The Constructed Languages of JRR Tolkien

Let’s have a look at making up languages for stories.

I don’t know how I feel about constructed languages in fiction. On the one hand, it can be a great part of worldbuilding, something that adds another layer of realism or interest to the story. On the other hand, it’s a fake language that I’m going to skip reading because I can’t understand it BECAUSE IT’S MADE UP AND NO ONE BUT THE AUTHOR UNDERSTANDS IT.

Obviously, a lot of thought goes into worldbuilding, particularly in sci-fi and fantasy. Part of that will be trying to come up with interesting places that naturally derive the conflicts of the story. Where would it be realistic for a clan of ninja pirates to run a soup kitchen for homeless astronauts? What sort of world would allow a conflict between the soup kitchen and a basketweaving franchise run by outcast chartered accountants?* These are not easy things to construct in a satisfying and consistent/rational way.

Language is a natural extension of this worldbuilding. The ninja pirates are clearly not going to have the same slang or language as the chartered accountants. But they still have to be understood by the homeless astronauts. Does this require a language though? Does it even require rational slang? Is it going to feel natural to Ar and Eye through dialogue or is it going to feel annoying and distracting?

When all said and done, is this just backstory that doesn’t need to appear on the page? Often what happens is that because someone has put so much time and effort into creating a language (or other worldbuilding antics) they feel the desperate need to make sure every excruciating detail is given to the reader. Some readers may enjoy tolerate this, but others may sign the offending author up to be the chief target holder at the World Beginners’ Archery Contest.

As with everything in writing, good execution is key. Especially if you want to avoid just the execution.

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Funny meme is inaccurate**

Tolkien is widely regarded as the most influential author on the fantasy genre… period. But one of the less-discussed aspects of his work is the way Tolkien used constructed language in his writing.

Nowadays authors are constantly making up words and languages for the worlds they build, but Tolkien was unique in that he constructed languages first, and then created worlds so his fictional languages would have somewhere to live.

Hosted by Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes, It’s Lit! is a show about our favorite books, genres and why we love to read. It’s Lit has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

This channel has an interesting series on writing craft and worldbuilding. The most recent video covered social structures that has some nice parallels with language.

* The answer to both of these questions is, of course, Florida. I don’t want this to sound mean to Floridians, but the latest “Florida man/woman” arrests news articles suggest if there is a place anything could happen, it is Florida.

** Had to share the meme, but a friend of a friend pointed out it is inaccurate, and that Amon Amarth are awesome:

Russell K
Yeah, hate to be that guy, but Treebeard had a name that “was growing all the time” – Treebeard was shorthand for hobbitish convenience. Tolkien had multiple names for most things, and it’s disingenuous for the OP to pick on just one. Mount Doom, for example, was Orodruin and Amon Amarth, a name so evocative it was co-opted by a melodic death metal band.

Book review: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot, #17)Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than a group of rich people travelling together.

Hercule Poirot decides that he has earned himself a holiday and thinks it would be nice to travel up The Nile in Eygpt. As he ventures out he meets a newlywed couple, their stalker, their maid, their trustee, a romance novelist and her daughter, a socialite and her cousin and nurse, a mother and son, a communist, an archaeologist, a solicitor, a doctor, and Poirot’s friend Colonel Race. He is soon taken into the confidence of newlywed Linnet and her stalker Jacqueline and thinks that it will not be long before something tragic happens. But more than one person is targeting Linnet and it isn’t long before Poirot has another mystery to solve.

I read my first Agatha Christie Poirot novel a couple of years ago and felt that it was time for another. In that previous outing, I had enjoyed discovering many of the mystery tropes in their original form. This time, knowing what to expect, I was more interested in the story itself. Which was okay.

This mystery was interesting and I enjoyed the use of multiple crimes to muddy the waters. Christie certainly earned her reputation. But it did all feel just a little bit quaint. Whether it be the characters reminding you of the class system the Brits loved (and still do), or that the setting could have been the steamer or a country manor – as long as it had a sitting room. You can’t help but agree with the commie character that a few more could do with shooting.

I’m probably being a little harsh. This was a quick and entertaining read that was enjoyable. And they are making it into a movie soon, so best to read it before watching the movie.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer

The Sins of the FatherThe Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If there is one lesson to be learned from this novel it is that no matter how bad things look – be it war, prison, fraud, or being a prisoner of war – as long as you are rich or have rich friends you’ll be fine. Oh, and having a peerage title is kinda inherent in the rich part.

Sins of the Father follows several characters through the events in and around the second world war. Harry Clifton was going to marry Emma Barrington, and despite Emma being pregnant, decides to join the navy after finding out that she could be his sister. Harry trades identities with Tom Bradshaw because reasons, which lands him in jail…… Okay, so this is just one long tale of misfortune disguised as a plot: you get the idea.

Archer deftly weaves his way across multiple time periods with multiple characters suffering multiple hardships. But I found that I was only really interested in two characters, Maisy Clifton (Harry’s mother) and Emma Barrington. This may have been because these were the strong willed characters who were grabbing circumstances by the horns and winning the tussle (or at least fighting the good fight). Archer takes several potshots at the issue of class and the peer system in the UK, the ones that work hard are rewarded, the ones that just sit back and inherit ultimately lose (is that a spoiler alert?). But he still manages to have the rich and peerage-d folk avoid death when their less fortunate and not rich commoner friends aren’t so lucky.

This was an engaging read but was let down by the ending. I’ll quite happily ignore the idea of the House of Lords having nothing better to do than spending an entire day debating who gets to inherit what, rather than say running the country as per the job description. I’ll even allow the speeches being included as part of the story. But I won’t abide Archer leaving this plot point unresolved until the next novel. That’s a deduction of one star from the rating right there.

View all my reviews

Is fiction actually fiction?

There has been an interesting duo of videos by PBS’ Ideas Chanel. Mike discusses some interesting concepts surrounding fiction, like the fact that fiction is as much real as it is made-up and vice versa. Worth a watch.


The two videos cover a lot of ground, but one of the more important points I’d like to highlight is the idea that we can’t have fiction without reality. We need something to anchor our ideas and make-believe, shared experiences that allow us to understand and accept these fictions. There are plenty of examples of this, but one of the cooler examples is looking at depictions of the future at various stages throughout history. Compare what sci-fi movies of the 50s thought computers would look like now to what they actually look like, and you see a 1950s computer. Our imaginations actually suck a lot more than we think.

But here’s an idea about our inability to imagine the future: what if our imaginations don’t actually suck, but instead we ignore the outlandish imaginings that are actually more likely in favour of stuff we already know? Think about it. Or don’t, I’m not your boss.

Why are books abandoned?

Goodreads survey

This is a great breakdown of why readers give up on reading and which books are the biggest culprits. I largely agree with most of the sentiments and books listed. It is very interesting to me that “slow and boring” is the #1 reason people abandon a book. Not just #1, it is number two and three as well, as the next reason had less than half the polling. I’ll offer a few comments on each part of the infographic.

Top Five most abandoned:

Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling – This is no surprise really. I’ve heard it is a particularly dark book and the remark that people were expecting it to be more like Harry Potter shows that no-one read the blurb.

Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James – Who’d have thought that Twilight fan-fiction would be poorly written?

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – When you have a trilogy that could have been edited down to a single book there are bound to be a few readers, like me, who think this ‘thriller’ is slow going.

I haven’t read or heard of anything to do with the other two on the list.

Top Five most abandoned classics:

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – When people don’t get it then of course they will abandon it. One of the rejection letters for Catch-22 said, “I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say…Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level.”

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – I can see why some people wouldn’t like this book. While I loved it, there are unnecessary characters, events, chapters, scenes, language use… Okay, it’s long and waffly.

Ulysses by James Joyce – At a thousand pages, unless you like an abridged, tiny text, 600 page version, this was never going to be an easy read.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville – I read this when I was in primary school. It made my brain hurt. Very hard to read and spent a long time between the interesting scenes.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – Great doorstop, selfish drivel to read.

Reasons for and against abandoning:

It really doesn’t surprise me that the reason most people give up reading a book is that it is boring and slow (46.4%). What does surprise me is that the reason people keep reading a book is not because people are enjoying the book but that they like to finish a book regardless (36.6%). Clearly too many people are reading books that they don’t like. Given the popular books, like the already mentioned Stieg Larsson and EL James, it shouldn’t be surprising. I’ve read instruction manuals with more action than The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I remember working out roughly how many more books I could read in my life. I have averaged reading roughly 100 books per year for the last few years. Now excluding a major accident or the zombie apocalypse, I should be able to continue this average until I die peacefully in my car travelling the wrong way down the freeway at age 90. That means I can only read another 5,500 books in my life! There are more than 8,500 books published every year in Australia, so my chances of reading all the great books I’d like to are slim. We really don’t have time to waste on bad books.

Top 10 Rules for Mystery Writing

 

Crime_writing_comic
  1. In mystery writing, plot is everything. Because readers are playing a kind of game when they read a detective novel, plot has to come first, above everything else. Make sure each plot point is plausible, and keep the action moving. Don’t get bogged down in back story or go off on tangents.
  2. Introduce both the detective and the culprit early on. As the main character, your detective must obviously appear early in the book. As for the culprit, your reader will feel cheated if the antagonist, or villain, enters too late in the book to be a viable suspect in their minds.
  3. Introduce the crime within the first three chapters of your mystery novel. The crime and the ensuing questions are what hook your reader. As with any fiction, you want to do that as soon as possible.
  4. The crime should be sufficiently violent — preferably a murder. For many readers, only murder really justifies the effort of reading a 300-page book while suitably testing your detective’s powers. However, also note that some types of violence are still taboo including rape, child molestation, and cruelty to animals.
  5. The crime should be believable. While the details of the murder — how, where, and why it’s done, as well as how the crime is discovered — are your main opportunities to introduce variety, make sure the crime is plausible. Your reader will feel cheated if the crime is not something that could really happen.
  6. The detective should solve the case using only rational and scientific methods. Consider this part of the oath written by G.K. Chesterton for the British Detection Club: “Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow on them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?”
  7. The culprit must be capable of committing the crime. Your reader must believe your villain’s motivation and the villain must be capable of the crime, both physically and emotionally.
  8. In mystery writing, don’t try to fool your reader. Again, it takes the fun out. Don’t use improbable disguises, twins, accidental solutions, or supernatural solutions. The detective should not commit the crime. All clues should be revealed to the reader as the detective finds them.
  9. Do your research. “Readers have to feel you know what you’re talking about,” says author Margaret Murphy. She has a good relationship with the police in her area, and has spent time with the police forensic team. Get all essential details right. Mystery readers will have read a lot of books like yours; regard them as a pretty savvy bunch.
  10. Wait as long as possible to reveal the culprit. They’re reading to find out, or figure out, whodunit. If you answer this too early in the book, the reader will have no reason to continue reading.

by Ginny Wiehardt

Source for Image

From Writers Write Blog.

Reason Rally – Adam Savage

As a fiction author I am rather disturbed by the anti-science trend that appears to be occurring in society. If the real world treads into fictional territory all the time then fiction authors will have to start writing non-fiction. I think we can all agree that science is a good thing and that fiction should remain in the books that we read and movies/TV that we watch.

Adam Savage gave a good speech at the Reason Rally on the weekend, check it out.

Book Review: Lucifer’s Odyssey – Rex Jameson

Some people love reading their friend’s books, others loath it. I can understand some people’s reticence in reading a friend’s work; what if the book sucks? I’ve found that the best way to have friends who are writers is to choose them on the strength of their writing. That way you can’t be disappointed by their subsequent books. Plus, free books!

Rex is much like me: a nerd. As a result it isn’t particularly surprising that Rex has come up with a very interesting melding of speculative fiction, fantasy and sci-fi (the sci-fi element could actually be described as part of the fantasy element, from a certain point of view). This novel reminded me at times of some of Heinlein’s work. Earlier in the book I was especially reminded of Heinlein’s Job: A Comedy of Justice.

Now I have an annoying habit. My friends and family will attest to the fact that I inadvertently spoil movies, TV shows and books by giving away key aspects of what is about to happen. My brother recently complained about me spoiling The Wire for him when I mentioned Stringer Bell dies. So I’m not going to go into too many details about the Odyssey of the title, whether there is more to the initial story of betrayal and conspiracy, whether Jehovah was the messiah or just a naughty boy who is b……. Almost. The plot builds upon itself as the book continues and keeps you involved with the layers of the Odyssey. Suffice to say you will be rooting for Lucifer as he pulls his swords to go Conan on……. Almost did it again.

I’m hoping to have a bit of chat with Rex in the near future, so stay tuned for a future guest blog post.

Red Adept Infamous Last Line Competition Winners

The winners of the Red Adept Reviews Infamous Last Line competition have been announced. I won.

Okay, so I didn’t actually win, but I did place equal third in the Horror category and equal second in the Romance category. You only have to read some of the hilarious Infamous Last Lines to see that the competition was full of great entries.

I loved the idea of the competition: think of the worst possible final line for a novel. Creativity abounded, I myself entered in three categories – I didn’t place in the Mystery section, most likely my entry was too much like a real mystery ending.

Congratulations to the winners of each category and the overall winner Nicholas Chase. Also a big thankyou to the Red Adept team for the competition.

Horror/Thriller/Suspense Entries

Third Place (Ties):
Heroic Manly’s eyes buldged in horror as he, at last, found the courage to look into the mirror where, staring back at him, was a personage who was, at best, merely a two-dimensional character.
— Scott Nagele

Dick and Jane had finally defeated the amorphous, pus-oozing monster, Gilgamesh, thanks to their valiant licking, but would Gilgamesh stay dead, and for how long?
— Tyson Adams

As they slithered across the landscape, their massive tails obliterating everything in their path, they thought little of the destruction of mankind; they hadn’t tasted that good anyway.
— Sandy from Indy

To be continued….
—Scarlet

And then realisation finally dawned upon them, like the brilliant magenta sun striking crimson red into the sky, that the case of the lost armadillo had finally been solved and that they could return home as the heroes of their childhood.
— Annmarie, the awesome one

Holy shit, zombies really DO like to eat brains, and I now deeply regret asking my grandmother to go back inside that church to fetch my high school letterman’s jacket.
— Mister Teacher

As the fierce light of the nearby nuclear blast that destroyed the covert Chechen missile base faded, Lance ‘Danger’ Steele grinned, deftly applied 138 stitches to his bulging right bicep, and held up his victory cigar so that the fiery atomic glow from outside the corpse-strewn bunker lit the end.
— Frank

Romance/Chick Lit Entries

Second Place (Ties):
“This has all been fun, Steph,” he said, letting go of her hand, “But… well… I already have a girlfriend.”
— Gregory J. Downs… google it.

Henry grabbed Rose by her shapely and firm buttocks and pulled her close, whispering in her ear, “This was a great weekend baby, hope you don’t get clingy about it.”
— Tyson Adams

He stood panting in the doorway as he looked back at her, tears rushing down her cheeks like frantic spawning salmon because she’d finally awakened from her vampire-obsessed fantasies to realize that those canine teeth meant something terrifying—he wasn’t a hunky werewolf; he was an insipid spaniel.
—Mary Pat, author of THE TERMINAL DINER

Book Review: The Six Sacred Stones – Matthew Reilly

I think I have always loved thriller and adventure novels. Sure I like my fantasy, sci-fi, crime, occasional horror, maybe a book or two about the struggle of a single mother to overcome the loss of her cat, but thrillers are my rock. A well written thriller will always leave me wanting more: the next adventure.

Now understandably some people don’t like thrillers. Just as some people’s idea of fun is finding a rare stamp, some people just don’t care for action, thrills and adventure. Reviews thusly follow these preferences. Whenever I read a review for a Matthew Reilly book I am immediately putting the reviews into one of two categories. Category G – they got it. Category M – missed the point.

Reilly is one of the best at writing books that could be an action movie directed by Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer. They are meant to be a flat out thrill ride of action and adventure. So many reviewers seem to expect Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky and are understandably under-whelmed. I on the other hand was expecting a novelised action film, so I was whelmed or possibly super-whelmed.

I am a huge fan of Reilly’s work. Whenever I read one of his books I can see the Indiana Jones moments written on the page. I read Reilly’s first Jack West Jr book, Seven Deadly Wonders, in 2010 and while it retained Reilly’s breakneck pacing and adventure, it lacked reader involvement. Things just happened, you didn’t feel thrilled by the adventure, and the book had me second guessing the series. This second Jack West Jr novel, The Six Sacred Stones, stands in stark contrast and is Reilly at his sterling best. While the Scarecrow series is his best work this series is impressive and worth reading.

Apparently my view on Seven Deadly Wonders is not uncommon. Rest assured that The Six Sacred Stones is the Matthew Reilly you know and love. Although, a little warning: buy both Six Sacred Stones and Five Greatest Warriors, as you will want to read them back to back, just as I am doing. There may or may not be a cliff-hanger that can’t wait.

Reilly fans will also be pleased to hear that the next Scarecrow novel, Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves, is due out later this year.

My Experiences at the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2011

Yesterday I posted a few observations that I made over a beer between sessions. Today I’m going to go through the highlights and lowlights of the festival. It really was a good event so I feel the need to mention some of the writers and sessions and what I got out of them. Besides, I didn’t take my note pad and netbook in a backpack to every session just for my health – although it could be argued I carried the backpack around to seem more important and to knock drinks out of peoples’ hands in the bookstore.

Some of my signed books from the festival.
Thursday 18th

This is Thriller
The first session I attended was a discussion between LA Larkin and John M. Green about how to make a thrill filled thrilling thriller. Surprisingly this was more a discussion about plot and character rather than explosions and body counts. LA Larkin also seems to go the extra mile for research, having just arrived back from a journey to the end of the earth – 6 months in Antarctica – for her latest book. Worth a look.

Climate Whiplash
Curt Stager is a paleoclimatologist, reformed climate sceptic, and a very interesting and engaging speaker. He described what the two scenarios for our next 100,000 years on planet Earth will be like. It was fascinating to hear how much we have disturbed our natural climate cycles and how big and long ranging our impacts upon the atmosphere are. Seeing the response curve of greenhouse gases, temperature and rectification having impacts out to half a million years really opens the eyes to the staggering the affect we are having upon climate. On the plus side, we’ve eliminated the next ice age due in 50,000 years (Sarcasm warning: it isn’t such a good thing).

Bits and Bytes
This talk should have absolutely fascinated me. It was all about technology, where we have come from and where we are going, and how our view of life/sentience has changed from memory to creativity. Ultimately, though, I found James Gleick boring. The only interesting part for me was the discussion of Ada Lovelace, a mind centuries before its time. Who’d have thought a talk about computers could put you to sleep?

Cracking the Code: The Art of Editing
This session on editing was proof that budding writers – like myself – are hungry for information and are willing to queue for a half hour to attend. Bill Scott-Kerr (he edited the DaVinci Code) and Tom Mayer (thankfully not related to John Mayer, or any other pop musicians) were there to lay out the importance and role of an editor. I liked the summary:

Author = speaks to the audience
Editor = helps to sell the book (to sales directors, industry, etc)

It was great to have two professionals stand up and say that editing wasn’t just about typos and grammar, but about crafting a story. This is a point that I think a lot of people miss. Although as a newsletter editor myself, I really would appreciate if authors actually ran a spell check and read their work before submitting it, as it helps to remove the purple monkey dishwasher.

An aside to this section: apparently professional editors have the same reading cut-off points that I do for reading. Bill stated that his cut-offs for a bad manuscript/novel are page 10 (foreboding) and page 100 (dread).

Criminal Agency
Sydney has an interesting public transport system. Replace the word interesting with rubbish. On the surface it looks decent: plenty of buses and trains departing regularly; plenty of stops; bus lanes; etc. Of course once I was on a bus travelling to this session at Ashfield Library, I realised that it would have been easier to harness up some Husky’s to a sled and find some icy tundra in our Aussie deserts. A 15 minute trip was turned into an hour of watching bored people texting and listening to their iPods. On the plus side, once I arrived Shamini Flint and Garry Disher were into their discussions about crime fiction. Garry served up sex and violence, Shamini pointed out that her mother edits out her books’ sex and violence and we would have to make do with humour.

Friday 19th

Book Design Uncovered
It is really hard to sum up a session that revolved around looking at various covers the designers and artists had produced. So here is the session described in interpretive dance:

But What I Really Want to do is Write Fiction
For some reason most people think they have a novel in them. Personally I blame shoddy surgery practices. It was interesting to hear from former journalists, academics and advertising executives (guess which one was able to plug their book the most) on how they had this career thing interrupt their dream of writing a novel or two. The take home point for me was that spending all day writing for your job helps when you want to take fiction writing seriously. Something about being used to hours of rewriting, editing, and tetris.

Merchants of Doubt
Naomi Oreskes is reasonably well known amongst the scientific and wider community, especially since her book, Merchants of Doubt, hit the promotional circuit. I’m a big fan of her work as she shines a light on the dirty little secret that is media misinformation (Hint: climate change is happening and is our fault; smoking does increase the risk of cancer; a duck’s quack does echo). As a scientist I am always amazed at the nonsense that is thrown around in the media. While this book discussed climate change, it was just the latest example in a long line of doubt-mongering by interest groups that she discusses. Her interview in this session covered a lot of points, so I just advise reading her book.

Daddy, Daddy, I………
Finally a session about being a stay at home writer and Dad.

You’ve Been Warned
Curt Stager and Naomi Oreskes were back for another session on climate change, this time joined by Paul Gilding. I really enjoyed this discussion panel, which primarily revolved around the “where to from here” in regards to climate change and dealing with it. Curt pointed out that this next decade is probably the most important decade in the next 100,000 years. Right now we can decide the future of the Earth’s climate by either listening to science and doing something or sitting in the corner with fingers in our ears yelling “la-la-la-la”. Naomi pointed out that scientists have been their own worst enemy, they publish journal papers that only scientists read, so the rest of the world can make stuff up with impunity. Paul pointed out that the free market is terrible at doing anything until the last possible second, and climate change is an issue that requires action much sooner due to its complexity and impact. As Naomi quoted:

Scientist in 1970s “Climate change is a real problem we need to deal with.”
Politician “When will it start having an impact?”
Scientist “Oh, in about 40 years.”
Politician “Get back to me in 39 years.”

Saturday 21st

Sex Up Your Writing
Linda Jaivin‘s workshop was a completely different kind of session at the festival. I would really have liked to have had her on the Porn Wars panel later in the day. Linda had a very simple message, write so that you get hot and steamy. If it works for you then it will work for someone else. That’s a good sex scene or erotica. Due to the topics discussed we were sworn to secrecy so I’ll let you imagine what the 14 women and two men did in the session.

Porn Wars
It was odd to leave a workshop on writing erotica to enter a panel discussion on porn in society. Catherine Lumby, a social scientist, Kate Holden, a former sex worker turned author, and Gail Dines, a fan of talking over the top of everyone including the moderator, were the experts called upon to discuss what should have been a fascinating topic. Unfortunately Gail decided to throw out unsubstantiated claims as facts, reject any other opinions and evidence, and provide scant evidence of her own. I especially liked her claim that the best selling porn movies were all misogynistic gonzo DVDs. Odd. I could have sworn that the big budget porn movies were couples erotica and that they dominated the market. This session was a waste of time. I have to say that as a male I love being blamed for all societal faults by sexists. Catherine and Kate needed a session without Gail, and, as one audience member pointed out, a male panellist.

Cities of the Dead
This was the session that I had come for. Crime fiction authors discussing their work and how the location of their novels influences them. Shamini Flint was the ‘contributing’ chair for the panel of Michael Connelly, Garry Disher and Michael Duffy. Shamini proved to be a great chair – maybe she could have chaired the Porn Wars session….. – and had everyone interested, discussing and laughing. Connelly could be described as taciturn, but Shamini had him telling jokes before long. I think all four authors sold a lot of books from this session, especially Shamini. At the book signing after she had a lot of people queued with her first Inspector Singh novel under their arms. Also Connelly revealed to me that he didn’t write the dialogue he utters on Castle, yet he loved doing the show and the stuff they give him to say.

The Chaser
I was in the queue for the queue to see The Chaser. Needless to say, I didn’t get in. Pity. They are always funny, despite what the BBC, Channel 7, Channel 9, and the Queen of England think.

Sunday 22nd

Growing Pains
When I was an undergraduate I picked a lot of economics units to pad out my science degree – yes I am a nerd, no I will not let you kick sand in my face. I remember very clearly the day that my economics professor explained the market model to us and my resulting question:

Me “If we have a finite resource base, how can we have infinite growth?”
Professor “Technology will be invented to change the resource base.”

Since then I have had this cartoon on my office wall:

Ross Gittins and Paul Gilding were the first economics commentators to say what I have been saying for, literally, decades: the current economic model is fatally flawed. Yes technology could save us, but how long are you willing to wait for it to save you?

As an aside: don’t you think it fitting/ironic that the stock exchange was founded by a chronic gambler?

Lawyers, Guns and Money
I finished my Sydney Writers’ Festival as I began it, with genre. Michael Connelly was back to discuss his books, his writing, his film adaptations and how much his daughter influences Harry Bosch’s daughter. This was a really interesting session and very well attended. I think this session underlined Connelly as one of the modern masters of crime fiction.

I’d also like to say “Hi” to all of the lovely people who I had a chat with in the queues for various sessions. We had some great discussions and were definitely a big part of what made this festival great.

Observations from the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2011

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I’m safely home again after my trip to this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival. I really enjoyed the event and the people I spoke to also enjoyed it. While I was at the event I had an hour between sessions to have a beer and do a bit of writing. I made a few notes on the event that I thought I would share:
  • Writers’ festivals are predominately attended by middle aged women who dream of being an author.
  • Everyone fancies themselves as an intellectual (me included).
  • Actors have to dress eccentrically.
  • Publishers are continually being pitched books, especially by writers who haven’t actually finished a first draft. Publishers refer to random pitches from strangers as “another one”.
  • Writers are always being asked the same 3 questions.
  • Some writers love the crowds, others would clearly prefer to be at home writing. It sucks being a famous/successful introvert.
  • Sessions about writing are very popular, especially amongst those still working on their first book.
  • Sydney has an obsession with coffee culture.
  • Due to the coffee culture they have no idea what a cup of tea is meant to taste like.
  • The smallest population at the event is the male under 40 crowd. I’m sure I was meant to have a minority discount token as a result.
  • Apparently you have to be a feminist to be a female author, even if you write romantic fiction about finding the right man to take care of you.
  • Judging by the Sydney Dance Company’s posters I need to see more productions: all the female dancers are hot and naked.
  • Handing out promotional bottle openers at a writers’ festival is a poorly thought out strategy. It should have been a coffee mug, book mark, or cork screw.
  • Handing out promotional pens is a great idea, the lovely people at Pilot pens gave me a Frixion Clicker that isn’t even on the market yet.
  • Politics at the writers’ festival tends to be a more neutral topic than you would think. The older population and the education level tend to lean towards rational rather than partisan divisions.
  • Most people in the publishing industry are passionate about books, just like the readers. The least passionate people seem to be the ones who make the marketing and buying decisions.
  • People who like dead trees are a largely unaware of what is happening in e-books and the progressions they have made.
  • Readers at the festival were spotted reading on their phones, tablets, e-readers and of course DTB. DTB are still the most popular, but even e-readers are taking off among the older readers.
  • The sales of Michael Connelly’s latest book are apparently 45% e-books.
  • Julian Morrow (The Chaser) and his wife Lisa are really nice.
  • The Chaser, despite the best efforts of Channel 7, 9, BBC and the Queen, are still hugely popular.
  • Shamini Flint probably sold more books and garnered more fans from chairing a crime writers’ session than her advertising for the past year. Witty + Funny + Getting Michael Connelly telling jokes = Sales!
  • Gail Dines probably alienated more people with her polemic vitriol than she intended. Then again she is blind to facts and probably doesn’t care.
  • The people of Sydney were very friendly. They were just like Western Australian’s, except for their constant IV drip of coffee and lack of familiarity with sunny days.

More on the Sydney Writers’ Festival tomorrow; my dog – fur-kid, who am I kidding – needs more attention.

Book Review: Unleashed – Emily Kimelman

I had some feedback from my sister about how all the books I read have the same covers. I am blessed with siblings, a sister and brother, who are both smart and are not afraid to speak the truth. I think it comes from being raised upon a farm. Farmers and their families tend to be a bullshit free zone because you see life all around you. We all still laugh when we hear someone talk about how they became vegetarian when they realised that animals were made out of food: naive much?

Hopefully my sister will see this book cover and see something different, mainly because while this book sat safely in my favourite categories of reading, it also was something outside the box. I mean, look at the cover: no guns, no macabre hints, no violently stylized text. Read the blurb: how can a dog walker be the hero in a mystery thriller? Which is exactly why you should read Unleashed and enjoy.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that Emily, the author, was a dog walker when she was studying English at university. Dog owners will understand what I mean when they read this book. All of those little things that all dogs do, like proudly displaying the couch they have just chewed to pieces – Iz dones good, huh! – when you come home. For readers who like well written and well constructed novels, Emily’s degree clearly didn’t go to waste, including the ending that caught me off-guard (something that rarely happens).

This was a well paced and involving novel. I literally read it in one sitting today (well if you ignore the break to make lunch), so if it wasn’t an e-book you would call it “a real page turner”. Plus the book has a dog on the cover. A dog!

My dog is cute and helps me read by laying on my feet.