EXCLUSIVE: Shane Thamm gets PRIVATE…

SHANE THAMM ON MY PRIVATE PECTUS AND BODY IMAGE

The other week on ABC radio I was discussing boys and body image when the compere asked me if I had ever shaved my chest.

“I did once,” I told him with great enthusiasm, which was actually an attempt to hide my embarrassment.

We were talking about boys and bodies in relation to my novel My Private Pectus, a story that deals with male teenage body image concerns.

The compere, it seemed, wasn’t convinced that body image was something that many boys were worried about.

So I put things into perspective: Australian youth rated body image alongside drugs and family conflict as their three issues of greatest concern in Mission Australia’s Survey of Young Australians in 2008. Twenty per cent of boys and one quarter of girls called body image a serious concern.

Given that backdrop, My Private Pectus and the story of its main character Sticks, is actually very common. Teenage boys, like girls, negotiate body image concerns, often fraught with doubt and despair.

But for Sticks, his life seems even more complicated than that. He lives with a father who wants to him to turn into what sounds like a robotic man. It’s about doing well at footy, and getting into the army. It’s about achievement at the expense of emotion or civility. Sure, Sticks would love to score the winning try (and of course the cute girl), as well as everything else a man’s meant to do, but whenever he tries, it just goes pear shaped.

He falls in love with a girl the boys all hate, he reverses his best mate’s car into a retaining wall, and he vomits on his Dad’s best friend’s Turkish rug. It couldn’t get worse. But of course, it does. He has a secret chest deformity. It’s called Pectus Excavatum, and it rears its ugly head during the teenage years. It causes the chest to concave at the sternum. Sticks keeps it hidden from everyone he can, including his Dad.

My Private Pectus is a rollicking ride about what a boy will do to turn into ‘man’. It evokes images of teenage boys as hormone-driven machines without the capacity to experience doubt, fear, or even love.

Yet these are the things Sticks seems to have too much of. He’s constantly trying to summon strengths that are emotional, not physical; and in moments of intimacy, he’s confronted with very real fears about what people might think about his chest.

My Private Pectus is stacked with those sticky moments that every teenager seems to find themselves in. Those moments we look back on in later life and laugh and cringe.

It is, I think, a great book for high schools, not only because it’s the only book that intimately deals with male body image concerns for teenagers, but because it raises a host of questions about alcohol, casual drug use and relationships.

A few weeks after that first ABC radio interview, I had another one with the ABC in Alice Springs, where I had spent much of my childhood.

The compere told me that My Private Pectus is like a Judy Blume novel but for teenage boys.

“What do you think of that?” she asked.

“Great,” I said, but with reservation. I was actually wondering, who the hell is Judy Blume? What am I agreeing to here?

Thinking the name sounded familiar, I went home and did my research. Considering I had studied literature at university I couldn’t believe I didn’t know this famous American novelist.

I sat back and thought, “Geez, I hope that she’s right.”

– Shane Thamm

USER REVIEW: Tithe by Holly Black

Kaye is merely sixteen years old and yet she hangs out in bars; watching her mother’s band whilst drinking, smoking and swearing.  She shoplifts and stays out as late as she wants and her mother doesn’t care. But they do love each other and they seem to be pretty good friends. Would you call this ‘good parenting’?  Personally I wouldn’t but that is Kaye’s life.  She doesn’t have it easy, and she definitely isn’t perfect and that is what sets this book apart from other Faerie stories at the moment, for example Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely.

Enter tall, hot, pewter haired faerie of the male variety.  This is when the chaos begins.  Between fights with friends, shocking surprises, death, new friendships, love and giving up smoking; Kaye gets busy!

This book really does contain quite a bit of swearing and this may put some people off.  To me though, it helps build the characters, it shows that they aren’t perfect little princesses.  Nor is it used out of context – these words are said by the characters, NOT used in descriptions by Black.

I can definitely see why people have been raving about this book.  Its dark grittiness sets it apart from other current faerie stories, and maybe even puts it ahead of them.  I think Holly Black is a great story-teller with such a well-written and compelling book.  The twists are mostly unexpected and are truly unique.

Overall, I loved this book and rate it at 4 stars out of 5.  I recommend it to teens and young adults aged 14 plus (because I’ve heard that the last book in the series, Valiant, contains explicit content) who are lovers of faerie stories, urban fantasy or just fantasy in general.

This review was written by Boomerang Books Member CMM, winner of last month’s $50 worth of Boomerang Bucks for Best Review. Submit a review for your chance to win!

EXCLUSIVE: Margo Lanagan talks TENDER

TENDER MORSELS AND JUICY BITS

Every story needs something to keep its author going.

For any story I’m writing, I need to have an object in mind, a point, a reference that, when I look at it or prod it, starts leaking story-juice, starts multiplying possibilities, starts re-igniting my interest.

For a short story, I only need the one interesting element. Often it’s the thing that sparked the story in the first place: the two odd objects that need to be brought together (the snipers and the clowns, maybe); the transformation that requires making (the girl into eagle, or the man into warlock).

For a novel, I need a number of these objects or events; it’s possible to write a juicy bit dry for a while, and I need other areas to focus on while it changes shape in response to what I’ve done, and plumps up again in my subconscious.

With Tender Morsels, the bears were such a thing. They were in the original stories I was ripping/riffing off, Caroline Stahl’s ‘The Ungrateful Dwarf’ and the Grimms’ makeover of the Stahl story, ‘Snow White and Rose Red’. In neither story did they make any sense in terms of story structure, so part of my project was to make them make sense. The split between man-nature and bear-nature suggested the split between the real- and the heaven-world, which became the crux of the story, my main area to explore.

The Ungrateful Dwarf from Stahl’s story was another element that never let me down. Collaby Dought leaped fully formed from the source material, snarking and snatching stuff for himself. The vision of him rising from the swamp water cloaked in his silver hair, his eyes blazing out but his mouth not yet free to rant, was a key that always worked, into the atmosphere and energy of the story.

The orphan witch Hotty/Muddy/Lady Annie, had a similar effect. She and Collaby compensated for the fact that my three heroines were passive and puzzled for a great deal of the story. Every time either dwarf or witch opened their mouth, something sly or smutty came out; they had senses of humour, which my heroines were sadly short of, and they lived large and lackadaisically, while Liga, Branza and Urdda were trapped in a tiny, if pleasant, world.

These three elements, the bears, the dwarf and the cheerfully incompetent witch, were what led me back into  Tender Morsels when I’d been away from it for a while. They brought it back alive for me, gave it breath and fur and body odour, and made it tower in the doorway of my writing room, growling and griping, demanding to be written.

– Margo Lanagan

Tender Morsels was recently selected as part of the 2010 Sakura Medal Reading List, was shortlisted for the 2008 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel, won Best Novel at the Ditmar Awards 2009, and was (joint) winner of Best Novel at the World Fantasy Convention 2009 – it’s safe to say that it comes highly recommended.

January Book Giveaway

Happy 2010! As always, the new month brings with it two book giveaway, one for website members, and the other, for Facebook members.

Major Book Giveaway 

The Hawke Legacy by Gerry Bloustien, Barbara Comber and Alison Mackinnon

Bob Hawke was a popular and effective Prime Minister whose economic and social reforms are acknowledged to have shaped modern Australia. The book offers a timely look at the legacy of the Hawke era (1983–1991) by considering both the achievements of his ministry, and what remains as unfinished business. The Hawke Legacy includes interviews with Bob Hawke, with his former speechwriter Graeme Freudenberg and with former Senator Rosemary Crowley, contributions from two former members of the Hawke Government, and scholarly accounts from historical, poitical, economic, educational and Indigenous perspectives.

Surf Ache by Gerry Bobsien

A state of being where all one can think of is getting back onto the waves. ella’s world is turned upside down when her family moves interstate, leaving behind her best friend, boyfriend and dance school. Age 14+.

Read a review of Surf Ache here.

 

 

Gamer’s Quest by George Ivanoff

Tark and Zyra are teenaged thieves on a quest. In a world of magic and science, where dragons and mages exist alongside drones and lasers, they endeavour to reach the haven of Designers Paradise. But their world is not what it appears to be and their haven is about to come under threat of destruction. Can Tark and Zyra save Designers Paradise…and their own world?

Read George Ivanoff’s guest blog here.

 

State of South Australia: From Crisis to Prosperity? by John Spoehr

State of South Australia meets a need for considered analysis of the major social, economic, cultural and political trends and policy challenges facing South Australia. It brings together respected researchers and commentators concerned about ensuring prosperity for all in South Australia, edited by Associate Professor John Spoehr, Executive Director, Australian Institute for Social Research.

 

 Alice in Love and War by Ann Turnbull

1644 – Alice Newcombe, trapped and unhappy on her uncle’s farm, finds her life transformed when royalist soldiers are billeted there during the Civil War. Suddenly her days are filled with excitement – and love for one young soldier, Robin. When the regiment moves on, Alice persuades Robin to take her with him, and she joins the other army women on the baggage train. The road ahead is long and hard – will there be happiness at its end?

 
For a chance to win, all you need to do is become a member – it’s free and it takes only minutes to sign up. All Boomerang Books Members go into the draw at the end of each month to win the book giveaway.

A bonus for our Facebook Members…

Our Facebook Group is growing fast, we welcomed the new year with 1000 members… let’s double that in 2010! Now, we’re not the sort of group that floods your Inbox with advertisements, that’s never been our way (and those with lots of Facebook subscriptions know that we’re in the minority). Our Facebook Group is there to link mutually-minded people: booklovers… and to reward our customers. Just being a member puts you into the draw to win prizes! This month, members have a chance to win:

Battle Boy: Bloodaxe by Charlie Carter

Battle Boy: Destroy Troy by Charlie Carter

Gamer’s Quest by George Ivanoff

They Told Me I Had to Write This by Kim Miller

The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity by K. Overman-Edmiston

Marchetta and Lanagan vie for Sakura Medal

The nominees for the 2010 Sakura Medal have been announced in Japan, with Australian authors making the list.

In the High School category, Melina Marchetta (for her Finnikin of the Rock), Joanne Horniman (My Candlelight Novel) and Margo Lanagan (Tender Morsels) join Boomerang Books’ own William Kostakis (Loathing Lola) in the running for the Medal.

Japanese international students vote for their favourite nominee. The winners will be announced on April 28, 2010.

Margo Lanagan will be appearing on the Boomerang Books Blog early in the New Year.

William’s note: I’m deeply honoured to have been selected on the list, especially among such fine company… It’s surreal to see my name beside so many authors I grew up with, admired, and aspired to be… Now, here’s hoping an Aussie brings it home! 🙂

EXCLUSIVE: George Ivanoff Guest Blog

Let me start by saying that computer games are not the downfall of society, as we know it. Our world will continue to turn, society will continue to function, we will still play sports, kids will still go to school and learn, human beings will still interact with one another and people will still read books. Just like television did not result in the extinction of literature, computer games will continue to co-exist with the written story.

In fact, the two can go together quite nicely.

There are many book fans who like to play computer games. As a kid, I was obsessed with Space Invaders and Galaga (primitive by today’s standards) and these days I’m certainly not immune to the allure of the Wii (Snow Ride on Rayman Raving Rabbids is awesome). And I’m sure that there are many computer game enthusiasts who also like to read. At least I hope so … ’cause my new book, Gamers’ Quest, is set in a computer game world and I think it’s the sort of book that will appeal to teens who are into gaming.

When writing science fiction or fantasy, an author is often challenged with the task of creating an entire world. With Gamers’ Quest, I was not only writing science fiction (with a healthy dose of fantasy elements as well), I was also trying to tap into the world of computer gaming. The thing is… how do you capture the feel of a computer game within the pages of a novel?

Step One was to create a world with the pace and excitement of a game — a world in which danger lurked around every corner; a world with a variety of fantastical challenges and opponents, from powerful mages and fierce dragons to machinegun-toting guards and sophisticated security systems with trip lasers and automated drones; a world in which players embarked on a perilous quest.

This world then needed protagonists who readers could identify with … the sort of players they would want to be if they were playing the game.  Enter Tark and Zyra, two teenage thieves — good-looking, fast, clever, determined and skillful in a fight.

The book also needed to have a sense of fun — of not taking itself too seriously. So while Gamers’ Quest is not a humourous novel, it does have an element of tongue-in-cheek unseriousness (yes, I know there’s no such word … but I like it).

There are lots of little things I added to try and capture the computer game flavour. There are references to different classes and levels of player (knight second class; level 13 mage).

The first part of the novel is set within the computer-game world. It is non-stop action, and there is no sense of night and day. The characters simply progress from one challenge to the next, without sleeping or eating, with no real sense of time, until they reach their goal. Once the characters have crossed over into an ordinary suburban environment, I felt okay about slowing things down a little, allowing them to eat and sleep, and having a sense of days passing.

So, were my endeavors successful? Does Gamers’ Quest capture the feel of a computer game? Will gamers flock to bookstores, clamoring for a copy? Well, dear reader/gamer, that is up to you. The CG ball is now in your virtual court.

William’s note: As a gamer and reader myself, I have to say, that George really did capture the sensation of being inside a video game. There isn’t an air of “older person writing for young people” about the whole thing, which is great, because us young’uns, especially us cynical gamer young’uns, can smell a fake a mile off. Gamers’ Quest passed my test with flying colours, and it’d make a great companion for the new Mario game under the tree this Christmas. 🙂

Holiday reading for business people

Holidays are a great time to catch up on the novel-reading you missed out on during the year, but it’s always good to dip your toes back in the business waters, so that when you get back to work, you hit the ground running. Here are twelve of Boomerang Books’ hand-picked holiday reads for job seekers, managers and business people:

What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles

There is no book that is more vital to job-hunting in this economy than “What Color is Your Parachute?” It has been honored and celebrated for nearly 40 years, but in our current global recession, the reason why it is so popular becomes painfully apparent: It works! People buy the book because it really, really works! Every year it has more timely and more helpful information than the year before, because it is updated, and often dramatically rewritten, for the current job market.

Buy it here…

 

Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson

Cheese is a metaphor for what you want in life – be it a good job, a loving relationship, money or possessions, health or spiritual peace of mind. And the maze is where you look for what you want – the organization you work in, or the family or community where you live. This book shows how to anticipate change, adapt quickly, enjoy the change and be ready for more, so that you suffer from less stress and enjoy more success in life.

Buy it here…

 

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Millions of people around the world have – and continue to – improve their lives based on the teachings of Dale Carnegie. In “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Carnegie offers practical advice and techniques, in his exuberant and conversational style, for how to get out of a mental rut and make life more rewarding. His advice has stood the test of time and will teach you how to: make friends quickly and easily; increase your popularity; win people to your way of thinking; enable you to win new clients and customers; become a better speaker and a more entertaining conversationalist; and, arouse enthusiasm among your colleagues. This book will turn around your relationships and improve your dealings with all the people in your life.

Buy it here…

 

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

A completely revised edition of the groundbreaking bestseller that provides the key ingredients to developing a prosperous small business venture.

Buy it here…

 

The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Starting from the assumption that people are every company’s most important resource, this book sets out three simple steps to getting the best from them and making every company run more efficiently.

Buy it here…

 

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice. What do Apple, Starbucks, Dyson and Pret a Manger have in common? How do they achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and-true brands to gasp their last? The old checklist of P’s used by marketers – Pricing, Promotion, Publicity – aren’t working anymore. The golden age of advertising is over. It’s time to add a new P – the Purple Cow. Purple Cow describes something phenomenal, something counterintuitive and exciting and flat-out unbelievable. In his new bestseller, Seth Godin urges you to put a Purple Cow into everything you build, and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable. It’s a manifesto for anyone who wants to help create products and services that are worth marketing in the first place.

Buy it here…

 

Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

Compelling. Brilliant. Revealing. Funny. Inspirational. Extraordinary. Sir Richard Branson’s amazing memoir is now updated to include the effect on the Virgin Group of 11 September, his views on the war in Iraq, the rise of Virgin Blue and the flotation of Virgin Mobile. Discover how Virgin is moving into the US domestic flight market and why he set up the charitable body Virgin Uniteo. As ever, his thirst for challenge is unquenched. Sir Richard reveals the thrills of the world record attempt with the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer and taking Virgin to the final frontier as Virgin Galactic are poised for a new era of commercial space travel. Revealing Sir Richard’s unique story, his personal philosophy on life, the Virgin brand and business, LOSING MY VIRGINITY is an autobiography without equal.

Buy it here…

 

The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

Tim Ferriss has trouble defining what he does for a living. Depending on when you ask this controversial Princeton University guest lecturer, he might answer: ‘I race motorcycles in Europe’, ‘I ski in the Andes’, ‘I scuba dive in Panama’, ‘I dance tango in Buenos Aires’. He has spent more than five years learning the secrets of the ‘New Rich’, a fast-growing subculture that has abandoned the ‘deferred-life plan’ and instead mastered the new currencies – time and mobility – to create a new way of living. Why wait a lifetime for your retirement when you can enjoy luxury now? Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing first class world travel, earning a monthly five-figure income with no management, or just living more and working less, this book is the blueprint.

Buy it here…

 

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Argues that a good education and a secure job are not guarantees for financial success, and describes six guidelines for making money work for you.

Buy it here…

 

Problogger by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

Ready to toss it all in and run your own home business?  This book will teach you how to make over $100K per annum by blogging.  Written by a Melburnian who has become one of the world’s leading bloggers.

Buy it here…

 

Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is the groundbreaking psychology manual that has inspired organisations and individuals all over the world. De Bono’s innovative guide divides the process of thinking into six parts, symbolized by the six hats, and shows how the hats can dramatically transform the effectiveness of meetings and discussions. This is a book to open your mind, unleash your creativity and change the way you think about thinking.

Buy it here…

 

How to Write and Talk to Selection Criteria by Dr Ann Villiers

The bible for people who regularly respond to government vacancies.  This book will show you how to write brilliant responses to selection criteria.

Buy it here…

EXCLUSIVE: Clinton Walker talks GOLDEN MILES

Today, Clinton Walker drops by the Boomerang Books Blog to discuss his latest release, the buzzed-about Golden Miles. Part-autobiography, part-mediation on beauty, loss and national identity, Golden Miles is a must-buy for Aussie rev-heads and pop culture lovers alike this holiday season.

I wrote Golden Miles for the same basic reason I’ve written all my books – I’d been gripped by the story and simply wasn’t going to be happy until I’d got it down and out there in some form. I guess you could say my speciality is sort of underclass or overlooked history and for Golden Miles, these cars that I’d grown up with and been entranced by could be, I could see, a great vehicle for my broader interest in the social and cultural history of life in the Australian suburbs and fringes.

It’s always seemed to me, perhaps because it’s all still so close, that people seem to look down on the suburbia they came from or even still live in. But in the course of seven books over the past twenty or so years, this history has proved not so close that the people who lived through it aren’t starting to drop off. This was certainly the case with my book about aboriginal hillbilly music, Buried Country: statistics said many of these elderly aborigines should have been dead a long time back, and in fact, a few have died since the book (and film and CD) was completed in 2000, but that only doubled my original determination to get their stories down before it was too late and it’s one my great prides that I did.

More than once, people have said to me, ‘You write books for people who don’t read, or don’t buy books.’ Apart from the fact that at different times with diffferent titles, I’ve sold a lot of books (my 1994 biography of late AC/DC legend Bon Scott has sold around one hundred thousand copies and is still selling at a rate of knots), what I think these people are saying is that my subject matter is declasse. Writers can write all sorts of books about all sorts of things and hope (or expect) that readers will come to a subject that they might not ordinarily broach. I write books about subjects that are not ‘legitimate’ – aboriginal hillbilly singers, small-time Australian football culture, suburban rev-heads… and I ask, just because those subjects are not populated by people who are readers, is that any reason not to cover that subject? Or for typical readers to come to it? In fact, to me, of course, it again doubles my determination.

I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne in the 1960s, and I was probably a slightly precocious kid who was into comic books and bubblegum cards and hot rod magazines and, increasingly, rock’n’roll. I drew rheems of my own dream-machine custom cars because I just loved the lines and I loved the promise in them, a promise of break-out and sensuality and speed and glamour and all possible tomorrows.

I wanted to be a car designer, I told people. Life intervened of course, and by the time I finished high school in Queensland, I was running right off the rails, intoxicated by drugs and rock’n’roll, and so it was only very reluctantly that I started an architecture course at university because, I suppose, my parents thought it was the thing I should do with my talents for design. I soon dropped out and enrolled in art school… but soon dropped out of that too, to start writing for rock magazines. I fell into writing because I had a story to tell, not because I was ambitious to be a writer, and in a lot of ways, my motivation remains the same.

After writing a few books about Australian rock (including Inner City Sound, Stranded and the Bon Scott biography, Highway to Hell), I realised my interests were broadening out or returning to my general fascination with vernacular, popular culture, and thus almost stumbled over the stories I wrote in  Buried Country and Football Life.

Golden Miles is a love song to these particular cars of this particular era in Australian history, and if it’s true, as I admit, that I am in so many ways a dilattante, because I’ve never owned such a car and wouldn’t know how to do more than change a tyre on one if did, I think this unconsummated aspect of  our relationship only makes my dedication more ardent!

It was a fascination I’d had since childhood and I finally wanted to understand what it was all about. And I think, having written the book, I now do.

The book always had to be illustrated, and beautifully designed. What point is a book about beautiful design that isn’t beautifully designed itself? As a former art student, I remain dedicated to the visual even though I have a line that says, ‘your literary credibility declines in direct proportion to the number of illustrations your book includes’. But how could I not include some of this beautiful, evocative and provocative imagery?

I designed the book in conjunction with my design partner, Jim Paton, who learned his trade at Reader’s Digest. I love the way this book looks.

When I go back and glance through it now, I enjoy the way it reads too. 🙂

EXCLUSIVE: Kim Miller Guest Blog

The influence of my life and work on my writing…

Being a prison chaplain is an interesting business. I work in a world that is unknown and misunderstood. People say to me, ‘How do you manage to work with those men after all the stuff they’ve done?’ I say, ‘It’s okay. I get to meet the people my mother wouldn’t let me play with when I was a kid.’

Well, I used to say that. Then I gave honesty a try…

See, I remember returning to my home town, and visiting the mother of a primary school friend, Robert.

I knock on her door. She answered, a bit belligerent – just as I remembered. ‘Who are you?’

‘I’m Kim. I used to live next door.’

‘Kim,’ she exploded. ‘You’re the boy who set fire to my yard and nearly burnt the house down.’

Mind you, this instant response is thirty-five years after I’d left that town as a teenager.

She goes on to talk about me as a kid as if I’m not standing in front of her: ‘That Kim was such a bad influence that we had to send Robert away to boarding school.’ 

So, maybe my work as a prison chaplain means I get to work with the people like me, the ones other mothers wouldn’t let their children play with. 🙂

My recent book, They Told Me I Had To Write This is a young adult novel about a boy named Clem. Clem is at war with the world and with himself. He’s in trouble with the coppers and is now attending a school for toxic teenagers. And in this environment, he starts to deal with the sexual abuse of his childhood. 

The abused childhood autobiography is fairly common. But fiction novels about child sexual abuse are not common, especially for teenagers. Perhaps publishers shy away from the area. Perhaps people don’t feel qualified to write about it. Perhaps authors are waiting for the vampire thing to fade and it will be the next fad. Perhaps I will now be inundated from readers who want to fill in my ignorance. 

All I can say is that one sleepless night on holidays this book put itself together in my head. I got up the next morning and wrote an outline. Then I started to write. Five days later I had the first draft. Some holiday, don’t you reckon?

Competent people cast their eye over it. Author Hazel Edwards mentored me for some of the way. It got knocked into shape and was accepted for publication. Three years after that sleepless night it was on its way to the printer. I’m a bit blown away by it. 

I sometimes wonder where the story came from. The answer is, from my own mind. It was in there already. I know about boys in strife. I’ve worked with them, as teenagers and adults, for many years. I was one myself. My book has been getting some pretty good reviews. I love that.

People ask me if I am writing anything else. Yes, I am. I’m currently writing a follow-up to this book. It’s not a sequel, but it has resonances. There’s a supporting character in They Told Me I Had To Write This named Bundy. I’m telling his story. It’s a darker work and there’s a more menacing undercurrent. Bundy likes burning things down. It’s the story of a firesetter. I wonder where that could be coming from…

They Told Me I Had To Write This by Kim Miller

Clem is a boy in strife. Blamed for the death of his mother, carrying a terrible secret from Grade 5 and in trouble with the police, he’s now in a school for toxic teenagers. And that rev-head school counselor wants him to write letters.Through his writing Clem goes deep into the trauma that has defined his life. Then he comes face to face with his mother’s death. In a rush of bush bike racing, the death of one student and the consequent arrest of another, an unexpected first girlfriend, and some surprising friendships, Clem’s story is the celebration of a boy who finds an unexpected future.Tackles multiple issues affecting today’s kids: bullying; family dysfunction; grief; mental illness; friendship with a fast-paced plot. Adults who are looking for insight into how to approach instances of deep teenage trauma will also find something here, as well as a good story, well told.

A new era for BOOMERANG BOOKS

The new month has brought with it a new era for Boomerang Books, our brand new website is now live!

http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au

Pretty, huh?

But it isn’t just a fancy coat of paint. Here at Boomerang, we believe in providing our customers with an unparalleled user experience, something we feel this update does.

To celebrate the launch, we’d like to invite you and your friends to become members on the site for free. We’re giving every new member that signs up a $5 credit toward their first order as a member!

Sign up here: http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/join

It only takes a couple of minutes.

So what’s new on the Boomerang Books website?

  • It’s much faster – searches are completed in milliseconds
  • It has a more contemporary design and slicker interface
  • Search results are presented in multiple formats allowing the user to find what they are looking for quickly and easily
  • It has new social networking features, including an RSS feed of ‘what’s happening’ on the site at any one time (and there’s more to come – watch this space)
  • It has smart Web 2.0-style gadgets, pop-ups and drop-downs to make the user experience more enjoyable, including ‘Someone just bought…’ and ‘Customers who bought this book also bought..’ selections
  • It features a new loyalty program called Boomerang Bucks. Buy books at Boomerang Books and earn Boomerang Bucks towards your next purchase
  • It’s integrated with Google Books, allowing the user to ‘look inside’ the growing list of books that have been digitised by Google
  • It’s integrated with Abebooks, giving you the option to purchase second hand copies of selected books
    There’s a new wishlist where you can store books that you might wish to purchase later on
  • It has a much-improved book review system, allowing users to submit their own book reviews and to provide a star rating for books they have read
  • It offers more payment options, including PayPal, BPay and bank deposit
  • Perhaps most importantly, the new website platform is extensible and we’re planning on some exciting developments in the coming months

So be sure to drop on by and become a member today! http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/join

EXCLUSIVE: Karen Tayleur Guest Blog

Karen Tayleur, author of Chasing Boys and the newly-released Hostage, talks about an author’s relationship with her characters.

Spend enough time with characters from a book and they become real to you. They don’t belong to the author anymore, but are entities in their own right. As a young reader I counted Katy (What Katy Did), Jo and all her sisters (Little Women) among my group of friends. As an author, I find the same thing. Originally, the characters are my creation, my pawns to do with what I choose. Soon enough, though, they flesh out and become real people, which can interfere with my plans. ‘Oh, no, Tully would definitely not ask the parking inspector for help, she has a lifelong aversion to authority figures.’ Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye.

Tully, the main protagonist from my latest book, Hostage, was a slippery character to pin down. However, in an echo of real life, if you take the time to get to know a person, the more empathy you can have for them — even if you never really like them. I grew to like Tully, though. I thought I knew her — well as the author, I had the best chance of knowing her — but as the months progressed, I finally really knew her, understood her motives, and the story became easier to write.

Not that Hostage was easy to write. It took two corkboards of coloured cards to plot out what was happening, when and where. And it was satisfying to finish. There are several high points in the writing process that I enjoy. One is finally understanding my main character in depth. Another is waking up after grappling with a knotty point in the plot and having the solution. The greatest high point is pushing that send button and watching the first draft whiz off to my editor, with the full knowledge that there will be redrafting but that this is actually a miracle that the first draft is finished. It’s not until later, a month or so after the book has gone to press, that I find myself thinking about my main protagonist again. Wondering what he or she would be doing beyond that final page.

I’ve had requests from some readers for a sequel to Chasing Boys. It was never my intention for it to be a series, but I understand their need to continue the relationship with the characters. In a compromise, I gave one of the characters a cameo role in Hostage.

I sometimes catch myself thinking about Tully. Wondering about her life. What she will make of it. As with the friends we make in real life, some come and go, while others remain forever. I may never meet up with Tully again, but we will always have a connection.

I wish her all the best.

EXCLUSIVE: K. Overman-Edmiston Guest Blog

K. Overman-Edmiston, the author of The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity writes about the genesis of her novel.

I love to travel, and I often use experiences from my travels in my writing.  For example, when flying from Vienna to Moscow a few years ago, I had a bout of food poisoning so, on reaching the hotel in Moscow, I was in bed for about 36 hours.  I awoke in the wee hours on Boxing Day and went to the window, it was still dark outside.  Down in the snow in the car park between the hotel and River Moskva a man had got out of his car, taken off his hat and coat and laid down in the snow.  He looked as though he had simply gone to sleep, curled on his side.  The police came, took notes, and left the body under a piece of matting.
 
Some time later I boarded the trans-Siberian train for Siberia and China, but I couldn’t get the image of the man in the snow out of my mind.  Why would a person do such a thing?  He would have known that taking off his warm clothes and choosing to lie down in the snow in such ferociously low temperatures would mean certain death.  Oddly enough, he looked quite peaceful and resigned to his action.
 
The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity is a sort of fictional history leading up to that moment.  An attempt at an explanation as to why someone would choose to die and why, perhaps, they would seem so comfortable in making such a choice.
 
I know it sounds a bit depressing, but it’s actually a very uplifting story!  We are a culture, I think, that deals badly with death, particularly if the event is unexpected.  I wanted to write a story that would provide some comfort or reassurance to those who have lost someone they love.  I hope this book is reassuring, especially for those who have quieter voices.
 
The intertwining story involves a couple travelling the trans-Siberian from Beijing to Moscow in the present day – full of fascinating insights for those who love to travel!  The other couple, Pyotr and Yuliya, live in Moscow in the 1960s.  The couples’ stories plait throughout the novel but come together at the novel’s end.

The landscapes traversed really provide a backdrop to the more important internal landscapes of each of the characters.  The book is simply an ode to tenderness, to the kindness people can offer to one another. Kindnesses that seem small but really are the essence of being alive; living a full life.

The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity by K Overman-Edmiston

In the arctic conditions of a Moscow winter, a man drives to the car park of a city hotel. He takes off his hat and coat, lies down in the snow, goes to sleep, and dies. Why? From a window high up in the Hotel Rossiya, a couple looks down upon the figure lying in the snow.

Hannah and Luke have just arrived in Moscow after travelling across Mongolia and Siberia. They had not seen the Russian leave his car, but they did see the police arrive, take notes, cover the body with a piece of matting, and then leave. This book tells the story of Pyotr and Yuliya, living in the Soviet Union of the 1960s. Their tale is interwoven with that of Luke and Hannah travelling the trans-Siberian railway from Beijing to Moscow in the early years of the new millennium. Their paths collide during the festive season in Moscow, 2002.

Set in Russia and China, this story traces two deeply founded relationships that provide insights into love’s gentle and tenuous beginnings to its richness, rewards, complexities, and potential for tragedy.

Keep a look out for The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity in next month’s giveaway.

Boomerang Books Re-Launch

As frequent readers will no doubt know, we are extremely excited about the upcoming launch of Boomerang Books’ new website on 1 November 2009. But what exactly have our developers cooked up for you?

Well, we can say that it’s an industry-leading online bookstore platform, and we can tell you how great we think it is, but sometimes, the features need to speak for themselves.

  • It’s much faster – searches are completed in milliseconds
  • The design is contemporary, slick
  • Search results are presented in multiple formats, allowing you to find what you’re looking for faster
  • New social networking features, including an RSS feed of ‘what’s happening’ on the site at any one time
  • Smart Web 2.0-style gadgets, pop-ups and drop-downs to make your experience more enjoyable
  • A new loyalty program called Boomerang Bucks.  Buy books at Boomerang and earn Boomerang Bucks towards your next purchase
  • Integrated with Google Books, allowing you to ‘look inside’ books that have been digitised by Google
  • Integrated with Abebooks, giving you the option to purchase second-hand copies of selected books
  • A new wishlist, where you can store books that you might wish to purchase later on
  • A much-improved book review system, allowing users to submit their own book reviews and to rate books
  • More payment options, including PayPal, BPay and bank deposit

And there are more improvements on the way!

So, thank you for all your support, thank you to our beta testers, and thank you for your feedback. We look forward to an exciting step forward, alongside you, our faithful Boomerang customers. 🙂

ANDREW MCDONALD Guest Blog: Classic Books As Blogs

Books based on blogs seem to be the flavour of the moment. The blog-turned-book Stuff White People Like did incredibly well and we now have the first movie based on a book based on a blog in Julie and Julia. In light of this blogging/authoring/filmmaking trend I’ve looked back at five classic books to see what they would have looked like had they started life as blogs as well. 

1. THE TRIAL by Franz Kafka

Blog Title: Der Internetprozess
About The Blogger: Josef K. is a blogger and is currently on trial. He is uncertain how he came to be either.  
Blog excerpt: This morning I was not allowed out of my room for breakfast. Two goons outside told me I am under arrest but would not say why. So whilst I am understandably upset I have resolved to sit down at my computer and blog as I wait for word on what shall happen to me from here. Perhaps I will jump on answer.yahoo.com to try to find out exactly what is happening to me.

2. THE MAGIC FARAWAY TREE by Enid Blyton

Blog Title: The Wireless Woods
About The Blogger: Bessie is a girl who has recently come to live on the edge of some woods. Sometimes she calls herself Beth to sounds more modern.
Blog Excerpt: Today when we go back into the woods that seem to whisper, I am going to take my lappy with me and blog from the depths of the forest. Although Jo thinks there won’t be any wireless coverage in the woods. So we might have to climb to the top of the tallest tree we can find to get coverage.

3. DRACULA by Bram Stoker

Blog Title: Collective Ramblings About A Count Called Dracula
About the Bloggers: Jonathan, Mina, Lucy and Dr Seward.
Blog excerpt from Dr Seward: The case of Renfield grows more interesting the more I get to understand the man. As it turns out the man eats flies and spiders and bugs. Kind of like this guy:

4. ROBINSON CRUSOE by Daniel Defoe

Blog Title: Help!
About The Blogger: Robinson is a victim of shipwreck and circumstance. But mostly, shipwreck. He blogs from a deserted isle somewhere.
Blog Excerpt: Another long day on the island. But I think I am maintaining my sanity. One must remain clear-headed in case some possibility of rescue should make itself known. In the meantime I shall shove another S.O.S. message inside a bottle and throw it out to sea. And then after that I think I’ll check Facebook. And think of something else to blog about.

5. HATING ALISON ASHLEY by Robin Klein

Blog Title: I Hate Alison Ashley
About the Blogger: Erica Yurken wants to be a star. Also, she hates Alison Ashley.
Blog Excerpt: I hate Alison Ashley. I would like to say more but I am afraid of the consequences if I am caught ‘cyber bullying’.

Andrew McDonald is the author of The Greatest Blogger in the World

When the school mascot is stolen and a multinational corporation tries to take over the school formal, Charlie Ridge has his chance to Be the Hero, Get the Girl, and Save the Day. That’s got to give him a leg up on the quest to be The Greatest Blogger in the World, right? Age 10+.

October Giveaway

OCTOBER MAJOR GIVEAWAY

Variety is the spice of life, and this month’s prize pack’s spicy indeed! Spend a year in Girl Hell,  search for truth, live a hilarious life alongside a comedian, and learn to cook for a growing family on a shrinking budget, in a pack that includes:

The Ghost’s Child by Sonya Hartnett SIGNED

A Year In Girl Hell: Dumped by Meredith Costain

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

A Nest Of Occasionals by Tony Martin

Woman Speak by Louise Nicholas and Jude Aquilina

On A Shoestring by Samela Harris

 

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close October 31, 2009.

OCTOBER FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

When you join our Facebook Group, not only do you become a part of one of Australia’s fastest growing online book groups, you also go into the draw to win prizes! This month, one lucky member will win a pack that includes:

Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart by Ashley Du Toit SIGNED

After by Sue Lawson

Elephant Dance by Tammie Matson

Dragon Keeper by Carole Wilkinson

On The Case by Moya Simons

Elephant Dance Dragonkeeper

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Black Dog Books, Dragon Publishing, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Penguin, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.

 

The Lost Symbol Fever

The Lost Symbol sold 1 million copies worldwide in one day. While no-where near the numbers Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows raked in – 8 million in the US alone on Day 1 – there’s no doubting that Dan Brown’s latest is a hit. When a book has been as anticipated as this has, readers often find themselves at a loss after devouring it.

They need more.

Are you suffering from The Lost Symbol Fever / Withdrawals? Need your next conspiratorial fix? Well, check out these supplementary reads fresh off the press:

The Rough Guide to the Lost Symbol by Michael Haag
Dan Brown’s new thriller The Lost Symbol is the biggest global publishing phenomenon since his runaway bestseller The Da Vinci Code. The new adventures of mystery-solving Professor of Symbology, Robert Langdon have attracted huge global interest and fresh controversies concerning Dan Brown’s ideas, characters and thoughts on mythology and history.The Rough Guide to The Lost Symbol traces all the debates concerning religion and secret societies and the views of historians on Dan Brown’s plots and ideas. It casts an eye on the locations of the book and how you can visit them and explains how The Lost Symbol connects to Brown’s previous work and other books. Whether you are a Dan Brown fanatic, sceptic or agnostic there is no doubting the excitement generated by his exciting stories all of which are explored in this guide. This new Rough Guide has the key to understanding The Lost Symbol.

The Secrets of the Lost Symbol by Ian Gittins
Explores all aspects of the most talked about secret society in the world, from its most famous members to its infamous history, revealing the facts behind the fiction of Dan Brown’s new blockbuster. For centuries the Freemasonry has been the subject of rumour and intrigue. From its obscure origins to the suspicion that it exercises huge influence on government and multinational corporations, there has always been more than a whiff of controversy about the organisation. Secrets of the Lost Symbol reveals the truth behind the myths, sifts the facts from the fiction, and unveils the mysterious rites and ceremonies. Ian Gittins delves deep into the true origins of the society, its philosophy and practices, describes the rituals, and profiles a number of key figures. Along the way, he also shows where fact and fiction have fought, and fiction has won the battle.

Uncovering the Lost Symbol by Tim Collins
Delves into the mysteries Dan Brown writes about in his latest novel. The symbology behind the racy thriller will be unravelled and explained to all.

Boomerang @ Bookfeast 2009

Whenever William the author is invited to an event, William the Boomerang Blogger gets indirectly invited too. On Wednesday, NSW authors and illustrators braved the orange dust storm, and headed into the CBD for this year’s Bookfeast, a great event organised by Haberfield school librarian Michael Fraser.

Some Boomerang Books Blog alums were there, including Deborah Abela, Belinda Murrell, Richard Harland and Kate Forsyth. Also there was Susanne Gervay, whose I Am Jack’s stage adaptation by MonkeyBaa is on until October 2 at the Seymour Theatre and is the talk of the town, Duncan Ball, Sue Whiting, Jenny Hale, and my current favourite (and the insanely funny) illustrator Sarah Davies, who was just awarded Best New Young Illustrator by the CBCA for the powerful Mending Lucille.

Now, pictures!

EXPOSURE by Joel Magarey excerpt

                 Here is

                 the unfinished map of the world,
                 the mists of slow mountains,
                 the ache of the whale,
                 the blue water crescent,
                 the sulphur-yellow caking
                 around the volcano,
                 the wind’s wild whisper.

                 Take it all and go further.

                      – Penny 

Prologue

In the early years when we were kissing, Penny and I would sometimes share the same breath, one lungful flowing between us as long as the oxygen lasted. I would come as close to her in that warm blind join of air as later in the joining of our bodies, dreams, and journeys. But once, on a night in Bombay, when our journey to India had taken me too far, Penny kissed me that way to try to bring me back.

Late that night I’d found myself running through the blue-black streets of the Colaba district. Something was happening to me – I’d been pounding through these streets for hours. A few blocks back I’d given a white-haired old woman nearly all our remaining rupees. When she’d taken them I’d been flooded with relief, but now as I raced towards the hotel the fear was again at my heels.

Rounding a corner, unable to stop in time, I jumped over a body. Ahead hundreds more lay sprawled, Bombay’s homeless sleeping on the pavement. In panic I swerved away from the sleepers and ran down the middle of the empty road. I didn’t understand what was happening to me but I knew I had to avoid getting caught again. I tried to think only about getting back to Penny and the hotel room, and this time staying there. All night as I’d headed back I’d kept seeing more crippled women, blind men or deformed children and kept getting urges; and though I’d resisted them, in the room they’d become so painful I’d had to run out to those people too. And each time that happened the most frightening urge intensified – the pressure in my chest that wanted me not to leave India in the morning, to let Penny fly home without me, and to make these streets my life.

Chest burning, I stopped at a corner lit in hazy yellow light and looked up and down the intersecting roads. A quiet voice made me turn. By a shop window a bone-thin, shawled woman stood cradling a baby. Without thinking I met her gaze – and looked away too late. I’d seen the two bloody crescents of infection, crawling up the whites of her eyes. My mind stilled, then hazed. The new urge landed like a punch.

Come out again to her with your Australian dollars. Or she’ll go blind – left like this by you.

My palms flew to my temples, I turned, and I sprinted.

Ten minutes later I’d reached the hotel and was hurrying past the night watchman, leaping up the staircase, jogging along the passage. At last; in the room again. I slumped back against the door. Penny was sitting on the bed in her T-shirt and undies, face strained and disapproving.

‘Penny, there’s another one.’

‘Joel! You said that—’

‘Will you stop me if I try to go out again? Physically, if you have to?’

For a moment Penny stared. Then her expression softened, and she got up and came over to me.

‘I will.’ She nodded. ‘I’ll stop you.’ Taking my arm, she tugged on it gently. ‘So, now, come to bed.’

The relief her promise brought and the compassion spreading over her face drew out the tears that had been welling in me for the five days since this had started.

***

Exhausted, Penny fell asleep quickly. Within minutes the urge to go back out to the bloody-eyed woman began to whisper. One last run, quickly, while she’s still there. Save her sight . . .

Sweating, stomach knotting, I tossed and huffed, until Penny moaned and pulled herself to me, draping a warm arm around my shoulder.

‘Sleep, now,’ she murmured. ‘If there’s anything to do, we’ll see in the morning. Now, only sleep, okay?’

With a great effort I managed to lie still.

Two hours later, she woke again. ‘No good?’ She drew herself up to rest on an elbow. In the darkness I felt her hand exploring my face like a blind person’s.

‘Hey,’ she said. ‘Give me your mouth.’

Leaning down, she kissed me, then breathed gently into my mouth. I took her breath and returned it, and as we breathed like that I felt a caress of calmness for the first time since morning. She air-kissed me again; I felt calmer still. She did it a third time and finally, in that surging warmth, I felt the first gentle tugs of sleep, pulling me somewhere safe.

Praise for Exposure

‘An extraordinary story . . . wry, honest, amusing and evocative.’ Eva Hornung

‘A striking and substantial book, at once compelling, scary, delightfully comic and moving.’ Tom Shapcott

Joel Magarey guest blogs on life, death, and EXPOSURE

Since Exposure has come out, a few journalists have asked me what my most extreme travel experience was, which has got me thinking about death – always good for a new perspective on life. At first I thought the answer to their question had to be the experience I had in a Bolivian desert: setting fire to my hand and then my tent while still in my sleeping bag – then knocking over a full bottle of fuel to really get that blaze going. That was intense. Then I realised that, for intensity, I couldn’t go past nearly drowning in a glacier-fed Alaskan river that was busy freezing over.

A young inexperienced American called Troy and I had flown with a kayak into the remote Chigmit Mountains too late in autumn, when it was so cold the glaciers feeding our watercourse were only giving off a shallow trickle. We tore gaping holes in the kayak scraping to a halt on the constant gravel bars. Then Troy broke both our paddles trying to push us off the bars. Then, when the river finally got deeper and faster, we shot into some tree branches and capsized. In the 3-degree water I went into shock, my feet got stuck in the kayak and my head was forced under.

I digress. These memories have reminded me of not only how intensely alive a brush with death can make a person feel, but also a broader, parallel irony I discovered on my journey: that the passionate high road of our greatest desires runs close by the forest of our worst fears.

At 25, with a mind filled with dreams and post-Catholic sexual hang-ups, I had left my wise and beautiful love of seven years, Penny – along with a promising career in journalism – for a limitless global journey I’d imagined since childhood. I was also leaving behind a recent and unpalatable diagnosis, of obsessive compulsive disorder, and an unfinished course of therapy for it.

Very soon I’d got myself into some interesting pickles, such as a three-week compulsive nightmare involving Los Angeles, my terror of Alaska killing me, and many, MANY sleeping bags. Then there was the climb into Arctic mountains I undertook in November with almost no relevant experience. The cold was so intense it snap-froze the drips from my constantly dripping nose. To get food into my mouth I had to break foot-long stalactites from my nostrils.

I thought I was moving towards what I wanted – wider experience of love and women, a richer entry into life, and the mental cure I thought I could find for myself. And it was an astonishing journey, filled with wonders, intensities and joy — but also longing and illness. Two thirds of the way around the world, as I fell victim to another OCD attack in Zimbabwe, I saw in a moment that in some of the deepest ways I’d been heading far from where I’d thought I was going. I’d been risking madness but not health. I’d been risking death in a kayak and a Bolivian desert but not life with a woman I couldn’t stop loving.

I can’t give away how it all panned out for me; but death, life, and risk bring me back to that Alaskan river.

As Adrenalin finally kicked in, I wrenched my legs out of the kayak. Troy and I hauled ourselves out of the water and lay on top of the upturned kayak as it began to pick up speed. True, we still had problems. And we were heading towards more – like a white, frothing rapid just downriver – but that’s another story, another brush with death. For the moment, we were alive, and we knew it in every nerve.

Praise for Exposure

‘An extraordinary story . . . wry, honest, amusing and evocative.’ Eva Hornung

‘A striking and substantial book, at once compelling, scary, delightfully comic and moving.’ Tom Shapcott

CLAIRE HALLIDAY guest blogs, asking…

Do you want sex with that?

Our attitudes to sex in society have hit the headlines more than once in recent weeks – the public reaction to the Kyle and Jackie O lie detector debacle in which a teenage girl was forced to submit to an on-air interrogation about her past sexual experiences; the enormous social media-led outcry, prompted by Mia Freeman’s blog, over clothing chain Cotton On’s increasingly inappropriate t-shirt slogans (I’m A Tits Man) for babies; and the ongoing political debate about same sex marriages.

Sex sells, it’s true, and in Australian society today it seems that there is so much of it to buy. The alternative is, I guess, to simply ignore it but, from billboards to music video hits on weekend television, it’s becoming a tougher thing to do.

I’m thinking about all this – and much more – in the lead-up to my appearance at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. Never done the writers’ festival thing before – not as a speaker anyway – and now trying to come up with intelligent points to make about the topic at hand. It’s actually Women Talking Erotica but from that, I’m sure, will spring an argument or two about where we are at with sex in Australian culture today – an age where sex and the advertising of its influence seems to dominate our visual media, like it or not.

Sometimes, my conservatism alarms me. Other times, I try to pick up the phone to give Mum a heads-up to all my ‘wild days’ revelations about to be published in my new book and think I should have been more conservative when I was younger. Just a bit. (I still haven’t made that phone call.)

I’ve had my share of it it’s true – breathed excitement into men as a fantasy phone call operator, been on the set of porn films and at swingers’ parties in my role as feature writer for various magazines and newspapers across the country and have, in the biblical sense, utilised it for its ‘higher’ purpose in the conception of four children. And in the end it’s probably motherhood, more than anything, that has shaped my current attitudes.

And so I am thinking, trying to make sense of a topic that has the power to cause people to make no sense at all. Do I want sex with that? Sometimes. And the other times – in the delivery of my barbecue chicken advertisement, or my toddler’s fashion statements? Well, no, actually. But is anyone listening?

Do You Want Sex With That? by Claire Halliday
Combining memoir and reportage, this is an extremely brave and honest look at the place of sex throughout Australian life: from the pervasive sexualisation of advertising and children, to the more minority pursuits of swinging and porn-films, as well as the rise of the abstinence movement.

September Book Giveaway

SEPTEMBER MAJOR GIVEAWAY

Let this month’s prize pack take you on an unforgettable journey – globe-trot with Joel Magarey, get lost among the desert elephants of Namibia, pig out in northern Spain. Relax and soak in William McInnes’ reflections on his father, and unleash your inner-child with the hottest children’s releases. The pack includes:

A Man’s Got To Have A Hobby by William McInnes SIGNED

Ivory Moon by Sally Henderson

Exposure: A Journey by Joel Magarey

Everything But The Squeal by John Barlow

Schooling Around: Robot Riot! by Andy Griffiths

Looking For Flavour by Barbara Santich

It’s Yr Life by Tempany Deckert & Tristan Bancks

Gone by Michael Grant

The Greatest Blogger In The World by Andrew McDonald

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close September 30, 2009.

Ivory Moon
Everything But The Squeal
Gone

SEPTEMBER FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

When you join our Facebook Group, not only do you become a part of one of Australia’s fastest growing online book groups, you also go into the draw to win prizes! This month, one lucky member will win a pack that includes:

The Pheonix Files: Arrival by Chris Morphew

Brainjack by Brian Falkner

Big Stories From Little Lunch by Danny Katz, illustrated by Mitch Vane

Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson

Allie McGregor’s True Colours by Sue Lawson

Tales From The Labyrinth/The Stone Ladder by Peter Lloyd

Jetty Road by Cath Kenneally

Chinese Cinderella: The Mystery of the Song Dynasty Painting


Big Stories From Little Lunch


Scatterheart


Allie McGregor's True Colours


Tales from the Labyrinth / The Stone Ladder

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Black Dog Books, Hachette, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Random House, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.

Indigenous Literacy Project

Video courtesy of: Eden Media

Frequent readers of the blog will know that Boomerang Books is a proud supporter of the Indigenous Literacy Project. On September 2, 2009, we will be donating 10% of proceeds from book sales to the cause, so if you’ve been holding out on a particular purchase, and you want to do your part to help close the gap and improve Indigenous Literacy, drop by the store.

About the Indigenous Literacy Project

The Indigenous Literacy Project (ILP) is a partnership between the Australian Book Industry and The Fred Hollows Foundation.  

Working closely with the Australian Booksellers Association and the Australian Publishers Association, The Fred Hollows Foundation purchases and supplies books and other culturally appropriate learning materials to remote communities where The Foundation works.  Communities select and order reading material from catalogues and sample books provided by The Australian Booksellers Association.  The Fred Hollows Foundation staff also identify other literacy needs.  The books are then supplied to schools, libraries, early learning centres such as crèches, women’s Centres and other identified institutions, to enhance their pool of literacy resources.

For more information on the Indigenous Literacy Project, click here.

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Tempany Deckert

As a kid growing up on a farm on the outskirts of Melbourne, children’s books were my sanctuary.

They were the closest group of friends an isolated girl could ask for. They provided me with reassurance and inspiration whenever loneliness got the better of me. The Magic Faraway Tree gave me hope that sheep, snakes and chooks weren’t my only friends. If I looked hard enough, I could find magical lands, pixies, sprites and a cavalcade of fun friends. Came Back To Show You I Could Fly taught me all about city kids and the harmful affects of drug and alcohol abuse, So Much To Tell You showcased bravery and finding your own voice, and The Secret Seven surrounded me with the close-knit group of friends that I’d always pined for. To Kill A Mockingbird transported me to a faraway land called America that as an adult I now call home. 

So, not surprisingly, the books I’ve written all deal with isolated kids trying to find connection in the world too. I hope they provide kids with warmth, comfort, and a trusted friend when there’s no one else to turn to. The Fashion Police are two shy teen girls who manage to generate new friends and acceptance when they design cool clothes for their peer group. Radio Rebels are a bunch of kids in a small country town who challenge the status quo when they start up a youth radio station. But my new young adult novel, ITS YR LIFE, portrays two teens from vastly different worlds that discover that friendship knows no bounds when push comes to shove. 

If it weren’t for children’s books, my childhood could have been a very lonely one. But instead, I was surrounded with a slew of positive and inspiring peers. The fact that they were fictional made no difference. In my child’s mind those characters were possibly even more authentic than the real people that surrounded me. For that reason, I love children’s books and I feel very lucky to be able to create new ones.

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Sandy Fussell

White Crane “…Why don’t you write proper books?” I’m often asked by friends.

I write on the frontier of Australian story telling. It’s a wild and woolly place. A little bit dangerous even. There are Dragonkeepers and Ranger’s Apprentices. A Book Thief and a Bugalugs Bum Thief. You can go Hunting Elephants or into the Teenage Underground. There’s even a Pencil of Doom and my own Samurai Kids.

I’m a children’s author.

We’re raising the imagination stakes, encouraging a love of reading and opening the door to critical thinking. We’re always entertaining, sometimes educating and often making our readers laugh.

Children and young adults are not easy to write for. They won’t tolerate a story that doesn’t immediately engage their attention nor will they read a tale with an overt lesson. Their own ideas rival the most fantastic of storylines. They have widely ranging reading abilities, life experiences and interests. The youngest of readers need to be handled with care and the older readers exposed to new thought. It’s an enormous challenge and a lot of fun.

When I write for children, I get to tell the stories I want to hear. Another children’s author once told me you write for the age you are inside. So I’m somewhere between ten and fourteen on any given day. I think that’s about right. I also enjoy being able to regularly interact with my readers in their classrooms, the library and the wider community. Children want to meet their authors and listen to their stories. There are no barriers or pretensions. I know from experience kids will ask almost anything!

Sometimes I get the big reward. “Your book was the first one I ever liked. I’m going to read another one.” The storytelling frontier is an exciting place where things are growing all the time. As a children’s author, I’m helping to grow enthusiastic readers and maybe writers as well. I love it!

Owl NinjaWant to win copies of the books in Sandy Fussell’s Samurai Kid’s series? All you have to do is email me a review of the last children’s book you read. You could’ve read it last night, last year, or even back when you were a kid. The catch? Your review has to be 20 words or less. In your email’s subject, be sure to write: ‘FICTION NOVELS FOR AGES 10+’

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Jack Heath

I love the lack of pretentiousness in YA books. When you write for adults, no-one pays attention unless you’re addressing issues like sex, racism, mental illness, drug use and so on. When writing for teens, the only requirement is that you entertain, as much as humanly possible. This gives me the freedom to fill a book with explosions and car chases and gadgetry without worrying that it won’t be taken seriously. It won’t, and it’s not supposed to be – that’s very liberating.

Both as a kid and as an adult, I love the work of Catherine Jinks, Emily Rodda, and the incomparable duo of Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, who give me the giggles in person and on the page. It’s not very grown-up of me to list my favourite short story as “Pinky Ponky the Donkey”, but I don’t much care what everyone else thinks counts as literature.

As a child I used to read a lot of novelisations – sometimes because Mum and Dad wouldn’t let me watch the screen versions until the Office of Film and Literature Classification said I could, but mostly just because the special effects were better in my head. I must have read every Doctor Who book, several Terminators and Red Dwarfs, and, of course, the Indiana Jones trilogy. I devoured Alien and all its sequels once a year for six years.

Third Transmission by Jack Heath

Six of Hearts is sealed inside a torpedo, blasting his way at 300 kilometres an hour towards a warship. His mission: to steal canisters containing a weaponised strain of the SARS virus. If he fails, ChaoSonic will use the virus to wipe out an uprising that is tearing the City apart.

And that is the least of Six’s problems. Vanish is still on the loose. So is Retuni Lerke. And a scientist has designed a new weapon – one more dangerous than anything Six has ever seen before. One that could destroy him, the Deck, and anyone else who dares to oppose ChaoSonic.

Six has to find the weapon and eliminate the threat it poses because ChaoSonic can’t always control their creations.

He is living proof of that.

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Michael Gerard Bauer

It’s not so much writing for teenagers and young adults I enjoy, it’s more writing stories centring around them. The teenage years are such a fun and exciting time to write about. It’s a time full of discovery and possibility where feelings and emotions are often more intense and focused and friendships and relationships are at their strongest.

My favourite book as a child was Wind in the Willows. I read it many times and every time I lost myself in the world of the Riverbank with those wonderfully unique characters of Mole, Rat, Toad and Badger.

When I was a teenager myself I read lots of Agatha Christie murder mysteries and adventure books like King Solomon’s Mines and books by Alistair MacLean like Where Eagles Dare. Another big favourite was Lord of the Rings. One holidays I read War and Peace but just because I wanted to be able to say I’d read what I thought was the longest book in the world. I even ended up liking it.

There are so many Children’s and Young Adult books by fantastic Australian authors that I love – far too many to mention them all. But I will make mention of books by Scot Gardner, Barry Jonsberg and Steven Herrick because if I don’t they’ll beat me up!

My favourite YA book is probably The Messenger by Markus Zusak. That book inspired me to have a go at writing.

CBCA Book Week Fact

Did you know that Michael Gerard Bauer’s first novel, The Running Man, won the 2005 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers?

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Melina Marchetta

In what will no doubt set a dangerous precedent for the years to come, this week, to celebrate the CBCA’s Book Week, we’re doing something very special here at the Boomerang Blog. We’ve invited a selection of Australian children’s author to drop by and guest blog for us – one for every day of the week.

We’re kicking off with Melina Marchetta, whose books include the quintessential Australian young adult book, Looking For Alibrandi, which became a successful film, and On The Jelicoe Road, recent winner of the prestigious 2009 US Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature.

Enjoy.

*********

When I was in Year Six, my best friend and I were in charge of discarding the garbage in the school incinerator. As much as I’m thankful for recycling bins and child protection these days, it was there that our imaginations went haywire and we managed to bludge whole afternoons. Except for the term when my teacher read the class Ivan Southall’s Hills End. Setting our hair alight no longer interested me because I was desperate to return to class and listen to a story about a group of country Australian kids and their teacher separated from the rest of their town because of a storm and a lie. I savoured the love triangle between Paul, Frances and Adrian, I loved the moral dilemma faced by Adrian, long demoralised by his father, and I was introduced to the importance of the secondary characters. When Ivan Southall died last year I felt a sadness that we never got to meet. I would love to have told how important his work was to me.

By high school, I enjoyed any story written about teenagers. Most were from the US, like Paul Zindel’s My Darling My Hamburger. I remember in Year Eight, Judy Blume’s Forever being passed around the room with the important sex references dog eared for quick consumption. It wasn’t until I studied at university that I was truly introduced to Australian YA and I fell in love with the genre because of novels like John Marsden’s So Much To Tell You, Simon French’s All We Know and Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn.

Although my own novels aren’t specifically written for a particular audience, I’m forever grateful that they’ve found a home in the hands of teenagers who don’t go around questioning where the adults are in a story about boarding school territory wars. Teenagers don’t care much about audience or themes or finding out why a story works the way it does. But they do love language and they’ll go around quoting their favourite lines. When you ask them why it’s their favourite, their response isn’t about the use of assonance and alliteration and juxtaposition. Instead they say, “I just like the sound of it. It makes me feel something.”

Books for Dad

Having trouble finding that perfect read for Dad for this Father’s Day? Well, we’ve just rounded up a diverse list of captivating reads that will no doubt capture his interest.

The Real Man’s Tool Box by Tammy Farrell
Most men look after their cars. They look after their trucks. They make sure their fishing rods are maintained and look after their golf clubs. BUT too many men don’t look after themselves. It’s not hard. Simple changes can literally mean the difference between life and death. Tammy Farrell is a registered nurse who has often been called on by her two brothers and their mates to demystify the medical world. Taking this role a step further she saw a need to talk to men about their health and started giving Tool Box Talks to miners in the Hunter Valley. Tammy knows what men need to hear and want to know and she has created the manual EVERY man needs to live a healthier life.

Crossing the Ditch by James Castrission
With more than 2,000 km of treacherous seas and dangerously unpredictable weather and currents, not to mention the ever-present threat of sharks, it was little wonder no one had ever successfully crossed the Tasman by kayak. Australian adventurer Andrew McAuley had come close just months earlier – though, tragically, not near enough to save his life. But two young Sydneysiders, James Castrission and Justin Jones, reached the sand at New Plymouth – and a place in history – on 13 January, 2008, 62 days after they’d set off from Forster on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. In the process, they overcame a litany of difficulties, including dwindling food supplies, a string of technical problems and two close encounters with sharks, as well as one demoralising 14-day period in which – caught in a whirlpool – they found themselves being dragged back to Australia. When they arrived in New Zealand, they were sunburnt, bearded, underweight, physically and mentally wasted – and, most of all, happy to be alive.

The Danihers by Terry Daniher
A revealing account of how four unassuming blokes from the bush endeared themselves to Australian Rules fans and became part of football folklore.

 

For our full Father’s Day catalogue, click here.

Guest Blog: KATHERINE HOWELL

I used to be a paramedic and now write crime thrillers about people in that job. In my first novel, Frantic, so much trouble begins for paramedic Sophie Phillips when she’s called to a woman in labour. With the birth of her own baby and all its tears and joy still fresh in her mind, she’s pleased to be going to the case, in contrast with her colleague Mick, who like most paramedics, dreads birth calls because so much can go wrong. Soon they’re struggling with the situation when the baby is born unconscious and not breathing, then they can’t stop the mother’s haemorrhage. Later at the hospital Sophie thinks “this job, sometimes … you felt capable of the work, powerful even in your capacity to save lives, and then the universe showed you exactly who was boss”.

While I never went to a case like that, thank goodness – all the births I attended resulted in healthy babies – I was able to use the anxieties I felt and the outcomes I worried about to throw challenges at my characters. And because when writing crime novels, a good rule of thumb is to decide the worst possible moment to make things worse for the characters then try to make them even worse again, it’s not long before I have Sophie’s own life turn into a disaster when her husband is shot and their baby kidnapped.

In my second book, The Darkest Hour, it’s another paramedic, Lauren Yates, whose life is thrown into turmoil when she finds a murdered man and his killer in an inner-city alley. This never happened to me either – again, thank goodness – but I’ve spent my share of time out and about late at night, in dark alleys, and around dead bodies.

In my next novel, Cold Justice, out next February, the past haunts the present when Detective Ella Marconi is assigned a twenty-year-old cold case and gets an anonymous letter telling her to talk to the girl who found the body. That girl is now paramedic Georgie Riley and she swears she knows nothing more about the case than she said at the time. She has more pressing concerns anyway, such as being stalked by a mysterious man, but as Ella digs deeper into the case it seems the killer is increasingly desperate to tie up loose ends and that they might both be targets. I didn’t find a body as a schoolgirl, nor have I been stalked, but when I drive through the areas where I worked, I see the past all around me: the sites of the accidents I went to, the crosses on the roadsides, the houses where we saved somebody’s life and those where we couldn’t.

This is the great thing about using real life experiences in fiction. Writing about roaring down city streets in an ambulance with lights and siren going when you’ve actually been there, and you know what that siren sounds like inside the cabin, you know what the paramedics talk about on the way to a case, both shows readers an unknown world in close-up and gives the work that unmistakable ring of truth.

About Katherine Howell
Katherine Howell’s novels have been published in Australia, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Russia. Frantic won the 2008 Davitt Award for crime fiction. Recent UK reviews describe her work as ‘finely paced and engrossing’, and say that ‘[this] former Sydney paramedic is set to do for that profession what US author Patricia Cornwell did for forensic pathologists’.

BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS! August Book Giveaway

This month, Boomerang Books are giving you more chances to win! Alongside our regular monthly giveaway and our Facebook-exclusive giveaway, to celebrate August being the month of the Children’s Book Council Australia’s Book Week, we have a special children’s prize pack to giveaway.

AUGUST MAJOR GIVEAWAY

This month’s prize pack is an eclectic mix set to capture your imagination, touch your heart and tickle your tastebuds. While Judith McNeil paints an unforgettable portrait of Australian life in the 1950s, Angela Valamanesh’s art inspires, and Ben O’Donoghue and Mary Taylor Simeti share recipes that plot you on the path to becoming the Masterchef of your household. The pack includes:

Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett SIGNED
Here is Plum Coyle, on the threshold of adolescence, striving to be new. Her fourteenth birthday is approaching: her old life and her old body will fall away, and she will become graceful, powerful, at ease. The strength in the objects she stores in a briefcase under her bed – a crystal lamb, a yoyo, an antique watch, a penny – will make sure of it.
Over the next couple of weeks, Plum’s life will change. Her beautiful neighbour Maureen will begin to show her how she might fly. The older brothers she adores – the charismatic Justin, the enigmatic Cydar – will court catastrophe in worlds that she barely knows exist. And her friends – her worst enemies – will tease and test, smelling weakness. They will try to lead her on and take her down.
Who ever forgets what happens when you’re fourteen?
Butterfly is a gripping, disquieting, beautifully observed novel that confirms Hartnett as one of Australia’s finest writers.

Outdoor by Ben O’Donoghue (Hardcover) SIGNED
In his first-ever cookbook, Ben brings the wide-sweeping world of barbecuing to your backyard via one of the most stunningly designed books around. No need to walk over hot coals to impress your BBQ guests, these divine recipes will leave a lasting taste in everyone’s mouth.
Try Grilled Lobsters from Norfolk, or Pork Loin With Bay And Balsamic from Italy or even a Thai-inspired dessert of Grilled Pineapple With Rum Ginger And Lemongrass Syrup. Yum! And while you grill, serve guests a Southern Cross Pimm’s barbecue-side. Fresh in every way, this cookbook is a summer staple.

Letters to Leonardo by Dee White
On his fifteenth birthday, Matt receives a card from his mother – the mother he grew up believing was deceased. Feeling betrayed by both his parents, Matt’s identity is in disarray and he begins writing letters to Leonardo da Vinci as a way to sort out the ‘mess’ in his head. Through the connections he makes between his own life and that of Leonardo, Matt unravels the mystery that his life has become and discovers his mother’s secrets and the reasons behind his abandonment.
A unique and powerful story about a fifteen year old boy who tries to deal with his mother’s mental illness by writing letters to Leonardo da Vinci. Ages 12+. 

A True History of the Hula Hoop by Judith Lanigan
A beguiling and utterly original debut novel about two women born centuries apart but joined by the spirit of adventure and a quest for true love.
Catherine is a hula-hooping performance artist, a talented and independent individual plying her trade on the international burlesque stage. Columbina meanwhile is a feisty female clown and a principal in a 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte troupe.
As Catherine and Columbina struggle to make sense of an increasingly nonsensical world – and to assert their rights as performers and women during times of profound change – their lives, as if by magic, seem to interact.

No One’s Child by Judith McNeil
Judith takes you on a journey back to her childhood – as a ‘railway brat’, growing up in small towns along the tracks while her father worked on the lines. Judith’s life was one of hardship and poverty. The eldest of six children, she soon took on the role of provider and carer, while desperately craving affection from a mother too tired to give it and a father who resented her because she wasn’t a son. Yet there was still joy to be found: in the vibrant Gypsy camp, full of laughter and love in the eyes of Tom, the engine driver who believed in her and fed her thirst for knowledge and in the friendship of Billy, the boy who could see into her soul. No One’s Child is an unforgettable portrait of Australian life in the 1950s. With a vivid cast of characters and set against the backdrop of the ever-changing outback landscape, it will leave you marvelling at the indomitable spirit of one little girl who was determined to forge her own destiny.

Angela Valamanesha: About Being Here by Cath Kenneally (Hardcover)

Sicilian Food: Recipes from Italy’s Abundant Isle by Mary Taylor Simeti

Another Way To Love by Tim Costello and Rode Yule

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close August 31, 2009.

AUGUST FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

As always, we have a great prize pack to give away to one of our Facebook Group members, which includes: Letters to Leonardo by Dee White, Shakespeare: The Most Famous Man In London by Tony Thompson, Third Transmission by Jack Heath, A Tale of Two Women by Christina Slade, Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger by Sandy Fussell, Another Way To Love by Tim Costello and Rode Yule.

Shakespeare Third Transmission A Tale of Two Women Shaolin Tiger

Boomerang Books is fast becoming one of Australia’s biggest book groups on Facebook, so what are you waiting for? Join Now!

BONUS AUGUST CHILDREN’S GIVEAWAY

Entering this bonus giveaway is easy enough. All you have to do is email me a review of the last children’s book you read. You could’ve read it last night, last year, or even back when you were a kid. The catch? It has to be in 20 words or less. When entering, mention which prize pack you’d like to be in the running for – picture book or fiction for ages 10+. Entries close August 31, 2009.

Section A: ‘Book Safari’-Themed Picture Books: The Little One: The Story of a Red-Tailed Monkey by Kaitie Afrika Litchfield, The Gorilla Book: Born To Be Wild by Dr Carla Litchfield, The Chimpanzee Book: Apes Like Us by Dr Carla Litchfield, The Penguin Book: Birds In Suits by Dr Mark Norman, The Antarctica Book: Living In The Freezer by Dr Mark Norman, The Great Barrier Reef Book: Solar Powered by Dr Mark Norman, When No-one’s Looking: On The Farm by Zana Fraillon and Lucia Masciullo, When No-one’s Looking: At the Zoo by Zana Fraillon and Lucia Masciullo.

The Little One The Chimpanzee Book Penguin Book At The Zoo

Section B: Fiction 10+

Samurai Kids: White Crane (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Owl Ninja (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Monkey Fist, Letters to Leonardo by Dee White, The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures by Sam Bowring.

White Crane Owl Ninja Letters to Leonardo The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures

A big thanks to our friends at Acorn Press, Black Dog Books, Exisle Publishing, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Picador, Penguin, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.

EXCLUSIVE: Richard Harland and WORLDSHAKER

Richard Harland talks about his latest release, the mesmerising Worldshaker…

I loved writing Worldshaker—I think steampunk/Victoriana is the kind of fiction I was born to create! I suppose I’ve been heading towards this all through my previous fourteen books, and it’s certainly turning out my most successful book yet. It’s just added a UK contract with Templar to a US contract with Simon & Schuster—and the advance of the American contract alone is bigger than all advances on my previous novels added together.

Worldshaker is set in an alternative history, which has followed a different path ever since Napoleon dug his tunnel under the English Channel and invaded England. (In real history, there was a plan, but the tunnel was never dug.) Now mechanical iron juggernauts, as big as mountains, moving on rollers, gouge their way over the face of the earth – a hyper-development of steam-age technology.

The way of life on board the juggernauts is also a hyper-development, of Victorian society. What’s always fascinated me is the terribly respectable façade of 19th century society masking some very ugly realities beneath. On the juggernaut Worldshaker, Col Porpentine believes in Queen Victoria, duty, trade and the absolute rightness of the world he lives in. Even the unspeakable—unthinkable—Filthies who labour among the boilers and turbines Below—well, they’re no better than animals, and it’s only natural that the civilised inhabitants of the Upper Decks should treat them as such.

However, Col has to start thinking about Filthies when a girl Filthy, Riff, escapes from Below and tries to take refuge in his cabin. Of course he should turn her over to the authorities, of course he should avoid contamination, of course he should never ever listen to what she says—and yet, irrationally, he does.

Now he has a problem. Because, as the grandson of Sir Mormus Porpentine, he’s been nominated as successor to the position of Supreme Commander. If his guilty secret leaks out, he’ll not only lose his prospects, he’ll be shunned by his society forever. Unfortunately for him, Riff just won’t stay out of his life …

I knew this was going to be a special novel from the time I formed the first ideas, fifteen years ago. That’s why it took so long to plan and write—I had to get everything right. The world was only the start of it; I mulled over the characters for ages too, not to mention their names (Ebnolia Porpentine, Sir Wisley Squellingham, Mr Bartrim Gibber, Sephaltina Turbot …) Even when I began writing, I kept going back over my drafts, improving, tightening, intensifying. Three total re-writes over six years—I could never have done it if I didn’t have faith in the final result.

I’m sure it’s my best ever novel, and it also ties in with a growing steampunk trend that’s already a way of life in the US and just starting to take off in Australia. Good karma came into it too—because I took 4 months off from my own writing to produce a guide to writing fantasy and genre fiction, all 145 pages entirely free at www.writingtips.com.au. I’d just finished putting it up on the web when the US contract came along!

SONYA HARTNETT Interview

Pamela Wilson has an interview with Sonya Hartnett up on her blog that really makes for great reading. See below the excerpt for the link.

“My loyalty is to the book. Not to the reader, not to the librarian, not to the teacher, not even to me,” she says unapologetically. “If the story wants a theme or a word, or a sentence or an act, then the book will get it. I have no concern, whatsoever, as to how it might affect the reader.”

To read more, visit WriteSmart.

The Teen Reviewer

Steph Bowe, blogger extraordinaire returns to give her teenage perspective on two of the hottest new releases for kids. For more of her musings, click here.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Nina has been fifteen since 1973, when she was infected by a rogue vampire, but instead of the glamorous, superhuman life that television and Nina’s novels suggest, her life as a vampire has been boring and sickly so far.

Then Casimir, the vampire responsible for infecting half of the reformed vampire support group he’s a member of, is found dead in his coffin – staked and reduced to dust – and the boring life Nina loathes is suddenly threatened. With a vampire-slayer at large, the support group holes up at Nina’s house, in spite of her ageing mother’s protests, and the resulting quest to find and stop the killer (or at least convince him that they aren’t a menace to society), reveals the courage behind their reluctant, pallid exteriors.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group puts an original spin on a familiar concept. I deeply enjoyed this novel; the fact that it’s set in Sydney and distinctly Australian was refreshing, and the quirky humour and dry wit sprinkled throughout the novel sparkled. Nina, Dave and the rest of the support group, as well as the villains, were characters with personality and quirks, each with their own motivations.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group was deeply involving, and impossible to put down. The plot was extraordinary, but deftly handled by the author. It was simplistically but beautifully written. Next to other recent vampire novels I’ve read, The Reformed Vampire Support Group stands out for its originality. A novel well worth reading, and reading again – my new favourite.

Worldshaker by Richard Harland

Col lives on the Upper Decks of the juggernaut Worldshaker, a mobile city as big as a mountain. He has been chosen as next Supreme Commander – but then a girl Filthy escaped from Below appears in his cabin. ‘Don’t let ’em take me!’ she begs. Will he hand her over, or will he break all the rules? Col’s safe, elite world is about to fall apart.

Though I don’t usually read fantasy (I think Worldshaker classifies as ‘steampunk’, which is an incredibly irrelevant genre name that imparts absolutely no information about the novel, but sounds really awesome), I really enjoyed Worldshaker. I was slightly frustrated by Col’s naivety, but he was a character who was easy to empathise with the deeper I got into the novel. I found the plot believable, and the ending satisfying and conclusive.

The world within which Col lived on the juggernaut, separated into the Upper Decks and the Filthies Below, made for a fantastic setting – dark and a little bit sinister, and very alternative to our own world but at the same time with many similarities. The characters within Worldshaker fit very much with their surroundings, and there were many weird and wonderful personalities who you were never quite sure were on Col’s side or not.

Richard Harland spoke on the fantasy panel at the NSW Writer’s Centre Kids & YA Festival about the history in Worldshaker. It’s explained in the novel how it came about that everyone is living on juggernauts, and the Filthies are living below, and the world in Worldshaker’s history is very much the same as ours, until Napoleon made a different decision, and juggernauts slowly became possible in their world. I liked the thought of it being entirely possible that maybe we could be living on these ridiculously large earth-ship things, and I thought of it again when I read James Roy’s Sliding Doors post on my blog, and how different things would be if people in power had have made different decisions however many years ago (though it is very, very improbable, it’s an interesting thing to think about).

I also have to mention, I absolutely love the cover of Worldshaker. It has got to be one of my favourite book covers of all time.

Interview with DEBORAH ABELA

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be a speaker at the NSW Writers’ Centre’s 4th Annual Kids and YA Festival, able to rub shoulders and exchange quips with authors infinitely more famous than I. With all the events leading up to the main Saturday, I was bumping into authors at a frequency I’m not quite used to. One of those authors was Deborah Abela. I took the seventh time I ran into her in as many days as sign enough to pull her aside for a quick interview.

For those that don’t know, Deborah is the author of, among other things, the wildly successful Max Remy series, which only recently came to a close. Not long ago, she was being asked, “What’s next?” Well, now, she’s released it – a fun, quirky novel whose jacket illustration I’m secretly insanely jealous of, The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen. I sat down with Deborah to discuss books past, present and future.

The Max Remy series spawned ten books… How hard was it to say goodbye to the franchise?
I knew the series was going to end at Max Remy Part 10: The Final Curtain. I had great fun writing it, but found that over the next few weeks, I felt despondent and irritable and wanted to crawl into corners to sleep or cry. Not being like this usually, I eventually worked out that I was grieving for my characters, especially Max and Linden, my two young superspies I’d sent all over the world to save it from multiple bad guys. I’m okay now, though.  
 
Which of the characters in the Max Remy universe was your favourite?
Max will always have a special place in my heart, because the idea for the series came from this young feisty but clumsy girl spy who is the hero of each book, but her cute spy partner Linden, who is calm, smart and funny, is my fav. I’ve had letters from readers wanting to be his girlfriend, so I guess other people feel like I do. 
 
In a sentence, pitch your new book, The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen.
Aurelie Bonhoffen adores living on a seaside pier amusement park with her family, but on her twelfth birthday, she discovers that some of them are ghosts.  

What’s the hardest thing about writing for children?
I love writing for kids! Apart from trying to find enough time to write, one of the hardest parts is getting the tone of the book right and finding the voices of the characters. This can be very fast as with my soccer legend, Jasper Zammit, but sometimes, as with Aurelie in The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen, it can take its good sweet time.

What’s next for Deb Abela? Another Aurelie Book?
At the moment I am working on a book where a major city has flooded. Most people managed to escape but a group of kids were left behind and have to find new ways to survive in this world of floating building tops. There are sea monsters, flying machines and evil harbour lords. Its been soggy but lots of fun.
 
Sounds great. Of your books – which one has the best opening line?
I like the opening line from The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen:

The girl lay in her coffin with a faint smile on her powder-white face.

Its a quirky, comic novel by the way.
 
Who would you say were (and are) your biggest influences?
Children’s authors, books and the kids themselves. More and more I love hearing authors speak. There is so much to learn about writing. I also love getting kids excited about books by speaking to them during author visits and at festivals. Of course, I love reading and always get excited by a well-written, well-told kids story. 
 
If you could claim any other writer’s work as your own, whose would it be?
I think, perhaps in a previous life, I was Norman Hunter who wrote the Professor Branestawm book about a wacky, inventive professor whose inventions often went terribly wrong. Either that or we’re related. I loved those books as a kid. 
  
The last Australian book you read?
The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks. Very funny, twisted and seriously subversive as far as all those other vampire books go. 

What is the most valuable piece of advice you were never told?
The more you write sometimes the harder it gets, but oh how sweet it is when it all clicks into place. I was also never told how wonderful and generous and supportive kids’ book writers are… This has been an especially sweet discovery.

TRISTAN BANCKS – Behind the scenes of the new NIT BOY trailer

As an author, I’m extremely interested in seeing how publishers use the Internet to promote books for children (and obviously, I’m making notes on what works and what doesn’t). Lots of publishers have tried to tackle Youtube trailers, and honestly, a lot of them involve a swirling book cover and a really horrible voiceover. After watching them, I feel less inclined to hunt down the book. That said, someone recently pointed me in the direction of the new Nit Boy trailer, and it is, hands down, the best original trailer for a book I’ve ever seen. It’s fun, it’s 3D. So, I tapped Tristan Bancks on the shoulder and invited him around to talk about how the trailer was put together.

TRISTAN BANCKS
Click here to visit his official site

I write quite visually. I see a movie unravelling in my head as I type, so I think book trailers are an amazing way to bring that motion picture alive for the audience.

The two books in the series, Lift Off and Bug Out tell the story of blood brothers – Lewis, a kid with the worst case of nits in world history, and Ned, a nit that lives on Lewis’s head. They’re a great way to have a laugh about our favourite blood-sucking mini-beasts. And there’s a nit quiz in the back of each book.

With the trailer I wanted to build on the work I’d done creating trailers for my Mac Slater, Coolhunter series.

I showed the animator, Peter Leary, the books’ amazing illustrations by Heath McKenzie.

I then wrote a script. The animator cut the script down, did a rough animatic (still pictures with a voiceover) and he began building the 3D characters (‘wire’ frames in a computer).

I gave Peter feedback on the characters and he created a rough version of the trailer and then a final. I was amazed by how much of the animation comes together in the final render. And, when it was done, it was even better than what I’d seen in my mind’s eye as I wrote the books.

A producer has now optioned the Nit Boy books for television and my next visual-literary adventure will be a live-action trailer for the US release of the first Mac Slater book in April next year. Wish me luck!

July Book Giveaway

Another month, another giveaway. July’s is Ashes-tinged and filled to the brim for cricket fans and avid readers alike, so be sure to register HERE for your chance to win copies of:

Cricket Kings by William McInnes  SIGNED
Step into the lives of a team of regular middle-aged men who meet each week to play cricket in their local park. With these characters William will make us laugh and cry. And never again will we think that someone is just a regular bloke – everyone can be a king or a queen in their own suburb.

 

Glenn McGrath: Line and Strength by Glen McGrath SIGNED
From working the land in Narromine to winning cricket’s World Cup three times, Glenn McGrath has always faced life with fierce determination and an unerring will to succeed despite the odds. Now, following his retirement from international cricket, McGrath shares the story of his life – in cricket and off the field.
 

The Cricket War by Gideon Haigh SIGNED
It was the end of cricket as we knew it – and the beginning of cricket as we know it. In May 1977, the cricket world woke to discover that a businessman called Kerry Packer had signed 35 elite international players for his own televised World Series Cricket. The Cricket War is the definitive account of the split that changed the game on the field and on the screen. In helmets, under lights, with white balls, and in coloured clothes, the outlaw armies of Ian Chappell, Toney Greig and Clive Lloyd fought a daily battle of survival. In boardrooms and courtrooms Packer and cricket’s rulers fought a bitter war of nerves. A compelling account of the top-class sporting life, The Cricket War also gives a unique insight into the motives and methods of Australia’s richest man.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas SIGNED
A novel about the relationships between children and adults, and the new Australian multicultural middle-class from the controversial cult author of Loaded and Dead Europe.

 

 

 

Starting An Online Business For Dummies by Melissa Norfolk
Turn your dreams into profitable reality with this straightforward guide to setting up and running an online business. Including strategies to help you identify your market, set up a website and promote your business online.

 
Just Macbeth by Andy Griffiths
Take one Shakespearean tragedy: Macbeth, add Andy, Danny and Lisa the Just trio, whose madcap exploits have already delighted hundreds of thousands of readers for the last ten years. Mix them all together to create one of the most hilarious, most dramatic, moving stories of love, Whizz Fizz, witches, murder and madness. Ages 9+.

 

Brief Encounters: Literary travellers in Australia 1836-1939 by Susannah Fullerton
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, countless distinguished writers made the long and arduous voyage across the seas to Australia. They came on lecture tours and to make money, to sort out difficult children sent here to be out of the way for health, for science, to escape demanding spouses back home, or simply to satisfy a sense of adventure. In 1890, for example, Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, arrived at Circular Quay after a dramatic sea voyage only to be refused entry at the Victoria, one of Sydney’s most elegant hotels. Stevenson threw a tantrum, but was forced to go to a cheaper, less fussy establishment. Next day, the Victoria’s manager, recognising the famous author from a picture in the paper, rushed to find Stevenson and beg him to return. He did not. In Brief Encounters, Susannah Fullerton examines a diverse array of writers, including Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling, Stevenson, Anthony Trollope, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, DH Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, HG Wells, Agatha Christie and Jack London, to discover what they did when they got here, what their opinion was of Australia and Australians, how the public and media reacted to them, and how their future works were shaped or influenced by this country.

Good Night & God Bless: Volume One by Trish Clark
This is the modern traveller’s bible. Travellers and pilgrims seeking a unique experience can now uncover the ancient secrets of convents and monasteries around Europe. We reveal these atmospheric and affordable places that accommodate tourists or those pursuing a pilgrimage or spiritual retreat. Convents, monasteries and abbeys have always been places which generously welcome weary travellers. That tradition continues today and Goodnight & God Bless takes you on a tour of religious hideaways offering tourist and pilgrimage accommodation throughout Europe. Suitable for the traveller, the pious and the curious alike, this user-friendly travel guide provides invaluable information, travel tit-bits and anecdotes against a fascinating backdrop of history and religion.

Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart by Ashley Du Toit SIGNED
Enchanted by Bella, the Fairy of Pure Heart, Prince Arthur follows her into the immortal world. Angered by this, the powerful dragon Nemesis captures Arthur. To rescue her prince, Bella must complete the Great Dragon’s Hunt, and collect five magical tokens. As Bella and her butterfly friend Teague carry out her quest, they meet many mystical creatures, including a witch and a werewolf, elfins and leprechauns, and two very forgetful goblins.

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Pan Macmillan, Hachette, Random House, Melbourne University Press, John Wiley & Sons, Dragon Publishing and Paratus Press for supporting our monthly giveaway.

To go into the draw to win this month’s prize, complete the entry form HERE. Entries close 31 July, 2009. Don’t forget, it’s a monthly giveaway, so be sure to favourite that link and keep visiting every month. Please note, entrants will be automatically subscribed to our fortnightly Boomerang Books Bulletin e-newsletter.

… A bonus for our Facebook Friends

Need an incentive to join one of Australia’s largest book group on Facebook? Well, we have a great pack of books to give away to one of our Facebook Group members this month, which includes copies of Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart by Ashley Du Toit (SIGNED), Mascot Madness! by Andy Griffiths and Good Night & God Bless: Volume One by Trish Clark.

Exclusive: KATE FORSYTH reviews THE PRIESTESS AND THE SLAVE

The Priestess and the Slave by Jenny Blackford is a small yet intense glimpse of what life must have been like 7,000 years ago in Ancient Greece. It tells the story of two women – the priestess and slave of the title – who never meet each other, yet whose tales reflect and enrich each other.

Thrasulla is a Pythia, one of three priestesses presiding over the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. She is a witness to the bribery of one of the other priestesses by the mad king of Sparta, Kleomenes, and its terrible aftermath. As a Pythia, Thrasulla is one of the few women to hold any power or prestige in a male-dominated world.

Her story is contrasted with that of Harmonia, a slave, who must nurse the members of the family who own her through the dreadful plague of Athens, despite her own fears for herself and her twin sister.

Replete with evocative details of food and clothing and manners and morals, The Priestess and the Slave is simply and elegantly told, with the clear ring of truth that comes from absolute control over one’s material. Jenny Blackford won a First Class Honours degree in Classics, so she really knows this world well and, with this novel, reveals it to us.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of numerous books for children and adults. Her latest release is The Puzzle Ring. In it, thirteen-year-old Hannah discovers her family was cursed long ago. The only way to break the curse is to find the four lost quarters of the mysterious puzzle ring… To do this, Hannah must go back in time to the last tumultuous days of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens were betrayed and wild magic still stalked the land… Check out our interview with Kate here.

Win a copy of JASPER JONES!

To celebrate the release of Jasper Jones, Boomerang Books is teaming up with Allen and Unwin to give three lucky blog readers the chance to win a copy of the novel. Now, the characters of Jasper Jones pose each other ‘would you rather this or that’ hypothetical situations (one of the reader favourites is “which could you rather live your life with, penises for fingers or a hat on your head made of poisonous spiders?”). To enter this Boomerang Books Blog-exclusive competition, all you have to do is email me your very own hypothetical – it’s that simple. My favourite three before next e-newsletter will win a copy of Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones.