Tag Archives: aww2015

An Ode to Vaguebooking: Arguments That Never Happen in the Spec Fic World

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An Ode to Vaguebooking: Arguments That Never Happen in the Spec Fic World

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Dear Fellow Writers,

Recently there was a vague Facebook status on a popular page (a vaguebook if you will), that indicated that writers are not allowed to write about the same topics as each other, especially not if they are friends. The status publicly shamed people who wrote about the same topic as the poster and anyone who dared to say that it isn’t cool to try to publicly humiliate those who write about the same topic as you merely for writing in the same field were called bullies. Ironic. So let’s see how this would play out if it is in fact appropriate to bags topics and deny your friends and others the right to write about the same issues as you… as we all know about six degrees of separation we can’t just leave it to divide topics amongst those nearest and dearest because they’ll somehow be connected to the big players. So let’s see what this would look like on a large scale. Let’s look at the celebrated writers.

I personally would need to throw out a bunch of work because I recently read a wonderful book by internationally acclaimed Kate Forsyth where she recasts an old tale (The Beast’s Garden) so that means I would have to scrap the “Asylum” series that even Garth Nix himself felt had merit (oh yes, that’s a shameless brag, shameless and proud – I did a course with him and he read my first chapter). I really quite liked it… shit, better throw out Snake Song whilst I’m at it. An established writer has already done this kind of thing so I’d just be a “random” or a pretender and never as good, that’s what the vaguebook post stated. I apparently would totally deserve a public dismissal if I ever tried… But then again, Margo Lanagan writes retellings of old folk lore, Tender Morsels, READ IT, it is brilliant. And I’ve heard that Kate Forsyth and Margo Lanagan are friends so I guess Dr Forsyth would have to pull all those books from shelves… but oh wait, Juliet Marillier wrote Daughter of the Forest, one of the best spec fic books of all time in my humble opinion. Does this mean Lanagan and Forsyth would both have to pull work from publication? My brain is about to seep out of my ears now that I think of Sophie Masson. They all breathe fresh life into old tales. And I’m pretty sure they’re all friends. (This assumption is based on hearing them speak at festivals and avidly following them on social media.) I’m pretty sure they all recommend each others books too. Oh my brain.

It’s pretty clear in the Spec Fic world that nobody owns a topic or sub genre or issue or whatever. There is enough unique voice in each and every one of us that we can write about the same things without it being a threat to anyone else because we will all do it our own way.

Thank you Australian Speculative Fiction Women Writers for showing the true spirit of writing comradeship. You are an inspiration to me daily and you do the whole writing community  proud. I’m thankful for your generous spirit towards up and coming, and established authors alike. May we all be more like you and raise more people like you too.

My heart is bursting with Speculative Fiction pride at the moment but…

I’d like to note this same kind of comradary is seen in other genres. To give just one example, both Lisa Heidke and Anita Heiss write fabulous “Chick Lit” novels and are best friends. At least from my cyber stalking they seem to be. And both encourage upcoming writers beautifully.

In the blogasphere there is Kerri Sackville  (also an author) and Lana   Hirschowitz that come readily to mind. They are constantly referencing each other on their pages and even sharing some of the same stuff. They are always encouraging of people commenting and participating. So this encouragement in writers isn’t just in the novel world. It is on Facebook, on Twitter and on Blogs.

Writers by and large are awesome and generous. Don’t let anyone vaguebook you into thinking otherwise.

If you are unfamiliar with any of these women please search them out and follow their pages/blogs/tweets/books. Support those who support others.

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@pamelahartbooks is the Solution to All Your Princess Problems #AWW2015

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I know many of my friends with little girls have long been lamenting the stereotypical nature of the Disney Princess byproducts. Books about pretty gems, activities about missing your long hair, long dresses that are unsuitable for play and a fire hazard. My own daughter has even coped flack at preschool for not wearing enough branded Princess paraphernalia from two other little girls.

I have to admit my daughter loves her Disney Princesses and I love watching the movies with her. They’re fun, they’re bright, they’re colourful and they’ve got catchy tunes. What’s not to like? Well some of the messages for our little ones are questionable, particularly in the spin off products. They focus on vanity and materialism in a far greater way than the movies do. So what is a parent to do that doesn’t want their kids inundated with that kind of message at such an impressionable age?

In steps Australian writing superhero Pamela Freeman with her Princess Betony books. These books are gorgeous. They’re the perfect size for tiny hands, have beautiful covers and even have a satin ribbon sewn in for a bookmark. They have all the elements any Disney Princess fan could possibly want but they’re so much more. These books takes the princess mythos and subvert it. Yes, there is a princess, yes there are beautiful dresses, yes there is a castle BUT then when the day needs to be saved Princess Betony puts on her adventure clothes and gets down to business. She’s tough, she’s smart and she knows that there is more to life than finery and materialism. My daughter is four and loves Princess Betony. Her five year old cousin similarly loves her as does her twelve year old cousin.

So for those of you having a Disney induced meltdown and contemplating a wholesale Princess ban, I’d like suggest trying the Princess Betony books by Pamela Freeman first. It’ll give some balance to those movies that we all love.

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There’s Something About @KateForsyth

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Happy birthday Kate. Geminies are lovely. My three year old is one. I’m not biased at all… Those are my baby boys in the pic.

Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Well it would seem that birthday girl, Dr of Fairy Tales Kate Forsyth, has made it her mission to make the world a more intelligent place one book at a time. She came to Fairy Tale notoriety when she published Bitter Greens in 2012 and has gone on to release The Wild Girl, about Dortchen Wild one of the sources that the Grimm brothers used, and most recently The Beast’s Garden. Now of course before she released these three tombs Kate Forsyth was a well established author with 20+ titles under her belt. Not only is she a writing juggernaut, but is also one of Australia’s most recognized and most well liked authors who regularly teaches fledgling writers. Even little old me. So I thought for today, seeing how it is fabulous Dr Forsyth’s birthday, we should show her some love back, lord knows she needs it, she must be exhausted from all the writing and teaching she does. So I’m going to share some of my favourite Kate Forsyth quotes that I have memefied (is that a word?). I would love to see yours too.

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That’s me reading on my honeymoon.

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Structural Workshop with the Divine Dr @KathrynHeyman – #SydneyWritersFestival

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If loving Kathryn Heyman is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. There, I said it. Everyone else in the Structural Intensive workshop hosted by the Sydney Writers’ Festival was thinking it, I just said it. You would be hard pressed to find a more dynamic presenter, and the best bit was, that Dr Heyman had substance to back it up. I’ll be perfectly honest, I am not going to detail everything that she covered, partly because I wouldn’t do it justice, and partly because if you want to truly learn from Kathryn Heyman then you need to go and do a workshop/course/mentorship with her yourself. What you get out of a course is a deeply personal thing because we are all on different paths in this writing journey. BUT this would be the world’s shortest blog if I gave nothing away for free so here goes…

One of the first sound bites that really moved me was when Kathryn Heyman said, “Your fear drives why you write.” Now I’ve heard, “if it scares you do it,” “go where the fear is,” and all those other common things before but on that cold, wet, Friday, where I had arrived drenched, late, with a slightly broken umbrella and the memory of my kids crying ringing through my brain, this phrasing, and this women really hit home. For me, I’d got my money’s worth all in that one hit. Because, I’ll let you in on a little secret, come closer, even closer, shhhh, closer, I’m going to whisper this so listen carefully, every single novel I have written deals with exactly the same issue, no matter what the genre or target audience. My chick lit novel coming out in July has a main character who has an intelligent, and quirky main character who happens to have incredibly low self-esteem so can make some pretty dumb choices. My children’s novel coming out next year has a very confident main character but the backstory that never gets explicitly covered is that the mother is deeply scarred and traumatized individual trying to be that super mum who gets everything right. Memoir From the Madhouse (I’ve never shared an excerpt from that so will pop it at the end of this) looks at why we are who we are, how our past demons drive us. I could go on but in a nutshell, I write women’s fiction, no matter the genre, no matter the age range, and the story is always – What happened to the little girl that nobody loved. Fuck, I hope she turned out okay. Until Kathryn Heyman said, “Your fear drives what you write,” I did not realise that I had written the exact same story over and over again as I grappled with my fear. It’s kind of liberating to know that I am on a cathartic journey. It’s even more liberating to know that I love that story and I will tell it over and over again, in as many ways as I like until I am ready to put that issue to bed. Because that story needs to be told. That story needs to be told not just for me but for all those little girls. I’ll keep speaking out. I’ll keep publishing for you. I hope you will join me.

Now I think you can understand what I meant by saying that this writing gig is a deeply personal journey and you have to go sit at Dr Heyman’s feet yourself to get what you need. However, I won’t be a total spoil sport, there were plenty of general things that were good for everyone. Mainly, it really helps to have a concrete, physical manifestation of conceptual matter. So if there is an obstacle, how about getting another character to embody that. If you have some sort of transformation make sure there is some sort of event or location that can act as a metaphor rather than having it all inside the character’s head. If the character has an internal desire, give it a physical manifestation, as in what action or situation would demonstrate that the desire had been met or totally failed. I’m leaving it there because as I keep saying, you have to go learn from Kathryn Heyman yourself in order to get the real benefit.

 

As promised, and true to my blog’s about section, unedited, unkempt, and untamed, here is an excerpt from Memoir from the Madhouse.

 

I am running, running faster than I’ve ever run before. The cold from the dew damp ground runs up my bare legs and covers my naked body with goose pimples. But still I run on. The warmth is fleeting, the wind is chasing me, and they are hunting me. I run naked in the cold dark night and all the while I think – I’m not crazy, I’m not crazy.

Out of my periphery I see a nurse approaching me. I let out a delirious laugh and keep on running.

‘Run, run, run as fast as you can…’

The wind whips away my words and I still run on. The ground starts to gently slope downwards and in the darkness I lose my bearings. I trip. I roll. Arms and legs flail at impossible angles. The world slows down as sky and earth blur into one. I smile and think about what has brought me here, starkers, in the dead of night, chasing demons, in the psychiatric hospital’s grounds.

 

6 Hours Earlier

I sit in Consultation Room 2 staring at my psychiatrist. I have no idea what he is saying. His voice is so soft that I can only make out every second sentence if I’m lucky. Regardless I nod like I understand. I don’t want him to think I’m rude or worse, stupid. My constantly interrupting to say, ‘Eh?’ or, ‘What?’ only results in him repeating his mumbles anyway. So instead I just nod along like I agree.

‘Are you anxious about going home tomorrow?’ Finally a sentence I can hear.

‘No,’ I lie.

Of course I’m anxious. I’ve got newborn twins and a two year old. They’re hard work. I have to somehow keep on functioning, no, mumctioning, despite the fact that the twins won’t sleep, which means I can’t sleep either. All work and no sleep makes Robin a dull girl. Perhaps they could be trained to settle one another. One cries and the other rubs their back, then they roll over and swap jobs. That’d be pretty sweet but although I’m in the nuthouse even I know that won’t happen.

‘Really?’ my psychiatrist raises an eyebrow. ‘Last time you were supposed to go home you had such an anxiety attack that we had to transfer you to a medical hospital.’

I shrug. More words are spoken that I nod thoughtfully along too. God only knows what I’ve agreed to in these sessions.

‘Do you like cap guns and pillows?’ Nods in agreement.

‘Do you still wet the bed?’ Nods thoughtfully.

‘Do you have a Christ complex?’ Nods politely.

‘Do you like the smell of your own farts?’ Nods vigorously.

He probably thinks I’m the biggest psycho to ever have graced this Crackpot’s with Babies Unit. No doubt I’ve inadvertently agreed to having a fetish for gingerbread men, partaking in cock fighting as a chicken, and having to burp three times every time I hear the word purple lest the world ends. Not surprising that Doctor Huang is so shocked by my casual attitude.

Truth be told I’m just quietly packing shit. My husband and I have arranged for a babysitter to come for a few hours a day during baby rush hour. 4 – 7 sucks with the under threes. They’re cranky, they need baths, they need dinner and they need to go to bed. Times that by three and I seriously struggle. The babysitter coming at these times doesn’t help me rest. Just helps me make sure none of my kids are neglected. I want to rest. We can’t afford rest. Fucking money.

‘A lot can change in a week.’

Book Review: The Wish List by MELANIE LA’BROOY through @PenguinBooksAus #AWW2015

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thewishlist_ausnzThe Wish List by Melanie La’Broody is stereotypical Chick Lit, as is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so there is certainly no shame in that. Who doesn’t want a slice of Mr Darcy? It has fresh modern writing and a modern setting which gives it a lovely sense of newness without having to bend over backwards with shock tactics in order to entertain a reader. It is good, simple fun, with a bit of sexy sexing, which we’ve all come to expect from our modern Chick Lit. Lizzie and Dracy may have set readers’ pulses raising with prolonged glances and so much slow blinking but todays reader needs a little more. So for an entertaining read set it Melbourne with some fun and romance you can’t really go past The Wish List. Enjoy. I did. I adore the nods to fairytale romance and classic love stories.

Recommended for anyone after a light, funny read. Get your tissues ready because you will laugh that hard.

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Book Review: Gucci Mamas by CATE KENDALL ( @lisajblundell & @shellwrites ) #AWW2015

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9781863255653This is escapist Chick Lit. If you’re after the meaning of life please go see the works of Douglas Adams or Monty Python. If you’d like to have a guilty giggle over posh Melbourne socialites then read Gucci Mamas. I have to say I love the name, and all the names of the Cate Kendall books. It really let’s you know that you’re in for a book of high class, high fashion and high drama. And yes, the book does deliver. There are laughs, there is mayhem, there are tragic issues which some of us can’t relate to but do get to live vicariously through for a bit. An absolute, switch your brain off and just be entertained delight. Loved it.

Warning there are some genuine issues faced in this novel some of which you may find upsetting if you have ever had an unsuccessful pregnancy. And despite the fact these characters do seem vapid on the surface you do grow genuinely attached to them, so you will feel for their circumstance. But generally it is a light and entertaining read. Perfect for those ladies who don’t have time to lunch but wish we did. aww-badge-2015

 

Book Review: The Soldier’s Wife by @pamelahartbooks #AWW2015

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24945463Full disclosure: I was sucked in by the cover. I wanted to buy it because I loved the hair of the model on the cover and wanted to show it to my hair dresser. It was still a cracking good read! So I got my money’s worth two fold.

As everybody knows I don’t do spoiler reviews, kind of takes away from people reading the novels if I give them away already, but I do have to give away some information in order to comment on it. Nothing major, so don’t fear, but otherwise all I can say is, “It was a nice book with words in it… Dear God, I’ve said to much, wahhhh!”

The Soldier’s Wife is a historical fiction novel written by Pamela Hart set in 1915. What I loved about this book was that it did the whole, prissy city bitch moves to the country and has to adjust, in reverse. So we saw this poor woman, moving to the city, trying to adjust, her husband is away serving in the army and she has to really pull things together and do it tough. She like many women in this time has to find work, manage finances, arrange her living conditions, in a society that makes these simple rights that we see, very difficult. AS DOES THE HUSBAND. Don’t get me wrong, as does the husband. You think that’s sad? Oh no, you are going to cry so much more that that implies. Because the husband comes back. He comes back after being emotionally and physically destroyed by the ravages of war. This is where the real tragedy starts. So pack your Kleenex because this historical fiction is going to get you right in the feels.

I’d recommend this to anyone who loves military history and or women’s history… or anyone who likes reading. aww-badge-2015