Get our boys reading! – ‘The Ruins of Gorlan’

ra_ruinsofgorlanIf you love unabashed epic middle-grade fantasy, you’ve probably heard of John Flanagan. Between the Ranger’s Apprentice series and Brotherband Chronicles, I count nineteen books. Each and every one with a totally awesome cover.

Today I’m heading back to where they started, in 2004 with ‘Ranger’s Apprentice Book One: The Ruins of Gorlan‘.

Hang on one book-devouring second…

Nineteen books in just over twelve years? And another one due this year? That is, hands down, awesome work. Bravo Flanagan!

So, what did I love?

  • Positive relationships
  • Incorporation of bullying
  • Mystery
  • World-building

Continue reading

Answer the call – ‘The Shark Caller’

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This has been on my TBR since before it was even published… and it did not disappoint! A clever melding of belief and reality, loss and discovery, fantasy and contemporary, it lured me in and held me. It’s been a while since I’ve read magic realism, and I sank back into it like a comfy couch.

‘The Shark Caller’ by Dianne Wolfer is a Young Adult novel that can easily suit Middle-grade readers as well. As in, no sex, drugs, angst or other decidedly YA-only markers.

‘The Shark Caller’ has a funky set-up that I loved, interspersing main character Izzy’s narrative with the POV of a shark (mako). The latter is beautifully set out on the page, not so much chapters as poetry and art. In fact, the whole book is beautiful.

It has a suite of diverse characters, and interweaves Tok Pisin with English so you get immersed in the setting of Papua New Guinea.

It’s fresh, it’s different.

I’m a fan. Continue reading

How times have changed…

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Made by me using pablo…

Back in 1910, this was how children’s books rolled. It’s one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite series as a child – the famous Billabong books by Mary Grant Bruce.

I can just imagine turning up to my critique group with a sentence like this in a middle-grade manuscript… I don’t think they’d laugh me out of the house, but only because they have excellent self-control. And yet I spent hours dreaming of riding horses on a cattle farm in outback Australia because of these books!

The power of words, be they strange or familiar…

Recently someone was telling me how historical kidlit fiction should use modern language to avoid alienating the readership. I’m not so sure. There was something about Bruce’s writing that immersed me in her time.

However, I draw the line at anything like the quote above…!

Putting a little DORK on my FORK: ‘Dork Diaries #1’

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As an ex-librarian, when I found the first ‘Dork Diaries’ on the WRONG SHELF, no – <gasp> – make that the WRONG ENTIRE SIDE of the Junior Fiction section of my library, I knew I had to help it find its way home.

Except when I picked it up, I immediately recognised the title, and took it out instead.

Yes, I hear what you’re saying… ‘But, Heather… this book was published in 2009! How can you not have read it yet?!’

That’s cool – I believe in better late that never when it comes to books.

My first take-home from this book is it’s not entirely my thing. And that’s completely fine because gazillions of other people think it’s their thing. So it’s still valuable to review why it worked. I don’t need (or even want) to write a book just like it (no one should for any book), but I can incorporate some of the winning ingredients into my own writing.

My second thought was about how different this ‘girl’ book was from funny ‘boy’ books of a similar ilk. More focus on clothes and looks and the opposite sex. Hmmm…

But what worked in this book that I can take into my own writing?

  • Friend-making
  • Love interest (not hopeless)
  • Besting the nasty popular kid through personal skill
  • Fab illustrations.

My favourite thing is the way MC Nikki keeps on saying all these awesome and/or outrageous things, and then tells us it was only in her head. A clever trick. I would internally gasp, like ‘Did she really say that?’ and then find she didn’t. Sometimes I was relieved, sometimes I was disappointed!

‘But I just said it in my head, so no one else heard it but me.’

And you know what else I love? In the acknowledgments, author Rachel Renee Russell thanks her agent who saw ‘the potential of this book when it was merely fifty rambling pages about a quirky girl and her fairy godmother.’ This book no longer has a fairy godmother. (Quirky girl? Still a tick.)

From that, I figure that compelling character and great writing will win out. Maybe we don’t need to get that submission perfect. Maybe, even if it’s the wrong genre aimed at the wrong age group, if we write well enough someone will see the potential.

Write on, people!

Fist-pump for 40K!

Fortyk_earnedI have a hot pot of tea at the ready, plenty of mind-nurturing snacks on my desk, and my MC is literally falling off the side of a mammoth mountain and I need to save her.

This is no time for procrastination.

(‘What did you just call me?’ asks my blog.)

 

However, I also just tipped 40,000 words on the SnowNaNo, so…

Whoo hoo! Pat myself on the back!

 

Now, get back to it…

25K on the SnowNaNo!

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That’s what I want to see! I’ve cracked the 25K mark on my snow-filled (affectionately dubbed SnowNaNo, but as yet unnamed) junior fiction novel, and the night is still young. In fact, it’s also only the 14th.

Cause for celebration.

I love my manuscript! I love my characters!

Perhaps most of all, I love the Word Sprints page under ‘Inspiration’. It took me 3 NaNoWriMos to find it, 5 seconds to randomly choose a 20 minute sprint, 20 minutes to write 600+ words, and a nanosecond to realise how awesome that was. I’m a word sprinter through and through now.

What’s working for you?

Open your heart with ‘Sister Heart’

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A powerful, empathy-inducing book, ‘Sister Heart’ by Sally Morgan beautifully tackles the terrible truth of the Stolen Generations. It is aimed at kids aged 9-14. This book had me crying and questioning and hugging my own little girl close.

I invite all Australians to read it, indeed all people. This story surpasses country or race to resonate deep inside what makes us human.

The narrator is a young Aboriginal girl taken from her family and placed in an institution far south of her home. Her voice is unique, her struggle in the face of unassailable odds is vivid, the friendship and support she finds from others like her is heart-warming.

This whole book is a triumph of character and voice.  Continue reading