[sticky entry] Sticky: Welcome!

Sep. 9th, 2013 08:05 pm
calissa: (Default)
Hi there!

This post is for those people I've just met and/or those who want to get to know me. I enjoy making friends and getting to know people, so I encourage you to introduce yourself if you haven't already.

Family )


Interests and organisations )

I do have some health troubles, mostly to do with my upper body, arms and hands. Sometimes managing the pain can be a challenge and can limit the amount of time I can write and spend on the computer.

I also like to get to know people. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask. :D

Last updated on 15 August 2016.
calissa: (Calissa)

Earl Grey Editing, Lady Business, Feminist Ponies, Australian Women Writers, book lists, reading lists

Regular readers may have noticed that I’m a huge fan of the feminist SFF blog Lady Business. If you’ve not heard of them, they review SFF across a range of media–primarily, but not limited to, books. They also discuss industry and fandom news from queer and feminist perspectives. Their work has been nominated for a Hugo Award this year (for Best Fanzine) and their posts often appear in my Loose-leaf Links segment.

So I was thrilled when they offered me a chance to guest post for them… especially since the opportunity arose out of a rare rant of mine on Twitter. I’d been disappointed to find just two Australian authors on a list of 100 SFF books written by women. Lady Business have given me the chance to reply with a list of my own: 50 Australian Women Writers of SFF. I hope you’ll go and check it out.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, Bout of Books, Illuminae, Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, The Incredible Adventures of CInnamon Girl, Melissa Keil, Book of Lies, Terri Terry, books and tea

I might be going on a blogging hiatus next week, but there’s no way I am going to miss the latest round of Bout of Books. With the Aurealis Awards driving Mt TBR to record-breaking heights, I need all the help I can get!

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 22nd and runs through Sunday, August 28th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 17 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Being a low-pressure challenge, Bout of Books lets me set my own goals. As with last time, I’m aiming to get through a minimum of three books. However, I’ve learned my lesson and will be steering clear of the chunksters! I have a ton of books I could pick from. IlluminaeThe Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl and Book of Lies are all on the potential list. The latter is an Aurealis submission and there are a heap more of those I could tackle. I also plan on reading my e-ARC of Peter S. Beagle’s Summerlong.

If you’d like to join in, there’s still time to sign-up!

What’s on your TBR pile this week?

 

Bout of Books

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Snapshot 2016, Aussie SF Snapshot, Australian speculative fiction, SpecFic Downunder

Beau, the Boulevardier of Broken Dreams, K.J. Bishop, Kirsten Bishop, bronze sculpture, rabbit, hare, 2016 snapshot, Australian Speculative Fiction snapshot

K.J. Bishop is the award-winning author of The Etched City and story collection That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote. She is also an artist, with her recent work Beau (the Boulevardier of Broken Dreams) a finalist in the 2016 Deakin University Contemporary Small Sculpture Award. She has a website and an Etsy shop.

1. Your passion for the dark and whimsical manifests both through writing and sculpture. Do you find it possible to juggle these interests or is your energy focused on just one at a time?

I’m focusing on art right now, but I do write intermittently. I prefer to keep writing as an after hours activity rather than treat it as a day job. After a day’s sculpting I’ve usually achieved something; the work can go slowly and there can be setbacks, but I’m not forever pulling it apart and starting again — whereas I’m a bit like that with writing. So for now I’m concentrating on the field where I get things done.

2. What was it that drew  you to sculpture as an art form?

Chance, actually. I’ve probably always been better at 3d than 2d work, but I didn’t have a passion for it. I took a sculpture course at a local art studio pretty much on a whim, and the teacher was very good. I started being able to make things that I was pleased with. Then I got excited about it. Sculpture suits my strengths and is kind to my weaknesses.  I find something very satisfying about making objects in the round.

Sir Vivor, K.J. Bishop, snail, bronze, sculpture, tea, teacup

Sir Vivor by K.J. Bishop

3. Do you have any future projects or exhibitions planned?

I have a long list of projects! I’ll probably do one or both of Supanova in Melbourne next year (April 28-30), and the Castlemaine State Festival (17-26 March).

4. What Australian work have you loved recently?

Gillian Polack’s The Time of the Ghosts and Craig Cormick’s Uncle Adolf were both great, and my artist side can never get enough of Kathleen Jennings.

5. Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I like to sleep on long plane trips, so a dead author would be best. Someone who was cremated so I could put their urn on the floor and spread out on the seat.

You can find this interview and many others at the Australian SF Snapshot Project.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Earl Grey Editing, tea cup, chocolate, Koko Black, blogiversary

Today marks the second anniversary of Earl Grey Editing’s blog. I was very disappointed that Jazz Apple–the makers of the cupcake featured in my first anniversary post–had shut down sometime over the last year. I consoled myself with chocolates from Koko Black instead. The heart at the front is their dark chocolate Sienna Strawberry, a perennial favourite. The rectangle behind it is their dark chocolate chai, which seemed an obvious choice. It also tasted absolutely divine.

I’m a little surprised to find I’ve only been blogging and reviewing for two years. It feels like I’ve been doing this forever. And yet, I’ve learned a lot over the last year. In particular, I’ve been very pleased to start receiving physical ARCs from some publishers and hope to continue building on that (even if my bookshelves groan in protest). As regular readers will know, I’m also a judge for the Aurealis Awards this year. It has been something I’ve wanted to do for years but never would have had the confidence to try without my experiences of reviewing here.

Just like last year, I’m particularly pleased about how consistently I’ve managed to post. It was something that worried me a lot before I started blogging… and that was before I realised just how much work it was! Meeting the constant deadlines can be a challenge but one I feel I’ve tackled well.

Nevertheless, it is taking a toll on me. It is time for a holiday. So after next week, Earl Grey Editing will be shutting down for a little while. You can expect the occasional post–I’ll be checking in with my Mt TBR report and will still participate in Bout of Books. However, regular posting won’t resume until 19 September.

I look forward to telling you all about what I’ve been reading when I get back.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Snapshot 2016, Aussie SF Snapshot, Australian speculative fiction, SpecFic Downunder

Satima Flavell, 2016 Australian SF snapshot, speculative fiction,

Satima Flavell (also known as Carol Flavell Neist) is a writer, editor and reviewer. Her first poem appeared on the children’s page of what was then The Manchester Guardian when she was seven, and she continued to earn pocket money through writing until teenage interests took over. After training and working in the performing arts, she began reviewing dance performances in the 1980s, and this rapidly expanded to writing reviews and feature articles for The Australian, The West Australian, Music Maker, Dance Australia and other journals. However, her favourite reading matter has long been fantasy, and her first novel, The Dagger of Dresnia, book one of The Talismans, in now in print from Satalyte Publishing. Book two, The Cloak of Challiver, is set for release later this year. Satima’s website is at http://maneyacts.com/satimaWP/ and you can also find her on Blogger, Twitter and Facebook.

 1. Cloak of Challiver, the second book in The Talismans, is due out in September. Can you tell us a bit about it?

The Cloak of Challiver was actually written before The Dagger of Dresnia, the first novel in the trilogy. In fact the orginal idea that set the ball rolling will actually be found in book three! I realised that the backstory needed to precede my first idea, so I wrote what is now book two. Writerly colleagues who critiqued it told me I hadn’t started early enough, so I wrote The Dagger of Dresnia, which precedes the story of The Cloak of Challiver by some twenty-plus years.

The Cloak of Challiver is really two romances. Two princesses, cousins, find love well away from the preferences of their parents, and thereby hang two tales! But the usual fantasy tropes such as magic spells and battle scenes are all there as well.

2.As a writer, do you find it difficult to quiet your inner editor and critic? Are there any strategies you find particularly effective?

I’m pleased to say that my writing and editing hats hang happily side my side. I have become reasonably good at editing as I go: each morning I read over the previous day’s work and correct it, and from time to time I go over the entire MS as it develops. It’s a slow job, but I get there eventually and my submissions need little attention from the in-house editors.

3. Do you have any plans for what you might write after you’ve finished The Talismans trilogy?

I get ideas now and then, but I set them aside. Getting a trilogy finished is enough of a load on my shoulders! However, it will almost certainly be more fantasy, my favourite reading matter!

4.What Australian work have you loved recently?

Juliet Marillier has a new book, Den of Wolves, out in her Blackthorn and Grimm series, and I enjoyed the first two so much that I can’t wait to finish it! And I loved Glenda Larke’s Forsaken Lands trilogy.  I was also delighted to find that Lian Hearn had written two more books in her Tales of the Ortori series. Marianne Dellacourt’s Tara Sharp books are superb light reading as well. And there are so many excellent anthologies and collections around that I am hard-pressed to keep up with them! I try to balance my fantasy reading with non-fiction, and in that realm I am most impressed by The Middle Ages unlocked by Gillian Polack and Katrin Kania.

5. Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

William Shakespeare, although I suspect Will would be so flabbergasted by the idea of flying that he might not want to talk books at all.  I do believe, though, that he was the most brilliant writer ever to set pen to paper in English. His deep understanding of human nature, and his ability to bring that out through plotting and characterisation are second to none in any language.

You can find this interview and many others at the Australian SF Snapshot Project.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Loose-leaf Links, Earl Grey Editing, loose leaf tea, the Art of Tea, Tasmania, Mount Wellington

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi and fantasy I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is from The Art of Tea, the same lovely people who made the Tabitha Blend for Livia Day’s The Blackmail Blend. This is their Mount Wellington, named for the peak overlooking Hobart. It’s a floral tea that puts me in mind of French Earl Grey with a dash of vanilla.

Follow Up ) Awards News ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: Macro photo of a clover leaf covered in frost (Winter)
20160730_115419_Richtone(HDR)

A couple of weeks ago, I met some friends out at the National Arboretum. I didn't take many photos, mostly because it's winter and many of the trees are deciduous. However, the grounds also harbour the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection. Despite (or perhaps because of) the grey weather, it was crowded, so I only managed to snag a couple of photos.

Flowering apricot and grevillea )
calissa: (Calissa)

Snapshot 2016, Aussie SF Snapshot, Australian speculative fiction, SpecFic Downunder

Dave Freer, 2016 snapshot, Aussie SF snapshot

Dave Freer is the author of more books than he has fingers and toes to count them on. Some of them blundered onto the Wall Street Journal and Locus bestseller lists before respectable novels got together in a body and threw them back in the gutter where they belong.  Freer originally trained as an Ichthyologist, working for fisheries as the Chief Scientist on the Commercial Shark Fishery in the Western Cape (South Africa) but was tricked into writing by being told the hours were better, the meals more regular and the spelling requirements easier. They lied on all counts, but Freer is gullible. That’s why he has spent an inordinate amount of time clinging to cliffs by his fingertips, wondering when he’s going to fall to a sticky death, or arm-wrestling rock lobster in narrow underwater caves in a ‘who-gets-to-eat-who’ contest. If there is some job no sane person would take on, he’s probably made a horrible mess of it. It does give him something to write about, in between these forays.  He now lives on Flinders Island, in the middle of Bass Strait, loved by his dogs, ruled by his cats and survived by his wonderful long-suffering wife.  She puts up with his sense of humour and corrects his grammar, possibly because he does the cooking – which he does better than he writes, and she likes rock lobster.

1. Your latest novel Changeling’s Island was published by Baen earlier this year and is set on Flinders Island, where you live. Were there any unexpected challenges you encountered in setting the story so close to home? Would you do it again?

Always the hard questions first. Last time they asked me to spell my name, and would not accept that variety-in-spelling was good enough for Shakespeare, it should be good enough for a lowly writer like me.

Look, writing about your own community, your most beloved places always comes with a large, clear warning label that says “Do not try this in your own Universe. Contains many small working parts which can be easily damaged. Adult supervision may be required.”

Naturally only a fool will ignore these warnings – but then being an author requires at least some degree of folly, some degree of belief that ‘in my case it will be different.’ And when it comes down to being a fool and tempting fate, I am uniquely qualified…  Look, one of the other pieces of advice dished out to authors is to write about what you know about – or at least do extensive homework and get real experts to cross check you.  Besides being a fool, the next most important attribute an author can bring to writing is the ability to listen and to observe, and to put themselves in the shoes of other people. While I have the fool part naturally I do work very hard at the other aspects. Focusing on that would my advice to anyone else trying this. It did involve a lot of work, a lot of research, and a willingness to explore things from other viewpoints… but that is what I try to do anyway.

So: in summary – I expected it to be difficult and to venture cautiously. To see things from other points of view and immerse myself in that. Going in with that attitude got me a warm reception and a huge amount of help and support. It does help that I’ve made a consistent effort to integrate into this community, I love it, and I love the place.  As someone said it’s more like a love paean to Flinders Island and to rural Australia than just a book. I can live with that.

Would I do it again? Well, I’ve had plenty of nagging to do that. Probably not in the short term, as I believe changing ground helps to keep me fresh and learning about my craft.

Tom, Dave Freer, Australian speculative fiction snapshot

2. In addition to being published by Baen, you also self publish. Would you consider moving away from traditional publishing entirely or do you find the balance works for you?

Well, I’ve published with Baen, Pyr and DAW. I am still under contract for some more work with Baen, and, as a fairly militant author standing up for authors ability to make a reasonable living, Baen are probably the only Traditional Publishing house I have any real interest in working with in future, under the present contract regimes on offer (they pay slightly better percentages and are less exploitative and restrictive in their contracts). I intend to stick with hybrid and gradually move more into doing it myself.

I’m a rock-climber, and diver and a guy who spends a fair bit of time at sea in small boats – and have for many years – why do I mention this? Well, because it reflects my attitude toward the business of publishing. It – like the above – is a risky business, which you really have to love to want to do in all weathers (or conditions of life) especially long-term. If you want to stay alive/in business, you have to balance something that is really risky with some thought, sense and care, with backup plans. It is really obvious that traditional publishing is in dangerous and uncharted waters at the moment. So is self (indy) publishing.  While indy has some serious financial advantages, paying the author a far better share of that cover price (few people realize I’m getting 64 cents US for that traditionally published paperback you just paid $25.00 for) there are downsides.

Realistically you need to contract out the actual benefits of traditional publishing – editing, proof-reading, and covers. It’s worth pointing out that most traditional publishers have seriously cut back on these in the last few years. Most authors are already shouldering the bulk of the promotion on social media, for which they get a very small part of the reward, so indy makes a lot of sense, if you have to do the work anyway. You get paid better, more often, and the accounting real-time transparent. There are no advances, so it does reflect directly on your ability to get readers and be popular with them, but given that I am writing to please readers… well, this is a risk I am willing to take.

However – Spreading your risks is still a smart thing to do. Amazon accounts for over 95% of my sales, and while they’re – compared to traditional publishing – relatively generous and easy to work with, there is a real chance this could change. I’d like to see authors taking pre-emptive steps, getting co-ops going, making more direct linkage with readers (and yes, this is in my future planning).

Besides it gives me the flexibility to write what I think readers want, and what I want to write, instead of just what my publisher thinks they want.

3. You’ve tackled quite a broad spectrum of speculative fiction, from high fantasy to hard sci-fi/satire to alternate history. Are there any sub-genres you haven’t tried that you’d still like to tackle?

Heh. Any I haven’t tried. Seriously, it’s my belief that it keeps me fresh, keeps me learning – and cross-pollinates the rest. There are new skills to be learned from every genre, and I read catholically – from romance to lit. fic. (I prefer romance, and it generally exhibits more craft) from biographies to hard sf (where I tend like the science but wish they’d learn some of the plot and character skills more typical of fantasy). I like some more than others but all of them have something of value, even if it is ‘don’t do that.’ I have a paranormal historical romance in the planning, a hard sf trilogy, a couple of satirical space operas, and a Regency-set fantasy, and a Brythonic high fantasy bubbling away.

4. What Australian work have you loved recently?

Dirk Flinthart’s A PATH OF NIGHT. He should get off his dead arse and write more. A lot more. Seriously, for a first novel it was pretty slick and well executed and thought out. I loved the touch of dry humour – but I really appreciated the fact that it was very Australian (that’s one of the reasons I am trying to put more Australia into my books. I don’t do it as well as Dirk). I also enjoyed THE LASCAR’S DAGGER – which is Glenda Larke at her best.

5. Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I think, having been on entirely too many crowded long-haul flights that the first choice would a dead one, I don’t mind which, so long as they’d been cremated. I would put the little urn in the overhead rack, and sleep and hope there was not too much turbulence. That’s an incredibly hard question to ask! My list goes on for days and would depend on my mood – ranging from Diana Wynne Jones to Garth Nix. Margaret Mahy would probably be the most fun, although I’d never turn down a seat next to Sir Terry Pratchett.

You can find this interview and many others at the Australian SF Snapshot Project.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Earl Grey Editing, Mt TBR, books and tea, Illuminae, Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff,

July wasn’t my slowest month for reading this year, but it came close. I’ve been very unfocused, thanks to my competing reading schedules (Aurealis, Hugo, reviewing). I’ve started quite a few books but not managed to finish many. However, I’m still hanging in there, even if Mt TBR is getting a little out of control.

My #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks stats are holding steady, but just barely. My goal for the challenge was to make sure 60% of the books I read this year come from Mt TBR. I finished June at 51% and scraped in at the same by the end of last month. I’m pretty pleased with that, all things considered.

Books with an asterisk on the list below were part of my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks effort.

Mt TBR Status

Mt TBR @ 1 January 2016: 244
Mt TBR @ 30 June 2016: 252
Mt TBR @ 31 July 2016: 256

Books Read

58. Wicked Embers by Keri Arthur *. Reviewed here.

59. Threshold by Jordan L. Hawk *. The second in her series Whyborne and Griffin. Historical fantasy m/m romance. A high-born philologist with a talent for magic teams up with a private investigator to uncover the truth behind some mysterious occurrences at a remote coal mine. Fairly light reading, which was just what I needed.

60. Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie *.  Reviewed here.

61. Winning Lord West by Anna Campbell *. Reviewed here.

62. Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer. Read for the Aurealis Awards. A YA novel about a teenage boy who gets shipped off to Flinders Island to stay with his grandmother.

63. A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet. Review forthcoming.

64. Earth and Lunar Dreaming by C.M. Simpson. Read for the Aurealis Awards. A young girl blackmails a werewolf into helping her escape from danger aboard a spaceship.

DNF – The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. I’ll definitely be coming back to this one. However, attempting to read it in the week where Alton Stirling, Philando Castile and five police officers were shot in the US wasn’t doing my mental health any favours. There wasn’t time to finish the book before it had to be returned to the library.

Books Acquired

Earth and Lunar Dreaming by C.M. Simpson
Dragon Slayer Number 9 by Instisar Khanani
Book of Lies by Teri Terry
Confused by Wanda Wiltshire
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Pope
A World of Ash by Justin Woolley
Something Nice by Tiffany Reisz
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
At the Edge by Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts

Online Reading

Wingborn Ch 11-20 by Becca Lusher. A Regency-style fantasy with giant eagles. The feathers hit the fan when Mhysra’s parents discover she’s enlisted in the Rift Riders without their permission.

What have you read this month?

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Snapshot 2016, Aussie SF Snapshot, Australian speculative fiction, SpecFic Downunder

Back in 2005, Australian writer Ben Peek spent a week interviewing 43 people in the Australian SFF scene. Thus was the Aussie SpecFic Snapshot born. Held every two years (more or less), it has grown bigger each time. The event now consists of an entire team who create a broad overview of Australian SFF by interviewing a range of writers, editors, artists and fans.

The Snapshot last ran in 2014, when I had the great delight of being interviewed by Helen Stubbs. This year, the Snapshot is running from 1 August until 14 August. There are a heap of  fantastic interviews already posted at the central Snapshot website, including my interview by Stephanie Gunn. You can also find the interview on Steph’s blog.

I’m going a step further this year and have joined the interviewing team. You can expect things here to be a little more lively over the next week or two as I post the interviews in addition to some of my regular content.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Winning Lord West, Anna Campbell, Dashing Widows, tea and books, Regency romance

Published: Self-published in April 2016
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Dashing Widows #3
Genres: Romance, Regency romance
Source: Amazon
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016,  #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks
Available: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for previous volumes/books.

Spirited Helena, Countess of Crewe, knows all about profligate rakes; she was married to one for nine years and still bears the scars. Now this Dashing Widow plans a life of glorious freedom where she does just what she wishes – and nobody will ever hurt her again. So what is she to do when that handsome scoundrel Lord West sets out to make her his wife? Say no, of course. Which is fine, until West focuses all his sensual skills on changing her mind. And West’s sensual skills are renowned far and wide as utterly irresistible…

Passionate persuasion!

Vernon Grange, Lord West, has long been estranged from his headstrong first love, Helena Nash, but he’s always regretted that he didn’t step in to prevent her disastrous marriage. Now Helena is free, and this time, come hell or high water, West won’t let her escape him again. His weapon of choice is seduction, and in this particular game, he’s an acknowledged master. Now that he and Helena are under one roof at the year’s most glamorous house party, he intends to counter her every argument with breathtaking pleasure. Could it be that Lady Crewe’s dashing days are numbered?

While I’m given to understand Winning Lord West isn’t the last book in the Dashing Widows series, Helena is the last of the dashing widows introduced in the first book, The Seduction of Lord Stone.

This book takes a bit of a different format to the last two. It opens up with a scene from The Seduction of Lord Stone but told from Helena’s perspective. Next comes a series of letters between Helena and Lord West after he is sent to Russia on a diplomatic mission. Finally, the meat of the story is told in the more conventional format. It would have been possible to tell the story without the letters but I’m glad they were included. They really set up the personality of both characters and the mismatch in communication style is very entertaining. Lord West remains determinedly charming, while Helena acerbically rebuffs him at every opportunity. However, despite Helena’s unfriendliness, her fondness for West leaks out whenever she drops her guard. Their friendship predates her violent marriage and it’s nice to see evidence of that creeping back in.

But there’s definitely more here than friendship and the tension between them is delicious. Yet, the mixture of innocence and sensuality didn’t quite work for me–it felt a bit like trying to have it both ways, despite there being a plausible reason. Also, there’s one or two grey areas in relation to consent, in a similar manner to Tempting Mr Townsend.

One of the things I’ve liked about the series is the very different personalities of the widows. Caroline is reckless and impulsive, Fenella is demure but strong, and Helena is prickly and intelligent. One thing I liked less is how Helena loses a bit of this intelligence on falling in love. While it is nice to see love undo her, it felt to me like she became quite a different person and lost some of what made her interesting.

Another disappointment was the passing references to her work in mathematics. She’s supposed to be engaged in some good work in that particular field, but we never get to see it in the story–not even obliquely. While I understand this may have been due to length constraints, I feel it would have been better to lose this entirely and leave the focus on her passion for horses.

Overall, I found Winning Lord West was predictable but made for nice, light reading. I believe there will be at least another three books in the series and I was sufficiently entertained to keep an eye out for them towards the end of the year.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Earl Grey Editing, Loose-leaf Links, loose-leaf tea, loose-leaf, Darjeeling, Taylors of Harrogate,

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi and fantasy I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Afternoon Darjeeling from Taylors of Harrogate. It’s a lighter tea (as Darjeeling tends to be) that resists overbrewing and is one of the nicest Darjeeling teas I’ve tried.

Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie, Imperial Radch, Ancillary Justice, Hugo Awards, science fiction, sci-fi, SFF

Published: October 2015 by Orbit
Format reviewed: Paperback, 336 pages
Series: Imperial Radch #3
Genres: Science fiction
Source: Dymocks
Reading Challenges: #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks
Available: Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for previous volumes/books.

For a moment, things seem to be under control for the soldier known as Breq. Then a search of Athoek Station’s slums turns up someone who shouldn’t exist – someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that’s been hiding beyond the empire’s reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq’s enemy, the divided and quite possibly insane Anaander Mianaai – ruler of an empire at war with itself.

Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren’t good, but that’s never stopped her before.

Ancillary Mercy is the final book in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy and brings the series to a satisfying conclusion.

Just as with the first two books, Ancillary Mercy has a slightly different tone to its predecessors. Each book has been about the personal to some degree–after all, Breq set out to assassinate the Emperor in revenge for the Emperor forcing her to kill one of her lieutenants. However, now Breq is firmly enmeshed in relationships with her crew and the residents of Athoek Station, leading to a more intimate atmosphere. This is particularly interesting because the book uses style to create distance. Being an AI, Breq is not always very good at identifying emotions, particularly positive ones. She often misses (or fails to interpret) clues about how the people around her feel towards her. Nor does she always recognise or acknowledge her own emotions. This forces the reader to pay attention and read between the lines.

Identity and injustice have been strong themes throughout the series so far and continue to be crucial. The intimate tone of the book gives it the scope to focus on the importance of the personal. One of the subplots focuses on privilege and microaggressions between two of the crew members, which echoes through the larger plot in relation to the AIs.

Speaking of which, I adored seeing the AIs come into their own. The animistic view of the series has been one of the things I’ve loved most and it was awesome to see that become such an important part of the plot. Each AI–be it Station or Ship–had its own distinct personality and agenda, which really brought these characters to life. There were some great parallels made between slavery and the treatment of AIs. Plus, seeing them navigate their relationship with each other was a delight–especially since they don’t always get along.

There was a reasonable amount of action in the story, particularly towards the end, which provided a nice counterbalance to the personal relationships and discussions of ethics.

I’m rather sorry the series is over. However, the depth of these books will reward rereading.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: Photo of Swarovski crystal & gold figurine of inkpot and quill sitting on a page that says 'create every day' (Writing)

Australian SFF book bloggers, Earl Grey Editing, speculative fiction, TWSBI 580, fountain pen, Lirael, Garth Nix, Dreamer's Pool, Juliet Marillier, Australian bluebell, tea and books

One thing I find interesting about being involved with both the writing community and the reading community is noting where these groups intersect–and where they should intersect but don’t. Last month’s meeting of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild discussed marketing books. Naturally, the topic of reviewing arose. With paid reviewers rapidly disappearing from news outlets, connecting with the book blogging community is becoming increasingly important for writers. However, that can be difficult if you don’t know where to look.

Likewise, when I was starting out as a book blogger it was difficult for me to find other reviewers who focused on speculative fiction (let alone Australian speculative fiction). I wanted to connect with these people because a key part of being a reader and a blogger for me is squeeing over books with other people. I still keep an eye out for SFF reviewers, especially those who match my taste.

Since I haven’t yet found a central listing of Australian SFF book bloggers, I thought I’d pull together some of the ones I’ve stumbled across since starting to blog here at Earl Grey Editing.

But first, a word on etiquette. If you are a writer looking for a review, don’t just spam these lovely people. This is their hobby and their time deserves to be respected. Approach them as you’d approach a publisher: first check the guidelines in their review policy (most reviewers have these) as well as their recent reviews, then send a polite query without attachments. Just as your book isn’t going to suit every publishing house, it’s also not going to suit every book blogger.

I’ve chosen to include bloggers who predominantly review SFF. There are many more who occasionally review SFF along with whatever else catches their fancy.

Australian SFF book bloggers

A Conversational Life: Tehani Wessely is the driving force behind Fablecroft Publishing. She has also recently started reviewing the SFF she reads at a voracious rate. Her focus is almost exclusively on female authors.

Book Frivolity: Kristy is a fellow Aurealis judge, on the panel for Best Fantasy Short Story. She also covers sci-fi and horror on her blog in reviews that are wonderfully short and to the point.

Dark Matter Zine: Nalini reviews a wide range of Australian and international material, including books, TV shows, games and more. There’s a strong SFF focus, but other genres are also covered.

Smash Dragons: Matt Summers is part of the panel judging Best Horror Short Story for this year’s Aurealis Awards. Over on his blog, he also favours sci-fi and epic fantasy.

Speculating on SpecFic: For a time, Shaheen convened #OzYAChat on Twitter and she remains a blogger with a strong commitment to reviewing Australian material. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she has a preference for YA.

Tea in the Treetops: Another blog that reviews a range of Australian and international books. Philippa and Angelya also review quite a bit of YA SFF as well as material marketed to adults.

The Forest of Books: Stephanie Gunn regularly judges the Aurealis Awards (and is convening the panel for Best Fantasy Novel this year). She’s an astute reviewer with a focus on Australian work.

The Conversationalist: Ju is Steph’s partner in crime in their Journey Through the Twelve Planets reading challenge. She also reviews a range of SFF material.

Tsana’s Reads and Reviews: Tsana’s primary focus is currently comics, but she also reviews a lot of Australian SFF. She favours science-fiction with a strong scientific basis.

Ventureadlaxre: In between managing Twelfth Planet Press’ Deadlines imprint and running the Aurealis Awards, Katherine reviews SFF predominantly focusing on Australian work.

What If Fiction: Emma’s blog is just starting out but has some great SFF reviews.

I’m sure I’ve missed a ton of others, especially in the YA community. If that’s you, please say hi!

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Wicked Embers, Keri Arthur, Souls of Fire, urban fantasy, book review, Melbourne, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books

Published: July 2015 by Piatkus
Format reviewed: Paperback, 375 pages
Series: Souls of Fire
Genres: Urban fantasy
Source: Gift
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016, #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks
Available: Publisher (print) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for previous volumes/books.

Keri Arthur, New York Times bestselling author of Fireborn, presents the thrilling new Souls of Fire Novel featuring Emberly Pearson, a phoenix that can transform into a human—and is haunted by the ability to foresee death….

Crimson Death, the plague like virus spawned from a failed government experiment to isolate the enzymes that make vampires immortal, continues to spread. Emberly and her partner, Jackson Miller, are desperately seeking the stolen research for a cure before the virus becomes a pandemic.

But their mission is jeopardized by another threat uncovered in Emberly’s prophetic dreams. A creature of ash and shadow has been unleashed on a murdering spree. Now Emberly must summon all her gifts and investigative knowledge to put an end to this entity’s brutal rampage—even if it means placing herself in harm’s way….

Given how much I loved Fireborn, I was surprisingly disappointed with Wicked Embers. It wasn’t a bad book, but it didn’t make the most of the elements it had.

As with the last book, it begins with one of Emberly’s prophetic dreams and dives into the action from there. Danger looms on all sides–from the creature of which Emberly dreams, from the two vampire factions looking to shut down her investigation, and from the mysterious grey-cloaked figure seeking to capture her. Indeed, I found the romance took a backseat to the thriller elements in this book. If you’re looking for gun battles, chase scenes and explosions, Wicked Embers has you covered.

However, despite all the action, I actually found the pace a bit slow in places. The revelation of the Grey Cloak’s identity and the truth of what has been going on with Emberly’s ex, Sam, was late in coming and so obviously signalled throughout both books that it proved no surprise. I also felt the repetition regarding the evolution of the creature’s prey was unnecessary, though I understood the reasoning behind it.

I was pleased to see Emberly’s polyamorous relationships continue. Each of her relationships remains distinct, with different dynamics at work. Unfortunately, they remain pretty stagnant throughout the book and don’t develop beyond the parameters set in Fireborn. It also had me noticing a distinct lack of female characters beyond Emberly. A few potentially significant female characters were mentioned, so I’m hoping to see this change in future books.

As a phoenix, Emberly has some impressive magical abilities. Nevertheless, she kept within the boundaries established in the first book and I enjoyed seeing some new limitations established. In fact, I found the magical world-building to be a highlight of the book  and enjoyed the introduction of a couple of new forms of magic.

Overall, I found Wicked Embers to be an entertaining but flawed book.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Earl Grey Editing, loose-leaf tea, the Art of Tea, Tabitha Blend, The Blackmail Blend, Livia Day

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi and fantasy I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today I’m giving you a closer look at The Art of Tea‘s Tabitha Blend, which was specially made to go with Livia Day’s novella The Blackmail Blend. Check out my review for my thoughts on both tea and novella.

Follow Up ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Tempting Mr Townsend, Anna Campbell, Dashing Widows, Earl Grey Editing, romance, Regency romance, tea and books

Published: Self-published in February 2016
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Dashing Widows #2
Genres: Romance, Regency romance
Source: Amazon
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016, #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks 
Available:  Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

Beauty – and the Beast?

When Anthony Townsend bursts into Lady Deerham’s fashionable Mayfair mansion demanding the return of his orphaned nephew, the lovely widow’s beauty and spirit turn his world upside down. But surely such a refined and aristocratic creature will scorn a rough, self-made man’s courtship, even if that man is now one of the richest magnates in England. Especially after he’s made such a woeful first impression by barging into her house and accusing her of conniving with the runaways. But when Fenella insists on sharing the desperate search for the boys, fate offers Anthony a chance to play the hero and change her mind about him. Will reluctant proximity convince Fenella that perhaps Mr. Townsend isn’t so beastly after all? Or now that their charges are safe, will Anthony and Fenella remain forever opposites fighting their attraction?

Anna Campbell’s Dashing Widows series features three widows who have finally come to the end of their mourning period and vow to each other to seize life once more. In Fenella’s case, her required mourning period ended some time ago; her affection for her husband meant her grieving was protracted. In the previous book The Seduction of Lord Stone her friends Caroline and Helen convinced her enough was enough: it was time to move on.

I enjoyed the way Fenella genuinely loved her first husband. It makes a contrast to typical narratives–and, indeed, the situations of her two friends. It gives Fenella a bit of a different perspective on marriage, but also provides an obstacle to her relationship with Anthony. Her hang-ups about remaining faithful to her first husband are understandable but felt perhaps a little contrived, and I was glad she didn’t hang onto them too long.

Fenella was a great character. Society might view her as a fragile beauty, but she has a backbone and a good head on her shoulders. She might be high society, but that doesn’t make her judgemental and she’s good at giving others the benefit of a doubt.

Anthony is the more passionate of the two, being quicker to anger and quicker to lust. I found him a little bit possessive too early on, but this angle was handled lightly and he retains his self-control. In fact, his self-control was one of the things I liked most about this character. Even when angry, it was clear that his anger stemmed from his affection for his nephew and he allows himself to be talked around pretty easily. Really, he’s a toasted marshmellow–a bit crusty on the outside but total goo in the middle.

Without the need to set up for the series, we don’t see much of the other widows. This allows the focus to remain firmly on the romance. However, they do appear for a key scene. More of Caroline and Silas’ story comes out in this scene. While it was nice to have this sort of interweaving, I feel that it undid some of what was interesting about the ending of  the previous book.

However, overall, I found Tempting Mr Townsend a quick, light read and just what I wanted.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, The Wild Girl, Kate Forsyth, Hear Me Roar, Liz Grzyb, Vigil, Angela Slatter, The Lyre Thief, Jennifer Fallon, Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie, mid-year best books

While 2016 has been a bit of a rough year for most, it has been rather kind to me so far. It afforded me the chance to attend Contact2016, as well as participate in voting for the Hugo Awards and judging the Aurealis Awards for the very first time. It has been challenging in the best of ways.

It has also been a particularly good year for reading. Now that it’s half over, it seems an excellent time to take stock of where I am.

Reading Challenges ) Favourite Reads )

That’s it for me. How about you? What have been your favourite books of the year so far?

 

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Survivor, Amanda Pillar, Graced, novella, urban fantasy, vampires, hot chocolate, Earl Grey Editing

Published: Self-published in July 2016
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Graced #1.5
Genres: Fantasy, paranormal romance, urban fantasy
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016
Available: Amazon ~ Barnes & NobleGoogle Play ~ iBooks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Billie Young is a city guard from Pinton with a troubled past – she was kidnapped, tortured and almost murdered by vampires. Though she managed to survive her attack, it’s left her scarred and damaged. Now, she wants revenge.

Vere Radcliffe is a vampire spy who answers directly to the king. Recently returned to the city, he’s stuck living with his family – a fate almost worse than death. But trouble is brewing in the streets of Pinton, and Vere is asked to investigate the abduction of a city guard and the murder of several other humans.

Can Vere and Billie work together to find the killers, before it’s too late?

Survivor is the second of Amanda Pillar’s Graced novellas to come out this year. The prequel novella, Captive, didn’t quite work for me but Survivor hit all the right notes.

As the title suggests, Billie is a survivor–a fighter and an optimist, though the latter is somewhat subsumed by her adorable grouchiness towards Vere. Her attackers left her with plenty of scars and a limp that gives her chronic pain. While she’s determined not to let this slow her down, she’s still sensible about the limitations it puts on her life. Billie has stepped away from active duty in the City Guard, realising that her injuries would put a partner at potential risk, but that doesn’t stop her from seeking out the culprits responsible for the attack.

It’s Billie’s stubborn independence that attracts Vere to her in the first place. The way he follows her around at first could seem patronising or puppyish, but it never comes across that way. Instead, Vere’s curiosity and respect for Billie shines through. He is genuinely considerate, though how he managed to develop that quality in his family remains a mystery. In fact, given Vere’s colouring and weak vampire traits, I found myself wondering whether there was more to Vere’s background than the story revealed.

I don’t usually get along with serial novellas, finding they don’t have enough space to properly deal with all the elements they’re juggling. I never felt that way with Survivor. It is set in the same city as Graced and several minor characters make reappearances. However, both Billie and Vere are new characters and their story stands on its own. There are one or two places where repercussions from Graced can be seen–which was something I loved. But overall, Survivor makes a reasonably good introduction to the world and is littered with characters I’m looking forward to learning more about (the captain of the City Guard springs to mind).

The romance between Billie and Vere was sweet and balanced nicely with the investigation elements. Sex took place off-screen, making it a good story for readers who find explicit depictions uncomfortable.

There was one or two aspects of the ending I found a bit disappointing, but they are difficult to discuss without spoilers.

However, overall, I very much enjoyed Survivor and hope to see more stories set in this world.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

 

Mt TBR, History and Fiction, Gillian Polack, Binti, Nnedi Okorafor, Aradia, Charles Leland, Seanan McGuire, Discount Armageddon, Midnight Blue-light Special, InCryptid, tea cup, tea and books

Entries for the Aurealis Awards started coming in this month. It has been a challenge to juggle them with reading for the Hugos and reading review books. However, I’m doing a decent job of keeping up with the Aurealis reading and the voting deadline for the Hugos is in a month. Things should ease up a bit then (famous last words, I know).

Unsurprisingly, now that the Aurealis entries are coming in, my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks stats are beginning to drop. My goal for the challenge was to make sure 60% of the books I read this year come from Mt TBR. I was at 52% at the end of last month and am at 50% now. I expect that’s only going to get worse over the coming months.

Books with an asterisk on the list below were part of my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks effort.

Mt TBR Status ) Books Read ) Books Acquired ) Online Reading )

What have you read this month?

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

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