Media tie-in books

Tied InMedia tie-in books are those that are in some way associated with a film, television series or game. I’m interested in these types of books both as a reader and a writer. I recently read a book about tie-in writing — Tied In: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-in Writing. So tie-in writing is the subject of today’s post.

Official tie-in writing, licensed by the owners of the property, can be divided into three areas — novelisations, original fiction and non-fiction. Novelisations are straight adaptations of existing films or television episodes. Many major films will have these and so will some tv shows. Original fiction tie-ins are, as the name suggests, new stories about the characters and world of a television series, film or game. And non-fiction is… well… stuff written about a tv show, film or game. Of course, there’s also the unofficial tie-in writing. In terms of fiction, this means fan fic, published on the Internet or in fanzines at no profit. In terms of non-fiction, this means professional books and magazines of critique/reviews, as well as fan commentary.

My first encounter with tie-in writing, as a reader, was with the Doctor Who novelisations. Target Books published well over a hundred of these back in the 1970s and 80s. Next, there was the novelisation of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial and the sequel novel E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet, both by William Kotzwinkle. Since then I’ve gone on to read lots of novelisations, original fiction and non-fiction based on things like Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica.

As you can see from the above, my tie-in leanings are towards science fiction. But there’s tie-in fiction for all sorts of films and tv shows. The novelisations of the Dance Academy series have been particularly popular in recent times. And I’m sure I’ve seen Home and Away books in many a discount bin. 🙂

My experience as a reader has shown me there is a great deal of variation in quality. There are some pretty awful tie-in books out there… but there’s also some real gold. For many years there was a great deal of stigma attached to writing tie-in material. It was seem by many as the domain of hacks and writers incapable of getting original material published. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just take a look at the Doctor Who and Star Wars books of recent years. Names such as Michael Moorcock, Sean Williams and Stephen Baxter jump out. So don’t be too quick to judge a tie-in book!

 

I’m particularly excited that my friend Trudi Canavan, author of The Black Magician Trilogy and many other great books, is writing a Doctor Who novella for a series of BBC eBooks (see her blog post “Time Tripping with Doctor Who”). Her experience has been fun for me, as I’ve gotten to wade through my DVD collection, choosing appropriate episodes to lend her for research; and I’ve been a pseudo-consultant, answering some nerdy fanboy Doctor Who questions for her. Now, I can’t wait to read her story.

As a writer, tie-in material holds a great deal of fascination for me, particularly as I’m a bit of a pop culture junkie. So I’ve actively pursued it. I wrote for the Behind the News magazine and I wrote one of the tie-in books. I was also lucky enough to write a Doctor Who story for the anthology Short Trips: Defining Patterns. And I’ve done a few essays for some unlicensed books about Doctor Who. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed a great deal and would love to do more of. (See my blog posts: “I Love Doctor Who” and “Writing about Doctor Who“)

Which brings me back to Tied In: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-in Writing, edited by Lee Goldberg and published by The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Aside from a few  typos, this book is a great read. To any writers out there who are keen on getting into the tie-in market, this book is an excellent resource. It gives you the facts of working in the industry and a run down of what you can expect from working in that area. To readers of tie-in material, this book is a wonderful history of and insight into the industry. Highly recommended!

Catch ya later,  George

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Green DeathCheck out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

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Modelling for Trudi Canavan

Guess what? I’m Tayend in Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy. No, really… I am! I’m not making this up. I really am him. Well… sort of. Let me explain.

You see, as well as being a world famous, best-selling author, Trudi also happens to be an artist — and a rather good one at that. And when she needed volunteers to pose for her, I, of course, stuck up my hand.

It all began last year when Trudi embarked upon a secret project. Stage 1 was to make some magicians robes (see: “The Sekrit Projekt: Stage One”). Then in December last year, she revealed Stages 2 and 3. (see “The Sekrit Projekt: Stage Two” and “The Sekrit Projekt: Stage Three”) She photographed people wearing those robes to use as reference material for a series of illustrations. She is now making these illustrations available on her website as monthly calendar images to use as computer wallpaper. So, if you’re a fan of Trudi’s books, I’d highly recommend heading over to her website and collecting these calendar pages.

I feel rather special because she took some of the reference photos at my place (in the library of course), and used me and a mutual friend (Medge) as models. Medge got to be Lord Dannyl and I was Tayend. At least we were for this illo, which is the calendar image for May

Pretty cool, heh?

We actually posed for a heap of reference shots as various different characters. I believe that I may also have ended at as Dorrien in one of the other illustrations. 🙂 Wanna see some more pics? Of course you do…

It was a rather fun afternoon of dressing up and playing let’s pretend while hamming it up for Trudi’s camera. Of course, it also means that I can now lay claim to the character of Tayend. For he is me and I is him! 😉

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

 

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The Black Magician trilogy

In November last year, I blogged about reading the first book in The Black Magician trilogy by Trudi Canavan. (see “The Magicians’ Guild”). Just a little over a year later and I’ve finally read the third book. So I thought now would be a good time to look at the trilogy as a whole.

WARNING: Mid-level spoilers ahead!

Set in the fantasy world of Kyralia (and specifically the city of Imardin), where magic and magicians are an accepted part of society, the trilogy follows the adventures of a young slum dweller named Sonea. In book one, The Magician’s Guild, Sonea discovers that she has magical potential — in fact, her powers have started to manifest themselves without any training. Normally, anyone with magical potential would join the Magician’s Guild, but being a slum dweller she is afraid of the Guild, which is peopled by the rich and powerful. So she enlists the help of the city’s thieves to hide her from the guild. Meanwhile, fearing a rogue magician, the Guild sets about trying to find Sonea.

In book two, The Novice, Sonea is now a novice in the Magician’s Guild. Taken under the wing of Lord Rothen, she begins her training. Of course, things don’t run smoothly and she finds herself being shunned by the other novices because of her background. And one of those novices singles her out for torment. But then things get even worse for her when the Guild’s High Lord discovers that she knows his dark secret — that he is a black magician.

In the final epic book, The High Lord, things really heat up. Sonea joins the High Lord and begins to learn black magic. When the rest of the Guild discovers this, the two of them are banished. But the real threat comes from outside Imardin, in the form of invading black magicians from the land of Sachaka.

The three books are a satisfying journey for the character of Sonea. She develops and grows considerably across the books. She is likeable and believable and a good focus for the books. But it is not just her journey that is chronicled. Each of the main characters are developed and given their own story arcs.

Canavan has created a detailed and interesting world in these books, with a hierarchy, history and society. But the books are never weighed down with the need to describe every aspect of this world. The world is there to serve the story, and is revealed in context.

One of my favourite things about this trilogy, is that each instalment is a complete book. The reader is not left with a cliff-hanger each time. Although the wider story progresses across the books, each novel has it’s own story to tell, and there is a sense of closure with each. At no point did it feel like one novel, stretched out over three books.

Now that I’ve finished reading this trilogy, I’m happy to know that there are still more books set in the same world for me to read. First up is a stand-alone prequel, The Magician’s Apprentice. This novel is set hundreds of years before The Black Magician, and includes some of the historic events mentioned in the trilogy. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

Then there’s Canavan’s current series, The Traitor Spy trilogy. Set twenty years after The Black Magician trilogy, these books follow not only Sonea and some of the other characters from the first trilogy, but also Sonea’s son. Only two books have been published so far (The Ambassador’s Mission and The Rogue), with the third (The Traitor Queen) due out in mid 2012. Lots of great reading ahead!

Catch ya later,  George

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Waiting for the end of the series

I’ve always had this philosophy regarding any series of books — I would never start to read the first book until the final one had been published. That way, I would not have to wait the twelve plus months between books — the twelve plus months during which I would forget vital plot points and character nuances. Instead, I could just read one book after another, from beginning to end, and achieve a sense of continuity and completion. But things have changed.

I’m a reasonably patient sort of person. I usually don’t mind waiting, even if it is several years between book one and the final instalment, before starting to read a series. This is the way that I have read many a trilogy. The first time that I broke my own rule was with the Harry Potter series. Seven books resulted in a very long wait between beginning and end. There was a lot of hype and a lot of discussion. I really wanted to read the books; I really wanted to participate in the discussions my friends were having; and I was finding it very difficult to avoid spoilers. So I started reading just after the fourth book was released. I read them back-to-back. Of course, then came the agonising wait for book five… I didn’t like that bit.

But Harry Potter was an exceptional series — so much hype and talk and media. Most books don’t get that kind of press. Spoilers are not usually an issue. So, Harry was going to be my one and only exception (except, of course, those occasional circumstances where I’ve read a book not realising that it was the first in a series… damn, that’s annoying!). But then I started reviewing books.

Becoming a reviewer changed everything. I was no longer browsing bookstores, reading the back cover blurbs, trying to choose what to read next. Now I was browsing lists of upcoming and newly released titles trying to decide which books I should request for review. And those lists are always chock-full of books that are part of a series. And thus I found myself in the position of reading the first book of the Rosie Black Chronicles a few weeks after its release in 2010, instead of waiting. Book two is soon to be released (keep an eye on this blog, I’ll soon be interviewing the author, Lara Morgan), and goodness knows when book three will be out.

Reviewing has also hampered my ability to ever read a series from beginning to end in one hit. I read the first book of Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy in October 2010. I didn’t get to book two until March 2011, and I’ve only just started book three. Why? I’ve got a stack of new review books I’ve agreed to read — so I space out the other books I want to read, between these.

A number of years ago I heard about a series of books called The Laws of Magic, written by Michael Pryor. I read the back cover blurb of the first book, thought it sounded interesting, and placed it on my read-when-the-series-is-finished pile. Well, the final book came out this year. I dug out the first book and read it. I’d love to now read the rest of the series, one after the other. But no… I’ve had to put then aside for the moment. Sigh! Life can be so tough sometimes. 😉

Catch ya later,  George

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In defence of eBooks

.    Image: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else?

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

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

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

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

Catch ya later,  George

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

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The Trudi Canavan Project

Photo by Paul Ewins

I have a rather special post today. Some practice video interviews with bestselling fantasy author Trudi Canavan. Let me explain…

At Aussiecon 4 last year, I videoed a few authors talking about their favourite books and then posted them on Literary Clutter. Trudi was one of those authors. Knowing that I had a little video camera and a blog on which to post the results, she asked me to assist her with some practice interviews.

Trudi is currently on a book tour around Europe and the UK promoting her latest novel, The Rogue. Not having done very many video interviews, and knowing that she was likely to be put in front of a camera at least once or twice on the tour, she wanted to practice before she left.

We decided to do three different types of interviews, hopefully covering all likely bases — the generic interview; the informed literary interview; and the informed fantasy interview. And then we also decided to shoot them in three different ways. So, with my wife behind the camera directing us, this is what we came up with…

Interview 1

This is the generic interview. The idea is that the interviewer knows little about Trudi or her books.

The camera stays focussed on a fairly close shot of Trudi, with the interviewer asking questions from off-camera.

Interview 2

This is the informed literary interview. We assume that the interviewer has read at least one of Trudi’s books and is familiar with the literary scene. The questions are the sort you would expect from the host of a book show.

We’ve shot this one in a more formal interview style, the sort you might get on 60 Minutes — interviewer and subject facing each other and the camera cutting between the two. Please forgive my editing… I’m a writer not a filmmaker. 🙂

Interview 3

This is the informed fantasy interview. We assume the interviewer is familiar with the fantasy genre and has read several of Trudi’s books. The questions are the sort that are likely to be of interest to fantasy fans and more specifically, to fans of Trudi’s books.

We’ve shot this one in a relaxed style — seated outdoors under a shady tree with cups of tea at the ready. We were aiming for a breakfast show feel.

So there you have it… three different interviews with the same person. I think Trudi did really well and is going to wow the audiences on her tour. Hope you enjoyed them. If you’d like to keep track of Trudi’s promotional tour, check out the blog on her website.

This little project turned out to be quite a learning experience for me. And I think I’ve still got a lot more to learn about producing blog videos. If anyone out there has any feedback, please leave a comment.

The main thing I discovered from all this, was that I rather enjoyed the whole process — from writing the questions, to conducting the interviews, to editing the vids. This, of course, means that I’m likely to inflict some more videos on you in the future. Be afraid… be very afraid!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll interview myself.

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The Fantasy Worlds of Trudi Canavan, part 2

Trudi Canavan, best selling author of The Black Magician trilogy and numerous other books, is back to answer some more questions. If you missed part one of this interview, go back and read it before reading part two. Sequential interviews usually work best if read in order (nag, nag). And now, on with the interview…

What is it that attracts you to the fantasy genre as a writer? And are you a reader of that genre as well?

I have tended to read mainly fantasy, even before I wanted to be a writer. I’ve always loved the way fantasy constantly imagines new ways to explore the impossible. Every now and then I’ll read outside the genre, but I’m always amazed at how often fantasy elements turn up in, say, contemporary novels. Reading minds and seeing ghosts? Fantasy. I guess my definition of fantasy is quite broad.

Have you tried out any other genres as a writer, or do you have any plans to do so?

I’ve tried writing short stories in other genres, though none that I thought were any good! The most successful have been urban fantasy – and by that I mean the old definition of fantasy set in a modern day urban environment, not paranormal romance – and fantasy romance knit lit. (Yes, you heard that right: romantic fiction with fantasy elements and knitting. Lots of fun to write!)

As well as being an author, you are also an artist. Is your writing influenced by your art, and would you ever want to illustrate the cover of one of your own books?

At the most basic level, I find I write better if I also have an outlet for my artistic side. When I worked as an illustrator I used to provide illustrations for science fiction and fantasy magazines. I also painted covers for the first two books of The Black Magician Trilogy, only to discover that publishing companies have a general rule against using artwork by the author, author’s relatives, friends, associates, etc. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but they are rare.

I have managed to get artwork into some of my books, however. In the Age of the Five trilogy the maps contain character drawings.

On your website you mention that you have an idea for a young adult novel. One of the things that struck me about The Magicians’ Guild was that in many ways it reads as YA — young heroin, understated romance that’s not pursued, no sex or graphic violence, etc. If not YA, it is certainly YA-friendly — but it is marketed as general fantasy. Was making it YA friendly a conscious choice on your part? And has this lead to a teenage readership? And how has this affected future books?

I never aimed the Black Magician Trilogy at the young adult market, but I know I was thinking of how my teenage self would enjoy it as I was writing it. I didn’t write the sole sex scene in it in detail only because I wasn’t sure I could write a sex scene well! It was a pleasant surprise when my UK publisher released a young reader version of the books and they sold so well.

At that stage I started to see myself being referred to as a young adult writer and that bothered me for two reasons. I didn’t want adults avoiding my books because they were only ‘for children’, and I didn’t want my image as a writer to be restricted. So when I wrote the Age of the Five I aimed for an older audience by having a main character who was in her mid twenties, and attempting a few sex scenes. Even so, a lot of teens read them and the sex isn’t explicit so parents don’t seem to mind.

And finally, can you tell us what the future holds for Trudi Canavan? What’s next after The Traitor Spy trilogy?

I’ve just recently sold my next series, so I can tell you a little about it! Once again I’m moving away from the Black Magician Trilogy world and into a new universe. Maker’s Magic, the first book in the Millenium’s Rule series, will be set in many different worlds. In one, a society experiencing its own industrial revolution, a student of archaeology discovers a magical, sentient book holding vital clues to an impending disaster. In the other, a world stuck in a dark ages after a terrible battle depleted all magic, the daughter of cloth sellers hides forbidden powers.

That brings us to the end of the Trudi interview. To find out more about her and her writing, check out her website and follow her on Twitter. Oh, and here’s a list of her books…

The Black Magician Trilogy

  1. The Magicians’ Guild
  2. The Novice
  3. The High Lord

The Age of the Five Trilogy

  1. Priestess of the White
  2. Last of the Wilds
  3. Voice of the Gods

The Magician’s Apprentice

The Traitor Spy Trilogy

  1. The Ambassador’s Mission
  2. The Rogue – due for release 5th May 2011
  3. The Traitor Queen – due for release 2012

Tune in next time for a look inside a dog.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

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The Fantasy Worlds of Trudi Canavan, part 1

Trudi Canavan is a best-selling Australian fantasy author whose books include The Black Magician trilogy, the Age of the Five trilogy and the current Traitor Spy trilogy. And she’s here at Literary Clutter for a bit of a chat.

Let’s start off with a fairly standard sort of question: When did you realise that you wanted to be an author and what was your road to publication?

Before I wanted to be a writer I wanted to make films, thanks to Star Wars. Helpful adults told me to write my ideas down, and the writing thing sprang from there. It was only when I read Lord of the Rings at 14 that I gained the ambition to write books.

I started out keeping a journal, but it wasn’t until I bought an Amiga computer in my late teens that my output began to grow. Finally it felt natural to write. I didn’t tend to write in a linear way, instead hopping back and forth to build a narrative.

At some point I promised myself I’d have a book written by 25, since that was sooo ooold. When I reached 25 and hadn’t yet finished a book, but had a fantastic idea for a story that actually had an ending, and hated my job, I decided it was time to give writing more time and dedication. Starting an illustration business with the intention of writing part time, I wrote the first draft of The Black Magician trilogy in a year and a half.

Of course, many rewrites and years passed by before it found a publisher, but by then I was seriously addicted to the writing life, even if it meant I was broke most of the time!

The Black Magician trilogy, the Traitor Spy trilogy and the stand alone novel The Magician’s Apprentice are all set in the same fantasy universe. How hard is it to create a believable world, with its geography, society, politics, etc; and how do you keep track of it all over so many novels?

Creating a believable world is a lot of fun and a lot of work. It helps to have an interest in archaeology, history, anthropology, biology, geology, etc., as I do. And I believe it is just as helpful to watch documentaries as it is to read books on a subject, because they give you a more visual sense of what you’re learning. It also helps to have a go at some of the things your characters might be involved in. My few experiences riding, grooming and feeding horses, convinced me that I should avoid having my characters interact with horses as much as possible because I clearly have no clue about them! I also tried fencing, which I was really bad at, but it gave me a very good insight into the practicalities of sword fights. I can now spot an implausible fight scene from two paces.

As I write a book or series I keep notes on the world, though I tend to stop and compile them in batches rather than break the flow of writing constantly. The good thing about writing the prequel and sequel to The Black Magician trilogy is that most of the world building is already done.

The Age of the Five trilogy is set in a different universe to your other novels. Do you have any plans to revisit this world?

No plans as yet. I can’t explain why without spoiling it, but the epilogue at the end of that series deliberately lets the reader come to their own conclusions about the ending, and writing a sequel would spoil that. Having recently written a prequel, I’m aware of the particular challenges involved in prequels, so I’m not overly keen to go that way either. Not unless I think of a particularly exciting story to write.

Trudi will be back again for the next post. In the meantime, check out Trudi’s website and my previous post, reviewing her novel The Magicians’ Guild.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I won’t post the second half of the interview. 😉

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A bookish family

I love reading! I find it difficult to imagine my life without books. Thankfully I married an avid reader and together we are well on the way to raising book-loving kids.

My wife, Kerri, has just finished reading The Luxe by Anna Godbersen. She’d been looking for fiction set in the Victorian period, and this series came highly recommended. The cover flash reads, “All the glitz of ‘The O.C.’ but with bigger frocks and more dashing boys.” She said it did indeed read like post-teen bitchiness slapped somewhat incongruously into a Victorian setting. And Kerri is an avid hobby historical costumier, so was disappointed by the lack of accurate detail with those ‘bigger frocks’.  At night, as we read in bed, I heard regular mumbles of exasperation: “You wouldn’t be doing THAT in a Victorian-era corset!” She’s not sure she’ll be reading the other three books in the series.

My almost eight-year-old daughter, Nykita, is currently working her way through some of the Magic Ballerina books. They are the dance equivalent of the Rainbow Magic fairy books. I’m happy that she’s enjoying them, but I really have no desire to read them myself. Recently, when she was unwell, I read her two of the Rainbow Magic books… and I’m still recovering.

But a couple of days ago she brought home a book from school — Onion Tears by Diana Kidd. Wow! What an amazing book. A beautifully written, poignantly told story. I loved every word. It was a challenging read for Nykita and it exposed her to things she had not considered before — boat people; children losing their families and having to change their lives; dealing with grief; and learning to leave the pain of the past behind and embrace life and future possibilities. She asked lots of questions and wanted to know more about boat people. It opened her mind. The power of a good book is an amazing thing.

My two-year-old, Lexi, is currently fascinated by WHIZZ! A Happy Bugs Sparkle Book, by Wendy McLean and Noeline Cassettari. It’s about various bugs having fun playing in a garden. It has lots of pictures with shiny, sparkly inlays. Lexi loves anything that is sparkly!

But what about the rest of my family?

Let’s start with my dad. He was born in France, and still reads a lot in French. His favourite author is Alexandre Dumas, and his favourite books are The d’Artagnan Romances. He has read them in both French and English, well over ten times. He claims that reading Dumas is like watching a movie because his descriptions are so vivid and easy to read. He’s just finished re-reading The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. Next on his list is the third book in the series, The Vicomte of Bragelonne.

My mum has been reading lots of books about the golden days of Holloywood. After reading Richard Lauton’s A World of Movies — 70 Years of Film History, she moved on to Hollywood Portraits — Classic Scene Still 1929-41. This second book is a large format coffee table book laden with stunning portrait photographs. Photographer Mark A Vieira writes about each photograph, commenting on the movies for which they were taken and providing interesting anecdotes.

My brother, Andrew, is an accountant who works long hours and who has never been a huge reader. Mostly he reads newspapers and magazines. When he delves into books, it is usually non-fiction — Most recently, Richard Branson’s Autobiography, Losing My Virginity.

And his partner, Sophia, recently finished Out of Place by Jo Dutton. The book’s cover has a quote from Kate Grenville, saying “A fine book of women, landscapes and the tides of life”. Sophia adds: “It’s a great read. One you want to read cover to cover from the get go.”

And finally… what about me? I’ve just started Trudi Canavan’s The Novice, book 2 in The Black Magician trilogy. (If you want to know what I thought of the first book, check out my review.) As with the first book, this one has captivated me from the first line. I love Trudi’s characters and I can’t wait to find out what happens to them all. And if anyone else out there is a fan of Trudi’s writing, keep reading Literary Clutter because we’re got an interview with her coming up real soon.

And tune in next time for some self-promoting authors.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… and tell me what you’re reading.

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The Aussiecon Author Videos, part 2

We’re back for another round of videos. Last week I posted four author videos, which I shot at Aussiecon 4 in September 2010. I asked each author to introduce themselves and then to tell me about the book (or books) which has had the greatest influence on them. Here are another four… the final four. There should have been more. I had intended for there to be more. There were lots of authors around at Aussiecon, and I wanted to video as many of them as I could. But… um… I forgot! 🙁 All my wonderful intentions went down the gurgler because I was having too much fun. Oh well, this will have to do you for now. So, without further ado…

Trudi Canavan is the author of numerous fantasy novels, including the Black Magician trilogy (The Magicians’ Guild, The Novice and The High Lord). Her latest book, The Ambassador’s Mission, is the first in the Traitor Spy trilogy. Book two, The Rogue, is due out in May this year. Check out her website and follow her on Twitter. And take a peek at my review of The Magicians’ Guild.

Paul Collins is the author of over 100 books, including The Jelindal Chronicles (Dragonlinks, Dragonfang, Dragonsight and Wardragon). He is also co-creator, along with Michael Pryor, of The Quentaris Chronicles. Check out his website and the official Quentaris Chronicles website.

Sue Bursztynski is the author of numerous books for children and young adults. She is best known for her non-fiction, including Crime Time, but her latest book is the YA werewolf novel, Wolfborn (I’ve previously reviewed Wolfborn and interviewed Sue on Literary Clutter). Check out her blog.

Reece Hauxby is the fifteen-year-old author of Justin Gale Deals With Death. It’s his debut novel and is intended as the first in a series. Check out Cytique Publishing for more info.

Well, that’s it folks. No more videos. But fear not (or do fear, as the case may be) for now that I’ve got a taste for putting videos up on Literary Clutter, I’m likely to do it again. There’s a local spec fic / pop culture convention happening here in Melbourne in June this year (Continuum 7), so I shall try to get my butt into gear and corner a few more authors at that event.

Tune in next time for a guest post from Lili Wilkinson as she discusses the covers of her books, Pink and Scatterheart.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

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The Magicians’ Guild

A few posts ago I mentioned that I was reading The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan. I finished the book. I loved the book. I intend to read the second book in the series (The Black Magician Trilogy) very soon. This is significant for a couple of reasons…

Firstly, I don’t normally read what I refer to as “great, big, doorstop epic fantasy trilogies”. I’m not really sure why. I don’t dislike fantasy. Maybe it’s because I’m a fairly slow reader and I find a set of books big enough to hold open a door in gale-force winds rather daunting. Maybe it’s because I like my books to have an ending, and so many trilogies contain books that need the following book or books to be read in order to reach even a modicum of closure. Maybe it’s because I’ve read fantasy books where one novel’s worth of plot has been stretched out over three. Or maybe it’s simply because I’ve read some not-so-great epic fantasy in the past. Whatever the reason, I’ve been avoiding Trudi’s books for quite some time. Which brings me to my second disclosure…

I’ve been friends with Trudi for years. So it’s been rather embarrassing not having read her books for such a long time. Not because she’s made an issue of it… she hasn’t. In fact, she says she never expects her friends to read her books. But lots of other people, when they find out that I’m friends with her, will start chatting to me about her wonderful books, assuming that I’ve read them. And when I confess that I haven’t, they look at me as if I’ve got some contagious disease and slowly back away. Okay, okay, a slight exaggeration with that last bit.

Anyway, I’ve finally read one of her books and am now eager to read more. The Magicians’ Guild is a fairly straightforward fantasy adventure. But it is a well-told tale with vivid characters and an easy, unpretentious style. The book draws the reader in and immerses them in a fantasy world. There is enough detail to make the world believable, but the story is never bogged down in unnecessary waffle. It captured my interest immediately with its glorious opening line:

“It is said, in Imardin, that the wind has a soul, and that it wails through the narrow city streets because it is grieved by what is finds there.”

And it had me eagerly turning pages until the very last line. It is the perfect first book of a trilogy, in that it is in itself a complete story, but it also lays the groundwork for further adventures. There is closure, but there are threads left hanging, ready to be picked up in the next two books.

I suppose I should finish up with a little plot summary. I don’t like giving away too much, so this is just a teaser. In the city of Imardin, anyone with magical potential must join the Magician’s Guild… or have their powers blocked. The guild is peopled only with the wealthy and powerful, and it is feared by the slum dwellers. When a young slum dweller, named Sonea, discovers that she has magical powers, she turns to the city’s thieves to hide her from the guild. The guild, meanwhile, mounts a search to find her, for a rogue magician can be a threat not only to them, but to herself and the people around her. Exciting stuff!

Tune in next time for some videos.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

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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?

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

Boomerang congratulates: AUREALIS AWARD WINNERS 2009! [Part Two]

Here are the adult winners of the 2009 Aurealis Awards – some of Australia’s finest sci-fi/fantasy releases of 2009 have made the list!

Best Science Fiction Novel
Wonders of a Godless World by Andrew McGahan

On an unnamed island, in a Gothic hospital sitting in the shadow of a volcano, a wordless orphan girl works on the wards housing the insane and the incapable. When a silent, unmoving and unnerving new patient – a foreigner – arrives at the hospital, strange phenomena occur, bizarre murders take place, and the lives of the patients and the island’s inhabitants are thrown into turmoil. What happens between them is an extraordinary exploration of consciousness, reality and madness. Wonders of a Godless World, the new novel from Miles Franklin-winner Andrew McGahan, is a huge and dramatic beast of a book. It is a thought-provoking investigation into character and consciousness, a powerful cautionary tale, and a head-stretching fable about the earth, nature and the power of the mind.

Best Fantasy Novel
The Magician’s Apprentice by Trudi Canavan

Set hundreds of years before the events of The Magicians’ Guild, The Magician’s Apprentice is the new novel set in the world of Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician Trilogy. In the remote village of Mandryn, Tessia serves as assistant to her father, the village Healer. Her mother would rather she found a husband. But her life is about to take a very unexpected turn. When the advances of a visiting Sachakan mage get violent, Tessia unconsciously taps unknown reserves of magic to defend herself. Lord Dakon, the local magician, takes Tessia under his wing as an apprentice. The long hours of study and self-discipline also offer more opportunities than she had ever hoped for, and an exciting new world opens up to her. There are fine clothes and servants – and, to Tessia’s delight – regular trips to the great city of Imardin. But along with the excitement and privilege, Tessia is about to discover that her magical gifts bring with them a great deal of responsibility. For great danger looms on the horizon for Tessia and her world.

Best Horror Novel
Red Queen by Honey Brown

Shannon and Rohan Scott have retreated to their family’s cabin in the Australian bush to escape a virus-ravaged world. After months of isolation, Shannon imagines there’s nothing he doesn’t know about his older brother, or himself – until a stranger slips under their late-night watch and past their loaded guns. Reluctantly, the brothers take the young woman into their fold, and the dynamic within the cabin shifts. Possessiveness takes hold, loyalties are split, and trust is shattered. Before long, all three find themselves locked into a very different battle for survival.

Best Collection
Oceanic by Greg Egan

Synopsis of ‘Oceanic’ short story: The people of Covenant believe they are the descendants of immaterial “Angels” who were brought to the planet by the daughter of God to “repent their theft of immortality” and live and die as flesh once more.
Martin is a Freelander, raised on the ocean, and a personal experience as a child convinces him of the truth of this account. But when he becomes a biologist and begins to study the native life of Covenant, his work leads to revelations about the true history of the planet, and the nature of his own beliefs.