Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

Tag: Aussie spec-fic author challenge (Page 2 of 2)

Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – October Round-Up

I’ve temporarily skipped my September report but don’t worry, I’m still reading the book. I snuck ahead to my October read because I couldn’t stand waiting to read the anthology containing my first published story.

2013redlitzerAnthologyFor my October read I read the 2013 Redlitzer Anthology.

The 2013 Redlitzer Anthology contains nineteen stories all from the shortlisted winners of the 2013 Redlitzer Writing Competition. Nine stories are from the adult category and the other ten are from the teenage category (there was also a junior category, but they were published in a separate anthology).

I went into reading the anthology well aware that there would be a broad range of genres and styles since the only thing binding the anthology together (apart from glue obviously) was the fact all the authors are from the same geographical area. Despite that fact there wasn’t a single story in the volume which was disappointing.

And I mean it. I’m not saying this because I’m published in there, I genuinely found every story interesting and well written. I honestly expected there to be at least one story that fell short (in my opinion, not overall) as I must confess there was one in the 2012 Redlitzer (which I read as research before submitting)(and no, I won’t tell you which one because it was simply a case of the genre being not my particular style, so it wasn’t the writer’s fault and they don’t deserve to be outed like that), but no, I really did like every single story.

The anthologies on display

The anthologies on display the launch night

There are several stories that fall into the speculative fiction category, meaning I can totally claim this for the challenge ;p . ‘A Royal transformation’ by Madison Birtchnell has a wonderful world and an obvious message, and ‘Loving Arizona’ by Alana Coomer contains a really cool concept which reminds me a little of what I’ve written about in my novel ‘Written By The Stars’. ‘The Host’ by Charlie Schirmer views a world through the dark eyes of an invading entity and does a very cool job. ‘It Was Lonely Being God’ by Sean West is a short but bittersweet tale looking at things from a different perspective. Of course not forgetting my own story ‘Stolen hearts’ where a young woman must track down the man who stole her grandmother’s heart before it’s too late.

The remaining stories range from tales of love (and lust in the case of ‘Mates’ by Linda Stevenson) to memoir pieces (like Hazel Barker’s ‘Hunger’) to action and adventure (and robbing the local pub in ‘Go On Three’ by Robbie Milton).

The stories by the teenagers rarely read as such, these guys (and gals of course) have some serious talent.

The editors choice stories ‘Terminus’ by Margaret Dakin and ‘The Light In The Darkness’ by Ebony Jolley, are obviously not to be missed but I also quite enjoyed ‘My Dad Came Home’ by Narelle Fuller and ‘Afghanistan’s Daughter’ by Lauren Johnson. ‘Relentless’ by Michelle Upton utterly broke my heart. Also, I wouldn’t blame you if you flicked straight to page 99 to read ‘Stolen Hearts’ by Kirstie Olley ;p

On the whole it is a great collection to read and I am seriously so proud to have been a part of it.

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keep your eyes on this blog, giveaway soon to come!

Australian Spec-Fic authors Challenge – August Round-Up

aurealis_64_coverNearly all of my reports for the challenge thus far have been on full length novels but I read a lot of short stories too. I’m subscribed to several different journals and magazines (and intend to subscribe to a few more when I get some spare cash) and thought I’d bring an Australian publication to the forefront. This may kinda be cheating since the authors aren’t always Australian, but the whole point of the challenge is to read more Australian speculative fiction, and if supporting an Aussie spec-fic magazine isn’t doing that then what is?

Aurealis, has been releasing issues for 23 years. You may be familiar with the Aurealis awards too, these are the people who created and continue to run them. Their contribution to the Australian speculative fiction scene is not to be sniffed at.

The issues come out monthly (except for January and December) and consist of a couple of stories followed by articles and reviews of Aussie spec-fic books and sometimes author interviews.

62_cover_for_websiteI became a subscriber back in early January with the intent of researching the market (and helping them out since Aurealis wants to become an SFWA approved market and for that they need 1000 subscribers. Which reminds me, help them and go subscribe now!) but have also found it to be a lot of fun to read.

There’s a great variety in the tales, ranging from traditional high fantasy style to near-future sci-fi (really, volume 62 case in point). It’s also added more than a few books to my ‘to read’ list – including but not limited to my September read: Midnight and Moonshine.

I’ve yet to read an issue of Aurealis I’ve been disappointed in (or put down for anything but necessity), so recommend reading an issue at the very least, or subscribing to enjoy even more and help support the Aussie speculative fiction scene.

Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – July Round-Up

As some of you may have noticed, I am behind on my own reading challenge – for shame! Well it’s all George R R Martin’s fault, because I’ve been reading A Song of Ice and Fire (currently about a third of the way into book 4) so my reading attention has been diverted. Allow me to rectify that now.

deathI’ve just finished reading Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson and I must say, wow, what a cool book! No lack of action, some intrigue so sneaky you aren’t really aware it’s happening until late in the story, the always awesome doomed romance (that you totally want to have work), and solid humour the whole way through.

There were some seriously hilarious parts where I had to stifle the laugh out loud urges so I didn’t wake up the rest of the family.

The story is about Steven de Selby, a Pomp (think death angel, Japanese Shinigami, reaper what have you, but entirely human apart from their ability to help move souls on to the afterlife) who is shot at in the Wintergarden Food Court and the only reason he survives is because a (cute) dead girl warns him moments before. Now Steven has to figure out who is attacking all of the Brisbane pomps and why. Oh, and survive too.

One of the things I loved most about this story was that it’s based in Brisbane so I knew virtually everywhere that was being discussed. This created a great connection for me because I could visualise settings much more vividly that ‘some town in America’ or ‘some medieval village’. In my opinion there aren’t enough stories set in Brisbane ;p

I really enjoyed how the romance was played out too, from initial attraction, to growing emotions, to awkwardness because yeah you can’t hide it anymore – oh and by the way if I touch you I’ll send you to the afterlife so we’re doomed from the offset. Love it. I’ve read a few books recently where the relationships didn’t spark for me (none of the books have been Aussie, hooray!) and I’ve realised if I don’t believe the romance then a lot of the character begins to fall flat for me and a great story is intimately tied to character.

The pace in Death Most Definite also has good velocity. I am currently obsessed with book velocity (as I’ve personally dubbed it), because if I’m not dragged along, caught in the tail wind I find myself going off to work on my own writing, or play a video game, or you know, tidy the house ;p. I don’t have much free time between work and raising a child, so if there’s not enough velocity the book loses out to Etrian Odyssey or editing. That’s probably another part of why I fell behind.

All up I loved the book and am looking forward to finding the time to read the sequels. Oh and here’s my Goodreads review if you’re curious

Aussie Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – June Round-Up

BurnBrightAs promised last month, I finished the second and third volumes of Marianne de Pierres’ Night Creatures Trilogy.

You can find my full reviews of each volume on Goodreads, Burn Bright, Angel Arias and Shine Light.

My favourite part of this series is the world. I don’t know anything like it out there. The cold and restrictive Grave, the way they travel through a crazy vortex to reach the dark party island of Ixion was a great starting taste, but it becomes obvious early on there’s much more to the world than just these locations when you start to meet characters from other places who’ve also come to Ixion, and it isn’t just Retra who has more on her mind than simply partying.

Tangel ariashe books move between Grave and Ixion, and the overall feel of the writing changes as you move between locations, giving you an immersive sense of what that place would be like to be in.

The Ripers are clearly born from the vampyric mythos, but if you are avoiding these books because you know of that (I’ve got to admit, it’s part of why I delayed reading them) let me assure you they aren’t your typical vampires, and they certainly don’t sparkle either. There is much more to them and a few interesting twists to look forward to.

At first, Retra was a difficult character for me to get into personally. Because of being raised as a ‘Seal’ she was inclined to not speak up and to hold back, and I struggle to understand when people don’t speak their minds, because that is how I am. Even when still Retra however she showed strength, resilience and the desire to protect others. I say ‘when still Retra’ because part way through book one (SPOILER ALERT (obviously)) Retra experiences a life-changing event and gives herself a new name: Naif. Naif is everything I love in a young woman protagonist: brave, determined, forthright and not one hundred percent sure of herself.

shine lightOne thing I must add, de Pierres writes amazing action/tension scenes. More the once I found myself clenching my teeth and tensing my muscles while reading the later two of the novels.

Another thing I have to praise is the well-weightedness (not a real term? Well I don’t care) of the answers to mystery ratio in these books. Each book poses (and carries-on) questions, and those that most needed to be answered were in that book, while some carried on. I was never left without curiosity, but never strung out to the point where I thought “If she doesn’t tell me *insert question here* by the next page I’m throwing this book to the wall!” (which seriously, I have thought about several books). This is a tough thing to get a grip on as an author, to lead the reader deeper into the desert with further questions, but to slake their thirst every so often so they don’t pass out on you. I hope I can master the art this well.

Also, the cover fairy certainly blessed de Pierres. I’ve also learned she recently had these books released in America, so my foreign readers can enjoy them. In fact I actually bought Angel Arias from Amazon (because I couldn’t find it anywhere and didn’t want to wait ;p ).

I haven’t decided just yet what I’ll read for July, but I’m leaning toward Fiona McIntosh’s The Scrivener’s Tale. I’m having trouble deciding because my recent trip to the Lifeline Bookfest resulted in an impressive haul, and a very broad selection to choose from.

not the most flattering photo of me, but you should be focusing on the stack of books

not the most flattering photo of me, but you should be focusing on the stack of books anyway

Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – May Round-Up

Someone asked me this month if indie authors count toward the Aussie Spec-Fic Authors Challenge. She also asked about short stories. Well in my opinion, yes on both counts. Any way you can support Australian speculative fiction counts in my books. (Books, hahaha, pun)

To better illustrate how happy I am to include indies, even though I read a traditionally published book for May, I’m going to report on an indie short story and an indie novel this month. (For those worried about me ignoring Burn Bright, I’m not, I’ll finish the other two books in the trilogy and report on all three for my June read)

lifesphereThe indie novel I read (and praise) is Talitha Kalago’s Life Sphere Inc: Acquisition. It’s the first of a series set in a dystopian future were people psychically link with bio-organic lifeforms (called Meka) to compete with one another.

The world is in depth, with multiple layers of society clearly depicted by sheer decadence scaling down through the levels to literally living in a dump.

The characters are great fun and while they are teens there’s none of the usual teen angst that sometimes makes me avoid young adult. Any suffering the characters go through is real, real enough to feel yourself.

The plot is lots of fun, with plenty of twists and turns that will take you all over the world, from the saddest pit in the Junkyard to the ritziest house in Topside (or at least one of them).

Also, it’s a good solid adventure that guys hoping to avoid the next Twilight can safely read, no mush!

You can get Lifeshpere Inc: Acquisition from Amazon or Smashwords for FREE. So don’t hesitate, just grab it and devour it – I certainly did!

dieselpunkNow, to keep up the indie marathon here: The Dieselpunk Epulp Showcase leads with a story by Grant Gardiner, an Aussie author with a grand appreciation for the 1920s. The other stories are all quite good too, but I like Grant’s the best (and not for biased reasons).

Dieselpunk, for the not-in-the-know, is inspired by the culture of the 1920s-1950s, think the dashing adventures of Bond, Jazz music and the height of fashion and manners. To use the words of Tome Wilson who wrote the foreword and runs dieselpunks.org ‘Retro Future’.

‘That Sort Of World’ is a tale from the Aether Age, which is Grant’s own spin on an alternate history in America(you can find out lots more at his blog). It follows a couple of gangsters trying to break into the big leagues, both in crime and in fashion but you’ll have to read it to see whether they succeed with either goal.

The other stories are also fun singles set in a larger world by their respective authors and feature everything from old school noir grit to idealistic, and somewhat misled, freedom fighters and a fantastic shootout in Citadel City.

You can get the Dieselpunk epulp Showcase for free on Amazon and Smashwords and if you’re hungry for another Tale from the Aether Age, you can find ‘The More Things Change’ free to read online at the Alternate History blog.

Well, to sum it up: Go enjoy some great Aussie indies for free!

Look forward to July 1st when I’ll post my reviews of the whole Night Creatures Trilogy by Mariannne de Pierres and keep supporting Australian speculative fiction authors!

Australian Spec-fic Authors Challenge – April Round-Up

You know when you could swear you already did something and then you find out you actually didn’t do it after all? Like replying to a person via email, or following something up, or – I don’t know, maybe WRITING AN ARTICLE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO DO DAYS AGO!

The Pericles CommissionNormally I do my round up on the first of the month for the Aussie spec-fic author challenge and the next day I do my goals round up, so when I did my goals first instead of second my silly brain told me I had done the Aussie author challenge. Since I only open my computer if I really need to just in case it never turns on again(duct-taped together remember) I didn’t check my site until now. Aggh!

Well, better late than never.

In April I read Gary Corby’s The Pericles Commission. The book touts itself as a Hellenic mystery. Crime sleuthing in ancient Athens? You had me at hello.

I’ve actually been following Gary’s blog for months now and have been meaning to read his books the whole time, but just never managed to get around to it. That’s my favourite thing about the challenge, it gives me an excuse to do things I’ve been meaning to.

There is some seriously cool information woven in through the narrative about life and law back in 461BC and many of the characters are actual historical figures. Who knew that purses were not commonly carried back then, instead you kept your coins in your mouth (how you’d haggle around the coins in your mouth I’m not sure and, urg, germs).

I adore the character of Diotima (really? Me, liking a strong female character? You’d never guess it ;p ) and the narrative journey was great fun, at no point was I ever certain I knew the killer and there were plenty of great twists to.

If you like crime, or historical fiction this is a great book, double down on that if you like them both! You can read my Goodreads review for more of my opinions.

0068_RHABurnBrightFULL07.inddFor my May book I’m reading Marianne de Pierres’ The Night Creatures Trilogy, starting with Burn Bright. It’s a very different YA series in a dark fantastic world of never-ending parties. I’m enjoying it so far, but it is competing for my free time with Fire Emblem on 3DS and Persona 4 Arena on PS3 – some seriously tough competition.

Australian Spec-fic Authors Challenge – March Round-Up

The Wild GirlMy March author for the Aussie Spec-fic authors challenge was Kate Forsyth. I read her latest book ‘The Wild Girl’ because I was lucky enough to win a copy from Kate’s blog, she even signed it(gotta love that elite reader feeling you get when you read a signed copy).

The Wild Girl is the story of Dortchen Wild, the girl who lived next door to the Grimm Brothers (yes those Grimm brothers) and told them many of their most beloved stories – even encouraging them when they considered giving up – all in the name of love. But don’t go into this novel expecting perfect flowering romance, this is as story with darker realities to it. You can read my review on Goodreads here.

The historical details are magnificent, everything from herbal lore and daily life to the exciting and terrifying times of the Napoleanic wars. Everything has been researched thoroughly and dripped into the book in a fashion where you learn so much without being info-dumped to death.

Also, as an added bonus this month, Kate herself visited one of my local libraries to do a reading to promote her book. She’s a great speaker (I’ve also heard her before at last year’s Brisbane Writers Festival) and her life story is actually as interesting as some of her books – so if you ever get the chance do go listen to her. I had her sign my copy of Bitter Greens since she’d sent me The Wild Girl already signed. It was quite exciting for me as well since she guessed I was a writer and (since I’d just got the news the night before) I was able to tell her about my first short story being accepted for publication.

I’m probably starting to sound a bit fan girl-ish, but it makes some sense when you realise I was reading Forsyth and Carmody in my teens, right when I was first getting into fantasy as a genre. These are some of the writers who solidified my love of the genre and formed part of who I am as a writer today, so I figure it makes sense to be a little fan-ish.

The Pericles CommissionI’m going to be reading Gary Corby’s ‘The Pericles Commission’ for my April read. I’ve been wanting to get into Corby’s books for almost a year now, but the dreaded TBR pile of doom has been keeping me at bay. They are murder mysteries set in Athens in 461BC and I can’t wait to devour the first one.

Australian Spec-fic Authors Challenge – February Round-Up

Not the cover of the version I'm reading, but the cover of the first version i read. Kicking early 20's Kirstie for selling it to a second hand bookstore.

Not the cover of the version I’m reading, but the cover of the first version I read. Kicking early 20’s Kirstie for selling it to a second hand bookstore.

For the February portion of the Australian speculative fiction authors challenge I decided to re-read and catch-up on the more recent volumes of Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles. I had high hopes of reading most of the six volumes currently out so only one or two of the books would spill over into March. Unfortunately I read several other books as well, so only managed to finish the first three volumes. You can read my reviews thus far: Obernewtyn, The Farseekers, and Ashling.

The Obernewtyn Chronicles focuses on Elspeth Gordie, a Talented Misfit with a great destiny – to prevent the world from suffering a second apocalypse. First she has more to do though, like saving other Talents and guiding them to the one safe place in the Land for them, Obernewtyn, as well as keeping Obernewtyn safe for the tyrannical Council, fanatical Herders and more.

Destiny is constantly dragging Elspeth all over the Land and she soon learns she is involved in more than the one prophecy she originally knew of.

I’ve loved these books for years, since reading them as a teenager. Elspeth is a wonderful character, but an enigma to someone like me who is so open and quick-to trust. The traumas of her orphan childhood have led her to find it hard to accept Obernewtyn as her home, and over the three volumes I’ve read so far she has yo-yoed between accepting she will leave forever and elation at finally returning. Similarly she struggles with friendships and blossoming love. At her core however she is still a character who will fight and risk her life even for total strangers, acts she repeatedly enacts.

I’m looking forward to finishing what is out of the series and am keeping my ear to the ground for a confirmed release date on the seventh and final installment (supposedly September this year, lets hope it is!).

The Wild GirlAs for next month’s read (which I’ve cheekily started this month already since I received an ARC) I’ll be reading Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl, which is a story about Dortchen Wild, the girl who grew up next door to the Grimm Brothers and who told them many of their stories.

Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – January Round-up

Some of the most gorgeous cover art I've ever seen, Rowena Cory Daniells' Besieged

Some of the most gorgeous cover art I’ve ever seen, Rowena Cory Daniells’ Besieged

As you probably know I challenged myself (and my readers) to read at least one Australian speculative fiction author for each month of this year.

I started January with Rowena Cory Daniells and her trilogy “The Outcast Chronicles”. You can read my reviews of the books individually on Goodreads (Besieged, Exile, and Sanctuary).

I found the books to be riveting fantasy that starts off more about political intrigue but that quickly becomes a dramatic fight for survival for two whole races. With a massive cast of characters who you love, love to hate and can’t wait to see what happens to next, you might be daunted thinking there’s too many characters to easily follow along, but I assure you, Daniells makes her characters memorable and distinctly individual.

More sexy cover art from Daniells' amazing fantasy series "The Outcast Chronicles".

More sexy cover art from Daniells’ amazing fantasy series “The Outcast Chronicles”.

The Outcast Chronicles as a series is quite gritty. Prepare to lose a few favourite characters in tragic circumstances. Usually I prefer a few less deaths in my fantasy when I’m reading, but I was not as against it as I would have thought when reading this series. It seemed to bother me more in the second book than the other two, perhaps because one of my favourites was a casualty of Daniells’ ruthless plotting. The benefit of being so vicious with your characters is that the reader will genuinely have no idea who will survive and who won’t, which cranks the tension up to 11 and makes these books serious page turners. Please note: I do not mean the deaths are excessive or incongruous to the story, they make perfect sense and are very realistic in context, I only meant I am accustomed to reading slightly gentler fare.

I’m eager to get my hands on her other series “King Rolen’s Kin”, but finances and time mean that will be a bit later on. If I’m lucky I might read them for a later month of the challenge but there’s so many Australian speculative fiction books I’m looking forward to I don’t know how I’ll fit them all in.

Not the cover of the version I'm reading, but the cover of the first version i read. Kicking early 20's Kirstie for selling it to a second hand bookstore.

Not the cover of the version I’m reading, but the cover of the first version I read. Kicking early 20’s Kirstie for selling it to a second hand bookstore.

For February I’m looking to Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles. I’ve read the first three before in my teen years, but haven’t caught up (though I have been buying the books upon release recently). In fact you can blame Carmody for the fact I became a fantasy author because prior to reading her books I wrote horror and slice-of-life even though I was reading David Eddings, Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan already. Hearing she wrote Obernewtyn in high school changed my life and was possibly the moment I realised I wanted to write for a living (it’s the earliest time I remember thinking that even though I wrote and told a lot of stories before this point in my life).

Are you already challenging yourself? If not, join the challenge here or on our Goodreads group. If spec-fic isn’t your cup of tea why not challenge a friend?

And happy Australia Day everyone(both for the actual day yesterday and the public holiday tomorrow).

The Australian Speculative Fiction Authors Challenge

December is here, so long to National Novel Writing month, you were good to me and my third novel. You got me 58,577 words into what I’m estimating will be a 100-120,000 word novel. For anyone interested in how I did it, read my previous post, but for those who are curious as to the content of my novel you’ll be glad to hear that in a few days I will be posting as part of a blog hop. ‘The Next Big Thing’ blog hop is being hosted by Mary Tod over on A Writer of History and my post date is December 5. I’ll be giving you some great info on the story and how the idea came into existence, so watch this spot.

An idea has been brewing in my brain for a few months now, ever since I first stumbled upon the Australian Women Writer’s website and saw their Australian Women Writer’s challenge. I started thinking: how much do I read Australian speculative fiction? Well, I love Kate Forsyth from back at high school’s end when I was reading the Witches if Eileanan saga which somehow I never finished reading (I know, what is wrong with me? It was a case of the books were coming out as I read them and there was a big gap, I lost track and bam, ten years later),  Isobelle Carmody was the woman who inspired me to write fantasy with her Obernewtyn Chronicles (yes, blame her! Before that I was writing children’s slice of life (I was ten) and Goosebumps inspired tales (repeat, I was ten)). Aside from those Aussie goddesses of fantasy I haven’t read much Aussie stuff. For shame!

So here’s my self-inflicted wake up slap. I challenge myself to read at least one new Aussie spec-fic author each month next year. My champion challenge will be to finish any series I have not yet finished by those authors as well.

I’m also hereby inviting you all to join me. If you’re struggling to think of any Australian spec-fic authors, let me give you a hand:

Alison Goodman

Alison Croggan

Lian Hearn (ok, not aussie born, but she’s lived here for nearly 40 years, you’ve got to hand over citizenship for that)

Kim Wilkins

Pamela Freeman

Garth Nix

Fiona McIntosh

Traci Harding

Kate Forsyth

Isobelle Carmody

Tansy Rayner Roberts

Rowena Cory Daniells

Marianne DePierres

Paula Weston

Now this list is obviously incomplete, if you know any one missing let me know, if you are an author and want your name added tell me and I’ll include you. I will not hold being self-published against you either, so give me your name, I’d love to add it.

I’m working on making a Goodreads group for this challenge as well, so if you’re keen, join me there to take part.

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