publishing

Sitting on ‘The Fence’

‘The Fence’ by Meredith JafféPan Macmillan Australia 2016 Reviewed by Jennifer McDonald

I've never been a fan of reality TV shows, often calling them 'unreality TV' for their ridiculous propositions and scripted conflicts. It seems odd to try and pass off something that is highly orchestrated as being 'real' when most of the stuff that happens in everyday life actually is 'stranger than fiction'. In her debut novel The Fence, Meredith Jaffé achieves the diametric opposite of an 'unreality TV' show, deftly taking a fictional suburban scenario and making it all too real, highly believable and what’s more, compelling.

A small confession here, with apologies to Meredith. When I first read the back cover of the book the idea of a story centring on a dispute between neighbours over a fence didn't exactly inspire me.  I wondered if I could ever be drawn into a story about a suburban scuffle that, while fictional, seems so very real and prevalent to the point of being formulaic. These things occur in just about any urban locale one might care to name! 'Too close to home,' I said to myself and yet, all my misgivings quickly flew out the window of my own suburban lounge room within the first few pages of The Fence.

The story starts with Gwen Hill, a lady of advancing years who's raised a family, made life-long friends and established and nurtured an impressive garden in a quiet cul-de-sac on Sydney's leafy north shore. The decline and eventual passing of her next-door neighbour and best friend on the street triggers cataclysmic changes to Gwen's idyllic suburban existence, not the least of which is the sale of her neighbour's house and the arrival of the young Desmarchelliers-Boyd family.

This family is straight out of trendy inner-city suburb central casting with kindergarten-aged twins, a toddler and a babe in arms, two designer dogs, stay-at-home dad and career-oriented mum, the latter being the other key protagonist in the story. Francesca, or Frankie Desmarchelliers, is hoping this tree-change to the outer suburbs will be a new lease of life for her young family while serving the dual purpose of keeping her errant husband out of harm’s way, if you get the drift.

Nothing but a carefully-tended, much adored crab apple tree boundary separates Gwen's house and garden from that of her new neighbours, a boundary that's been more than sufficient for privacy in the past while allowing easy access from either property  From the moment they arrive the Desmarchelliers-Boyd children and dogs seem almost fatally attracted to Gwen's garden, trampling the garden beds, picking primulas without invitation and defecating on the pristine lawn (the dogs not the kids). And then there's Gwen's husband Eric's retirement man-cave which is brimming with word-working projects and dangerous looking tools, the always open door of which is like an enduring invitation to mischief and injury.

No doubt used to the cheek-by-jowl inner-city life where gardens and communing with neighbours are just this side of foreign concepts, Frankie is horrified at the 'prying' Gwen and the osmotic boundary between their properties. She announces immediately that a fence will be constructed between the properties to ensure the safety of her young human and canine brood.  What you might think will unfold as a predictable story of an unseemly suburban scuffle turns out to be anything but.  Small slights, spats and inconveniences quickly snowball into major dramas with life-changing effects, all while 'the fence' stands as a grim, metaphorical sentinel over the proceedings.

Meredith tells the tale in a seasonal fashion alternating between Gwen and Frankie's perspective and interspersed with timely, allegorical excerpts from a gardening column that Gwen writes for ‘Outback+Outdoors’ magazine. I found this 'dual perspective' approach incredibly beguiling and vexing at the same time. I dearly wanted to come down on one side or the other of the fence (if you'll pardon the pun), barracking for Gwen or Frankie depending on who's perspective resonated with me the most. However, I found myself unable to take one neighbour's side over the other thanks to Meredith's detailed (but not overbearing) descriptions of what was going on in both Gwen's and Frankie's minds at any one time. It allowed me to make up my own mind about when either character was deserving of sympathy or being totally unreasonable - a very cool technique, artfully executed.

Apart from learning an awful lot about seasonal gardening from Gwen’s fictional magazine columns, The Fence also sheeted home the message that when one walks a mile in the other person's gumboots (in the case of Gwen) or patent leather corporate heels (in the case of Frankie) it is nigh on impossible to do anything other than sit on the fence.

Click here to buy your copy of ‘The Fence’ by Meredith Jaffé from Booktopia.

 

Review - Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver

For Pity Sake Publishing founder and CEO Jen McDonald talks about one of her favourite reads from this year, Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver. I've read my fair share of woo-woo self-help books like The Secret (Rhonda Byrne), Leveraging the Universe (Mike Dooley) and E-Squared (Pam Grout), all very valuable in their own way, reminding us that our thoughts can and often do become 'things' in our reality. Many of these books come with techniques and suggestions about what one should do to manifest 'the life of your dreams' and even in The Secret's case, a Rolls-Royce in the driveway if that's what you truly desire.

Still, for a very long time after reading these books I felt I must be going about this manifesting thing all wrong. A lot of the stuff I asked for while being very specific in the asking (as one is bidden to do in these books) never eventuated. This led me to think that, in some instances at least, the Universe might know better than I what it is I actually need as opposed to what I think I want. Add to that a comment made by the veritable 'father of motivation', the late great Dr Wayne Dyer to the effect that while the science behind the law of attraction is sound, he was uncomfortable with the concept of always 'getting' from the Universe. I confess I hadn't thought of it like that. Perhaps the Universe wasn't giving me what I was asking for because it thought I was greedy or worse, unworthy.

Thankfully, I hadn't wandered too far down this unfortunately well-worn track before the Universe saw fit to provide me with exactly what I needed.  It came in the form of a wonderful book called Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver, bearing the tagline of 'Letting the Divine Take the Lead'.  It was just what I was looking for - a book of short essays adapted from two years of Ms Silver's column-writing for the SF Spiritual Examiner at examiner.com that were supposed to be about astrology.  What transpired was a collection of instructive stories about 'Divine Order' and how to align with it, to be 'outrageously open' to the signs and answers coming out of the 'Force of Love' (whether you call it God, Shakti, the Source or the Universe) on even the most mundane of life's challenges like 'how am I going to pay this electricity bill'?

And while Outrageous Openness doesn't poo-poo the idea of manifesting that Rolls-Royce in the driveway if that's what you really want, it does go quite a long way to explaining why you might not get it. And that's not because you're doing the manifesting thing incorrectly, it's just that the 'Force of Love' has other ideas, ones that work to more effectively to your highest good. You might even get your manifested desire but if it doesn't align with Divine Order, other problems will undoubtedly follow.

As if on cue, while I write this piece, Outrageous Openness falls open at a story that begins with a quote from Florence Scovel Shin, author of The Game of Life and How to Play It - "Anything forced into manifestation through personal will is always 'ill gotten'". That's interesting and when teamed with one of Ms Silver's own quotes about 'allowing' it lifts the weight of having to 'make things happen' from my fallible, mortal shoulders - "Let what wants to come, come. Let what wants to go, go. If it is mine, it will stay. If not, whatever is better will replace it".

I have a terrible habit of turning the corner of the top of the page in any book I'm reading if something on that page has resonated with me.  If there's more than one resonant thing on that page, then the bottom corner gets folded too. I'm happy to report that Outrageous Openness has more turned down tops and bottoms of pages than it has flat ones. Moreover this book now sits permanently on my bedside table, ready for consultation whenever I get confused, lost or simply rattled by life.  To date, it's never disappointed.

Click here to buy Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver, and click here to see Jen’s own self-help guide, Vegetarian Vampires.

The Cost of Self-Publishing

How much money will I spend self-publishing? The short answer is: more than you expect.

Self-publishing has a lot of advantages, the biggest of which is the writer having complete and total control over his or her own product. This also means the responsibility of publishing the book is entirely on their shoulders, and that can come with a financial burden.

For many authors, self-publishing is a by-product of writing. It’s not so much the goal of writing but more a bonus side-effect. You may write something for joy, therapy or intrigue, and then put it out into the world with little care of how it succeeds. If that’s the case, you’re an incredibly rare breed of writer.

The rest of us want to know our work is being read. And we like seeing some money coming through. Many of us don’t expect to be break-out famous (you can’t expect that, it’ll ruin you), but we’d at least like to see some growth in our readership as we slowly build a career.

The trouble is, a lot of self-published writers don’t know what they’re doing. They need to act as web masters, distribution experts, publicists, marketers, cover designers, editors, accountants and more. All of this rather gets in the way of writing, which many would argue is close to a full time job in itself. There are many self-published authors who enjoy the entrepreneurial spirit that is required to grow a decent readership following. You need to have a deep lust for learning, and be patient enough to know that a huge amount of effort is unlikely to yield a significant return in the short term. You’ve got to be in it for the long game.

Trouble is, inexperienced self-published writers can put time and money into the wrong areas. The sheer volume of time it takes to learn about a lot of the skills you’ll require is mind-numbing. You’re likely to get bored and impatient. So you’ll spend money to speed the process up. You might sink a thousand dollars into a book cover design, but end up with a result you’re not happy with (because you’ve never briefed a cover designer before, and you don’t know how book covers fit into the marketplace). You can blow hundreds of dollars on building a website that doesn’t work the way you want it to and crashes every two weeks. You can put a lot of time and money into social media but have no growth in your community. And after all of this, your book may come out with typos, or struggle to be reviewed in the press, or simply float in the atmosphere, never finding a reader.

It’s enough to make you want to give up.

For Pity Sake Publishing is a sincere attempt to help writers. We’re a team of editors, marketers and publicists who can help provide you with the legitimacy and skills of a traditional publisher, while still allowing you more control than authors are used to. Yes, we will probably ask you to kick in some cash, but our belief is the cash is going to be less than what you would spend if you attempted to trek in the wilderness by yourself. In return, you get greater financial control and more say in the artistic outcome of your work. We want to give writers a platform that they can’t give themselves for less money and time than it would take to self-publish – all the while making the final product the very best it can be.

Our starting point for this is our Manuscript Appraisal Service, where you can submit your work to us, and we can open a discussion.

A Brave New World of Publishing

Jennifer McDonald, the founder of For Pity Sake Publishing and author of Vegetarian Vampires and What We Can Learn From Them, recently appeared on Artcetera on FM 92.7. She spoke with the host Barbie Robinson about her writing, breast cancer journey and her exciting work as the owner of an independent publishing company. [audio mp3="http://forpitysake.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Jen-McDonald.mp3"][/audio]

Buy a copy of Jenny's debut self-help book here.

For more information on our Manuscript Appraisal Service follow this link.

Three Essential Tips for Writing Memoir

Memoirs are magic. Reading the story of another person’s life brings can be some of the greatest acts of intimacy that art is capable of achieving. At their most powerful, great memoirs bring comfort, for they are often lighthouses on our own turbulent journeys through crisis. To read how someone else navigated their illness, divorce, injury or trauma can be a fundamental part of how we heal ourselves.

But of course, when we’re writing them, we don’t know that. It’s impossible to tell, from the writer’s side of the fence, just how a memoir will affect its readers. The memoirist can only compile the pieces of their story and attempt to sew them together. It’s often an emotional and difficult process.

Some of you may already have been inspired by Jennifer McDonald’s Vegetarian Vampires, which marries anecdotal memoir with a modern day secular spiritual text. Jennifer’s next book, released very soon, will be derived from her incredibly popular blog The Big Breast Adventure, which is the upfront account of how she navigated her breast cancer diagnosis. With these works in mind, we have three essential tips for writing memoir.

Don’t forget your reader
First drafts of memoir can often be over-stuffed with extraneous info. When you’re just starting to stretch your muscles and get used to the idea of telling your story, you’ll want to put in everything. Often, re-drafting a memoir is an act of cutting and re-shaping the work to keep the reader in mind. The reader won’t need to know a lot of the information that you see as an inevitable part of your story. The reader, like all readers, will want to be entertained and enthralled. So from the rough foundations of your first drafts, you’ll likely need to start thinking very differently about your story. What’s important to the reader? What’s the emotional connection? What’s funny, inspiring or revelatory? Memoir is, of course, about you, but it’s equally about the reader.

What’s true and what’s real
While you’re keeping the reader in mind, you may be forced to make editorial decisions that stray away from what was ‘real’. Frequently, for example, two characters may become one. Or a week of blank time may become truncated into a day. The names (or even genders and physical descriptions) of some people in your life may change when they find their way to the page. In this way, reality is altered but the truth of the story remains the same. Often these decisions come about to make your story simpler. Sometimes they can also be employed to avoid legal entanglements. This line in the sand is tricky to navigate for some. Take James Frey’s ‘A Million Little Pieces’, famously set ablaze by Oprah’s Book Club when certain scenes from the ‘memoir’ were found to have never taken place. On the other hand, you have famous works such as Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’, celebrated and sold as a piece of fiction, but which is entirely a very thin veil of his actual life.

Overall, the lesson to take away from this is to be careful with the truth. But you can be relaxed, at least a little, with what’s real. Character’s names, or locations or details may change, but the truth of the story must remain intact. Otherwise, it’s a work of fiction.

Embrace your voice
The success or failure of a memoir often relies on the author’s voice. Jen’s works, for example, are incredibly conversational and direct. One of the most famous and successful memoirists of our time, Stephen Fry, has an incredibly unique tone. We read these works not only for the story, but for the voice of the story-teller sharing it. We want to feel close to the person telling the story. We want to be an old, trusted friend, sitting at the bar with the author as they spin us a tale.

So attempts to hide your voice in impressive literary technique, or dry historical fact, are ultimately going to make your memoir limp. Think of the work as a story you would tell an old friend. Embrace your sense of humour and your pattern of speech. Your reader’s will be grateful.

 

You can purchase Vegetarian Vampires here, or read The Big Breast Adventures here. I also happen to have written a memoir, How to Be Happy, and it’s available for purchase here.

 

The Crucial Secret That Could Get You Published

Want to be a published author? Then learn how to self-edit.

This, by far, is the most common mistake that inexperienced writers make. The most common complaint from publishers, across the board, is that writers will send in their first draft. Most of the time, publishers don’t want to see your first draft.

Every writer, including Dickens, Orwell and Shakespeare, learned how to self-edit. The difference between draft one and draft two can be miraculous. But it’s about more than just dotting i’s and fixing errant commas. It’s often large, tectonic work that can re-shape your story.

The tricky thing is that a lot of writers know their first draft isn’t brilliant, but lack the skill or experience to bridge their first draft to their second. With that in mind, here are some key principles that should help.

Step Away Stephen King says at least six weeks. Others say longer. The vast majority of professional published authors I know do this. They pour their entire heart into the project, and then they put it in the drawer for a break. Attempting to edit right after you’ve finished a first draft is destined to be a disaster. You’re too close to it, and probably too exhausted. Have a break. Pat yourself on the back. You’ve done the hardest part: writing the damn thing. It’ll be there for you in a few weeks.

Attacking the work with fresh eyes will be a startling discovery. First of all, there are probably going to be entire sections that you don’t remember writing. It’s a wonderful thing. This insight will allow you to see bigger problems with the work, and provide a solid foundation for the next step.

Don’t worry about spelling At least to start with. Think about self-editing as a pyramid. Things like spelling and grammar are at the top of the pyramid, the thin bit. They’re fiddly things that you don’t need to concern yourself with right now. Worry more about the base of the pyramid: story structure. Examine scene to scene, chapter to chapter, how your story moves. Does it make sense? Does it drag? Does it move?

Don’t be disheartened. There is likely to be a good chunk that needs fixing. You might end up deleting a character (or two, or three), or realising that there’s 10,000 words in the middle that’s just plain wrong. This brings me to my next point.

Be brutal Cut. Probably around ten percent, maybe more.Save your old drafts and just go for it. You can always go back. Be courageous. If the book can survive without a particular section, than cut it.

This more than just an exercise in butchery. It’s a deeply helpful lesson in writing. As you cut, you’ll be forced to justify every choice you’ve made as a writer. You’ll get to know the work a lot better, and you’ll discover new pathways that you hadn’t considered. It may sound frightening, but believe me, it’s thrilling. Often finding the slimmer, more dynamic version of your story will feel like relief to the writer. It’ll feel much closer to what you originally had in your head.

There are entire courses in self-editing, and it’s a life time practice for a writer. But in today’s publishing world, it’s possibly one of the most important skills you can exercise. Writers are being expected, more and more, to carry the weight when it comes to editing.

So get your red pen out. I promise, you’ll feel better for it.

Think you want an opinion on your manuscript from a real reader? Try out our manuscript appraisal service.

The Port Lonsdale Camel Theft

Writing Through a Camel’s Eye is inextricably linked, for me, with the experience of coming home. I was born in Geelong, Victoria and my parents built their house at Point Lonsdale, at the tip of the Bellarine Peninsula. When I was in my teens I left home to go to university in Melbourne, and in the late nineteen seventies I moved to Canberra, where I was to remain for the next thirty years.

Through all my years away, Point Lonsdale, small sister town to Queenscliff – the two are practically joined at the hip - became the place of my heart, the place I retreated to in my imagination when the real world got too much.

When I returned to help care for my mother in her last years, I felt first of all the joy of home-coming, each day a revelation, then a flood – once unleashed there was no stopping it – of youthful memories.

Out of this rush of memory and imagination the first of my sea-change mysteries was born.

One memory was of a story I first heard in the 1960s, about a group of young men from the Point Lonsdale Surf Life Saving Club, who stole a camel from a circus camped at the bottom of the club house stairs. This story, part of Point Lonsdale folklore, gave me the beginning of Through a Camel’s Eye. Chris Blackie and Anthea Merritt, the two police constables who are my protagonists, are drawn into searching for a missing woman almost by accident, having been presented with the task of finding a stolen camel and restoring him to his rightful owner.

I’d already written four mystery novels when I embarked on my new one; a quartet set in Canberra, one for each of the four seasons. I knew this book was going to be very different, but there was still some research to be done.

I’d driven past the police station in Gellibrand Street, Queenscliff, countless times, but still felt nervous when I knocked on the door with my notebook in my hand.

I’m comfortable about taking a fair amount of ‘poetic licence’ when creating characters, but I still needed to know what Queenscliff constables were likely to do in certain circumstances, how far their responsibility extended, or could be stretched, and some basic facts.

The police officer I spoke to the day I nervously knocked on the door was very helpful. If he treated some of my questions with wry amusement, then he showed no more than a hint of this, and politely set me on the right track. I was able to thank him for his help again, very recently. Imagine my surprise when I found him running a vegan restaurant in Geelong’s CBD!

Through a Camel’s Eye is what I would call a character-driven mystery; I spend a fair amount of time exploring my main characters’ personalities and psyches, and I make no apology for that. It is also about a domestic murder – grave, endemic in our society, often over-looked. I hope readers will appreciate both the gravity and the novel’s light side. I’m thrilled that it’s being published, and would like to thank everyone who’s been so supportive – my family and friends and the wonderful team at ‘For Pity Sake’.

Buy your copy of Through a Camel's Eye here!

 

Dorothy will be appearing at The Book Bird in Geelong West on the 6th of May. Booking is essential, RSVP to info@thebookbird.com.au or by calling (03) 5224 1438 to reserve your spot!

Five Rules for Writing Historical Fiction

With the second season of the Outlander series now gripping the world, and with the re-release of not one but two of Peter Yeldham historical fiction novels only days away, it seems fair to say that historical fiction is now very much in vogue. It seems we’ve monkey-swung from sparkly vampires (Twilight) to titillating BDSM (Fifty Shades of Grey) to re-examining our collective past. In truth, historical fiction never really went out of vogue. Technically speaking, the vast majority of Shakespeare’s works were historical fiction. It could be said even our most basic folk lore (Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, etc.) are a kind of proto-historical fiction that harkens back to a generic fairytale time tinged with nostalgia.

Still, there’s never been a better time to be a historical fiction author, and we’re thrilled to publish quite a few. But before you put pen to paper, you might want to consider a few critical tips that we’ve learned from reading our award-winning authors.

Researching and Reading Research is obviously incredibly important when writing historical fiction. There’s no quicker way to alienate a reader than to make them stop believing in the authenticity of the world you’re trying to create. So research and read. A lot. Read historical accounts of the time, and even dig into other historical fiction that’s focussed on similar eras of history.

Researching and Talking If you’re able to actually talk to living survivors of your chosen historical era, don’t be shy in asking to sit down and have a chat. A minute in conversation can illuminate areas that history books simply can’t tell you. The colour of the wallpaper, or the smell of a place, or the daily, mundane routines that shaped their (and your characters) lives.

Researching and other reading An extremely helpful tip comes from Elizabeth Gilbert, award-winning author of Eat, Pray, Love, as well as critically acclaimed historical fiction The Signature of All Things. While it’s valuable to read history books, it can be even more helpful to read documents, novels or journals that were written in the specific time period that you’re setting your work in. This will tell you so much about the lexicon of the age, along with the concerns, dialogue and details of your characters.

Know when to stop researching This is the trickiest bit. Some historical novels feel more historic than novel, and can be too dense a read to be truly pleasurable. Always remember that your novel still has to operate under the same laws as any genre, and needs to create a compelling story with intriguing characters. The research will only take you so far. If you’re on the right track, you’ll usually feel a mounting sense of excitement as you’re researching, and there will simply come a point where you’re desperate to write. So write! The research will be there when you need it, and you can always return to hunt for extra details.

Be Authentic to the Politics of the Time …while not being too offensive to modern sensibilities. This is tricky, and most complicated around gender politics. Times past are often incredibly violent places to write about, and women are often treated abhorrently. It’s important to be authentic to this, and not create a rose-tinted version of the past that readers will find too sickly sweet. On the other hand, every reader has a line, and so much of narrative is frequently about the under-dog becoming a hero. Claire in Outlander is a classic example, who is subject to the subjugation of her time, but constantly subverts the gender norms for wonderfully entertaining results. Peter Yeldham often places an under-dog at the centre of the story, who is able to see with greater moral clarity than most of his peers.

Don’t know where to start reading? Why not try Peter Yeldham’s fantastic historical fiction around World War 2 in Above the Fold . Or if you’re in the mood for more sparkly vampires, you might be interested in Jennifer McDonald’s take on how Edward Cullen brought about a spiritual awakening in her memoir Vegetarian Vampires. Then again, you may be more into the Fifty Shades of Grey trend and want some page-turning romance. In that case, try Winterflood’s Passion by Diana Thompson.

 

The Bowral Bodice-Ripper

When I read the first draft of Diana Thompson's just released Winterflood's Passion I dubbed it the 'Bowral bodice-ripper' a name that has stuck much to the bemusement of the author, I'm sure. An article in the Southern Highland News and the program of the Southern Highlands Writers Festival (where Winterflood's Passion was recently launched) both picked up on the term with unfettered glee at having a novel set in Bowral, a jewel of the Southern Highlands region of New South Wales. Who can blame them? It is a beautiful place and a very apt setting for the passionate love affair between the fictional young and beautiful widow, Charlotte Ranleigh and the dashing, playboy art entrepreneur, Daniel Winterflood. The bodice-ripper part is not so easily explained, except to say that, not being an aficionado of the romance genre; I had no idea before reading Winterflood's Passion that there would be so much explicit sex in a romance novel. Silly me! Hot sex is writ large here - and stirring stuff it is too without being kinky, dark or dysfunctional. The bodice-ripper term refers not so much to the timeframe (bodice-ripper inferring an historical or regency theme) but to the unbridled lust and its many earth-moving incarnations of which Diana writes so skilfully in this, her first novel.

It's certainly not my intention to leave you with the impression that plentiful, well-written sex is the only thing that attracted me to this book as a publisher and a reader. Like most things in life it is far more complicated and multi-factorial than that - so please, let me attempt to explain.

Firstly, Diana's work is very descriptive and I found that really drew me in.  From the herbs that Charlotte grows in her garden to the Aubusson rug and Margaret Olley painting in the living room, to the detailed description of the furnishings in Daniel's bachelor lair in Sydney and every meal they consume together - Diana's attention to detail is, dare I say it, very seductive. A vivid picture is painted around the main protagonists, how they look, feel and live, that I found myself quite spontaneously seeing them in my mind's eye – even wondering who might play them on screen.

The second thing I love about Winterflood's Passion is that Diana doesn't push the boundaries of fantasy too far.  Sure there's escapism here - beautiful, wealthy people living in luxurious surrounds with fabulous careers - what's not to like? But in amongst all that Diana deftly weaves in some strong correlations with anyone’s real life - a tragic death, misplaced guilt, thwarted dreams and self-doubt. All of these make an appearance and help to ground what would otherwise be fantasy characters that one only reads about in, well, romance novels.

And finally, the greatest appeal of Winterflood's Passion is the context of true love in which the mind-blowing sex is set. Call me old fashioned but reading about sadistic or violent sexual encounters that are way beyond my understanding or aspiration is not my idea of a rollicking good roll-in-the-hay read. Diana's novel strikes a brilliant balance between the raunchy, wanton, get-on-board-or-get-out-of-the-way sex and exquisite love-making between two people with a very deep connection.

Diana Thompson is a long-time friend of mine and a highly acclaimed jewellery designer in her own right.  To my way of thinking, Di epitomises the person who is strangely compelled to write and who's actually sat down and done it while carrying on with life as normal. She is the very type of writer we had in mind when we founded For Pity Sake Publishing and the fact that our fledgling publishing house has been able to produce her first novel brings me more joy that I can adequately express here.

Bowral bodice-ripper it is.

 

 

Buy your copy of Diana's debut novel Winterflood's Passion here!

Brave New World

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly - they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932. Whenever you read something that makes you question everything, it usually stays with you long after you’ve finished the book; irritating you, challenging you, and unnerving you to the point of insanity. Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World had exactly this effect on me, after I was forced to read it by a friend who told me it was an actual literary necessity.

Within this frighteningly distorted, futuristic society, the people within have been artificially created in test tubes; altered, so that when they are born, they are easily segregated into social class by their varying degrees of intellectual capacity and physical ability. There is a recreational drug frequently used called ‘Soma’, which provides a hallucinogenic holiday from reality, or in other words, a smart way to nullify and control the people. Sexual promiscuity is not only encouraged for men and women, it is embedded in their social conditioning from childhood; so much so that any stigma still present in our lives on the subject is completely removed in theirs.

Can you imagine it? Huxley’s writing forces you to, through his talented ability to paint a picture that raises the hair on your neck; as twisted as this version of the future is, you can almost see it as a possibility.

The story follows Bernard Marx (yes, the last name is a play on the famous social economist Karl Marx, co-author of the 1848 Communist Manifesto, drawing attention to the criticisms Marx makes of society’s class system) and his struggles in his society; his physical deformities set him aside from the perfect biological constructions of his peers. When he visits a reservation, a primitive section of society where traditional values of religion, monogamy and community still exists, he and those around him are confronted with fear-provoking truths of their falsified existence.

This novel’s beauty lies in the disturbing wake up call. It poses such questions as: is absolutely everything we believe, even the commonalities of our nature which we have been dictated to understand as biological truths, a huge pile of lies? No one likes to think they are being manipulated or trained to be a certain way, but Huxley makes you realise that not everything is as it seems.

Huxley’s words have pierced my brain, allowing uncertainty to tumble through in its wake; but I’m okay with it. To read Brave New World is to commit an act of bravery in itself, but one you will be genuinely glad you did.

I promise you, after reading this novel, you will never look at your world the same.