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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dad and Son Write!

 And here's what I was emailed last night. A father-and-son novel, written across continents. I said I'd give it a plug, as one of them, the son, lives right here Down Under, and they have an online launch tonight, 6.00 p.m Adelaide time. If you have time, why not wander over and find out what they have to say?

 Here's where it's happening, and you can sign in just before 6.00 p.m Adelaide time.

 Aliens, Vampires and Werewolves…Oh, my!

Blood of Invidia” isn’t full of those cute, candy eating “ET” aliens, or your sparkly “Tween Vampires”. It’s time for you to run (and your little dog too)!
This Science Fiction novel begins 10,000 years ago, a majestic race waged war across our galaxy. They were the Invidians and they conquered worlds, driven to build their empire and fulfill their destiny. But they were mortal, so they sought the secret to eternal life. They found it.
And then the Invidians disappeared.
In our near future, powerful and deadly aliens battle in the streets of New York, captured on social media. The question of “Are we alone?” is answered.
Shortly after, three friends find themselves entangled with a mysterious stranger, discovering that humanity isn’t so high on the food chain, and might just be a breadcrumb on the path paved with the “Blood of Invidia”.

Tom Tinney is an award winning “Biker-Nerd” Science Fiction author. He’s published one novel and has contributed to numerous short story and flash fiction anthologies. His short story “Pest Removal” was nominated for a nationally recognized award. He has a number of projects in the works, some available on his website. He resides in WI with his wife and dogs. Ride safe, ride often.

Morgen Batten is a first time author with a penchant for writing descriptive and intense scenes. He is an avid reader, and gamer, with a love for all that is Fantasy and Science Fiction. He resides in Adelaide Australia.
“Blood of Invidia” will be released the third week in October and is available for pre-order on Amazon worldwide:
More information about the project is available at:
A short Book Video can be seen on YouTube:

Monday, October 17, 2016

And Here Are The YA Shortlisted Books For This Year's PM LiteraryAwards!

Hey, if you want the full list, it's available on line, which is where I found these:

* Becoming Kirrali Lewis - Jane Harrison
* Illuminae: The Illuminae Files_01 - Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
* A Single Stone - Meg McKinlay
* In Between Days - Vikki Wakefield
* Green Valentine - Lili Wilkinson

I've read three of the five - A Single Stone, In Between Days and Green Valentine. All three have been reviewed on this site. I have Illuminae at home, but it has been hard to get started. The book is thick and the story broken up into confusing-looking bits. Better read it now! It has had a lot of good write ups. 
To be honest, of those I've read, I'm hoping the winner is Green Valentine. The other two have been on the CBCA shortlist, so have had their turn, but a book like Green Valentine is never chosen by the CBCA judges, alas! Not literary enough, I suspect. I mean, the closest thing in style I can remember making it to the CBCA shortlist was Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon, and that didn't win. Pity. 
Guess what?  I've been on the NSW Premier's Literary Awards shortlist myself, many years ago, for History. It was for my book on astronauts, Starwalkers: Explorers Of The Unknown, which was nice, because it wasn't on the CBCA shortlist or even a Notable, though my former editor from Allen and Unwin, whose opinion I respected, told me she had read and loved it. I remember one of the CBCA judges telling me it was entertaining, well written, the kids would love it, but none of those were among their criteria. I never heard about it again after the letter, which I wish I could find, but still, it was a thrill at the time and I'm betting these authors are feeling the same way. So congratulations to all of you, ladies! 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I've Just Reread... Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks!

Yesterday, while I was with my mother, I ran out of reading brought with me, so went to my old shelves in what was my room and found my old copy of Pagan's Crusade, the first of five novels in the series. Pagan's Vows, the third book, is the last one with Pagan as the hero. By the fourth book, Pagan's Scribe, he's a middle-aged archdeacon and the story is seen from the viewpoint of his young scribe. By the fifth book, Pagan's Daughter, he's dead and it's seen from the viewpoint of a teenage girl who should never have been born, due to celibacy vows, but her parents were both stressed out at the time and, well, just that once... It's the book that begins with the line, "Oh, no! I've killed the chicken!"

Anyway, it has been many years since I've read Pagan's Crusade and I had forgotten how good it was. I reread it in a single sitting. It's written in very modern English, but that seems to work for Pagan, the streetwise young man who finds himself as squire to Lord Roland, a Templar knight and decent man who at the same time needs looking after and teaches Pagan a thing or two. He's also surprisingly clean for a Templar, as the Templar policy was never to wash, and even in this novel it's mentioned with reference to another character. Maybe it's hard for modern readers to sympathise with a grubby character who's happy to be dirty...

Catherine Jinks is a prolific writer who has done a wide variety of books, from science fiction to ghost stories to eighteenth century adventure that reads like Leon Garfield. This, I think, may have been her first - and a fine start to a writing career it was too!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Vale Dario Fo! And Congrats Bob Dylan!

Dario Fo, Wikimedia Commons

Dario Fo, who died yesterday, was a very funny Italian playwright who sent up just about everything. I've seen some of his plays, both by professional and amateur groups(my friend Bart was in Trumpets And Raspberries, for which he had to learn to skateboard). He got a Nobel Prize for Literature back in the 1990s. Vale, Dario! You gave me many a chuckle!

 Bob Dylan has written some of the most amazing and passionate lyrics of the last century. He has just been named this year's Nobel Laureate for Literature. Oh, yes, there are people out there griping about it, just as, no doubt, they whinged when Dario Fo, a man who was funny, for Chrissakes, got one. But Bob Dylan was the voice of the sixties, who said important things through his songs. If he'd just been a musician or a singer, maybe it wouldn't be appropriate. But he's a poet. If he'd been some dry as dust poet nobody had ever heard of, there wouldn't be a peep out of anyone. 

But oh, no, you can't give this award to a poet everyone has actually heard of, whose verses we all sing, someone who is popular, because... Well, it's just vulgar and it's just a sentimental thing that shouldn't be done, how ridiculous!  

There are a lot of amazing writers, some of whose work has become classic, who never won a Nobel Prize, and some whose work has long been out f print and forgotten who did. 

It's nice to know the Nobel committee gets it tight occasionally. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

This Week's Random Read...My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

I picked it up from the display counter before leaving work on Tuesday. I'm halfway through. Goodness, it's nasty! Compelling, like all Justine Larbalestier's work that I've read, but nasty! Like Liar, you don't know whether you should be sympathising with the hero or not. I don't think I really do, though you can understand his predicament. 

Did you ever see the film The Bad Seed? In it, there was a charming little girl who was a psychopath and did some truly dreadful things. She had inherited her evil from a grandmother, I think - a long time since I saw it. It's like that. 

Anyway, Rosa, the little sister of the protagonist Che, is truly evil. He knows that. He tries to stop her, but Che has his own problems. And he can't bring himself to warn anyone except his parents, who aren't helpful. Neither are the various doctors, who are fooled by Rosa's charm. She has no empathy and very little emotion, but she does learn how to pretend to care. So dreadful things are likely to happen to people who haven't been warned... but would they believe Che if he did?

Halfway through and trying to decide whether I can bring myself to finish it. It's not that I insist on a happy ending, but when you can see the horrible ending looming and no way to stop it, you do wonder if there's any point. 

I may put it aside for a while and read something a bit more cheerful before I get back to this. 

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Dragonfly Song: An Interview With Wendy Orr

Many years ago, when I was about twelve, I read a novel by Mary Renault, The King Must Die, about the legendary hero Theseus. It was a favourite, which I've read and reread. So, it seems, has Wendy Orr, who has recently had a novel published which was also about ancient Greece and bull-dancing, but not about Theseus. Instead, it's about a young woman called Aissa, who, after a lot of personal trauma, suddenly finds herself in Crete, as part of a team of bull-dancers, facing the dangerous beasts, as much a part of a sacred ritual as acrobatics.

Today, Wendy has kindly agreed to visit The Great Raven to answer some questions about her terrific new book. Thank you, Wendy!

 Dragonfly Song was very different from Nim. What made you think of going from present-day adventure to ancient Greece?

When I first started writing, I wrote a novel set in the Minoan period of Thera (Santorini) – it was very nearly published and I’m relieved that it wasn’t, because it really had some major problems. However, interest in that era has continued in the background of my mind, and this story started to take firm shape about five years ago. 

We don't know a lot about bull-dancing in Crete, though there are paintings on the walls at Knossos. What kind of research did you have to do to come up with a plausible system for the bull-dancing in your novel? I felt that there were some elements of modern bull-fighting in your descriptions

I studied images of the wall paintings, sculptures and seal rings, as well as archaeologists’ interpretations. And yes, I also forced myself to watch videos of bull fights, as well as the running of the bulls, and the French bull leaping – which is done on much smaller bulls. But much of the research into bulls’ behaviour is simply that my husband and I farmed for 20 years, mostly on dairy farms, so I’ve had that personal experience of (and healthy respect for) bulls. My husband also grew up on a beef farm, so he had a lot of experience with larger numbers of bulls, and he went through all the bull scenes with me.  

There are other novels about this subject, such as Mary Renault's The King Must Die and Poul Anderson's The Dancer From Atlantis(which also had a thirteen year old bull-dancing girl, on the sensible assumption that you'd have to be young and flexible to be able to do that, much like the teen Olympic gymnasts). Did any of these help to inspire you? Or perhaps the modern gymnastics teams? 

I don’t know The Dancer from Atlantis, so I shall have to look for that! Thanks. Mary Renault definitely inspired me: I read The King Must Die at 12 or 13 and am sure that was the start of my fascination in the era. But definitely modern gymnasts and young circus performers also influenced my interpretation, particularly when I watched a friend’s son training in a circus school – it was just extraordinary to see what those young kids were accomplishing. I heard one lecturer say that the gymnastic feats of the bull leapers were clearly impossible – I don’t think she could have ever watched the Cirque du Soleil!  

Mary Renault's bull-dancers train in teams and each team has its own bull, chosen by the team. In Dragonfly Song, they train, but not really in teams and aren't told which bull they will face until the day before. And the bull is sacrificed at the end of the dance. What made you decide to do it this way? 

I didn’t reread The King Must Die until I was polishing this manuscript, which I think was wise. In the end, since there are no written records and a limited number of images of the bull leaping, everyone has to make up their own story. It simply seemed more likely to me that the dancers faced unknown bulls as part of a life and death drama rather than a simple acrobatic display (though on the other hand, personal experience has taught me that a ‘tame’ bull can be even more dangerous than a wild one). There are also images of bull sacrifices in Minoan art, and I find it difficult to imagine that the bull would not have been sacrificed to the gods at the end of the performance. The bull dances were probably a mix of entertainment and religion, and I’m confident that the religion part of it would have demanded sacrifice – and that the appropriate sacrifice would have to be the bull.  

What research did you do about Minoan era religion, which plays an important role in this novel?

Again, it’s a difficult subject to research because there is simply no written evidence whatsoever, and a lot of theories. So I simply read all I could about different early religions as well as taking courses on Minoan and Mycenaean history. The huge change from when I started researching this, nearly 30 years ago, by accessing interlibrary loans from the local community library, is of course the internet. Being able to access scholarly papers and PhD theses from sites such as, as well as join in academic forums, was an incredible bonus. The sheer quantity of these papers allowed me to take a middle ground and choose the theories that I felt were most likely. However, I really didn’t want the book to be about religion, so I simplified it somewhat. I believe that there were many gods and especially goddesses – probably one for every spring or river and mountain as well as the more major ones, but it seems likely that the primary Minoan deity was an earth or mother goddess, so I focused on that. It also seems that she was at least partially supplanted by the Mycenaean male god – most likely Poseidon at that time, though possibly Zeus. (I chose Poseidon). At the time that Dragonfly Song takes place, the Mycenaeans from mainland Greece were probably in control of Crete, but rather than destroying the Minoan culture, they appear to have absorbed many of its elements.  

There is also debate as to whether and how much the Minoans practised human sacrifice. I believe that there’s a bias towards saying that they were sophisticated, peace loving people and therefore that the evidence of human sacrifice and cannibalism is an anomaly. I chose not to explore this in the book, but I did want to suggest that there was a hard edge to the religion, despite the ecstatic dancing! 

 Tell us a bit about Minoan technology. You do slip in some interesting snippets about the plumbing, for example. 

I think everyone is fascinated by the fact that there were flushing toilets and well-functioning sewers three and a half thousand years ago! It was an extremely technologically advanced culture. The architecture is not just grand, it’s sophisticated in the use of folding doors for light and airflow – and possibly for observing sunrise or stars at different times of the year. And the jewellery and figurines, whether of bronze, gold, or precious stone, are exquisite. The carving on the tiny seal stones – similar in size and use to a signet ring – is so intricate that it’s nearly impossible to see with the naked eye. I often wonder if they did in fact have some sort of magnifying lens to carve them. The pottery, whether wheel cast or modelled, is also particularly fine, and wouldn’t look out of place in a gallery or home today. 

Your heroine has an issue with speaking because her adoptive mother told her to stay quiet while hiding from the raiders when she was very young. Is this an issue you've come across in real life?

As a paediatric occupational therapist, I once worked with a young boy who was electively mute for a couple of years. I discussed Aissa’s scenario with a paediatric speech pathologist specialising in child and adolescent mental health, as well as with a child psychologist, and they both felt that her mutism was logical in that extreme trauma. Psychological truth in fiction is very important to me, even if some plot points, like singing the snakes, merge into fantasy. 

Quite a lot of this novel is in verse. Why is that? 

It’s a mystery! I often hear my books in verse before I write them into prose, but this one was quite obstinate about staying in verse. It’s part of the reason that it took me several years to start writing it – I thought the background was too complex for a verse novel. Then I woke up one morning and thought I could write in a combination of verse and prose. I told my editor, expecting her to say that was crazy, but she loved the idea, and so I started. In the first drafts, much more was written in verse, and I then rewrote appropriate sections into prose. The other slightly unusual thing for me was that I had to write all the verse sections by hand, with a Sigur Ros album as soundtrack – normally I write straight onto the computer, and prefer complete silence. I believe that each book dictates its own needs. 

Are you working on anything now?

A novel set 200 years earlier than Dragonfly Song, about a family on Thera at the time of the catastrophic eruption, about 1625 BCE. They become refugees in Crete.

Sounds like it will be wonderful! 

If you have any questions, ask them in the comments section and I'll pass them on to Wendy.
This book is published in Australia by Allen and Unwin and is available online, in ebook and at all good bookshops.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Another Random Read... The Future Of Us!

Yesterday I was shelving at the end of the school day and saw a returned book that looked like fun. I remember buying it for the library, but never got around to reading it. So into my bag it went, and I've read the first few chapters.

The book is The Future Of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. As it's written in alternating viewpoints, of Emma and Josh, I'll assume that the authors are writing the individual viewpoints. I think Rachel Cohn and David Levithan do that.

Anyway, it's an entertaining premise. The year is 1996. The Internet is just beginning. You set it up with a CD ROM and tie up the phone line when you use it. Josh has given Emma his AOL starter CD ROM because his parents don't want the Internet. Setting up her email account, Emma suddenly sees a login to a web page she hasn't heard of. Something called Facebook. Logging in, she discovers it's this weird web site where idiots post about everything from getting petrol for their car and what they had for breakfast to their love lives. Who'd want to do that? she wonders.

Except her future self is doing just that. A future self who's unhappy for various reasons. While her friend Josh is married to the richest, hottest girl in the school...

Good fun so far, and easy reading with short chapters. Hopefully I'll get it finished on time to show my book club on Thursday.

But other things are happening. I'm awaiting a copy of the newest novel by PC Cast, who is doing a blog tour in November. One of my students has agreed to put aside her other reading to do a review or interview. It has been a long time since I've published a student interview on this site, so it will be nice. Taylor is reliable and is familiar with the work of  this author. The logical person to do it!

Stand by!