be worthwhile putting Potter aside and letting her spin her new story.

WINNERS: Life, Death and Detention

Last week I ran a giveaway for my latest book, Life, Death and Detention. There are only two copies to give away, but some great answers… making it rather difficult to decide on the winners. But, of course, I have to force myself to pick some. So here goes…

Entrants simply had to tell me why I should give them a copy. Simple enough.

First up we have Deb, who wrote:

My copy would go straight into my Secondary College Library – to be shared by 1200 teenage readers!

Wow! So many students. How could I say no?

And then we have Ramisa:

Something draws me in about teenagers. Being one myself, I feel as if we’re the most misunderstood stage of human development. Treated like children and yet, expected to act like adults. It’s when we’re old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, but young enough to allow temptation to dominate.

From a simple description of your book, I know instantly I’ll be captivated. There’s nothing quite like seeing how somebody else perceives teenagers, and some of these many short-stories will strike similar to incidents I’ve faced/will face. 
As somebody with a future ahead of me, there’s no greater comfort than knowing somebody, regardless of their fictional properties, is going through the same things-whether it be uplifting, depressing, or plain worrisome.

Ramisa

P.S: As a shameless repeat of Deb’s comment, I never keep physical properties of books; I always hand them over to my school library.

Ramisa, I like your description of teenagers. And I like the fact that you’ll pass on the book when you’re finished with it. And I like your honesty about the “shameless repeat”. 🙂

So those are the two winning entries. But I do also have to give honourable mention to one other. No book! Just a mention. Author Michelle Heeter wrote a cheeky entry that referenced the guest post she wrote for my blog a couple of weeks ago. Way to go Michelle. 🙂

Hi George, I should get a copy of your book because of that hilarious blog post I wrote about How to Annoy a Writer.

You should all check out that guest post. It really was very funny. You should also check out her novel, Riggs Crossing, which is pretty damn good too (see my review).

Catch ya later,  George

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Wish I was going Bookcamping today …

It’s Bookcamp day, and I’m stuck in an office in Canberra. Boo hoo.

Philosophers on the future of the book are congregating in Brisbane as I write, preparing to make their pitch for what the Bookcamp unconference will cover.

This year’s special guest is designer and writer Craig Mod. Mod is a former product designer at Flipboard and the author of four Kindle Singles about ebooks: Hack the cover, The digital-physical, Post-artifact books and publishing and Books in the age of the iPad. Lucky Bookcampers getting to hang out with one of the world’s biggest thinkers on “emerging technologies, people, ideas, and stories in the fast-changing business of connecting writers with readers”.
Continue reading Wish I was going Bookcamping today …

Favourite Vintage Books

I have quite the obsession with vintage books – it’s absolutely no secret. And no surprise. Vintage children’s books are at once inspiring and overwhelmingly beautiful – harking back to a time when book creation was more about genius than sales. Here I’m sharing some of my favourite vintage books – and I would love to hear about yours. Leave a comment! and do see my favourite ‘vintage-style books‘ – or modern books with that delicious retro twist.

Eloise Takes a Bawth by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight

While Nanny dear unsuspectingly watches her soap opera, and Mr Salomone, the Plaza’s manager, prepares for the charity event of the year, Eloise takes a bawth. She bolts the bathroom door with a backbrush and turns on every tap in sight and begins her wilful water mischief in a glamorous fantasy bath world complete with Skipperdee and Weenie to boot. SLAWSH! The Plaza has flooded! The Grand Ball Room is in pandemonium! Who? Who? Who is the culprit? Mr Salomone and the Plaza head engineer follow the flow of water and discover that the trouble began with a certain precocious little girl up on the very top floor – none other than our very own favourite Eloise!

A Balloon for a Blunderbuss by Bob Gill and Alastair Reid

This book takes the reader on an imaginative, inspiring journey around the world. It all begins with a drawing of a pair of hands, gently cupped around an unseen object: I have a butterfly in my hands. What will you give me for my butterfly? “I will give you a wishbone.” What would I do with a wishbone? “Well, you could trade it for a kite with a tail…or a Chinese Lantern . . .” From the unseen butterfly in the hand to the blunderbuss, the balloon and beyond, Bob Gill lovingly illustrates an ever-expanding list of items, which grows to encompass, among other things, two rocking horses, a small zoo with a lion, a little town and eventually a whole forest with thousands of trees, which you could possibly trade for two stars, if you wanted to. But it would be even better to trade it for an island, and the ocean all round, until in the end, after many, many more trades, you would have everything.

A Kangaroo for Christmas by James Flora

The day before Christmas, Kathryn’s present from Uncle Dingo arrives in a big box. Naturally, it’s a lively kangaroo. Kathryn can’t wait to show grandma, so she hops onto Adelaide’s back and off they go! But getting to Grandma’s proves more difficult than expected. Honking horns and screeching breaks frighten Adelaide into taking off on her own. In good Flora fashion, chaos and pure silliness ensue. When Kathryn and Adelaide finally arrive at Grandma’s house, a very cool and collected Grandma sees there’s nothing to be done but to get them home as swiftly as possible. A rumpus of a read, Kangaroo for Christmas is a merry Christmas tall tale full of witty illustrations that are sure to draw laughs and hoots of pleasure.

Sunday Morning by Judith Viorst and Hilary Knight

It’s Sunday morning, very early Sunday morning. Anthony and Nicholas are not supposed to wake their parents before 9:45 am. (Whenever that is) Certainly, three puzzles falling off a shelf isn’t enough to wake them. And what about some music or a game of boat in the living room? These wouldn’t wake them up, would they? But when Nick really yells help, the know they’re in trouble. Then the boys and their parents discover something they never would have imagined.

Crictor by Tomi Ungerer

Crictor the boa constrictor lives with Madame Bodot. He is a very helpful pet – especially when there are burglars in the neighborhood.

Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak

“Each month is gay, each season is nice, when eating chicken soup with rice”. It’s nice in January, April, June, and December–here’s the every-month dish for everyone to remember. Stunning three-color illustrations.

This is Paris by Miroslav Sasek

This facsimile edition of Sasek’s original title features brilliant, vibrant illustrations that have been meticulously preserved and remain true to his vision. With timely and nostalgic appeal, the This Is… books have an elegant, classic look and delightful narrative that will charm both children and their parents. This is Paris, first published in 1959, brings Paris, one of the most exciting cities in the world, to life. There are famous buildings, beautiful gardens, cafes, and the Parisians-artists, concierges, flower girls, and even thousands of cats. Take a tour along the banks of the Seine, through the galleries of the Louvre, and to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

The little house first stood in the country, but gradually the city moved closer and closer. An engaging picture book, well ahead of its time.

Are you my Mother? by PD Eastman

A little chick falls out of its nest and goes in search of its mum, searching high and searching low and questioning a series of animate and inanimate objects along the way. Eastman is a A protégé of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss).

 

 

Ruby Moonlight wins Deadly Award

Ali Cobby Eckermann has won the 2012 Deadly Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature for her verse novel Ruby Moonlight.

This year’s Deadly Awards were announced at a special event at the Sydney Opera House on 25 September. The awards are presented to Indigenous Australians for excellence in the areas of music, sport, entertainment and community.

Cobby Eckermann was one of five authors shortlisted for this year’s literature category. The other shortlisted authors were:

  • Dub Leffler (Once There Was a Boy, Magabala)
  • Chaise Eade (Second Life, Xlibris)
  • Sue McPherson (Grace Beside Me, Magabala)
  • John Maynard (The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe: A History of Aboriginal Involvement with the World Game, Magabala)

More information about the Deadlys can be found here…

New Release: Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients by Ben Goldacre

Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science hilariously exposed the tricks that quacks use to distort science, becoming a 400,000 copy bestseller. Now he puts the $600bn global pharmaceutical industry under the microscope. What he reveals is a fascinating, terrifying mess.

Doctors and patients need good scientific evidence to make informed decisions. But instead, companies run bad trials on their own drugs, which distort and exaggerate the benefits by design. When these trials produce unflattering results, the data is simply buried. All of this is perfectly legal. In fact, even government regulators withhold vitally important data from the people who need it most. Doctors and patient groups have stood by too, and failed to protect us. Instead, they take money and favours, in a world so fractured that medics and nurses are now educated by the drugs industry. Patients are harmed in huge numbers.

Bad Pharma is a clear and witty attack, showing exactly how the science has been distorted, how our systems have been broken, and how easy it would be to fix them.

About the Author:

Ben Goldacre is a doctor and science writer who has written the Bad Science column in the UK Guardian since 2003. His work focuses on unpicking the evidence behind misleading claims from journalists, the pharmaceutical industry, alternative therapists, and government reports. He has made a number of documentaries for BBC Radio 4, and his book Bad Science has sold over 350,000 copies in the UK alone, and has been translated into 17 languages.

Buy the book here…

How I Broke The Memoir – Neil Patrick Harris in print

I love non-fiction and Neil Patrick Harris (in completely different ways, mind) but the announcement of his book deal has me less excited and more than a little confused about what, exactly, it is we will be reading.

Not content with a mere biography or memoir, the scene has been set by press releases sent out today for the actor’s first book to be ‘a Work of Imaginative Nonfiction’. Tina Constable, Senior Vice President at publisher Crown Archetype, is promising entertainment but not illuminating what will be involved. She said, “Neil Patrick Harris’s wildly creative, funny, and inventive vision for his book reflects his many talents and dimensions as an artist. We are certain his book will entertain, surprise, and delight not just his legions of fans but also all readers who love a good puzzle.”

Such as puzzling out what, exactly, Harris is likely to be writing about and if it’s worth reading? Crown’s press release is hedging on that too. “As yet untitled, Harris’s book will be a work of imaginative nonfiction that delivers an interactive, nonlinear reading experience that breaks the boundaries of conventional memoir. An accomplished amateur magician, Harris will draw upon his love of adventure and surprise in creating the book, as well as upon the many roles he has played in his life and career—from being a child star to coming out, and from acting on Broadway to becoming a proud father.”

Sounds fascinating, and all that, but what exactly does that mean we’ll be reading? A memoir? A book of anecdote-inspired crossword puzzles? A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book based on his life? (Actually, that last one sounds fun.) Neil may know but he’s also not making it explicit, preferring to joke around the subject in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m excited to be writing a book of the observations and stories of my life,” said Harris. “I read with great fondness Tina Fey’s Bossypants, so my plan is just to reprint those exact stories but change the names to people that I knew. What editor would take issue with that?”

There’s little doubt that Neil has a golden touch when it comes picking and producing his projects; from rocking the audiences’ socks off in musicals such as Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog to cameos in the recent Muppet Movie, as well as his Emmy-nominated role as Barney Stinson in CBS sit-com How I Met Your Mother. And, while you won’t find his name on any other books, this isn’t his first publishing credit, also credited as the co-author (under his character’s name) of The Bro Code. So, while the press release may be alarmingly vague, we can hope that the end product will be offbeat and entertaining even if the phrase “interactive, nonlinear reading experience” makes it sound like a code for “couldn’t think of a plot or theme so put in dot-to-dot puzzles”.

What do you think – does it sound like wonderful whimsy, edgy-experimentalism or just indulgent idiocy? Will you be standing in line to buy it? Crown Archetype, who are part of the Random House, Inc publishing group, say that publication is set for 2014, so I guess we’ll all have to wait until then to find out.

 

Five Very Bookish Questions with author Belinda Murrell

1. Which genre of children’s books do you like most and why?

My bookshelves have literally thousands of books across lots of different genres so it’s hard to choose! But I think my favourite genres are adventure, history and a twist of magic – so much like the books I love to write myself. Some of the children’s books I enjoy are the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne-Jones, Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord, Eva Ibbotson’s The Star of Kazan, and books by my sister Kate Forsyth such as The Puzzle Ring and the Chain of Charms series. Of my own books, I particularly love the time slip adventures such as The Ivory Rose and The Locket of Dreams.

With these books, I was intrigued by the idea of taking a modern day girl and whisking her back to the past, where life was so different, and seeing how that modern child would cope and react. These heroines have all sorts of thrilling adventures and find strength they never knew they had.

2. Which books did you love to read as a young child?

Almost anything and everything!! As a young child, I must confess I was an avid Enid Blyton fan. Her books had humour, adventure, excitement, magic, friendship and a delightful absence of interfering adults, which I still believe are all wonderful ingredients for an enthralling children’s book

I adored the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis especially The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and The Horse and His Boy. With these books, I loved their enticing mixture of adventure, action and fantasy. My sister and I would dress up in silver chain mail, with swords and bows and arrows, and play Narnia. I was enraptured by the idea that it might be possible to pass through a secret door into a magical world, full of talking animals and adventure.

When I was a bit older I loved lots of the classics such as Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner and My Brilliiant Career by Miles Franklin, as well as The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein.

3. Which three attributes make for a great children’s book?

Lovable characters, who aren’t perfect, that you truly care about. Exciting and adventurous action, which keeps you reading late into the night. A vivid and exotic setting which seems so real you think you are actually there. Most of the books I’ve mentioned above would cover these key attributes but one of the best examples would of course be the Harry Potter series.

4. What is your number one tip for encouraging children to read?

Make reading a huge part of your family life. Share books with your kids and talk about them. Create inviting reading nooks such as a comfy arm chair by the fire, with a pile of books beside it. Take turns reading out loud in the car or in the kitchen while cooking. Let your kids see you reading. Buy books as presents and rewards. Turn off the TV and make time in your routine for children to read for enjoyment every day. Make sure it’s fun!!

5. Name three books you wish you’d written.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Possession by AS Byatt

About Belinda

At about the age of eight, Belinda Murrell began writing stirring tales of adventure, mystery and magic in hand illustrated exercise books. Now, Belinda Murrell is a bestselling children’s author currently writing her fourteenth book, which range from four picture books for pre-schoolers, to junior fiction. These include the fantasy-adventure series for boys and girls aged 8 to 12 called The Sun Sword Trilogy (The Quest for the Sun Gem, The Voyage of the Owl and The Snowy Tower). Her time-slip series includes The Locket of Dreams, The Ruby Talisman and The Ivory Rose – a 2012 CBCA Notable Book. Belinda’s new book, The Forgotten Pearl is an exhilarating wartime adventure set in Darwin and Sydney. Belinda’s books have been shortlisted for various awards and selected for the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge.

www.belindamurrell.com.au

 

Riggs Crossing

A pretty girl on a horse in a field — a rather idyllic sort of image. But at the bottom of the image are the words: “Sometimes, the bad memories are all you’ve got.” An intriguing juxtaposition. And it is this combination of words and image that made me pick up Michelle Heeter’s debut novel, Riggs Crossing.

My copy of Riggs Crossing is a review copy that was sent to me. If those words had not been on the cover, I may well have given this book a miss. But that one little sentence grabbed my attention, made me pick up the book and turn it over to read the back cover blurb. After reading the blurb, I put the book onto my must-read-soon pile and contacted the author about doing a guest post for this blog.

Michelle did not write a promotional guest post, as I would have expected. No! She wrote an extremely entertaining, humorous post called “How to irritate a writer”. Check it out… you won’t be sorry. After reading this post, I moved her book to the top of my pile.

Riggs Crossing is a YA novel about a teenage girl, pulled from the wreckage of a crashed car. She is injured, both physically and psychologically. After the physical injuries have healed, she is placed in a children’s shelter. Unable or unwilling to remember much, including her own name, she is dubbed ‘Len’. Riggs Crossing is about Len slowly regaining the memories of her life. And, more importantly, it is about her learning to live the rest of her life.

This is a compelling, intriguing and hard to put down novel. It is an insight into one trouble teenager’s mind. There’s not all that much plot, but the novel captivates with its sense of character. The style is personal and immediate. There is almost an element of voyeurism to it, as you are privy to Len’s innermost thoughts. The revelations of her past are slow at first, building pace as the novel escalates to its climax.

Len is an interesting character. She is not always likeable and some of her attitudes towards the people around her are downright abhorrent — her racism, for example, or the way she views the overweight ten-year-old girl who also lives in the children’s shelter. But she also has her good points — her curiosity and the way she interacts with her teacher. And then, of course, there is her past — hanging over her like a slowly descending blade. All this goes a long way to building a believable person, rather than a cardboard cut-out character.

The cover image is very much an idealised image — the person who Len wishes to be. But then, of course, there are those words that go with it, dragging you back to reality.

The other characters in the novel are all viewed through Len’s eyes — which, in itself, is an interesting way to show characters. They are not given as much time as Len, but they are still well developed, and it is particularly interesting to see how Len’s opinions of them slowly change over the course of the novel.

Riggs Crossing is an excellent read in and of its own right — but there is also bucket-loads of study potential in there. Highly recommended!

Catch ya later,  George

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18-yo schoolgirl lands six figure global publishing deal

18-year-old schoolgirl lands six-figure global publishing deal with HarperCollins

Story first published online and has been read 17 million times

Gibbs began writing at 14 and stayed up writing until 3am on school nights

Global media storm has ensued with The Huffington Post,The GuardianThe Daily MailThe Sunday Mail, Sky Newsand BBC Breakfast running with the announcement of publication

Teen vegetarian with morbid fear of blood writes Vampire novel

Move over 50 Shades of Grey: the new internet phenomenon is here

We’ve all heard that publishing sensation Fifty Shades of Grey came about via an online publishing website, and now lightening has struck twice – this time for British teenager Abigail Gibbs.

The 18-year-old, who lives in a small village in Devon, England, began posting chapters of her now-to-be-published book Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampireon online writing platform Wattpad at the age of 14. Spurred on by a huge and exponentially growing raft of readers around the world, Gibbs continued with the story for the following two years  – until she landed a literary agent who advised her to hold off posting the conclusion for the published book.

Dinner With A Vampire, which like Fifty Shades is inspired by Stephanie Meyer’sTwilight series, is being billed as the sexiest vampire story yet, and combines the dark romance of Twilight with added passion, edginess… and gore (a paradox given Gibbs is a committed vegetarian!).

The book centres on protagonist Violet Lee, who is the only witness to a horrific mass murder, London’s Bloodbath. Shown unexpected mercy by the culprits, Violet must make an impossible choice: face the possibility of never returning to her old life, or joining these powerful creatures of the night. As she discovers the past behind her captors – the Varns – Violet unwittingly finds herself drawn to the turbulent ways of the Varn’s handsome fourth son Kaspar, the heir to the Vamperic throne.

HarperCollins Publishing Director Shona Martyn said:  “We are hugely excited about The Dark Heroine: Dinner with a Vampire.  Abigail is a huge talent – her storytelling is pacy and vivid; her characters and plot are sexier than Edward and Bella.  Her existing fans are out there waiting to see what happens next and I am confident that word-of-mouth and social media sharing will bring her quickly to a whole new audience.”

Buy the book here…

About the author

Abigail Gibbs was born and raised in deepest, darkest Devon. She is currently studying for a BA in English at the University of Oxford and considers herself a professional student, as the real world is yet to catch up with her. Her greatest fear is blood and she is a great advocate of vegetarianism, which logically led to the writing of her first novel, Dinner With A Vampire. At age fifteen, she began posting serially online under the pseudonym Canse12, and after three years in the internet limelight, set her sights towards total world domination. She splits her time between her studies, stories and family, and uses coffee to survive all three.

New Release: The Adjusters by Andrew Taylor

A Stepford-Kids style thriller for the Alex Rider generation — sinister, shocking and impossible to put down. 

When 14-year-old Henry’s mum loses her job, they are forced to move to Newton County — a small American town where everyone seems just a little bit too perfect…

While Henry’s mother settles into her new job at the Malcorp Complex that dominates the town, Henry finds himself at odds with the strange, conformist world Malcorp’s owner, John Mallory, has created.

At school, the students around Henry are all super-intelligent and physically powerful, but eerily detached, and totally respectful of all authority. As his suspicions grow about Newton’s “special education” program, Henry breaks into the Malcorp medical centre with his two misfit friends, searching for answers. But none of them could have ever imagined what they’d find behind the closed Malcorp doors: a shocking, brain-tampering “adjustment process” for kids who don’t fit in…

And Henry and his friends have just gone to the top of the waiting list.

Buy the book here…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Taylor lives in Melbourne. He was born in New Zealand and grew up in East Anglia. He studied English Literature at Sheffield University and then teaching at Cambridge. He has spent the last ten years working as a teacher in England, South Korea, Poland and Australia, where he now lives with his partner and their two dogs.

Review – The Family Hour in Australia

Just loving the gorgeously retro illustrations in this book that send one winging back to the 1970s. Author/illustrator Tai Snaith has created a timeless peek into the typical Aussie family life . . . of our native fauna.

The sun has risen and a colourful Gouldian family gobble their breakfast. On a nearby branch, retro canisters are lined-up and labelled – Flies, Snails, Bugs and Ticks. Baby numbats take a ride on mum’s back, flicking out sticky tongues to catch a snatch of termites.

In the supermarket, a roo and her joeys snaffle Joey Juice and Kangamite from the shelves while a puggle slurps pink milk and baby cygnets cuddle into baby-bjorn style pouches on their parents’ fronts. Tassie Tigers don thrash metal tshirts and play the drums in the garage, and wombats snuggle in to watch tele under stripy blankets.

I love the kooky, totally disjointed nature of this book – it’s pure fantasy and the illustrations are a joy to wander through, however, in a purist sense, the blending of animal fact, highly-imaginative fiction and quirky illustrations are a little fractious at times – mostly in terms of the voice the author uses. It would have perhaps been more effective had she used language as original and fun as the book’s overall concept.

Hidden clocks denote time as the story unfolds – from early morning to late at night, and Family Facts at the end of the book expound on a series of animal facts. A great book for schools and libraries.

The Family Hour is published by Thames & Hudson.

Lost Book Sales

The publishing industry is going through now what the music industry has been going through for a few years: fast-changing technologies, risk-averse dinosaur suppliers unsure how and unable to adjust to the market, users fed up with being dictated the terms under which they are allowed to use content that are invariably un-user friendly, and technologies rightly or wrongly enabling users to wrestle back some of the control.

I had the (mis)fortune to work for Australia’s largest music retailer who shall not be named throughout most of my uni degree. I can say with assurety that they didn’t handle the music landscape changes well.

Remember region-specific DVDs? Yeah, well some clever chap (or chap-ess) created non-region-specific DVD players and we haven’t looked back. Remember windows (AKA, the industry term for staggering releases around the world)? Yeah, well piracy is fast putting paid to that.

Distributors have been super slow to react, but they’re finally starting to realise they need to release content worldwide and simultaneously or lose revenue as people share content in their own (free) way. They’re not there yet, but money not made is a language they know and understand.

See, region restrictions and windows are arbitrary rules and obstacles put in place by those who own the rights to control and ultimately maximise their revenue. Those restrictions aren’t in the interest of the people who are after the content.

While I don’t condone piracy, I do understand it. Especially when I cannot get Games of Thrones legitimately at the time it’s released in the US and then am being spoilered into the next universe by my internationally based social media friends. I mean, The Oatmeal outlined his I-tried-to-do-the-right-thing-then-f&ck-it-you-made-it-impossible-to philosophy much better than I ever could.

All of this is a long-winded whine is a precursor to a website I discovered via the ever astonishing Kate Eltham. Called Lost Book Sales, it’s a site where readers can tell the world (and, hopefully, the author and publisher) about book sale lost for reasons that may include price, region restrictions, or availability.

It’s a genius idea, overcoming that chicken–egg argument that publishers, bookstores, and the like present for not making books available: no sales history. But, as frustrated readers and authors know, you can’t develop a sales history when the book’s not available for sale. And if publishers don’t know readers are after said book, they might not even consider releasing it in, say, Australia in an e-book format.

Lost Book Sales is simple, crowdsourced, using freely available online tools and templates, seemingly volunteer-run for the greater good, and hopefully something that will help authors get their books into the hands of more readers*.** Excuse me while I spend the rest of my Sunday submitting books to it …

*If I had to make one suggestion, it’s that they social media it up—its reach and impact would go gangbusters if they got themselves on Facebook and Twitter.

**It’s worth noting that Boomerang Books is also tackling this lost book sales issues. You might have come across some listings where the book’s not available, but Boomerang Books includes it in the catalogue with the purpose of showing that it does exist, that it’s worth trying to contact the distributor to see if it can be made available here.

Indie Publishing

The Simple ThingsI booked a last-minute ticket to the Queensland Writers Centre’s (QWC) Going Indie seminar, unsure what I was going to hear, but hopeful it was going to be applicable.

I’ve had good fortune with QWC’s workshops and figured this one, which was tackling the oft-sneered-at, but increasingly decent option of self-publishing, would offer a handy industry-in-flux oversight. I have to say, though, that I hate the term ‘self-publishing’, so was relieved when the panellists swiftly renamed it ‘indie publishing’, as in reminiscent of the respected independent music industry.

I turned up largely to hear Sally Collings*, esteemed writer, editor, and publisher, and person self-described as being able to offer a 360-degree view of the publishing process and industry. In fact, I’d have turned up just to hear her speak—her wisdom, warmth, out-of-the-box, and ‘unashamedly commercial’ approach to non-fiction publishing are something I’d love to learn from and perhaps one day emulate.

She was joined by poet Graham Nunn, who was awarded the Johnno Award for his service to the industry last year, and spec fic writer Alan Baxter, who described himself as ‘just another kung fu-teaching writer’. No, really. He writes and he teaches kung fu.**

Alan BaxterThe panel in essence echoed the conclusions I’ve come to myself in recent times. Notably that there’s never been a better time to be a writer and there are a bunch of opportunities to publish and be published in a variety of formats. All three made incredibly salient points, including (in no particular order):

  • Indie publishing appeals to control freaks who like to be in charge of the project from start to finish (hello, me!), as well as people who are authorities in their niches, have direct links to their audiences, and who know more about the subject than any publisher would.
  • Indie publishing enables you to be creative and task risks you couldn’t within a traditional publishing framework.
  • No matter what you do in publishing, you must be your own gatekeeper, i.e. whether you’re self-publishing or being published by a traditional publisher, be sure you’ve done your best work.
  • An independently published book must never look like one—quality design and content are a must.
  • Because self-publishing’s easy, everyone’s doing it, which means there’s a bunch of competition and noise out there. It is levelling off, though.
  • Indie and traditional publishing aren’t mutually exclusive. You can do both, and both at once if it works for you.
  • If you do self-publish, it’s key to have a marketing strategy.
  • You should invest in the writing community of which you’re a part as the engagement, support, and advice are critical.
  • The fundamental thing is the writing. It never occurred to Baxter that he was independently or traditionally publishing—he was just writing.
  • Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. As noted above, quality is key.
  • It’s possible to source cover artwork from such sites as 99 Designs, which also allows you to create Facebook polls for friends and fans to vote on, i.e. developing awareness of your book before it comes out.
  • Postage costs in this enormous land of Oz we live in needs to be factored in. Baxter’s example was that his book was a mere (but fiscally painful) three grams over the minimum postage weight. It meant that he had to spend hundreds of dollars on postage he wouldn’t have needed to had he printed the book with a font 0.5 px smaller than the one he did use.
  • Don’t be afraid to give work away—writers such as Cory Doctorow have built strong careers based on this philosophy (but don’t give your rights away if you can help it).
  • The only thing worse than piracy is obscurity. The people who’ll pirate your work weren’t the ones who’d ever have paid for it anyway. If they have it, they might read it. If they read it, they might like it and mention it to others. Those others might actually buy it.

While the session was ultimately positive, I was pretty disappointed to hear that Nunn wasn’t publishing to make money. A bestselling poetry book sells, he told us, 500 copies nationally. That’s a woefully low figure and it’s probably just as well he’s not after commercial success—that’s a huge obstacle to overcome. Still, the glass-half-full way of looking at that is that he’s not letting it put him off and he’s publishing because of his poetry passion.

Like Collings, I’m unashamedly commercial about my intentions—people don’t practise law or medicine for the love of it and don’t feel squeamish about getting paid for their expertise. I’m still just trying to 100% work out how to produce commercially and critically successful non-fiction work. After today’s panel, I don’t think indie publishing is the answer, but I do think it has an important supporting role to play.

*Her latest book is The Simple Things, which she co-wrote with Antonia Kidman.

**An interesting side note: After reading some woeful efforts, Baxter saw a need for a book offering some pointers for writing action and fight scenes—something his expertise well-positioned him to do so. It continues to tick over on Amazon.

Podcasts: Please Help

It’s no secret that I read (and pilfer) books religiously, but it’s less well known how many podcasts I also put into my brain. They’ll never replace the joy of reading a book for me, but they’re handy for passing the time while I’m doing such mundanities as driving, doing the grocery shopping, cooking, running, or waiting for or riding on the train.

I’ve not ever tried audiobooks, which I realise sounds entirely crazy—they’re books combined with podcasts, which seems like a match made in heaven for me. Though I think they’re a fabulous idea, I’ve for some reason not yet entered that world. It might be because although I enjoy listening to podcasts, they’ll never beat actually reading for me—I regularly tune out and get frustrated not being able to accurately, easily rewind my iPod to the precise point I need.

It might also be because I know that once I go down that rabbit hole, I’ll never return. I need podcasts that are finite in length and easily stoppable—an audiobook version of ‘just one more chapter’ could be the death of me and my ability to meet deadlines and earn money. Some of my favourites include:

Conversations with Richard Fidler

I first discovered Richard Fidler not via ABC TV show Race Around The World, of which he was the affable, disarming, compassionate, clever host. He’s brought those same skills to Conversations with Richard Fidler, a one-hour daily show in which he interviews people famous and very often not famous about their lives. It’s perhaps based on the premise that ‘everyone has a story’, but Fidler’s ability to tease out the most compelling, occasionally tear-jerking, tales is something else. I absolutely devour this show.

This American Life

If you don’t want to both clone Ira Glass and climb inside his brain before the end of listening to your first This American Life podcast, you’d best check whether you still have a pulse. The American version of Fidler, he’s turned radio and storytelling on its head. Oh, and he’s incredibly humble and witty and very happy to both share his wisdom and refreshingly, inspiringly show that he’s anything but a prodigy—it took him longer than we ever realise for him to get good at his job. It’s no surprise that he and Fidler are friends.

The Nerdist Writers’ Panel

I stumbled across this panel recently via the original but less-good The Nerdist. The Nerdist Writers’ Panel is, as the name suggests, an industry podcast where Ben Blacker interviews writers about their craft. It’s most often screenwriters as they’re based in LA, including some heavy hitters such as Jane Espenson, who is both incredibly talented and incredibly warm. She’s written for a bunch of shows you might have heard of, including Buffy, Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, Once Upon A Time, and Firefly.

The Nerdist is also worth a look too, but I have to issue a disclaimer—there’s a lot more riffing by the hosts and there are often three of them instead of one. Sometimes I think they need to streamline it or at least get a little more out of the way. That said, I have found some episodes of gold. It’s worth checking out if you’re prepared to weather the occasional miss.

Planet Money

In the same vein of (and recommended by) Ira Glass, Planet Money is the show that allows even fiscally blind and deaf people like me to understand how money works. Even better, they do it in a way that actually makes it interesting. Particularly worth checking out is their episode collaboration with This American Life called the ‘Giant Pool of Money’, which explains the Global Financial Crisis and just how things came to be as bad as they are.

Stuff and Things

A new podcast by Brisbane-based creatives Carley Commens and David Burton, Stuff and Things is the Australian version of The Nerdist (but better). They’ve had a bunch of writers, actors, directors, publishers, dancers (you get the point—industry professionals) on to discuss their craft and their careers. Fascinating listening and wickedly funny too. I come away from this podcast impressed at the creative industries’ get-up-and-go and inspired to do a bit more getting-up-and-going myself.

That list makes it sound like a lot of podcasts, but I have to admit I quickly run out of fresh episodes and am perpetually on the hunt for more. I used to listen to ABC Radio National podcasts The Book Show and Life Matters, the former despite the fact that I absolutely loathed and despised Ramona Koval and the latter because I loved Richard Aedy and the topics he covered.

Koval is now thankfully gone, but so too is The Book Show, replaced by Books and Arts Daily, which is undeniably its poor, not-yet-found-its-feet-and-maybe-never-will cousin. It tries to do too much too generally and doesn’t do enough books. The show is, really, just really boring.

Aedy’s moved on from Life Matters, which is a devastating loss. Radio National’s kept the name, but tried to rejig it—as with Books and Arts Daily, I’m sorry to say it’s a bit dud. Both shows have completely lost me as a listener.

Which means I’m book and interesting non-fiction podcast-less and desperate to find one. Anyone got any recommendations for me (preferably free)?

Samuel Johnson Prize longlist announced

The longlist for the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction has been announced in the UK.

The Samuel Johnson Prize is the UK’s most prestigious non-fiction award. The prize aims to reward the best of non-fiction and is open to authors of all non-fiction books in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography autobiography and the arts.

The longlisted titles are:

  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo, Scribe)
  • One on One (Craig Brown, Fourth Estate)
  • Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest(Wade Davis, Bodley Head)
  • The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin(Masha Gessen, Granta Books)
  • Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle (Thor Hansen, Basic Books)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman, Penguin)
  • The Old Ways (Robert MacFarlane, Hamish Hamilton)
  • Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Ray Monk, Jonathan Cape)
  • Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genuis (Sylvia Nasar, Fourth Estate)
  • Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England (Thomas Penn, Penguin)
  • The Better Angels of Our Nature (Steven Pinker, Penguin)
  • The Spanish Holocaust (Paul Preston, HarperCollins)
  • Strindberg: A Life (Sue Prideaux, Yale University Press)
  • Joseph Anton (Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Cape).

The winner of this year’s prize, worth £20,000, will be announced on 12 November.

Read more about the Samuel Johnson Prize here…

WA Premier’s Book Award Winners announced

The winners of this year’s Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards were announced on 17 September.

The winner of the overall Premier’s Prize ($25,000) was Fiona Skyring for Justice: A History of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (UWA Publishing). Skyring’s book also won the $10,000 WA History Prize.

Buy the books here…

The winners in each of the categories were:

Nonfiction ($15,000)

  • Her Father’s Daughter (Alice Pung, Black Inc.)

Fiction ($15,000)

  • All That I Am (Anna Funder, Penguin)

Children’s ($15,000)

  • Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck (Michelle Gillespie, illus by Sonia Martinez, Fremantle Press)

Poetry ($10,000)

  • The Argument (Tracy Ryan, Fremantle Press)

Young Adult ($10,000)

  • Only Ever Always (Penni Russon, A&U)

State Library of Western Australia WA History Award ($10,000)

  • Justice: A History of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia(Fiona Skyring, UWA Publishing)

Scripts ($10,000)

  • Cloudstreet (Tim Winton & Ellen Fontana, Penguin)

Digital narrative ($5000)

  • Machine Man (Max Barry, Scribe)

People’s Choice ($5000)

  • All That I Am (Anna Funder, Penguin).

See more information about the WA Premier’s Book Awards here…

New Release: Swampy: Tall tales and true from boyhood and beyond by Bill ‘Swampy’ Marsh

Charming, funny autobiographical stories from the legendary and utterly unique Bill ‘Swampy’ Marsh

‘Coming from a small place like Beckom, I’d never been in a library before. We only had three books at home so I was under the impression that there were only three authors in the world … So when I walked into the library I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Every wall, every shelf, every nook and cranny was stacked with books. I just stood there, glued in absolute amazement at just how many books Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and God could’ve written.’ – Page 69

In this collection of stories, Bill takes us from his childhood in a small outback town in the 1950s  and coming of age at an all-boys bush boarding school, to his journey as an adult when, after suffering a heart attack, he revisits and reflects on youth by travelling in his father’s footsteps through  rural Australia.

Loveable and eccentric characters are brought to life with humour and affection as Bill ponders mateship and manhood, cricket and footy, young love and heartbreak, battlers and larrikins, courage and loyalty.

These are tales of everyday life in rural Australia but with universal appeal and generous helpings of laughter and tears.

Buy the book here…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill ‘Swampy’ Marsh is an award-winning writer/performer of stories, songs and plays. He spent most of his youth in rural south-western New South Wales. Bill was forced to give up any idea he had of a ‘career’ as a cricketer when a stint at agricultural college was curtailed because of illness, and so began his hobby of writing.

After backpacking through three continents and working in the wine industry, his writing hobby blossomed into a career.

Beckom Pop. 64, his first collection of short stories, was published in 1988; his second,Old Yanconian Daze, in 1995; and his third,Looking for Dad, in 1998. During 1999, Bill released Australia, a CD of his songs and stories. That was followed in 2002 by A Drover’s Wife and Glory, Glory: A Tribute to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in 2008. He has written soundtrack songs and music for the television documentaries The Last Mail from Birdsville: The Story of  Tom Kruse, Source to Sea: The Story of the Murray Riverboats and the German travel documentaries Traumzeit auf dem Stuart Highway and Clinic Flights (Tilpa & Marble Bar).

Bill runs writing workshops in schools and communities and is a teacher of short-story writing within the Adelaide Institute of TAFE’s Professional Writing Unit. He has won and judged many nationwide short-story writing and song writing competitions and short film awards.

Bill is also the author of the highly successful ‘Great Australian’ series, which includes: Great Australian CWA Stories (2011), New Great Australian Flying Doctor Stories (2010), The ABC Book of Great Aussie Stories for Young People (2010), Great Australian Stories: Outback Towns and Pubs (2009), More Great Australian Flying Doctor Stories (2007),Great Australian Railway Stories (2005), Great Australian Droving Stories(2003), Great Australian Shearing Stories (2001) and Great Australian Flying Doctor Stories (1999). Bill’s story Goldie was published in 2008.

billswampymarsh.com

Review – A Hare, A Hound and Shy Mousey Brown

Shy Mousey Brown is watching a sweet, bounding hare, hopping all around, welcoming in spring, totally unaware of the surly old hound, lying in wait. Shy Mousey Brown knows this hound; he’s seen him before. How can he warn the bunny of the hound’s rather sinister motives? He’s so small. He can hardly be heard.

Then – suddenly – the hound is upon the hare! He has her pinned to the ground, ready to make her his lunch. So what does Mousey Brown do? Armed with a feather, he resorts to a good old round of tickling, of course! And Mousey Brown and the hare are free to become the best of friends.

Although this is a beautifully written book – with lots of suspense and a cute ending – I did find the words and rhythm a little difficult to navigate at times. I think perhaps reading it aloud would help.

Illustrations by Jonathan Bentley are totally engaging and full of luscious movement and charm.

A Hare, A Hound and Shy Mousey Brown is published by Little Hare.

Five Very Bookish Questions with author Anna Branford

1. Which genre of children’s books do you like most and why?

I’m not sure if it quite counts as a genre, but I love children’s books that work with ideas you can wonder about all your life because of a sense that, without recourse to any clunky symbolism or a deliberately placed moral, something important has been said. One book that comes to mind straight away is Jenny Wagner’s John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat and another is Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. Both are books I had as a child and still have in my collection now and I expect I will still be mulling them over when I’m an old lady.

2. Which books did you love to read as a young child?

When I was very young, my favourite books were Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Margaret Mahy’s A Lion in the Meadow and The Nuns Go West, by Jonathan Routh.

My family moved a lot when I was a child and there was another book I lost and never found another copy of, called Ellen Climbs a Mountain. I don’t even know who wrote it and I always hope someone might be able to tell me!

3. Which three attributes make for a great children’s book?

One of my favourite attributes of children’s literature is its capacity to show people how to enjoy things that might otherwise have seemed ordinary. It was Beverley Cleary’s Ramona Quimby who taught me that there was a special pleasure in having new flannelette pajamas and in being the first person to use a fresh tube of toothpaste and it could have been any one of Enid Blyton’s boarding school girls who introduced me to the fine practice of midnight feasting.

I also like the way children’s books can sometimes, without being preachy or moralistic, help readers of any age to understand certain sorts of kindness that are probably too complicated to explain directly.

In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I love the way Lucy intuits that Mr Beaver is shyly proud of his dam and that her praise would mean a great deal to him.

In Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows, I like the way Rat comes to understand that Mole is being a pest only because he is terribly homesick and that compassion would be a much better response than impatience.

Finally, although it’s not right for every book, I think funny illustrations have a very important place in children’s stories. I can never read Roald Dahl’s Matilda without an indelicate snort at Quentin Blake’s first portrait of ‘the Trunchbull’.

The other day I was book shopping and had the same reaction to the dogs’ faces in Say Hello to Zorro, written and illustrated by Carter Goodrich. Hilarious.

4. What is your number one tip for encouraging children to read?

In my opinion, lots of choice and not too much policing. The real joy of reading doesn’t properly begin until that amazing moment when you find that floating your eyes over a string of words can actually change the pictures you’re seeing in your mind. But you have to be a pretty accomplished reader to get to that point.

Once you’ve found that near-magical reading capacity, you can use it to explore all kinds of books, but I think children often get there via books that look a bit rubbishy to adults. So I think it’s important to be very tolerant of glitter, kittens, silly humour and anthropomorphic diggers and dinosaurs, and not risk dampening a delicate spark of interest by proffering Watership Down and David Copperfield (excellent though those books may be) too early.

5. Name three books you wish you’d written.

Ooh, what a good question! Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce and Betsy Byars’ The Eighteenth Emergency.

About Anna

Anna Branford is a doll-maker, a sociologist, a collector of small things and the author of the Violet Mackerel books.

www.annabranford.com

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Life, Death and Detention

Want a free book? Yes? Excellent — ‘cause I’m giving away two copies of my newly released YA short story collection, Life, Death and Detention.

To win a copy simply go down to the comments section at the end of this post and tell me why I should give you one. The two responses I like best will get a book. 🙂

You’ve got a week from today. Entries close on Tuesday 25 September 2012 at 5pm Australian Eastern Time. So hurry up!

So I suppose I should tell you a little about the book. It’s a new edition of my very first book, originally published way back in 1999. I’ve already blogged about it a couple of times — see: “The long and winding road to a new edition” and “Life, Death and Detention”. Here’s the back cover blurb…

Life, Death and Detention is a collection of compelling stories about life in high school. Being a teenager can be fraught with difficulties. Not only do you have to deal with dysfunctional families at home, but with the weirdos at school as well.

Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes disturbing—that’s what life is like for the modern teenager.

If you’d like to read someone else opinion, here are a couple of links to reviews…

This is an impressive collection of stories, highly recommended…
Anastasia Gonis, Buzz Words Books, read full review

Dramatic, emphatic and explosive – the only words available to describe this collection of short stories.  George Ivanoff not only has the insight to get into the heads of teenagers and know their every move and thought, but his writing style is short, clear and penetrating.
Bev’s Book Blog, read full review

And finally, here are a couple of vids. The first is Alison Goodman (author of Eon and Eona) launching Life, Death and Detention, and the second is my speech from the launch…

Now, start commenting for your chance to WIN! Of course, if you’re too impatient to enter the giveaway, you could always order your copy RIGHT NOW through Boomerang Books. 😉

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

 

Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: DVD Review & Giveaway — Doctor Who: The Krotons

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Amazing, exotic, and just plain strange – the Guinness World Records book 2013

Since first being published in 1955, the Guinness World Records book has sold over 120 million copies to date in over 100 countries, but it’s not resting on its laurels. The newly-released 2013 edition comes packed with 3D technology, info-graphics and over 3,000 mind-blowing records; ranging from the amazing (oldest couple to run a marathon, at 83 and 78); to the costly (most expensive toilet, Nasa’s Endeavour, $23.4 million); to the downright weird (most watermelons smashed with a head in one minute).

We caught up with the Australia/NZ representative of Guinness World Records, Chris Sheedy, about the book and what it takes to be a record-holder. In addition to looking after all the PR and media for the region, Chris is also the official adjudicator, and attends any major record-making or breaking events that take place. When Australia took the prize for the biggest toga party and longest bikini parade, Chris was there. “I did adjudicate the biggest toga party and I personally counted the ladies in the largest bikini parade – they were both wonderful events.”

Less wonderful, but certainly as interesting are some of the odder events he has attended. “There’s an element of strangeness to most events I attend, but the record for most watermelons smashed with the head (which was broken in Chinchilla, Queensland, a few years ago) stands out as one of the more memorable. Having said that, a lot of the things we adults take seriously are pretty strange, too. Butterfly swimming, dressage… Guinness World Records celebrates the imagination of children, and to kids everything is wonderful and of equal importance.”

His personal favorite record is to witness so far was in 2008, standing on the landing ramp at Calder Park Raceway as Robbie Maddison landed the world’s longest motorcycle jump, at a distance of 106.9 metres. “It’s such a classic record – I had goosebumps.”

The 2013 book isn’t just about documenting exciting new events and records, it’s also expected to set some. “Our readership, and the book industry to an extent, expects us to lead the way when it comes to technology, and to books becoming more interactive. We constantly use technology to make the records more accessible, understandable and exciting.”

This year’s Guinness World Records book is pushing the boundaries of interaction and text, with new 3D technology, augmented reality, and the digital bonus chapter, Chris explains. “Download an simple app then point it at specific pages in the book and see the book come alive. For example, on one page the world’s biggest spider climbs out of the page, on another the world’s shortest man wanders around the page. It’s wonderful and amazing and slightly unsettling all at once!”

The 2013 book is a fascinating read, and after a few pages it’s hard not to start imagining ways to get your own name into the book. Chris isn’t immune to the appeal of setting a record. “During my first week 13 years ago I found a record I knew I could break – most grapes eaten with a teaspoon in 60 seconds. I set it up one lunchtime and no sooner had I started than the Keeper Of The Records came up and shut it down. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that GWR staff are never involved in the breaking of a record.”

If you’d like to see your own name in the book, through breaking a current record or inventing and setting a brand new one, Chris’s advice is be prepared. “Apply as soon as possible through Guinesss World Records website. It’s quick, easy and free (costs can be involved if you require a corporate adjudication) and it means the guidelines for the specific record will be sent out to you so you can follow the rules. After that, train with great passion and enjoy becoming the best in the world at whatever it is you’re attempting!”

Review – Dotty Inventions and Some Real Ones, Too

Professor Dotty Dabble and her laboratory assistant robot Digby (43 light years old) are opening the mail. There is an invitation from Mad Inventor’s Monthly to enter their best invention, and win the holiday of a lifetime. But how can they possibly choose which amazing invention to enter?

Should it be the chocolate cup (simply add hot water and drink before the chocolate melts) or the voice-activated socks, for troublesome pairs that like to separate? Should it be the thermal dentures (that keep the mouth warm in cold climes) or the nasal floss (don’t ask)? They simply can’t decide, so they pack a series of inventions into their Gizmobile and set off for the National Science Museum.

On the way to the museum, Dotty and Digby encounter several world famous inventions – the windscreen wiper, the parachute, the ballpoint pen, just to name a few. As each invention is mentioned, kids are treated to a double page spread of information on each one, outlining fascinating points on its creation.

By the time this dynamic duo make it to the competition, Dotty is feeling a little disheartened about entering her substandard inventions – so you can imagine her surprise when she wins! You’ll just have to read the book to discover her winning entry.

I love the combination of fact and fiction in this gorgeous book – the type kids will pore over and over and over again, picking up more information with each visit. Illustrations are bright, kooky and a joy to behold, combining modern styling with that lovely retro touch.

I’m also loving the super clever, twisted, and highly satisfying ending – something so often missing in picture books nowadays. Great fun and perfect for kids of many ages.

Dotty Inventions and Some Real Ones, Too is published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Review: Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen

I hadn’t come across Tess Gerritsen’s novels before Last to Die landed up on my desk. Background reading told me that this is the 10th Rizzoli and Isles thriller and that the characters had spawned a hit TV series in the US.

This mystery revolves around three young children all orphaned within a week of each other in three different locations. They are then all horrendously subjected to a second similar trauma, some two years later, when all of the children’s foster parents are killed. The children themselves narrowly avoid death. They all then end up in an exclusive boarding school in the backwoods of Maine which apparently specialises in helping children in trauma.

Forensic pathologist Maura Isles becomes involved when she visits the school to visit Julian ‘Rat’ Perkins, the young boy with whom she bonded during their ordeal in Wyoming (see the earlier book, Ice Cold). Unsure of the motives of the schools founders and that the school is the best place for Julian she becomes aware that all the school’s pupils are survivors of violence and that for some of the children the school may be the only safe place. She is also startled to discover that the backgrounds of two of the children are very similar to that of a boy whose foster parents deaths she has just examined back in Boston.

Detective Jane Rizzoli in Boston, alerted by Maura, decides to check up on the boy and is instrumental in foiling another murder attempt. After talking to Maura again, she decides that the best option is to take the boy straight to the school, a school that may be the only safe place. However Maura and Jane soon discover that the school, even though it is protected by locked gates and acres of woodland, cannot be totally secure especially when the threat may be inside the school. Strange clues such as three twig dolls hanging in a tree, and a crucified deer are found. Later the apparent suicide of the school’s psychiatrist counsellor also causes concern.

Interspersed in this story is a second story of a kidnap in Rome where the family of the kidnapped are all killed in a road smash. Only towards the end of the main story does this second tale start make any sense.

This latest novel from Gerritsen will please those who have read her earlier books. To the first time reader there are references to characters found in earlier books that are not fully explained and that do nothing for the plot. Perhaps this the author’s way of getting you to read all the earlier books.

David Skea, Sydney, Australia.
Website and Ted Hughes pages: http://ann.skea.com/

Are you a bowerbird? Leading interior stylist tells you how to use it all

Are you a bowerbird?

Australia’s most exciting stylist shows how to create enticing interiors with the things you treasure

Sibella Court’s wanderlust has made her one of the world’s most sought-after stylists and creative directors.

Like the Australian bowerbird, Sibella is famous for creating interiors that entice and inspire from found objects, beloved mementos and upcycled furniture.

In Bowerbird, Sibella’s new book of ideas and interiors, she shares her approach to achieving a unique style, being a firm believer that our own collections, imparting the memories they do, are a vital part of any home.

This is her most personal book yet, with Sibella showcasing her own collections. Full of practical inspiration that shows how your treasured belongings – from shells to vintage hardware and portraits of moustached men to loofahs – can work as a centrepiece or simply as subtle elements that reflect your space, your apartment, your house and your passions.

Buy the book here…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After ten years in New York styling for iconic brands, such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Jo Malone, Pottery Barn, Target and West Elm, and leading magazines, including GourmetMarie Claire and Vogue Living, Sibella returned to Australia and launched The Society Inc.

She has written extensively for Country StyleGraziaHarper’s Bazaar and Vogue Living as a feature writer and contributing editor. Her previous books include EtceteraThe Stylist’s Guide to NYC and Nomad. Visit Sibella at www.thesocietyinc.com.au.

Bookcamp

I’m heading to If:Book Australia’s Bookcamp in a fortnight’s time (and yes, I realise that sounds like the publishing industry equivalent of ‘band camp’. It’s not, honest. It’s far less salacious and potentially happily even more nerdy).

Bookcamp’s actually an ‘unconference’ that’s designed to bring together creative, bookish people from a bunch of backgrounds to explore books’ future. It will be ‘bottom-up, grass-roots, and collaborative’, i.e. entirely outside the traditional conference model box.

The theme? The emerging future.

Hmm. Lots to ponder there.

I went to If:Book’s last unconference (at least, I think it was an unconference) entitled The Reader. It was a fantastic day organised by a fantastic organisation that ‘promotes new forms of digital literature and explores ways to boost connections between writers and audiences’. As a side note, I love its logo and website design (I hope the If:Book team don’t mind, but I’ve included a small screengrab of their design here for reference. You can visit it in full at www.futureofthebook.org.)

If:Book BookcampIf:Book Australia was set up by outgoing Queensland Writers Centre CEO/incoming Brisbane Writers Festival Director Kate Eltham. If you haven’t yet heard of her, I’d recommend you rectify that now, starting by following her on Twitter: @kate_eltham. The Australian newspaper named her one of 10 Emerging Leaders of Culture way back in 2009, something she’s well and truly proved in the three years since. Eltham’s not only one to watch, but one we’d all love to emulate.

In fact, ‘digital champion’ Eltham was one of the few people the industry who didn’t completely freak out about the ‘death’ of the physical book at the hands of the digital one. She correctly predicted that there’d always be room for physical books and that e-books were just joining the conversation. What mattered, and what we all fall in love with over and over again, are the stories themselves—the container in which they come now just involves more choice.

But I’m getting carried away. The above’s not gush—it’s meant to be useful-background-information segway. That is, an unconference organised by an organisation involving Eltham is the kind of conference writers, editors, designers, publishers, and readers ought to attend—it’s likely to yield some groundbreaking and inspiring results.

The thing about unconferences is that they don’t have pre-determined programs. Instead, the website tells us, we participants will get to suggest topics and then be responsible for leading discussions and brainstorming sessions around them.

Sounds great, except that I’m rubbish at thinking of topics. Which is why I’m writing this blog. If you were me and you had the opportunity to put forward some topics you’d like tackled at Bookcamp, what would you recommend?

To give you some ideas, the unconference will also have a guest speaker—independent writer, designer, and publisher, Craig Mod, who divides his time between Palo Alto, New York, and Tokyo, and who has created a stack of impressive projects and publications.

His interests and work, his website tells me, are about digital books, publishing, and start-ups—three areas that are increasingly, happily converging. Like Eltham, he’s a ‘technology optimist’ who sees a bunch of publishing opportunities awaiting us, best summed up as follows:

The old guard is crumbling. A new guard is awkwardly emerging. Together, we can affect the shape of the new guard.

Which returns me to my previous question: If you were me and you had the opportunity to suggest topics you’d like tackled along the theme of ‘the emerging future’ at Bookcamp, what would you recommend?

Getting baked with good friends

Browsing my friends’ bookshelves is always interesting but the books I love to get into (in more ways than one) are their baking books. Not every house has some but when I do come across a home with a well-stocked dessert-bookshelf, I can spend hours browsing and lingering over the lush photography. Puddings and cheesecakes and fruit tarts – oh my.

My love of baking books strikes my friends as strange because I own so few myself and I am a really terrible baker. Last week I tried to get my Nigella on and make brownies. I succeeded in making brown, far too much brown, great tracts of it that crawled out of the pan and attempted to envelope the wire rack like an Alien facehugger with chocolate chips. What remained in the pan completely lacked in the delicious gooey interior that makes a brownie so enjoyable and instead had a texture reminiscent of foam mattress.

It did not, it must be said, look like the brownie in the book. Nothing I bake ever does, because I am terrible at following instructions. Some people would have measured the ingredients and not substituted on an ad-hoc basis. Others might have looked at the timing and directions. Nigella, they would have reasoned, is an excellent cook and if, like me, you generally make cakes suitable for use as ballast perhaps actually following her directions would be a better plan than ignoring the book completely.

Me, I figured it would be fine once we beaten the gloop into submission, cleaned up the worst of the over-flowing tentacles, and added a little cream and chocolate shavings. And it was.

I have plenty of regular cooking books, and can make a great meal. Savoury food is simple to improvise but I invariably ruin the more structured sugary sweet treats I attempt. Sponges, flans, pastry, pastries; you name it, I have mutilated it. I am a terrible baker and this is probably no bad thing. The main problem with baking is the fact that, after you have done it, you have lots of baked goods available to eat. Sitting there. Tempting you. Demanding to be eaten and situating themselves lasciviously right next to the salted caramel sauce and big bottle of Baileys with a “come hither” expression on their steaming sugary surface.

There’s a reason they call them tarts, people.

I like friends with baking books, and I treasure my friends that do bake. I can only hope that they also welcome my enthusiastic advances on their cooking and admire my ability to enthusiastically munch my way through every mouthful they offer me, and then some. Because one bite of a sweet thing is never enough for me.

Maybe you are one of those saintly people who glide slim, smug and ethereal through life turning down unnecessary deliciousness. Maybe you just have a little of what you fancy – a nibble of the cheese, a square of the dark chocolate, just one canapé and a small glass of wine. You can open a pack of Pringles without needing to finish the tube, and throw leftover birthday cake out when it gets dry, rather than concocting a deranged high-calorie plan to make it wonderful again. (Microwave it, and then add some fresh cream with a little Bailey’s mixed in. You’re welcome.)

You can have your cake and eat it, but you’d genuinely prefer a nice piece of fresh fruit and a game of tennis. I would salute your temperance but I am too busy being filled with hate. And food. All the wonderful tasty delicious food.

Many of my friends are brilliant bakers with a cook-book collection to match. Browsing their shelves I find treats galore to tempt me. Cheesecakes. Sponges and flans. Tiny wonderful fat-filled enlardenating pastries. Wonderful brownie books and books on decorating. Cake pops, because normal cake just wasn’t fattening enough – they had to come up with a way to make it even more delicious and bad for you.

For me to have those books and be capable of making the contents correctly would be an invitation to non-stop baking madness and an additional 20 kilos or so to settle on my waistline overnight.  I already have a deliciously-fattening craft beer habit, a penchant for Thai food and a slightly disturbing fixation on spectacularly smelly cheeses.

I don’t need to another monkey – or a sticky-sweet baked gorilla – on my back. I’ll leave the baking books on my friends’ kitchen shelves. And just try to be in the neighbourhood when they decide to give them a go.

 

No Book Left Behind?

Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades of Grey (herein referred to as Fitty Shades, because it sounds totes more street) is, according to hotel chain Travelodge and The Telegraph newspaper, the book most likely. Most likely to be left behind in hotel rooms, that is.

Hmm. So much to unpack there. ‘Left behind’ implies deliberate ditching, but I wonder if that’s truly the case. I for one have been known to accidentally contribute my fair share of too-expensive-to-lose Apple iPhone and laptop chargers to hotels’ lost-and-found bins. (Holiday Inn, Spencer St, Melbourne being the most recent. Holiday Inn, if you’re reading this, hi.)

Books, in particular, are easy things to leave behind. They’re often kept out longer than most other items as we decide to read just a few more pages when we’re waiting to leave or before we go to sleep—they are, after all, an excellent way to pass the time. Not to mention the fact that they’re small enough to be caught up in doonas or down the backs of couches and easy to miss being spotted and as you cast your have-I-got-everything eye over the room one last time.

The Hunger GamesStill, the leave-behind figures for just this one hotel chain are pretty high: 21,786 books out of 36,500 rooms over the past year. Multiply that by all the other hotel chains and, well, maths isn’t my forte. Let’s just agree that that’s a whopper bunch of books.

Assume for a moment that people did deliberately leave books behind (quelle horreur!). The question is: Why? Did they not like the books? Did they do a bunch of shopping and no longer have room in their suitcase? As someone firmly entrenched in the no-book-left-behind camp, both are completely foreign and utterly abhorrent to me—I’d sacrifice undies before I’d sacrifice books.

But I digress into didn’t-need-to-know territory.

I wonder what happens to said books after they’re left behind? Are they donated to the equivalents of The Footpath Library or Lifeline?

I noticed that the ditched books list reads like a Lifeline book sale table: Stieg Larsson’s Girl-plus-Dragon-Tattoo trilogy and the aforementioned Fitty Shades. (Shudder—who’s really going to want to commandeer a second-hand copy of the latter?) You know the ones: airport fiction books that despite everyone’s denials that they were reading them, were wildly, mainstreamingly popular. Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code presumably made the list some years back.

The Da Vinci CodeSurprisingly, Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games trilogy also made the list. Which perhaps lends cred to the accidental rather than deliberate leaving behind—I mean, book one, at least, is one you’d want to hold onto, surely?

The logical next-step question is: As e-book sales increase, will we see fewer (or even no) books left behind? Or just more expensive e-book power cables. Holiday Inn, Spencer St, Melbourne … hi!

Featured Author/Illustrator – Quentin Blake

Quentin Saxby Blake was born in Sidcup, Kent, in 1932. His first published drawing was for the satirical magazine Punch, at the tender age of 16. Studying English Literature, he went on to complete a post graduate teaching diploma before studying at the Chelsea School of Art, and eventually taught at the Royal College of Art for over twenty years.

Blake has illustrated more than 300 children’s books, some his own, and some for other authors like Roald Dahl, Russell Hoban, Elizabeth Bowen, Jane Aiken, Michael Rose, John Yeoman and Dr Seuss. His very first picture book was A Drink of Water by John Yeoman in 1960.

Making his living as an illustrator, lifelong, he has also been a BBC presenter on a children’s story telling programme – Jackanory – where he told stories and illustrated them live.

In 1993, Blake was commissioned to illustrate five Christmas stamps for Royal Mail, featuring scenes from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In recent years, he has worked as Curator for such esteemed organisations as the National Gallery, the British Library and the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris.

Illustrating David Walliam’s debut book – The Boy in the Dress – in 2009, as well as Walliam’s most recent book is Mr Stink.

Books both written and illustrated by Quentin Blake include:

Quentin Blake’s Ten Frogs

Quentin Blake’s Nursery Rhyme Book

Mister Magnolia – winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal

The Green Ship

Simpkin

Fantastic Daisy Artichoke

Mrs Armitage, Queen of the Road

Quentin Blake’s work has won numerous awards including the Kate Greenaway Medal, the Whitbread Award, the Emil/Kurt Maschler Award, the international Bologna Ragazzi Prize and the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration in 2002. In 1999, he was appointed the first ever Children’s Laureate, and his book Laureate’s Progress recorded his many activities during this two-year tenure.

This formidable talent loves drawing things that move, although he says cars can be difficult unless they are a bit ‘broken down’. He loves to interpret emotion in his characters by imagining the very same things happening to him, though this does cause him to pull faces as he draws. He never married and has no kids.

www.quentinblake.com

 

Three Loves Are The Charm?

TwilightAs if it wasn’t possible to make me love Kill Your Darlings (KYD) journal any more than I already did, they posted the following, hot-damn-I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that blog: Three’s a Crowd(pleaser).

The premise (just in case you didn’t choose to click on that link)? That, as KYD Online Assistant Stephanie Van Schilt wrote:

Love triangles are standard in literature, history, song, verse, mythology, television, and film. They are endlessly present, a useful trope in their various shades—pining, pleading, or competing. The popular one plus one plus one equation is conducive to spicy rivalries that both please and divide audiences, appealing to our innate tendency to speculate whether the grass is indeed greener.

Yeah, what she said.

I mean, on some level I knew that. On another, it’s quite uncanny just how many love triangles there are out there. Think about it. If you’re a Big Brother fan, you’ll know there’s one playing out nightly on our TV screens right now. And what’s so wrong with us that we can’t accept that the grass we have is plenty green?

The first that sprang to my mind is Twilight’s Bella, sandwiched between Edward and Jacob. Oh, and its erotic fiction spin-off with Ana + Christian + her college photographer mate + (at a stretch) her publishing house boss (both of whose names I’ve completely forgotten).

Fifty Shades of GreyWhile neither Bella nor Ana may have actively encouraged their second-choice lovers, both females didn’t do a whole lot to discourage them either (Bella’s jealously at Jacob’s freaky imprinting on her daughter made it clear she liked the attention).

Refreshingly, though, Van Schilt didn’t mention those at all. She went old school, more interesting, and in at least one case higher brow. I mean, who knew about Helen of Troy potentially being willing participant in a love triangle? I always thought she’d been kidnapped. And who else had forgotten the Brenda + Dylan + Kelly 90210 saga?

More recently, I’ll admit that I’ve been obsessed with the Elena + Stefan + Damon love triangle stretched taught and dynamic in the Vampire Diaries. Adding complexity, spice, and occasionally a little double-crossing doppelganger confusion to the mix is the love rectangle-completing Katherine. It doesn’t hurt that all three (four) of them are impossibly attractive—I couldn’t tell you which one I’d prefer Elena to end up with.

Which reminds me of Van Schilt’s analysis of one of the best love triangles I’ve seen in a while: that which played out between The Hunger Games’ Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.

‘Reading The Hunger Games,’ she writes, ‘I’m not sure I had a “team”.’ That’s exactly how I felt! Unlike Twilight, where I was Team Edward all the way, wavering only slightly and briefly when I saw Taylor Lautner’s abs in the film adaptations, I spent the entire The Hunger Games trilogy flip flopping my allegiances about.

Van Schilt attributes a fair chunk of that to the fact that Katniss is such an independent, compelling character:

The combination of her hardened nature and empathetic awareness means that rather than let emotions rule, she still questions loyalties that others often take for granted, which sees her politics, rather than this love triangle, propel her.

The Hunger GamesWell said and makes total sense now that someone else points it out for me. Or maybe I should have worked that out myself. Hmm.

Like a good feminist character not contained within Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, Katniss can function with or without the doting of boys: ‘Gale is the alpha, and Peeta the beta male,’ Van Schilt writes. ‘They play the hunter and gatherer respectively, while Katniss is a combination of both, making the intrigue in this love triangle. Without giving away the ending, I will say this: refreshingly, throughout The Hunger Games, I didn’t believe the odds were in either’s favour.’

If you haven’t read KYD before, I’d highly recommend you do. Oh, and if you think of more awesome love triangles, I’d love to hear about them. They’ve got me puzzling. Is three the perfect balance? Two’s not enough, four’s too many, but three’s the charm? I mean, when there’s two (as in Romeo and Juliet), they tend to end in tragedy …

Fifty Sheds of Grey – Shed erotica for the not-too-modern male

Fifty Sheds of Grey (yes, it’s a parody)…

“I stared longingly through the shed window and adjusted my trousers. The sight of her dewy, slightly unkempt lawn had awoken my inner gardener.”

Colin Grey’s life was happy and simple until the day everything changed – the day his wife read THAT book. Suddenly, he was thrust head-first into a dark, illicit world of pleasure and pain.

This is the story of one man’s struggle against a tide of tempestuous, erotic desire and of the greatest love of all: the love between a man and his shed.

Some quotes from the book:

“My heart raced to see her lush, overgrown lawn – such a rare and wondrous sight. Nowadays the tendency is for just a small strip or no lawn at all.”

“From that first encounter I was hooked – I just couldn’t get enough of sheds and mowers. Or S&M for short.”

“I lay back exhausted, gazing happily out of the shed window. Despite my concerns about my inexperience, my rhubarb had come up a treat.”

COMING SOON…

Rhonda is in Therapy

Rhonda is in TherapyI spent three days in Melbourne last week—something I needed to recharge and inspire me after the past three months of un-fun uncertainty and ahead of Tuesday’s widely expected Queensland budgetary hack job. It was exactly what I needed—budget or no budget, and be it writing, playwriting, or all manner of other arts practices, Melbourne just ‘does’ arts.

My trip was prompted by (bias alert) the opening of a play my sister’s currently in. Called Rhonda is in Therapy, it’s a four-person play written by playwright Bridgette Burton that examines a mother’s grief, guilt, and loneliness in the aftermath of her child’s death.

It’s dark subject matter, but incredibly compelling, and there was a buzz in the air in both the theatre where it was performed and the streets outside where laneway pubs and restaurants bustled and AFL fans hustled against the biting, wintery Melbourne weather to see their teams play football finals. In Melbourne, unlike in Queensland (I noted with plenty of envy), arts and sport abut each other effortlessly.

In Rhonda is in Therapy, we meet the Rhonda of the title (played by my sister, Louise Crawford) as she visits her new therapist (Kelly Nash). Rhonda’s specific aim is to understand why she’s started an affair with a student (played by the eminently attractive Jamieson Caldwell*) while her dutiful husband (Ben Grant) tries to hold things together at home.

The script (and its execution) is stellar, something of keen interest to me not just as a writer but as someone who is necessarily fascinated with what makes successful works of art, be they plays, TV series, films, books, or visual art. I’ve had many, many discussions in recent times about how a good script sets up a good show—without it, you can add all the big-budget special effects in the world and you’d only be (to be crass) polishing a turd.

The evidently talented Burton created the script with some help from the R E Ross Trust Playwrights Script Development Award (get outta here—funding for the arts!). I was impressed by her ability to expose both the rawness and the humour of the situation—often in quick, rollercoaster succession. I knew Rhonda is in Therapy was going to be a challenging play, but I was surprised at how often it both made me laugh and then almost immediately tear up and sniffle.

That and how the quality writing and the assured performances enabled the show to be staged with an austere but not sparse set (as a writer, I so often bring things to life in my head, it doesn’t often occur to me what they’ll look like brought to life on the stage).

The set was laid out in triangular formation, potentially connoting the love triangle—two chairs denoting the therapist’s office, a couch denoting Rhonda’s home, and a desk and two chairs contained within a floor-to-ceiling skeleton of walls that also gave the impression of cage bars.

Continuing the Melbourne-does-arts-well theme, it was fitting that Rhonda is in Therapy is playing out in fortyfivedownstairs, a not-for-profit theatre space that used to be a factory of sorts—all exposed brick, iconic windows, and exuding authenticity and history.

The theatre’s in the basement and, as you descend the stairs, you can also stop off at packed, pumping galleries on other levels. I’ll not deny that I was simultaneously inspired and despairing. What would it take for Queensland to reach the same vibe and level of arts support? Particularly in terms of writing? Our work isn’t location-specific—as long as we have pen or laptop, we can write anywhere.

Brisbane artists traditionally flee head to Melbourne to pursue their arts practice, something I both understand and am attempting to resist. Would Brisbane’s creative industries be pumping in the same way that Melbourne’s are if those artists stayed here? Or is the climate too tropical and Melbourne’s inclement, introversion-inspiring weather the necessary ingredient for groundbreaking creative work?

If you’re in Melbourne or plan on heading to Melbourne in the next few weeks, I’d highly recommend Rhonda is in Therapy (and not just because my sister’s in it). I’m still mulling over the play’s themes and nuances specifically and the rich arts culture in Melbourne more generally.

Budget or no budget, writing, playwriting, and all the arts practices in between, what do we need to do in Queensland to achieve the same?

*There was a hilarious moment the night I attended the play when Rhonda tells her young lover that she’s heading home to her husband. A middle-aged woman in the front row who clearly thought Caldwell was fairly good looking, involuntarily let her inside voice out with the surprised, slightly outraged: ‘What? No!’

Fancy yourself as an author? Here’s everything you need to know to make it big…

Harper Voyager are throwing open the doors to unsolicited manuscripts for two weeks…here’s the full media release:

NEW YORK, NY  September 12, 2012: In this time of accelerated evolution in the field of digital publishing, the editorial leaders of Harper Voyager in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia are delighted to announce an exciting joint venture that will offer talented aspiring writers the chance to join the global science fiction and fantasy imprint.

For the first time in over a decade, Harper Voyager is offering writers the chance to submit full, unagented manuscripts for a limited two-week period. The publisher is seeking new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines. Harper Voyager is home to some of the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy, including George R. R. Martin, Kim Harrison, Raymond E. Feist, Robin Hobb, Richard Kadrey, Sara Douglass, Peter V. Brett and Kylie Chan, among others.

The submission portal, www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com, will be open from the 1st to the 14th of October 2012. The manuscripts will then be read and those most suited to the global Harper Voyager list will be selected jointly by editors in the USA, UK and Australia.  Accepted submissions will benefit from the full publishing process: accepted manuscripts will be edited; and the finished titles will receive online marketing and sales support in World English markets.

Voyager will be seeking an array of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly novels written in the epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural genres. Submission guidelines and key information can be found at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com.

The submissions and digital publications are a joint, global effort by Harper Voyager, spearheaded by Deputy Publisher Director Emma Coode in the United Kingdom, Associate Publisher Deonie Fiford in Australia, and Executive Editor Diana Gill in the United States.  The three editors note that: “No other publishing company has done a coordinated submission period for unagented authors across three continents, and all of us at Harper Voyager and at HarperCollins Publishers are absolutely thrilled to be launching this huge opportunity. We look forward to discovering and digitally publishing many new exciting voices globally at Harper Voyager.”

For more information about the publisher, please visit: www.harpervoyagerbooks.com.

ABOUT HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS

HarperCollins, one of the largest English-language publishers in the world, is a subsidiary of News Corporation (NYSE: NWS, NWS.A; ASX: NWS, NWSLV). Headquartered in New York, HarperCollins has publishing groups around the world including the HarperCollins General Books Group, HarperCollins Children’s Books Group, Zondervan, HarperCollins UK, HarperCollins Canada, HarperCollins Australia/New Zealand and HarperCollins India. HarperCollins is a broad-based publisher with strengths in literary and commercial fiction, business books, children’s books, cookbooks, mystery, romance, reference, religious and spiritual books. With nearly 200 years of history HarperCollins has published some of the world’s foremost authors and has won numerous awards including the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott. Consistently at the forefront of innovation and technological advancement, HarperCollins is the first publisher to digitize its content and create a global digital warehouse to protect the rights of its authors, meet consumer demand and generate additional business opportunities. You can visit HarperCollins Publishers on the Internet at http://www.harpercollins.com.

 

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Harper Voyager Guidelines for Digital Submission

 

Keen to become a Harper Voyager author? Here’s your chance to join the imprint that publishes some of the biggest names in fantastic fiction – George R. R. Martin, Kim Harrison, Raymond E. Feist, Robin Hobb, Richard Kadrey, Sara Douglass, Peter V. Brett and Kylie Chan – to name but a few.

For the first time in over a decade, Harper Voyager is opening the doors to unsolicited submissions in order to seek new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines. So, if you believe your manuscript has these qualities, then we want to read it!

We’re seeking all kinds of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural. For more idea of the type of books we love to read and publish, check out our authors and their titles at www.harpervoyagerbooks.com

Submissions for digital originals will be open for a limited two-week period from 1st to the 14th of October.

So, follow these easy guidelines and move one step closer to making your dreams come true …

How To Submit A Manuscript
To submit, go to www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com and follow the instructions to fill out the form and upload your manuscript.

Due to time constraints, we will not be able to respond to every query. If you do not receive a response after three months, unfortunately that means your story is not right for us this time.

Submissions FAQ

 

How long does my book need to be?
We are looking for full-length manuscripts only. A full-length manuscript needs to be more than 70,000 words, and ideally we are looking for manuscripts between 80,000–120,000 words.

Can I submit a manuscript that I am still working on?

No. Please only submit full-length manuscripts that are completed and polished.

What font/margin/size should I use?

Your formatting choices are up to you. As long as your manuscript is double-spaced and readable, it’s acceptable. We prefer Word or RTF, and legible, sans-serif fonts.

Can I submit more than one manuscript?

Yes, you can enter more than one manuscript but you will need to fill out the form at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com for each submission separately. If your work is a trilogy or series, please only submit the first manuscript.

Can I submit someone else’s material?

No. The manuscript must be your own original work.

Will you accept a manuscript even if the subgenre isn’t listed?

Yes, on the submission form, choose “other” and write in your subgenre.

I’m an agent. Should I use this to submit my client’s manuscript?

No, this submission form is for authors only. Agents should pitch and submit projects in the usual fashion.

Can I submit if my manuscript is under consideration with another publisher?

No. Manuscripts that are being considered by other publishers are not eligible for submission.

Do you accept manuscripts that have been previously published, including self-published?

Yes, we will consider work that has been previously published if the author has retained full volume rights or had full volume rights revert to them. Please provide the publication details.

I have submitted my book to Harper Voyager in the past and it has been declined. Can I resubmit?

If a manuscript has previously been submitted and declined for Harper Voyager, please do not resubmit unless it has been extensively rewritten. You are welcome to submit other works, however.

Which editor should I address my submission to?

There is no need to specify an editor. Your submission will be read by the global Voyager team in Australia, UK and US.

Will I be notified when my manuscript is submitted?

Yes, you will receive an email acknowledging receipt of your submission. Please check your junk email filter for this automated email. If you do not receive an automatic response, please email us at [email protected]harpercollins.com with the title and date of your submission.

How long will you take to respond?

Due to the volume of submissions, we will only be able to contact you if your project is the right fit. If you have not received a response in three months time, unfortunately your project wasn’t right for our current list.

Will there be any feedback?

Unfortunately due to the volume of submissions we will not be able to provide individual feedback or comments on submissions.

Can I submit my manuscript after the deadline?

We will be accepting submissions between 1st to the 14th of October, 2012. Unfortunately at the moment we cannot accept any late or early submissions outside of these times.

Will you publish my book into print?

We are looking primarily for e-only titles. There is the possibility that submissions will be published in print as well.

Frequently Asked Questions about Harper Voyager Digital

Why is Harper Voyager embarking upon a digital publishing program? Why now?

We believe the timing is perfect for Harper Voyager to publish digitally. We’ve already been publishing digital originals from our existing Harper Voyager authors, and are thrilled to expand this wider to welcome new authors and voices to Harper Voyager. The growth of eReaders and e-books has created an exciting new opportunity that allows us to begin increasing the number and diversity of our speculative fiction list. And speculative fiction readers are the most savvy early adopters so we’re keen to provide our readers with the best ebooks possible.

How is the Harper Voyager digital list different from Harper Voyager Books?

Harper Voyager has a long history of publishing fantastic speculative fiction, including authors like Robin Hobb, Ray Feist, George R.R. Martin, Kim Harrison, Kylie Chan, Richard Kadrey, Fiona McIntosh, Peter Brett and Sara Douglass: our editorial staff and sales/marketing/publicity force are highly respected, and Harper Voyager authors benefit from those existing talents, platforms, and relationships.

The Voyager digital list is growing from our existing publishing program. We’re always looking for ways to grow our authors in a marketplace rife with new opportunity. We see the digital list as a fantastic opportunity to find exciting new writers and reach more readers than ever before.

Our enthusiastic editorial team acquires content for both our print and digital lists and we are passionate genre fans. The Harper Voyager digital lists offer similar benefits to authors as the print list: each Harper Voyager e-book will receive a distinctive cover treatment. Authors will receive the benefit of editorial structural and copyediting advice from experienced editors. During the publication cycle, the books will receive support from Harper Voyager’s marketing and publicity professionals; and the e-books will benefit from our proven, strong relationships with all e-book channels and online retailers.

How many titles per month will you release?

Currently, we are looking to acquire enough content to release a new Harper Voyager digital title each month.

Where will Harper Voyager’s digital titles be sold? Will Harper Voyager e-books be distributed globally?

Every Harper Voyager digital contract will include World English language distribution, so we can deliver these e-books everywhere around the world where English-language novels are sold.  Our Harper Voyager e-books will be available at every e-retailer, and readers will be able to download them onto every portable reading device and platform sold today…and tomorrow, too.

What is the submission process? Where can I find the Submission Guidelines?

All non-agented manuscripts should be submitted at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com ] Please note the detailed instructions on submission guidelines before sending your documents electronically. You can find our submission guidelines at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com as well.

What types of submissions is Harper Voyager interested in?

Voyager is looking for authors with a fresh voice, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and a compelling storyline. If you believe your manuscript has these qualities, then we want to see it!  We’re actively seeking speculative fiction genres, especially epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia, supernatural and YA.

Can existing Harper Voyager authors also submit to Harper Voyager digital?

Of course!

If a debut author is published under the Harper Voyager digital imprint; is there a chance to be published in print as well?

Yes, there is the possibility that submissions will be published in print as well.

Will my work be copyrighted?

Each title receives individual copyright, retained by the author, as is the norm for all Harper Voyager titles.

Is Harper Voyager publishing fiction only?

Yes, we are only looking for speculative fiction manuscripts.

Will manuscripts be edited and copyedited before publishing?

Yes. Just as with our print titles, each Harper Voyager digital project will be assigned to an individual Voyager editor, and will go through a comprehensive content and copyediting process.

Will Harper Voyager titles benefit from Voyager Publicity and Marketing?

Yes. We will support our digital Harper Voyager titles with comprehensive publicity/marketing campaigns, marketing each title, using the digital landscape to strongly support this fantastic line of digital-first publications.

Is Digital Harper Voyager a Custom/Vanity Publisher?

No. In acquiring for Harper Voyager digital, we carefully curate submissions and edit accepted manuscripts in the same fashion as all of our Harper Voyager titles. The digital list will benefit from Voyager’s editorial, marketing, publicity and sales platforms. And getting all these services at no cost to the author is the benefit of publishing with Harper Voyager.

Our digital original submission period is only open from 1 October through 14 October, so visit www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com and move one step closer to your Voyager dreams.

Travelling with the Rain Train

Originally published in 2010, The Rain Train is clackerty-clacking back onto bookshop shelves. Written by Elena de Roo and illustrated by Brian Lovelock, this delightful picture book is published by Walker Books.

The Rain Train is a simple story about a train trip in the rain — but it is told with wonderful words and charming illustrations. Full of marvellous sounds and a lovely rhythm, this picture book is perfect for reading out loud.

The wail of the wind, the sway of the train
The strum of the wheels, to the beat of the rain
A pitter-pat-pat, a pitter-pat-pat
A pittery-pittery-pittery-pat

With a three-year-old daughter, I read a lot of picture books. There are lots of pretty ordinary picture books out there, with poor rhythm and rhyme, and stories that do nothing and go nowhere. So finding a good one is always a treat. And The Rain Train is definitely one of the good ones. This is a book I loved reading to my daughter — my enjoyment of it increasing with each successive reading, as I grew accustomed to the occasionally tongue-twisting onomatopoeia.

After reading it to her for the first time, I asked a few questions…

Me: What did you think of the book?
Lexi: Good!
Me: What did you think of the pictures?
Lexi: Good!
Me: What did you think of the story?
Lexi: Good!
My wife: What did you think of Daddy’s performance?
Lexi: Good!

I think she’s got a potential career as a literary critic ahead of her. 🙂

But the book obviously had an impact on her as she asked me to read it to her again the following day… and this time, she insisted on me reading it three times.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

 

Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: DVD Review & Giveaway — Doctor Who: The Krotons

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Colin Roderick Award shortlist announced

The shortlist for this year’s Colin Roderick Award has been announced.

The titles on the shortlist are:

  • The Sons of Clovis: Ern Malley, Adoré Floupette and a secret history of Australian poetry (David Brooks, UQP)
  • Alexander Macleay: from Scotland to Sydney (Derelie Cherry, Paradise Publishers)
  • The Taste of River Water (Cate Kennedy, Scribe)
  • An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark (Mark McKenna, Miegunyah Press)
  • End of the Night Girl (Amy Matthews, Wakefield Press)
  • Foal’s Bread (Gillian Mears, A&U)
  • Bite Your Tongue (Francesca Rendle-Short, Spinifex).

The Colin Roderick Award is presented annually by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies at James Cook University and recognises ‘the best book published in Australia which deals with any aspect of Australian life’.

The winner of this year’s award will be announced on 19 October.

For more information, visit the James Cook University website.

Mid-month round-up – dieting, running and glad-wrapping your glutes

It’s a departure from my normal non-fiction areas but I have recently been devouring dieting and exercise books. There was a few factors to me picking out these books, from some interesting new releases to my new hobby of running, but I will cheerfully admit my main motivation was superficial – I wanted to look nice when I walked down the aisle (well, sand).

Nothing like needing to fit into a wedding dress to concentrate the mind, even if I was sensible enough to buy one that fitted rather than go with getting an “aspirational”outfit 4 dress-sizes smaller, and end up shoe-horning myself in on the day. (Apparently, you can tamp down your wobbly bits by wearing two sets of body-slimming underwear or wrapping yourself in cling-film but honestly, dieting sounds easier.)

For those of you who also prefer to keep your Glad Wrap for cookery but would also like to get a better handle on your eating habits, I recommend the first of my picks, the Beck Diet Solution.

Cabbage soup. Banning carbs. Super foods, celebrity endorsements and expensive supplements. The Beck Diet Solution instantly endeared itself to me by recommending none of these things. Instead its author, cognitive therapist Dr. Judith S. Beck, has written a six-week program that applies Cognitive Therapy to dieting and weight loss: teaching readers how to think differently, change eating behavior, and lose weight permanently. The result, she claims, is that the book teaches the skills needed to get off the yo-yo diet circuit, and to diet successfully and to keep the weight off permanently.

It’s a psychological program, not a food plan, and can be used with any other sensible diet program, such as the CSIRO Wellbeing Diet. The program requires a regular daily commitment but it’s short on the gimmicks and big on long-term changes and is certainly easier to apply in real life than most of the diet books out there.

Also on the sensible side, and with no mention of cling-wrapping your bottom whatsover, is Dr Carmel Harrington’s The Sleep Diet, which was just released in August. Subtitled why sleeping well is the missing link to permanent weight loss, it’s not exactly subtle about advocating sleep, good sleep and plenty of it, to keep hormones that cause hunger down and your metabolism ticking over nicely. Dr Harrington argues that we are sleeping far less than previous generations, that sleep and weight are fundamentally connected and that the depth and effect of this connection is only now being discovered. The Sleep Diet explores the science, presents the research, and provides simple rules for improving your health – and weight – by getting more sleep.

While weight loss is a focus, the book also includes a DIY sleep program which will benefit people who have no issues with their waistline but lots of issues with their sleeping patterns or with people trying to disrupt their sleep. The book states clearly says that in order to lose weight, I need to stay in bed longer. Finally science has justified my Snooze Button habit.

If I was to decide to follow the example of my third pick, Running Crazy, though, I’ll need to set my alarm gruelingly early. Running Crazy explores the world of the 100 Marathon Club, also known as the Hell’s Angels of Running. This club has only one prerequisite for membership but it’s a biggie – every member has completed over 100 marathons. Many have completed over 200. And some, some have managed 500, 700, 800 marathons. That’s almost 34,000 kilometres, or Sydney to London – and back.

Why? Well, that’s what the book explores and how these runners find the time and energy to accomplish monthly – or in some cases, near weekly – what most people have to train for a months or years to manage. And their enthusiasm is infectious – whether you have a marathon already under your belt or, like me, you’re still proud of your 5km, it’s hard not to read the book without a tiny voice at the back of your mind saying, “I could do that”.

I have to admit, I’m still unlikely to actually decide to punish myself with a marathon run let alone 100 of them, but it’s hard to wiggle out of a quick 5km run when you have read about people who routinely run a marathon a month. And at least getting out and running means I am less likely to need a few extra rolls of Glad Wrap come summer.

 

Guinness Book of Records released for 2013

It’s that time of the year again! Guinness World Records 2013 edition will be launched globally tomorrow, Thursday September 13.

Buy the book here…

Guinness World Records, the global authority on record-breaking achievement, will unveil its brand new 2013 edition of the famous Guinness World Records book in a global launch on September 13, 2012, with a variety of new features and records.

The latest edition of the world’s best-selling copyright book, which was first published in 1955 and has sold over 120 million copies to date in over 100 countries, features:

  • Stunning New Record Holders – The book presents an incredible array of never-before-seen record holders, including the world’s Tallest Dog (111cm at shoulders, 223cm standing on hind legs), Largest Biceps (64.77cm each), and Oldest Gymnast (86 years young). In addition it covers the all the superlatives achieved in Entertainment, Sport, Science & Engineering, Space and beyond!
  • Augmented Reality (AR)— Simply point your mobile device (Android, iPhone, iPad) to an AR-marked record on the page and it will come to life in a glorious 3D animation. Records include the Largest Shark, Shortest Man, Heaviest Spider and Smallest Helicopter
  • Infographics – A strip running down or across every page featuring illustrations of stats, facts and trivia, designed to engage the reader in a simple, friendly way, perfect for reluctant readers! The infographics contain cool information that’s easy to digest and that adds even more value to the book.
  • The World Tour – A new chapter of the book allows you to explore our amazing planet, taking in recordbreaking sites, attractions and places of interest. Behold the world’s Most Expensive Hotel Room in Switzerland; marvel at the Most Expensive Elephant Painting in Thailand; and admire the world’s Largest Sandstone Monolith in Australia.
  • The Digital Bonus Chapter – The book will allow you to unlock an extra chapter exclusively available online. For the first time ever you’ll get to see how the book is created; go behind the scenes at the GWR offices and meet the team behind the best-selling copyright book of all time. The bonus chapter will also update you on all the records broken at the London 2012 Games.

Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief, Craig Glenday, said: “This year, we’ve been inspired by the themes of exploration and discovery – and by the outermost extremes of record breaking. The result is an unrivalled collection of world-record facts and feats that paints a picture of life on Earth and beyond. We’re also very excited to have a new augmented reality feature which really brings the book to life.”

In the last 12 months, Guinness World Records received 2,003 record applications from Australia. Of these, just 60 made it through their rigorous ratification process, ranging from the longest time suspended by the hair (23 min 19 sec) and the largest toga party (3,700 participants) – both in Brisbane, Queensland – to the most cappuccinos made in one hour (208) in Sydney and the largest coin, with a diameter of 80 cm, in the Perth Mint.

A must-have for knowledge-seekers and aspiring record-breakers of all ages, Guinness World Records 2013 Edition is available on the September 13th 2012.

More astonishing records featured in Guinness World Records 2013 include:

Largest Cave
Hang Son Doong (“Mountain River Cave”) is around 200 m high, 150 m wide and at least 6.5 km long. Located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam, this gigantic cave might be even larger than first thought, as it had not been completely surveyed as of February 2012.

Most Siblings Born on the Same Day
There are only five verified examples of a mother producing two sets of twins with the same birthdays in different years.  The most recent case is that of Tracey Bageban (UK), who gave birth to Armani Jafar and Diego Mohamed on 27 February 2008 and Elisia Christina and Dolcie Falimeh three years later on 27 February 2011.

Largest Toga Party
The largest toga party consisted of 3,700 participants in an event organised by UQU (University of Queensland Union) and QUT (Queensland University of Technology) Guild, at Riverstage (Australia) in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on 24 February 2012

Longest Bikini Parade
On 2 October 2011, a long line of Australian ladies set a new world record for the largest bikini parade. 357 participants took part in the Surfers Paradise event, which was organised by The Gold Coast Bulletin (Australia) newspaper.

Most Conquests of Mount Everest
Apa Sherpa (Nepal) reached the summit of Mt Everest for the 21st time on 11 May 2011, the most times anyone has ever successfully climbed the world’s highest mountain.

Largest School
The largest school in terms of pupils is the City Montessori School in Lucknow, India, which had a record enrolment of 39,437 pupils on 9 August 2010 for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Most Expensive Toilet
When the space shuttle Endeavour launched into orbit on 13 January 1993 it carried a new unisex toilet facility. Housed on the shuttle’s mid deck, the $23.4 million facility was described by NASA as a ‘complete sewage collection and treatment plant…contained in a space one half the size of a telephone booth’.

Longest Time Suspended by the Hair
The longest time suspended by the hair is 23 minutes and 19 seconds and was achieved by Suthakaran Sivagnanathurai (Australia) at Uniting Church Hall, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on 18 December 2011.

Most Dangerous Road
North Yungas Road that runs for 69 km from La Paz to Coroico in Bolivia, takes up to 300 lives annually – 4.3 per km. The single lane mud road (with two-way traffic) has an un-barricaded vertical drop, measuring 4,700 m at its highest, which becomes even more deadly during the rainy season!

Highest Weekly Gross For A One-Man Show on Broadway
Hugh Jackman (Australia) grossed $2,057,354 during the holiday week 27 December 2011–1 January 2012, performing Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theater in New York City, USA. Jackman also took the record for the most money raised for a charity by a Broadway show: $1,789,580 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

About Guinness World Records

Guinness World Records (GWR) is the global authority on record-breaking achievements. First published in 1955, the annual Guinness World Records™ book has become one of the biggest-selling copyright titles of all time, selling 120 million copies to date in 22 languages and in more than 100 countries. The internationally renowned brand is now also available across a number of platforms – GWR’s global television shows are watched by 250 million viewers annually; digital media and online record-processing services attract more than 50 million visitors a year; and the live events team annually entertains and inspires 1.5 million people around the world. GWR receives more than 1,000 applications each week and has a specialized team of multi-language record managers and adjudicators who travel the globe to verify official record attempts. GWR also has a commercial division (Guinness World Records Corporate) that offers accessible record-breaking business solutions to other organizations and brands.