Brian Jacques – Redwall

Posted on 15 June 2010. Filed under: Authors | Tags: , , , |

Brian Jacques is the much celebrated author of the Redwall series of books. He was born on the 15th June in 1939 in Liverpool.

I’ve read a couple of Redwall books and am not much excited by them, but I can see why others would be, they are swashbuckling adventures and the animals have characters based on how the real animals act. The animals have accents which fit well with what we know about these particular animals. Nicely written with some lovely descriptive passages. I can recognise all of this and I still don’t like them. My kids adored them a few years ago and I have friends who think they’re wonderful. One thing I do like about them is the recipes.

Here’s a few facts I’ve gleaned from a smidgeon of research.

He began his professional writing career writing plays, three of them were performed in Liverpool and a child actor in one was Craig Charles who played Dave Lister in Red Dwarf. One of my favourite shows of all time, I can’t watch them enough.

I’m just going to compare him to Kate Bush for a moment, I know, it’s a bit of a stretch, but please bear with me. There was a rumour in the 1980s that when she was at school Bush wrote a song and her teacher refused to believe she’d written it as it was too good, that song was later released and reached the top ten in the charts. Brian Jacques submitted a story to a teacher at the age of 10 and was also disbelieved as the teacher felt he could not possibly have written such a good story.

Jacques was eventually published after a friend submitted a manuscript to the publisher telling him they’d be mad not to publish it. Jacques was soon called to London and given a contract for the next five books.

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Anne Frank – diary entry

Posted on 12 June 2010. Filed under: Authors | Tags: , , |

Dear Diary,

Today is the day I was going to write about Anne Frank. It’s an auspicious day as it’s the anniversary of her birthday, 12th June 1929, if she was still alive she’d be a little older than my mother-in-law. If I keep to the facts it might be possible to keep the tears at bay…

Sorry, diary, I’m back. Writing about Anne Frank is a bit problematic. She had such a short and challenging life. She went with her family into hiding, a pre-prepared place behind a wall in her father’s business. They had to be quieter than mice, rarely go outside and be careful of coughing. It was a hard life and in her diary e…

Back again. I’ve wiped my tears and blown my nose. So much for keeping to the facts and keeping the tears at bay. I knew this would be hard but not this hard. I’ve always tried to imagine how hard it would be to keep so quiet that people would not be able to hear you, to be quieter than a mouse as it was the difference between life and concentration camps. You see, Frank had the misfortune to be born Jewish and to be living in Germany during the time of the Holocaust. There weren’t many choices if you were Jewish and in Germany or one of the related countries, you either got out or risked being rounded up and sent to a concentration camp. This book showed her life in hiding in the two years before the family were betrayed. Both Frank and her older sister, Margot, were taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where they died of typhus…

Sorry, no more – just too many tears. Be aware of that when you read it.

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Jesse Francis McComas editor extraordinaire

Posted on 9 June 2010. Filed under: Authors |

Born on this day (9th of June) back in 1910 was Jesse Francis McComas. I’m sure his parents had no idea of the heights he’d reach in publishing and without better resources I can’t begin to find out at what point he became interested in writing and publishing but it happened at some point in his life.

McComas was a salesman and editorial representative for Random House starting from 1941, spent some time as the Pacific Coast editorial representative for Henry Holt and Company and also some time with Simon and Schuster as their Northern California sales manager and general editorial representative. He co-edited the anthology, Adventures in Time and Space with Raymond J. Healy in 1946 and along with Anthony Boucher was the co-founding editor of The Magazine of Fantasy which later became the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

As if this wasn’t enough he also wrote under the pseudonym of Webb Marlowe. The two books I know he wrote are Shock Treatment (1954) and Parallel in )1955).

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Authors talk about death and illness

Posted on 7 June 2010. Filed under: Authors | Tags: , , , , |

I was struggling to find something to write about tonight until I had a conversation with my friend, Mark, who mentioned Sara Douglass had been written up in The Sunday Times in Perth. You might remember Mark, he wrote about the tenth anniversary of Crusader. You can find the pdf of the article here.

Douglass is a very vocal person and brought up a wonderful topic for discussion. Basically, she’s dying of cancer and has been virtually deserted by so many people who do not know or understand how to deal with really bad ill health. They do not understand the pain levels and certainly do not understand the exhaustion levels. Douglas wrote about this on her blog and as at this time there are 81 comments. It is a very big topic and one I can totally relate to, not that I have cancer or any kind of illness such as that but I have had my share of health challenges and do have a number of allergies and intolerances. Whenever I’ve spoken of my health challenges over the years I’ve always felt that people don’t want to know the details and so I’ve picked up the habit of trying to only talk about them when it’s necessary, such as when ordering food. I can’t begin to understand how much harder it must be for someone like Douglass who needs to not only stop talking about it but also comfort those around her who are not sick.

I read a related article a while ago by Lionel Shriver who not only has her own health challenges but spent a lot of print time saying mea culpa. Her very good friend was dying and she kept on putting off contacting her as she couldn’t deal with her friend denying her impending death. I read that and thought, mea culpa I am guilty of the same thing. I do try, if I know someone is nearing death, to actually go and see them to make my goodbyes, but I have never said to them ‘what can I do for you?’ I have never asked them if there was anything I could do to make things easier for them and I rarely visit them before they get to that point.

In her blog Douglass apologises for being inconvenient and I have this to say to her. ‘Sara Douglas, I would love you to continue to be inconvenient, you have provoked much discussion and that is a healthy part of this society. You are a wonderful person and you have brought a very large problem to our notice, it is similar to the one I have been pondering since reading Lionel Shriver’s article and you have voiced everything I’ve been thinking and so much more. Not only that you have voiced it in much better language than I ever could. For that, I thank you.’

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Arnold Zable

Posted on 12 April 2010. Filed under: Authors | Tags: , , , |

It was at the Second Australian Jewish Genealogy Society (Vic) Conference. I’d signed up as a volunteer even though I’m not overly excited by the thought of researching my family’s genealogy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very important thing to do I’m just not interested in doing the research myself. My OH is on the committee, he’s very dedicated both with his committee activities and with the research into both of our family trees, and I describe myself as a supportive spouse
so I did the supportive part and signed up to help out. There were very few sessions I actually wanted to see, and one of them was Arnold Zable. Seeing as he’s a writer I felt I could see him and then write an article about him for my blog. I wasn’t prepared for the article that would appear when I saw him.

Zable spoke after the Israeli Ambassador, Yuval Rotem. Rotem spoke about wanting to find his family and having to come to Australia to do it. Apparently when he first came here he was interviewed by a young journalist who turned out to be a cousin.

Zable listened to Rotem’s story and said how to write a story such as this you need more than just names you also need incidents and you also need to be able to see the places in your minds eye before you can describe it in words. He used an excerpt from his book Jewels and Ashes as an illustration. It had names, incidents but he also had to do lots of research in order to be able to picture it and to be able to write it so as the reader can also see it.

The part that stood out from Zable’s talk was how he illustrated various parts of writing I’ve been reading about. This article talks about showing the listener a part of the book and not just telling them to read the book, so Zable gave us the name of the book, what it was about and then read an excerpt, making us want to read it. Other articles I’ve read talk about showing the reader what you want them to see, using language that will enable them to see it without ramming it down their throat and Zabel’s extract did exactly that. It showed us the scene and didn’t ram it down our throats, it was very gentle but very evocative. He constantly mentioned the names of his books, something else I’ve read about. I can’t find the article at present, but it spoke about the need to tell people the names of your books by casually presenting them within the context of what you’re talking about and this is something he did.

Basically, I felt his talk could be used as a template in how to present to the public and make them want to read your works. There were numerous other examples of what he did right from a publicity angle. Have a look at his website to see more information about him.

And the hard part? How to choose which books to buy, he made them all sound so wonderful. Having them all is really the only option.

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Happy Birthday Neil Gaiman

Posted on 7 November 2009. Filed under: Authors |

Neil Richard Gaiman, author and screen writer. He’s written a number of excellent books and I’m told the films he’s written the screenplays for are also excellent but I haven’t actually seen any of them as yet. There’s still plenty of time so I’m not ruling out seeing them I just haven’t…as yet. Not being a big fan of Neil Gaiman I’m not really in tune with his news and what he does in the UK so when I discovered it will be his birthday in a few days I decided I’d be ahead of myself for a change and blog about him before it happened. So, I did as anyone does nowadays and googled him. I found his blog, not terribly hard but I was astounded by what I found. I could have spent more time blogging about his writing and talking about his collaboration with Terry Pratchett or I could talk about his movies (bit silly, but I’ve done sillier things before) but I’m not.

He’s talking about the Graveyard Book parties and how the bookshops throw a party and get to enter their party into a competition, including an invitation, signage and the other thousand and one arrangements that one puts together for a party. The entries are judged by the publisher who chooses the 11 best entries and submits them to Neil Gaiman for a final choice. Gaiman will then attend that bookshop sometime in December for a signing.

I looked at the blog entries talking about this and thought ‘What a brilliant idea’. It means that instead of being assigned a signing date or having the largest shops get the signing, all the small shops get a chance to have Neil Gaiman attend their shop for a signing. This gives the small shops a boost to their sales for the signing but it also gives them a boost to their sales for the party. It raises their profile in their community and even further away so they have a better chance of surviving.

So, happy birthday to Neil Gaiman and thank you for helping small bookshops.

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Patricia Wrightson

Posted on 3 November 2009. Filed under: Authors |

Today, being Melbourne Cup day, I should really be reviewing a book on Phar Lap or a book on racing as that would be really appropriate. I’m not really sporty or interested in anything relating to sport so I don’t have anything appropriate so you’ll just have to put up with a few words about Patricia Wrightson.

Patricia Wrightson is a very well respected Australian author. She was born in Lismore, New South Wales in 1921 and began her writing career in 1955 with The Crooked Snake which was a winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in 1956. While I could only find 28 titles she’s written between 1955 and 1997 she is so well respected that they named an award after her – NSW Premier’s Literary Award, Patricia Wrightson Prize for children’s literature ($30,000). Not many Australian authors can say they have an award named after them and even fewer were alive when it happened. Out of those 28 titles, 12 of them have received awards. She even received an OBE in 1977!

In 1968 she wrote two books called: A Racecourse for Andy; and I Own the Racecourse! I don’t have either of these but I do recall another book she wrote was always a favourite in my childhood. The Nargun and The Stars was published in 1973 and so I must have read it new. It had a fabulous kind of magic and lead me into the world I always considered to be Aboriginal, one that is very close to the earth and to the cycles of the seasons. The rest of her writing is just as good and I’d be happy to recommend any of her books. I’ll just list some on the website.

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Dirk Bogarde

Posted on 25 October 2009. Filed under: Authors |

Dirk Bogarde – actor, author, artist, screen idol. He was born Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde on 28 March 1921 and died on 8 May 1999. In my childhood I knew him as one of the most gorgeous looking actors on screen, star of the three Doctor movies, Doctor in the House, Doctor at Sea and Doctor at Large based on the books written by Richard Gordon. He was a really good actor as well as being very good looking and starred in so many things I can’t possibly write them all here so if you’re interested just follow the link to IMDB.

His official website was created by his nephew, Brock Van den Bogaerde. While I can’t recommend this site too much, it does have a very good timeline: clear, concise and easily readable. This fan website is much better for getting a list of his books along with a precis of the book. Not to mention Wikipedia which has a very comprehensive article on him.

Having seen him in the movies I was quite astonished to find some books with his name on them so I had to buy them. I was more than pleasantly surprised to find they were eminently readable. I find his writing style to match his looks, witty, elegant and literary. While some of the things he wrote about weren’t pleasant they were still very readable and I was left with an indelible impression of his life. It was lovely to see his acting career from his point of view, especially the beginning and it was quite touching to see how he coped with his partner’s illnesses and his own health challenges. Certainly an author to watch out for.

Currently for sale on the Suz’s Space Website, Cleared For Take-Off, A Short Walk from Harrods, A Postillion Struck by Lightning and Snakes and Ladders.

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Mary Elwyn Patchett

Posted on 17 October 2009. Filed under: Authors |

I’m really annoyed. I’m trying to list a few things on eBay in order to make some quick money. I grabbed a box of books that looked good and started researching to see which would sell best.

First of all I got Mary Elwyn Patchett mixed up with Elyne Mitchell which sent me on a merry-go-round trying to find a non-existent book. The reason it annoyed me is because I’ve known since my childhood that these two Australian authors are totally different people. They both wrote brumby books set in the area in and around the Snowy Mountains. The were both very talented authors and were always on my list of favourite authors who I’d happily recommend to child and adult alike. Normally, there’d be absolutely no way I’d confuse the two so I’m very annoyed I did so this time.

The other thing I’m annoyed about is that there is almost no information on the web about Mary Elwyn Patchett. The only thing I can find is on Fantastic Fiction which tells me she lived in Australia, was born in 1897 and died in 1972. Her brumby books and dingo books are absolutely fabulous and totally stand the test of time. They are as good to me now as they were when I first read them and I feel there should be some information about her somewhere. Unfortunately all I know about her is that her books are fabulous, and I don’t know of any printed information that I can look up to find out more about her to create a wiki so this post will have to serve for the present. Should you know more about her or should you know where I can look I’d really appreciate it as she really deserves to be more prominent.

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Sara Douglass, Celebrating Ten Years of Crusader This Month

Posted on 16 October 2009. Filed under: Authors, Guest Blogger |

Sara Douglass, Celebrating Ten Years of Crusader This Month

This month celebrates the tenth anniversary release of Book 3 of the Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass.

Sara Douglass is an Australian author whose books were first published in 1995 with her first published book Axis, book one of the trilogy by the same name. Ever since then she has been churning out books at a rather prolific rate.

Her writing has won her three Aurealis Awards and had several books make the Aurealis Awards finalists list. She is also an internationally recognised author, although some of her works go by different names overseas. At this point for those of you not from Australia I will point out that what I have referred to and will continue to refer to as the Axis trilogy is known internationally as the first three books of the Wayfarer Redemption.

Before becoming a published author she worked for many years as a nurse in Adelaide she then worked towards her BA whilst still working as a nurse. She studied Modern English History and then later began to teach Medieval History at Bendigo’s Latrobe University.

Why is she one of my favourite author’s to date? For that you’ll have to read on and endure my unwieldy word smithing.

Every birthday and Christmas my mother has a little ritual of making sure that my brother and I get at least one book, this is something she still does to this day even though my brother and I have both long since finished school and left home.

On the Christmas Day of 1996 my mother gave me the Axis trilogy, I felt I was really lucky this year as I got not one or two books but a trilogy! That night full of way too much food and thoroughly sick of family visitors I cracked open the first book of the trilogy. It was one of those experiences that most avid readers have every now and again where you find a sparkling gem of literary genius that helps you to step out of this world and into another realm, in this case I stepped into the mystical realm of Tecendor.

Ever since then Sara Douglass’ books have graced my favourites shelves. Yes that’s correct I have a set of shelves dedicated to my favourite books, or in some special cases favourite author’s whose entire works grace these shelves. After all why not? Some people collect models or stamps. Me? I collect books, lots and lots of books.

Nine years later and many books later (praise be brilliant yet prolific authors!) Sara Douglass’ works was now occupying an entire shelf and I had started studying history at university. It was then that I began to realise quite how great her works were. She was taking all these elements of history and weaving them seamlessly into her works creating a flowing world of magic and adventure with elements of our own world entwined within.

This seemingly effortless grace of utilising pieces of our own history and working them into her own works made sense once I’d done a little bit of Googling and found out some information about her. I was not at all surprised when I found out that she was a historian herself. Being a historian she has quite an impressive arsenal at her disposal and makes very good use of it.

One of my favourite things about her books is the way it feels like someone is telling you a tale. The comfy feeling you get as if you are snuggled deep in your favourite armchair in front of the fire with a cup of Earl Grey listening to this tale of wonder unfold. I know this sounds silly but it wasn’t until I discovered her Nonsuch Gardening Blog and started reading her gardening adventures in windy Tasmania that I realised it wasn’t Azhure or Grace or any of my favourite characters from her books narrating the story to me but Sara herself. It was her voice telling the tale, the same one telling of her own gardening adventures.

Cut to present day and now here I am thirteen years after I started reading her books trying to put some semblance of direction into my words on why she is one my favourite authors and to give her an appropriately biased tribute.

So if you are looking for well written books with decently flowing story lines and interesting twists I would recommend Sara Douglass to you. She has been a prolific author ever since Axis hit the shelves so there are a good number of books available to read and in my biased opinion are worth reading. The future direction of her literary career is uncertain since her diagnosis with cancer last year. Although she has finished The Infinity Gate book three of her latest trilogy Dark Glass Mountain her life understandably is taking her in a new direction and it is yet to be determined whether her readers will see more books from her.

For me she joins the list of Australian Authors that have helped put Australia on the literary map. She joins the ranks of authors such as S.A Wakefield and Juliet Marillier. More than that in fact, I would say that she easily creates a new world of fantasy as real and great as that of J.R.R Tolkien.

However don’t just take my word for it, take a trip to your local library or bookstore and pick up one of her books and see for yourself.


Aurealis Awards
Holistic Page
Sara Douglass’ Official Webpage and Blog (Current)
Sara Douglass’ Official (Now discontinued) Webpage

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