Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Slipping Away (a diversion into indie music)

While I work on my writing, my partner is usually downstairs in his home studio working on his music. Technology has brought big changes to music, and now anyone with a decent computer can record and produce their own music. Of course, like writing, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication, even more than writing because the indie music producer has to compose lyrics, play instruments, and record and produce the finished product.

My partner is a perfectionist/procrastinator but has finally finished one of his songs, co-produced a video, and published the song on Bandcamp, a website which enables artists to sell their music directly to their fans. I was surprised at how easy it was for him to publish the song on Bandcamp. No joining fees, a 15% commission, and the money from each sale goes straight into your Paypal account. That's right, as soon as a sale happens you get the money straight away. And they don't withold taxes either. It all sounded a lot easier than self-publishing on Amazon.

I'm so glad he's done it!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Review: Wanted: One Scoundrel by Jenny Schwartz

Here's my second review for the 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

1890s suffragette Esme Smith is in need of a man to represent her views in the gentlemen-only clubs of Freemantle and Perth. As the daughter of the wealthiest man in Western Australia, she can afford to pay the right man. Her sea captain uncle suggests an American freshly arrived from Europe, one Jed Reeve. This charming and handsome conman will do anything for the right price, her uncle suggests, and Esme quickly decides Jed is just the man for her. Jed, an innovative inventor in his own right, is taken by the beautiful and spirited Esme, and agrees to her audacious plan.

Esme doesn’t only believe in women’s rights, she’s also a secessionist who believes Western Australia would be better off being independent rather than joining the federation of the eastern states, and her views are only strengthened when an arrogant and wealthy easterner begins to court her with an eye to marriage and her generous dowry.

I really enjoyed the depictions of daily life in the Swan River colony, including the exotic-sounding Bombaytown. As befits a steampunk story, inventions pop up everywhere — coffee makers, solar-powered stoves, etc.  Esme makes a charming and spirited heroine, independent yet caring, and proactive in opposing the inequalities she comes across in her daily life. Jed Reeve is a great hero who perhaps at times could be more of the scoundrel he purports to be. The romance between these two blossoms at a smart pace, helped along the way by admirers on either side plus the odd dash of heroics. Towards the end the story takes an unexpected twist which I definitely wasn’t expecting, and the final showdown is suitably satisfying.

If you’re looking for an Australian historical romance with a steampunk aesthetic, then you’ll definitely enjoy Wanted: One Scoundrel.

Publisher: Carina Press
Length:  26,000 words

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Summer daze

Summer. Holidays. Beach.

(Believe it or not, this idyllic beach is located within a defence weapons range facility.)

After a week of this exhausting lifestyle, I'm back home now and working on the edits of my steampunk novella, Asher's Invention. Luckily they're only minor - I must be improving!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Review: Campaign Ruby by Jessica Rudd

My first review for the 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge is 'Campaign Ruby' by Jessica Rudd.

Londoner Ruby Stanhope gets retrenched from her investment banking job and in a drunken daze accidentally books a non-refundable flight to Australia. Within days of landing in Melbourne she somehow finds herself as a policy advisor to the Leader of the Opposition (aka the LOO), and when a snap election is called, a hectic election campaign ensues.

This breezy novel has familiar chick-lit staples such as designer shoes and clothes, gallons of wine, a hot and sleazy spunk rat, lesbian secondary characters, and a heroine who manages to spill food and drink all over herself on a regular basis. What sets it apart is that its milieu is politics, and Australian politics at that. Also, the fact that the author, Jessica Rudd, is the daughter of ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, gives the story an extra piquancy, especially as political events in the book eerily mirror reality. In Campaign Ruby a long-standing Prime Minister, who’s been in power for thirteen years, is no longer popular with the voters but refuses to acknowledge this. (Sound familiar?) His deputy then moves to depose him, and succeeds in becoming Australia’s first female prime minister. (Sound even more familiar?)

This novel perfectly captures the insanity of a political staffer’s life when an election is on. Along with the rest of the Leader of Opposition’s staff, Ruby bounces from city to city, coast to coast, meeting an eclectic collection of people along the way and getting a crash course in Oz politics, language, and culture. It’s a pity we don’t get more of a picture of all the places she visits because after a while it all becomes a blur (which I suppose is how it is in reality). En route we learn a little of Ruby’s views on certain election hot potato topics, but it’s not a whole lot, and I would have preferred the story to delve a little deeper into her character and what makes her tick.

Apolitical readers need not worry that they’ll be bludgeoned by political rhetoric, as the book barely mentions our main political parties. This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy the circus of an election campaign combined with the Bridget Jones-type antics of an appealing heroine. I would have liked to know Ruby more, but still thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Blistering barnacles!

After watching the latest Tintin movie I've been inspired to re-read the books covered in the film, starting with The Crab With The Golden Claws. My partner has the entire collection which are now battered old hardback survivors of his childhood complete with ancient scribbles. As a child I loved reading Tintin, and today they're just as entertaining as ever. Captain Haddock was always one of my favourite characters, so I was glad the movie didn't gloss over his drunkenness.
Comfort reading!