Childhood Favorites: The Teenage Years

Last week I blogged about my childhood favorite stories and series. This week I bring you part 2 where I describe the novels that got to me in my teens. Again, in no order.

1. The Merlin trilogy by Mary Stewart

TheCrystalCave

Mary Stewart was famous for her thriller romances in exotic locales (man, Madame will you talk? is a brilliant debut and brilliant title). In the 70s she surprised everyone with her Merlin trilogy, an imagining of the King Arthur legend from Merlin’s first person perspective. In this series, there is a focus on historical realism over fantasy and magic, and I have the entirety of the series to thank for my obsession with the historical basis for the legend. As a young teen, I liked The Crystal Cave best with some of The Last Enchantment (with the sexually promiscuous Morgause) also an eye-opener at that age. I thought the ending to the series in The Last Enchantment was particularly beautiful.

You can buy the entire trilogy from Book Depository

2. The Dragon Prince and Dragon Star trilogies by Melanie Rawn

dragon prince

Sometimes I wonder at my mother. There was A LOT of sex and violence in these books and I lapped up every moment. My favorite characters by a long shot were Sioned and Rohan and I liked the original trilogy more than the second because of this. One of the first times magic and dragons felt well done for me. People accuse these books of being soapie, and I guess to some extent they are, but there were (and still are) moments of genuine emotion for me, particularly around Pol mucking everything up and Andry too. I liked the combination of Machiavellian politics and magic and in the first book, Roelstra and his children sure were terrifying villains.

You can find the entire series on Book Depository starting with Dragon Prince

3. The Deverry Saga by Katharine Kerr

daggerspell

I don’t much care for this series past The Fire Dragon (which in my opinion was the perfect place to end the saga), but I did love this series to death as a child. My favorite sections were the ones where Rhodry and Jill had adventures and bested the dark dweomer as silver dagger outcasts and I think the series lost its lustre when Kerr pulled back from this. I understand she wanted to get away from the swords and sorcery generic trope, but she was onto a good thing with those two.

This series pulled at my heart strings like no other. I cried a lot. I wanted to throw books across the room a lot. There are still lines I can remember off my heart because in my opinion they were just that damn good. I’ve written poetry about Jill. I’ve participated in livejournal comms and started livejournal blogging as a result. I even won a signed copy of The Silver Mage. I still re-read this series up to The Fire Dragon every couple of years. Also Arzozah is the best dragon personification I’ve read in fiction ever. Period.

Again, Mum, not sure how I got away with these. There were rape, incest, sex, blood sacrifice, graphic battle and death scenes galore. But they all served a purpose and were necessary to the story.

4. Agatha Christie crime novels

endless night

I was bored at my grandma’s once and found a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to read. The shock ending caught me well out and I was sold on the genius Christie ever since. Endless Night made quite an impression, scarring me a little for life and it is probably still my favorite Christie. And Then There Were None, Halloween Party and The Clocks also made strong impressions.

My love for Christie never died. I still re-read her on and off and I am currently in the process of re-reading all of her novels in publication order. I’m up to the 1940s and will blog my least favorite to most favorite Christie’s once I finally finish (see you in another three years, interested reader). In 2016 when I met with a friend in London, it was a dream finally fulfilled when we saw The Mousetrap together.

5. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Anyone who has ever met me knows I like this series A LOT. The Netflix show will be reviewed on this blog shortly. I have reviewed Snicket’s newer series All The Wrong Questions before. I was going through a tough time as a carer and my Mum and Dad divorced and my Granddad died when I was 15. I found it oddly comforting to know that those three children had it worse than me. I loved trying to solve Snicket’s tantalizing asides, the word play and the absurdism too.

6. The Sevenwaters trilogy by Juliet Marillier

Daughter-of-the-forest

I’m sure my best friend, Tegan, would agree with me; this series by an Australian author is seriously good! Beautifully written, full of good research, beautiful romances and held together within an Irish first person oral story telling framework, this is some of the best modern fantasy you’ll ever read. Daughter of the Forest must be one of the strongest fantasy debuts ever penned and is my favorite of the series. There’s one scene that is brutal and is guaranteed to make you cry or throw the book across the room. Anyone who’s read this will know the scene I mean. Keep going. It’s a scene with purpose. Trust me. The trilogy’s end in Child of the Prophecy is one of the best fantasy endings to a series I’ve ever read too.

7. Harry Potter

What can I say about this series that hasn’t already been said? I didn’t much like the series post Book 5, but there’s no denying the power of the original Potterverse. How I longed to visit Honeydukes and drink butter beer, or journey through Diagon Alley. How I wished I’d get a letter from Hogwarts (I did once. From the President of UOW Harry Potter Society anonymously I believe). I lined up at crazy hours to get the next book in the series and stayed up all night to avoid spoilers (how dare people spoil Dumbledore’s death in book 6!). I got to see the first two films with school as a library monitor and the last two on exchange in the UK(!). I’ll never forget the surreal experience of sitting in a packed theatre at Oxford to watch the final film and the sound of tissues rustling and everyone sobbing their hearts out at the Snape mini film section.

After all this time?
Always.

You have a heart of stone if that doesn’t get you. I made a lot of friends through this fandom and did a lot of crazy things (like dress as Boggart Snape for a Yule Ball Party once).

Honorable mentions: Everything by Isobelle Carmody but especially the Obernewtyn series and Alyzon Whitestarr. I only omitted her because I included her in my tender years too. Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The tried and true staples: The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings.

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Posted in Genre: Absurdism, Genre: Allegory/Fable, Genre: Crime, Genre: Fairy Tale/Myth and Legend, Genre: Fantasy, Genre: Historical fiction, Genre: Speculative Fiction, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Word is Murder: interview with Anthony Horowitz

I’ve long loved Anthony Horowitz and meta-fiction. A match made in heaven! Stay tuned for my review of this novel.

Feathers of the Firebird

Today, I am delighted to bring you my interview with the fantastic author Anthony Horowitz, about his latest novel, The Word is Murder. Anthony’s books, whether for adults or kids, are always gripping and elegantly written, but this one is particularly accomplished, a bold and brilliant tour de force that takes big risks with literary conventions and reader expectations, and pulls it all off triumphantly. It’s one of the most interesting and memorable novels I’ve read all year.

First of all, Anthony, congratulations on The Word is Murder, a daring and playful blend of metafiction and crime fiction.  In Magpie Murders, your novel published last year, you use metafiction elements–such as a book within a book–but The Word is Murder goes a lot further. How did the idea first come to you?

Thank you for your kind words! TWIM (as we all know it) began when I met my…

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Posted in Author Interview, Creative Writing, Genre Meta, Genre: Crime, Genre: Thriller, Industry Interview | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Childhood favourites: The tender years

My brother and I used to attend swimming lessons every Saturday morning. After class, we’d excitedly demand a trip to Sutherland Library (a place which still feels a bit like coming home even with recent changes to library lay-out). Once ensconced in the library, we’d spend anywhere from an hour till library closing time rifling through the children’s section, reading books on the ground and trying to get away with borrowing more than our cards allowed. To my mum’s mortification, she was told off on many an occasion for allowing us to borrow what was deemed age inappropriate material (The novelisation of Conan the Barbarian was such soft core porn for this little sucker). We continued this Saturday library tradition right up until the mid years of high school.

I have such fond memories of these long Saturdays with books, that I thought I’d write two posts capturing my favourite discoveries. This first post covers primary years. The second post will track early high school.

And now in no particular order…

1. The Asterix comic series

Asterix

I read them all, but a few stick out as being particularly memorable. I still can’t read about Cleopatra without imagining Caesar and everyone else she came into contact with commenting on the quality of her nose. I enjoyed Asterix in Britain with the constant tea drinking and the football match. I can’t think about the country Switzerland without seeing the comic strips from Asterix in Switzerland of Roman legions engaging in orgies and gorging on too much cheese fondue. Asterix and Obelix all at Sea highlighted the bond between the two friends and I also liked the stories set in The Middle East.

2. The TinTin comic series

Tintin

There’s a strong theme happening here. Once my brother and I had devoured all of Asterix, we started on TinTin. Excluding the first two (let’s pretend they never happened), most are great mysteries. TinTin in Tibet is the most emotional, but I also loved the Incan two parter, The Calculus Affair and The Red Sea Sharks with an unhealthy obsessive love. Most loved of all was the first appearance of Captain Haddock in The Crab With The Golden Claws. Best. Comic. Ever. The relatively good animation is now available on Netflix.

3. Enid Blyton. All of them.

enid blyton

They aren’t politically correct. They aren’t high brow literature. They are often racist. Blyton novels may be all these things, but by jove how I wished I was one of the featured children off on my next adventure. I never warmed to The Secret Seven as much as The Famous Five, and I liked The Faraway Tree series better than The Wishing Chair series. Strangely, none of the popular ones were my most beloved. The Adventurous Four and The Adventurous Four Again as well as The Adventure series became firm favourites. I’m ready for a re-read…

4. Nancy Drew series

nancy drew

I even owned the computer game of Secrets Can Kill (Number 1 in the Nancy Drew files) as a child. That game was scary, hard shit. My best friends and I spent hours and hours trying to crack that mystery and I don’t think we ever managed it. Anyway, Nancy Drew. I loved everything about her stories. There’s so many and I’ve mixed them up so often in my head, I couldn’t pick a favourite, but I seem to remember loving one about a Chinese girl getting kidnapped and another involving candles containing chloroform or some such. I did get into The Hardy Boys, but they were no Nancy Drew.

5. The Obernewtyn Chronicles

obernewtyn

Back when I was a kid, some bright spark in government decided to get children to read more books with The Premiere’s Reading Challenge. I’m all for reading challenges, but my ten year old heart broke when there was a set reading list, 90% of which wasn’t genre fiction. Getting through the reading list was torture, but there was one small ray of sunshine.* The librarian handed me a copy of Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody. The story scared the shit out of me, but I loved it, and thus a stubborn persistence to wait for the series to end was born. I finally read the final book in the series last year. It felt like coming home.

*All right, I exaggerate a little. I also discovered Emily Rodda through this challenge and Deltora Quest was some seriously cool shit (the book cover artist came to my primary school once and it was the best). And around this time I discovered Geoffrey McSkimming and Cairo Jim which was tongue in cheek fun of the best kind.

What about you readers? Any favourites from your youth you want to share?

Posted in Genre: Crime, Genre: Fairy Tale/Myth and Legend, Genre: Fantasy, Genre: Historical fiction, Genre: Speculative Fiction, Genre: Thriller, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reblog: 13 Habits of Ridiculously Prolific Authors by Meg Dowell

This is a great article on prolific writers. I need to print this list out and stick it to my writing office wall!!!

via 13 Habits of Ridiculously Prolific Writers

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Maureen’s 50 in 50 list: Re-live ‘If Life Were a Musical’ with a flash mob!

I used to love the Chaser’s War on Everything’s ‘If Life Were a Musical’ segment. I love it when people break into song and dance in a film (My Best Friend’s Wedding style). I wish Keira Knightley’s wedding musical sequence from Love Actually could happen at every wedding. That’s how much I like musical moments and wish they would happen in real life.

Quite separately, I also have grown to quite like Kate Bush. Running Up That Hill is probably on my top 25 song list. So when I found out there was a Wuthering Heights Day annually, and one happening in Sydney HOLY HECK I WAS SO THERE WITH BELLS ON. Kate Bush flash mob? Yes please.

So last year, my friend, Marsha, my partner Tim and I got in on the action and dressed up full blown Kate Bush Wuthering Heights style and wuthered our way to happiness. So much so I can’t wait to do it again!

Tim, me, Marsha wuthering
Me, Tim and Marsha

Wuthering Heights Tim and I
Tim and I joyous after our wuther

On our way to the wuther, we had to switch train lines. Undaunted, we soon found fellow wutherers who know the dance much better than us and proceeded to teach it to us on the increasingly more crowded platform.

crowd gathers for the wuther
The crowd slowly forms for the wuther

At the actual event, people stood in front of our growing Kate Bush look-a-like flash mob to teach us the moves before we did the real thing. The hordes of people stumbling around, spinning around and nervously kicking out of time, was hilarious. After the wuther, there was a special choir performance, and then we went to a bar and played Kate Bush songs on the juke box. At one point, everyone wuthered through the bar.

What a flash mob we were! I can’t wait to do it all over again!!!

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Maureen’s 50 in 50 list: Go to Broadway and see a musical

I can’t believe I haven’t filled faithful readers of this blog in on where I am at with my 50 in 50 list. Since 2015, I’ve checked a couple of things off so in the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting updates with what I’ve done to date.

In 2014 – 2015, a high school friend and I went on a six week tour of the US. We went to LA, Disneyland (best. day. ever), San Diego, San Francisco, then separated for Christmas (I went to Chicago and Detroit to meet relatives for Christmas), New York for New Years, DC, New Orleans and Texas (where we stayed on a real Dude Ranch and felt like we were in a Harlequin Romance novel).

It wouldn’t have been a real experience without a brush with Broadway, especially as my friend and I made friends in high school through ‘this one time on band camp’ (and no I am not joking). We got cheap tickets to see Phantom of the Opera live and it was one of the most amazing nights of my life. I hated the shitty film, but love the music in Phantom. Somehow I just knew that a live play was the perfect format for the Phantom story. We were in a side balcony, which made the night extra special, as the chandelier and The Phantom lowered near us!

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Keen for the full Broadway experience, we also saw a less traditional musical called Motown, which was boppy and fun.

Phantom blogCD case blog

One night, we also faced the brutal, cold and snowy line to get inside Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a restaurant in New York where the waiters and waitresses work at this restaurant by night, and try to make it big on the stage by day. All of them sing and dance on the tables and other bits of furniture as you order, making this one of the best musical experiences around New York if you’re into kitsch fun.

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First pro short story publication!

I can’t believe how forgetful I am sometimes, and especially when it comes to the poor readers of my blog! Late last year, I submitted a short story to CSFG’s bi-annual anthology and was lucky enough to get into my first ever pro short story publication.

The anthology title is A Hand of Knaves and the book comes out late September/early October. My short story is called ‘Gardening through the Danse Macabre’ and is a very strange story indeed.

I’m so excited for CSFG to introduce this anthology to the world! You can read more about the anthology and the great short story line-up here. I will keep readers of this blog posted about publication date, book launches and how to purchase. Promise!

Posted in Creative Writing, Genre: Fantasy, Genre: Short Story Collection, Genre: Speculative Fiction, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments