Book Review: Ads R Us by Claire Carmichael

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This is one of those books where it seems like the author thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to write a book about the devastating effects of constant exposure to advertising?” but forgot that she needed a compelling story to go with it.

Ever since his parents died in a car accident when he was a baby, Barrett Trent has been raised by his uncle in a community called Simplicity. With a focus on sustainability and ethics, they farm their own food, reject technology and embrace knowledge. After his uncle dies in a ridiculously contrived incident, Barrett reluctantly goes to live in the “chattering world” (the city) with his aunt. Continue reading

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Book Review: Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

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As I was rushing out the door to the airport on my way to a holiday in Cairns, I grabbed this book from my “To Be Read” pile and I didn’t realise until I was on the plane and turning the first few pages that the story was set in… Cairns!

Crimson Lake is the fictional setting not too far from Cairns where Ted Conkaffey has just moved. There’s humidity (check), crocodiles (check), snakes (check), rednecks (check) and an assortment of colourful characters (check) so it feels somewhat real (at least to an outsider), even though it’s not, which is a credit to Fox.

The main character, Ted, is a former vice police detective from Sydney whose career was cut short when he was accused of abducting and raping a teenage girl. He was never convicted but he lost his wife, his child, his career and all his friends and everywhere he goes, he’s accused of being a monster. So he’s driven to the furthest place he could get and settled into a rented house where nobody knows who he is. Continue reading

When Creativity Isn’t Appreciated: Literary Hoaxes

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One thing I would really love to do is perpetrate a literary hoax. I see it as the ultimate in creativity, pulling the wool over the eyes of the gullible and, for a while, even those with a little more sense. The conundrum of a literary hoax is that you must be discovered in order to become famous for perpetrating it. That seems to be the less fun part though. But for those watching from a little distance, the people involved and the lengths they go to are fascinating.

Here are a few great literary hoaxes. Continue reading

Book Review: From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage – How Australia Got Compulsory Voting by Judith Brett

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This is the latest book in my year of reading Australian female writers.

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There’s a famous quote from Winston Churchill that says democracy is the worst form of government… except for all the others. This is the book that proves Australia’s electoral system is the worst form of voting… except for all the others.

Compulsory registration, a perpetual electoral roll, universal suffrage (all citizens aged over eighteen excluding those currently jailed for a term of three years or more), compulsory voting, postal, absentee and pre-poll voting, preferential voting in the lower house, proportional voting in the upper house, secret ballots, an independent electoral commission (not controlled by political parties), everything Australia does is designed to ensure everyone has a say and the majority is reflected while the minorities are protected. Continue reading

Project June

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“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” John Steinbeck, interview with Robert van Gelder in April 1947 as quoted in John Steinbeck: A Biography (1994) by Jay Parini

This is the fifth piece in my Project… series (and the title chapter in my next book about writing). For anyone who hasn’t read the first two books in this series or the relevant posts on my blog, here’s a refresher for you:

*Project October is all about intensive writing.
*Project November is all about rewriting, polishing and finalising.
*Project December is all about publishing.
*Project January is all about starting all over again.

So what is Project June? For the purposes of this series, there had to be another Project… piece. I toyed with the idea of Project February, mostly because February comes after January. But I didn’t know what Project February was. I still don’t.

Eventually, I realised that the advice that I wanted to give and the month that went with it was all about the middle. I’d addressed the start, the sprint to the faux finish and the actual finish; the only thing left was the part in between.

Continue reading

Have You Ever Heard of Zane Grey?

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I was recently reading an article about the biggest fiction sellers going back over the last one hundred years and how so few of the biggest sellers at the time are still read all these years later. One name kept jumping out at me. Zane Grey. I’d never heard of him. But he wrote the bestselling book of 1918. He wrote the third bestselling book of 1919. He wrote the bestselling book of 1920. He wrote the third bestselling book of 1921. He wrote the ninth bestselling book of 1922. He wrote the eighth bestselling book of 1923. He wrote the sixth bestselling book of 1924. From 1917 to 1926, he was in the top ten of the list of bestselling books nine times. According to Wikipedia, he was one of the first millionaire authors.

Continue reading

How to Write a Serial Killer Crime Thriller

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To me, there is nothing scarier than a fictional serial killer. Yes, real serial killers are terrifying but most people are very unlikely to ever come across one and know this. Fictional serial killers, however, are everywhere: there are more book, film and TV show serial killers than there will ever be real ones (thank God).

I’ve come to realise that there seems to be a bit of a formula for writing a serial killer story. It’s not compulsory, of course, just a set of common steps that run through quite a few of them. The steps don’t always occur in exactly the same order. The steps don’t always occur in isolation; sometimes multiple steps are happening at the same time. And the steps are abstract enough that despite appearing in almost all serial killer movies, the stories are still distinct because of the details of each different serial killer, their methods, their victims and the people trying to track them down. Continue reading