ATMOSPHERIC Giveaway

Carole Wilkinson is an Australian author best known for her DragonKeeper series of children’s books. But she is also a well-respected author of non-fiction books, including Fromelles: Australia’s Bloodiest Day at War, Black Snake: The Daring of Ned Kelly, The Games: The Extraordinary History of the Modern Olympics and Hatshepsut: The Lost Pharaoh of Egypt. Her latest book is Atmospheric: The Burning Story of Climate Change.

Boomerang Books, Literary Clutter and Carole Wilkinson are giving you the change to win your very own copy of Atmospheric. How? Read on to find out.

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To be in the draw to win a copy of Atmospheric, simply send an email with ATMOSPHERIC in the subject to [email protected]

Entries are open to Australian residents only. And only one entry per person.

Entries close at 5pm (Melb time) on Friday 16 October. The winner will be contacted by email as well as being announced in the comments section of this post. No correspondence on the matter will be entered into. Got that? Good!

So… start sending in those entries. In the mean time, here’s what people have been saying about the book…

“This book will change minds.”
David Spratt (author of Climate Code Red)

“Young people will be the ones grappling with climate change. Atmospheric reminds them they are key to the solution.”
Amanda McKenzie, CEO, Climate Council

Atmospheric is an insightful piece of multimodal non-fiction which really makes you think twice about the environment around us and how we care for it. This is a book which is both easy to read and yet deeply informative about not only the history and science of our atmosphere, but the far reaching effects of climate change and how it may impact on us further in the future.”
Genie in a Book (read the full review)

Atmospheric has also been getting rave reviews on Goodreads. Here are some comments…

“Wow… this may be the most important book you read.”

“The history of climate change in a thoroughly engaging and accessible book for everyone aged 10 to 100.”

Sounds like a must read book!

And don’t forget to check out Carole Wilkinson’s guest blog post about the writing of Atmospheric.

Catch ya later, George

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Carole Wilkinson’s ATMOSPHERIC

9781925126372Carole Wilkinson is an Australian author equally comfortable in the realms of fiction and non-fiction. The things that link her diverse books are passion and research. Carole chooses topics that she has a keen interest in, and then researches the hell out of them. Her latest book for kids is a non-fiction book about climate change — Atmospheric: The Burning Story of Climate Change. As part of her Atmospheric blog tour, Carole has written a Literary Clutter guest post about the writing of this book. Take it away, Carole…

The story behind Atmospheric
By Carole Wilkinson

I’ve tried to do the right thing environmentally, ever since the state of the environment first became an issue way back in the 1970s. But as time passed, I realised that climate change was not just a theory, but a real threat that was going to affect all of us. I decided that I needed to do more, and so I joined my local climate action group, Yarra Climate Action Now.

Someone recently asked me what it was like being in the glamorous world of climate action. Glamorous? There is nothing glamorous about it. Previously, most of what I had done for the climate was from the comfort of my own home (separating out the recycling, switching off lights, yelling at politicians on the television). Once I joined YCAN that changed. I found my self sitting through long council meetings that went till midnight; standing on the steps of Parliament House waving a placard in the rain; asking people in the street to sign a petition, only to have them tell me how stupid they thought I was. Nothing glamorous about that.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. It was great to meet other people who were as keen, if not keener, to stop climate change as I was. And we have been involved in some successful campaigns, particularly in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, where cycling has increased because of lobbying for a better network of bicycle paths, the local council has embraced people growing veggies in the streets, and plans to build a polluting freeway instead of new public transport have been stopped.

It was only a matter of time until my two main interests, climate action and writing, intersected. When my publisher suggested I write about climate change, I immediately said yes.

I’ve written other non-fiction books, but this one was different. At first I thought the book would be about the current climate situation and what we have to do to fix it. But the more I thought about it, the more it became clear that, as with my other non-fiction books, it couldn’t be just a list of facts. I had to tell a story.

9781742031767Black Snake tells the story of Ned Kelly’s short 26-year life. Fromelles tells the story of a World War I battle that lasted less than twenty-four hours. This book would have to be the story of climate change. And what a story it turned out to be, spanning 300 million years!

I like research. I like it a lot. But this book was the biggest research task of my life. Bigger even than my obsessive research about dragons. That was a leisurely meander through the archives over a ten-year period. I had to research and write Atmospheric in a year and a half.

And then there was all that science I had to get my head around. I couldn’t explain all the scientific stuff behind climate change until I understood it all myself. Fortunately, I’d done science at school, and before I was a writer, I spent 15 years working as a laboratory assistant. So I’m not scared of science. For the first time, that part of my life didn’t seem completely disconnected from my writing life. It gave me the confidence to tackle the science and interpret it for a young audience that might find it a bit daunting.

I’m back writing about dragons again now (Dragonkeeper 6). After Atmospheric, it seems like a holiday!

George’s bit at the end

Want to check out Carole’s other blog tour stops? Here’s a list.

I am very much looking forward to reading Atmospheric. I’ve loved every one of Carole’s previous books, so I have no doubt this one will also be an engaging read.

Would you like to read it? Would you like to win a copy, perhaps? Well then… check out this blog tomorrow and I’ll tell you how you can win your very own copy.

Catch ya later, George

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Carole Wilkinson writes past and present

StagefrightCarole Wilkinson’s latest book, Stargefright, is a bit of a departure for her. She’s known for her historical novels set in ancient china (Dragonkeeper series) and Egypt (Ramose series), but this book is set in a contemporary high school. How different was it to write? Well… Carole has written a guest blog post on just that topic. Take it away, Carole…

Writing the past and the present
By Carole Wilkinson

Stagefright is my latest book and it’s the only book I’ve written that is set in the here and now. It’s about some high-school students putting on a musical version of of Shakespeare’s Richard the Third.

Most of my books are set in historical times. People have asked me if it’s different writing a contemporary story. I get the impression they assume it must be a lot easier. No research, right? Well, not exactly. There is research, but it’s different. Writing modern teenage speech is scary. I had to listen in to conversations on the tram (managed to avoid getting arrested for stalking!). I quizzed teenage children of friends for current ways to insult people (my characters do that a lot).

Writing dialogue for a modern audience involves a balance. I imagine kids reading a modern story are more critical. I wanted it to sound current, but on the other hand I didn’t want it to be outdated before it hit the bookshops. So after writing the dialogue, I went back and modified it, trying not to overdo it.

And there’s always other research that needs to be done. I read Richard the Third about five times so that I could get to know it well enough to adapt the story for my purposes. And then I had to write song lyrics based on it! I also had to find out about current high-school curriculum and create a weekly timetable for my students.

When writing Stagefright, I felt more of a sense of responsibility to readers as far as morals and ethics were concerned. There are quite a few really gruesome scenes in my historical novels, and I didn’t worry about them, and I’ve never had a single complaint. The Ancient China of my Dragonkeeper books is distant in time as well as place. I don’t believe kids think of the events that happen in those books as being all that relevant to themselves. But I wrote a scene for Stagefright that hinted at sexual assault, and I took it out. I wasn’t at all comfortable with it.

People assume I do a lot of research for my historical novels, and most of the time I do. I’m currently writing the fifth book in the Dragonkeeper series, and to be honest this one is not requiring me to do a lot of research. It follows on immediately after Blood Brothers so it’s set in the same time of political chaos known as the Sixteen Kingdoms era. I can rely on the research I did for the previous book, and in any case, there was no central government, in fact little government at all, so it’s a period that has left little trace. It’s also not an era that has attracted a lot of historians to publish glossy books, or even papers for academic journals, so the amount of material to research is minimal.

This means I have more freedom to make “novelistic conjecture”. I love this term. I heard it recently. It basically means making stuff up based on the few known facts, but in a way that’s not going to upset historians. So the historical novel I’m writing now is actually requiring less research than Stagefright did.

George’s bit at the end

Novelistic conjecture! I like that term, too. I’ll have to remember it. Thanks, Carole.

To find out more about Carole and her books, check out her website. It includes a section on research.

And don’t forget to check out my recent interview with Carole.

Catch ya later,  George

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A Stagefright interview with Carole Wilkinson

StagefrightMany years ago there was a book called Stagefright. It was about a group of high school kids putting on a musical version of Shakespear’s Richard the Third. It was the first novel from a then unknown author named Carole Wilkinson. Carole has since gone on to find success with her Dragonkeeper and Ramose novels, as well as with lots of other books. Now Stagefright is back! And Carole is here to talk about it.

I remember reading, and loving, the original version of Stagefright back in the mid 1990s. Could you tell us how this novel came to be ‘reborn’?

It was the first book of mine to be published. The original book was for an educational series called the Rave series, aimed at young teen readers and published by Longman. The person who commissioned the original book and edited it was Maryann Ballantyne. Time passed, things happened, and now Maryann is my publisher at Walker Books. She was moving offices and came across a copy of Stagefright and started to reread it. She said she still liked the book, it still made her laugh. She said she would like to republish it, but it needed to be updated, would I like to do it.

I think every writer would like the chance to rewrite their first book once they have a bit more experience. So I said Yes!

How did you go about the process of revising Stagefright?

The main story hasn’t changed a great deal. It’s still about a bunch of unsporty kids who go to a very sporty school who have to put on a school musical. They decide on a musical version of Shakespeare’s tragedy Richard the Third. I certainly didn’t start all over again. But I did a lot of rewriting.

There are seven characters, and I found I still liked them all. So I didn’t change them, just tinkered with their ethnicity a bit as they go to a multicultural school and the mix of places that migrants and refugees come from has changed over the years.

I did work on the subplots for each of the characters. I didn’t think I’d done a very good job of that the first time round. I really enjoyed that.

What’s the biggest difference between the original version and the new one?

The new version is almost 10,000 words longer than the original!

I wrote the original book about 17 years ago. Technology has changed, but that didn’t impact the story as much as I thought it would. Because the school is all about sport, technology wasn’t a big part of school life for the characters. The big change from then to now is mobile phones. No one had one in the original book. So I had to decide whether to mention them or have a school that banned them. In the end, I decided that if my main character was going to have a mobile phone it had to serve a purpose to the plot, so Velvet’s phone ended up with its own subplot.

The most surprising thing was that, in my view, things are much more conservative now than back in 1996. I did a lot of self-censoring. I had to clean up the language! And I made the main characters a year older so that I was comfortable with the level of romance that happens between the characters.

Were there any changes that your publisher/editor specifically requested?

No. It was up to me what to change.

Are there any other books/stories from your past that you would like to have a crack at redoing?

No. I think that was a one off. It was out of print and had only ever been sold into schools. All my other books are still in print.

Assuming it’s not TOP SECRET, what are you working on now?

I am working on the 5th Dragonkeeper book. This is the one that follows on after Blood Brothers. It has a working title … I haven’t told anyone what it is yet … will I tell you? Why not. It’s called Shadow Sister. My publisher might want to change it. I hope not.

Another Dragonkeeper book! Very exciting news! My daughter, who’s currently reading Blood Brothers, wants you to hurry up so she doesn’t have to wait too long. 😉

My thanks to Carole for answering my questions for today’s blog post. I can certainly understand her excitement about this release, as I went though a similar bookish rebirth last year with my YA short story collection, Life, Death and Detention (see “The long and winding road to a new edition”). And I can’t wait for her new Dragonkeeper novel.

Catch ya later,  George

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Carole Wilkinson and Blood Brothers

A few months ago I reviewed Carole Wilkinson’s new Dragonkeeper novel, Blood Brothers (see: “New Dragonkeeper”). Now I get to follow that up by throwing a few questions at Carole. Here’s the interview…

It has been a few years between Dragonkeeper books. Why did you wait so long?

Actually, I had no intentions of writing another Dragonkeeper book. I was determined to leave Ping in peace living a quiet happy life. But after a couple of years, I missed the dragons. Then it occurred to me that my dragons can live for 3000 years and I could jump forward in Kai’s life and have a whole new set of human characters.

What was it like returning to the Dragonkeeper world?

Great! I really enjoyed imagining what had happened to the dragons since I was with them last.

Why did you choose to set Blood Brothers 500 years after the original trilogy?

464 years actually! I wanted Kai to be a teenage dragon. I calculated that he’d need to be about 465 years old. That meant that I didn’t choose which era I set Blood Brothers in. It was just whatever era that happened to be. I was expecting a different dynasty, but was surprised to find it was a time of complete chaos and anarchy (which I used in the story, of course!).

I love the use of Buddhism in the story. Did you set out to include this or did it come out of the story?

It wasn’t so much that I chose to use it in this story, as I chose not to use it in the original Dragonkeeper. One of the reasons I set Dragonkeeper in the Han Dynasty was because I wanted to avoid Buddhism. I wanted there to be the indigenous beliefs of earlier China — ie Daoism, ancestor worship, that sort of thing.

At the time Blood Brothers was set, Buddhism had arrived from India, so I decided to embrace it this time and make it a key part of the story.

One of my favourite elements of the new book is the relationship between Tao and his disabled brother, Wei, who has broken bone disease (cerebral palsy). There is such a strong and loving bond between them, that feels very real. Was it difficult to convincingly write a character with cerebral palsy? Did you do much research into the disease?

When I was thinking who would be Kai’s next companion, I had a few ideas. First I thought of having twins, where neither of them could do the job alone, it had to be both of them. Then I thought, perhaps it could be someone who had a disability, not your usual hero type. Then I decided to merge the two ideas.

Writing about Wei was a very peaceful and calming experience. Every time he was involved in the story, the pace had to slow right down, which was pleasant. But he was never impatient with his limitations, because that’s all he had ever known. It was like meditation or tai chi, something that required me to be in quite a different state of mind, much more tranquil than my usual more anxious state when I write a first draft.

No, I didn’t do any research. I have a nephew who has cerebral palsy. He is now in his 30s, so I have seen him grow from a baby to adulthood. He has quite severe physical disabilities, but he is very sociable and loves to communicate.  I wanted Wei to have an even greater difference between his mental and physical capabilities.

It certainly seems like there are more adventures ahead for Tao and Kai. Will there be more books?

I have ideas for more books, but as always it will depend on my publishers.

Blood Brothers has a rather stunning cover. And the original trilogy has been rejacketed to match. What do you think of the new covers?

I just love Sonia Kretschmar’s cover illustration. And the fact that Walker Books decided to rejacket the original trilogy to match was a bonus.

The trilogy has had three sets of covers here in Australia now. It’s interesting when I do school visits etc, I come across readers who are very loyal to one of the earlier sets of covers and want Blood Brothers to match!

I’ve loved them all, but I do think that these new covers are my favourites.

What are you working on at the moment? (assuming it isn’t a huge secret)

No secret. I am waiting for the copy edit of Stagefright, which you might remember was the very first book I wrote. Maryann Ballantyne edited that book back in 1995, I think. And recently she reread it and asked me if I wanted to update it. I reread it too, and it didn’t make me cringe too much (apart from some very strange point of view decisions!). But it was outdated. So I have updated it and rejigged the story a bit. It has been an enjoyable experience. I’m sure lots of authors would love a chance to fix their first effort!

While I am waiting to get the copy edits back, I am starting to plot the next Dragonkeeper book.

Thanks Carole for stopping by for a chat. I remember reading and loving Stagefright when it first came out, so I’m very much looking forward to the new version. And I’m definitely hoping for more Dragonkeeper books.

Catch ya later,  George

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Launching with fame

If you ever manage to get someone famous to say nice things about your book… for goodness sake, get a record of it. I wish I had thought to do that at the launch of Gamers’ Quest, back in 2009. Carole Wilkinson, author of the Dragonkeeper novels (Blood Brothers being the latest) gave a lovely launch speech… but at the time, flustered and nervous as I was about the launch, it never occurred to me to record it. I have learnt since then.

When the sequel, Gamers’ Challenge, was launched by Michael Pryor (author of The Laws of Magic series) in 2011, I made sure to ask his permission about videoing it and distributing it on YouTube. And, of course, I did the same last month when Alison Goodman (author of Eon and Eona) launched the new edition of my YA short story collection, Life, Death and Detention.

In preparation for this post, I hopped on to YouTube and did a bit of searching, and I was devastated to discover that I was not the first author with the foresight to record and upload a book launch. 😉 If you like book launches, go take a look. But here’s one I picked out for you. It’s Jack Heath, author of The Lab and many other books, launching KJ Taylor’s The Shadow’s Heir. The vid is handheld and a little shaky, but it’s a great speech.

KJ explains that one of the reasons she asked Jack to launch her book, was that he was a good “speechifier”. And she’s not wrong.

I did something a little different with my latest launch video. I divided it, separating my speech from Alison Goodman’s. I figured that people were more likely to watch shorter vids, and I was curious to see just how many more ‘watches’ Alison’s would get — after all she is waaaaaaaaay more famous than me. I’m now hoping some of that fame rubs off. 😉

Anyway… may I now present for your viewing pleasure, the wonderful Alsion Goodman launching Life, Death and Detention

Now, here’s my speech from that launch. It was a little more wordy than Alison’s, and my camera cut out in protest before I finished. Everyone’s a critic!

And for old time’s sake, here’s Michael Pryor launching Games’ Challenge last year…

Catch ya later,  George

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New Dragonkeeper

Ancient China. Buddhist monks. Invading barbarians. And dragons! Carole Wilkinson has done it again — delivering a wondrous blend of history and fantasy with her latest Dragonkeeper novel, Blood Brothers.

The first book in Wilkinson’s series, Dragonkeeper, came out in 2003. It follows the adventures of a young slave girl, Ping, and an old dragon named Long Danzi, during the Han Dynasty in ancient China. In the two follow-up books, Garden of the Purple Dragon and Dragon Moon, Danzi is gone and Ping is taking care of the newly hatched dragon, Kai. Next up, Wilkinson went back in time with Dragon Dawn, where we met a young Danzi and an earlier dragonkeeper named Bingwen.

And now we have Blood Brothers. This novel jumps forward in time, several hundred years after Dragon Moon. Ping is long dead and the Han Dynasty but a distant memory, as China is overrun by barbarian tribes. Kai, at 465 years of age, is a teenager by dragon standards. He’s left the Dragon Haven and gone in search of a new dragonkeeper. He finds Tao, one of Ping’s descendants — a young novice, studying to become a Buddhist monk. And then the two of them meet Pema, a young orphan girl, and their adventures begin.

There is much complexity of character in this book, perhaps more so than in the past novels. There is an uncertainty about Kai’s past (Just why did he leave the Dragon Haven?) and Tao must slowly coax the truth from the dragon. And Tao is a young boy with a difficult past — he has a severely disabled brother and a harsh mother who blames him for much. He is faced with the biggest decision of his life, as he must choose between his dream of becoming a monk and his destiny as a dragonkeeper. Pema also has a turbulent past and decisions to make — will she follow a path of revenge or will she choose to move forward with her life? The characters are so vivid and believable and their relationships so real. I particularly loved the relationship between Tao and his brother, Wei, which is developed with sensitivity and a real sense of love and respect.

As always with Wilkinson’s books, there is such a vibrant sense of time and place. Reading this book, I found myself transported to ancient China, experiencing its sights, sounds and smells… and almost believing that dragons really did exist back then.

This book, like its predecessors, is aimed at children. But Wilkinson’s stories and writing style transcend the target market. There really is so much to enjoy in these books for readers of all ages.

Blood Brothers has a stunning cover illustration by Sonia Kretschmar. And the first trilogy has been rereleased with new covers to match. They make a beautiful set.

This book certainly seems like the first in a new series. I look forward to the further adventures of Tao and Kai.

Catch ya later,  George

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“In the closet, no one can hear you squeal”

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Carol and Lili chat online

Sometimes talent runs in the family. Case in point: Australian author Carole Wilkinson and her daughter, author Lili Wilkinson.

Carole is best known for her series of Dragonkeeper children’s novels, which have won a plethora of awards over the years. She has also written a wide range of other books, including the YA novel Sugar Sugar and an award-winning non-fiction book about Ned Kelly, Black Snake.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Lili is the author of five YA novels, including Angel Fish, Pink and her latest, A Pocketful of Eyes. She has also written a non-fiction book, Joan of Arc: the story of Jehanne Darc, as well as having edited Short, an anthology of children’s fiction.

As you would expect, Carole and Lili communicate regularly and often find themselves chatting online. Today on Literary Clutter we get to eavesdrop on one of their chats…

Lili: Mum! Aid my procrastination! What are you doing?

Carole: Celebrating.

Lili: Did you win something?

Carole: No
Carole: I HAVE FINISHED MY ZERO DRAFT!!!

Lili: Hurrah!
Lili: Is this the first draft for the NEW DRAGONKEEPER BOOK?

Carole: Yep. Dragonkeeper 4.
Carole: It’s been hard work.

Lili: Is it more about Ping and Kai?

Carole: It’s 400 years after Dragon Moon. Ping is sadly long gone, but Kai is still around.

[Interruption from George: Set in ancient China, the first three Dragonkeeper books — Dragonkeeper, Garden of the Purple Dragon and Dragon Moon — tell the story of a young girl, Ping, who becomes a dragonkeeper, first looking after an older dragon named Danzi and then a young one named Kai. Carole also wrote a prequel called Dragon Dawn.]

Lili: So does Kai have a new dragonkeeper? Is he All Grown Up?

Carole: I don’t want to give too much away. He’s a sort of teenage dragon, and he’s sick of living at the Dragon Haven.
Carole: That’s all I’m saying.

Lili: Is he painting his bedroom black and listening to My Chemical Romance?

Carole: Something like that.
Carole: Sequels are hard. You haven’t ever done a sequel have you?

Lili: Nope, although I’m vaguely considering it at the moment.

Carole: Really what for? Hannah’s life in Australia? More stage crew hijinks for Ava?

Lili: There is a current possibility of a Pocketful of Eyes sequel. If enough people buy the first one. *hint hint*

[Interruption from George: Hannah is an English girl sent to Australia as a convict in Lili’s debut historical novel, Scatterheart. Ava is the lead character from Pink. And A Pocketful of Eyes is her latest book — a terrific page-turning murder mystery/romcom that everyone should rush out and buy right now.]

Carole: That’s exciting. So you hadn’t considered a sequel when you were writing it?

Lili: Not at all. Which makes it rather difficult.

Carole: Better to do it that way, I think. Otherwise you’re thinking, should I save that for the next one? Better to give the book you’re writing everything you’ve got.

Lili: So what happens now you have your zero draft?

Carole: Now the enjoyable bit starts. I have the story worked out, so now I have to reread it and basically make it better. It’s taken me 6 months but it’s very rough.
Carole: Even you don’t get to see my zero draft.

Lili: I don’t show anyone my zero draft. That’s why it’s called a zero draft instead of a first draft.

Carole: I am going to celebrate for at least 15 minutes. It’s too early for champagne, so I’m having a cup of tea. Orange Pekoe.

Lili: You should have CAKE

Carole: I have no cake.

Lili: A great tragedy indeed.

Carole: So apart from thinking about a possible, hypothetical sequel to PoE, what else are you working on?

Lili: I’m just about to start copyedits for Love Shy, my romcom about a high school wannabe journalist who discovers a boy at her school who is terrified of girls. It’ll be out next year.
Lili: And starting the first draft of the novel I’m writing as part of my PhD.

Carole: I wish I could do three things at once.
Carole: Are you happy with Love Shy?

Lili: Not even slightly, but hopefully by the time the copyedits are done I will be.
Lili: My books always get funnier during copyedits.

Carole: When do I get to read it?

Lili: Whenever you like.

Carole: Good. I need something to read.
Carole: I’m going to go and buy cake.

Lili: Good idea. Email me some.

George’s bit at the end

Thank you to Carole and Lili for letting us look over their shoulders as they chatted online.

For more info about Carole and her books, check out her website.

For more info about Lili and her books, check out her website.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll post an online chat I had with myself the other day.

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Series book covers

I’m still on the topic of book covers. This time, I thought I’d look at some covers for books that are part of a series. With a series, it’s really important for covers to be recognisably part of a set, and yet still have enough individuality to not be mistaken for another of the books in the series. It’s a tricky balance.

One of my all time favourite Australian authors is Terry Dowling. He has written four collections of science fiction short stories about a character named Tom Tyson, who travels the deserts of a future Australia abroad his sand ship Rynosseros. The four books have been published many years apart and by different publishers… but they have all had the award-winning artist, Nick Stathopoulos, illustrating the covers, maintaining the stylish look that he established with the first book back in 1990.

Another of my favourite Australian authors is Carole Wilkinson, who writes the marvellous Dragonkeeper series of children’s novels. The first editions of the first three novels had gorgeous covers. I love the combination of photography with illustration, and the use of colour.

With the release of the fourth book, all the book covers were given a make-over. Although the new covers are still good, my preference is for the originals.

Philip Reeve’s Larklight novels (whimsical, children’s steampunk) have all been illustrated by David Wyatt. Although the paperback versions show more of Wyatt’s lovely illustrations, it is the hardcovers that I like best. The illustrations are contained in ovals in the centre of the covers, creating a very stylish look, and the different colours make each one instantly recognisable.

The first two books in the new YA steampunk trilogy by Scott Westerfeld have been very eye catching, indeed. Nice and shiny and embossed, the covers for Leviathan and Behemoth do indeed do justice to the fabulous stories within.

That brings me to the end of my display of favourite covers. There are, of course, lots of other covers that I love — enough to fill many, many blog posts. But I figure I should do more than just endlessly post covers. So… Tune in next time for a more personal view of the subject, as I chat about the covers of my books.

Catch ya later,  George

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Random stuff

I keep a list of blog topics in the back on my notebook, which I add to every time an appropriate idea crosses my mind. But not every thought that crosses my mind is worth a blog post in its own right, and so today I present… some random stuff.

I like reviewing books. I also like reviewing DVDs. As well as the books I review on this blog, I also do reviews for Australian Spec Fic in Focus and MC Reviews. MC Reviews is a particularly interesting review site in that it includes more than just books. There are reviews of DVDs, CDs, films, exhibitions, theatre, opera and other events. My most recent reviews on this site include the YA novel Trash by Andy Mulligan and the DVD of Doctor Who: The Dominators. And if you’re really interested, you can check out a list of all my reviews on this site… here. ‘Cause I know you’re all dying to read more of my opinions. 😉

I like going to book launches. They are an important way of announcing a new release. They generate publicity, sell some copies and give people the chance to meet, talk to and get an autograph from the authors/illustrators. Sometimes there’s even free food/drink. Although The Glasshouse, by Paul Collins and Jo Thompson, was released last month, its official Victorian launch is yet to take place. So if you’d like to come along and join the festivities for this fab new picture book, you can. It will be held at 11.30am on Saturday 30 October at Prahran Market. More info about the launch is available from the Ford Street Publishing website. And you can read my thoughts about the book, here.

I’ve known fantasy author Trudi Canavan for years. She’s a lovely person and a good friend. But, believe it or not, I’ve never read any of her books… until now, that is. I’m about three quarters of the way through The Magician’s Guild, the first book in her Black Magician trilogy, and I’m very happy to say that I’m loving it. I hang my head in shame for taking so long to get around to it. Given how much I am enjoying this book, I will, no doubt, blog about it more substantially in the near future. And I’ll definitely get around to the remainder of the books in the series with a little more speed.

Another author that I have been meaning to read for ages but haven’t yet, is Lili Wilkinson. Her book, Scatterheart, is next on my list. Her mother, Carole Wilkinson, is one of my favourite authors and a long-time friend, so it seems logical that I should give Lili’s books a try. I’ve been following Lili on Twitter for some time, and her tweets are usually interesting, as is her blog. And this semester we have been teaching colleagues at the University of Melbourne in the third year subject “Encounters With Writing”. So it seems like a good time to finally get to one of her books!

After having completed a number of school readers, I’m now finally working in earnest on my new novel. I’m six chapters in to what will undoubtedly be a barely readable first draft. My early drafts are always somewhat iffy… but that’s why re-writing is so important. It will be a number of drafts before I have something that’s okay to send to my publisher… and then, of course, there will be more re-writing. But that’s all part of the process, and I’m actually looking forward to each step.

I’ll finish up with a couple of links. Firstly, an article by Paul Collins — “PODs, E-books, Nuts and Bolts”. It’s an interesting take on the whole electronic publishing trend and the difficulties faced by small press publishers wanting to branch out into the electronic world. Secondly, a blog post from Narrelle M Harris — “Lessons in language: Tactfully changing tack”. It’s a great little rant about the incorrect use of language. So if ‘changing tact’ bothers you, you’ll get a chuckle out of this post.

Given that my post today has been about random things, I thought I’d finish up by asking if anyone out there has any random comments to make? Anything to do with books, writing or publishing? Your favourite colour? The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

And tune in next time as author Sean McMullen tells us a little about economic SF.

Catch ya later,  George

PS.  Follow me on Twitter… if you already follow me, how about following Lili Wilkinson or Narrelle M Harris?

Random literary quotes

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

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

1.

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

2.

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

3.

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

4.

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

5.

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

6.

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

7.

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

8.

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

9.

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

10.

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

11.

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

12.

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

13.

“And as their lips met, everything changed.”

Got a favourite quote? Leave a comment and share.

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

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Here are the books:

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

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

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

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

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

6. Peter Pan, JM Barrie, 1911.

7. Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945.

8. Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945.

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

10. Sugar Sugar, Carole Wilkinson, 2010.

11. Drangonfang, Paul Collins, 2004.

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

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

Carole Wilkinson talks about sugar

Sugar SugarA few posts ago I mentioned Carole Wilkinson’s new YA novel Sugar Sugar (see Family reading). Today, Carole has dropped by Literary Clutter to answer a few questions about Sugar Sugar and writing in general.

The Sugar Sugar blurb

Jackie has left Australia with a psychedelic suitcase and a dream to become a world-famous fashion designer. She knows exactly where she’s going and how she’s going to get there. So how does a weekend in Paris send her spinning off-course? How does she end up somewhere she couldn’t even find on a map?

The interview

There have been a few comments flying about that writing YA is a bit of a change for you. Granted, you’re best known for your children’s books, but your first novel, Stage Fright, was YA. Why has it taken you so long to write another YA novel?

I don’t really know why it has taken me so long. I guess I was comfortable with the middle years and this took me out of my comfort zone.

Was is difficult going back to YA after so many children’s books?

Yes. I thought it would be liberating being able to write about sex and drugs and rock n roll, but it was hard. Not addressing these issues at all is a whole lot easier than addressing them and then deciding how far to go!

RamoseYou have a real affinity for historical novels — ancient Egypt in the Ramose books, and then ancient China in the Dragonkeeper books. With Sugar Sugar you’re not going back quite so far. Why did you choose to set Sugar Sugar in the 1970s? And any reason for the specific year of 1972?

That’s when this sort of travel was happening. That’s when John [Carole’s husband] and I travelled along the hippie trail. A few years later, it wasn’t possible because Afghanistan became a war zone and Iran had a fundamentalist government. It really was a narrow window in time when it was possible to travel through those countries.

You mention in the acknowledgements that this is the first of your books to draw on personal experience. Any reason you’ve waited so long to use your personal experiences as inspiration?

I don’t know. It’s probably the most interesting thing I’ve ever done. My very first (unpublished) novel was an attempt to write a story using the same scenario. I’ve always wanted to go back to it and try again. I think this was the time that was right for me and my publisher.

Can you tell us a bit about your travels? Were they as filled with accidental adventures as Jackie’s?

Some of the incidents are from our experience: we did overturn a vehicle, we did travel in the back of an army truck for four days in the wilds of Afghanistan. But I also used the experiences of friends who made a similar journey. The converted London taxi came from a friend, as did the experience of getting hepatitis in  Afghanistan. When we travelled it was all about finding a place to sleep, food to eat and somewhere to have a shower! No real adventures. Though we did think we were going to be arrested for dumping our van in Morocco.

What do you hope people will get from reading Sugar Sugar?

I dunno… it has my usual theme of female self-empowerment! I like my girls to look out for themselves, none of that wishy-washy, I-need-a-man-to-save-me Twilight heroine business. I’m not suggesting that people take unnecessary risks, but I think it can be valuable to put yourself out of your comfort zone every once in a while, to test your resilience. Ultimately I just hope readers enjoy the story.

Is this a stand-alone novel, or are you planning further adventures for Jackie?

I have no plans for another novel about Jackie.

So then, what’s next for Carole Wilkinson, assuming your next project isn’t top secret?

I’m currently writing a book for the Black Dog Books’ Drum series about a World War I battle. (I like variety!) I am starting to consider the possibility of another Dragonkeeper book.

DaragonkeeperThe bit at the end

Well, another Dragnonkeep book would keep the fans happy. I’m certainly excited by the possibility.

My thanks to Carole for stopping by and answering my questions. For more info about Carole and her books, check out her website.

Tune in next time for a preview of the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention being held in Melbourne later this year.

Catch ya later,  George

Family reading

Just a simple little post today — a round-up of what my family and I have been reading.

As is normal for me (see earlier post: Clutter, clutter and more clutter), I am part way through several books, mags and newsletters. But all this reading stopped a little while ago when my copy of Carole Wilkinson’s Sugar Sugar arrived in the post box. It had to have priority! I am a huge fan of Carole’s writing and have been reading her stuff ever since her first novel, Stagefright, hit the shelves way back in 1996. Stagefright is a great little YA novel about a group of highschool kids putting on a musical production of Shakespeare’s Richard the Third. Its offbeat story and terrific characters hooked me from the first sentence:

“Velvet S Pye stood outside the gates of Yarrabank High and a creeping feeling came over her.”

I have been eagerly awaiting each successive novel ever since. And Carole has never disappointed. I can honestly say that I have loved every one of her books that I have read… and I have read most of them (there are only a few of her non-fic titles that I haven’t caught up with). I’m now four chapters from the end of Sugar Sugar. It’s brilliant! As soon as I’ve finished it, I’ll be writing some questions for Carole to answer in an upcoming post here on Literary Clutter. So stay tuned!

I’m not the only reader in my family. My wife is an avid devourer of the written word who consumes about three times the amount of books that I do, as she reads a lot faster than I. She’s just finished Trudi Canavan’s The Magician’s Apprentice. Now, on my recommendation, she is reading Solace and Grief by Foz Meadows. She enjoyed the former, describing it as a rollicking good fantasy read that could have only been improved by a “few more kissy scenes at the end”. And now she’s really enjoying the later, although she’s not far into it yet… her first reaction was: “Thank goodness it’s not another vampire novel”… followed closely by: “He turns into a cat? I wish I could turn into a cat!”

At age seven, my eldest daughter also has a love of books. My wife and I are extremely proud of her reading skills and interest. She has just finished Susannah McFarlane’s EJ12 Girl Hero: Hot & Cold. She really enjoyed the book, but said it was a little too scary in places, especially when EJ was trapped inside a volcano. I had to step in and read a couple of the chapters out loud to her until she was sure that EJ would escape. Obviously the experience wasn’t all that traumatic, as she has now asked me to get the next EJ12 book for her.

My youngest, at 14 months, is a little too young to read to herself just yet. But I read to her every day. Her current favourite is Ed Heck’s Big Fish, Little Fish. I love reading this book to her … SPOILER ALERT … especially the final page, where you lift the flap to discover that the biggest fish, which we have only viewed as a shadow thus far, is actually a whole bunch of little fish banding together to give the big fish a scare. She squeals with delight every time she lifts the flap. Okay, so it’s the lifting of the flap to discover another picture beneath that appeals to her at the moment… but she’ll eventually come to appreciate the subtleties of the story. 😉

So that’s what we’ve all been reading. What about you? Anything to recommend? Anything to avoid? Leave a comment!

And tune in next time to see a few of my favourite book trailers.

Catch ya later, George

Hello world!

I have been um-ing and ah-ing about blogging for some time now. You know, the usual sort of self-doubting questions most writers indulge in every now and then. Should I do it? Will I have enough things to blog about? Will I have enough time to do it? Will anyone out there actually read it? The part of me that wanted to blog was beginning to win out when this Boomerang Blog opportunity presented itself. I took it as a sign from … um … someone. And so here I am, inflicting my thoughts upon the unsuspecting denizens of cyberspace.

I have a cluttered mind and a cluttered bookshelf, so there’s a high probability of randomness on this blog. But I’ll start off by stating some of my literary likes so that you’ll have at least some idea of what may show up in my posts.

I love picture books. I have two young daughters, so I read a LOT of picture books. And guess what? Picture books aren’t just for kids.

I love science fiction and fantasy and horror (although not the blood and guts, splattery type horror). I quite like vampire fiction… but I feel the need to say that Twilight is not my cup of tea. Edward who?

I write books for kids and teens. I read lots of books aimed at kids and teens. Man, there’s some amazing stuff out there aimed at this market. So I’ll probably write about these sorts of books a fair bit. And I’ll probably write about the process of writing as well.

My favourite Aussie authors include Richard Harland, Carole Wilkinson and Terry Dowling. My favourite o/s authors include Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite and John Christopher. I’ll most likely write about these people and their books at some point.

And now for a list (I like lists). My favourite books from 2009:

Oh, one more thing… I’m a Doctor Who fan. Yes, I know — it’s a tv show, but there are Doctor Who books as well, so you can be guaranteed of at least one Doctor Who post at some stage. So just deal with it!

Right! I think that’s enough for my first post. Tune in next time, when I’ll tell you all about my clutter.

Catch ya later,  George

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.