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Six Dystopian Novels to Get You Ready for the End of the World

Posted November 26, 2015 by Sophie Overett

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With the final installment of The Hunger Games coming out this week, it could almost be the end of an era. Sure, we still have The Maze Runner and Divergent sequels to look forward to, but the mainstream popularisation of the dystopian seems to be winding down. Don’t worry if you were a late adopter to the trope though – the good thing about it having been so popular means you have a straight up library of books to see you through until the next genre boom.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Any list of dystopian novels not including Margaret Atwood’s formative story feels lacking. Atwood’s story of a closed-ranks society subjugating it’s women as child-bearers or prostitutes, famously only uses examples of both that have really happened. By combining them all, Atwood not only harnesses our collective fear of conformity, isolation and lack of control, but also proves that one man’s utopia is a lot of people’s dystopia.


Zone One by Colson Whitehead
Even mentioning a zombie outbreak can be met with eyerolls these days, but it doesn’t change the fact that a good zombie story can be something remarkable. Colson Whitehead’s story of a society rebuilt after the apocalypse goes the places you’d expect it to (nothing’s at peace forever after all), but there’s some terrific twists and characters along the way.

a town called dust

A Town Called Dust by Justin Woolley
Parts of Australia lend themselves pretty generously to the apocalypse (we have Mad Max as testimony to that), but rarely is it approached as organically and generously as it is in Justin Woolley’s A Town Called Dust. The story finds an emotional centre in two kids, Squid and Lynn, fighting against the restrictions placed on them by their society and the ones they place on themselves.


Blindness by Jose Saramago
When it comes to dystopian fiction, a lot seems to be focused on the hows and whys when really what you care about is what happens next. Blindness has that in spades – not zombies or nuclear war, it’s a story that starts simply enough – with one person going blind. And then another. Then another. It’s not just a dystopian, but a plague story about what happens when the threat isn’t outside, but in.

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Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
Brian K. Vaughan’s latest comic book series, Saga, has redefined the space opera to such a degree that it’s almost possible to forget that one of his earlier series, Y: The Last Man did the same for the dystopian. All men on Earth drop dead except one, and a world of women are left scrambling to hold together a species on the brink of extinction in this funny and heartbreaking series.


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I know, I know, this is a double hitter of ol’ Suzanne, but there’s a reason this series swept up the world’s collective imagination. Tightly told, excellently paced with characters you’ll love (and cry over when Collins inevitably kills them), The Hunger Games is an intense and emphatic tale about a teenage girl’s efforts to save her little sister which suddenly, somehow, turns her into the face of a rebellion.

What was the last great dystopian novel you read?

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The Ghosts of Spectre: a guest post from Chris Allen

Posted November 23, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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There’s a lot of conjecture at the moment around whether or not Spectre is a great or a not so great Bond film.

I went in with mixed feelings based on many of the reviews and comments I was seeing online. And for those who don’t know me, I’m a die-hard Bond fan, Fleming first – movies second. So I have high expectations of each of the films and I must say on this occasion, I was not disappointed.

Here’s what I liked about it.

The thing that people liked so much about Daniel Craig when he was brought on in 2006 with Casino Royale – is that he took the character of Bond right back to his roots. He was an unrelenting, blunt instrument which is exactly the intention that Fleming had for the character when he created Bond back in the 1950s. 

What they’ve done with Spectre is very cleverly woven into Craig’s presentation of Bond, much of the iconography of the character that people have been enjoying for over 50 years. Traditionally all the other films have relied on five key elements to connect them: the dinner suit; the Walther PPK; the vodka martini; the fast cars and of course, the women. Add to that some megalomaniac criminal mastermind, hell-bent on world domination and you’re all set.

What they’ve achieved in Spectre with – I thought – great subtlety as well as great respect for the legacy of the films, was the referencing of a number of scenes, themes and elements from across the palette of the Eon Productions series dating back to the very first film, Dr No, starring Sean Connery.

– There’s the scene in Dr No when Bond and Honey are received as guests at Dr No’s lair – this is replicated in Spectre when Bond and Madeleine Swann are similarly received by Blofeld. 

– The contemporary take of Craig’s Bond in Tangier in 2015 is almost identically dressed and styled with dark shirt and beige jacket to Timothy Dalton’s Bond in Tangier in 1987 in The Living Daylights.


– The train journey that Bond and Madeleine take references a number of things, most notably the white dinner jacket which we first saw in Goldfinger, and only a couple of times since.

– And of course – the fight sequence between Craig’s Bond and Hinx on the train is a direct hat tip to Connery’s Bond and Robert Shaw’s Grant in From Russia With Love in 1963, and even albeit less comically Roger Moore’s Bond and Richard Kiel’s Jaws in The Spy Who Loved me in 1977.

– Blofeld’s surveillance control room in Spectre is a contemporary take on Hugo Drax’s space centre control room from Moonraker in 1979. 

– And finally, there’s the white cat, the Hildebrand reference and of course how Blofeld got his facial scar that was so much a part of Donald Pleasant’s Blofeld in You Only Live Twice in 1967. And many, many others.

If you go into a Daniel Craig Bond – you expect a certain thing. I’ve learned since Casino Royale in 2006 to expect a brooding, lonely individual who is struggling to come to terms with loss and disappointment despite the fact that he is supposed to be a blunt instrument, last resort capability for his government. 

In this regard, I was not disappointed.

Coupled to that, all of these historic references throughout the film to the legacy of the series and I came away feeling thoroughly entertained.

But let me qualify that.

The storyline can be disappointing because Bond is a huge character and the fact that Spectre boils the entire catalogue of Bond’s most recent missions down to nothing more than a demented, former childhood friend taunting him from a distance, all the danger and intrigue has been little more than a squabble between a couple of spoiled brats.

At that to me is the major let down in that thematic element and I believe that is what has left people with a less-than-favourable reaction to the film. It’s almost like, at the time you’re enjoying it, but there is an aftertaste that is ultimately not satisfying and that is how they have framed Bond’s recent history. A little bit like eating junk food on an impulse – tastes pretty good at the time, but you feel very unsatisfied very soon after.


Chris Allen’s latest heart-stopping thriller is out on the 26th of November. If you like Bond, you’ll love Helldiver. Grab a copy now!

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Cover reveal – The Bloody Quarrel: Complete Edition by Duncan Lay

Posted November 11, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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The prince is dead.

Fooled by the treacherous King Aidan, Fallon has shot down the one man he trusted to save his beloved nation of Gaelland. And yet, when the King could grind Fallon underfoot, he draws the simple farmer and fighter closer, making a hero of him.

Embroiled in plots beyond his comprehension and weighted with the guilt of the prince’s murder, Fallon must tread carefully if he is to accomplish the task that first brought him to the cursed capital: rescue his wife, Bridgit, and the rest of his village from Kottermani slavery. If he and his hopelessly ensnared men can survive, they may yet find redemption.

Meanwhile, across the ocean, Bridgit is rallying those around her to spring an escape. But who can be trusted? The ever-present danger of traitors and liars among the slaves, and even among her fellow Gaelish, is poison to her plans.

With an ocean between them and fouler nightmares looming, Fallon and Bridgit will be driven to their very limits to escape their prisons, find each other, and bring justice to Gaelland.

This epic fantasy is perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Joe Abercrombie.

The Bloody Quarrel: Complete Edition is released on the 11th of February. Pre-order your copy now!

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Cover reveal: Dastardly Deeds by Ilsa Evans

Posted November 4, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime …

When Nell Forrest’s life hits a speed bump (which is most definitely not a midlife crisis) a cruise around the Mediterranean seems like just the ticket.

Unfortunately, that’s an idea shared by her mother, her ex-husband, his new partner, and a police detective with whom Nell has a stormy history. Fortunately, meditation is just one of the many activities offered aboard the luxury liner, but Nell will need more than that to face what lies ahead.

A tragic death in Rome is quickly followed by another in Turkey. Then an unexpected discovery provides a link between the two, and Nell must stow her plans for relaxation once and for all.

One of her shipmates is a cold-blooded murderer, and it seems that Nell is the only one with the wherewithal to figure it out. But figure it out she must, because the murderer, like the cruise, has only just begun …

Dastardly Deeds is the fourth book in Ilsa Evans’ Nell Forrest Mystery series. The other three are Nefarious Doings, Ill-Gotten Gains and Forbidden Fruit.

This cosy mystery is perfect for fans of Alexander McCall Smith, M.C. Beaton, Kerry Greenwood and Joanna Fluke.

Dastardly Deeds will be released on the the 10th of March 2016.

Pre-order your copy NOW

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Exclusive excerpt: Kraken Rising by Greig Beck

Posted October 19, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Southern Ocean – Edge of the South Sandwich Trench – October 12, 2008

Five hundred feet down, the silent leviathan glided through the water. At that depth there was just the faintest trace of sunlight penetrating down to create wave-like ripples on its surface, but below it, there was nothing but utter darkness.

The USS Sea Shadow was an experimental design submarine. Based on a miniaturized Ohio Class design, the 188-foot craft had an electric drive and high-energy reactor plant that allowed it to navigate the seas in total stealth. In addition, nano-paint on echo-free tiles reduced the chance of detection from active sonar – it was effectively an ocean ghost.

For now, Shadow, as the crew affectionately knew it, carried only conventional impact torpedoes, simply to add test displacement weight. The rest of its armament stores were empty, but when the craft was fully operational, it would be crammed with enough weaponry to obliterate anything on or below the water. The new design submarine was fast and invisible, and as far as the navy was concerned, was a high seas game changer.

The test run was watched from naval command with a mix of pride and trepidation. Shadow was in international waters, which would have made it diplomatically awkward should it have been detected. Even though the closest high-tech power, Australia, should not have possessed the technical capabilities to see or hear it, training runs in this part of the Southern Ocean were necessary and extremely useful as the environmental conditions were as hostile as they could get. And if the Aussies could find them, then the project would be determined a fail.

Today’s exercises were to be carried out on the edge of the deepest trench in the region – the Southern Sandwich Trench, just off the Antarctic’s coast. Muddy plains, abyssal mountain ranges and crevices that fell away to 26,000 feet into the Earth’s crust, dominated the ocean floor here.

Captain Clint O’Kane stood on the command deck, shorter than the rest of his crew, but his authoritative presence made him seem like he towered over every one of them. His dark eyes were unreadable, as they reflected the green glow of the instrument panels.

O’Kane was relatively young, but had been a mariner for two decades. Still, he felt his heart rate lift as he passed over any of these deeper zones. It was the trenches that worried all submariners. These cold black voids were worlds of crushing depths, permanent blackness, and were most often shielded from them as the deep water made the liquid compress enough to repel most of their sonar pulses. And every now and then, when something did bounce back, more often than not it could never be identified. In that mysterious darkness, there were temperature fluctuations and flow variations that defied explanation, and every mariner felt there were things down there that saw them, without ever being seen themselves.

This trench had an additional reputation – it was the Southern Sea’s Devil’s Triangle. Dozens of ships had disappeared down in these stretches of water. And aircraft had also vanished, like the 1920 disappearance of Amelia J – a low flying spotter plane that gave a single fear-filled message: “It’s coming up”, before disappearing from radar, never to be seen again.

O’Kane would sail into the teeth of any battle that he was commanded to, against any odds, and never even blink. But he always slept better when they were well away from this particular deep-water stretch.


The single word was like a small electric jolt to his gut. He casually approached his sonar officer, standing just behind him, and outwardly radiated his usual calm.


The officer calibrated his sonar, and concentrated. “Five miles, coming up out of the abyssal zone.”

“That deep?” O’Kane grunted. “Biological?” He knew that sperm whales could get down to nearly 7,000 feet to hunt in the total darkness for the giant squid.

He waited. The officer’s face was creased in concentration. Beside him, O’Kane could see his screen, the winding sonar line passing over the long darker stain on the sensor. The man leaned even closer to his console and also pressed fingertips over one of his microphone’s ear cups. He shook his head and shrugged.

“Nonmagnetic signature, but unknown.”

O’Kane groaned. They had an online identification library of blips, pulses and pings for every deep-water biological creature and geological movement. Their library also stored the propeller sounds of the world’s entire naval fleets – they should have been able to isolate, and then identify, anything and everything below the water.

He remembered Fuller’s Law – nature provides exceptions to every rule. O’Kane ground his teeth. Meaning, he was back to relying on experience and his gut.

“Give me bearing and speed.”

“Sir, relative bearing is sixty degrees, three miles out over the trench and speed is at twenty knots, variable. Rising, and moving into a parallel course.”

O’Kane grunted his approval. Parallel was good, he thought. At least it wasn’t moving any closer. “Too fast for a whale,” he said.

The sonar officer half turned and pulled one of the cups away. “I don’t think it’s a whale, sir. It’s not making a sound … and it’s big, very big.” He frowned and swung back. “Doesn’t make sense.” The officer rotated dials and leaned forward for a moment, his face a sickly green from the monitors. “Whoa.”

O’Kane didn’t want to hear that word from his sonar man. He began to feel a sudden slickness as beads of perspiration popped out over his face and body.

The officer spun. “It just turned towards us, and speed increased to fifty knots.”

“Fifty knots? Not possible.” O’Kane’s jaw set. “Sound red-alert. Come to twenty degrees port bearing, increase speed to maximum.” He exhaled through clenched teeth. Anywhere else he would have immediately surfaced, but doing so here would mean exposure to the unfriendly satellites he knew were always watching. He could not risk breaking cover over a damn sonar shadow.

“Object now at 1.1 miles and closing. Collision course confirmed. Not responding to hailing, sir.”

O’Kane had only one option left – to fight.

“Ready all torpedo tubes. Come about eighty degrees starboard, and then all stop.” The huge steel fish yawed in the water as it moved to face its pursuer. O’Kane grabbed the back of the operator’s chair, as incredible centrifugal forces acted on the huge armor-plated body.

“On my order.” O’Kane planted his legs and stood straight, waiting.

“Five hundred feet, collision imminent. Closing to 480 feet, 430, 400 …”

It was too fast, and O’Kane knew it was probably already too close. “Fire tubes one and two. Brace.” He gritted his teeth.

“Firing one and two – brace, brace, brace …” The echo sounded as his order was relayed to the torpedo room.

The order was drowned out by klaxon horns. O’Kane felt the slight pulse that went through the superstructure as the torpedoes were expelled from the nose of the submarine. He held his breath, his eyes half closed as he waited for the sensation of the impact detonations, and the destructive shock wave that would follow.

Seconds stretched … nothing came.

O’Kane opened his eyes. “Status update.”

“Negative on impact, sir. Bogey seems to have, uh, vanished.” The sonar operator spun dials, and hit keys, his face dripping sweat now. “It just … ” He shook his head. “Something’s wrong.”

“Impossible. It must have dived.” O’Kane felt his heart racing. “Let’s give it some space. Full speed astern.” He felt the thrum of the engines kick in and looked to the inside wall of the submarine, as if seeing through the inches of steel plating. His gut told him it was still there.

“Come about, ahead full.” The USS Sea Shadow jumped forward as the high-energy reactor gave the drives immediate power.

Go, go, go, O’Kane silently prayed.

The operator suddenly jammed one hand over his ear cup again. “It’s back – a hundred feet, fifty …” He balled his fists and spun, his face contorted.

Where …” O’Kane almost yelled the words. “… where the hell is it?”

“It’s … on us.”

The crew and Captain Clint O’Kane were thrown forward as the submarine stopped dead in the water. He held on to an instrument panel and then started to slide, as unbelievably, the huge craft was tilted. The sound of metal under pressure immediately silenced the yells of the crew. There was nothing more terrifying to submariners than the sound of the ocean threatening to force its way in to the men living in the small steel-encased bubble of air below the surface.

O’Kane looked at the faces of his men, now all turned to him. There was confusion and fear, but no panic. They were the best men he had ever served with. For the first time in his long career he decided to break protocol.

“Blow all tanks, immediate surface.”

The order was given, and the sound of air rushing from a compressed state to normal atmosphere, as it filled the ballast tanks, was like a long sigh of relief throughout the underwater craft. O’Kane’s fingers dug into one of the seat backs as he waited for the sensation of lift. It never came.

“Negative on rise. We’re still going down.” The operator’s voice now sounded higher than usual.

The command deck tilted again – nose down, now leaning at an angle of 45 degrees.

“Full reverse thrust!” O’Kane yelled the command, and he immediately felt the engines kick up as the screws turned at maximum rotations. He leaned over the operator again and looked at his screen. He knew the result without having to see the numbers.

“Descending.”  The officer now calmly read them out. “800 feet, 825, 850, 880 …”

The USS Sea Shadow had been tested to a thousand feet, and could probably withstand another few hundred. But beyond that …

O’Kane exhaled as the sound of hardened steel compressing rose above the thrum of the engines.

“Something has us,” he said softly. It was every mariner’s nightmare – the unknown thing from the depths, reaching out and taking hold. He knew how deep the water was here, but it didn’t concern him. They would all be dead and pulverized long before they ever reached the bottom.

Anger suddenly burned in his gut. But not yet, he thought. O’Kane spun. “Get a Cyclops out there, now.”

Hands worked furiously to load and shoot the miniature wireless submersible that was a torpedo with a single large eye for a nose-cone. Inside the fast moving craft was a high resolution streaming video camera with remote operational capabilities.

“Cyc-1 away, sir; bringing her back around.” The seaman worked a small joystick, turning the six-foot camera craft back towards them.

O’Kane leaned closer to the small screen, waiting.

Sea Shadow coming up on screen, should be … oh god.” The seaman’s mouth hung open.

O’Kane stared, feeling his stomach lurch. Nothing could ever prepare any man or woman of the sea for what confronted him on that tiny screen. O’Kane pushed himself upright, and slowly looked down at his right hand, spreading his fingers, then closing them into a fist. In the hand of a god, he thought.

Into his head jumped a few lines of a 200-year-old poem by Tennyson, and much as he wanted to cast it out, it sang loud in his mind: Below the thunders of the upper deep; Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea; His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep; The Kraken sleepeth.

No, not sleeping, thought O’Kane, now awake.

He raised his eyes back to the screen and continued to stare at the thing that engulfed his entire submarine. Rivets popped in the skin of the vessel, and then the super-hardened hull started to compress. The 33-foot diameter submarine began to buckle, and he saw that the automated distress beacon had been activated.

“We’re gonna breach.”

The shout came from behind him, and he spun, roaring his commands. “Sound general quarters, increase internal pressure, close all watertight doors, shut down everything nonessential, and watch for goddamn fires.”

The hull groaned again as they continued to descend into the darkness.

“What do we do?” The seaman at the screen looked up at him with a face the color of wax.

O’Kane could feel the crew’s eyes on him; he could feel the fear coming off them in waves. His hand went to the key around his neck. The high tech, prototype submarine had self-destruct capability. He alone could trigger it.

“What do we do, sir?” The man gulped dryly, his face twisted.

If there was one thing O’Kane was sure of; while there was life, there was hope. His hand fell away from the key.

“We pray.”

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Excerpt – Peter Allen: The Boy from Oz by Stephen MacLean

Posted October 7, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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More than ninety years after those words about Tenterfield were written, the first man ever to dance with New York’s famed Rockettes found himself once again in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This time he was crouched inside a giant champagne glass prop waiting for the orchestra down beat to start his dinner show. The solo performance awaiting him would doubtless be demanding, but the man himself was intrepid, the man was a tank. But it was also true that the 1980s for Peter Allen had started in triumph then ended in calamity, testing him personally to the limit. He had buried in the past few years more friends, colleagues and lovers than he likely had the heart to dwell on. He had also seen his dream of a Peter Allen Broadway musical soar into a fantasy of goodwill and imminent triumph, then splatter into the reality of scornful reviews and a sniping, vengeful press. The worm had turned and now the song and dance man’s most valuable resource, his energy, was beginning to ebb. The uninvited visitor illness was quietly creeping up on him.

The performer nonetheless had his vast experience and pronounced native cunning to fall back on. Once Peter’s show was humming along he would pad it out by talking and telling gags instead of singing. He would tell the audience the same story he had always told them, the story of his childhood, ‘Out in the bush, chasing kangaroos, eating koala bears for lunch.’ This was Peter Allen’s image, his show-business insurance and it made simple commonsense to maintain it. ‘Never interfere with the legend, never correct it,’ his former mother-in-law Judy Garland had decreed, and the bush boulevardier was not about to. Not that he expected to be genuinely understood, not in his racket. Truth was far too complex a matter for legend and Peter Allen had too many incongruous and opposing qualities to be understood; it was one of his strengths that this gregarious, guarded, self-contained man had never expected to be understood. So Peter Allen would joke his way around the Broadway flop and tell them about the folksy Australian town he came from, Tenterfield.

The fact that Peter had never actually stayed on in Tenterfield would not be mentioned because it would only confuse the issue. Peter Allen, real name Peter Woolnough, had in fact grown up in Armidale. But Armidale had been almost (but not quite) sophisticated for an Australian country town, and what was the value of that to legend? Best to talk about this little kid dancing in the never-never land of the Tenterfield bush, hoofing and tapping and queening it up while his grandfather made saddles; destiny’s tot rejecting the family business because he ‘didn’t want to work in leather,’ as he put it. As for the other town, Armidale, it just wasn’t funny, and didn’t sound right in a lyric. More to the point, though, Armidale was cursed by memory and blighted by personal ruin. So Peter Allen was the boy from Tenterfield and that was that for the purpose of myth.

In reality it was Dick who had grown up in Tenterfield, Peter’s father Richard Woolnough. Dick Woolnough would eventually be buried there too, in an unmarked grave, in the Presbyterian section of Tenterfield cemetery. But Dick Woolnough in the interim had taken himself to the larger town of Armidale which was a few hours south from Tenterfield along the New England Highway. Tenterfield had the looks but Armidale had the one quality that transcends all others: luck. Tenterfield was static, Armidale up-and-coming. These were the early days of World War Two and the young man hoping to better himself soon met and married a local Armidale girl, Marion Davidson. Marion Davidson was lively and, compared to Tenterfield, so was the town Dick chose to settle in.

With its population of nine thousand and growing, Armidale had its hoity-toity side and was the self-proclaimed ‘City of Arts and Cathedrals’. Australia’s fortunes at the time were tied to the land, so it was a fortunate thing that Armidale itself was ringed with land that yielded money — conservative, agricultural, animal-slaughtering money. The surrounding area had been settled by the station-owning class, many of whom lived in high rural style with full English silver tea services and private chapels for their own exclusive devotional worship. These were tough people who could now indulge in the luxury of gentility and self-improvement. The township of Armidale had subsequently flowered as a growing centre for higher education. Colleges, boarding schools and halls of hallowed learning had slowly but surely sprung up for the express purpose of turning rough colonial boys and girls into models of Anglo refinement.

All this brought business to the town, and there followed pubs, stores, boarding houses and aspects of what would later come to be known as the service industry. This burgeoning package also came with an inevitably rigid class system, fused to an outward show of good old Aussie egalitarianism.

Within this structure, Peter Woolnough when he arrived would be the product of the service industry working class. He would come with a powerfully instilled work ethic then swiftly develop an almost religious sense of vocation. Such was not the case with his father, who had very different leanings. Arriving in Armidale, Dick Woolnough found himself prosaic enough work selling and delivering groceries for Lamberts, a local retail outlet. The work was manageable but would quickly prove mind-numbing and the young man from Tenterfield would ultimately withdraw into his own shadow. Delivering foodstuffs year after year to wives with ice chests which melted with alacrity during the long hot summers would help turn the man into something similar to a phantom. As a consequence, few of these bushtown Beryls would remember with any real clarity the character, identity or personality quirks of Richard Woolnough. On the surface of things he was pleasing enough to the eye, a chap who liked his beer and cigarettes and had an index finger turning yellow from nicotine. He was also a man who liked dogs, appreciated their simple canine loyalty. Dick Woolnough lived inside himself but, in the early days, before the brooding darkened, he also had a taste for social dancing and a knack for playing the banjo.

Marion Woolnough nee Davidson was known as ‘Bubby’ to her family and friends. If Dick Woolnough was a ‘quiet chap’ as the locals referred to him, Marion herself came with a good deal more sparkle. She was the eldest of four sisters given to candidly quirky humour and the urge to laugh. Marion also had a talent for Scots dancing. She could do the intricate sword dances and the highland fling, for the outward markings of Marion’s character were derived from the more upbeat and celebratory aspects of the otherwise dour Scots soul. When it came to dancing, Marion and her sister Jean were something near to local champions in the heavily tartan town of Armidale, good enough to hold classes and pass on the dance steps they had mastered. When the Scots people of Armidale celebrated their special New Year it was often Marion who led off the twirling hogmanay dance, but at the same time surely no-one could seem more indelibly Australian than Marion Davidson.

Marion’s voice had the sound of the Queensland border to it, a lazy-sounding country drawl which came without the nasal aspect of the antipodes. Hers was the voice of Aussie fatalism and native wit, knowing and resigned, scorched by the sun and cork-tipped cigarettes which still came in tins. Marion didn’t say yes, she said ‘Yairs’, and her affirmative could bestow the flattery of endorsement or the sting of scepticism, depending on the tone. ‘Yairs,’ Marion would say, seeming to agree with life and the order of things, but the dull-minded were advised to beware, for Marion had the instincts of the unassuming rebel, the mordant iconoclast. Marion was bolder than she looked. Bright and wry, she delighted in making outrageous statements with a deadpan expression. Marion had a gimlet eye for truth and a dry, roaring laugh. Human pretensions and human disasters were favoured targets, for what could be funnier than either? Especially here in the City of Arts and Cathedrals? Both areas of observation provided the essence of humour, and humour was insurance against boredom. So was music, especially the cat-house piano of Fats Waller and the racing vibrato of Al Jolson, both of them personal favourites of Marion’s.

The stately centre of Armidale possessed temples to the Lord out of proportion to its population, praying space galore, but the township also played host to a lively, institutionalised gambling culture. Armidale had its own race track, and a profusion of pubs devoted to beer and bets; there was a porter at Tattersall’s Hotel, a weedy little guy who was said to have made himself a tidy fortune running wagers for visiting drinkers. As to Dick Woolnough, the man himself was something of a sucker for the horses. Life on the grocery route did not match Dick’s imagination and he had a penchant for attempting to gamble his way out of introversion and boredom.


Peter Allen: The Boy from Oz is OUT NOW!

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David Rollin’s writing process

Posted October 6, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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I often get asked what my writing process is. The fact is, writing a novel is a pretty romantic notion for a lot of people. But is it? Most people envisage that they’ll be sitting in their study, soothing music playing, and otherwise undisturbed while the creative juices flow. Hmm…my reality is that I write at a desk in my bedroom, facing a brick wall. I used to listen to music, but for some reason I don’t any more. I used to do that so I could block out the real world and concentrate instead on the world playing out behind my eyes. I don’t need to do that anymore. I can hold reality ay bay at will. I write sitting in departure lounges, or on planes, or in the back of taxis. I can write anywhere. Sometimes I have to because there’s not enough time for that desk in my bedroom.

For years I wrote 2000 words a day and I was religious about it. Sometimes that writing would start at 6 am and finish at 8 or 9 pm – whenever that 2000 words was on the hard drive. Some days I could peel off 2000 words a few hours. Sometimes the words come fast, and sometimes you have to lever them out with a crowbar. These days, there’s so much else I have to do that I’m happy if I just advance the story. Even a couple of hundred words, if that’s all I can manage.

When I’m in the middle of a manuscript, I go over and over the dialogue in my head until it sounds about right. Sounds cool, right? But often this happens at 4 in the morning when I’m trying to sleep. Or when I’m trying to exercise. Or when I’m watching my daughter play soccer. Or driving. Or at a restaurant with friends. In fact, sometimes I wish the voices in my head would just fuck off and leave me in peace. My wife will often say, “Hey, where are you?” because I won’t be in the here and now, I’ll be in someone else’s skin, in some other place, and, recently, in some other time. It’s relentless.

I also don’t always know exactly where the story will go, though I’m reasonably clear on where it will end up. I write a kind of an outline and this includes several key scenes I can see clearly. The outline is important – if it works, I know the book will work. This is my “spine” or “railway tracks” – I’ve heard a number of writers call this different things, but it’s all the same. If I don’t have something like this – even a paragraph – I know I might lose the plot.

You want to know one of my most favourite sounds? It’s the clatter of fingers on the keyboard of a computer. What a beautiful sound – all those words and thoughts being created. It’s like a rush of new life.

Is writing a novel romantic? Maybe it is, I don’t know. What I do know is that no one else will write it for me. If the words get written that’s me. If the words don’t get written that’s also me. So instead of going to the pub, I write. Instead of going to watch a game of rugby, I write. I’ve missed quiet a lot over the years. And maybe lost a friend or two also. But in their place I now have 10 novels and each one has been its own adventure. I went to Siberia to research The Zero Option. And the Thai-Burma border for A Knife Edge. For Standoff, I went to Colombia, Panama and Texas and hung out with The Texas Rangers and watched drug couriers come across the Rio Grande at night. I’ve also met some great people, though admittedly some of these have been conjured in my own brain.

And when you write the novel, you live with these people in your thoughts for the duration. That’s not always a good thing, believe me, because a novel has to be convincing. If you can’t convince yourself that the characters and the situation (or plot) is real, you can forget about convincing your readers. So when I’m deep in the story, the lines of what’s real and what’s in my imagination can get a little blurry. My family is used to it now, but the outcome is that I’m thought of (I believe) as being either vague and dreamy. There’s no room left in my head for names or faces or places that aren’t in my current book. It’s weird, I guess, but that’s how it rolls for me.


Field of Mars: The Complete edition is out on the 8th of October! Grab your copy now!


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Face to Face with Rasputin: by Sophie Masson

Posted September 30, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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The long shadow of one of Russia’s most fascinating and enigmatic characters, Rasputin, hovers over Trinity: The False Prince, in several ways—which I won’t reveal for fear of spoilers! But I will tell you about a spooky visit I made to the scene of Rasputin’s murder, in St Petersburg: the basement room in the canal-side palace once owned by Prince Yusupov, the chief of the plotters against Rasputin.


It’s in one of the grand gilded living rooms of the palace that you get the first glimpse of the horrible events of December 30, 1916. A group of rather creepy waxworks representing some of the conspirators is huddled around an old phonograph. ‘Waiting for Rasputin,’ the guide says, ‘they listened to the same record over and over.’ They were nervous. Rasputin was a favourite of the Tsar and his family and they could not be sure how he would react over his death.’ But it wasn’t here this room that Rasputin was lured to his death; oh no, though the prince, pretending friendship, had invited Rasputin to come and take tea at the palace, he had no intention of letting this ‘dirty peasant’ set foot in the fine rooms of the palace. No, Rasputin was to come to the basement. The conspirators only waited upstairs so as to be on the spot after Yusupov had done the deed and they could get the body out of the house.

Wax figures Rasputin & Yusupov

The basement room is even more chilling. There’s not much furniture, apart from a table, a couple of chairs, and a tall Orthodox cross in a niche. There are more creepy waxworks—the tall, bearded, long-haired figure of Rasputin sitting at a table with food and drink in front of him; the elegant figure of Prince Yusupov staring glassily at the lowly intruder. Though Yusupov and his ilk despised Rasputin as a vile commoner, they were not immune to his reputation as a sorcerer, and fear was also present in the room that night. The guide tells us the famous story—of how Yusupov, plying his guest-victim with poisoned food and wine, grew desperate as none of it seemed to have an effect; how Rasputin, feeling perhaps the weight of hatred and fear in the place, got up and went to the cross, and falling on his knees, began to pray; how Yusupov chose that moment to stab him in the back; how Rasputin fell, and the prince, thinking he’d finished him off, rushed off to fetch his friends so they could drag the body out; and how, returning to the basement room, they found Rasputin gone, and a trail of blood leading outside, by the canal where they cornered their victim and shot him several times, but to make sure he was dead, threw him into the water.

The cross

I’ve read the story many times; but there is something deeply disturbing in hearing it again here, in the place where it happened. And when we go into a nearby annex and are shown the autopsy photos of Rasputin’s body–‘It was clear from the autopsy he had died from drowning, not shooting or stabbing or poisoning,’ says the guide—I feel overcome by horror at what was done here. It was a vile scheme, a cowardly plot—and a vicious own goal which far from ‘saving’ the Tsar from bad counsel, actually helped to precipitate the cataclysmic events which would lead to the destruction of the monarchy and the triumph of the Bolsheviks.

There’s a weird coda to the story of Rasputin. When the Bolsheviks took power, one of their first acts was to dig up the body and destroy it—such was the power, even after death, of the legend of the man. But as the body was put on a bonfire to destroy it, suddenly, driven no doubt by chemical reactions, it sat up, causing panic. Though the body was eventually burned and the ashes scattered in an undisclosed location, it was yet another piece in the puzzle that was Rasputin—a puzzle that fascinates people to this day.


Trinity: The False Prince is released on the 8th of October.

You can grab a copy of Trinity: The Koldun Code now!

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Cover reveal: Nations Divided by Steve P. Vincent

Posted September 23, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Peace has been decades in the making, but chaos is just the press of a button away.

Jack Emery is happier than he has been in a long time. Nobody has shot at him or tried to blow him up for years, and he’s learned to love the job he thought he’d hate: Special Advisor to the President of the United States.

But nothing can prepare Jack for the work to come. As America continues to heal from self-inflicted wounds, an ambitious President McGhinnist draws closer to achieving the impossible: peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

As the countdown to peace reaches zero, a desperate group of hardline Israelis invoke the Samson Option, a secret protocol that will eradicate the peace agreement and pave the way for the destruction of America and the Middle East.

Jack has learned the hard way that when a crisis knocks, you don’t always get the chance to ignore it.

Perfect for readers of Vince Flynn, Steve Berry and Tom Clancy.

Nations Divided: Jack Emery 3 will be released on the 10th of December. Pre-order your copy now!

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Excerpt: Hammer of God by Greig Beck

Posted September 21, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Soran, Northern Iraq, late afternoon.

Arki Bapir and Mohammed Faraj watched as the huge man lumbered down the road toward them. He was headed toward the city center. A thick shawl covered his head and body, but still could not hide his powerful frame.

Strapped to the man’s back was a huge pack – oil drum size, and covered in an ancient script. And even though it looked to be of considerable weight, the man came on steadily, bowed forward for balance, but not staggering or straining.

“What is he carrying?” Mohammed asked his friend.

Arki shrugged. “Not sure, but it looks heavy. Maybe dumbbells?” He turned and grinned.

Mohammed snorted. “Well, let’s find out if he is selling something worth buying… or taking.” He turned the car around and pulled up beside the man, slowing. He nudged Arki. “Go on, ask him.”

Arki wound down the window, letting in a blast of hot dry air that mingled with the warm humidity in the car. “Hey, hey, my brother, what is it you bring us today?”

The pair waited for the man to respond. Mohammad coasted to stay alongside him, but the man continued to lumber forward, his face lost in the long folds of his shawl.

“Is he deaf?” Arki asked as he half-turned toward Mohammed. “He doesn’t know who we are.”

“Or maybe just rude?” Mohammed replied. “Shoot him in the leg.”

“Perhaps he’s stupid.” Arki leaned out the window. “Hey you.”

Mohammed’s eyes narrowed. “Be careful, he is big.” He dragged his aging AK-47 up onto his lap.

The lumbering giant was approaching the center of the city now, wooden single story dwellings giving way to multi-level concrete and glass blocks.

“Hey, brother, no need to be rude … oops.” Arki pulled back into the car.

The man stopped, seemed to orient himself. He shrugged out of the pack and it made a resounding thump as it hit the ground. He straightened to his full height of around seven feet, making the men in the car gasp.

“He truly is a giant. Let’s leave him be.” Arki shrunk back into his seat. “We are supposed to be gone by now anyway.” He watched as the huge man reached forward to pull open the backpack.

Mohammed squinted. “I think it’s some sort of machine in there.”

The man drew his hood back, and momentarily looked skyward as though praying or listening to something. His face was now revealed, its patchwork surface scarred and waxen. There was more of the ancient writing, but this time it was carved or branded into his very flesh, along with the zippering of deep stitches.

Mohammed recoiled. “Ach, mother of horrors, what happened to him?”

The giant man’s dead eyes never flickered as he reached into the pack and pressed a single button.

The pair of fighters from Mosul never knew what happened at the moment they were vaporized. The twenty-kiloton nuclear device detonated at ground level. The hypocenter of the explosion reached ten thousand Kelvin and was hotter than the sun. In the first few seconds it melted a crater down a hundred feet, and, within a mile, buildings, streets, trees, and men, women and children were all fused into a black, glass-like slag.

The thermal compression wave then traveled on at around seven hundred miles per hour, crushing everything before it – a heat and pressure tsunami straight from hell.

Before the blast, the city of Soran had a population of 125,000 inhabitants. By sundown, the remaining eight thousand souls, who were unlucky enough to survive, would then die slowly from burns, or from radiation poisoning, as their cells simply disintegrated within their own bodies.

Soran, the ancient city that had stood for nearly two thousand years, had ceased to exist, and the now toxic land would ensure it never existed again.


The winds blew the radioactive dust and debris back over the western desert, where it would settle over the dry plains. In the mountains to the northeast, Leyla ba Hadid, a girl of just ten, sat and watched as the mushroom cloud rose thousands of feet into the sky.

Her home was gone; everything was gone. Her father had said there would be trouble as soon as the bad men from Mosul had arrived. But even he could not have foreseen this. She sat and hugged her knees tight, her face wet and the skin on her neck peeling and raw.

Her father had told her to run and hide as the bad men maimed and killed, and then finally rounded up hundreds of men, women, and families, and bundled them all into trucks, along with her father, still in his favorite blue shirt. No one fought back – they just let themselves be taken and driven away. Leyla had followed, staying on the mountain slopes. She had cursed their ill fortune. But that changed in a heartbeat. Now, she realized she had been one of the lucky ones.

Soran was now ash and smoke. God had reached down a finger and touched the city, and taken it from them. The back of Leyla’s neck still stung from the heat flash and she wrapped her shawl there to dry its sticky rawness. Her eyes were sore, but it was pure chance that she’d been looking away from the blast and hadn’t lost her sight.

Leyla rocked back and forth, wondering how she would tell people of this moment. What would she say of Soran? Of all the poor souls who stayed; of her friends, neighbors, and when it came to it one day, what would she tell her children?

Leyla knew immediately how she would remember this moment. She would say to them:

I was ten when my world vanished in the flames. When the bad men came and beat us, we didn’t fight back. When they raped and killed us, we stood silent. And when they finally smashed God’s house and took us as slaves, we still did nothing. We were weak and maybe that’s why we were punished. God turned our world to ash.

She rocked faster, feeling tears on her cheeks. Father always said that when things were darkest, when evil was everywhere, then the angels would come – and they would strike like the hammer of God.

She lowered her head. I pray they come soon.


You can grab your copy of Hammer of God here.

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The Last Quarrel – book tour!

Posted September 18, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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To celebrate the release of The Last Quarrel in print, Duncan Lay will be touring around NSW, the ACT and Victoria in October, hitting up some book conventions as well as book stores.

If you come along to one of those days then you could take part in a fun Twitter/Facebook giveaway that could see you win a book pack or maybe enjoy a discount for the eBook to go with your print edition …


(This is Duncan, he’ll be the man near the table with the sharpie.)

Here’s where you can catch Duncan:

Thurs Oct 1:

Dymocks Canberra: 11am

Dymocks Tuggeranong: 2pm

Friday Oct 2:

Dymocks Belconnen 10am

Hooked On Books Batemans Bay 2.30pm

Saturday Oct 3:

Shoalhaven Superheroes convention (booksales for DeanSwift ABC Books Nowra)

Tuesday Oct 6

Galaxy Books 11am

Wed Oct 7

Dymocks George Street store: 12pm

Thurs Oct 8:

11am: Dymocks Penrith

5pm: Dymocks Macquarie Centre

Friday Oct 9:

11am: Dymocks Burwood

2.30pm: Dymocks Chatswood

Sat Oct 10:

Dymocks Tuggerah 1pm

Sun Oct 11:

Dymocks Rouse Hill 11am

Wed Oct 14:

Dymocks Collins St Melbourne: 11am

Dymocks Victoria Gardens: 2pm

Thurs Oct 15:

Dymocks Knox: 10am

Dymocks Glen Waverley 1pm

Dymocks Southland: 5pm

Fri Oct 16:

Dymocks Eastland 10am

Dymocks Doncaster 1pm

Sat Oct 17:

Dymocks Parramatta

Sun Oct 18:

Sydney Book Expo at Olympic Park

Thursday October 22:

Event night at Berkelouw Hornsby: 6pm

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It’s the End of the World As We Know It (The best post-apocalyptic literature)

Posted September 14, 2015 by Emily Stamm

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There’s something undeniably fascinating about a good end of the world, post-apocalyptic story. It’s a great lens to view humanity through, and it often shows us the good and bad of our own society. The only problem with this kind of dystopian fiction is that there is currently so much of it! Everywhere you turn someone is trying to get you to read or watch the latest version of The Hunger Games. Here are seven great examples of post-apocalyptic stories. They might not be the best, and they certainly aren’t the only ones, but they’re all entertaining, beautiful, and engrossing stories about what happens after the world ends.


Mad Max: Fury Road

This movie surprised a lot of people this summer with its amazing characters, stunts, and storytelling. Much of this post-apocalyptic world is shown–but not explained– to great effect. If you want a gorgeous movie set after a mysterious disaster has changed the face of society, this is the one for you.


Station Eleven,204,203,200_.jpg

Station Eleven recently won the Arthur C. Clarke award, and I’m not sure I’ve ever agreed with an award quite so much. This was the most exciting, moving, thought-provoking book I read last year. The story-line jumps back and forth between the beginning of the plague and the present day, 14 years after illness killed most of the world’s population. Of special interest to fans of audio is the audio-book version read by Kirsten Potter.


Parasitology Trilogy Everything by Mira Grant

EVERYONE SHOULD READ THESE BOOKS! I’ve been tearing through Mira Grant’s back catalogue as I eagerly await the November 24 release of the last book in the Parasitology trilogy. In all of her books, Grant does a superb job of combining the hustle of blogging, politics, and mad science with the fear and intensity of a zombie (or zombie like) apocalypse. Start with the Newsflesh trilogy (since it is complete) and then read the Parasitology Trilogy. Trust me dear reader, I wouldn’t steer you wrong!  


East of West

East of West is a science fiction/western comic set in a future dystopian United States where the Civil War never ended, it only got more complicated. The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse show up, and you can imagine the extra chaos that brings to everything. There’s a lot going on in this comic that I don’t want to spoil, but if you’re into alternate history, Firefly, or anything else on this list, you’re probably going to love East of West.


Good Omens

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Writing together. I shouldn’t have to say any more to sell you on this book. Two of the greatest writers of the last few decades came together in 1990 to bring us a hilarious look at the end of the world, and all the people (including angels and demons) involved.


Maddaddam trilogy

Margaret Atwood is undeniably one of the best writers of the last few decades. She’s brought us so many great stories, but the Maddaddam Trilogy might be her best work yet. The books take us through the turmoil of civilization after a mad scientist plays god and creates a designer disease. Fascinating, horrifying, moving, and at times funny, this is a must read for anyone interested in post-apocalyptic stories.


Adventure Time

You’re seeing this on the list, and maybe you’re a little confused. Why am I including a children’s cartoon in a list of great stories about the end of the world? On the surface Adventure Time is a weird show for kids about a boy and his magical dog going on adventures together. If you look a little deeper, however, Adventure Time is clearly set on a half ruined Earth after a disastrous “Mushroom War” wrecked havoc on the world and mutated life forms into all kinds of strange creatures. Check out the Adventure Time wiki for a full list of references to the mysterious events that ended the world and created Ooo. 


What’s your favorite post-apocalyptic story and why? Tell us in the comments below!



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Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Buy Dad this Father’s Day!

Posted September 4, 2015 by Emily Stamm

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You can buy this card (and some other awesome geeky cards!) from


This weekend is Father’s Day, and you might be wondering what to buy your dad. A tie? A new hammer? Why don’t you get your dad the best gift of all and share your passion for science fiction and fantasy?


If your dad loves VINTAGE CARS….

Buy him Christine by Stephen King. It’s an oldie but a goodie about a possessed car that kills a bunch of people. What’s not to love? Bonus! There’s even a movie you can watch together after he reads the book!



Buy him World War Z by Max Brooks. This is an amazing book set up as an “oral history of the zombie war.” Brooks takes us to surviving groups of humans all over the world, and we see the social and political complications the zombies caused.


There’s a movie for this one too, but if you like your dad you probably want to skip it.


If your dad loves  SURVIVALISM…

Buy him The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. (Maybe your dad is into politics AND survivalism and you can get him two books! What a good offspring you would be!) The Zombie Survival Guide is an amazing parody of a more traditional survival guide. It has tips, advice, and history lessons about how to deal with the dead rising.


If your dad loves THE OUTDOORS….

Buy him The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. In this great science fiction series people learn how to visit infinite parallel Earths. Most metals can’t pass between the worlds, so people who settle on alternate Earths start out from scratch like old fashioned pioneers. Bonus: If he likes it, there are three more you can buy him!


If your dad loves SPORTS…,204,203,200_.jpg

Buy him Future Sports edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. This is a great sci-fi short story collection all about, you guessed it, sports. It features stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Andrew Weiner, and Kim Stanley Robinson (among others.)


If your dad loves CHESS…

Buy him The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. While the most obvious choice might be Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, this is a more recent book where chess becomes a major plot point. It’s wonderful and your dad will love it.


If your dad loves MUSIC…

Buy him Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. The main character is a space-ship who collects songs from all across the galaxy. Snippets of the fictional songs are weaved throughout the book and feel like an important, natural part of the world Leckie has created.


If your dad loves IRISH HISTORY….

Buy him The Last Quarrel by Duncan Lay. Lay pulls from Irish history and folklore in his engrossing episodic fantasy series, now available in print! Check out more about the links to history here: Gaelland – The World of the Last Quarrel. 


And if your Dad already a geek? AWESOME! See if you can find a signed copy of his favorite book at your local bookshop, ebay, or


Are you getting anything really awesome for your father this year? Tell us in the comments below!


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Cover Reveal – Field of Mars: Complete Edition by David Rollins

Posted August 28, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Marcus Licinius Crassus’s lust for gold and glory was legendary. What became of his army is myth.

In Crassus the tyrant, Rufinius the soldier, Appias the historian, Mena the hag and Lucia the Golden Whore, David Rollins brings to life a mystery that has plagued historians for centuries. The only constant in this world is Mars, the god of war, and who he will favour is anyone’s guess.

Desperate to write himself into the pages of history, proconsul Marcus Licinius Crassus marched 40,000 Roman legionaries into the heart of the Parthian empire. More than 10,000 were never seen or heard from again.

In a story that spans empires and generations, this vanished army’s fate is finally unveiled. From the streets of Rome to the deserts of ancient Iran, around the globe into the heart of an empire vaster than anything Rome ever imagined, a young Alexandrian soldier is borne on the tides of the age of empires from soldier of Rome to slave of Babylon to commander of armies.

Perfect for fans of Robert Harris and Conn Iggulden, this sweeping historical thriller takes the reader on an epic journey across ancient empires and into the unknown stories of myth and legend.

Field of Mars: Complete Edition will be released on the 8th of October – pre-order your copy now!

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5 Pitches for the Next Gritty Hollywood Remake

Posted August 7, 2015 by Emily Stamm

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These days, Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of rebooting our favorite books into gritty dystopian movies and television shows. The latest beloved classic to suffer this fate is Little Women. The loving sisters are going to be uncovering conspiracies and trying not to kill each other in Philadelphia, while we watch and wonder how on Earth someone thought this was a good idea.

Let’s take a look at how we could remake five other childhood favorites into ridiculous television drama or made for t.v. movies.


The Secret Garden
Is it so hard to imagine this + opium smuggling?


After her parents are murdered, sixteen-year old Mary Lennox is sent to live with her reclusive uncle. She’s miserable until she discovers a mysterious locked garden…with an attractive boy inside! Mary breaks into the garden and is shocked to discover that eighteen year old Dickon is running her uncle’s opium smuggling operation out of…The Secret Garden. We’ll kill cousin Colin off early, throw in a dash of star-crossed lovers from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and BAM! You’ve got a hit.


Charlotte’s Web

A pig, a spider, a revolution.


Wilbur the pig is shunned by the other barnyard animals, until Charlotte the spider takes an interest in him. She is the leader behind a group of animals who want to revolt against humans and take their lives into their own hands. Charlotte comes with with a scheme to spell words in her webs, manipulating the humans to think that Wilbur is chosen by God and should not be slaughtered after the fair. She begins convincing them that he should be set free, along with all the other farm animals, but is tragically killed in childbirth before her plan can come to fruition. Almost all of her children flee as soon as they hatch, but three remain behind to carry on her fight to free the animals.


Anne of Green Gables

That smile has never been innocent…


Anne’s parents are killed by rival wizards when she is a baby, leaving her to float from foster home to orphanage and back again. When she is in her early teens, she is accidentally sent to the Cuthberts on Prince Edward Island. Furious that she isn’t a boy, they threaten to send her back. Anne casts a spell that makes them, and the entire town, adore her. The wizards who killed her parents find Anne, and she must battle them while maintaining her spell on the town. Scenes of note include the wizards changing the raspberry cordial into currant wine in order to discredit Anne; Wizards trying to kill Anne, but instead killing Matthew; and Anne becoming a powerful enough witch to teach at the Prince Edward Island equivalent to Hogwarts.


A Little Princess

Wouldn’t this just be 100x better if it was in space?


Young Sara Crewe is taken by her father to one of the best boarding schools on the moon in 2075. Knowing her father is a rich explorer who has been doubling his fortune every five years on Mars, they treat her like a little princess. A few years later, the school receives word that Captain Crewe’s whole team was lost on Mars during a dust storm, and he was most certainly dead. The school, especially the headmistress, begin treating Sara like a servant. She regularly has to go outside in a spacesuit to collect rocks and clean dust off the solar panels (because space). Meanwhile, a mysterious man moves in next door to the school. He slowly recovers his memory, and realizes that he was the lead scientist on Captain Crewe’s mission, and that’s why he has a research monkey living with him. The monkey escapes (in a tiny monkey spacesuit) and Sara finds him while cleaning solar panels. When returning the monkey to the mysterious stranger, they learn of their connection.

Bonus sequel: The mysterious stranger and Sara go back to Mars to try and recover Captain Crewe’s body. Once there, they find that the whole crew has become zombies. Space zombies.


Little House on the Prairie

If there’s one thing the Little House books need, it’s more grit!


A few decades after most of the world was wiped out by nuclear bombs, the Ingalls family struggles to survive in the desolate wasteland that was once America. If we change the tone of the narrator from unending optimism to resignation, we can even keep most of the major plot points the same! Everyone gets malaria, sister Mary goes blind, locusts eat all the crops, nuclear winter strands the family in their log cabin, and there are so many chores to be done. Think of the possibilities for costumes! Special effects! Dramatic acting! There is no way this wouldn’t be a hit.


Whether you love them or hate them, we want to hear your thoughts on the gritty reboot trend. Do you have any hope at all for the new Little Women series?

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Come and write about books! Paid bloggers wanted at Momentum!

Posted July 10, 2015 by Patrick Lenton

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Momentum is the digital-only imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia. Established in February 2012, we publish high quality ebooks globally. Our website and blog is the hub of our operation, and we’d like to include as many diverse voices as possible. Our blog currently hosts opinions from Momentum employees, authors and other contributors, and now we’d like you to have the chance to have your say about the world of books, writing and reading on the Momentum blog.

We are looking for THREE BLOGGERS who are interested in books, specifically with an interest in genre fiction (predominantly thrillers, romance, science fiction/fantasy, new adult and horror). We are looking for two bloggers for the Momentum blog, and a romance and erotic romance specific blogger for our Moonlight imprint blog. Obsessive readers in these genres are encouraged.

What we want from you:

– 4-8 blog posts a month, with a minimum word count of 300 words each.

– Each week the Momentum marketing team will take pitches from the bloggers about topics of their choice and sometimes ask for specific material for the blog (posts about particular books, movies, TV as well as genre-specific content and trending events).

– Preference will be given to a blogger with a relevant social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, etc).

– Genre bloggers step to the front of the line. If you love romance, science fiction, fantasy and thrillers show us your passion for your genre(s).

What we are offering in return:

– An audience of readers and writers

– $25 per post (minimum of 4 and maximum of 8 posts per month)

– free Momentum ebooks

To apply, send a sample blog post on the topic EBOOKS VS PRINT BOOKS, as well as a covering letter and brief resume to by July 20th 2015 with the subject line ‘Momentum Blogger’. Be sure to include your name, city, country of residence and occupation. We welcome applicants from all over the world, but the posts must be in English.

Your sample blog post should be the type of thing you’d be posting on a regular basis (not a hokey introductory post). And of course, if we select you as our resident blogger then you will be compensated accordingly if you decide to use your sample blog post as your first post.

If you have any questions, feel free to email or ask in the comments below.

Terms & Conditions

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The Best Way to Arrange Your Books is…

Posted April 23, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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Last week I came to a point in my life where I thought I had too many books. I’m talking physical books here. Thankfully no one can see how stuffed my ereader is and its fullness doesn’t affect how easy it is to walk around my house, unlike the paperback pile-up. Then I realised I was being ridiculous. There is no such thing as too many books, just not enough bookshelves. That’s more easily rectified than parting with my tomes.

Having bought my wall-sized shelving monolith, the issue was how to arrange my books. I have a good deal of book arranging experience from my time in libraries. The Dewey system is a clear option for the non-fiction, but that did feel a little too much like work.  My home is not a library. Yet.Dewey

It would be sensible to have the fiction alphabetically by author, but that just created a multi-coloured wall that was rather hard on the eyes. Also, it felt a lot like work.

It briefly crossed my mind to have it thematically, organised by similarities and genre, but that seemed too much like pigeon-holing works that deserved more.


More photogenic than my actual shelves.

So I went with the only solution that made sense to me. I organised them by colour. And, my goodness, is it beautiful.

It’s a rainbow of absolute joy, and very easy on the eyes, so simple to see what’s where. I also learnt that I have a lot of white and cream books, very few greens and a lot of mauve and purple. I wonder if that shows a genre preference or a shopping prejudice?

It was lovely to do and involved minimal admin and no cataloguing whatsoever.  It was the ideal librarian’s day off.

How do you arrange your books?

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How to be a Hero by Duncan Lay

Posted April 20, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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What does being a hero really mean? With Anzac Day almost upon us, and football season in full swing, it’s a word that is being used all the time in media reports – aptly in the first case, pointlessly in the second. But who would want to be a hero? And would it be what you hoped, if you were one? It’s one of the many questions that I try to consider in The Last Quarrel.

Fallon is a man who longs to be a hero, to do something memorable. His wife, Bridgit, just wants the quiet life. The last thing she wants is to be a hero. But when a ghost ship sails into their quiet village and turns their lives upside down, when their worst nightmares come to life, how do they react? Who will be the real hero? Who will deal best with the responsibility thrust upon them? The one who dreamed of being heroic, who trained every day for that chance, or the one who wanted nothing to do with it? They approach the task from different directions. One is used to protecting the village, the other used to protecting their child. I wanted to explore their reactions, and see how they dealt with the most extreme circumstances, as their world crumbles around them and everything threatens to be destroyed by true darkness.

My guilty pleasure is the reality TV show Survivor. Even after all these years, each season beings its fascinating human drama, as people have to use their strength, their wits, their brains and their charm to win. Sometimes the most unlikely characters come through – and that’s what I love about it. The struggle to keep going, when you are tired, when you are hungry and when seemingly everyone is against you – I find it fascinating to see which ones crack and which ones rise to the challenge. Men and women often tend to approach this fight for survival in different ways, as well. This was another aspect I wanted to look at. And when I say that, I do mean the characters are the ones leading the way. I like to get them to the point where I know how they will react to any given situation. Then I turn them loose on the story and if they want to take in a slightly different direction, then I go with it. That is the fun of writing!

So who does deal best with adversity? Well, I’m afraid the question isn’t completely answered in book 1 of the trilogy – but you’ll certainly have a better idea after you finish The Last Quarrel!


The Last Quarrel: Complete Edition is released on the 23rd of April – pre-order now!

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One Man is Attempting to Read a Book From Every Bookcase in a Library

Posted April 7, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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Pet care, military history, even the reference shelf: this guy is going to read a book from each of them. Robert Sedgwick wants to expand his reading, and to promote his local library. He decided the best way to do this was to read a book from each bookcase in the library – there are 133 bookcases, by his count – and blog about it here. He has over 20,000 books to choose from.

As with any self-imposed Herculean challenge, one must set oneself some rules:

Firstly, he defined a bookcase:

‘For my purposes a bookcase is a set of parallel horizontal shelves with vertical sides. As soon as you cross a vertical line it’s another bookcase. Tables of books laid flat I will treat as one bookcase.’

book shelf

Then a book:

‘I will only read English prose/poetry books, so things like telephone directories and dictionaries which are not meant for reading I won’t consider as books, likewise audio cds and recordings of people reading books are not for this project. If there are no valid books on a bookshelf then I will ignore that shelf.

If possible I will not read any book or author I have read before and I will select books at least 150 pages long. I’ll only break this rule if there is no other choice on the bookshelf.

My intention is to stick to the adult library and not to select books from the children’s section.’

He also states that if he is utterly loathing the chosen book he reserves the right to abandon it and choose a different title from the same bookcase. Very wise.


He started at the beginning of the year so is already 19 shelves into the challenge. He began at the front door and is working his way around the library in an anti-clockwise direction, gradually spiralling into the centre. He’s been through true crime, thrillers, young adult and book of the week. You can take a virtual tour of his chosen library here  to get a sense of what he has in store.

As a person who works in libraries I have two things to say about this:

1. Everyone should look around sections in the library they don’t often visit – there are hidden gems and Dewey-decimal quirks that mean you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Ask the people working there for recommendations – we know where the buried treasure is (and we’ve read half of it)!
2. Also, keep going back to your favourite sections because libraries are constantly getting new books, either brand new or circulated from around the county. They don’t all go on the ‘new titles’ section to make sure you go to the shelves and see the older stuff too. We want you to take out a new book and an old favourite!


Much to applause to Robert for promoting libraries and reading like a champion. Follow him @1stofftheshelf and follow his library @DorkingLibrary.


What do you think of Robert’s idea? Could you do it? Is there a section you’d never consider taking a book from? Comments please!

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Cover reveal(s) – The Last Quarrel by Duncan Lay

Posted February 3, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Gaelland is a nation gripped by fear.

In the country, fishing boats return with their crews mysteriously vanished, while farms are left empty, their owners gone into the night, meals still on the table. In the cities, children disappear from the streets or even out of their own beds. The King tells his people that it is the work of selkies – mythical creatures who can turn from seals into men and back again – and witches. But no matter how many women he burns at the stake, the children are still being taken. Fallon is a man who has always dreamed of being a hero. His wife Bridgit just wants to live in peace and quiet, and to escape the tragedies that have filled her life. His greatest wish and her worst nightmare are about to collide. When an empty ship sails into their village, he begins to follow the trail towards the truth behind the evil stalking their land. But it is a journey that will take them both into a dark, dark place and nobody can tell them where it might end …

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The Last Quarrel Episode One is now for sale. All other episodes are available for pre-order.


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Checking Wardrobes for Narnia: Why Fantasy Should be Ordinary

Posted January 23, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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This week I read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s very special. One of its best qualities is the blend of ordinariness with the fantastical. This is epitomised by the eponymous ocean, which looks like a duck pond. It struck me that all the best means of travel through space, time, and various other dimensions, are ordinary. Or at least they look it. That’s the joy of it: bringing the magic into the real world, making it feel like you just have to find the right wardrobe…the_ocean_at_the_end_of_the_lane

Narnia is a good place to start. The wardrobe is, of course, the most iconic means of reaching Aslan’s realm, but you can also get there via train platforms, with magical rings given to you by a sinister uncle, or through a picture in your aunt and uncle’s spare bedroom.wardrobe

Fireplaces work well too. Not to take you to a different world, but to travel around Harry Potter’s version of our own. The traveller also needs to be in possession of Floo powder and to speak the name of the place they want to go to. Apparently, it’s also important to keep your elbows in. I think I might start telling children that Santa Claus is Dumbledore’s brother, travelling by Floo.harry

The TARDIS may be iconic these days, but the UK used to be covered in police boxes, so it was a subtle way to travel. The interiors of the boxes used to be used as mini police stations, so you could, quite easily, plop it down anywhere and step out without anyone batting an eyelid.police_box_inline1

Powered by the fire, the innocuous wooden door of Howl’s Moving Castle has a dial to turn, depending on where you’d like to step out. This works no matter where the castle is. The flower meadow, which Howl is showing Sophie for the first time below, is my happy place.meadow

In Yonderland, the funniest TV series in existence, the pantry functions as a portal. Debbie is a suburban English mum, and a bit bored, until and elf appears from her cupboard, insisting that she is The Chosen One and must save Yonderland. Though they’ve lost the scroll that says how she’s supposed to do it. Each episode, they venture through her pantry to a magical realm, ensuring she’s home in time to pick up the kids. Watch a clip.

Fiction is also full of swirling wormholes, rips in time and high tech teleporters. They’re cool too. But I think there’s something truly excellent in using the ordinary as the basis for the extraordinary. The more closely it resembles our world, the easier it is to believe in magic.


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Review a book – live FOREVER!

Posted January 21, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Do you get a thrill when you see a character with the same name as you? And then dream that you are them and make everyone refer to you only by their rank/kitsch nickname? And only really find people of the opposite sex attractive if they share the name of your fictional counterparts SO? …no? huh.

Well, in any case, it would be super awesome if a character was actually named after you, right? Right. Lucky for you then, that our author Duncan Lay is currently holding a review competition where the prize is exactly this! Details below.


The Last Quarrrel Episode 1 is out on January 22, with each of the four subsequent episodes released a fortnight after the first. And Duncan has almost finished the first draft of book two of the series, The Bloody Quarrel. There are five characters who are currently nameless in this book.

Now, he could go online and grab some random names for them – or you could have your name given to one of them. All you have to do is review one or more episodes of The Last Quarrel on one of the many sites available – or review it on all of them!

Send Duncan the link, either through his website or via the email address on his blog and let us know which of the following characters you might be interested in having named after yourself.

NOTE: We’re not looking for the most suck-worthy review but instead the more intelligent ones. So, if you like the idea of playing a pivotal part in the next book in the series, get reading, get reviewing and let Duncan know!

Characters in need of an awesome name:

1) Secret agent of the crown (female/male)
2) A Boluk-bashi (captain) of the Kotterman army (male)
3) A Courbaci (Colonel) of the Kottermna army (male)
4) A harbour lookout (male/female)
5) An angry mother (female)

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Cover Reveal – Blood Oath: The Janna Chronicles Book 1 by Felicity Pulman

Posted January 20, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Love, revenge, secrets – and murder – in a medieval kingdom at war.

A young woman, left alone and destitute after the mysterious death of her mother, plants a sprig of rosemary on her grave and vows, somehow, to bring the murderer to justice. But who can Janna trust with the truth? Even the villein Godric, who wants to marry her, and Hugh, the dashing nobleman, have secrets that threaten her heart and her safety.

In a country torn apart by the vicious civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, Janna needs all her wits and courage to stay alive as she comes closer to those who are determined to silence her forever.

Blood Oath is available for pre-order now, and will be released on the 22nd of January.


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Could Infinite Monkeys Actually Create the Works of Shakespeare?

Posted January 16, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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You’ve heard that enough monkeys with enough typewriters would eventually create the complete works of Shakespeare? Well some people with access to monkeys got a grant, and a computer. Then Hamlet happened. Sorry, that’s not true. Here’s what really occurred:

They put the computer in the monkey enclosure to see what literary masterpiece they might type. It turns out that monkeys really like the letter ‘S’.  The six Sulawesi crested macaques, called Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan, typed little else on the five pages they produced. They also mostly destroyed the machine and used it ‘as a lavatory’. Monkeys, we expected more of you.

monkeyTo look at it from one aspect, the point is not actually to discover if monkeys can do it, but to find out if randomly punched keys, ad infinitum, will create Shakespeare. In fact the origin of the phrase held no mention of monkeys. It’s probably a variation of Aristotle’s example of a book whose text was formed by letters randomly scattered on the ground. Eighteenth and Nineteenth century French mathematicians often discussed the idea of a book which was created by a random splurge of letters from a printing press. It was one of these French number-chiefs, Émile Borel, who brought monkeys into it: he said they could eventually come up with every tome in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

tumblr_ni64vnpRaX1u80812o1_400So real life monkeys are no good – they will just pee over everything – and the capacity for monkey concentration is kind of not the point, but how about hypothetical virtual monkeys? A computer generation was set up, in which virtual monkeys typed at random. Each day they created an eighteen or nineteen character string of real words that happen in Shakespeare.

Pretty early on a twenty-one character string, recognisably from Love’s Labour’s Lost appeared:

KING. Let fame, that [wtIA”yh!…

Which looks remarkably like:

KING. Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live regist’red upon our brazen tombs,
And then grace us in the disgrace of death.

The record was this from Henry IV, Part 2:

RUMOUR: Open your ears; [9r’5j5…

Which matches the first part of:

RUMOUR: Open your ears; for which of you will not stop
The vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks?

tumblr_n6b65jkMKT1qd8w33o1_500On average, one character was added to the string each year, so truly infinite (virtual) monkeys, with infinite time and/or greater speed might just pull it off.

Shakespeare’s fab, but we’ve already got Shakespeare. What use is monkey plagiarism? If I had infinite monkeys, I think I’d try and coax them into writing something new. I would like to see infinite monkeys trying to get an agent, securing a publishing deal, and eventually collecting the Booker Prize and making their awards speech. Sadly, I don’t think that’s going to happen, so for the moment I’ll stick to reading books written by humans. Reality, you disappoint me sometimes.


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