Saturday, May 30, 2009

Education Week

Buy a book for your school library:

There are always things schools want that require funds. New computers, interactive whiteboards, teacher resources, sporting equipment, the list goes on. Often, the place that misses out is the library and the students are left with outdated and worn books to read.
In today's digital world, it is hard enough to entice children into reading for pleasure and it is harder still if the books you want them to read have been at the school longer than they have.

I don't know if all schools do this but my local Primary school, Eglinton Public has a tradition during Education Week where students can purchase a book to donate back to the school library.

I think this is a wonderful idea. Not only does the library have a regular supply of new books, they get topical books that the students actually want to read.
During open day on Thursday, the local book store set up a display in front of the library of new release books made up of the librarian's wish list of fiction and non-fiction titles. During the day, student would browse with their parents and select the books they want to read.

What's in it for the students? Their library ends up being one of the best school libraries in the area. Plus the student donating the book get to be the first to borrow it.
Some people would say that's not a lot of incentive BUT it seems to be enough to make the idea work. Books were flying off the display. I even got into the action and donated a couple of books myself.

I donated a copy of Sandy Fussell's 'Polar Boy' because I couldn't believe the library didn't already have a copy of this wonderful book. And I donated a copy of Sue Whiting's 'Freaky' because it is such a boy book, full of gross and creepy things.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dusty the Driveway-Coloured Cat

Just a quick piece today.

I was backing out of my driveway the other day and only just noticed my neighbour's Siamese cat, Herbie snoozing peacefully in the middle of my driveway. I actually had to get out of the car and shoo him away. Stupid cat.

Last night I had a brainstorm. When I recovered, I started writing my next picture book text, ‘Dusty the Driveway-coloured Cat.’ (Thought I’d change his name so he wouldn’t be too embarrassed.)

Don’t worry, I probably won’t run over him in the story, unless … he keeps doing his business in my yard.

I can see the illustrations really clearly in my head, so that is a good thing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Teaser Tuesday # 6 - TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY

This weeks Teaser Tuesday is the New York Times Bestseller – ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’, the debut novel by Californian author Jay Asher. This novel is one I have been hanging out for since I read the reviews last month. It finally arrived today.

The novel deals with teen suicide and taking responsibility for your actions. I have to admit, this is not the most uplifting topic in the world but the premise of the book intrigued me enough to order it direct from the US even with the lousy exchange rate.

What was so intriguing? There are two main characters. Clay Jensen, a high school student who receives a mysterious package containing seven audio tapes recorded by the second main character, Hannah Baker. Only Hannah committed suicide two weeks earlier. The tapes contain her recorded message to the thirteen people responsible for the thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is devastated to discover he is one of those reasons.


Wait. Wait. I need to think.

I pick at a speck of dry orange paint on the workbench. Why am I listening to this? I mean, why put myself through this? Why not just pop the tape out of the stereo and throw the entire box of them in the trash?

I swallow hard. Tears sting at the corners of my eyes.
Because it's Hannah's voice. A voice I thought I'd never hear again.

I can't throw that away.

Now, that's a little more than the two sentence excerpt I was supposed to write but... Well no excuses, I cheated.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

You Can't Judge A Book By It's Blurb


There is an old saying, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover.’ Well, I have a new saying for you. ‘You can’t judge a book by its blurb.’

I know what you’re going to say. ‘Jeff found a book that didn’t live up to his expectations from reading the blurb.’ Wrong!
In fact it is the exact opposite.

I want you to play a little game: - Pretend you are an editor looking for a new science fiction novel for your book list. Now pretend an author bails you up in an elevator and you make the mistake of asking him what his manuscript is about.

First, let’s think about what makes for good science fiction.
· Action
· Space battles
· High tech. gadgets and weaponry
· Aliens
· Danger and conflict
· A vicious enemy to defeat.

Well, that’s a start.

Now slip back into your role as editor. What if the author told you the main character is a young man living on a company planet. His mother is killed in an accident and because he is not employed by the company he is forced to leave the planet.

An excellent start. (Spoilers imminent!)

The rest of the plot follows like this. The MC signs on to a merchant ship as a galley hand. He is accepted by the crew, treated fairly, makes friends and gets on well with everyone. He really enjoys his new life on board ship and the climax of the story is!

Get this!

He helps organise a market stall for his shipmates and himself to sell personal trade goods while they are stopped at the space stations along their trade route.

Where is the action? – well there isn’t a lot.
Where are the space battles? – obviously somewhere else in the vast universe.
Where are the high tech. gadgets? – Unless you consider a coffee urn high tech. then they are pretty thin on the deck.
Where are the aliens? – there are none.
Where is the danger and conflict? – none of that either.
Where is the vicious enemy? – obviously off in that somewhere else in the vast universe where the space battles are going on.

How fast would you scramble out of the elevator when the doors finally opened?

This is probably why Nathan Lowell’s book ‘Quarter Share’ is not available as a print book yet. It is available as a FREE audio book - along with his other titles in the ‘Trader's Tales from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper’ series ‘Half Share’, ‘Full Share’, and ‘Double Share’ and their companion book, ‘South Coast’ the first in the ‘Shaman's Tales from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper’ series – from

I started listening to ‘Quarter Share’ with very few expectations, even though it was recommended as a good book. Unless Nathan is using some form of subliminal mind control, this is one of the most interesting and enthralling science fictions novels I have ever come across. Honestly, not a lot actually happens, there is not really any conflict to speak of and the climax sounds kind of lame. Still, I could not put the story down. I listened until my ears nearly bled – to the entire series – TWICE. My wife hates science fiction. She loved the series too.
I can't tell you why this is such a great series. I don't know - It just IS!

All we need now is an editor on crutches who can’t get out of that elevator.

Please, do yourself a favour and visit the Podiobooks site and have a listen to ‘Quarter Share’ It doesn’t cost anything. What’s it going to hurt?

Nathan Lowell’s web site -
Happy listening.

Friday, May 1, 2009



Ironfest 2009 - Lithgow

The brainchild of artist/sculptor and present festival director, Macgregor Ross, Ironfest was first held in April of 2000 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the birth of steel in Australia, in Lithgow.Comprising of an exhibition of metal sculpture, paintings and drawings accompanied by blacksmith demonstrations by artist blacksmith Harry Piers, and metal music by local band, ‘The Mullpigs; around 25 artists participated and approximately 400 visitors attended.

This years event saw over 12,000 visitors attend during a weekend of unsettled weather and a constant biting cold wind. Imagine if the weather was pleasent.

One of the highlights of the Ironfest weekend would have to be the jousting.

Jousting is a competition between two knights on horse-back, where each knight tries to knock the other off his mount or score point by breaking a lance on specified target areas on their opponent. Jousting was at the peak of its popularity in the 14th to 16th centuries. (From Ironfest website)

Jousting competetor, Phillip Oliver

Another of the Ironfest attractions is the Battle of Lithgow - Napoleonic battle re-enactment.

It is the biggest annual Napoleonic battle re-enactment to take place in Australia, involving participants from all around the World. The re-enactment takes visitors back in time to experience what it was like to be on a military campaign in the 19th century; the fighting, the thunder of cannons, smell the smell of gunpowder, the marching and the camping.

Other parts of the display include a 19th century field hospital, kitchen and smithy. The uniforms and equipment are all historically accurate.

Seen here are a mixed regiment of Brittish troups preparing for the battle with cannons thundering and some members of the 95th Rifle Regiment in their camp.

As a fan of the Bernard Cornwell 'Sharpe' books, the 95th Rifles were one of my personal favourite displays.


Even with the inclement weather, the trip to Ironfest was well worth the effort. The events were spectacular and the displays were as authentic as you can get without stealing a time-machine. The participants happily gave their time to talk to visitor and answer questions.

Finally, me trying to work out how I could manage to walk out with this set of armour without being noticed.