Sometimes it is good to be given books you’ve not specifically requested. If I’d seen the first The Colours of Madeline book in a shop or a library, I would’ve picked it up due to Jaclyn Moriarty’s name, but likely put it back down again when I read the blurb and realised it was fantasy. If I’d done that, I’d have missed out on reading an amazing series.
The first novel, A Corner of White, was a lot of fun. ‘Quirky’ is the word that seemed the best way to describe it, and the reviews I’ve read show that I wasn’t the only person to feel that way. With The Cracks in the Kingdom, however, I think the series has developed into something much more than quirky. It’s moving and exciting and intriguing, and I often found myself torn between wanting to rush through the pages to find out what would happen next – and why – and wanting to take things slowly, so that I could really appreciate the language and Moriarty’s great grasp of both character and style.
Although The Cracks in the Kingdom is the second book of a trilogy, it didn’t feel incomplete. There are still things left unfinished and questions left unanswered, but I didn’t feel cheated, because it still read like a complete novel, with enough resolution to counter the loose threads. That said, I’m still going to be grabbing the next book as soon as I can get my hands on it – not only because I want to find out what happens, but also because I’m pretty certain that I’ll be guaranteed a jolly good read.
The Colours of Madeline is an excellent example of just how good YA can be when it breaks away from carbon-copy fads and finds its own voice and concept in the hands of a talented author. It’s nice to know that I don’t have to say goodbye to Cello just yet.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)
Aurealis 68 is officially out and available from Smashwords and Scribd. My piece, ‘Icarus’, is the first of two short stories, and there’s also an interview with Raymond E Feist. It’s nice to share publication space with one of the greats 🙂
A couple of pieces of news today.
Firstly, Suddenly Lost in Words 4 is now available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. It contains my piece “Born To It”, along with eight other short stories for young adults – and older adults as well! “Born To It” is a short fantasy piece about a girl who possesses the ability to see into the future, and the reactions of her peers to her strange talent.
I’ve not yet read any of the other pieces in the anthology, but am looking forward to doing so.
In addition, it looks like my science fiction story “Icarus” will be published in the March issue of Aurealis, so I’m looking forward to that. “Icarus” is one of my favourite pieces, so I’m glad it’s found a good home.
The first news for 2014 is that my short story “Born To It” will be appearing in the YA anthology Suddenly Lost in Words 4. I’m not yet aware of a publication date, but I’ll update once I know when it’s going to be available.
I’ve been awfully bad at updating my blog this year, due to all manner of health issues taking up all of my physical and mental energy. For the same reason, it hasn’t been a great year for writing.
Pieces Completed in 2013:
- Scrap Metal (approx 5k, science fiction/gothic horror)
- Ashes (approx 4k, dark fairy tale)
- Liberty (one act play, science fiction)
- Women’s Work (approx 5k, dystopian fiction)
- Breath (approx 2k, historical ghost story)
Published in 2013:
- Wound (flash, magic realism)
- The Silver Witch (flash, fantasy)
Additional Sales in 2013:
- Icarus (approx 5k, science fiction) – to Aurealis
- Breath (as above) – to Undertow (a print anthology of stories about the Gold Coast, due out in May 2014)
I’ve also completed the first of two years working on my Master of Letters (Creative Writing). I’ve been very pleased with my marks and have enjoyed the process of looking at my own writing through a different, more academic lens. Next year, I’ll be working on the thesis aspect of the course, which means writing a longer piece and an accompanying longer exegesis.
I’ve had some health stuff going on this past month, so there hasn’t been a lot of writing happening. I did, however, manage to finish a Australian ghost story, of around 2.5k words, so I was pleased about that, given everything that’s been happening.
My short story and play for my M.Litt are currently with my supervisor, so here’s hoping he’ll like them and I’ll be able to focus on the critical essays about them, instead of lots of re-drafting!
The biggest news this month is that my short story ‘Icarus’ was accepted for publication in Aurealis. I’ll update with an expected publication date once one is available.
It’s officially August, by just over eight hours, but I’m writing about July, so I think the headline still counts!
This past month, I’ve mostly been busy with writing first drafts for my two writing submissions for my second semester of my Master of Letters (Creative Writing). I wrote short stories for my first two units, which both received good marks (yay!) and are now out doing the submission rounds. This time around, it’s another short story – and a short play to mix things up a little. Because it’s all about word count, the play is going to be a most unhelpful length for production: probably about twenty minutes, which will rule it out for all the 10 minute play festivals, while it’ll still be way too short for a stand-alone play. The short story (Women’s Work) takes a first century AD Roman event and sends it into outer space, while the play (Liberty) is about a man who falls for an AI program. I think it’s safe to say that I’m all about the spec fic these days.
Both my partner and I have had a spate of stories get past slush and to the short-listed stage of things recently. It’s funny, but a rejection at that stage of things always seems to feel worse than getting the standard form reject after a couple of weeks. Logically, I know that it means I’m doing something right, and that the decision was about publication fit and editor tastes, instead of writing quality, but it still smarts a little. I have three submissions at that long-term stage at the moment, and I’m just hoping they don’t all decide to send rejections through on the one day 😉
I did, however, get a lovely and very helpful personal rejection from Shimmer last month. I think that Shimmer is one of the best publications out there at the moment, so it was particularly great to get some feedback from them.
August will be all about Women’s Work and Liberty for me. I have a lot of re-drafting to do on Women’s Work and Liberty is still quite a way from a finished first draft. Hopefully, next time I blog I’ll be able to say that both are in the polished draft stage, awaiting feedback from my lecturer.
I found this pretty disappointing, to be honest, and I’m not sure how much of that is due to it being a bit dated in the modern era of more explicit violence and horror and how much of it is just my own tastes. The thing is, I generally really appreciate it when things are left up to the reader to read between the lines and to understand, instead of be told, but here it felt more like unfinished plots and ideas. I needed to know more about why exactly the boys were on the island to accept it as the basic premise, I needed Simon’s story to be related in a clearer manner and I needed there to be more consistency when it came to the narrative. At times, there were chunks of purple prose thrust into the story as description, but at other times there was a coarseness to the narrative that indicated it was being told with the voices of its characters. To me, that meant that neither style entirely rang true.
I do believe, though, that part of the reason Lord of the Flies didn’t work for me was that its depiction of violence and the “beast” inside humankind just doesn’t scare the modern reader. It shies away from description when it talks of violence against humans, which is particularly interesting when the pig hunting is narrated with great relish. (I personally skipped those scenes, because I can’t deal with cruelty to animals, even in fiction.) We know the twins have been hurt, but we’re given no hint of how. I understand the boys’ unwillingness to think about what happened during the ‘dance’ after the fact but, for a modern reader, accustomed to graphic depictions of violence on the news, let alone in fiction, the dance itself is powerless. As for the inner beast, I wasn’t fully convinced by the book’s depiction of it. I personally needed a greater attention to the changing psychology of the characters. I wanted more of a journey, and I think that could have been achieved by narrowing the focus to fewer boys. (Also, when you have a large cast, naming characters Ralph, Roger and Robert is just plain confusing.)
I’m sad that Lord of the Flies was a bit ‘meh’ for me, because I’d always thought it sounded right up my alley – both as a reader and as a writer. Perhaps the true glimpse of human nature can be found in the fact that I needed it to be darker and more messed-up for it to work.
‘The Silver Witch’ is now available up at the Daily Science Fiction website. If you’re interested, check it out – and take a look at all the other great stories while you’re there 🙂
Next week, my first pro-rate sale will be going live at Daily Science Fiction. It’s a short piece called “The Silver Witch” and it’s a bit of a departure from my usual style and genre. If you want to read it when it’s first available on the 18th, you’ll have to sign up for the email – which is well worth doing anyway. Otherwise, it’ll be available online a week later, and I shall try to remember to post a link soon after that!
I’ve not been doing a lot of writing lately, because I’ve been focussing on being ill 😉 My creativity has been directed towards sewing projects instead. I’m hoping to get back to it soon, though, because I find that the longer I take a break from writing, the harder it is to get back to it, because the need to be perfect takes over entirely.