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27 September 2012

This is Strange Halloween from Whortleberry Press. It’s a nice production with twenty-two stories, great cover, and solid editing. I had one of my “Detective Luisa Garcia” stories in this one, (The Mailman,) which I wrote specifically for the anthology although, as I’ve also sold the collection of ‘Luisa Garcia’ stories to Cyberwizard, which collection will appear in 2015, (baring Acts of Ghod) this story will be added to that too. The anthology arrived a couple of days ago and was immediately passed to a friend for review. (I prefer not to review anthologies in which I have work.) You’ll find Steve’s comments in the ‘review’ section under the same date as this.

and to celetrate that time of the year Thunder caught one. I heard the scuffling and hurried to the rescue to emerge with a handful of greenfinch, short a few feathers and decidedly ruffled. I stroked the feathers back into place while the bird eyed me, apparently unafraid. Cats are scary, people aren’t so bad. I took it out and sat it on top of the big concrete watertank. There was a brief pause while it sorted out events, current freedom, and … it was gone. Flying steadily (so whatever the lost feathers, none had been vital) and no indication of shock or incipient heart attack.

Great. I like the finches and I don’t want any to die here if I can prevent it. Thunder mostly doesn’t mean them to die either. He catches a bird or mouse, he plays. As a byproduct of his games the whatever it was usually dies from shock, but he rarely kills or even injures them intentionally and in all his seven years here he’s only eaten two prey, both mice – which I suspect he damaged in his games so that the scent of blood combined perhaps with early-hours hunger. This year there looks to be more finches than usual, and with nesting season in full swing he may find incautious babies landing in the cat park. I’m staying on the alert.

an anthology from Whortleberry Press edited by Jean Goldstrom. softcover. Reviewed by Steve Johnson.

Fine  job here, excellent cover that picks up the anthology theme very nicely, and a good selection of 22 stories with only one I really didn’t like. Favourites were Black and Silver (very nice use of history) The Guy With the Lantern (cleverly written) The Mailman (a subtle ghost tale) and A Storm of Memories (poignant.) Lyn says that she agrees with most of those but that she also very much likes Pumpkin Moon, Leaves, and Horror in Hootenanny Holler.

One the flip side I didn’t much like Shadows in the Dark. Woman runs out of gas, police officer in scary small town assists her. Nothing happens to woman, her kids, police officer, or small town. Huh? Was the town’s atmosphere supposed to be the theme? We’ve all had that ‘hair up on the back of the neck’ feeling. But if nothing validates it then there’s no story. And I was not at all impressed by Into The Wood, which I thought pretentious, and confused. However that’s a good end result, that out of 22 stories I enjoyed 20. The Whortleberry Press anthologies are good value for money.

20 September 2012

To me, writing isn’t something you do by finding one tiny narrow niche and sticking to it forever more. That is something that produces burnout, boredom, and a strong desire to move on – sooner rather than later. But then sticking to that tiny niche has never been my forte, even if many in the business think it should be how writers operate. Years back Andre Norton told me a joke commonly heard in USA writer circles.

A woman sits down to write her first fiction book. It’s brilliant, insightful, and becomes a best seller overnight. About a year later the publisher comes to her. “Your book was wonderful, but we think that you need to do a second book to keep the momentum. We want another novel from you that’s exciting, fresh, completely new – and exactly the same as the other one.”

Which, as she said, is why, increasingly, American publishers want a series, and not a line of standalone books.

I don’t operate that way, which is why I’m far less likely to burn out, become discouraged, or bored and quit writing. Yes, I do write series, but aside from my usual short stories and books, I also write (and often see published) the occasional poem, ordinary articles, a series of articles on ‘making savings’ for our local small newspaper, my blog with five sections, and assorted other items that are often written for fun with no great expectation of selling or winning.

That’s been typical this past few weeks when I’ve been a competitor in the karaoke poetry competition in town (and won the Pam Ayres section – mmm, lots of chocolate.) Written a poem for entry into a specialized poetry competition in Napier, completed a piece of ‘art writing’ for a competition in Wellington, and sent our local paper an article on dealing with hangovers – Xmas is coming. During the period and as actual writing work I’ve been revising my latest Daze book, revising a new book not yet sold, and putting together a short story collection I hope to sell. I write to sell my work, yes. But about half the time selling what I wrote is a byproduct of having had fun doing something. And the outcome is a lack of boredom, burnout, or bafflement as to what I should do next. There’s always something to do. Oh, and retirement? What’s that? No writer who has a working brain and the ability to produce words has to retire, and personally I intend to write just so long as those criteria apply.

 

19 September 2012

reviwed by Glenda Johnson.

Lyn loaned me a copy of the first of this trilogy at the start of the year and I found it quite good. Ihis week I borrowed the set now that she has the others, reread book one, followed immediately by the other two, and sad to say, while I still quite liked book one, I didn’t enjoy the other two and the entire trilogy has gone back to Lyn and I won’t be buying my own. I see why it appeals to teenagers. It’s all angst, blame the parent, how misunderstood the teenager is. Yes, Katniss is competent, courageous, hard-working and responsible. She’s no worse than most would be in her situation. But I couldn’t like her. I suspect that if most of those reading this book and loving it, actually met Katniss, they’d find her a surly pain in the neck.

Like Lyn, I enjoy a good post-holocaust book, or a good distopia, but I like a better ending, and this trilogy doesn’t have it. I found the ending vague, unsatisfying, and unpleasant. I do read other books classified as YA so it isn’t that. I have the Harry Potter series and love it. I have some of Diana Wynne Jones’ YA books and reread them regularly. Ditto Andre Norton, Margaret Mahy, The “Tomorrow When The War began’ series, and a number of YA books by other authors. But there was something about this trilogy that turned me off. Not the brutality of background, the realism, the unlikable characters, no, I think in the end I felt that no matter what was done, no matter how heroically anyone tried, the characters or their descendants were condemned to go around in the same miserable circles forever, endlessly recreating their predecessor’s mistakes. That not only was there no genuine light at the end of the tunnel, but that eventually the tunnel would collapse and bury them. In view of which I won’t bother to see the film because no matter how well that ends, I know what comes next. and that spoils it for me. I know a lot of people enjoyed these books, but I didn’t and I don’t recommend them.

 

 

 

I was watching the news last night, saw the item on the French magazine’s photos of Kate Middleton and I was disgusted. It’s bad enough when people are intrusively photographed in public places on the pretext that it’s ‘in the public interest’. But when you’re on the deck of a private home, 500 yards from the nearest public access, and you still aren’t safe, it’s disgusting. There is no genuine ‘interest’ in these photos. The interest is in the money the photographer and magazine will make. “In the public interest’ is when photographs appear of a ‘good christian candidate for public office’ with his hand up a child’s skirt. Or photos of a financier luxuriating on his deck with dinner – partridges in aspic with $250 a bottle wine – served by a butler, while the investors he defrauded lose their homes. That sort of thing is in the public interest. It exposes a private face at great odds with the public one and may suggest criminal acts. A view of Kate’s chest is not ‘in the public interest.’ It may have the public interested, but that’s not the same thing.

I believe that a law should be enacted to prevent this kind of breach of privacy. A person, royal, celebrity or ordinatry Jane Doe, should have a reasonable expectation of privacy on private property. Alternately, some public-spirited person should reverse this – take a powerful long-lens camera, and follow a photographer responsible for this type of intrusion for several months while they take photos of his every private moment. Have a forensic accountant hack into the photographer’s banking account and see if everything is kosher. Steal his rubbish and double check everything that’s found in it. Why, it could be discovered that he’s cheating on his wife, the Inland Revenue, has hidden bank accounts – and he drinks like a fish. All of which proof could then be posted on line for hisfriends and neighbour to goggle at – and sent to his wife and the IRD. It would be amusing to hear the screams of outrage, the cries of “unfair!” The complaints of breach of privacy. But why is he any less a fair target? Money? Oh, yes, it’s probable that no magazine would pay for him to be exposed. Although I believe that the Inland Revenue in some countries does pay a percentage of recovery on unpaid taxes, and the wife might well pay for a set of the photos and the bank account numbers too. But best of all, it would give the paparazzi a taste of their own medicine. If they didn’t get the message, it could continue until they too are afraid to do anything at all in public or private that could be misconstrued. Sometimes a dose of someone’s own medicine cures a problem, and if not, then up the dosage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lately I’ve been seeing seminars offered in our area. They’re on Positive Aging, and it amused me. I don’t think that people change much over the years. I am and always have been an optimist, happy or at least contented for the past thirty years, busy with my writing since 1990, always something to do locally, and enjoying it all. So when a friend asked if I’d like to go to one of the seminars I said “thanks very much, but no.” She went and enjoyed it, came back with suggestions that – ah, she should involve herself in local events, find something that she enjoys doing and do it, and try to be optimistic. I think I saved myself a seminar. I do all that now, and I didn’t even need a seminar to tell me.

Diana Moorhead seems to have little information available about her and so far as I am aware has never attended SF conventions in New Zealand, which is a pity as her work is excellent. Born in 1940 in Woking, England, she moved to New Zealand at twelve, where she attended Waihi College and Auckland University. She married a teacher, has two children, and later became Community Librarian at Glenfield. Her first children’s book, In Search of Magic (1971), was set solidly in New Zealand although it was published by Brockhampton Press in the UK. It followed the adventures of an English fairy family who travel north from Wellington, seeking the indigenous fairy folk.

The book of Moorhead’s that I have is The Green and the White. A first edition hardcover which I purchased around the mid-70s from Whitcoulls in Lambton Quay. This was probably sold as YA, but the story stands up well for an adult, and even after 35+ years the work remains very readable.

Jochim is King of Verdantis, he has been thrust into the position early by the accidental death of his predecessor, and it’s unfortunate that he’s been landed not only with the crown and vast responsibility, but also with a possible wife he would have been happy to wait for as well, and now, to add to it all, there is trouble in the kingdom and he’s expected to fix that too. Princess Elise isn’t pleased about it either. Not initially anyhow, until she finds that there’s a place for her and work that she can do. Not the usual work, not when she’s sneaking about dressed as a boy, with her hair chopped off, travelling across Verdantis with Jochim to meet the terrible Shrinn and find out why Verdantis is being ruined by blight. This book says a lot about taught or unconscious prejudice and the danger of making assumptions from them. It’s short, I’d estimate around 30,000 words, but it contains an attractive map, (and frontispiece) by the renowned Victor Ambrus who illustrated so many wonderful children’s and YA books over the second half of the 1900s.

Moorhead’s third book, Gull Man’s Glory (1976), illustrated by Sam Thompson, is also set in a fantasy world where the characters must challenge a corrupt power that threatens to destroy the land. Gull Man’s Glory has been described as strikingly original in its setting after a future nuclear disaster has produced strange forms of life, particularly gull people with wings.Sadly after the publication of her third book Moorhead seems to have stopped writing fiction but copies of her three books are still available on various sites such as Book Depository. The first book was for younger children but I would recommend The Green and the White and I hope to obtain a copy of Gull Man’s Glory sometime soon.

3 September 2012

softcover, published by Peggy Bright Books 2009, classified YA.

I bought this in June while I was in Australia at Continuum 8, their Natcon. And up front let me say that while it may be classified as YA (“young adult” for anyone who doesn’t know) this adult found it more than readable. In fact it’s going to my permanent shelves as soon as I finish this review. I hope to read it many more times over the years and I believe that I’ll enjoy it each time I do.

Uki is a Japanese teenager. Targe is a whale. Under normal circumstances they’d never meet, but when Uki steals a proprietary file Targe has created and she is caught by the authorities, Targe somehow finds that he’s agreed to have her join him on his spaceship and tour with him as he and his friend Charlie the dolphin take whale songs to the galaxy that is enchanted by them. This is the story of how two very different creatures find that they have things in common, discover that they can work together, and that two beings can produce something that is far more than the sum of one plus one.

But don’t be fooled, this isn’t always a sweet story. Uki’s parents, while not deliberately cruel to her, have no time, and less interest in the child they produced. At the time of the events Uki is fourteen, emotionally malnourished, and without direction. Some of the things she and Targe do to each other are brutal. neither intend to be quite so savage, but both at various times fail to understand the depth of hurt in the other. This is a good solid work. The characters are clearly written, well-rounded, and – even when being throughly bratty or unpleasant – understandable as to motive and ultimately likeable. I’d enjoy another book using them and hope one may eventuate sometime. Recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

and, happily, the end result has been that The Book has sold to the Crooked Cat Press anthology Fear, which will be out this year in two volumes. (Also for anyone who buys Lucky Break magazine, yes, that was my story on the letter page of the September 3rd issue. And it’s quite true. Yet another reason to stay smiling.)

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