Dec 31, 2011

Four keys to New Year’s Resolution success

 

This was an article I submitted to a local newspaper last year, but had no luck with.  I’ve seen a lot of tweets and posts from guru’s and self help specialists floating around today.  Me, I favour and evidence based approach, here’s what my “research” turned up.

Four keys to New Year’s Resolution success

How many times have you sworn to yourself that this year you’d do it - lose five kilos, get a better job, find yourself the perfect partner, write that best seller - only to find yourself at the end of another year, making the same unfulfilled resolutions, along with taking on a couple of extra kilos?

books (1)Well the good news is, you are not alone. Quite a few of us fail to keep our resolutions. In 2008 Professor Richard Wiseman of Quirkology fame tracked 700 people as they attempted to keep their New Year’s resolutions. Nearly 90% of those participating in the trial failed to keep their resolutions. This result was similar to an earlier study he conducted of 5000 people, making life changing resolutions. Despite at least 50% of that group being confident in their ability only 12 % were successful in meeting their goals.

These studies mirror findings in a survey by Miller and Marlatt in 1998 in which almost 75% of people surveyed failed to achieve their resolutions on the first attempt.

Every guru and his dog

images (10)So now we know we’re in good company. Is there anything we can do? Every guru and his dog has a suggestion. Visualise yourself getting thinner, or packing on muscle. Think positive thoughts, spend five minutes a day visualising a pay rise. The trouble with this approach is, according to Wiseman, it’s not backed up with reliable evidence. Visualising is ineffective at best and possibly detrimental. Wiseman, in his book 59 Seconds, quotes two studies that showed visualising had a negative effect on people’s success in the fields of romance and employment.

When he looked at those who succeeded in the New Year’s resolutions studies he found interesting similarities between the participants – four broad approaches or habits that others can copy.

Key 1 Manageable Goals

images (11)First, those who succeeded managed to break down their resolutions into small manageable goals. This technique worked extremely well for men. “An extra 22% of men achieved their resolution when they engaged in goal setting,” says the Professor.

Want to loose 20 kilos? Break that number down into a kilo a week, or a fortnight, rather than focusing on the whole number. And track your progress somehow, on a calendar or in a notebook. Miller and Marlatt observed the same - the more monitoring you do the more feedback you get, the better you will do.

Key 2 Build a support network

images (12)Second, spread the news, particularly to those close friends and family. Ask for their support in not offering you a drink or a smoke or leftover Christmas pudding, and get them to encourage you when things get tough. This particular technique worked well for women who were 10% more likely to succeed if they received support when the going got tough.

Key 3 Focus on what change will bring

images (13)Third, remind yourself of the upside that this change will have on your life. Wiseman writes that reflecting on the positives change will bring encouraged participants to look to a more positive future, and remain motivated.

 

Key 4 You will stumble, get up and keep going

images (14)Last, new habits are hard to form, anywhere from 30-60 days according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2009. Many of those succeeding in the studies had lapses. The difference was that they didn’t allow themselves to dwell on a small stumble and kept focussed on their long term goals.

Other things that were helpful were reducing the number of resolutions that someone made. Making big life changes increased the chance that participants would lapse and become disillusioned.

Think it through

Making changes also requires a bit of forethought. It’s no use making the commitment to lose a few kilos by cutting out pasta, when your family eats pasta five times a week, or that you will be giving up the booze when you go to the pub five days a week with your friends. In the studies mentioned above, those who took time to plan their changes and consider the impact on their life had greatest success.

Happy New Years


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Final Writer and the Critic for 2011

Mondy and Kirstyn dish up their last show for the year.  Kirstyn refuses to get into a feminism 101 lecture and Mondy is reasonably well behaved (well so far, I'm only about 20 minutes in).

They cover The Tiger’s Wife and We Need to Talk About Kevin, both winners of the Orange Prize.

You can download here

Or

Play in the doovalacky below:

The Tiger's Wife and We Need to Talk About Kevin


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Dec 29, 2011

eBook Review–Roil by Trent Jamieson

Roil-72dpi1

Roil is the first book in a duology to be released by Angry Robot books, the second will be called Nights Engines.

The story

Shale is in trouble, dying. A vast, chaotic, monster-bearing storm known only as the Roil is expanding, consuming the land.

Where once there were twelve great cities, now only four remain, and their borders are being threatened by the growing cloud of darkness. The last humans are fighting back with ever more bizarre new machines. But one by one the defences are failing. And the Roil continues to grow.

With the land in turmoil, it’s up to a decadent wastrel, a four thousand year-old man, and a young woman intent on revenge to try to save their city – and the world.

A dancer, macabre.

There are writers that can pump out quality genre novels, that give the slavering hordes what we want, whether it’s Steampunk or Space Opera, or just good honest escapism. 

Then there’s those writers that take those well trodden floor boards and fashion a dance of their own, mixing influences from a number of subgenres until what we have is compelling and unique. 

I think Jamieson is one of those writers, especially with Roil.  It’s Trent’s skill that makes it hard to slot the novel into a nice and neatly labelled pigeon hole.  It has an infusion of Steampunk, with its railways and named engines, airships and the neo-Victorian sentimentality.  The world of Shale gives an impression of a slightly skewed, malevolent Dickensian London – this comes through in the snippets from the history books that are referenced at chapter beginnings, the descriptions of political parties, the dialogue between the characters.

  Cadell nodded his head. “He knew that as soon as he crossed the floor of Parliament, soon as he joined the Confluents, something was coming. He just didn’t expect it to be this. Thought they were all working towards the same thing. Stade proved him wrong. Oh, lad, there are secrets that layer Mirrlees and Shale, sediments of madness and lies more damning than you could believe. Missteps, and murders, from the First Ships down.”

To this Jamieson with his talent for dark fantasy introduces, grotesque and horrifying adversaries in the shape of Quarg hounds and Garment Flutes and spiders that feed on you while you sleep.  But it was the rather surreal visual he evoked with the seemingly innocuous Witmoths, that really made me shiver:

Jeremy grinned, a wide and terrible grin. An actor’s grin, or a mask, for surely it was not his own. “Heat is the issue here, the draw and the reasoning; furnace heat, blood heat. The Roil told me, in its loud old voice. Can’t you hear it?” His smile grew and grew and it came spilling from his mouth, dark and frangible, a softly hissing shadow; moth-like they fluttered. So many of them, the man must be filled with them “Witmoths,” Jeremy whispered.“Thought and madness and command.”

I’d watch a movie based on Roil for that visual alone.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

This horrifying dark fantasy/steampunk tale is under pinned with the science fiction trope of a long colonised world, with forgotten technologies.  There are the Old men from the seed ships, those that built the ancient metropolises with technologies so indecipherable that they might as well be magic.

There are advanced technologies in play but Shale's inhabitants have only Industrial Age vocabulary and understanding to describe them.  Jamieson is likewise careful in his descriptions of old tech only hinting at what scientific advances may underpin or shape Shale.  The reader then, in that sense is not much better of than the protagonist.

Fan’s of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series will enjoy the Steampunk/Biopunk aspects.  Those with a penchant for sophisticated and subtle horror will enjoy the devious nature of the Roil and Jamieson’s deft descriptions. 

I for one, can’t wait for Nights Engines.


Angry Robot are having a Janaury eBook sale , so if you are interested go here.


Dec 28, 2011

Free Debris prequel short story and Debris on sale

Jo Anderton has released a prequel short story for her acclaimed Debris.

Debris prequel short story:

Grandeur is the story of how Tanyana got the job that would eventually lead to her downfall. Poor woman, she worked really hard to get that commission (even broke a few rules and risked a few lives, surprise surprise…).

You can download the pdf here. Enjoy!

 


debris300Angry Robot, publisher of her novel Debris also have a sale running with a lot of their ebook titles discounted, including Debris.

Click here to check it out


 

 

 


 


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Book Review–Clementine by Cherie Priest

clementine

The sad news about this novella is that if you live outside the US you’re unlikely to be able to get an eBook version legally.

The Hardcover released by Subterranean Press is a collectors item retailing on Amazon at around the $95 mark.

You may be able to get a Audio download through Audible, but I have not investigated the process.

All this hassle is such a shame for what is a nice little jaunt in the Clockwork Century world. 

The Story

Captain Hainey, ex-slave, now pirate captain is in hot pursuit of his airship which has been stolen - the fact that he stole it originally is beside the point.  No one steals from Croggon Beauregard Hainey.

Isabella Boyd is an ex –confederate spy employed by the Pinkertons to ensure that a certain stolen airship gets to its destination.

Two powerful personalities heading towards each other should mean carnage, and it does but not, as it turns out, for each other.  Croggon and Isabella become unlikely allies in a short, fast paced steampunk adventure, featuring armoured airships and weapons of mass destruction.

The ever resourceful Miss Boyd

Sherlock HolmesIsabella Boyd is the standout character in this book, down on her luck but resilient and resourceful, as quick with a sidearm as she is with her tongue. I am hoping that she turns up again in the rest of the Clockwork Century novels. 

Indeed Rachael McAdams in her role as Irene Adler springs to mind as an excellent casting choice should this tale get optioned.

A tale of two publishers

Clementine was written for Subterranean PressBoneshaker, the first full length novel was written under contract with another publishing house, and while Priest was able to write for other publishers in the Clockwork Century world, there were restrictions, as I understand it, on the size of the work.

And that to my mind is the only drawback of this work, it’s over all too soon. It’s a beautifully written book with some wonderful dialogue and great action sequences. It is a nice addition to Priest’s alternate history.

Here’s hoping that with Boneshaker being optioned we might see a rerelease?

If you’re a fan of the Clockwork Century you’ll probably have it all ready.  If you want a taste of some of the best recent steampunk it’s worth picking up.  For those of us living outside the US it will prove difficult to get and I fear not worth the hassle.


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Dec 27, 2011

The Cream of Australian Specfic Podcasting …

statlet-waldorf..got together on boxing day to have their second mega chat.  Fun was had by all and evidently there was just a little rambling by one half of the Statler and Waldorf of speculative fiction.

The show notes:

As we observed last year, the day after Christmas is a special one, dedicated to winding down after a day of feasting and gift giving, laughter and merriment. Things slow down – unless you have a taste for the mega-discount sales – and people tend to relax with family.

This morning, Perth time, at least, a bunch of participants in Australian podcasting joined together to record The Second Annual Boxing Day Super Mega Podcast. Participating were:

Alex, Alisa, and Tansy from Galactic Suburbia;

Ian and Kirstyn from The Writer and the Critic; and

Gary and I from The Coode St Podcast.

Sadly, Grant from Bad Film Diaries couldn’t make.

[read more]

You can download it here or play it below


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Book Review–Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoft

midwinterblodMagnus Utvik1 is quoted as saying “Don’t Bother with Stig Larsson, Kallentoft is better”.  Now while I wince at the promotion of one author at the expense of another Utvik is right about the quality of Kallentoft’s Midwinter Sacrifice

Kallentoft with help from translator Neil Smith delivers a distinct impression of place, of Swedish culture, along with a chilling tale of murder and the dark underside of family relations.

The Story

A man is found beaten, tortured and hung in a tree. A midwinter sacrifice? Malin Fors, the police investigator begins to unravel the life and death of a man who nobody wanted or cared enough to know.  What she uncovers is the depths to which some will plunge to in search of love.

A cold and fractured land

Kallentoft paints a darkly beautiful backdrop of Sweden in midwinter, the ever present cold, the disparate communities of Sweden; the rich in their gated communities, the victims of the welfare state, and the newest arrivals in the darker skinned immigrants.

Character observations of the world around them can often be social comment in disguise.  I get none of that sense with Kallentoft, no authorial voice poking through.  Malin, our protagonist is a police officer and her reflections or observations on the world and culture around her sit firmly within the bounds of her role as an investigator.

Kallentoft balances Mailn’s detached observations with the voice of the first murder victim, who talks to her, urges her to keep going  - though she is not aware of him.  Malin is also firmly grounded in her own family and its problems, her own search for love. 

A twisted love

Midwinter Sacrifice is compelling, the reader drawn in by the imagery and the mystery.  It’s a book that invites you to solve the mystery but plays its cards very close to its chest, not revealing the true state of things until the end.

Even at its conclusion, Kallentoft leaves us with a mystery, allowing perhaps those who don’t want to focus on the dark nature of humanity shudder and let the mystery lie, while the rest of us speculate.

There are books that seem to sit on the border between genre and literature, that appeal equally to those that have pitched their tent in either field.  This is one of those books- a ghastly tale of murder and the dark side of love.

This book was provided free of charge by the publisher


1. Noted Swedish author and critic.


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When We Have Wings eBook–$2.99

whenI mentioned When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett here.  I was attempting to secure a review copy from the publisher so that I can read it as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

Fortunately those of us with ereaders (especially the non–kindle variety) you can purchase the ebook for $2.99.

Just go here and search for When we have wings.  While you’re at it check out your other fave authors. 

I checked a week ago and the selection of books available for Sean Williams has increased since then.


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Worldshaker Ebook on Sale for $1.99

booksJust noticed that Richard Harland’s steampunk novel Worldshaker is on sale for $1.99. 

I have no idea how long it will remain at this price.  The sequel is currently retailing around the $12 mark.

This was my first purchase using Google ebooks, and it went very smoothly. You do need to click on a link to download the file as the system defaults to the Google ebook browser.

I would also be interested in knowing international readers can access the book through the above link?


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Dec 24, 2011

Merry Xmas from Me and Peter Jackson

Hope you all have a merry and safe holiday.  Here’s something for fantasy fans and those that are hanging out for Hobbit info.

The next instalment of the Hobbit production diaries.

BOOK LAUNCH - Reign of Beasts (Creature Court 3)

0117HARP_ReignBeasts-183x300

I have read and reviewed Power and Majesty(Book 1) here and have book two on my Australian Women’s Writers Challenge list (it seems the only way I was going to get to my leisure reads as to put them on a challenge)

You lucky so and so’s living in Tasmania though, have the chance to attend the launch of book 3, Reign of Beasts.

For details see Tansy’s post here .

 

 


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Dec 23, 2011

Singing Dwarves oh my!

Only Peter Jackson could make them sound so good.  Here, in case you missed it after your vacation under a rock, is the Official Trailer for the Hobbit part 1.


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End of Year Gender Audit

sealSome time in March1 this year I did a gender audit of my reading.  I had been listening to those subversive women at Galactic Suburbia and I really wanted to see how I did. 

Now prior to conducting the audit I had a fairly high opinion of myself.  I have no obvert preferences for male writers over female, and I thought on the whole the gender split would probably be fairly close, say 60/40 in favour of men.

How

wrong

I

was.

As a feminist friendly male reader I had a gender split of 82/18.2  So I set about making a conscious effort to read female writers, especially for my recreational reading as opposed to my official reviewing.

Why?

Some may ague that you should read what you enjoy, not be forced into a choice3.  I think to some degree that’s fine especially if you are just a recreational reader.  But I also review books so I think it behoves reviewers to examine and challenge bias if it’s obvious and institute structural changes to their reading selection in an attempt to curtail unconscious bias.

The results

I made a conscious decision to request books from women.  You don’t always get the books you request and a lot of times you get books that you don’t.  I also decided to be less conscious of choice towards the end of the year.

60/40 was the split in favour of men.

A surprise

Of my 5 star rated reviews 73 % were women4

I am still keen to do better next year, as I note that there women to be read in my TBR pile this year.


1. much to my chagrin I as unable to rescue this information from my hacked wordpress site

2. Even this may be generous, no lower than 15% I would bet my signed William Gibson on.

3.When you start to dig a little deeper on how we think and make decisions, choice doesn’t really seem that free, i.e. guided by preferences, manipulated by marketing, undermined by subconscious bias.

4.Still reading Roil by Trent Jamieson and think it will be a five.


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Dec 22, 2011

When being good just isn’t good enough

 

I responded here to Australian writer Dmetri Kakmi and in amongst his well intentioned but ultimately misplaced criticism of The Australian Women Writers Challenge there were a couple of points that were worth teasing out.

Cream floats

There is a belief that good writing will float to the top. That an author needs to concentrate on producing the best work they can.  If it’s not successful it just wasn’t good enough1 . That good work will eventually cut through all barriers, cultural and otherwise.  Hence the advice to “stop your kvetching and keep writing”.

While I think there is some truth to the above point, I think its only half the equation. The writing is the only part that the author has control over or perhaps the most control over.  You give birth to the work and from then on it’s up to the reader.

That passage from author to reader though, is one that has a number of obstacles; editor bias in selection and actual editing, marketing, reviewing etc.  Not to mention that what constitutes good work can largely be subjective.

Is the process by which work is determined and worthy of publication and promotion, a straightforward or rational one? How much of publishing is the right person receiving a quality manuscript at the right time?

All things being equal quality wins out, but things aren’t equal, not in getting published nor out here in the fractured city states of reader land.

Which brings me to …

The cream must be seen

And I will use Dmetri as an example, he’s an Australian writer2 who’s written a good book (according to the reviews), indeed within certain it literary circles he’s received some really good press.

Despite this, until he commented on the challenge I had no idea who he was, largely due to the fact that I don’t generally read memoirs nor do I read enough Australian literature reviews, magazines etc. He is a Montague and I, a Capulet it seems.

Nothing to do with the quality of his work which may be entertaining if not brilliant.

There are a multitude of barriers for authors to overcome, some systemic or structural, some the result of bias, deliberate and obvious or subconscious and obscure and all of which really pay no heed to how good the work is.

Which is why I think The Australian Women Writers Challenge is an excellent idea.  It’s attempting to address and help overcome some of the barriers faced by women’s writing. They still have to write good books.

The challenge is directing reader attention to women's writing and saying “here we are, judge our work on its merits”.  Most of the women whose work is being read are veterans of the game, to hand wave the challenge as privileged whining is really rather insulting when you think about it.

They have done and are doing the hard yards, maybe not as hard as those in Mogadishu but certainly harder than most of our privileged Anglo male authors.

It’s an attempt to level the playing field so that we the reader can judge the work’s quality for ourselves, rather than have a biased gatekeeper direct which work we should read. 

It’s a consciousness raising exercise, an exercise in broadening our reading horizons, a call to examine and challenge our own biases. It’s about a some positive action, not complaint.

Don’t you label me

All authors, I believe want to be judged and respected for their work(being paid handsomely probably figures in there somewhere as well).

No one wants a free ride or any suggestion that they might have won a prize or gained popularity because of a quota or because they have been pigeon-holed into a descriptor that’s currently the flavour of the month.

Hence some people object to being labelled gay writers, <insert nationality here> writers, and women writers.  And here is where women and minority writers who aren’t male and part of mainstream culture are caught. Supporting an event such as The Australian Women Writers Challenge can be seen as self serving, as complaining. Conversely not doing anything means that your are really relying on a specific set of circumstances to line up for you in order for people to read your work.

There are literally thousands of competent writers out there and if they are doing a better job of getting readers to notice, then it matters not if you are a literary genius.

I’m not a door to door salesman, ehem… person

Promoting a reading challenge is a far cry from flaunting your wares or shouting “looking at me I’m oppressed”.

Still not convinced that attempting, or promoting things that address inequality is a good idea?  Is it some noble notion that if you must suffer for your art you will do so(and so must others for that matter)?

Strikes me that those who do so are martyring themselves for their work and the down side of being a martyr is that you’re dead and no author enjoys posthumous praise. 

Which would you rather here from readers?

“He/She was largely unrecognised in his /her time did it tough and was a brilliant writer”

or

“I am so glad I got to read him/her while they were still around so I could tell them how their work affected me, changed my views on …”

In my opinion, you need to give your best work its best chance of success. Relying on good work to do well, just isn’t good enough. But what do I know I’m just a reader.Smile


1. Different authors may have different views on what constitutes success, critical acclaim doesn’t necessarily put food on the table.

2 Perhaps he and others would prefer just author

Dec 20, 2011

A response to Dmetri Kakmi

concerntroll-1Dmetri Kakmi of Corporate Capital wrote a post on the Australian Women Writers challenge in which I am a participant.  If you are up for it check out the entire post here.  Warning though, if you are past trying to explain feminism 101, give it a miss.

I have posted here due to a blogger glitch that was preventing me from posting at Dmetri’s site.

 

 

Thus my extended comment begins:

An interesting post. The cynic in me thinks you might be poking the hornets nest to attract some hits but I’ll take it as read that you are genuine, mind you this technique has worked – I had no idea who you were.

The Australian Women Writers 2012 Book Reading and Reviewing Challenge is on and you are invited to take part — especially if you’re a man.

I am taking part and a quick refresher on the wordpress site doesn’t mention that men should join, the post refers to readers - it’s fairly gender neutral in that respect. The point is to challenge gender bias, which can be largely subconscious. Because it’s subconscious there needs to be a structured and systematic response.

We can’t be too surprised that statistics on the AWW blog pronounce a resounding ‘Yes’. However, a casual glance at the newspapers, magazines, journals and various electronic media I read (and I read very widely indeed) would have you believe the answer is a distinct ‘No’. On the face of it, women appear to be getting as good or as bad an airing as the men.

Now statistics can be misrepresented, there can be errors in collection etc. The statistics quoted carry more weight than your opinion, regardless of your assurances that you do indeed read quite widely, for a couple of reasons. First you are a sample of one and second your selection/memory will be hindered by confirmation bias.

I conducted a gender audit of my reading in March. I was fairly widely read, didn’t care weather the author had dangly bits or not and thought that the split would come out fairly even maybe 60/40 in favour of men – the actual result was 72 /18.

Frankly, when I see a woman who writes clutching a latte at the Moat cafe and bemoaning her sorry state, I want to pull down her muffing top and say: ‘Shut up and go write a good book. That’s all you will be remembered for in the long run.’ 

You know there is a gender bias bingo card with stock standard response that men and some women come up with when somebody complains about gender inequality? This comes close to ticking one of those boxes. All things being equal yes all anybody has to do is write a damn good book. But things aren’t equal. Women can both write good books and challenge gender inequality. Maybe you need to go to a different coffee shop or slum it.

For me it’s a matter of perspective. If middle-class Australian women, who apparently have the luxury to write a book on their well-charged laptop and not be stoned for their efforts, feel they’re being crushed by the wheels of patriarchy, they should spend a year in Mogadishu. Then they’ll find out what oppression really smells like. And then, maybe, they will appreciate how easy life is for them in our flyblown shores, where they can write to their heart’s content and tour to promote their emulsions. But I suppose in our over-indulged society there is more cache in striking postures of victimhood than getting on with the task at hand.

Another tick box. “Quit your complaining there are people less fortunate than you.” Yes, let forget about gay rights in Australia at least it’s illegal to kill gays here. You could be in Iran.

The first irritant is the verb ‘celebrate’. I don’t mind reading nothing but books written by women for a year — okay, actually, I do. But why does my year of reading have to include public jubilation followed by a goat sacrifice? Why can’t I just sigh contentedly after reading Flannery O’Connor or Fiona McGregor? No, it must be followed by a bacchanal and possibly rending to pieces of at least one male author who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. ‘Celebrate’ stinks of New-Age burbling.

The challenge runs for a year. You have a year to read the books and you can choose the level you want to challenge yourself at. You’re so widely read that you’d probably romp in the lower levels. This is a personal challenge, if you don’t want to celebrate don’t. I mean FFS you’re complaining about striking postures above. The original post at Australian women writers carries none of the bra burning, vagina examining feminist weirdness you are attributing to it.

I bet Peter Carey doesn’t think of himself as a ‘male writer’. His penis doesn’t go near the computer. He merely hopes to transmit universal experience to the reader. 

Ignoring that the challenge is about readers and challenging reading behaviour. Peter has privilege.

You are a writer or you are not. Gender doesn’t come into it. If the work is good it will float. If it’s not, it will thankfully sink. That’s all there is.

With readers it quite obviously does. If you or Sonya Hartnett don’t want to be pigeon-holed that’s your prerogative. This is probably the one point that has any merit.

Authors want to be accepted for the quality of the work. Yes, some good work does float to the top but if you or Sonya or any author out there doesn’t think there are barriers that are based on a multitude of biases, subjective opinions - then well let’s just say the evidence doesn’t seem to be in your favour.

The point I think authors need to take to heart is that you must write the best book you can, and consider when apportioning blame for failure whether there are internal reasons rather than external.

But again when talking about gender bias we are talking about something that is observed and is external to the writer.

One of the AWW’s complaints is that men don’t read women. I’m a man and I read women

Yes sample of one. Pretty sure you can find a person to fit any exception to any rule.

Why not just support the challenge. Women can present just as “authors” without reference to their pink bits, write a good book and challenge inequality all at the same time.

You seem to be casting the challenge authors/ women writers participating in the role of victim playing, wicker burning harpies, who all need to shut up and write a good book. That’s disingenuous to say the least.

The unlucky sod who once called me an ‘ethnic writer’ had to pick himself up off the floor. Another who kindly suggested I take advantage of the fact that I am a ‘gay writer’ discovered that gays hit back — and not just with a handbag.

For the record I usually reserve punching people who are actually physically trying to hurt me. Still I suppose it’s a way of ensuring positive reviews or an assault charge.

The truth is no writer has it easy. At some point, all writers struggle in the face of resounding indifference. Why should women or gays or blacks or people with bucked teeth get preferential treatment?

Missing the point. It’s challenging an observed problem of inequality, it’s voluntary. You missed the 90’s and EEO didn’t you?

Now, woman writer, stop kvetching and write something worth reading. Believe it or not the world is on your side...

They are not complaining(well not in the sense that you are attributing i.e. chronic complaining), and they have written something worthwhile. It’s an entirely positive campaign and still a man has to come in and beat it down with his trouser snake.

The challenge is about levelling the field not giving the women a two goal lead.


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Margo Lanagan eBook Bundle

tenderFabulous and award winning aussie author Margo Lanagan has an ebook bundle available* through Avid and Readings.

For $9.99 you can get Tender Morsels + the short story Singing my sister down.

For a review of Tender Morsels go here.

For those of you (like me) who don’t like reading on your laptop and like having the digital file you can purchase and download Tender Morsels without the bonus story for $12.99**


*You will need to have a device that is internet capable to access the Booki.sh service that these stores use like an iPad,iPhone or Android tablet.

**Price at time of posting.


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Just put some gears on it

 

Very well done video comment on Steampunk and the misuse of the term to commercial ends.


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Dec 19, 2011

Winner of the Bookonaut’s Christmas Giveaway

images (4)After tallying up the entries and putting the numbers into Random.Org to randomly assign a number the winner is:

Sally Morgan from Victoria

Your copy of Vengeance should be winging its way to you by this afternoon.

 

Thanks to everyone who participated

Merry Xmas/Yuletide/Gift-giving


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Dec 18, 2011

2112 Imagining the Future Exhibition via Future Tense Show

motodaAn interesting radio segment focussing on the 2112 Imagining the Future Exhibition.  The Exhibition asks the question:

Literature, film and television have been a strong force for imagining future scenarios. But why is it that there's been less focus on the future (science fiction) in contemporary art?

This question raises further questions from me about who you regard as artists.  Shaun Tan has been creating futuristic and fantasy works of art for years.  He’s even won an Oscar for short film. 

Or is this about artists not within the science fiction community dabbling in Imagining the future?

Care to find out?

You can download the segment here

The Exhibition Details can be found here for lucky Melbournians.


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Dec 17, 2011

Book Review–Flesh and Blood by Kristen Painter

images (8)

Flesh and Blood is the second in the House of Comarre series.  Yes. This is another series where I am reviewing  book two first..

Despite this I had no trouble picking up the story,  probably due to the fact that the genre of gothic fantasy with vampires is as old as Cain.  That and Ms Painter has provided the reader with a nice glossary that outlines her particular take on the genre.

Painter’s romance writing roots are evident in this novel; there’s a love triangle, two bad boy alpha males and a subplot which is romantic love in action. The sexual tension between characters, while not a focus of the nove,l is more prominent that in other Urban Fantasy I have read.  Don’t be put off by what romance there is though, Painter does a good job of balancing the romance with bloodthirsty action and a little mystery.

More True blood than Twilight.

Like True Blood (Sookie Stackhouse series) it’s a fairly light read and I found the characters to be believable. Chrysabelle is a strong protagonist that seems to suffer the psychological effects of her experiences more so than say the character of Sookie in Charlaine Harris’ novels.  The world and its mythical races seems to hang together a bit better too. 

The dialogue and character motivation was a bit thin in places but Painter tells a good story and I was able to get past some of the weaknesses I perceived. 

The Story

Chrysabelle, a comarre (humans bred to provide blood for Vampires) knows the location of the Ring of Sorrows, an artefact of dark power.  The mad noble vampire Tatiana of the House of Tepes wants it and will enjoy killing and torturing Chrysabelle to get it. 

She’ll have to get through Malkolm her ex husband and patron of Chrysabelle as well as the newcomer Creek an ex-con and member of the mysterious Kubai Matta.

Just fresh enough

When writing about vampires, there’s not much wiggle room for originality.  The genre, dare I say it, has been done to death.  Painter manages to freshen it up enough for the story to flow.  The background isn’t all that original – the covenant has fallen Vampires are exposed to the world.  There are a plethora of clans/ divisions of vampires and various other mythical races.  If you’re a connoisseur of all things vampire there's echoes of various movies and roleplaying games in The House of Comarre series.

The only thing that really jarred for me was the story being set in the year 2067.  We have an android that appears briefly in the first half of the novel.  But other than that I am not sure why Painter set the novel in the future nor mentioned the technology other than for flavour.  It seemed tacked on to me. Flesh and Blood reads very much like it is set in contemporary America.

Like most book twos it serves mostly as a bridge from book one to three [1].  There’s some resolution for a couple of minor characters but in the end we are left with uncertainty for the protagonist and the appearance of a major villain.

An easy read, fans of Buffy or Blade will probably enjoy it. 

 

This book was provided to me at no cost by the publisher.


[1] Having just looked at the publication schedule I note that there are actually five books in this series, all released within months of each other.  So perhaps the plotting is indicative more of serialised fiction.


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Dec 16, 2011

Neil Gaiman appearing in Melbourne Tonight

You lucky sods in Melbourne have a chance to have the pleasure of Neil Gaiman and Tom Stoppard’s company.

 
Tom Stoppard and Neil Gaiman at The Wheeler Centre

Friday, 7:00-10:00pm
Location: Victoria, Australia
Two big events on one big night! In back-to-back events, The Wheeler Centre celebrates two great and very different talents: Tom Stoppard and Neil Gaiman.

WHERE:


Athenaeum Theatre
188 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000
http://wheelercentre.com/calendar/venue/athenaeum-theatre/


MORE INFORMATION:
http://wheelercentre.com/calendar/event/tom-stoppard-neil-gaiman-package/

[source]

Dec 15, 2011

Sherlock Holmes–Game of Shadows

It’s not traditional Holmes, but I must admit I do like Downey Jnr.’s take on him and the style in which it’s filmed. And it has Noomi Rapace.

This comes out in the States in a couple of days.  Those of us living in Australia will have to wait until January 5th for the Steamboats or Zeppelins to transport the film canisters over.


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Dec 14, 2011

Show me some sass!

books_and_cup_of_coffee(5).jpgLive & Sassy, Australia’s straight talking speculative fiction publishing podcast hits its third episode.

Ian Mond of Writer and the Critic says, “Stop poking me with the pointy stick1

and of Live and Sassy

“ A podcast that’s really beginning to hit its stride”

 

 

Alisa and Jonathan chat about:

  • online magazine publishing,
  • the value of attending conventions, and
  • experiences at World Fantasy.

Check out the podcast and download it here  or player it using the nifty flash player below.


1. Poor attempt at inside joke by me.  You have to listen to the writer and the critic and imagine Mondy saying it in a squeally voice. No? Just me?


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Bad Power Giveaway

images (2)It’s a day of Giveaways. The new twelfth planet title Bad Power by Deb Biancotti is being offered on Goodreads as a giveaway.

Go here to enter.

 

The Blurb

Hate superheroes?
Yeah. They probably hate you, too.
‘There are two kinds of people with lawyers on tap, Mr Grey. The powerful and the corrupt.’
‘Thank you.’
‘For implying you’re powerful?’
‘For imagining those are two different groups.’


From Crawford Award nominee Deborah Biancotti comes this sinister short story suite, a pocketbook police procedural, set in a world where the victories are only relative, and the defeats are absolute. Bad Power celebrates the worst kind of powers both supernatural and otherwise, in the interlinked tales of five people — and how far they’ll go.


If you like Haven and Heroes, you’ll love Bad Power


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Goodreads Giveaway by Claire Corbett

whenClaire Corbett, Australian author of the acclaimed When We Have Wings is offering to copies for giveaway on goodreads.

You can enter here.

The story

In a dystopian near-future, genetic engineering, radical surgery and a regime of drugs can give you something humans have always dreamed about: the ability to fly. If you have the money, you can join this self-created elite: the winged.

These fliers are not only given wings; they have their own architecture, fashion, religion and politics, and build floating towers in the sky. Those who live outside The City in the rural slums of RaRA-land can only look up at this new species of human in wonder and despair.


Except for one remarkable girl, Peri, who is prepared to sacrifice everything to get her own wings. When she kidnaps a rich family’s child, the investigation threatens to undermine the glittering world of fliers and reveal its ruthless secrets.

 

What others have said

“This book is mischievous with scientific meddling in a way that echoes Margaret Atwood's dystopian fiction Oryx and Crake. Corbett creates a world where cars have artificial intelligence ….plants glow at night.. spliced with jellyfish genes and… lions are shrunk to the size of a cat….Corbett's prose has the clarity, luminosity and beauty of a well-cut diamond.... this flight of fancy deserves to soar.”

Thuy On. The Weekend Australian


“This is what makes When We have Wings unsettling--the realisation that this is a metaphor for today's world….Humanity is still the force that matters and endures.”


Mary Philip - The Daily Telegraph


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Neil Gaiman speaking on The Book Show

Neil Gaiman appeared on Radio National’s book show.  He talks about some of the fiction he likes to read.

British-born screenwriter, novelist, lyricist and comic book writer Neil Gaiman is known for his delight in working in different genres and with different people. For Off the Shelf Neil Gaiman tells us about some of his favourite books:

Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones
Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis

Go here to Download.


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Library Loot December 14 - 20

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire fromThe Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

The link can be found at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader


I got some rather rare loot today in the Library’s cancellations bin, goodness knows when I’ll get to reading them but they fit nicely into my collection.

alwaysThe first is Ursula K Leguin’s Always Coming Home .  It’s described as part novel, part textbook, part anthropologist's record,Always Coming Home explains the life and culture of the Kesh people.  All that for $1 which is an absolute steal when the paperback retails at $45.

Debbie Moorhouse reviews it here.

There was a cassette tape that went with the book making it an early multimedia experience.  It look like copies of the music and poetry can be obtained through LeGuin’s website

The next was China Mieville’s Iron Council which I also picked up for a $1.  I have Kraken (still to read since last Christmas) but I figured its China Mieville and its cheap and in condition – didn’t really have to think about it.  Wikipedia describes it thusly:

200px-IronCouncilIron Council (2004) is China MiƩville's fourth novel and his third set in the Bas-Lag universe, following Perdido Street Station (2000) and The Scar (2002), although each can be read independently of the others. In addition to the steampunk influences shared by its predecessors, Iron Council also draws several elements from the western genre.

Iron Council is perhaps the most overtly political of China MiƩville's novels to date, being strongly inspired by the anti-globalization movement, and tackling issues such as imperialism, corporatism, terrorism, racial hatred, homosexuality, culture shock, labour rights and war. The novel won the Clarke and Locus Awards in 2005, and was also nominated for the Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards that same year.[1]

So all in all a damn good score.

How did your lootin’ go me hearties?


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Dec 12, 2011

Galactic Suburbia Number 48 is out

littlestGSRegular readers should already be subscribed to one of Australia’s premier podcasts on Speculative Fiction. 

If you haven’t heard about Galactic Suburbia then you have been missing out.  Now owing to a busy work schedule I am still catching up on last fortnights podcast. But you can jump right in now.

Here’s the show notes for number 48.  You can stream from the flash player below or go to the website and download the mp3 file.


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Book Review–The Song of the Quarkbeast

the-song-of-the-quarkbeast-last-dragonslayer-book-two

I was looking forward to this book.  In general I find reading young adult novels to be a breath of fresh air and I was hoping that The Song of the Quarkbeast would live up to its press as a magical adventure with a bit of nerdy wordplay.

The Story

Young Jennifer Strange, a foundling, is left in charge of Kazam, the more ethical of the two companies that perform magic.

Their newly renamed competitor iMagic is up to no good, manipulating King Snodd into ordering a contest between the wizards of both companies; the losers to  merge with the winning agency.

Jennifer expects to win, that is until they begin losing sorcerers to Runix powered spells and trumped up magical misdemeanours.

The search for magical allies results in the revelation that nefarious plans are afoot.

My Issues

Initially I liked the word play, the short tangents away from the movement of the story, and the jokes or allusions that might escape younger readers. 

I usually give a novel 25 % of its length, or about 100 pages to hook me in, some novels require an adjustment due to style.  I found that by a third of the way through The Song of the Quarkbeast, I wasn’t.  The witty wordplay and divergent descriptions began to feel overdone and I longed for the story to pick up pace.

I also had issues with Jennifer.  She seemed to me to be a bit wooden, perhaps standoffish – I didn’t feel she was a convincing 16 year old girl.

Recommendations

My 15 year old self would have liked this book, it was reminiscent of Douglas Adams and the sense of humour that produced the Deeper Meaning of Liff, but even then I think I might also have had an issue with the pacing. 

I am hesitant to recommend it to all but the hard-core book nerds amongst the teen population, those who will find endless amusement in descriptions of the history, characters, oddities of the Kingdom of Hereford and who have the ability to make the connection with their real world equivalents.

I struggled to enjoy this one.


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Book Review–11.22.23 by Stephen King

112263

Given a chance to go back in time to before president Kennedy was shot, would you go back and try and save him?

That’s the predicament faced by mild mannered school teacher Jake Epping in 11.22.63 , who discovers that the local diner contains a portal back into 1958 America.

Nostalgia

King has done a wonderful job here in invoking a sense of nostalgia in me for a simpler time.  Which is quite a feat given that he has me pining for a time before I was born.  Perhaps he is aided by the cultural baggage associated with the Kennedy era that Hollywood is fond of exploiting and exporting.

A consummate weaver

The strength of this book lies in King’s complex layering of character and plot.  On reflection, the consequences of meddling with time should be blatantly obvious to both the reader and the character but it’s King’s skill and experience that shores up what would probably have fallen apart in the hands of another.

Neither Jake nor the reader are given the time to reflect on what meddling with time might do. King applies pressure from the outset - Al the owner of the diner where the portal is located, is dying and the lease can’t be renewed. So from the outset there’s time pressure. 

The portal always links to 1958 and while returning through the portal to 1958 effectively erases all changes of previous visits, there’s a pressure to get things right first time as the time traveller still ages. 

Initially this isn’t a problem, Jake runs a few “test missions”, altering the lives of people he knows who have had unfortunate life events.  This is done to convince himself that it’s possible and to understand the forces he’s up against in a past that doesn’t want to be changed. 

But preventing the Kennedy assassination is a five year mission, if he stuffs up Jake can have a “do over’ but he’s a 5 years older, with another 5 years to fight against an obdurate past.

Intricate plot details aside it’s the characters that really made this novel for me.  So good was King’s portrayal of 60’s small Town Texas and the characters within, that I didn't care about Kennedy by about half way through the novel.

Herein lies another pressure - Jake falls in love with a woman and a town.  Jake and the reader are torn between wanting the life he is living in small town Texas protected and completing his mission to save Kennedy. 

A tireless romantic

This book rammed home to me how much of a romantic I am.  I didn’t like the ending, but it’s true to the story.  At a hefty 700+ pages this is a book to pace yourself on, to enjoy the alternate reality that King has created. 

Not a fan of the Kennedy era? It really doesn’t matter, the lives and characters King creates are enough to sustain interest.

This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.


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Dec 11, 2011

Free Daily Speculative Fiction

horn_coverI have only recently come across Daily Science Fiction.  It’s an international site but the feature Australian writers like horror and unicorn expert Peter M Ball.

Here’s the link to his story.

Check them out if you like quality sort fiction delivered to your inbox.

 


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Oh and don’t forget the xmas giveaway.

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