Archive for October, 2012

The Best Book of 2012 is…

The best book of 2012, as voted by Christchurch kids is…The 26-Storey Tree House by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton.  It came 1st, Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked was 2nd, Wonder was 3rd and The One and Only Ivan was 4th.

Thanks to everyone who voted.  The winner of the Best Books Prize Pack is Jackson.

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The joy of not writing

Is there a greater joy than the act of doing anything other than the thing that you’re supposed to be doing?

Last week I was supposed to be writing. But instead I was on the open road, tootling along country lanes around regional Victoria in the bottom right-hand corner of Australia. I was on tour, with all the glamour that the term ‘on tour’ implies. That is, not much. But a week of tootling about in a small Hyundai sedan and getting to meet a bunch of enthusiastic young readers was a joy.

When it comes to Victoria, I haven’t been much outside the capital city of Melbourne, so I was quite looking forward to seeing a bit of new territory. I quickly realised that regional Victoria is much the same as regional anywhere in Australia — the streets are broad, the locals are friendly and school kids are essentially identical regardless of location. That is, they’re glad of any disruption to maths lessons caused by a visiting author. And they’re always up for a laugh.

I spent a very enjoyable hour or so with the kids of Bairnsdale Primary School 754. Apparently in Victoria they number their schools according to the order in which they were founded. Sort of like how they number members of the Australian cricket team. And German prisoner of war camps. Anyway, Bairnsdale celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2014 and what a great little school it is. And this is in no small part to the fact that it has a school dog. His name is Ralph, he has his photo on the notice board alongside that of the principal and the teachers, and he is an important member of the school community.


Ralph is a golden retriever, Labrador, something undetermined cross. And that is about the only cross thing about him. A more placid pooch I am yet to encounter.

Ralph attends classes, mostly those of his owner and teacher from year 6, and is a big help when kids need a circuit breaker. When someone is getting a bit frustrated or on edge with some issue or another at school, they take Ralph for a walk around the oval. They tell him their secrets, talk through their problems and by the time they get back, everyone has calmed down. It’s a brilliant idea.

Ralph sat in on my presentation to the year 5 and 6 kids, and he behaved pretty much the same way most kids do in my sessions. He fell asleep under a desk.

He did come to life when I called for volunteers for a mind reading experiment. But it was no use choosing Ralph for that. He knows how to keep a secret.

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Guest Author: Joseph Delaney’s Top 5 Scariest Creatures in the Spook’s Stories

Joseph Delaney is the author of one of my favourite series, The Spook’s Apprentice.  It’s seriously creepy and full of all sorts of horrible creatures.  As the Spook’s Apprentice, Thomas has to keep the County safe from the evil that lurks in the dark.  The latest book in the series, Spook’s: Slither’s Tale, has just been released, and to celebrate Joseph has joined us today to talk about his Top 5 scariest creatures in the Spook’s stories.

The Haggenbrood

This creature is used in ritual combat to determine the outcome of disputes between citizens of Valkarky (See ‘Slither’).  It has three selves which share a common mind and they are, for all intents and purposes, one creature. It is fast and ferocious with fearsome teeth and claws.


This is the witch assassin of the Malkin Clan (See ‘The Spook’s Battle’ and also ‘I am Grimalkin’). She is deadly with blades and stores powerful dark magic in the thumb-bones that she cuts from her dead enemies with her snippy scissors in order to wear around her neck.

The Bane

This creature from ‘The Spook’s Curse’ is trapped behind a silver gate in a labyrinth of dark tunnels under Priestown Cathedral. It is a shape-shifter with a terrible power; the Bane is able to press a victim so hard that his blood and bones are smeared into the cobbles.


This ‘Lord of Winter’ from ‘The Spook’s Secret’ has the power to plunge the world into another Ice Age. If summoned from the dark he can freeze you solid and shatter you into pieces like an ice stalactite falling on to a slab of rock.


She is the most powerful of the water witches (See The Spook’s Mistake). Fathered by the Fiend, she has a blood-filled eye which is usually closed, the lids fixed together with a sharp thin bone. But anyone she gazes upon with that eye is immediately paralyzed and she is able to drink that victim’s blood at her leisure.

Best wishes,
Joseph Delaney

Reserve your copy of the latest book in the Spook’s Apprentice series, Slither’s Tale, from your library now.

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Take a ticket to oblivion

Imagine a room full of people.

Something like a university lecture hall; one of the really big ones. Tier upon tier of seats with those little fold-up wing desks that drive teachers nuts because kids can’t help but muck around with them rather than listening to the sage on the stage below.

Okay. So we’ve got our room. It’s choc-a-bloc with people. Hundreds of them. And they all have at least one thing in common. They have assembled on this particular day because they all want to become authors.

More than anything else in the world, they want to write books. They want to see their work on bookshelves in bookshops, available for download from online retailers and, most importantly, they want other people to read them.

Now, in front of this room full of eager scribes stands a lecturer — man or woman, it doesn’t matter. This lecturer is one of those no nonsense types who could easily have taken up a career in insurance assessment, or death row security.

He or she fixes the attendees with a terminal stare. ‘Hands in the air everyone who has started writing a manuscript.’

A forest of arms reaches for the ceiling.

‘Keep ‘em up if you’ve finished writing the first draft.’

Timber! Half the hands fall.

The lecturer sucks in a lungful of air and yells, ‘Unless your hand is still in the air, leave. NOW.’

Much swinging of wing desks, much scraping of feet, much muttering of curses as the rejected slope to the exits.


The lecturer waits until the last of the castoffs is gone and the doors have swung closed. She glares out at those remaining. ‘Who here has taken their manuscript through at least three re-writes?’

About half the hands go up. The lecturer points to the doors. ‘The rest of you — out!’

Scraping, muttering, fuming, they leave.

The lecturer goes on.

‘Who has a problem with rejection? Criticism? Crippling self-doubt? Out! Out! Out! Are you obsessive? Hermitic? Self-destructive — NO? Then go away.’

As the dust settles and an eerie silence fills the hall, there are only two people still seated at their desks. They both have the lean and hungry look of Olympic athletes, vying in a race with just one medal on offer. The lecturer fixes them with a steely eye.

‘Are you two willing to earn about a fifth of the average national wage, have no job security and absolutely no guarantee of critical or commercial success?’

The two people nod like starving dogs, manic looks in their eyes.

One of them speaks. ‘Should we give up everything and become writers?’

The lecturer considers them carefully, then shrugs. ‘You’re clearly no other use to society, so why not?’

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Who Could That Be at This Hour by Lemony Snicket


Before you consider reading “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you curious about what is happening in a seaside town that is no longer by the sea?
  2. Do you want to know about a stolen item that wasn’t stolen at all?
  3. Do you really think that’s any of your business? Why? What kind of a person are you? Really?
  4. Who is standing behind you?

Who Could That Be at This Hour? is uncanny, peculiar and outlandish, all words which here mean ‘quite strange.’  It’s the first book in Lemony Snicket’s new series, in which he gives an account of his apprenticeship in a secret organisation, ‘in a town overshadowed by a sinister conspiracy, culminating in some unnerving and troublesome truths that lay buried for a number of years, while people were busy doing somthing else.’  The story is addictive and once you start, it’s very hard to put down.  It’s set in a strange little town, containing ‘a sea without water and a forest without trees,’ and it’s full of bizarre events and curious characters.

Nobody in this story is quite who they first appear to be.  There is Lemony’s chaperone, S. Theodora Markson (don’t ask what the S stands for) who is not as competent or highly skilled as she portrays, the mysterious, coffee-drinking Ellington Feint, the shadowy Hangfire, and even Lemony Snicket himself.  I love the way that Lemony Snicket describes some of the weird people he meets, like Stew,

He looked like the child of a man and a log, with a big, thick neck and hair that looked like a bowl turned upside down.  He had a slingshot tucked into his pocket and a nasty look tucked into his eyes.

My favourite characters in the story are Pip and Squeak, the two brothers who drive the Bellerophon Taxi.  They are supposedly filling in for their father, but they’re so short that one steers while the other sits on the floor and pushes the pedals.

If you love mystery and adventure stories, but also want a bit of a laugh, Who Could Be at This Hour? is the perfect book for you.  Grab your copy now from your library or bookshop.

5 out of 5 stars

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Enter the Billionaire Writing Competition

The Crystal CodeTo celebrate the release of The Crystal Code, book four in Richard Newsome’s award-winning Billionaire series, Text Publishing are running a writing competition for students aged 10–13 years.

The winner’s school will receive a $1,000 credit voucher and the winning writer a $100 credit voucher to spend in one New Zealand bookshop, courtesy of Text Publishing.

To be part of the competition, you must write a story of no more than 500 words about what would happen if you inherited billions of dollars.

The competition is open now and entries have to be in by Friday 9 November.  For more information and to download an entry form, visit the Text Publishing website.

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Ssshhh … genius at work

Read our 2011 Star Authors' postsShut up.

No, really. Just shut up.

Zip the lip. Bolt your cake hole. Button your trap. Fermez la bouche.

That’s better.

Now turn off your iPod. Pull the earbuds out.

Now, do you hear that?

That strange whooshing noise in your ears?

That’s the sound of your brain saying thank you. It’s the sound of your thoughts taking shape. It’s a soundtrack of what takes place when you make the effort to switch off from the incessant attack on the most assaulted of our senses.

You can block your nose (smell), you can close your eyes (sight), you can shut your mouth (taste) and you can stand on one foot and make like a scarecrow (touch). But it is very difficult to block out the sounds of our everyday lives.

However, when you do stop yakking and toss the music in the top drawer, it is amazing what you can hear.

Notions being born. Pinpoints of logic being connected. Stories ripening like a marinating t-bone.


For many years I worked in Sydney, driving my car the fifty minutes to the office each day. To pass the time, I listened to the radio. Chat. Songs. Advertisements. Noise.

I had been tinkering in my spare time on what was to become my first book, The Billionaire’s Curse. I’d do a bit of writing on weekends or late at night, if I could muster the energy. But I wasn’t making much progress. I could never find the time to think about the story and how it should develop.

Then one night, as I was driving home from work, I switched off the car radio.

It was an eerie experience. What was this thing? This thing called silence.

Then, like some rusted piece of machinery that had lain dormant and unloved under a tarp in the back of the workshop, my brain fired into life.

Action scenes revealed themselves. Lines of dialogue played out in my ears. Characters wandered in and introduced themselves.

It was astounding what was revealed once I shut out all the competing noise. That drive home soon became my favourite part of the day. When I could be alone. Just my thoughts and me.

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