Passionate about Reading

Today, the latest in the series Guest Posts from fellow bloggers on the subject of Passion, whether literary or personal, which I’ll be posting regularly on a Thursday. If you would like to contribute, please drop me a line at kasia_oz (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Today we have a great post from Shannon at Isle of Books, who blogs intelligently and insightfully about both her writing journey and her reading – and it’s wonderfully clear how passionate she is about reading, although she has some worrying predictions about its future.

Hope you enjoy Shannon’s Passion Post.

When Kasia asked me to write about one of my passions, my first thought was, which one? My list of passions grows longer and deeper the older I get. By the time I’m an old lady, I fully expect to have more passions than I can remember. Some of the ones currently topping the list are: writing, horses, dressage, my horse, my dog, water conservation, books, and style. Ultimately, I chose to talk about reading.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on my blog, you probably know that I want to write books. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and while the whys and hows of my career choices have changed, I’ve always wanted to write. I have a long list of reasons why, but I’ll stick to the one that dovetails with this assignment.

People don’t love to read anymore. I want to change that.

Right now, you’re probably getting ready to leave me a comment and yell at me. Okay. I’m young. What do I know? Probably nothing. But what I do know is that, as I’ve grown up, I’ve listened to more and more of my peers voice disgruntled opinions about books and reading.

“I hate reading.”

“Reading is boring.”

“Why do I have to read this?”

“I don’t have time for this.”

Many of the people I grew up with, even the ones who liked to read when we were little, just don’t enjoy it anymore.

I find this supremely sad. And yet, if you look around, it’s really no surprise.

In the US, we don’t stress reading and writing. We stress math and science. Science and math. As long as you’re marginally literate, that’s fine. It’s okay that you can barely spell most words. It’s okay that you can hardly throw an essay together. Don’t worry about it. You’re the future of our country. Math and science.

Which isn’t to say those things aren’t important. They are.

I just don’t see why certain subjects are deemed “more important” than others. During my sophomore year of college, I went on an apartment tour with my roommate. The guy who was leading our tour, maybe five or so years older than us, asked us what we were studying. She said biology. I said writing. He glances at both of us and says to her, “So yours is harder”.

Needless to say, we didn’t rent at that complex.

Let me tell you another story.

‘Summer reading’ courtesy of ‘’

When I was a kid, they thought I was almost too dumb to go to kindergarten. Whatever tests they gave me, I apparently didn’t do well on. You know, because testing five-year-olds is oh-so effective. Anyway, my mom got them to take me, instead of keeping me back a year. On the second day of kindergarten, they taught us to read. And I was in love. I read everything I could get my hands on. The books for kids. National geographic. The tv guide. The newspaper. Cookbooks. Gossip magazines. Dictionaries. Whatever book was lying around, whether or not it was appropriate to me. I ate up words as often as I could get them.

You know what happened to that kindergartener? In middle school, she was placed into honors classes for all the core subjects. In high school, she took honors and AP classes, before graduating as salutatorian of her class (second highest GPA). In her final year of college, she was in her department’s honors program.

To what do I equate this success?


Yes, folks, that’s why I’m passionate about reading. Because I firmly believe that it changed my destiny. Because I learned to read and to read well and to love it, I became the person I am today.

The person on the other end of the computer telling you how, of all the passions she could write about, she chose to talk about reading.

The Artemis Effect – the real thing!

After much impatient waiting, the final proofs of my novel ‘The Artemis Effect‘ have arrived in the post! I can’t say how odd and exciting it is to hold the real thing in my hands.

Hardback available from Lulu

The hardcover version (via Lulu), and paperback (via Createspace) arrived within days of one another, and I’m very happy with the quality of both.

I’m hoping to run some giveaways on Goodreads soon, but in the meantime, I’ll be thoroughly reviewing the proofs to make sure that there are no serious bloopers in there.

Interior of paperback (and my fingers!)

If you think you might like a copy (and I’m more than happy to sign and dedicate them if you’d like), please drop me a line at kasia_oz(at)hotmail(dot)com. Could be a great Christmas present for that sci-fi fan you know! 😉

Paperback from Createspace

Literary Passion

Today, the latest in the series Guest Posts from fellow bloggers on the subject of Passion, whether literary or personal, which I’ll be posting regularly on a Thursday. If you would like to contribute, please drop me a line at kasia_oz (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Today we have a wonderful post from Austin Bishop at The Bishop Review, who blogs his reviews of books (including from Indie authors), film, television series and everything else sci fi! Austin is also a budding writer, and I’d encourage you to check out Bishop Reviews.

Hope you enjoy Austin’s Passion Post.


Passion has almost become a dirty word. You say it and most people automatically think something sexual. It’s not dirty or inappropriate at all and we all have at least one passion. I could write thousands upon thousands of words about my passions, but I fear that I would bore you after a couple thousand words. So I’ll just talk about one of my passions, mostly because I can write so much about it. I love Science Fiction. Crazy, right?

Science Fiction, or Sci-fi, is such a broad term. The film Looper is Sci-fi and yet so is Asimov’s short story collection, I, Robot. I could name a million other works of fiction from film, television and novels, but you probably get the picture. For years different authors have helped to build the genre and it continues to improve and be one of a kind. If I had to pick my favorite Sci-fi series, the one I’m most passionate about, it would be Doctor Who. Now I’ve wanted to make this post pertain mostly to written fiction, but Doctor Who is just that. While it has spent about 50 years on the small television screens in a wide range of nations, it has also been put into some of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read. I think the series is proof of what Science Fiction can be; it can inspire hope and give its readers (or viewers) a sobering look at the dark side of mankind.

Now some might be thinking, “How can you be passionate for a genre when there are so many terrible books out there?” My answer is that I don’t necessarily look at Sci-fi as a genre. I mean you can have Sci-fi comedies, like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and you can have dramas, horrors and many other types of fiction. I look at Sci-fi and see salt and pepper, Sci-fi done right can take a good story of love or pain or anything and turn it into an epic tale. I think bad Science Fiction comes from inexperience and lack of passion. Now, I’m not saying every first time author’s sci-fi novel is bad, that is very far from the truth. What I am saying, though, is with more and more experience come better and better fiction.

Passion is an odd thing, it can make us swoon or make us bury our head into our pillow screaming. My passion for writing has given me many happy moments in life, but sometimes you question your passion. I’ve written several Sci-fi short stories, they’re pretty good too. Not amazing, but they’re OK. Like many writers, I’ve submitted my work for review and publication. Now most writers know what I mean when I say that there is nothing worse than receiving your first rejection. It feels like getting dumped by your significant other as you get hit by a school bus. But this rejection is good as it proves you have passion, true passion, if you persevere though that rejection.

You see what I mean when I said that I have a lot of passions? I started with talking about science-fiction and then moved straight into writing. I’m contemplating stopping right now, but if you’re still reading this, you may still want to read more. So I will continue.

Life isn’t worth living without something you feel passionate for. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t be passionate for something because it’s “stupid”. Everything sounds stupid if you think about it hard enough, but don’t let that stop you from loving something. If you have a passion for writing, don’t let co-workers, bosses or teachers tell you that you can’t make it. If you love reading Star Wars or Doctor Who novels then read them. Look, I’ll be honest, the last three books I read were Doctor Who. If anyone asked me what I’ve read, that’s what I’ll tell them. Don’t be ashamed of how nerdy Sci-fi makes you look, it’s because you are nerdy. And nerds are awesome!

Now I want to go back to talking about the broadness of Sci-fi, last topic I promise. Sci-fi is so broad that it can really pull people in from different walks of life. Some people like time travel, and only time travel. Others enjoy the “soft” sci-fi alien invasion. Others enjoy hard sci-fi, complicated fiction that one might have to reread to fully grasp. There’s even more than that, there’s space travel, robots and many more. I think it might just be this broadness that really makes me love science fiction.

So, it seems I’m done here. I hope you enjoyed what I had to say, and if not, I’m sorry you’re still reading this. 😛 Lastly, I’d like to thank Kasia James for asking me to do this. This has been a lot of fun and I hope to do more in the future.

Follow Austin at: The Bishop Review

Twitter: @AuthorABender

Book review – Plan for Chaos

As a big fan of John Wyndham, I was very excited to find ‘Plan for Chaos’ in my local bookshop. It was written at the same time as ‘Day of the Triffids’ (about 1951), but has never previously been published.

To be brutally honest, I can see why. Although the story does immerse the reader after a while, and it is hard to put it down, there are also some major flaws.

Firstly, and most difficult to overcome, is the voice of the narrator, as it rightly points out in the introduction. Prior to publication of ‘Day of the Triffids’, Wyndham had been writing largely for the American audience, and ‘Plan for Chaos’ seems to still be aimed at these readers. However, the voice of Johnny Farthing is about as believable as a plastic daffodil. The later attempt at an Australian accent, is, stone the crows, cobber, blessedly brief.

It was actually a very powerful message for me, that even great writers like Wyndham can also struggle with achieving the right ‘voice’.  It is evident that he comes into his own comfort zone much more in a British voice in later books, and I have always admired him for the simplicity of language in which he manages to convey such complex ideas.

The other issue I had with this book was the unquestioned assumption that all women, given the choice, would have as many babies as possible, and that no matter how devoted to their work and ideals, they are fundamentally unhappy and unsatisfied if they cannot have a nice stable husband and brace of babies. Now, I know that this book was written in the early 50’s, and perhaps in another writer I would just put this down to the attitude of the times, but I had come to expect more forward thinking from Wyndham.

Anyway, with plenty of confusing cloning, stealth technology, and Nazis zooming around in flying saucers, this is still worth a read as a bit of a romp, and also as an interesting historical document. It conveys rather well the paranoia of the post-war world, and the fear developing around the start of the cold war.

Rating: Three and a half stars.

Halloween story update

On Monday, I posted about a Halloween short story of mine, which is available free on Ether, called ‘Balancing Darkness’.





Unfortunately, due to a technical glitch, when I posted, it wasn’t there! Sorry to anyone who tried to download it.

It is now up and running, and available on the Ether Books App. There are 61 other stories, so maybe go and have a browse and see which ones you like best!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. 🙂

Is sci-fi a downer?

Is dystopia closer than we think?

Have you seen the film ‘Looper’? I did recently, and rather enjoyed it, although it is fairly gory. It could have been much gorier, so I’m glad that they kept the violence to only the non-gratuituious (if that is a word?).

Discussing it later with a friend, I mentioned that it painted a rather dark view of the future, and he said:

But isn’t that what science fiction is for? If it doesn’t show a dark future, how will we know what to avoid?

Now, I grant you that quite a bit of science fiction is indeed rather dystopian, my own novel ‘The Artemis Effect’ included.  There are those who would say that it needs to be to create the conflict necessary to a story. But is this true?

Reviewing my bookshelf, it seems that in interesting trend appears. The more serious works: those which truly do try to look into the crystal ball of the future, do indeed paint rather a dark picture. There are plenty of post-apocalyptic stories, and ones where science or society has gone badly wrong in various ways, destroying either the environment, or any kind of positive social structure, or both.

To be honest, if you pay too much attention to the news, it can be hard to see any future but a dark one. Happy headlines just don’t seem to happen.

However, the notable exceptions on the bookshelf are those which take a more light-hearted view: I’m thinking now of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, and ‘The Road to Mars’ by Eric Idle. ‘Red Dwarf’ even.  Are these books less valid versions of science fiction, just because they are frivolous? Are they any less likely to be accurate predictions the future? Not necessarily. ‘Hitchhiker’s’, as I’ve said before, is in many ways rather philosophical, and has an innate understanding of human nature, which is not at its core uniformly evil.

I’m wondering if it is maybe the easier road for science fiction to take, to explore a dystopian world, than to try to provide an invigorating story within a world which is a great improvement on our own? Does the fantasy genre do a better job of dealing with utopias than sci-fi?

What are your thoughts? Love to hear from you. 🙂

The Fear of the New

Recently, I was fortunate enough to receive a book voucher for a big bookshop in the city. I love spending these things – book purchasing without guilt! Of course, I do tend to go over my allotted amount, but spread over a few books, that still makes them great value. When I got my haul home, I stacked them up on the table to gloat for a bit, and realised that none of them are by authors that I haven’t read before. They are all books by authors I already adore.  As someone who has just released a book (‘The Artemis Effect’), that lead me to some serious soul-searching.

Why would someone try my book, or take a chance on me as a new author?

When I do try a new author, what leads me to do so?

Is the cost of the book important?

Are people with different personalities more likely to take the chance on something new?

Does it make a difference whether the author is Indie or Traditionally published?

When I try a new author, there are certainly a few things which influence my choice.

Often I’ll take a chance on something new because it’s discounted. Most of the books I bought with my voucher were in the $20 plus category, and for me that’s a lot to fork out for something I might not enjoy. However, at the library, second-hand bookshop, or in the $5 pile, and I’m much more likely to give it a go. Once I’ve discovered something I do enjoy, I’m likely to stick with that author, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Curiously, a book being free (as in  Kindle Select Program release) does not make me more likely to try it – I suppose there is something in my head still which still whispers “You get what you pay for…”

I admit that I am shallow enough that a good cover can suck me in. Well, at least to picking it up in the first place, but if the blurb or section I scan don’t entice me, then the cover alone is not enough to make me branch out. A good example is David Michael Lukas’ ‘The Oracle of Stamboul’, which first attracted me because of its gorgeous cover art. Gave it a try, and what a find!

Being in the literary field, I do read a lot of reviews, and some of them have at least prompted me to add those books to be ‘To Read’ list, although to date I don’t think I’ve ever actually read any of them. Maybe that’s just laziness on my part. I sincerely hope that other people are more influenced by reviews than I am, or I feel it will be very hard to get the word out there about the new book. If there is an e-book I’m interested in anyway, then I’ll read the reviews before I buy it. Curiously, those reviews don’t have to be universally positive: one I read recently which stated that it was ‘gritty’ fantasy actually inclined me ion the book’s favour, as I’d probably prefer that to fluffy fantasy.

I have certainly picked up and read books by people I’ve met through blogging – most recently ‘Lupa’ by Marie Marshall, and also the novella ‘Prince of Graves’ by W.E. Linde. I’m only a couple of pages into Lupa, but I can highly recommend ‘Prince of Graves’, even though it is not normally the type of fantasy I read. Give it a go!

As to the question of different personalities – surely this must come into play. There are some people who adore routine, and feel lost without it. Others thrill at being avant-garde and cutting edge. I suppose that it may come down to your risk-taking profile. I’m perhaps best described as a calculated risk-taker. I’m done lots of physically risky things, (like parachuting, white and black water rafting, hang-gliding), and every time I tell my mother that I’m going on holiday, she asks, “Which dangerous place are you going this time?”. On the other hand, large scale public speaking scares the pants off me. However, trying a new author is a much smaller scale risk. It’s really a risk that you’ll be wasting your time, that most precious resource. Picking up (and persisting) with a bad book may take up time which you could have spent doing something much more fulfilling or enjoyable.

This point leads me to one close to my heart. I’ve often read comments from people (and indeed book reviewers) who say that they won’t read an Indie published book, as they’ve been burnt too many times in the past. Bad editing, poor spelling and formatting all detract from a story, and in some cases make it next to unreadable. They say that this dross will sink to the bottom of the ‘Amazon’ flood, but is this true? I’m sure that there must be great Indie books out there, wallowing in the silt at the bottom, who never had a chance because they were new and the authors never managed to break the ice of their anonymity. The trouble is finding them.

I would genuinely love to hear what factors make you more likely to try a new author, and also what makes you cautious! 🙂

Related posts:

Trying Something New – Psychology Today

Every New Author’s Greatest Enemy (and How to Beat It) – Jeff Goins

Book review: The Illustrated Man

I have a confession to make.

Up until a few weeks ago, I’d never read any Ray Bradbury. I saw a lot of the blog posts when he died in June this year, and was impressed by the depth of affection and respect readers of sci-fi held for him, but was immune to the tide of weeping and wailing. However, I saw that it was high time that I remedied this deficiency in my education.

For anyone out there as ignorant as I, the premise of ‘The Illustrated Man’ is that an unfortunate carnival performer is tattooed by a witch from the future. The tattoos, although of great beauty, all move at night, each telling its own tale. And on his back is a place left free of adornment, in which you will see your own future…

The book is a collection of 16 short stories, all quite different, loosely threaded together by the idea that they all are represented on the body of the tattooed performer. They vary from dark and hopeless (Kaleidoscope, which describes what goes through men’s minds as they fall through space to their deaths), to social commentary (The Other Foot, in which racism has been allowed to prevail to the extent that black and white people live on different planets), to the faintly ridiculous, although still menacing (The Veld, where lions created by a cyber-nursery eat parents).

One of the stories which has particularly stuck with me personally is The Long Rain. It so painfully and accurately describes the mental anguish that men on Venus undergo as it never, ever stops raining. Their hair and skin become bleached with the relentless water, and as they trudge along, lost, they are unable to sleep with the rain drumming on their skulls. When they finally find refuge, a Sun Dome, it is smashed, and the rain beats in where it should be dry and warm.

The lieutenant felt the cold rain on his cheeks and on his neck and on his moving arms. The cold was beginning to seep into his lungs. He felt the rain on his ears, on his eyes, on his legs.

‘I didn’t sleep last night,’ he said.

‘Who could? Who has? When? How many nights have we slept? Thirty nights, thirty days! Who can sleep with rain slamming their head, banging away…I’d give anything for a hat. Anything at all, just so it wouldn’t hit my head any more.”

‘The Illustrated Man’ was first published in 1952, and the stories do read as being ‘of their time’. That is, they are beautifully written and crafted, and don’t rely a great deal on hard science facts, as we understand them today. There are a few spots where the representation of women is a little dated, as you might expect, but no so badly that it is offensive to a modern reader.

After a couple of  stories, Bradbury drops the pretence of stringing the stories together with tattoos, and we don’t hear of the Illustrated Man again until the (somewhat predictable) Epilogue.

I suppose what I’m really interested in, as someone working on an anthology of stories, is whether this device works? Do we need an overarching theme to bring a group of stories together? I seem to recall once reading a collection of stories which linked them all with a map.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Reading poem

Ephemeral – courtesy of

Why do we hunger for stories

which transport us

envelop us, drown us

in different worlds?

Cocooned in pages,

their power of persuasion

so invincible

that we willingly succumb

to tales of other lives.

Is it because the worlds in our dreams

tantalizingly glimpsed

are no more than

Vaselined memories?

E-book revolution makes a mess in the library

I found this article the ‘The Age’ today, which discusses the tangle which libraries and publishers are getting themselves into over the rise of ebooks.

I’d encourage you to give it a read:

E-book revolution hinders the shelf life of a library.

It seems that publishers are charging libraries huge amounts for ebooks, which seems a bit mad. However, I can see that if libraries are allowed to loan out a single copy of a book to many readers at once, the publishers are justifiably a bit worried about their profits. I dare say that authors are also a bit concerned about loss of royalties, although personally I’d be pretty happy if some additional people read and enjoyed my work.

Perhaps one way out of the mess is to manage ebooks in libraries the same way that some software is dealt with in an office situation: that is, with a finite number of licenses. That way, libraries could only loan out as many copies as they have at any one time, publishers would be protected, and so would not feel the need to charge libraries exorbitant prices for their books.

Popular books would require more licenses to satisfy demand, but also libraries might be able to take advantage of the generally lower cost of ebooks to make sure that they had a more extensive collection of books. Those works by unknown authors, or with slightly obscure but nonetheless fascinating content to a select few could be more easily available, without even the need to reserve shelf space.

What do you think? Is there an aspect of this issue which I don’t understand? If so, I’m more than happy to chat about it! 🙂

Courtesy of Jeff Koterba at the Omaha World Herald, via