Feb 28, 2010

Blog Tour: Author Guest Post: Kate Forsyth (Aussie Month Post)

Today we welcome Aussie Author, Kate Forsyth, who will share with us how she got the inspiration for her latest book, The Puzzle Ring.

The inspiration for ‘The Puzzle Ring’

People always ask me where I get my ideas from.

Llike most writers, I find this a difficult question to give an easy answer to. You need lots and lots of ideas to create something as complex and sophisticated as a novel. Some ideas just come like a flash of lightning. Other ideas you have to find with a whole lot of digging, like a miner scrounging in the dirt for opals.

I normally need two or three strong ideas before I know I’ve got a novel on my hands. I start with one, which can come from anywhere – an overheard conversation, something I read about in a book, a stray thought that pops into my head while I’m doing the washing up – and then I think about it for a while. I might put it together with a few other ideas I’ve had and see if they seem to belong together.

The very first idea for this novel came when I was waiting bored in a doctor’s surgery. Unusually for me, I hadn’t brought a book to read and so I flicked through a few gossip magazines, then picked up a jewellery catalogue. It was mainly pictures and not much text, but on the back page it had a very brief history of the puzzle ring, which I found fascinating.

Basically, the article said that the puzzle ring was first invented by an Arabian king who was mad with jealousy over his young and beautiful wife. He challenged a jeweller to make a wedding ring that would show if the ring was ever taken off his wife’s finger. After many attempts, the jeweller invented a ring that would fall apart into separate loops if removed from the finger, and could only be put back together again if you knew the secret of the puzzle. Of course, the wife did take the ring off one day ... and was promptly killed by her furious husband.

I thought at once, in an idle sort of a way, what a great thematic device this would be for a quest story ... a desperate search for a puzzle ring that had fallen apart. When I got home, I wrote it down in my ideas book but that was all I did with the idea for quite a long time, as I was very busy writing my historical adventure novel ‘The Gypsy Crown’. Every now and then, though, I’d wonder ... WHO would be searching for a puzzle ring? WHY?

Then one day I was browsing in a second-hand bookstore and discovered an old book called ‘The Book of Curses’. When I sat down to look through it, the page fell open, of its own volition, at a chapter about the famous Scottish curse ‘The Seaforth Doom’. This is a very chilling and creepy story about a warlock called Kenneth the Enchanter who was burnt to death in the 16th century by a jealous and vengeful woman, Isabella, the Countess of Seaforth. Kenneth had a magical fairy stone, or hag-stone, and the countess had asked him to look through his hag-stone and tell him what her husband was doing. Kenneth had laughed, and then told her "Fear not for your lord, he is safe and sound, well and hearty, merry and happy". Angrily she demanded to know why he had laughed, and when he would not tell her, threatened him with a terrible death. At last he confessed he had seen her husband on his knees before another woman, kissing her hand. The countess was so furious that she ordered Kenneth to be thrust headfirst into a barrel of boiling tar. As he was led out to his execution, the warlock lifted his hag-stone to his eye and cast a terrible curse on the Mackenzies of Seaforth.

This is what he said:

‘I see into the far future, and I read the doom of the race of my oppressor. The long-descended line of Seaforth will, ere many generations have passed, end in extinction and in sorrow.

I see a chief, the last of his house, both deaf and dumb. He will be the father of four fair sons, all of whom he will follow to the tomb. He will live careworn and die mourning, knowing that the honours of his line are to be extinguished forever, and that no future chief of the Mackenzies shall bear rule ... the remnant of his possessions shall be inherited by a white-hooded lassie from the East, and she is to kill her sister.

And as a sign by which it may be known that these things are coming to pass, there shall be four great lairds ... one shall be buck-toothed, another hare-lipped, another half-witted, and the fourth a stammerer.

(They) shall be the allies and neighbours of the last Seaforth; and when he looks around him and sees them, he may know that his sons are doomed to death ... and that his race shall come to an end.’

Kenneth the Enchanter then threw away his magical hag-stone and was cruelly killed.

The curse had been cast against the wife of the third Earl of Seaforth. Apparently she only laughed at Kenneth’s words and micked him. For several generations all seemed well.

Then the ninth Earl of Seaforth, called Francis Humberton Mackenzie, was born in 1794. An attack of scarlet fever when he has twelve left him deaf, but he still married and in time had four sons and two daughters. Among his friends and neighbours were four great lords, one of which was buck-toothed, one had a cleft palate, another stammered and the fourth, unfortunately, was not very bright.

One by one his sons died, and in his grief the Earl turned his face to the wall and would not speak. He died soon afterwards, leaving only his two daughters. The elder, Mary Mackenzie, had married a man called Sir Samuel Hood who lived in the East Indies. Recently widowed, she returned from the East to take possession of the estate wearing her widows’ weeds – a black dress and white cap – and named Lady Hood, an uncanny fulfilment of the prophecy. Some time later, while driving her sister out in her carriage, the ponies took fright and both sisters were thrown out. The younger sister was killed.

So did the Seaforth Doom come at last to pass.

As soon as I read this story, which is very famous indeed in Scotland, I was electrified. What must it have been like, I thought, to be Francis Humberton Mackenzie, living out his life with that shadow hanging over him? Having four sons and hoping the curse could not be true. Imagine what it must have been like to be those two sisters, knowing one must kill the other. I bought the book, and as I walked back to my car, my brain was on fire. I saw the whole story unfolding in my mind’s eye ... a jealous husband, a puzzle ring, a faithful wife tricked into taking the ring off, the curse she casts on the castle as she dies ... and then generations later, a girl who decides she must break the curse and sets out on a perilous quest to find the four lost loops of the puzzle ring...

And that is how I came to write ‘The Puzzle Ring’.


Thanks Kate for sharing that awesome anecdote! Now I really want to read this!

If you'd like to read the other posts for Kate's International Blog Tour, here are the links:

Feb 27, 2010

Featured Author (& Int'l Giveaway): Laurine Croasdale (Aussie Month Post)

Everyone, help me welcome Author Laurine Croasdale,
who is sharing with us a really cool collage of her many work spots!

(click to enlarge)

Ah, so this is what it looks like, huh?
Me likes it!

And while working on her very cool novels, Laurine listens to this:

Really nice, Laurine! Love that song :D

Here are some of Laurine's Favourites:
FAVOURITE COLOUR: All colours, especially bright ones but most of all blue, green, purple and pink. (Same as me!)
FAVOURITE CONFECTIONERY: Toss up between Bounty Bars and Maltesers. Still researching this one.
LIKES: Simple stuff like being near a beach, park or in the bush, hearing birds sing, feeling happy, barbies with family and friends, travelling.
DISLIKES: Bullying, prejudice, arrogance.

Click here to visit Laurine's awesome site, and learn more about her books!


Laurine and her publicist have given me the opportunity to give away both of Laurine's books:

Surf School and Surf Sisters!

Fifteen-year-old Tilly, Fran, Marlee and Pink are surfer girls.

They have been meeting for the first surf of the season every year since they first met at the surf school run by Tilly’s dad, Phil, when they were eight.

Phil has big plans for the surf school this year, but when he is injured in a hit-and-run accident, everything suddenly seems uncertain.

While Phil languishes in hospital and the police track his attacker, Tilly is determined to realise his plans and keep the surf school open. To do this, she needs all the help she can get from her friends.

But Marlee is training for the surfing competition to win a new board and beat the moody Kyle, Pink is warring with her parents and intrigued by the stranger Kim, and Fran is busy making jewellery.

Laurine Croasdale has published three fiction titles for UQP (Trivia Man, Red Golf Balls, What Truly Counts), and a range of non-fiction titles (including two for Macmillan Education).

She was also a writer on Hi 5 for Channel 9. She reviews books regularly on radio, and spent five years reviewing children’s and adults’ titles on Angela Catterns’ breakfast show on ABC radio.

Laurine had the idea for Surf School many years ago but felt that its popularity had not yet reached its peak.

The story weaves together her childhood on the northern beaches with her daughter’s experiences growing up today.


Winter swells are rolling into Diamond Beach. But surfer girls Fran, Pink, Marlee and Tilly are still consumed by all things surfing.

Fran and Pink are collaborating on a surf label, and there’s news of a major surfing contest at treacherous Shipwreck Beach — a chance for Marlee and Tilly to dazzle on the world stage.

But parents and boyfriends are distracting the girls from their big plans.

Pink’s mother Christie is determined to control her spirited daughter; Marlee tells Kyle she has to concentrate on her surfing; and Jamie still can’t see that Tilly is anything more than just a friend.

The absorbing, dramatic sequel to Surf School.

And this giveaway is open internationally!

What you need to do to enter is leave a comment with your e-mail. (please do this, you'll make my life so much easier!)

Extra entries:
+1 if you tweet about this giveaway. You can do this once a day (leave link, please!)
+2 if you post on your sidebar (leave link!)
+2 if you post on any other network, such as Facebook, Ning... (leave link!)
+5 if you tell us which is your favourite beach, in any place in the world.
Or if you've never been to a beach, where would you like to go.
+15 if you blog about this giveaway, and post a picture (could be of yourself along with friends or family, or just a pic of your fav beach) and leave a link.

You have until March 31st!
Spread the word, and remember to come back here and leave the links for me to see!

Feb 25, 2010

Featured Author: Meryl Brown Tobin

Today's Aussie Author is Poet Meryl Brown Tobin.

Tobin is an Australian writer who writes children’s and adults’ fiction and non-fiction, particularly travel, and poetry and makes up puzzles for all ages. Her published work includes 14 books, including a travel book, puzzle books and blackline masters books of educational puzzles, a children’s picture storybook and poetry books.
Hundreds of her poems, puzzles and articles, particularly on travel, scores of short stories, and some cartoons and comic strips have appeared in more than 100 magazines and newspapers in Australia and other countries, including India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore, New Zealand, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and USA. Meryl Brown Tobin's next publication will be a series of three educational puzzle books, Puzzle Fun Yrs 1/2, Puzzle Fun Yrs 3/4 and Puzzle Fun Yrs Yrs 5/6. The series will be published by Five Senses Education Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia in March, 2010.


Poetry Book Review:
Walk in the Forest,
by Meryl Brown Tobin

Reviewed by Chrissie Michaels

A unique collection.

Walk in the Forest is the first solo collection of poems by Meryl Brown Tobin. It brings together poetry that has been anthologised in a diverse range of magazines, broadsheets and journals; some have won awards, others broadcast on radio.

Many poems give voice to the poet’s concerns about world peace and justice. She ensures the reader’s discomfort by questioning morality and the condoning of conflict through silence. Tobin’s message is powerfully evoked through keen irony in ‘Tripping the New Millenium’, where following the ‘Killing, killing, killing’ on a global scale comes the question: ‘How about a trip around Australia?’. Western apathy to the plight of human suffering is evident in ‘East Timor’. ‘Rag Dolls’ is a simple but haunting epiphany of the Kurd slaughters. Tobin always comments with deep compassion about contemporary conflicts, highlighting the permanent scars of war where there are no victors.
Her work equally reflects on the importance of everyday relationships, of achieving personal harmony and a fulfilling existence. Hence sections under ‘People’ and ‘Reflection’ evoke the beauty and gentleness of humanity: ‘I drink riches / from others’ thoughts / pour what I have to share / Open to the world’. Inspiring words from ‘Cup’.

In her concern for the environment, Tobin’s poetry brings to mind the phrase ‘Take only photographs, leave only footprints’. She teases readers with the mysteries of Big Cats and Thylacines (‘Sestina: Striped Mystery’) and impresses on us the need to be responsible caretakers of nature: ‘We return as hordes surge in / a babble in a multitude of tongues / St. Kilda Beach transposed / … / Katatjuta’s sunset approaches/’.

Perhaps her three-lined poem ‘Principle of Life’ best sums up the beauty and thoughtfulness, and ultimately uplifting sentiments of this collection: ‘With love and truth your guides / leading through good and evil / take on the world’.

Chrissie Michaels.


Meryl has been kind enough as to share with us one of her poems!
Its tragedy gives us a lot to think about.

Rag Dolls

Square cap on dark hair

long black pants

tiny girl

in Kurd native dress

lies sprawled on ground

where she has fallen

A townsman

moves her body

An older child

perhaps her brother

is lifted by one arm

placed next to her

Chemical bombs leave

buildings unscathed

Meryl Brown Tobin


Thanks to both Chrissie and Meryl for sharing this great review and poem. Sometimes poetry is a really powerful weapon. Depends on who's carrying it.

Visit Chrissie's Site
Visit Meryl's Site

Feb 23, 2010

Monkey Review (& Int'l Giveaway): That's Why I Wrote This Song, by Susanne Gervay

(Lyrics by Tory Gervay)

Summary (from

Rock bands, concerts, festivals.

Rebel without a cause.
Except there is always a cause.

And the questions:


And it's there throughout the book, the songs, the video.

'That's Why I Wrote This Song' is the journey of four sixteen-seventeen year old girls and their relationships with their fathers - the good, the bad and the PSYCHO - and how that impacts on their relationships with boys, each other and their lives.

Something for Kate concert'That's Why I Wrote This Song' is about dependence-independence, guys, friendship, sexuality, mothers and daughters and the music:

* Rock concerts
* Big Day Out
* Weekend music festivals
* The rock band with the four girls and
* Eddie and their band called NOT PERFECT

NOT PERFECT - Hey, that's life, isn't it?

My Opinion:
When Susanne asked me if I'd be willing to read and review her book, I said yes right away. I had no idea I'd love her book so much.

"Hope you love this book."
I certainly did :)

(Damn rain!!!)

This story's told from Pip's POV, guitar player, singer, songwriter, and daughter of a Psycho Dad.
Gervay does a great job introducing the girls, and I fell in love with all of them straight away.

Pip, Karen, Irina and Angie go to an all-girls school, and together form a band (later called Not Perfect, which is a perfect name for them. Pun not intended.) They all have a solid backstory, and Pip's take on these things makes it completely believable. Plus for Gervay.

Pip comes from a home where her dad's absent (his job often takes him away). When this happens, the sun shines in Pip's home. But it goes away the minute her father walks into the house.
Constant yelling, arguments and fear invade the house, and all everyone wants is for their dad to go back to work. Not her mother, though. She goes into an automat state, making sure everything is spick and span, and perfect for her husband's arrival. Which, of course, puts them all into a cleaning frenzy. Dad gets home, and hell breaks loose. Nothing Pip's mum does is right. There's always something wrong.

Karen comes from an even more broken family. With no real home, her mum has chosen her new boyfriend over her, and her dad his new wife. Karen's dad is the real Psycho Dad, angry and violent toward her all the time.

Irina's from a Russian family who moved to Australia to escape Russia's coldness, in every sense of the word. Her family's Jewish, and living in a country where you can't express your religion openly can be tough. More so if you're six years old, with no clue as to why that other kid just threw a rock at you, and is calling you names that make you cry.

Angie is the only daughter of her parents and lives a happy life. Happy until she discovers a secrer her father's been keeping from her, a secret that shatters her perfect life.

In Gervay's words: Life isn't perfect.

What brings them all together is their love for MUSIC.

After being asked by their Music teacher to perform at the school's Music Concert, Not Perfect is born. The band was always there, but naming it brings the girls closer together.
Music is their escape from the dramas of life. Sometimes the only escape they have.

Gervay does a wonderful job describing every girl's emotions through Pip's eyes.

Why do I love this book? Because I can relate to these girls. I feel them as if they were real. Another plus for Susanne.

A whirlwind of real emotions with real foundations, and great story-telling make this book amazing. If I get to choose between a Coming-Of-Age book and a Paranormal book, I choose the Paranormal, so it's a big deal that I'm saying this.

I'd love to see this turned into a movie!

Monkey Rating: 4 & 1/2 Monkeys :D

Visit Susanne's website.

"Psycho Dad"'s Lyrics and Video Clip
You do NOT want to miss this!

Kudos to Tory for writing such a beautiful and heartfelt song! Listening to it makes me love the book even more!

Verse 1 -

All of the times I cried
I wish you'd just die
Shouting and all the rest
But now I have learned best
What you did was wrong
That's why I wrote this song
So maybe you would see
Just what you have done to me

Chorus -

Cause I don't want you
And I don't need you
You were so bad
You are my psycho dad

Verse 2 -

You call me all the time
You won't give us a dime
I can't believe this is real
The way you made me feel
You have your new wife
And your new life
My eyes are getting sore
So just walk out that door

Chorus -

Cause I don't want you
And I don't need you
Your life is so sad
You are a psycho dad

Cause I don't want you
And I don't need you
Your life is so sad
You are a psycho dad

Middle 8 -

I (I) really (really) don't know how (don't know how)
But I (But I) know I (know I)
Hate you so much now

I (I) really (really) don't know how (don't know how)
But I (But I) know I (know I)
Hate you so much now

Verse 3 -

You made me feel always scared
I knew you never cared
You left me all broken and scarred
And made our life so hard
I've got my family
And I hope you can see
That I don't want you around
I've got my feet on the ground

Chorus -

Cause I don't want you
And I don't need you
You are so mad
You are no one's psycho dad

Cause I don't want you
And I don't need you
You are so mad
You are no one's psycho dad

Outro -

No one's psycho dad
No one's psycho dad
No one's psycho dad
No one's psycho dad

Lyrics by Tory Gervay
Click here to watch the Video Clip for "I Wanna Be Found".


Giveaway Time!

Susanne has agreed to let me host a Giveaway for That's Why I Wrote This Song, and it's open Internationally!

To Enter:
Just leave a comment with your name and e-mail. -> 1 Entry.

Extra Entries:
Tell us how you'd name your band, and why. For this you get 5 Entries!
1 Entry for Tweeting (leave link).
1 Entry for Linking on Sidebar (leave link).

The Giveaway will end on March 14th. That's 3 weeks from today. Spread the word, and good luck!

Feb 20, 2010

Author Interview & Giveaway: George Ivanoff (Aussie Month Post)

For today's Aussie Month Post,
please welcome author of Gamers' Guest: George Ivanoff!

*screaming crowd*
*crazy fans yelling*

Glad to have you here, George!


1. When and how did you start writing?

I think I first began to enjoy writing way back in high school. I was a huge science fiction fan and I began contributing to amateur publications — fanzines and club newsletters (remember, this was back in the dark ages before the Internet). I continued doing this while at university. Eventually I decided I should try to sell some of my writing and began to send out stuff to professional publications. After some minor success, my break came with the publication of a YA short story collection in 1999 called Life, Death and Detention. This is when I decided that writing for teens and kids was what I wanted to do.

I spent many years writing in my spare time while working a ‘day job’. But now, finally, writing is my career. I write a lot of books for the primary school education market, both in Australia and overseas. I like all sorts of writing — long and short, fiction and non-fiction, a variety of different genres… but it’s always science fiction that I find myself returning to.

2. Could you tell me a bit about your novel?

Gamers’ Quest actually began life as a short story called ‘Game Plan’, published in Trust Me! (Ford Street Publishing, 2008), a YA anthology edited by Paul Collins. I was inspired to write the story by a documentary about online gaming, which showed how people all over the world were immersing themselves in fantasy games because they considered their own lives mundane and boring. I wanted to turn this around and ask: If a person lived in a fantastical world full of exotic dangers, what sort of computer games would s/he play?

It was only after fellow author, Meredith Costain, suggested that it would make a good basis for a novel that I stopped to think about it. And once I did stop to think about it, there was no turning back — the characters and the environment seemed well suited to a longer story.

At its heart, Gamers’ Quest is science fiction, although it also has a healthy dose of fantasy elements, including mages and dragons. It is about two teenage thieves, Tark and Zyra, who live within a computer game environment. They are on a quest to reach Designers Paradise, where they will be able to escape the death and danger of their own world. During their quest they make some powerful enemies who then pursue then into Designers Paradise.

There is a definite computer game feel to the book. I wanted to tap into the excitement and non-stop challenges one faces when playing computer games and transpose that into the novel.

3. What inspires your writing? Are there any authors who particularly influence your work?

I find inspiration everywhere — from the people I meet, to the places I visit; from the music I listen to, to the stuff I watch on tv; from the books I read, to the movies I go out to see; from my family and friends, to the strangers I pass in the street. Yes, I’m that weird person who sits on the train eavesdropping on your conversation! Everything is fuel for the imagination.

Every writer that I read influences me in some way. Sometimes it’s simply a case of inspiring me to try harder. Sometimes it’s a case of me thinking, “well, damn, I can do better than that”. Sometimes there are specific writers who have influenced specific stories. I very much admire Terry Dowling’s writing, and I do remember once writing a story and consciously trying to give the piece a Dowling-ish flavour. Whether or not I succeeded is another matter. I’ve got a story coming up in Ticonderoga’s Belong anthology, which was inspired by the writings of Neil Gaiman.

4. What are you working on now? (if you're working on something)

I’m always working on something… usually more than one thing! At the moment I’m working on a series of educational books about nutrition and healthy eating. I’ve also started making notes on a new novel — the working title is Tornado Riders. They are just random notes for the moment. They may or may not result in a completed novel.

a. Do you write with music on or off? Have you ever made a "writing playlist"? (a playlist you listened to while writing certain book) If so, share it!

No music, I’m afraid. I tend to zone out when I write, ignoring everything around me. I share a home office with my wife, and she always has music playing… but when I’m writing, I don’t hear it.

5. Name 3 (they can be more or less) books from last year that you loved/really liked.

My favourite YA books for 2009:

4. The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler by Paul Collins
Funny, inventive and quirky with some great characters.

3. Vulture's Gate by Kirsty Murray
Thoughtful and exciting, edge-of-your-seat science fiction adventure.

2. The Loblolly Boy by James Norcliffe
A magical, modern-day fairy-tale.

And in the Number 1 spot — Worldshaker by Richard Harland.
Actually, this book has shot into my all-time top 10! It’s a great steampunk adventure with Harland’s typical bizarreness.

Other than The Loblolly Boy, which is by a New Zealand author, the others are all Australian.
6. What Aussie YA author(s) do you think people should read more of? (Authors that most of us don't know, since we don't live in AU, and it's hard for us to get ahold of their books).

At the top of my list would be Richard Harland and Carole Wilkinson. Aside from Harland’s Worldshaker, I would highly recommend his Heaven and Earth trilogy. Wilkinson’s books include the Dragonkeeper series.

There are many more Aussie authors writing for kids and teens that I would recommend, including Meredith Costain, Paul Collins, Jen Storer, Kate Forsyth, Isobelle Carmody, Sean McMullen, Michael Prior, Gary Crew… the list goes on and on.

I’d also like to mention a couple of Aussie adult authors who I really like. Terry Dowling, who is best know for his Tom Rynosseros stories, writes beautifully lyrical science fiction and dark fantasy. Narrelle M. Harris has a brilliant vampire novel set in the city of Melbourne called The Opposite of Life.

Follow George on Twitter, Facebook.
Visit his website.
Visit Gamers' Quest's website.

And now for the Giveaway:

George has kindly agreed to give away a copy of Gamers' Quest to one lucky winner!
All you have to do to enter is:
Leave a comment with your email address. No email, no entry.
For extra entries, you get one for each time you link to this giveaway (leave link for me to see).
This is open to EVERYONE!
And it ends on March 15th.

There has to be at least 15 entries for this giveaway to carry out.

Feb 18, 2010

Author Interview: Chrissie Michaels (Aussie Month Post)

(from internationalpubmarket.com):
Chrissie Michaels is a tree-changer who has happily settled into a country lifestyle. Her favourite pastimes are growing enough vegies for family and friends to share, and going for long strolls on the nearby beaches. She spends the rest of her time as a freelance writer, as well as teaching part time at the local secondary school. Born in Lancashire, England, she arrived in Australia aged six and grew up in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Her published work includes short stories, poetry, children’s fiction and educational texts. In Lonnie’s Shadow is her first young adult novel.

1. When and how did you start writing?

I’ve been writing for about fifteen years now. First up I started writing short stories as a hobby. I guess over the years my interest in history has won out. In Lonnie’s Shadow is my second ‘historical’ novel, although it is my first novel for young adults.
My other historical novel is for children based on the French explorer, Lapérouse and his tragic voyage in 1788. This is part of the Australian My Story series by Scholastic Australia called On Board the Boussole, the diary of Julienne Fulbert (written as Christine Edwards). I love the researching aspect of writing historical pieces. I also enjoy writing across of a range of genres and structures – sci fi and history being the main genres – in the forms of short story, poetry, news articles, some teacher texts and two novels on the go at the moment. I also enjoy writing picture storybook texts. Keeps me busy.

2. Could you tell me a bit about your novel?

In Lonnie’s Shadow is due out in May 2010, published by Ford Street Publishing (Australia). It’s been a long novel in the making, written over six years, but it has been a labour of love. The inspiration for this novel first came from several archaelogical digs on a site in Melbourne, Australia, called Little Lon. There followed a wonderful display of artefacts in Museum Victoria. Those items insisted on telling their own stories. Little Lon was known in the 19th century for its vice and criminality, except the digs had uncovered something that hadn’t been known before about this area – that it had a real community of ordinary working families and it had been settled by a range of newly arrived immigrants. The characters and plot grew from there.

Set in 1891, Lonnie, Pearl, Daisy and Carlo are four teenagers who are trying to make a fair go of life, although many things are conspiring to make their life difficult. Who can they rely on? How hard is it to keep a secret? Or a promise? There’s plenty of action as the characters find themselves facing many hot spots – theft and kidnap, gang warfare and murder - and they have to make some pretty serious choices. It’s a pacy book with lots of action.

3. What inspires your writing? Are there any authors who particularly influence your work?

History as you can plainly see is my first love. But I do try to read widely. Because I’ve just been on holiday, I’ve been relaxing with Margaret Atwood (her story about the Mulvaneys), as well as rediscovering Fay Weldon whose satire I find terrifically funny. Last week I read a disturbing biography about a Chinese/Australian woman’s fight for freedom because of her beliefs in Falun Gong. I’m also reading around my interest in family history at the moment as I’ve been mapping our family tree.

4. What are you working on now? (if you're working on something).

One of the novels I am working on at the moment is related to the work I have been doing on the family tree. There are characters appearing who seem to be stepping out very boldly, particularly a twelve-year-old boy who seems pretty mischievous. My working title is Uphill, both sides. I have a feeling it is going to turn into an epic!

a. Do you write with music on or off? Have you ever made a "writing playlist"? (a playlist you listened to while writing certain book) If so, share it!

Right now I’m listening to Melody Gardot. I’m also partial to Eva Cassidy, Diana Krall and Norah Jones. A bit of slow jazz…

5. Name 3 (they can be more or less) books from last year that you loved/really liked.

Three YA books that have lingered in my mind this past year are: Justin D’Ath’s Pool (also by Ford Street Publishing) because it was a great read; The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas because it was a tragic holocaust story that touched me deeply; Shaun Tan’s The Arrivals because he creates such wonderful wordscapes through his visual imagery and I adore picture story books.

6. What Aussie YA author(s) do you think people should read more of? (Authors that most of us don't know, since we don't live in AU, and it's hard for us to get ahold of their books).

Sonya Hartnett stories are dark but so poetic. I like Catherine Jinks whose Pagan crusade stories are pretty good. Here comes the historical aspect yet again! I see she has just published a vampire story based on a ‘vampire therapy group’ and I plan to read it very soon. I always read Tim Winton’s stories but sometimes struggle with the dark motives of his characters. Nevertheless he is a national treasure and therefore a must read. Recently I also enjoyed Richard Flanagan’s Wanting and its mix of characters –the tragic story of an indigenous Australian girl and a storyline that took in Charles Dickens. Gail Jones is another author I enjoy who often mixes her characters in the same way, by intertextualising characters from literature or history. Seems I can’t escape from those historical characters.

The discovered artifacts from an archaeological dig in Melbourne become the backdrop for this story about a group of teenagers in 1891 who are struggling to make their way in a world that seems to be conspiring against them whichever way they turn.
Lonnie McGuinness knows only one thing for sure – there doesn’t seem to be any fairness in life for him or his mates. So he decides to take matters into his own hands. But when does a favour turn into a crime? And when should a secret no longer be kept?

Chrissie Michaels
In Lonnie’s Shadow
Published by Ford Street Publishing
Out May 2010

Pre-Order in Amazon

Feb 16, 2010

Blogger Interview: Steph Bowe (Aussie Month Post)


For today's Aussie Post, we have another awesome Blogger.
I think you might know her, her name is Steph Bowe.
Steph's not only a blogger, but a soon-to-be-published author
(who doesn't already know this?
only those who've been living under a rock for the past few months)
and she only 15, people!

So, without further ado:Steph Bowe.

1. Why did you start your blog?
I wanted to be able to talk about what I was reading and writing, because I don't really have many friends who are big readers. Blogging seemed like the perfect way to express my love of YA literature, and I was really happy to discover such a vast online community of fellow YA readers and writers.

2. What are your favorite books? Your favorite authors?
My favourite Australian authors are Simmone Howell, James Roy, Penni Russon, Amra Pajalic, Randa Abdel-Fattah, Kate Constable, Jaclyn Moriarty, Catherine Jinks, Nick Earls and William Kostakis... way too many to list here. I love books by all these authors (my absolute favourites right now are Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell and After January by Nick Earls).

3. What's it like to be an Aussie Blogger? Do you have to wait much for certain books to get published in AU, for you to buy and read them?
I can't enter in many contests, or get books for review from many American publishers or authors. A lot of books released in America don't come out here, or if they do they come out it might be months or a year later. So I have to order a lot of books online!

But there are good things about being an Australian blogger - Australia has a smaller publishing industry, but a really thriving one - there's such a great community of YA authors, and I get to read and review a lot of Aussie books that aren't published in the US.

4. Tell us something about where you live.
I don't live right in any Australian cities, but I don't live in the outback, either. I live on a dirt road without streetlights and occasionally I see kangaroos or wombats beside the road. I've never seen a koala outside of a zoo. People really do say 'G'day' to each other in the street. I have vegimite on toast for breakfast, but no one wrangles crocodiles that I know of. We never get snow (except on the mountains) and the beaches are great.

All the best,

Thanks Steph for taking the time to answer my questions, I know how busy you are ;)
One of the reasons I love her blog is that she posts great advice for aspiring authors, links to great sites, and she's just honest about what you might find in the publishing industry.

Now, I'm not planning on submitting anything to any agent/publisher right now (apart from the SourceBooks Contest at YALitChat, which is INTERNATIONAL, so anyone can enter), although I'd love to be published one day. I just know that I need to keep working on my WIPs and other projects, before I'm ready to start sending any queries -if I do send any.

But Steph's blog actually makes me want to get my BIC (Butt In Chair), and start writing. There aren't many things that make me want to do that.

Visit Steph's:

Feb 15, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Aussie Month Post)

*This weekly meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books*

This week I'm reading:That's Why I Wrote This Song
by Susanne Gervay
(lyrics by Tori Gervay)

Check back on Feb 23rd for a review and a Giveaway!

Feb 14, 2010

Giant LINGER Contest! Open to International Readers too!

Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver) has just posted the details for the Giant LINGER Contest on her blog:

Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog.

{Of those prizes, TWO of the LINGER ARCs will be eligible for international entries. And ONE of the runner up prizes (t'will be a random selection). Everything else is US/ Canada only.}

Happy Birthday Pretty Book! #7 (Aussie Month Post)

Today is the launch of:
f2m: the boy within
by authors Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy.


*throws confeti at readers*

This is Hazel's 100th book (well, not 100th, but pretty close)
and Ryan's first!
What an accomplishment.
I'm sure Ryan must be jumping up and down with joy ^-^

If you haven't read my interview with these two, go here.

I'm leaving you with this awesome trailer:

f2m is the first YA book to touch such a subject,
one that many people avoid,
so kudos so Hazel and Ryan for writing it!

Feb 13, 2010

Author Interview: Ryan Kennedy & Hazel Edwards (Aussie Month Post)

Today at TCM we welcome authors Ryan Kennedy & Hazel Edwards!
Their book F2M tells the story of a girl's transition to become a boy.
This is Ryan's first book whereas Hazel's written tons of children's and teens' books.
Congrats guys!


Collaborating on F2m:the boy within

Hi Ryan and Hazel! Thanks for being here today!
I’m really happy to have both of you here.

It’s still a couple of months till the release of your book. How are you getting ready to welcome it into the BookStore World?

Hazel: All authors get a bit nervous before the book birth of an idea. And f2m is an unusual idea.

I’m really glad to have Ryan as my co-author since we support each other in different ways. It’s an equal partnership even though we are in different countries and this is Ryan’s first book baby being launched.

Ryan: I’m definitely nervous, though only that it might have errors. I’ve hardly been able to look at the proof copy at all. My wife is reading it and hasn’t found any mistakes in it yet. Also the literary world is new to me, but I’m sure I can handle it!

How did you meet? How did you decide to write a novel together?

Hazel: We’ve known each other as family friends since Ryan was an 11 year old girl. But we met again 18 months ago when Ryan came to Melbourne from New Zealand for an IT conference.

He said, ‘I know what you look like, and I’ll find you, but I’ve changed a bit.’ He was so happy as a male, that I thought it was worth us writing the book together using transitioning as the background to a ‘coming of age’ funny, punk music novel.

We decided to co-write YA fiction, based on the sequence of medical and psychological ftm facts. Transitioning from female to male is more unusual than the reverse.

Ryan: We met years ago through family friends. I knew Hazel as the author of the Hippo books and read as many of her young adult books as our school library had in my teens.

This has been an easy start to writing novels, since it draws from my experience of transitioning gender.

Hazel: If you write about a taboo or controversial subject, the tone must be appropriate and the language was the first challenge. I had to learn a new vocab. Both for punk music and for transitioning. Too easy to unwittingly insult by using inappropriate words. Especially as it is a funny book.

Our novel with the working title of f2m (female to male) is more than sexual anatomy. Ours is the universal theme of ‘coping successfully with being different’, via a ‘coming of age’ story, but with humour and compassion plus punk music. Our character Skye who transitions to Finn is 18, a legally significant age for driver’s licence and hassles about ID etc.

Gender transition is an unusual subject, but luckily Ryan has experienced the medical and psychological process.

Ryan: I’m really glad to be involved in this book at all because mistakes are so easily made by non-trans writers, and it’s so important to get the little things right. It’s taken me several years in the transgender community to notice enough nuances in language to even attempt a book like this. It gives us a voice.

It’s curious that we are even a taboo subject. Transitioning was such a natural and normal thing for me to do. The punk setting is similar in that respect too – it’s also often misunderstood and misrepresented.

How was the writing process for you two? Because I know that Ryan’s from NZ, and Hazel from Australia. Did you meet someplace and write together for some time? How did you manage this?

Hazel: Working together, the pronouns were the first challenge for me. It’s so hard to start saying ‘he’ when you are used to saying ‘she’ or ‘her’. My compromise was to use Ryan’s name more, rather than the pronoun. Now, I have no problem with ‘he’ and ‘his’ and I think of my co-writer as a thoughtful male with keen observation skills from ‘reading’ others in gender roles.

A brief but candid W.I.P. log was my way of keeping track of medical, literary and technical challenges before we forgot the details of genes, dates, sexist terms, fake family history trees , electronic glitches and the embarrassing moments!. Ryan is NZ based so we work electronically, with him e-mailing me a raw, first draft chapter weekly, usually on a Sunday night. Then I would work on this version, before returning it to him later in the week. We used tracking, but also colour coding for bits which needed later fixing. In the last month, we were Skype-editing and exchanging daily on the 70,000 word draft.

f2m is fiction, based on genetic fact.

Although Ryan plotted the original sequence, based on his earlier private online diary kept during treatment, I structured the initial synopsis as part of the book proposal for the publisher. We knew it would be likely to change drastically, before the book was published. - It did.

Ryan: I would write in the evenings and on weekends, then send my first draft chapters to Hazel. It was hard at first to find the time around my full-time job, but I learned how to make the time, writing on the train and typing it up later and writing on the weekends. Then when I got my drafts back with Hazel’s notes and changes, it was like being in school again, except this time I could re-submit! I had to get over my pride and see where I hadn’t done very well and things could be written better. We chatted on Skype about progress and changes a lot. I find that a much better use of time than face-to-face meetings actually. I don’t think being in the same city would really have helped that much anyway. We still would have had to work on one draft at a time and swap files.

Tell us a bit about your novel.

Hazel: Character Skye plays guitar in all female Chronic Cramps punk band but now presenting as a male called Finn. Family find it difficult to accept losing a daughter.Him or her? Getting the pronouns right is hard for friends and family. Then there's photo ID, which toilets or changing rooms and all the legal stuff. And is Great Uncle Al also Alberta? Finn gets online help and counsellor Greer even helps Finn sing ftm lyrics on the TV Current Affairs program.

Ryan: Finn is basically female on the outside, male inside his head. He starts the journey towards his true identity, risking friendships and threatening family relationships. Even his place in his own band isn’t safe: how can an all-female band have a male guitarist? Punk or not, this is a story everyone who has ever questioned gender can relate to.

How Many Drafts?

Hazel: Across a year, possibly 40 drafts. Eighteen months concentrated work.

By tracking only on the constantly updated master, then Skyping the ms for the co-writer to add, we didn’t have so many versions, that updated work was lost. A co-author in another time zone, means you are fresh at different times. Despite this we realised that the birthday cake would be stale before Dad’s 50th party, since extra chapters had intervened since the cooking. Finn suffered fatigue from injections not yet given and we had to monitor who acknowledged Finn’s male name. Getting the medical details & terminology right required lots of checking.

Ryan: I counted at least 65 drafts at my end, not all of them sent ‘across the ditch’ (as they call the Tasman Sea here). Keeping track of continuity was challenging. After some research I realised my experience of the medical system here wasn’t that common, so we switched things around a bit. I use Open Office and Hazel uses MS Word, so the tracked changes would give up after a while and I’d have to reformat the whole thing, just to make sure we had a technically sound draft to work on.

I think it sounds really exciting! I’ve never heard of this concept for a novel before. Kudos to you guys for being the first ones (if I’m not wrong)!

Hazel: Yes, this ftm (female to male) transitioning fiction is a first for a YA novel. There are other novels like ‘Luna’ (great book!) which is about mtf (male to female) transition.

We explored novelisation via e-mail & webcam, how to date label attachments and later how to use Skype keyboarding to record our novel problem-solving. Simultaneously we recorded our typed Q and A on Skype as a legitimate part of our collaborative plotting

I love Skye’s band’s name: The Chronic Cramps! How did you come up with that?

Hazel: Ryan’s choice. He’s a muso.

Ryan: That was the second name I suggested. The first was ‘Unstoppable Freakshow’ as the band was originally going to be more theatre-based than music. I googled it first! There was a real punk band called The Cramps, which I remembered after the final manuscript had been sent to the publisher and had a minor panic about, though the names (and bands) are different enough.

How would you describe Skye, and how Finn? Do they have a lot of similarities or a lot of contrast?

Ryan: Skye is really Finn with a different name and external appearance. The name Skye and female gender are what the world calls Finn at the start of the story. They are the same person, with the same musical tastes. Finn has better ideas about his future that becoming male opens up.

I’d like to think that Finn is a bit bolder and more sure of himself than he was as Skye, as the process of transition is hard and requires you to really draw a line in the sand and say ‘this is my gender and who I am’. It requires some strength of character.

Can’t wait to read this novel! It has one of the most interesting and original plots I’ve ever read.

F2m, the boy within is:
NOT autobiograpical, but co-writer Ryan has experienced the medical sequence of gender reassignment.
ftm means female to male mtf means male to female.
f2m is also our title for creative collaboration via Skype plotting. His first book, Hazel’s 200th.
Compassionate, candid and funny 'coming of age' via punk music and family history genetic clues.

Thanks guys for stopping by! Come back any time!

f2m: the boy within

School-leaver Skye plays guitar in her all-female Chronic Cramps band. Making her name in the competitive punk/indie scene is easier than FTM (female to male) transitioning: from Skye to Finn, from girl to man. Uncovering genetic mysteries about family heritage tear the family apart. Trans gender identity is more than injections and surgery, it’s about acceptance. Going public, Finn sings ftm lyrics on TV. With a little help from bemused mates and family who don’t want to lose a daughter, but who love their teenager, Finn is transitioning.


ISBN: 978-1-876462-90-1

Pub date: February 2010

Price: AUD$19.95

Category: Young Adult Fiction

New Zealand-based Ryan Kennedy lived as
female until his transition to male at twentyseven.
Ryan works in IT and is a passionate
environmentalist and musician.


Melbourne-based Hazel Edwards has written YA novels and adult non-fiction including Difficult Personalities. Family friends, she and Ryan co-wrote online and via Skype webcam. Hazel is a 2010 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award nominee and recipient of the 2009 ASA Medal. www.hazeledwards.com

*This was also Ryan's first interview, so give him some love!

Feb 12, 2010

Author Interview: Goldie Alexander (Aussie Month Post)

Goldie Alexander writes books, short stories and articles for adults and children of all ages. Her other historical fictions include the YA novel Mavis Road Medley set in Melbourne (1933). Her first four Young Adult books were 'Dolly Fiction' novels published under a pseudonym. Her first book under her own name, Mavis Road Medley is a time travel fiction exploring the world of Princess Hill and her parents' struggles to survive the Depression. Since then Goldie has written more than 60 books, and, scripts, short stories, articles and 'how to write' books.

Welcome Goldie to The Clock Monkey!

1. When and how did you start writing?

I began writing professionally some 20 years ago. Before that I had some seriously weird jobs until I finally found myself teaching English and History in a number of high schools. That’s why I still love visiting both primary and high schools when they invite me in to talk about my work, take workshops or teach Creative Writing.

2. Could you tell us a bit about your mystery novel for tweens, Hedgeburners?

"Hedgeburners, an A-Z Mystery" (Illustrated by Marjory Gardner) is loosely based on a series of actual crimes committed in the recent past. This suspense-filled detective book aimed at a ‘tween’ readership poses the question: Who is setting fire to the old cypress hedges in Anna’s suburb?

Anna Simpson insists that her best friend Zach Santisi help her find the culprits. But Zach has other things on his mind and he’s an unwilling participant. Just about everyone these 13 YO detectives come across has a motive, and as time goes on there are more and more fires and more and more serious confrontations…

You can find out more and even see a youtube presentation here.

3. What inspires your writing? Are there any authors who particularly influence your work?

I read very widely (both adult and kids books) so I can’t say any one writer is a greater influence than another. Of course some books appeal to me more than others. When it came to being influenced on the writing of ‘Hedgeburners’, I went back to when I was a kid and those wonderful Famous Five mysteries by Enid Blyton. I wanted to write something that would appeal to Aussie kids living today in settings they’d recognize.

4. What other books have you written that you can tell me a bit about?

I have written over 60 fiction and non fiction books for adults and kids of all ages. So there are too many to mention individually. Those still in print can be found on my website, I write science fiction, mystery, historical fiction, magic realism and contemporary stories.

I am probably best known for the first of the series My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney
, a story about our First Fleet. This is now coming out in its 10th edition next March with a brand new cover.

My latest books include a story picture book for readers 7 to 9’s: Lame Duck Protest; and 10 stories for older girls: My Horrible Cousins and Other Stories . Next year this anthology will have a follow up with 10 stories for boys called: Space Footy and other Stories. Also coming out next March is a novel for young readers about Anzac Cove called Gallipoli Medals.

I have lots of publishers so I can’t send you to any one in particular, just to my website which has lots of notes about all the stuff I write. Some of my non fiction is co-authored with Hazel Edwards and we enjoy writing plays where we act out the lines and having ideas rushing between us. I’m a bit of a magpie who enjoys collecting odd bits of information to use as material, and also have the attention span of a gnat so I like to change projects quite often and take on new challenges. I also write adult short stories (usually gloomy) articles, scripts, radio talks etc etc.

5. Complete this sentence: Outside of writing, my life is... just as busy. Sometimes I try to imagine myself doing nothing, but I think I could go mad with boredom and look for another activity that is equally creative and demanding. I think I would work at becoming an illustrator.

6. What are you working on now?

Two very different ideas.

1. An adult ‘memoir’ cum ‘how to write non-fiction’ I’m calling “Breathe Life Into Your Memoir” I hope it will answer some of the questions posed above in more detail.
2. A YA verse novel “Kai, Kip and Bilby-G” a fantasy love story. I have only just begun this and it’s becoming quite a challenge

7. What are your feelings about the book industry right now?

I have been a published writer for over 20 years( that makes me old, sorry about that). In that time I’ve watched the business go from a kind of cottage industry where editing was ultra important and writers could depend on their publishers for PR. Most writers had only one publisher for all their books.

Some of the most important changes that have occurred is the importance of the marketing department… that may account for the number of celebrities that write (have ghosted for them??) kids’ books. Also, most writers these days who have more than ‘one book in them’ may have several publishers, often small, so the writers have to handle their PR themselves. I suspect the next revolution is the ebook. I wrote one some years ago but it was before Kindle and hard to sell. Those who hate the thought of an ebook should think back to when the printing press was invented and try to imagine the monks - who created those wonderfully illustrated manuscripts horror - their at the thought!!! I think we’re at the tipping end. More to the point, how many of our creations will be hijacked so we get plagiarized and no monetary return? Nevertheless when I went on holiday in November carrying 6 books and then ran out of reading matter, I did think kindly of Kindle.

Goldie Alexander


Thanks Goldie for having been here today!
This Month is going by so fast,
there are a lot of great authors who should be here too,
but we haven't got the time!

Visit Goldie's Website for more information.

**This interview was originally posted at Steph Bowe's Hey! Teenager of The Year. This is a slightly different interview, Goldie revised it before she sent it to me, and is posted now here by her request.**
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Blog design and content by Ella Press, using elements by EMI