Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Writers On Wednesday: Kelly Hart

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week Australian non-fiction writer Kelly Hart will be answering my questions and giving a little advice for writers. Welcome Kelly ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …

I was writing before I left high school, but finding out that I was passionate about writing came as a surprise.

There we were, a bunch of teenage girls bored in our lunch hour. We were all avid readers of horror and somehow we came up with the idea of writing our own horror novel. Unfortunately the novel we had decided to write as a group never got past the planning stage, but it ignited a need in me to write.  

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Better Critiquing for Better Writing is a book designed to help new writers with the critiquing process. Getting feedback can be scary, but a new writer faces more challenges than just being scared.
I have seen problems occur because a new writer hasn’t been fully prepared before jumping straight into a critiquing group. I’m talking about mental preparation here, not their writing. Knowing what to expect and what will be expected from you is the key to being able to cope with the feedback process.
This book arms new writers with everything they should know about critiquing.

As a writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?

I have to say it’s the creation of Better Critiquing for Better Writing. The thought of this book helping writers avoid horrible critiquing experiences makes me feel proud. I think for this reason it will always be one of my greatest achievements.

What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?

Outside of mentoring and editing for other writers, I’m currently working on a speculative fiction novel set on another planet. The main character Talia is dealing with family struggles while confronting enemy tribes trying to steal away her adopted daughter. I’ll be focusing on Talia’s everyday struggles that all of us can relate to, which helps provide emotional impact with the action that follows.

Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?

I’m torn between the two because I can see the benefits of both. I love the smell and physical feel of a print book, but I also like the idea of taking my entire library with me anywhere I go.
I think the convenience of the eBook will win me over in the end.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Independent publishing all the way. I like the thought of having control over what I can do with my books and marketing. I think that authors do the majority of the work anyway and deserve the majority of the royalties.

This isn’t saying that you should do everything yourself. Even though I’m an editor myself, I still paid for another editor to go through my work (as a writer there are always things you won’t see that a fresh set of eyes will pick up). I wanted this book to be quality and that means it needed to go through the same process a traditional published book would.

Any kind of publishing (if done correctly) is hard work, but worth the effort. 

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?

This is a hard question for me to answer as I don’t believe any one book is suitable for everybody. We all have different taste in books after all.

For fiction writers I would say Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages is pure gold.
A fiction book I love is The Love Killers by Jackie Collins. I wouldn’t say it’s suitable for everybody though. Definitely a M+ rating.

Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?

A big thank you, for allowing me to share a little about Better Critiquing for Better Writing. I hope you can implement the critiquing and feedback process and avoid those critiquing pitfalls.

Links

Sales link Amazon:

Author website:
http://www.betterscribe.com/

Facebook:
www.facebook.com/Kelly.M.Hart

Twitter:

@BetterScribe

Monday, 28 April 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art

Coloured benches, Victoria Square
This one was taken in November 2012 in the southern end of Victoria Square/Tandanyangga. I cannot quite recall what the chairs, or the inflatable pool in the background were meant to represent or if they formed part of a greater festival but they were certainly striking. The square was closed for most of 2013 due to the Tour Down Under and upgrades.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

How to Be an Australian Romance Heroine

Ever wished that you could be the heroine from your favourite Australian Romance novel? Keep reading, as today, I am going to share some tips with you on how to live like an Australian Romance Heroine ...

Looks

Australian Romance Heroines are generally an attractive bunch, but they must never, ever be vain about their looks. Mirrors and cosmetics are entirely optional, but keep in mind that to The Guy You Will End Up With At the End of the Book will not care how well you scrub up in a designer frock--he thinks you're just as lovely in those Elmo pyjama pants that have a hole near the bum.

However, it is vital that you be depicted on the front cover wearing a hat and a skimpy outfit that would be entirely unsuitable to wear whilst working outdoors--even if this does not accurately depict your character and preferred attire.

Love Interests

Your love interests can be wide and varied. They will, however, fall into a number of categories, some of which may not necessarily appear in your book. The most common categories are: 

The Unsuitable Ex

Before your adventure begins, your past must be clouded by some kind of unsuitable ex-boyfriend that no one else on the planet would like to date. His looks and personality matter little, as the relationship is usually over by the time the novel opens, however he must in some way, shape or form, have done something to make the heroine distrustful of men and relationships.

The Rich Bastard

This one is an alpha male out for all that he can get. Depending on your story he will either prove himself to be a complete bastard, reform, be a noble rich man or it will turn out his actions were all a big ruse to fool somebody (i.e. he's an undercover cop.)

The Poor Man 

This man lives a humble life in humble dwellings but it can usually be guaranteed that he has some kind of secret fortune stashed away somewhere.

The Guy Next Door

This hero is usually one of the good ones. He's the guy who is out there and involved in the community and treats all the people that he cares about well. His achilles heel is his love for the heroine. Too shy or too noble to make a declaration of love, he suffers in silence and watches as the heroine falls for an unsuitable man--usually the Rich Bastard or Married/Taken Man. The Guy Next Door is the type most likely to become The Guy You End Up With At the End of The Book, though this is not always guaranteed--a surprise plot twist can prove him to be a bastard in certain circumstances.

The Married/Taken Man

This guy seems perfect for the heroine in every possible way, but for his spoiled, conniving and social climbing wife. fiancee or girlfriend. This breed makes for an interesting hero, because there will usually be some kind of amusing catfight and by the end of the book, his relationship will be proven to be a sham. They make for a crappy bastard character however, because their bastardry is obvious from the start. 

The Guy You End Up With At the End of the Book

This is the only love interest whose presence is compulsory. He can come from a wide and varied background and may or may not share a past or history with the heroine. However, he will have proven himself in some way to be a good man and to love the heroine in a way that no other man can. 

Rivals

Rivals are not compulsory though they can spice up a plot when it is getting dull. Generally they are wealthy, thin, sophisticated and spoiled and may already be in a relationship with your love interest. They are also guaranteed to bugger off at the end of the book in search of greener pastures. 

Dwellings

As an Australia Romance Heroine, your home and choice of dwelling is an important one. Urban dwellings are usually frowned upon, unless your novel is set in Sydney or Brisbane. Perth is occasionally acceptable if your heroine is fleeing some kind of drama or works in a male dominated field--this same rule applies for any other setting in Western Australia. Melbourne, Adelaide and Darwin are completely unacceptable cities for romance heroines to live, while Hobart is occasionally allowed under special circumstances and even then you would be better off living in a smaller Tasmanian city such as Launceston where you can have some kind of lovely romantic misunderstanding with the owner of a construction company that wants to completely ruin the local environment. And then you must be prepared for the fact that the whole thing is a misunderstanding, that your political views were wrong and that most of his evil deeds were due to the influence of a demanding wife/fiancee/girlfriend that he did not truly love anyway.

Any country or rural town (fictitious or based on a real location,) is acceptable regardless of which part of Australia you wish to live in. However, your chances of publication and overseas sales will increase if you choose to live in any part of Queensland or New South Wales. Again, Western Australia is acceptable, but only if certain requirements are met. 

Your home must, and I repeat must, be unusual in some kind of way. Australian Romance Heroines simply do not live in three bedroom brick veneer houses. A flat or unit is okay, but only if your relationship with your neighbours is going to be relevant to the story in some way. Your best choice is to live in a shack or an old stone cottage. Bonus points if said shack or cottage is falling apart. Double bonus points if you have room for a dog. Which brings me to my next point ...

Pets

Australian Romance Heroines generally prefer dogs to cats and therefore so should you. This is partly to spare themselves the stigma of being thought a possible future cat lady (after all, they are very fine and eligible women they just don't know it,) plus there is something that makes them appear more endearing and compassionate if they adopt a mongrel dog from a rescue shelter as opposed to a tabby cat, despite both being on death row. A horse is an acceptable but optional accessory.

Cats are allowed in special circumstances but only if they make as much of a nuisance of themselves as possible and somehow aid you, the heroine, in winning the heart of The Guy You Will End Up With At the End of the Book.

It is perfectly acceptable for any of your rivals to own a cat, however purebred oriental cats are preferred.

Vehicle

Your choice of vehicle is probably one of the few areas where you are allowed some versatility. However, if you choose to drive a small, automatic buzz box better suited to city driving, be prepared to come into conflict with your hero who will most likely own a big, fast car or four wheel drive. And it will be a manuel.

Australian Romance Heroines are allowed to own and drive big, fast cars however the one that they own must be old and shitty, particularly in comparison to the vehicle owned by their main rival.

Motorcycles are acceptable for both sexes.

A Poor Appetite

Australian Romance Heroines never really eat a lot. Their preferred meal after a long, laborious day is generally something light. At a restaurant they prefer to just have a salad. Malnutrition is not a concern, nor is the risk of developing osteoporosis in later life. However, these rules may be broken if a section of the book is devoted to promoting a particular local cuisine to readers from overseas or interstate.

Over-eating, or depictions of eating anything fried or which contains fish or meat is generally frowned upon. Unless it is sushi. For some reason, sushi is allowed.

It is acceptable for your hero to have a hearty appetite and to eat a steak and drown it down with a beer.

The Ability to Drink Like a Fish and to Never Have a Hangover ...

Australian Romance Heroines like to drink a lot, usually wine, and rarely, if ever, do they end up getting shitfaced and left with an enormous hangover the next day. Hangovers are acceptable if, and only if you bump into your posh future mother-in-law who hates you, your arch rival or your love interest's current wife/fiancee/girlfriend who is far more grown up and sophisticated then you are. 

Also, as an Australian Romance Heroine, you will only find yourself completely shitfaced in a situation where the Guy You Will End Up With At the End of The Book is able to drop everything to care for you.

Occupation

As an Australian Romance Heroine, your preferred occupation is to be a vet. If this is not a realistic possibility, then there is a good chance that we will find you working at a local newspaper--either as a journalist or photographer--or running the local craft store. A down on her luck Australian Romance Heroine will usually find work pulling beers at the local pub or working in a male dominated field where she must prove herself to be as good as any man. Occasionally she may work as a receptionist or have an unwanted job as a parking inspector. Social work or teaching is allowed in certain circumstances, particularly if it brings you closer to The Guy You Will End Up With At the End of the Book.

Any occupation that requires a degree (apart from Veterinary Science,) must somehow relate to social sciences. Consequently, Australian Romance Heroines are never doctors or lawyers, though they consider it acceptable for other women to work in that field. Being a nurse, however, is acceptable.

* * *

So there you have it, my complete guide to being an Australian Romance Heroine. I cannot guarantee any of this will work out in the real world, but within the realms of fiction, it's comforting to know that a woman can find a man just by following a particular set of rules ...

Bonus question: Do you have any tips on how to be a good romance heroine?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

On Book Reviews ...

Okay. Lets talk book reviews.

Writing book reviews is generally a lot of fun and that is precisely why I write them. There is something lovely about being able to share my thoughts on a book with the general public. And, obviously, I appreciate it when people take the time to review my books. But I have also noticed that reviewers and authors can come under a lot of scrutiny. Here's why ...

Legitimacy

Here is one that some sectors of the online community get hung up about and it's not difficult to see and understand why. Some reviews are fake. I am confident that this is not news to anyone. It would be easy enough, I imagine, for anyone to create a fake account on goodreads or amazon and to write that glowing review that lavishes praise on a particular book. Or, conversely, to write two or three paragraphs damning a book by a rival author to hell. I'm sure it happens. And yes, I think it is wrong, unethical and a whole load of other things.

But that does not mean that we should automatically assume that every five star review on amazon or goodreads from someone who has only reviewed one book is a fake review that has been posted by an evil, attention seeking author. The fact is, not everyone reviews books for a hobby. There are a multitude of good, plausible reasons why someone might review just one book on Amazon or goodreads.* This is not suspicious behaviour. Especially when it is clear from the review that the person has actually read the book and gives a basically straightforward account of what they liked about the book without going too over the top. 

A professional troll or sock-puppet is generally good at what they do. A professional sock-puppet is going to try and make it appear as though they have a well maintained account, which can easily be achieved by the time-consuming process of creating an account, uploading an avatar, a short bio and sticking around to add a couple of reviews of other similar books. In other words, a professional sock-puppet is going to do his or her best to try and convince you that they are not, in fact, a sock-puppet. The real tell comes from the lengths they go to prove their expertise on the subject and then the language he or she uses to write either a glowing or damning review. They are going to want to convince you that this is a great or terrible book. A fake glowing review would read something like this:
In all my fifty years as a high school history teacher, I have never seen such a meticulously researched and accurate account of life in the slums of Berlin in the days before World War II as Hilda's Story. I simply cannot fault this wonderfully told tale. I also simply cannot understand why some reviewers believe that graphic and detailed depictions of Hilda's experiences as an underage prostitute make the book unsavoury. I would give this book seventeen stars if I could ... 
Obviously, that's something that I've just made up as an example and not a (suspected) fake review, but my point is this. A real fake review is going to contain statements that are very easy to challenge. For example:
All my fifty years as a high school history teacher ...
Seriously? The reviewer has been teaching history for fifty years. On the surface it may sound like a great qualification. But consider this. If they are at retiring age now (65), that means they must have started teaching when they were fifteen.
I have never seen such a meticulously researched and accurate account of life in the slums of Berlin in the days before World War II as Hilda's Story. I simply cannot fault this wonderfully told tale. 
Not suspicious in itself, but it's certainly heavy on the praise. Also odd that they would not be stating what makes the depiction so accurate.
I also simply cannot understand why some reviewers believe that graphic and detailed depictions of Hilda's experiences as an underage prostitute make the book unsavoury. I would give this book seventeen stars if I could ... 
Now this part would certainly arouse suspicion. First of all, it challenges the views of other reviewers and then hints at the fact that the book contains a significant amount of controversial content--a clever way to potentially increase sales as some people may buy a copy of the book just to see what all of the fuss is about. And then it ends with a ridiculous statement about the star rating.

A fake negative review is going to look something like this:
Don't get me wrong, I wanted to like Hilda's Story but I do not feel that this is a well told or accurate depiction of pre-World War II Berlin. For a start, the whole thing is written in English when everyone knows that people who live in Berlin speak German. Instead, I think that you should read Tilly's Tale by Imma Storyteller, which is the same story, only better and it's set in London. 
Again, this is something that I made up. But here are a few key statements that are easy to challenge:
Don't get me wrong, I wanted to like Hilda's Story ...
This is something I have never understood. Why would anyone note that they want to like a book? Liking any work of art is usually a highly subjective choice that is based upon numerous variables. I know the statement gets tossed about quite a bit on goodreads and its used often in legitimate reviews by people who have actually read the book they are talking about but it's generally used as a means of asking for empathy. See, the reviewer is trying to get across that they are not a bad person. They did not pick up this book with the intention of hating it. So please don't hate them for not liking the book, they are writing this negative review very, very reluctantly ...
... but I do not feel that this is a well told or accurate depiction of pre-World War II Berlin. 
Here we have an opinion that looks honest enough ...
For a start, the whole thing is written in English when everyone knows that people who live in Berlin speak German. 
Followed by evidence that is completely spurious. After all, book written for an English speaking audience is going to be written in English, regardless of the setting.
Instead, I think that you should read Tilly's Tale by Imma Storyteller, which is the same story, only better and it's set in London. 
And here is the killer. The reviewer is directly referring to a rival book and telling you that it is better.

In other words, look carefully at the review itself, rather than the account holder. We do not need to call into question the morals or legitimacy of every person that has only ever left a solitary review on a website that allows anyone to write a review. The content should tell you everything that you need to know.

*For the record, these reasons can be anything from forgetting ones password and opting to open a new account instead, to discovering after completing the long and laborious task of writing a review that they decide that they would much rather stick their head in a toaster than write another one. 

Reviews From Family and Friends

I like it when family and friends go and write books. Not only is it a rare and momentous occasion that deserves to be celebrated but it usually means that I get to be one of the first people in the blogging community to review their work. Win. 

This is another issue that people get hung up on. Reviews from someone who is a family member, or a friend of the author, can be sneered upon in some quarters. Why? Is there are rule that says that the family and friends of an author cannot be a reader? Granted, those family and friends are probably not going to do much rating and reviewing for an author who is a family member if they think the book is terrible and do not want their names associated with it, but is it really so terrible if say, someone's aunt who also happens to be an avid reader and an active member in the goodreads community reviews their nephew's latest self-published book? Is it deceptive if they clearly state that they are that authors aunt, give four stars and note what did and what did not work for them? Or what if the aunt is an avid reader, but only writes the occasional book on goodreads but genuinely this work is so great that she just has to write a review? Should we discount her opinion then? What if she posts her review on amazon, where there are direct links to where the book can be bought? Is that misleading? What if, also, she legitimately bought her copy from amazon? Does she have less of a right to share a review than anyone else who purchased a copy?

The fact is, anyone can write a review on either site and so long as it is about the book and nothing else, it is not a violation of the terms of service. Sometimes that can seem like an unfair rule and sometimes it is. But mostly, it isn't. 

Paid Reviews

I have to admit, I had a bit of a chuckle when I discovered that over on fiverr there are people who are willing to buy your book from amazon and review it. Considering that five dollar price tag includes purchasing the book and a couple of hours of their time while they read the book, it seems like a bit of a lark to me. It would certainly cut down the amount of time it takes to find bloggers who may be interested in your work and then writing out personalised emails to them all--which can be a long and thankless task. For five dollars, you're essentially giving someone a review copy of your book and letting them keep the change in exchange for their trouble. Seems a lot easier than spending a weekend typing out personal emails to book bloggers who (mostly) never write back. (And yes, before you ask, I'm guilty of not replying, or not replying as quickly as I should do ...)

The main problem with this one--and this one most definitely is a legitimate concern--is that most of the people offering their review services are not offering fair or honest reviews. Most of these people are offering guaranteed five star reviews and the chance to 'play' the system on amazon to generate further interest in the book. I can see why anyone would be upset by this. It's false advertising.

But that does not mean that every five star review written on amazon or goodreads ever was written by a shill. Most of them are probably just written by people who genuinely liked the book.

* * *

As I stated before, liking any work of art is highly subjective and based upon a huge number of variables. I know a lot of teenage girls who believe that Twilight is brilliant because it is the first "grown up" novel that they have been able to understand. Who can really blame a fourteen-year-old girl for preferring Twilight to Moby Dick? And who is not to say that their opinion, on a site where everyone is welcome to have a say, is invalid? A thirty-seven-year old, male English professor may have a totally different opinion and their opinion is just as valid, but what it does not do is invalidate the former. Both have the right to put forward their views. And they also have the right to do so without their motives being questioned, even if that fourteen-year-old also happens to be the niece of Stephenie Meyer and that thirty-seven year old male English professor just bought shares in a rival publisher. The real tell lies in the evidence that they offer in conjunction with their reviews.

I am going to end this piece by saying yes, I am aware that a lot of fake or at least questionable reviews exist out there. And yes, sometimes there does need to be someone out there flagging those reviews. However, I feel that authors come under a little too much scrutiny at times. The fact is, if you want to read the reviews on goodreads or amazon, you're going to have to live with the fact that anyone can post a review there and not all of them are going to contain opinions that you agree with. And some reviews are going to be fake. But that does not mean that every reviewer or author should automatically come under suspicion without just cause. 

Friday, 25 April 2014

Feature and Follow Friday


Woo-hoo! Time for another Feature and Follow Friday. As you all know, this is a very awesome meme, hosting by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read designed to help like-minded book bloggers meet and connect.

For me, it has been an absolutely huge week, with the release of my fifth novel Cats, Scarves and Liars. (Feel free to enter the giveaway here.) And maybe I'm just horribly, horribly, biased, but I think it's a great novel and that you should all read it. Anyway, this weeks all-important question for Feature and Follow Friday is:

Have you any pets? Tell us or show us?

It absolutely breaks my heart to say this, but the question is no. Toffee White, my beloved Abyssinian crossed with a ginger tabby (who looked almost exactly like a ginger tabby, and sounded almost exactly like an Abyssinian,) passed away in July last year.  You can read a small dedication to him at the start of Cats, Scarves and Liars. Here is a picture of him, looking delightfully cute ...


Around Adelaide: Street Art

WW1 Memorial, North Terrace

Lest We Forget.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Review: Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey

First and Foremost, a big shout out to The Reading Room and Penguin Books Australia for my free review copy. Thanks folks, you did not disappoint.

Only the Animals is, perhaps, one of the most unusual collections of short stories that I have read in quite some time. Each story is told from the perspective of a different animal and tells a little bit about their lives (and their deaths,) and unique relationships with humans, using various points in modern history as a backdrop. The opening story is told from the perspective of a camel who is travelling through outback Australia in the company of none other than Henry Lawson. Another story (my personal favourite,) is set in France and told from the perspective of a cat that once belonged to French author, Colette. And then there is a dolphin who writes a letter to Sylvia Plath ... (Does anyone else sense a bit of a theme here?) More than that, Only the Animals also offers a unique insight into human nature and, sadly, the sheer magnitude of human brutality.

I enjoyed reading this collection, though I felt that while each story was very well written, some drew me in and held my attention far more readily than others. This one is recommended for that moment when you want to be delighted by a short and unique tale or two. (Or should that be tail ...)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Writers On Wednesday: Dale Lorna Jacobsen

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week I put my questions to Aussie author Dale Lorna Jacobsen ...



Tell me a bit about yourself …

I am a freelance writer (the best kind) and write out of my little hut in the bush outside Maleny, South-east Queensland. I divide my time between feature writing for The Sunshine Coast Hinterland Times (a high-quality magazine, even if I do say so myself) and creative writing (ie, books). I used to do research and writing for Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, until we had a change of government. I was one of those contract workers who missed out. The undoubted highlight of my life happened in 2013 when I fulfilled a life-long dream to visit Antarctica. I took part in a 32-day expedition to the Ross Sea, with the wonderful Greg Mortimer – Australian mountaineer, adventurer and geologist.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Yenohan’s Legacy
ISBN 9781921369414
Horizon Publishing Group (2013)

Yenohan's Legacy celebrates the often unrecognised efforts of members of the Kosciuszko Huts Association (KHA) who restore, not only our history, but beautiful huts which serve as a refuge for walkers and riders who roam the high country. It also tells of the grass-roots battlers who ran sheep and cattle in the most beautiful country in Australia. Underlying this history are the often-tragic tales of the Traditional Owners forced from their homeland. These strands are pulled together in the novel, Yenohan's Legacy.

In researching this story, I took advantage of the superb collection at the National Library of Australia, and visited people who had once run their own sheep and cattle in what was to become Namadgi National Park. I camped where Fran camped, travelled the trails she travelled, and fell in love with many rustic huts the early settlers called home. The Aboriginal Liaison Officer from NSW Parks and Wildlife Service handed my manuscript to two women Elders from the Wolgal nation who wholeheartedly approved of my use of Yenohan in this story.

“Yenohan's Legacy is a fascinating mix of adventure and history and follows a young woman whose life changes over the course of a weekend as she helps restore a hut in the High Country. Haunted by ghosts of previous occupants, Fran is drawn to their stories and seeks the truth - and also finds love in the process.”
- Anne Brown, Rosetta Books, Maleny

Tell us about the first time you were published?

Union Jack
ISBN 978-1876344801
CopyRight Publishing (2011)

My first book, Union Jack, was the result of 10 years’ research and writing many drafts. It was dear to my heart, as the main character, Jack O’Leary, was my grandfather. A highly political novel (unions vs ALP government in Queensland during early 1920s), I began to doubt it would find a publisher. However, CopyRight Publishers (Brisbane) were brave enough to take it on. I am pleased to say it has been very well received.

As a writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?

Being asked to speak at the Rail Tram and Bus Union’s 125th anniversary dinner, when the State Secretary purchased 45 copies of Union Jack to present to each of their councillors, so they would know a little of their union’s history.

What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?

I am working on two: an illustrated book on my recent (life-changing) expedition to Antarctica; a novel set in the Victorian High Country.

Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?

Myself, I prefer to read paper books. I like the feel of the cover, the smell of the paper, the sheer joy of going into a bookshop and seeing all those covers. It reminds me of going into libraries as a child and feeling a shiver of thrill as I approached the shelves – to choose.
However, if I was travelling for any time, I guess I would favour the convenience of ebooks.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Both my books have been through Indie Publishing, (CopyRight Publishers and Horizon Publishing Group) and I really enjoy the more personal approach. I have met the editor in both cases (not just email contact) and felt both publishers took a personal interest in my work. Admittedly, I have had to contribute in both cases, most Indie’s do partnership deals, but I think it actually works out financially ok.

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?

That’s a hard one, but one stand-out book for me was Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones. It has been a few years since I read it, but it remains in my head.

Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?

Even though my books are site-specific (Union Jack set in Brisbane; Yenohan’s Legacy set in the High Country of southern ACT) their message is pretty universal. I write about grass-roots history, to remind people of the fights and sacrifices that have given us the freedom that we now enjoy to live in this 
beautiful country.

Links

Union Jack is only available through my website these days, but Yenohan’s Legacy is available through me or any good bookshop, or the publishers, Horizon Publishing Group.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Review: Tip of the Tongue by Patrick Ness

Tip of the Tongue is the fifth in a year long series of eBooks released by Puffin in 2013 as a part of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who celebrations. Each story was to feature a different incarnation of the Doctor, written by a different and well-established author of books for children and young adults. And despite catching this one rather late, I have to admit, this and the other stories prove to be one hell of a nostalgia trip for an old Whovian like myself. Consequently, I have decided to feature them all on my blog. 

The Doctor: The Fifth Doctor

The Companion: Nyssa

The Author: Patrick Ness, author of the Chaos Walking Trilogy

My Reivew: Tip of the Tonuge takes us to the United States during World War 2 where the local kids have discovered a new fad. Truth Tellers are a small product that, when placed on one's mouth, will begin to tell a series of harsh home truths about the people surrounding them. Unsurprisingly, a group of rich and spoiled mean girls are using them to their advantage. But the real heros of the story are teenage Johnny and Marisa, a pair of outcasts that help the Doctor and Nyssa to discover the real source of the truth tellers--a race who, much like mean girls, like to create negative energy and feed from it. This one is a short but truly entertaining tale.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Launching Cats, Scarves and Liars by Kathryn White + Giveaway

Today is April 21 and that means one thing ...

It's Easter Monday.

Nah, seriously, today is the official launch day for my latest novel, Cats, Scarves and Liars (you know, that one I've been going on and on about on the blog lately) and it is now available for sale in Kindle format and paperback from Amazon. Anyway, just in case you missed it, here is the cover and blurb:


Meet Peppa Grove.

Peppa is just your average Australian young woman, really. 23 years old, widowed and owner of a cat who can speak perfect English. (But no one will believe her about the cat.) Why is she being stalked by one of the customers from her job at the City South Post Office? What secrets does the mysterious Ivory Black know about Peppa and her past? What does he know about the strange murders that are happening all over Adelaide? And was it really necessary of him to steal her boyfriend's scarf?

Cats, Scarves and Liars is a quirky, offbeat thriller from a unique Australian writer. You'll laugh, you'll cry you'll discover the meaning of life. (Actually, we lied about that last part.)

And because there is nothing I love more than a good giveaway, I've organised this very awesome prize pack to go along with the launch. You can win:


~ An autographed copy of Cats, Scarves and Liars
~ A gorgeous red scarf for the villain in your life to steal. 
~ A matching pair of tights, so that you
dress just like Peppa Grove this coming winter.
(Tights are Ave/Talls, so I cannot guarantee they
will fit everyone. Or appeal to all genders.)




a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Greetings


Wishing you all a happy and safe Easter ~

Kathryn


Friday, 18 April 2014

Review: A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans

A Hopeless Romantic is a truthful tale about love and the myth of finding 'The One.' 

Laura is something of a love junkie. Or, she is a hopeless romantic, as the title suggests. Beyond all reason or common sense, she throws her heart and soul into every relationship, believing whatever man she is with at the time to be her soul mate or 'The One.' This leads to an number of heartbreaking situations, as Laura finds herself in an ill advised relationship that simply does not work. Eventually heartbroken, she swears off love and makes some important life discoveries. 

I read this one as it, and a number of titles by the same author, were loaned to me by a dear friend. I'm grateful of that, as it may not have been something that I would have discovered if I had been left to my own devices. While Laura was a little silly at times, I found her very easy to identify with. It was as pleasing as it was heartbreaking to watch her grow and gain new understandings about the nature of love, relationships and self-respect. Recommended.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

YA Heroines and Heros: Paradigms of Virtue?

A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed Rainbow Rowell's brilliant novel, Fangirl. To recap, the novel tells the story of a young woman who is utterly immersed in the fandom of a series of books. Cath loves the hero of the series, Simon Snow to the point where she owns a massive range of merchandise associated with the series and spends her evenings at home writing massively popular fan fiction about the character. Fangirl left me thinking about the relationship that YA readers often have with their characters. There is no denying that YA is a huge genre. And within that genre what is hot right now is Dystopian, with publishers and authors favouring trilogies or series, for example The Hunger Games or more recently, Divergent. There is also no denying that the novels leave the reader with a fascinating alternative realm to escape to. At the beginning the world is well, quite frankly, shithouse. The heroine has little or no control over her life and choices--in Allie Condie's Matched for example citizens cannot make even the most basic choices such as what they will eat, let alone major choices such as a career or who they will marry. To a reader who is at an age where they have spent most of their lives being controlled by their parents and yet know that major decisions will be thrust upon them very soon, such as careers and possible relationships, it is probably very easy for them to identify with the problems in this world. Some of these novels require a greater suspension of belief than others--for example citizens being segregated on the basis of their personality type--but suspension of such disbelief usually comes easily when one considers what the author is trying to do. Something usually happens early on that makes the heroine question the government or other ruling forces and she's soon off, somewhere between the ages of 15 and 19 and leading a rebellion before eventually overthrowing the corrupt government and marrying the man who stayed by her side the whole time. She lives on and leads a happy, virtuous life in a new society. 

Well, sometimes.

In October 2013 when Veronica Roth released the final novel in the Divergent series a certain segment of the fanbase was not happy. After many months of waiting for this book to be released, they discovered that Beatrice, or Tris, Prior was not getting her happy ending. There might be change in her society, but Tris and hero Tobias or Four would not be getting a white wedding. The reason? Tris Prior was dead. Tris Prior had killed herself to save humanity. And some readers were not happy. Within a day of Allegiant's release, a slew of angry reviews from supposed hardcore fans were coming in through the usual places--chiefly amazon and goodreads. Most, it seemed had either read of the heroine's death, or more alarmingly on goodreads some fans had heard about it from others and had decided to post a review on site with righteous proclamations that they would not be reading Allegiant. What these readers (or self-proclaimed non-readers) were unhappy about, deep down, I suspect, was the fact that the series did not end as they expected it to. It was an uncomfortable end. Tris makes a Christlike sacrifice but does not rise triumphant from the dead. The author created a character that readers loved and watched grow from a silently petulant, idealistic teenager to a mature young woman and then killed her off. It is reality. Sometimes the people you care about die.

And sometimes books don't turn out like you expect them to. Bennett Madison's September Girls (a book that is currently sitting on my to-read pile as of early March 2014,) features a romantic picture of a young couple kissing underwater. The plot, it appears, is a coming of age tale from the perspective of a teenage boy. From what little I have read so far, it appears to be a very honest perspective. The novel itself has attracted a huge debate on goodreads with some reviewers proclaiming that the book deserves no stars or that the narrative was poorly written and sexist. Also September Girls seems to fall victim to the culture of goodreads where an honest review can sometimes mean stating ones opinion in the pettiest way possible. 

I think the problem lies with the fact that September Girls is confronting. Teenage boys, even the best and most noble of ones, are not paradigms of virtue. What Maddison is trying to write about, I feel, is someone who is very human, with humanlike flaws and failings. Sam is not Edward Cullen. He's that kid in your Maths class you barely even noticed. Recently, I also wrote a review on Judy Blume's Forever after being surprised by a number of reviews on goodreads by a number of people who seemed to miss the moral of the story. Forever was a realistic book about two normal teenagers experiencing their first sexual relationship. The ending of their relationship sticks to the themes of realism by the pair simply growing apart and Katharine realising that Michael will be just one of many lovers that she will have in her lifetime. A number of the reviews judged each of the characters for their behaviour, including one passionate reviewer who claimed that they wanted to punch Michael in the face. Once again, I think the problem is that readers are being confronted with characters who are not perfect. Michael was never intended as a role model. He was just a normal kid with human quirks and faults. The reader isn't supposed to fall in love with him. The reader is supposed to watch his journey to adulthood, suffering highs and disappointments along the way. He and Kath are not people that you are meant to want to be, or to date, they are meant to represent real people. And lets be honest here. Some books are written in a way so that readers are supposed to imagine that they are the heroine and the hero is someone that they would like to fall in love with in real life. That's why Twilight gives Bella such a bland description, yet there are literally pages describing Edward--a man who can offer her a father figure, wealth and eternal youth, meaning that she never has to worry about her future. Real relationships do not work like that. And sometimes, writers want to write about things that are real, rather than worlds that are imagined. 

I guess, sometimes, that is hard to swallow. I suppose to some extent we would all like to think that if placed in the right circumstances we could be the virtuous heroine like Tris Prior. We like to think that we may have an equally virtuous true love. But reality and adulthood often work out quite differently. Sometimes, it is nice to sneak a glimpse into an alternate reality where every unfair thing is eventually accounted for and punished. Sometimes people do become heavily emotionally invested in their worlds, which brings me back to Cath from Fangirl. So much of her life becomes based around Simon Snow that she neglects to seek out new people and experiences until they eventually force themselves on her doorstep. She eventually grows up and begins to let other people and things into her life and for the first time, learns to write something other than Simon Snow fanfiction. The Simon Snow books remain a part of her life but she also learns to except the outside world, new friends and that her life will be filled with various disappointments and happy moments. Cath is a very realistic example I think of many of these young, enthusiastic readers who invest so heavily in their favourite series and characters. Lets hope that authors continue to challenge them with different material. And lets hope that they allow themselves to be challenged and to learn something from it. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Writers on Wendnesday: A.L. Butcher

Welcome back to Writers On Wednesday. This week I put my questions to A.L. Butcher, author of the fabulous The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles ...



Tell me a bit about yourself …

Thanks, I am a British author of fantasy/fantasy romance, with two novels, and five anthology pieces to date. I also like to read – fantasy, classics, historical fiction, history, mystery, true crime, all sorts really. I like animals, especially monkeys, the theatre and watching movies.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

The latest is an anthology called Nine Heroes, it is a collection of heroic fantasy stories. My story is Just One Mistake – which follows a bard, and rather reluctant hero in his quest to please a shadowy employer and thwart a slaver. These are all original stories by some of the best new and established fantasy authors around. I am really proud to be part of that collection.

The other authors include Janet and Chris Morris, Walter Rhein, R.A McCandless, Tom Barczak, Teel James Glenn, Shane Porteous, Jesse Duckworth and Douglas R. Brown.

If we are talking about novels I’ll mention Book II of my series. The Shining Citadel follows the characters from Book I and introduces a couple of others. The characters find evidence of a lost elven city, missing for centuries, and move to seek it out. The society in which they live treats elves as slaves and magic is forbidden and so the ruling Order of Witch-Hunters would not be pleased. Dii (Dii’Athella) and Archos are both users of magic, Dii is an elf so to travel around and seek such a place is very dangerous. They are not even sure it is real, but the knowledge it holds may help to free an oppressed people.  Essentially it is the story of a journey, but it is not as simple as a journey of people from one area to another. It is also a journey of souls, of morals, of knowledge and discovery.

As writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?


I think that would have to be when my mother held the first edition of my first novel. She had cancer, and only had a couple of months left at that point but I will never forget the look of pride on her face. She even managed to tell everyone she knew, and I mean everyone.

What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?

Book III of my series, plus several anthology pieces which should appear later this year.

Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?

To read? I usually buy e-books now, mainly because of cost and space but I do sometimes buy paperbacks. There is something wonderful about a book you can hold, a book which has some weight to it. I find history books easier to manage as print books, especially ones with maps or a lot of tables.

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?

Oh gosh, just one? Schindler’s List. Many people will have seen the film, of course, but the book is even better. It is such a moving book, so full of sorrow and hope.

Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?

Hello from the UK! It is a really great feeling to think that people all over the world are reading my books. E-books especially have become truly international.

Awesome Links:


Twitter:@libraryoferana