Tag Archives: advice

Narrelle’s summer reading reclist

While not everyone gets a break over summer, it’s always a good time for a reading recommendations list. And given I managed to read (as of 24 December) 159 books and novellas in 2018 (let’s see if I can make it 160 by NYE), I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you!

Seasonal delights

I don’t generally make a point of reading seasonal tales, but I’ve read a few that delighted me in different ways this year. If you’re looking for something a little different, may I present:

Merry Happy Valkyrie: A Holiday Novella by Tansy Rayner Roberts. It’s Christmas, Jim, but not as you know it. Norse mythology, Tasmanian snow in summer, secrets and a movie studio making Xmas schmaltz. What could possibly go wrong apart from, you know, everything? TRR never fails to be delightful, and she’s particularly and vividly charming with this gorgeous story!

Unchaining Krampus by JP Reedman. It’s Christmas. It’s a fairytale. It’s horror and demons and goblins and self rescuing princesses. It’s a hoot.

Christmas Miracles of a Recently Fallen Spruce by Brandon Witt. I discovered this author through the Facebook MM group I haunt. It was cute and a lot of fun to follow Paxton Peterson’s meticulous planning all go to ruin through a snowmobile accident and the delicious advent of a handsome neighbour.

The Miracle of the Lights by Cindy Rizzo. Christmas isn’t the only festival that can fall this time of year. Rizzo’s sweet story is about two Hasidic Jewish girls in love, losing each other and finding each other during Hanukkah in New York City.

Patreon Novellas

One of the reasons my count is so high is that I’ve been reading lots of wonderful shorts and novellas from the writers I support on Patreon. I love Seanan McGuire‘s fantasy work and every few months I get a new one.

Another joy is the work of Tansy Rayner Roberts – and I’ve sung songs to her before in this blog. For those who listen to podcasts (I never had time) Tansy podcasts many of her books before releasing the ebook, so you can get in ahead. A recent absolute gem is Tea and Sympathetic Magic, a sassy, smart, funny, brilliant regency-style story of. Well. Tea and sympathetic magic. Read an excerpt on Tansy’s website.

I don’t restrict myself to her Patreon stories – I’ve also this year loved to pieces her Creature Court prequel Cabaret of Monsters (backed through a Kickstarter), Girl Reporter (the latest in her superhero series), the  and all the parts of the Belladonna University series.

Basically, you will never go wrong with a Tansy Rayner Roberts story.

Young Adult fiction

This year I finally got to Ellie Marney’s Every series, and tore through Every Breath, Every Word and Every Move. Set in modern Australia, the stories are a clever reworking of Sherlock Holmes influences while also being their own thing entirely. Of course I love them.

Alex Marchant (who edited the recent Richard III collection, Grant Me the Carving of My Name) first came to my attention as the author of the very fine Ricardian YA adventures The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man. I’m looking forward to a third in the series, and recommend the first two very highly.

Romance! Adventure!

I’ve adored Emily Larkin‘s work for a while now and loved The Spinster’s Secret, My Lady Thief and Primrose and the Dreadful Duke.

In a similar vein, I’ve discovered Erica Ridley – more sassy Regency heroines, thank you!

Rohase Piercy’s My Dearest Holmes was recently re-released, after being one of the first officially published Holmes/Watson love stories, back in 1988.

A twist on canon-era Holmes/Watson has just come out from Improbable Press – K. Caine’s A Study in Velvet and Leather. Holmes is a queer woman, Watson is a queer man: bisexuality is a thing, and so is BDSM in the Victorian era. I loved it.

Non-Fiction

I also read some wonderful non fiction –  the account of the Burke and Wills expedition is thoroughly examined in The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd.

Vikki Petraitas’s The Frankston Murders is an account of the murders that took place in Frankston in 1993 – compassionate and thorough, with a focus on the women who died and their families and communities.

Transgender Warriors : Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman by the late Leslie Feinberg and Strangers: Homosexual Love in the 19th Century by Graham Robb are both a little difficult to get, not being available in ebook form, but I learned a huge amount from both of them for current and upcoming books, and I recommend them thoroughly.

That’s probably more than enough to be getting on with! If you have any recommendations of your own, please let me know in the comments!

Wherever you are, whatever you celebrate at this time of year, my very best wishes to you all, and my hopes that this whole planet has a happy, hopeful, sunshiney new year.

Narrelle’s Holiday Reading Guide

The end of the calendar year is coming, bringing with it school holidays, the Christmas break, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the solstice and other observances and festivals, including the new year!

Whatever the occasion – it’s always a good time for a book, am I right? Seems a good time to suggest a recommended reading list of the books I’ve enjoyed this year!

Pardon the blatant plugging, but I have stories in a couple of fantastic anthologies that have been published over the year which you might enjoy, especially if you enjoy crime, adventure or fantasy!

Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook is a collection of stories set in Australia (and on a boat to New Zealand) in 1890.

Authors include Kerry Greenwood cowriting with Lindy Cameron, Lucy Sussex, Steve Cameron, Meg Keneally and Jason Franks!

And then.. Volumes One is an absolute treasure trove of great fiction by Australian writers, including Sulari Gentill,  Jason Nahrung, Alan Baxter, Jason Franks, Lucy Sussex, Amanda Wrangles, Evelyn Tsitas, Peter M Ball, Dan Rabarts, Kat Clay, Sophie Masson, Tor Roxburgh, Emilie Collyer and Tansy Rayner Roberts.

There are stories in outer space, in ancient lands, involving dragons and mysteries and alien life forms and pretty much everything in between!  Volume Two is coming as well – check out Clan Destine Press for details (and other cool books by Australian authors!)

I’m especially delighted with Scarlet Stiletto: the Ninth Cut 2017, as it contains my Award-winning ghost/crime story Jane. In fact, every story in the volume is an award winner, by fabulous new Australian crime writers.

I have novels and short stories out too, like the action-filled paranormal thriller/gay romance Ravenfall ,and lesbian romance Near Miss!

But it’s not all about me, I know that.

It’s also about Emily Larkin, whose Baleful Godmother series has been a delight all this year. The sixth book of this magical regency series of books and novellas has just been released, but you can start with the delightful Unmasking Miss Appleby, then dash right along with Resisting Miss Merryweather,  Trusting Miss Trentham, Claiming Mister Kemp, and Ruining Miss Wrotham before finishing (for now) with Discovering Miss Dalrymple.

Tansy Rayner Roberts has been another joy this year (and every year) with her Belladonna University/Fake Geek Girl and Castle Charming novella series, her Patreon posts and pretty much just everything she writes. I interviewed her recently, so you can find links of books to love right there. Her brand new book, Girl Reporter, is due out on 19 December too!

More gruesome splendour is provided by Emma Viskic, whose  And Fire Came Down, is every bit as good as its award-winning predecessor, Resurrection Bay.

Full of action, drama, serious injury, and featuring a cast of diverse supporing characters and a deaf protagonist. Highly, highly, highly recommended!

I also want to wave flaily hands at Gillian Polack’s The Wizardry of Jewish Women, because it displays her customary wry wit and intricate world-building in a seemingly innocuous domestic setting with suburban Australia.

Get The Wizardry of Jewish Women in Mobi or Epub formats at Bookview Cafe. 

That’s enough fiction of various types to be getting on with. If you want to try some more ideas, just search my blog on the tag ‘reviews’ for suggestions.

Enjoy your break, if you get one, and may every book you read be golden!

And please – if you have a great book recommendation for the 2017-18 transition, please leave a comment, and maybe even a link!

A Tale of Two Conferences

Narrelle with a snake at Australia Zoo
‘Australia Zoo / Ben Beaden’

I spent the middle of August in Queensland. Respite from Melbourne’s very chilly winter was a bonus but not the purpose.

Instead, I was attending my first ever Romance Writers of Australia conference, and then loitering a little longer so I could join Tim on the Sunshine Coast for his conference with the Australian Society of Travel Writers.

And then I got to cuddle a snake.

Love Gone Wild

The RWA conference – Love Gone Wild – was a big financial commitment, but it was definitely worth the time and the money to attend. Apart from getting to meet with hundreds of fellow writers of romance, I was able to attend the conference sessions. I learned something new at every single panel, even ones where I felt fairly sure I knew the material being covered.

I was able to hear from established writers, publishers and agents about how the industry is changing, how people are responding to the changes, the opportunities that are out there and how writers can look for new ways to engage readers. The conference was what finally made me work out how to import my blog, which used to live on a separate site, into my main website here!

I’ve learned a lot about marketing and more than a few things about how to approach submissions and agent queries.

I even won a raffle prize where I get to consult with a swordsman about writing fight scenes!

My new novel, Ravenfall, made its first appearance at Love Gone Wild – and it was the first time I got to lay hands on the trade paperback of this little beauty!

The ebook is coming later, but for now the paperback is due out officially on 1 September and is up for pre-order on:

The fancy dress evening was a delight too – a flock of flamingos were there!

In all, if you’re a budding or established romance writer, I can highly recommend both membership of the RWA and attendance at their annual August conference. Not only are the sessions of enormous value, there are opportunities to pitch books to a range of publishers and agents. It’s being held at the Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney next year, so you can start preparing now!


ASTW

I’m not myself a travel writer but in my other life as a freelance writer, I’ve written for universities, hotel chains and entertainers. With Tim attending a conference only the weekend following Love Gone Wild, it made sense to hang about (and spend some time with my fabulous brother Stephen, who lives in Brisbane) and join Tim for some of the events that partners were invited to.

So it was that I found myself learning to paint watercolours in the Sunshine Coast hinterland with artist James McKay and later making pottery chickens at Fried Mudd.

Not to mention seeing critters being cared for at the wildlife rescue centre and cuddling snakes at the Australia Zoo. This place is huge and witnessing two blokes feed a crocodile while attempting not to be eaten by one gives me even greater respect for crocodiles.

My favourite part of the croc show was actually the birds – watching the bright parrots and macaws, the beautiful whistling kite and the massive Andean condor. I was fortunate later to meet a macaw up close.

It’s important just as a person to be curious about the world and to seek out new experiences. As a writer, your curiosity is one of your best writing tools – to go forth and try things out. You never know if you’ll need to write about them. More to the point, I often write about things soon after experiencing them.

Now. How soon can I get a character to muck about with a snake?

Add a little Spark! to your life

Art by Janet AndertonEvery writer needs a bit of encouragement – wherever they are in their career. We all like to know what techniques other writers use to get started, to keep going, to get motivated and to write even when we’re not.

I contribute from time to time to an excellent little newsletter called Spark! Distributed by Improbable Press, it’s designed to encourage and motivated writers – especially those new to the craft, but there are words of energetic enthusiasm there for everyone.

Recently I approached many editors of my acquaintance to say what they loved and what they loathed about submissions they received. (A serious number of submissions fail to meet basic guidelines, which was less of a surprise than it should have been.)

Various newsletters have discussed how to write about place, fighting fear, using play to get creative, and writing in languages or dialects not your own.

Spark! comes out every two or so weeks, and is kept short and punchy. You can check out the newsletters to date here, or if you’re keen you can subscribe right away!Spark newsletter logo