There is so much to love about this story, and if I may be a bit geeky, the title is one of those things. It’s so clever, because while the title as a whole makes sense, each word in the title is also the name of a character.
Beth Teller is the first character we meet. She’s a ghost. She was killed in a car accident, and is hanging around because she doesn’t want to leave her father alone (her mother died when she was a baby). Her father is the only person who can see and hear her.
Beth’s father is a police officer, and together they are visiting a small town. A children’s home has burnt down and while all the children escaped, there is a dead body inside the building. It seems like a case of faulty wiring and bad luck, but as they delve deeper they find there is far more to the case than first meets the eye.
Isobel Catching is the other main character in this story. She was found wandering the river after the fire, and is considered to be a witness. Beth and her father try talking to Isobel, who tells them a strange strange story, about almost dying, and crossing into another world and having all her colours stolen.
Crow is a girl who Isobel meets in this other world, and who helps Isobel escape back into this world.
But there is far more to this story than meets the eye, and when everything clicks into place you realise exactly all the awful things that have been happening to Isobel, and exactly how it fits in to the fire in the children’s home, and the dead body inside.
On the surface, this is a crime/mystery, but underneath it is so much more. This is a story about stories, and how telling those stories, how being heard, can strengthen a person, and help in the healing process.
I don’t think I’ve managed to post even one book review this year, though I’ve read so many fantastic books. So here’s a list of my favourites. (Note: this is not necessarily a list of books published this year, but rather a list of my favourites of the books I read this year.)
The first has got to be ‘Flames’ by Robbie Arnott. I loved every bit of this bizarre and wonderful story – from the mother who temporarily returns from the dead with bits of landscape sprouting from her body, to the animism present in every aspect of the story – everything has a spirit and a consciousness, from the river rat swimming in the Tamar right up to the rain cloud hanging over Ben Lomond.
The second is actually a children’s picture book, ‘Old Hu-Hu’ by Kyle Mewburn. Kyle read this story aloud during her session at the Tamar Valley Writers Festival, and I have to admit I was blinking back tears. Old Hu-Hu has died, you see, and little Hu-Hu-Tu wants to know where he’s gone. It’s such a beautiful story I ordered a copy as soon as I got home.
‘The Kiss Quotient’ by Helen Hoang is next. Stella Lane is on the spectrum and struggles with relationships, so she hires a male escort to help her out. This was such a fun story, and I’ve never met a protagonist I related to so much! This is definitely for 18+ though, it contains sex scenes that don’t hold back on the description!
‘The Secrets We Keep’ by Shirley Patton is a wonderful story by a fellow Tasmanian author. Aimee is a social worker freshly arrived in Kalgoorlie, who has made one difficult choice already in her past, and soon faces another. One of the reasons I loved this story so much was the character of Agnes, who reads people’s futures in tea leaves, and explores the more spiritual aspects of life.
I discovered ‘Darker Shade of Magic’ by VE Schwab after watching her Tolkien Lecture, which in turn was recommended at the Tamar Valley Writers Festival. It’s a story of portals to other worlds, where things are similar, but also vastly different. I absolutely loved it!
‘Children of Blood and Bone’ by Tomi Adeyemi is a book I came across on Twitter. I read The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas last year, and she (among others) recommended this amazing fantasy of a world in which magic has been suppressed until young Zelie is thrust into an adventure to return it. It’s brilliant.
I bought ‘Nevermoor’ by Jessica Townsend for my kids, and my son devoured it in a day and thrust it under my nose with a ‘You have to read this!” I had soon devoured it too, and we’re eagerly awaiting the sequel. (Yes, I know, it’s out already – it’s on our ‘To Buy’ list!)
I bought The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland while visiting family in WA earlier this year. It’s such a beautiful story, of a girl who loses her family to a devastating fire, and is thrust into the collected family of a grandmother she never knew.
During this same trip I also bought ‘Taboo’ by Kim Scott. It’s the story of Tilly, daughter of an Indigenous man who she barely knows, and her reconnection with her community and their shared ancestors. It is devastating in so many ways, and yet also full of hope for the future.
I have so much to write about this weekend, I almost don’t know where to start!
I attended seven sessions:
Learning to Fly: Emerging Authors
Garments of Time: the many Guises of History
Numbers Never Lie! Writing a Bestseller
Matters Fantastical: Speculative Fiction
Moment of Launch: Emerging Writers
Honourable Mentions: do Literary Awards help or hinder?
Blessed Disguises: Dressing up fact as fiction
There was some common advice shared in many of the discussions:
Write from your heart. I don’t know how many times I heard this during the festival, but I’ve written it at least 4 times in my notebook. The general consensus was that the joy you have from writing what you love flows out onto the page, and makes the reading much more enjoyable, and therefore it’s more likely to be picked up. Also – the books publishers are publishing now were usually picked up several years ago, there is no point writing to a current trend – publishers will have already moved onto the next one (which could be your book).
Enter everything. Awards, grants, competitions – even if you don’t win, the feedback can be invaluable. This was the focus of the ‘Honourable Mentions’ panel, where the general answer to the question ‘Do Awards help or hinder’ was two-fold: winning is a great affirmation that you’re on the right track, and can also be good advertising.
Develop a thick skin. Rejection is the norm. You could be rejected for any number of reasons, none of which have anything to do with you, or your writing.
Be persistent! This follows on from the above – rejection is the norm, don’t give up, keep writing, keep submitting! (But always remember to be professional).
I tried distilling my weekends worth of notes down to something brief and easy to read, but I found with my favourite two sessions, I just couldn’t – so here’s an overview…
‘The Garments of Time: the many guises of history’ with Rebe Taylor, James Dryburgh, Margaretta Pos, Louise Evans and Stephanie Parkyn.
#TVWF Session: The Garments of Time: the many guises of history – Rebe Taylor, James Dryburgh, Margaretta Pos, Louise Evans and Stephanise Parkyn
I love history, so this was probably my favourite session of the entire festival.
There was so much to take from this session!
Rebe Taylor pointed out that we can never step into the past – it’s never clear, and that to write history we must be as present minded as possible. She quoted Graeme Denning who said that to study/write history we must be ‘anthropologists of ourselves’.
James Dryburgh notes that History changes clothes (going with the theme of the panel title – ‘Garments of Time’) depending on who tells it, and how they gather their information. But history is not seperate from the present, threads from the past join with the present.
His book ‘The Balfour Correspondent’ contains actual letters written by a 13 year old girl living in Balfour, in North-West Tasmania, to the Weekly Courier (a Launceston newspaper), about her life in Balfour. As James pointed out, we rarely look at history through the eyes of a child, what we have instead is a very narrow view of history. There have always been dissenting voices.
Someone asked a question about how the authors decide on the historical ‘truth’ when there are so many stories. The authors seemed to be all in agreeance – there is no single, universal truth, if you ask a group of witnesses of the same event what they saw, everyone will have a different account, because we all view the world through our own understanding, which has been formed through our own experiences.
Matters Fantastical: Speculative Fiction chaired by Lyndon Riggall, with Amie Kaufman, Jodi McAlister, and Paul Collins
What a fantastic panel this was! I have three pages of notes for this one – a sure sign it was loaded with information! This post is already quite long though, so I’ll try and be concise…
Amie spoke about writing a series: in book one the obstacles/crisis feels immediate and terrible, but by book 3 those problems need to seem minor in comparison with what’s going in the book 3.
Lyndon commented that carrying a narrative in your head gets exhausting – living in another world for half the time. So that’s why I’m so tired all the time!!
Amie said it was really important to take time out from writing – you have to ‘put stuff in’ in order to ‘get stuff out’, and Jodie was of the importance of compartmentalising life: work/writing/life.
Jodi writes ‘Intrusive Fantasy’, where the fantastical intrudes on reality, which is a term I’d never heard of before, and really describes my writing.
Amie pointed out that fantasy allows us to examine our world from a distance, and that sci-fi/fantasy is where we get to rehearse the future.
For writers the advice was that you should always know more about your world/story than you share, that you need to make sure the story starts in the right place, and – for fantasy writers – always make the map first!
There were so many other wonderful little snippets of wisdom, but I’ll try to note just a few:
Adam Thompson (whose brilliant short story ‘Honey’ was recently published in the Kill Your Darlings Tasmania Showcase) spoke about the use of stories in educating people, how when reading fiction people tend to have their guard down, they’re more willing and able to see another’s point of view. He spoke about how readers want a unique voice, they aren’t after another Stephen King, for example.
Louise Allan spoke of the process she went through with her book ‘The Sisters Song’, which had at least 30 full redrafts (that made me feel better – I’m only at about redraft 24 with my novel), and the struggles she’s having finding the same authenticity with her second novel (Second novel syndrome is real, people!).
Cheryl Akle said the magic of fiction is that every person in the room could be given the same idea, and yet every story would be different.
With regard to writing a bestseller, the general consensus of this panel of writers was that you can’t actually sit down and write a bestseller. There are things that will help; like writing from the heart (see above!), and making sure you know the craft (spelling/grammar/structure etc). Having a publisher with good distribution channels is crucial – a book needs to be available online as well as in your local bookstore and the big chain stores. But really, so much of the process is down to luck, you just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best.
First up – Happy Mother’s Day!! I hope you all get as spoiled as I did – breakfast and hot chocolate in bed, along with a wonderful home-made card and a bag of home made gifts -perfect!
Just a short post this week.
In my first post of the yearI wrote about how I’d signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2016. My goal was to read 6 books by Australian Women Writers this year – at least half of which were by Indigenous Authors.
I’m really pleased to say that 1/3 of the way through the year and I have already acheived that goal. My reviews were:
I thought I’d start a series for Six Sentence Sunday of the first six lines from the stories I’ve had published this year.
The first is from Ermaline’s Feast. This story received an honorary mention in Five Stop Story’s April Competition
As her wings shifted ever so slightly, the great beast turned, heading for the sun. Ermaline looked down on the people miles below and wondered that something so small and insignificant could be so tasty. Damn shame they fight back, she thought, wincing at the fresh scar on her side that had blistered from the heat of their torches. It was a bad burn, and not for the first time did she wonder why she was not fire proof outside as well as in. But it would heal, and she would be back, these humans were too good to resist.
It was a month before Ermaline had the chance to return to the village.
****Give credit to the person/blog that tagged you
**** Post the rules for the blog hop
****Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog
****Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book? Red Sky
Where did the idea come from for the book?I had committed to participate in Camp Nano, in June of this year, and was desperately searching for something to write about. There was a red sky one night, and the old phrase “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” came to me, and instantly I had a flash of inspiration – a group of characters and their history, and a vague idea of where they were headed.
What genre does your book fall under?Fantasy.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Honestly I have not even thought that far ahead? That will need some more thought…
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? One sentence synopsis… haven’t written one yet, so lets see what I come up with: How about. “As the only female Pirate Captain in the whole of the nine seas Morgan has had more struggles than most, but can she cope when weakling James is thrust into her crew as they set off in search of the Greybeard’s legendary treasure – their most dangerous adventure yet?” Does that make it sound like a children’s book? It’s not supposed to be a children’s book…
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I’m not sure I’m confident enough to self-publish just yet. This story is aimed for a novella competition coming up very soon, otherwise I will find somewhere else to submit it…
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 19 days to write just over 50,000 words.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?I’m no good at comparing my work with others.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?Another tricky question! The inspiration just struck me, a few days before Nano started in June. I had been dreaming about mermaids a lot before hand, and knew my story should be about the sea, so when the pirate story idea came I knew I had to run with it.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The story features not only pirates and treasure, but also mermaids and to a lesser degree, magic.
Thanks LaVerne for tagging me! 😀
Now – this is the point where I am supposed to tag 5 other bloggers – but most of the bloggers I know have already been tagged!! If you would like to join in let me know and I’ll tag you here! It’s a lot of fun!