Save the date! March 20th

The Stars in the Night launch event is confirmed: Wednesday March 20th 2019 at Readings Carlton, 6.30pm. All welcome!

starsbookshop

Hello Stars!

The Stars in the Night is here. It’s been a long journey with Harry Fletcher and his WWI adventures.

starstravel

http://odysseybooks.com.au/titles/the-stars-in-the-night-new/

Last Word of the Week: Paula Harmon

Paula Harmon writes terrific books so many of you will know of her already (such as Murder Brittanica). I’m very glad to introduce Paula to LWOTW so we all have a chance to get to know a little more about her.

Paula Harmon photo

LWOTW: Welcome, Paula! Tell us, when did you write your first story?

Paula: The first I can remember was when I was about six or so. It was about the Clangers because I was a huge fan and fundamentally wanted to live in a world a lot more exciting than my own.

Film and Television
The Clangers https://www.britishclassiccomedy.co.uk/the-clangers

And the Clangers were always exciting, I agree! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

I have very vivid dreams and they often lead to stories if I can remember them long enough to write them down. I’m also a great day-dreamer and spend a lot of time wondering ‘what if…’ – What if I went somewhere different? What if that person is in disguise? What if I found another world behind that door? Having said that I do plan stories a bit – the longer ones that is.

That sounds like a great combination of writerly imagination and organisation. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

I think getting wonderful feedback from readers and interacting with them at writers’ events. I have read from ‘Kindling’, ‘The Advent Calendar’ and ‘Murder Britannica’ and it’s fantastic when people respond with laughter or sighs or surprise in all the places you want them to. And it was great to be able to publish ‘The Cluttering Discombobulator’ in time to give it to my mother as an 80th birthday present. It is a tribute to my eccentric late father.

What are you most busy with at the moment?

I’m working on a sequel to ‘Murder Britannica’ which I hope to have out in 2019 if possible and on the fifth in the ‘Caster and Fleet’ Series. (By the time you read this, the fourth – ’The Case of the Masquerade Mob’ – will have been out a month.)

If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Write something regularly, even if it’s a couple of sentences or some dialogue – it keeps your writing muscles supple and you never know what it might lead to.

Great advice there! And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

A deep wine red.

Thank you so much Paula for speaking with me this week.

8 covers 2(1)

Paula’s links:

https://paulaharmondownes.wordpress.com/

viewauthor.at/PHAuthorpage

https://www.facebook.com/pg/paulaharmonwrites

https://twitter.com/PaulaHarmon789

https://www.goodreads.com/paula_harmon

‘The Stars in the Night’ is here

You can now buy the story of Harry and Nora from Amazon and all online retailers. Plus it will soon be in some retail bookshops!

starswinter

Last Word of the Week : Louise Walters Books

Louise Walters, the imaginative powerhouse behind Louise Walters Books (open for submissions!),  is today’s guest. Louise Walters Books is a small indie publisher focussing on high quality output in adult and YA fiction in all genres. Louise is a first reader, and also a writer, and now editor and publisher.

LWOTW: Welcome Louise! So, when did you write your first story?

Louise: When I was ten years old. It was about a family of three children who spend the summer holidays with their cousin in her big rambling house in the country. It was full of adventures, and very episodic. I still have it!

052

That sounds like a perfect read for a holiday. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

What do I think of them? All three are important for writing. I day dream about my characters. I imagine conversations with them. I plan, to a degree; more with screenplays, less with novels.

That’s a few interesting conversations you must have. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

I’ve had some amazing experiences since I found my agent for my first novel, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, back in 2012. My debut being published was really something, a dream come true.

Long live such dreams, eh? What are you most busy with at the moment?

I am now a small indie publisher as well as a writer, and working on my authors’ novels keeps me very busy! I’ve been fortunate to find some wonderfully talented writers and I can’t wait to share their work with readers. Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso is the first book published by Louise Walters Books.

FJ paperback

That’s marvellous – more power to you! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Don’t aspire. Write. Rid yourself of romantic notions of “being a writer”. Writers write, that’s all there is to it!

That’s great advice! And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

Green!

You can find Louise at these links:

I see the light!

I think I’ve done it!

After a couple of days of fiddling and frowning, I *think* that my newletter sign up function is working…Apologies if you tried and had no success previously. (Please feel very welcome to try again!)

Now I’ll rock on with preparing my very first newsletter for January 31st!

Sign up now! Newsletter coming soon…

I have entered a dangerous territory … pop-ups! If you are able to see the pop-up subscribe box on my website, I hope you will consider joining my new project.

At the end of each month, I’ll be sending out a newsletter email with news about books, my latest book reviews, and a little extra now and then.

There will also be FREE flash fiction from me and from guest authors.

I think you’re going to love it. See you soon 🙂

Newsletter coming soon!

Fabulous news! In 2019, I’ll be starting my very own newsletter – a monthly digest of interviews, book reviews, event notices and flash fiction. Stay tuned for more information!

desk-terminplanung-control-newsletter-163066.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ll be looking for contributors too. If you have some short-short fiction that would like an airing, keep an eye open for my submission process.

storm flash
Photo by Martinus on Pexels.com

This is SO exciting! I can’t wait to get started.

Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2019.

Seven carry-on travel must-haves

Packing for long-haul flights has become quite a regular task for me. That’s what happens when you live in Australia and love so many things in the northern hemisphere! Real winter! Fjords! Paris! The British Museum! The Acropolis! … I won’t go on.

Here I’d like to share my list of 10 must-haves for long journeys, with links to my particular favourites. Plane, train, ship – these accessories will make the travel easier!

  1. Books. I really cannot go anywhere without a book. Without a few books. For me, some will be on devices, others will be in hard copy. It’s hard to go past Odyssey Books for something with adventure, intelligence and style!

    Puzzle/colouring in book. Ditto – I get twitchy if I’m out of range of my pencils and pens. I’m not addicted to sudoku or anything in particular, but I love a good crossword and an interesting picture to colour in.

     

    Writing implements. Pens, pencils, little book, laptop, USB. I must write, pretty much everyday.

  2. Hand lotion. Have you ever noticed how much thinking happens when you rub perfumed cream into your skin? It’s very restful and allows your imagination to dance.

    Noise-cancelling headphones. Expensive, I know, but these are wonderful. They completely cut out the horrid white noise of the plane and allow you to focus on the movie or music of your choice. Travel is very different since I found these!

  3. Flat shoes. I usually take an extra pair of shoes in my hand luggage. Then, depending on which way I’m travelling (keeping in mind that when I’m swapping between hemispheres, I’m also swapping seasons). So I might get on wearing boots and change into flats for the trip, or wear flats for the trip and change into boots on arrival.
  4. Scarf/shawl. See #6. I’m often changing seasons in one flight, and then of course there’s the complete mystery of air-conditioning. Too hot, too cold? Your scarf/shawl will do the trick.

My 10 best reads of 2018, just in time for the holidays

You will have noticed that this is not your regular ‘Last Word of the Week’ fix. As December draws to a close and everyone gets busy with end-of-year tasks and (for the lucky ones) holiday preparations, we’re putting LWOTW away for this year. In its place, I thought I’d give you a quick overview of my ten top reads of 2018. My aim was to read 60 books this year, but I am currently at 75 and hope to get a couple more in before 2019. Books are addictive, yes?

Not all of these books were published this year, but with TBR lists growing faster than I can read, it’s not always easy to keep up.

1. Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel

mandelMy best read of the year. First published in 2014, this book was recommended to me by word of mouth from a trusted friend. I found it to be: Wonderful. Uplifting. Thoughtful. Perceptive. Clever. Kind. Worrying. Sad.

It’s a perfectly comprehensible tale of the advent of the apocalyptic virus and the world inherited by the survivors. There is a large cast of characters, and at times it seems they have no connection, but their lives do intersect – as all of ours do, in truth. The hope and desolation of this novel will stay with me for a long time.

I’m so glad I read it.

 

2. Record of a Spaceborn Few, Becky Chambers

chambersThis is an amazing book, and I loved every minute of it. It’s my first Becky Chambers and now I have to read more. It’s rare and wonderful when fantastic books — and I mean fantastic in the sense of books that aspire to a different realism — speak to the reader in her own life. This book does.
Here are my three top quotes:
“Yet it was a quiet grief, an everyday grief, a heaviness and a lightness all at once.”
“That’s how we’ll survive, even if not all of us do.”
“Our species doesn’t operate by reality. It operates by stories.”
Yes!
I loved the cast of diverse characters and the plot threads that connected them all. I loved the worlds and the perspectives, and the clarity of this story. I was a little impatient with teenager Kip, but hey, that’s what teenagers are for! The alien viewpoints were also fascinating.
One of the best reads of 2018, for sure.

3. La Belle Sauvage, Philip Pullman

pullman

 

I am glad that I waited a bit to read this wonderful book, because now (I hope) I will manage the wait for the next of the trilogy. I confess guiltily that it’s my first Philip Pullman (he’s been on my TBR list for a long time) and I’m hooked. I could tell by the first page that this was exquisite, assured writing backed by a huge, compassionate, intelligent imagination.

The characterisation is masterly and Pullman doesn’t offer any short cuts or quick fixes to the dire circumstances of living in the time of a totalitarian government. I am in love with the daemons too. More please! Oxford forever.

 

4. From the Wreck, Jane Rawson

rawsonI really loved this extraordinary book. The dovetailing of historical family story plus alien lifeform may not be for everyone, but it really is worth trying. Some of the sentences will stay with you for a long time, even if you’re not entranced by the combination of alien and history. Personally, I LOVED it.

I don’t do spoilers if I can help it, so I won’t go into detail. I just want to say that this book makes the reader ask all the important questions. As in, what is life all about? What is our place in the universe? Are we the cosmic specks we sometimes feel? What about love and care for others? How do we take care of ourselves and our loved ones in the face of the vast majesty of life?

 

5. Winter, Ali Smith

smithali

I fell in love with this book, after being a little puzzled at the start. Don’t get too caught up in the whys and wherefores in the beginning. A floating head? Why not? All will become clear.  I soon got into the swing of things and enjoyed every nuance. Essential reading for the Christmas holidays – thoughtful and compassionate, interesting and tender.

 

6. Den of Wolves, Juliet Marillier

marillier

I very much enjoyed this third book in the Blackthorn and Grim trilogy – all of which I have now read. However it is so neatly written that it would stand alone. Very good consistency of characterisation, and the ending wasn’t squibbed. Loved it!

I pick up every Marillier book I see and have had some glorious times reading her wonderful, rich, insightful prose. This is the type of fantasy that resonates across the ages.

 

 

 

7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

gaiman

I absolutely loved this book from the very first line. Neil Gaiman’s writing is exquisite. Everything he writes about magical events seems so right that it sinks in. Of course the world is as he says it is.
You will love the Hempstocks and you will also be able to use ‘Ursula Monckton’ as an epithet for any annoying person you know!

8. The Orchard Underground, Mat Larkin

First up: I knew this guy in a former life, so I had some trepidation reading Mat Larkin’s debut middle grade novel. What if I didn’t like it? What could I say? I planned some soothing platitudes in advance, crossed my fingers and eyes, and started to read…
Well, all my planning was a waste of time. The Underground Orchard is seriously good. It’s smart, funny, accessible, well-structured and a wonderful read. I’m SO sorry that I didn’t get to read books like this when I was in middle school. Sure, I made a heroine out of Mary Grant Bruce’s Norah of Billabong (who could ride horses, muster cattle, AND cook!), but where was Attica Stone, with her confidence, succinct way with wirds, love of strong black coffee, and refusal to give up?larkin
You’ll love Pri Kohli and his quirky way of talking, and his world-view completely immersed in the town of Dunn’s Orchard. You will meet the amazing Attica Stone, and the wonderful Slotcar character (who reminds me a bit of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter series). Pri’s parents – it’s nice to have a middle-grade protagonist with parents, just for a change 🙂 – are doing their best to stay cool while he navigates the craziness of the Razz Wood and does his best to save his town – or the wood – or the orchard – or his friends – or … but no spoilers here.
Read it. Read it to yourself, read it aloud to others. Nobody needs a backup plan with this excellent offering. I have my fingers crossed that Mat has more adventures planned for Pri, Attica and co.

 

9. The Cruel Prince, Holly Black

26032825CPThis novel has given me much to think about. I am so enthusiastic at the brilliant writing and the neat characterisation, but the plot is pretty dark. It’s my first Holly Black, and perhaps I need to read one or two more to delve a bit deeper. I wrote a blog about it, which you can read here — warning, *spoilers*.

That said, I’ve rated this book 5 stars on Goodreads, because I couldn’t put it down. It’s like George RR Martin, Juliet Marillier, and Paula Hawkins got together to write a completely captivating dark thriller set in Faerie.

By the way, I adore the cover.

I think if you love GOT, you will love this. So that’s most people!

10. Dyschronia, Jennifer Mills

I devoured this fascinating book, and I’m still thinking about it. That’s a sign that it has some important things to say, I think. There are also many phrases that I noted as worth re-reading, and adding to my list of cool things written by excellent authors.
The story in this novel is like a cracked mirror – there are shards of time and we don’t always exactly know where or rather when we are – but every piece shines with reflections of reality that we almost recognise, but of course everything looks different now that reality has been broken apart and reassembled.

mills
This novel charts the dystopian future of a careless Australia, where the environmental damage is so gross that there is no future to be had. The wondrous, worrying dreams of local girl Samandra (Sam) are dismissed as, Cassandra-like, she debates how much to tell the people around her, people who prefer not to believe. Her mother Ivy in particular is determined to be head-in-the-sand, spending years trying to have Sam’s migraines diagnosed correctly. The resulting pronouncement of ‘dyschronia’ never quite settles the question, for Ivy, of whether Sam is truly foreseeing the future or just dreaming vividly and strangely. The entrepreneur Ed (who is meant to be charming, but I have pre-raised hackles about this kind of guy) is a credible saviour-cum-villain, or is it villain-cum-saviour, of the town. Sam’s best friend Jill is probably the most likeable of all the characters. I loved the device of the ‘chorus’ of locals whose comments intersperse Sam’s dreams and Sam’s story.
Equally prescient of a dire future and nostalgic of the simple ignorance of the past, this elegant story of loss and the inevitability of bad choices deserves an enduring place among the best Australian books of recent years.

 

So that’s it for another year! I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings in terms of new, re-discovered, and old books. Then of course there’s my TBR pile waiting patiently.

Safe and happy times to you all!