Tuesday, October 18, 2016

ARC Books

I've been a reader of ARC books for years. They are a type of book which is sent out to a group of readers before the book is published so the publishers can tell what little things needs to be fixed. 

Now, I didn't always know about them; I was introduced to them by a friend online and she asked if I'd like to try one out. My first one was 'The Gone-Away World' by Nick Harkaway. Now, this book has since been published years ago in 2009, and was followed up by another by Nick. And getting into receiving ARC books is a good way of reading and proofreading people's works for them - and reading books which aren't out on the market yet. You really do feel as though you're seeing behind the curtain before the show has begun.

It's not easy to find ARC books - as they're not in the ordinary circles of publication. Usually you have to ask publishers if there's any ARC books for you to read for them. It's mainly done online and you have to fill out a survey to let them know what you think needs to be done - as it's not just a free book thrown your way to be read. You have to give your honest opinion of feel the book needs - or doesn't - and how the author can improve the book. 

Sometimes, this can be a sore point with the writers, but this is a good way of letting a small group of the public in on how the book works - or not - with them before the book is let out into the world. Small improvements through allowing ARC books out 6 months or so beforehand plays really well for the author. You see, when they do this for a first book, the author then knows what they have to do for the next book to be a success; no matter how insulted they feel at the time. 

The good thing with ARC books that the reader can either keep the book for their personal collection or they can return it to the publisher. I opt to keep my copies as they're something of rarity. And a lot of the times, I do find they end up in second-hand bookstores (which isn't where you're supposed to send them). I do enjoy my small band of ARC books and do wish to keep them in my collection; keep adding to them. So, have any of you done any ARC book readings? How did you find it? I enjoyed being a part of the final product of a writer's book... even if they didn't end up using my part of the survey; at least they knew where I was coming from. With 'The Gone-Away World' I did find the final copy in a bookstore and looked in the first couple of pages and found that what I had advised about making it more visual worked. The author had worked more on taking the reader along for the ride, rather than keeping us at arm's length (which was how I was feeling at the time). I felt good about that. I might see what other ARC books are on offer next year to take part in. Until my next post, happy reading.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Jack London

I love finding books about authors where movies have been made from their works. For example, 'White Fang' and 'Call of the Wild' were both by Jack London and were both made into great films. 

I have come across these books on their own in bookstores and libraries, however, I have never seen them with their accompanying books 'Tales of the Fish Patrol', 'The Cruise of the Dazzler' and 'The Son of the Wolf: and other stories' in one big volume. 

I found this particular volume by chance at my local community centre on an old library trolley where my craft group usually gathered. I happened to be walking by it (trying to ignore those gorgeously lovely books sitting there tempting me) when my eyes wondered to the large printing of Jack London's name on the spine... then, I found myself picking it up and reading the front; and found it contained the rest of the books and stories within! Oh! What a find!

It was wasn't until I got this book home that I found out that it was a first edition from 1979, fully illustrated and that the copy of 'White Fang' was 'complete and unabridged'... how cool is that! I definitely had a great find here for just .50c! It was also a book which had been originally sold at Myers at a discounted price. Now, for those of you who don't know what Myers is, it's a major department store here in Australia which is usually very expensive. However in the 1970's, it sold things on sale and had discounted books - just like everyone else - before it upped its standards really high; and rarely does that anymore.

On the inside, where the publishing notes are, I found a couple of paragraphs about him, and I'd like to share them with you:

'Jack London was born illegitimate and in poverty in California in 1876. At fifteen he was the notorious 'Prince of the Oyster Pirates' on San Francisco Bay. At seventeen he shipped as a seaman on the Sophie Sutherland for Japan; later he served a term for vagrancy before joining the Klondike Gold Rush. He read voraciously and by the age of twenty-four was publishing in magazines; by thirty he was famous. In this relatively short writing career (1899-1916) he wrote over fifty books; h was also an ardent socialist,  a pioneer in modern agriculture, a war correspondent in Korea and designed and sailed his own ship halfway around the world.

London's most famous work is contained in his stories of the far North based on his own experiences, he wrote other stories for children (Tales of the Fish Patrol, The Cruise of the 'Dazzler') and he also wrote adult fiction, plays, travel sketches and important sociological books, the best known of which are The People of the Abyss and John Barleycorn.

He died in 1916, the world's first millionaire novelist.'

I found this short insight to Jack London interesting, and didn't wish to keep it to myself. Until my next post, happy reading. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Unable To Read

This past week, I was hoping to get my nose into some creepy books - for October and Halloween. However, I've had enough creepiness going on around my real life to cater my imagination for yonks.

I haven't been sleeping all that great and so, my focus for reading isn't here. I started 'Magician' by Raymond E Feist and this stalled when things became complicated around my unit complex. 

Don't you hate it when life interferes so much with everything else, it stuffs up what you really want to do in your spare time? Yeah, me too. So, 'Magician' is on hold at the moment, sitting there staring at me with a bookmark only a tiny way through chapter 1. 

If only I hadn't asked the neighbour two doors down to turn down his music, none of this would have happened... no, it would have, but much later. How frustrating this is. Well, my posts should improve soon once things settle down. Until my next post, happy reading!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Banned Book Week!

Banned Book Week is coming up soon - next week, actually - and I'm hoping to dig amongst my collection to get my nose into the some pages of some really great books which were banned to the public. The week spans between September 25 - October 1.

So, what's Banned Book Week? It's a week to celebrated the written works which were banned to the public at some point in time, but people have written them to put the word out there.

Some of it was political, some of it was written in a way where it may have broached subjects which were taboo at a point in time where society just didn't think it right to talk - or even read - about it. But then, those books were banned from being circulated. 

Here's the link to the Banned Books site you can look at which talks more about Banned Book Week. I'm sure you have some banned books and didn't even know it. Until my next post, happy reading.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Travel Journals

I love to travel places - as anyone does - and what I love to do most is to pick up one of my old travel journals and read it. 

I know, I know! This sounds really corny and silly to do! But I really do love to read about the experiences I've had places and when I do, I feel as though I'm reliving it.

Has this ever happened to you? 

Okay. Now, whenever I go traveling to Brunswick Heads, I take a travel journal with me... and not just any travel journal: I take the same one! I bought a little black, hardcover sketch book and took it along to my holidays with me on year, wrote in it, then put it back on the shelf. The following year, when the time came to travel back down to Brunswick Heads, I grabbed the very same black, hardcovered sketchbook, took it back down the coast again and wrote about my time in Brunswick Heads - but a year later! However, the year later, I forgot the sketchbook and so this yearly travel journal misses a year... it has yet to make another journey to the coast with me. This was because I had had surgery on all 6 sun cancers on my hands and arms and clean forgotten to pack it - and besides, I didn't have the energy to do any writing. I did have plenty of energy to read though - as that's all I could really do.

I have begun writing a book about a travel journal though - and it's been great! However, I hit a snag really early on in the piece as I sat at my computer trying to write it. It just didn't sound right with me typing it out on the page on the screen. So, I went out to OfficeWorks and bought a nice little notebook and pens and started writing the next few chapters by hand in the notebook - and you know, the words came so much easier when I wrote it by hand! I don't know what happened, or why this has happened, but it's been going really well. I'm not sure if it's going to transfer to the computer page all that well... I'll have to wait and see.

Has this happened to you when writing a book or transferring your journals to a computer? They just didn't seem to look right up on a screen and they looked and read better in a journal written by hand? Well, I have this quandary. I wonder if it's best to have a book published looking like it's been hand-written or should it be published normally and have the unfinished appearance (like books were a few years ago)? I guess I'll have to wait and see.Well, until my next post, keep on writing and happy reading.

Friday, September 9, 2016


I just love collecting notebooks - as well as books themselves - to use for different things. I have so many of them and hold onto them for a variety of reasons - but mainly I use them as journals; and so I often ask for them for Christmas. 

Sometimes, I'll be at the coast for Christmas and I'll find some at obscure stores in artsy towns and I'll buy some just so I have them to use when I want to. Dad thinks I'm wasting my money... but when my Mum looked through my journals, she thought the difference in them was great.

You see, I come from a long line of journal and diary writers - and boy! Can we write! I often just write about my day, what's been going on in the week, or how something just affects me when I feel trapped or I can't sleep at night. Otherwise, I might leave my journal alone for months on end. But I've been keeping a journal - on and off - since 1996; a year after a Melanoma operation which saved my life when I was 23 years old. I found that writing in one really helped me; and I went from wondering if I was writing the right thing to knowing what to write when I sat down with pen and notebook in hand. 

But I have found that the notebooks aren't only for journals. A few of my notebooks are for particular purposes. I have one which is being slowly filled with things, sayings and information for somebody I'm writing it for - it's a work of art really. I'm hoping that when it's finished, I can just hand it to her and she'll be able to work on filling it up more with other things - as I won't fill it completely. 

Then, there's the large number of notebooks which I have dotted around my office which are poetry books, dossiers and filled with stories and story ideas. They're really just Mont Mart Art books which have been great to work with and I've taken them place where I can sit and write in them without the lines on the page haunting me. I also fill other little notebooks with poetry... these ones have been used usually in my bedroom when I have insomnia; and I can't get myself to sleep. I write the best poetry then about just about anything in those notebooks.

Just yesterday, I was at Officworks looking for a couple of purple pens when I stumbled upon an aisle filled with notebooks! I wished I had more money on me so I could buy a few of these wonderful things! But I whittled my choice down to one and found it was the most lovely little book! Isn't it the cutest thing? I think so. I'm currently writing a book and having problems doing it, so I thought it would do me good to write it in a notebook first and see how I go... see if that works out. Yep, I'm going about it through the back door of writing; instead of sitting at the computer and forcing myself to write (which never ends well). 

So, what kinds of notebooks do you have in your collection, and what number of things do you use them for? Are your uses the same as mine? Or do you have other uses for them? Do you collect on a large number like I do? Or do you buy them as you need them? Until my next post, happy reading!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Fan Fiction and Spin-off Storylines

Writing is a dangerous thing to do - just like art is. However, it's how you write a book or a story that really does get your idea across.

I recently wrote a flash fiction which took on an 'X-Men' theme and had some idiot out there leave a comment on my blog telling me off about it. This 'person' didn't leave their screen name or anything, they went under the 'Anonymous' name/bio and thought they'd be safe. 

When somebody does that to my blog, I immediately delete their comments, because if they don't have the gut - the courage - to tell me who they are, they don't deserve a space on my blog to comment.

Writing is a thing of the mind. It's a craft I've been working on since I was in high school and it's something I'll working on well after many people have made it big in the world. I'm not in it to make money, I'm in it to entertain people - and it's great for my mind as well.

However, when somebody goes and abuses the system, leaving abusive notes and comments on a person's blog, it makes you wonder exactly why they're following your blog in the first place? Are they there to see you stuff up and they can point out the problems with your work? Are they waiting for you to make a spelling mistake and laugh at how you didn't correct yourself? Or are they just there to make sure their narcissistic personality gets online and makes you feel like crap? 

Either way, I don't care for it. If somebody doesn't like my work, don't read it. If you think I've ripped off a trademarked works - like Marvel or D.C Comics or Thor or X-Men - well, take a good look around, there's plenty of people doing fan fiction (which is pretty much the same thing) and you're not bugging them about it. 

So what if I wrote something a little sub-standard and not against the grain? I thought getting in with the X-Men thing was something good... I hardly ever get my mind into it as it's difficult to do. And if I want to write stuff like that, it's something I want to write. And other people are writing something similar to it as well.

You see, 'Anonymous', I don't care. You're the one who is the problem in this society. You're a troll, you're a bully and you're the biggest problem going online. If you don't like my work, don't read it. Until my next post, happy reading. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Writing A Book

You know, I'll tell you guys that I'm writing a book, and then you don't hear from me about it for a while; then I'll tell you I'm writing another one.

But it's not that easy.

Books are hard work.

First the idea you have to come up with. You have to come up with an idea that you've never seen before anywhere; and that's never easy. Or have to rework an idea that's been done before in such a way people don't see it coming.

Then you have your own style of writing it. Not everyone has the same writing style - no matter how many times a publisher will say to you that 'this is has been done before' they can't dictate to you exactly how it's been done. They can't tell you that your idea has been written exactly like Stephen King's or Peter Straub's or F. Scott Fitzgerald's. That idea may be similar to any one of them, but it's written in your style and that's what makes the difference.

Then - and here's the hard part - you have to leave your book alone for about a year. Don't touch it, go near it to edit or read it again. Once you have done that, go and read it and see where you've screwed up. Go and see where you can either save it or toss it. 
Yes this is a lot of work for probably nothing, but it's all about your work, your time and your style. If you don't want to be a writer, don't put in the time to write a book (or a series of books). This is how long it takes to write a book - and this is before it goes into the agent or the publisher; before you start spending money on getting it put through proofreaders, editors and other people who have never seen your work... people who will help you sound like you but more refined; these are people you pay to get you published.

This is where you start rewriting. Your first book will take between ten to twenty rewrites - because it's your first book and you'll screw up a lot. I know I did. My first book, 'Angie', never saw the publishers because it wasn't worth it. The idea was great, but the story, characters, the world ... it was all cardboard and when I went back to it to fix it? Well, it was too far gone to be salvageable. So, I left it alone and started on my next book. My next book took me fifteen years to write... I had to do some serious research to get it right. I had to travel overseas, read some sci-fi fantasy and get in and collect some books on sword-play and recipe books on what people ate, wore and customs of the Dark Ages (this was a world I never studied at high school because I never studied Modern History; instead I studied Ancient History - silly really). But I loved what I got into. I ended up at Medieval Fairs and enjoyed writing my world. 
However, when I finally went to finish the first book, I found my book wasn't finished; and it turned over into a second book - which never saw through to the end of Part One. The reason behind this was because I started writing a sci-fi action thriller right as the sci-fi fantasy one finished... I amazed myself. I went right from the Dark Ages straight into a world of Philip K Dick, where there wasn't a suit of armour to be seen anywhere!

Writing is a great outlet for anything you want to show others. You can take them on your own magic carpet ride anywhere you wish. You're the God of the Worlds you build, the King of your Kingdoms and the very person who can say who lives, who dies, who gets married, who can fly who doesn't and what happens right on these pages.

And if you do it right? Well, that's when the real magic happens.

Anyone can write a book... but it's a matter of knowing how to keep your reader interested in your book, along with yourself, that really matters. The idea is the first hook - it doesn't have to be original. What reels in your audience is how you make that idea fly.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Currently Reading

Now, I was going to start off this post with 'Killing Willis' by Todd Bridges... but I didn't want it look bad with the first word being 'Killing' on Google. So, I thought to make it a 'Currently Reading' post instead.

Here in Australia, on one of the free-to-air cable channels, we have 'Diff'rent Strokes' tv show from the 1980's. It was a standard show to watch in my family as it was a rag-to-riches kind of thing and my folks insisted my brother and I watched something of a broad range of shows when they were on offer. And when 'Diff'rent Strokes' came out, it was new, interesting and - well - different. It was about two African-American brothers - Arnold and Willis Jackson - from Harlem in New York City who had lost their parents in an accident who were adopted by a rich, white family uptown. Now, the white family weren't without their own problems. It was just a father and daughter and they wanted to have more to their family than just those two; and chose Arnold and Willis. This half-hour show turned into something of a weekly ritual for us to sit down and watch. I don't remember how many seasons there were or how long we watched into those seasons, but I do remember loving that show and having a huge crush on Todd Bridges - hey, I was young. And I still think he's not bad-looking.

Anyway, I was perusing a bookstore over the last year and found a book written by Todd Bridges called 'Killing Willis'. It was all about his life after 'Diff'rent Strokes' and what happened to him, how he felt when he was seen out in public and how fame affected not only him, but Dana Plato and Gary Coleman. Being child-stars affected each one of them in a different way. Gary had a major medical condition that caused him to stay pretty much the same size he was in the show for his whole life; and caused him to become a very bitter and angry person. Dana Plato turned to drugs and never came out of that downward spiral in the same way Todd did. He knew there was a way out of that and worked hard to be the person he is now. And this caused him to write this book about his life. 

But it wasn't until I picked up the book recently that I found it was a new edition with an afterward that Todd penned about Gary Coleman - about how misunderstood he was; and how the media turned Gary's life into something it really wasn't. I haven't read the whole book (I'm only two chapters into it) but from how far I'm into it now, I can say it's a very revealing, candid and honest story about somebody's life. I don't know if I've read anything like this before where the hurt, depression and need to be heard is so evident that I don't want to put this autobiography down. I haven't read a book like this since Danny Sugarman's book 'Wonderland Avenue'. I look forward to reading the rest of it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tidy, Tidy!

I've been going through a huge decluttering phase in my life over the past 4 - 5 years; now that's huge! 

But it's been a great thing for me.

I have given away some of my books that I have zero interest in, have found books I thought I had lost and have started reading some books I thought I never thought I would. I have also begun writing a book about my books and what piqued my interest in books, writing and how it all began in the first place... now, this has interested my family the most. My Mum thought it was weird to start with, until she read the first few pages of 'The Red Ledger' (working title) and found it fascinating of how the inside of my mind worked.

However, she also found that when she came to my house she spotted a lot of books sitting around the corners of my house in places where they weren't supposed to be. For example: I have an autobiography of a famous book critic and another book about vampire stories in amongst my gardening books and journals in my living room. Exactly how they came to be there is still a mystery to me, and I didn't know they were there until Mum pointed them out to me; and I pulled them out of the collection there and brought up to the main book collection to place them where they were supposed to be. 

This was when a lot of other books kind of fell into view from all kinds of places. Yep, part of the tidying up in my house started with how many books I could find in my living room... it was kind of like playing 'Hide and Go See' book-style; and it was funny how many books I found! I filled a Green Bag with them all; and I'm still finding books around the place to bring up to the collection.

Yes, it looks like they've multiplied on me somehow. Oh well, I guess that's how books become collections, right? Until my next post, happy reading.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

InHouse Publishing Author's Day

Today, I was out and about at InHouse Publishing Author Day at Underwood. It was a beautiful Winter's day to be there - but I didn't get there until the speeches were halfway through. So, my socialising had to be cut short for a bit as people were taking the stage to talk about their journeys in the publishing world. 

However, as with most public places, there's always a bit of chatter in the background during those things. I was told by one of the authors to 'shush!' while I was catching up with an author friend of mine from Facebook I've known for a few years and hadn't been able to attend her book launch due to having laryngitis that week. I know that it's not always everything you want when you do a public thing, but sometimes, it's the public who do the rounds who are just there to network and aren't really there for the speeches. 

Don't get me wrong, authors talking about their journeys is great. However, I watched the interviews online; and felt as though I had heard everything all over again when they were talking today, so thought I didn't really need to hear it. But that was just me. 

I did talk to my share of authors and people there, collecting a nice pile of business cards. I also got talking to a local writer's group who doesn't have a horror writer; so I might drop into that one to see how I feel about joining in. Well, it was a great day for it all, but I didn't stay for too long... just enough to talk to some people, have an ice coffee and make a few connections along the way. Until my next post, happy reading.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


The other night, I sat down and penned a letter to a dear friend of mine in Toowoomba. I love to write in longhand and she enjoys hearing from me. I also include a piles of photos when I post off my 4-7 page letters to her.

Now, you're going to ask me: why don't you email her? It's cheaper and she can download the photos in a sinch. 

Well, my friend is Joan Lane and she's 80. I've known her since I around 6 years old and holidaying at Brunswick Heads.  She's kind of like my second Grandmother and her and her now-late husband, Ted became close family friends of ours over the years.

Joan doesn't have the internet and wouldn't know how to turn on a computer; actually, these modern-new-fangled things scare her. So, when I learned of this, I decided to write her letters and post them to her. She loves receiving mail and I don't mind if she never writes back; as she's not all that great at writing letters.
So, about 3 times a year, I write Joan a lovely long letter, with photos included inside, telling her about what I've been up to in my life. She loves reading about it; and she shares the news and photos with her family. 

Do you still retain the skill of letter-writing? Do you have a collection of stationery at your disposal? Or do you sit and email all your friends; and if you have somebody who doesn't have a computer, you don't go near pen and paper for them? I love writing to Joan. It's reminds me of how tactile the act of letter-writing actually is and that we really shouldn't lose the skill of writing a really good letter to somebody we're friends with... it may be something we'll really treasure from somebody else someday. Until my next post, happy reading.