2009 LA Times Book Prize Winners

The 2009 Book Prize winners were announced in the 2010 ceremony on the 23rd of April 2010.  The LA Times award the Book Prize within various categories. Winner of the Best Fiction Book:

A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias

“A courtship, long marriage, and then an agonizing death, becomes a heroic meditation on the unruly nature of love. The book alternates between past and present until two lives are fully seen. There’s no easy resolution here but rather an ennobling picture of lives lived over decades, in sickness and health, brought vibrantly to life.” –2009 Fiction Judges


Winner of the Best First Fiction Book:

American Rust by Philipp Meyer

“With deep compassion, the lives of two boyhood friends and their families are stripped bare in this first novel set in a dying steel town in Pennsylvania. In the bucolic landscape where ruined factories are stark reminders of the lack of opportunities, Philipp Meyer charts the aspirations, the failures, and the moral dilemmas his characters face as they’re drawn into an ever-strangling morass of murder and the confusions of class as their abiding loyalties are tested.” –2009 First Fiction Judges

To see the other category winners please follow the link: http://events.latimes.com/bookprizes/


2009 LA Times Book Prize Finalists

The Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalists have been announced.  The LA Times Book Prizes are awarded within various categories.  Here are the finalists:


Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment

The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam

Blame by Michelle Huneven

A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert

A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias


First Fiction:

An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah

Tinkers by Paul Harding

American Rust by Philipp Meyer

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower


For all the other category finalists visit:


2010 Hugo Award Nominees

The World Science Fiction Convention has announced the ballot for the 2010 Hugo Awards.

The 2010 Hugo Award Winners will be announced in Melbourne, Australia during Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention.  The Awards Ceremony will take place on Sunday 5 September 2010.

Best Novel

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

The City & The City by China Miéville

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

Wake by Robert J. Sawyer

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Best Novella

“Act One” by Nancy Kress

The God Engines by John Scalzi

“Palimpsest” by Charles Stross

Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow

“Vishnu at the Cat Circus” by Ian McDonald

The Women of Nell Gwynne’s by Kage Baker



2010 Orange Prize Shortlist

The 2010 Orange Prize Shortlist has been announced.  One of the shortlisted books will be very familiar to you as it has won loads of other awards – let’s see if it wins the Orange Prize too…

The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey


Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson Series

Patricia Briggs’ latest edition to the Mercy Thompson Series is now available and is currently holding the number one spot on the NY Times Best Sellers’ List.  I had not heard of either the author or this series of novels before Silver Borne, the fifth novel in the series, hit the best sellers’ list at the end of last week.  The cover caught my eye and I decided to check out what these novels are about and this is what I found out:

Mercedes Thompson is a native American mechanic with a special secret.  Her world is filled with werewolves, vampires, trolls and gremlins all of which are forced out of hiding by our modern technologies.  Mercy is herself a coyote shapeshifter and the series follows her on her adventures with these otherworld beings.

This sounded very interesting to me so I went to Patricia Briggs’ official website to get more information and possibly chapter excerpts.  The series consists of five novels thus far; Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed & Silver Borne.  The sixth installment will be released in 2011.

Moon Called Blood Bound Iron Kissed bonecrossed75   silver-borne

You can tell if a novel is worth your time by reading an excerpt.  You’ll want to know before you buy the first book if the author’s writing style is captivating for you.  So I have included a part of the excerpt for Moon Called from the official website.  All the other novels have excerpts posted on the website so you can go and have a read.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Moon Called:

I didn’t realize he was a werewolf at first. My nose isn’t at its best when surrounded by axle grease and burnt oil — and it’s not like there are a lot of stray werewolves running around Eastern Washington. So when someone made a polite noise near my feet to get my attention I thought he was a customer.

I was burrowed under the engine compartment of a Jetta settling a rebuilt transmission into its new home. One of the drawbacks in running a one-woman garage was that I had to stop and start every time the phone rang or a customer stopped by. It made me grumpy — which isn’t a good way to deal with customers. My faithful office boy and tool rustler had gone off to college, and I hadn’t replaced him yet — it’s hard to find someone who will do all the jobs I don’t want to.

“Be with you in a sec,” I said, trying not to sound snappish. I do my best not to scare off my customers if I can help it.

Transmission jacks be damned, the only way to get a transmission into an old Jetta is with muscle. Sometimes being a female is useful in my line of work — my hands are smaller so I can get them places a man can’t. However, even weightlifting and karate can’t make me as strong as a strong man. Usually leverage can compensate, but sometimes there’s no substitute for muscle and I had just barely enough to get the job done.

Grunting with effort, I held the transmission where it belonged with one hand and with the other I slipped the first bolt in and tightened it. I wasn’t finished, but the transmission would stay where it was while I dealt with my customer.

I took a deep breath and smiled once brightly for practice before I rolled out from under the car. I snagged a rag to wipe the oil off my hands, and said, “Can I help you?” before I got a good enough look at the boy to see he wasn’t a customer — though he certainly looked as though someone ought to help him.

The knees of his jeans were ripped out and stained with old blood and dirt. Over a dirty tee, he wore a too-small flannel shirt — inadequate clothing for November.

He looked gaunt, as though he’d been a while without food. My nose told me, even over the smell of gasoline, oil, and antifreeze permeating the garage, that it had been an equally long time since he’d seen a shower. And, under the dirt, sweat, and old fear, was the distinctive scent of werewolf.

“I was wondering if you had some work I could do?” he asked hesitantly. “Not a real job, ma’am. Just a few hours work.”

I could smell his anxiety before it was drowned out by a rush of adrenaline when I didn’t immediately refuse. His words sped up until they crashed into one another. “A job would be okay, too. But I don’t have a social security card so it would have to be cash under the table.”

Most of the people who came around looking for cash work were illegals trying to tide themselves over between harvest and planting season. This boy was whitebread American — except the part about being a werewolf — with chestnut hair and brown eyes. He was tall enough to be eighteen, I supposed, but my instincts, which are pretty good, pinned his age closer to fifteen. His shoulders were wide but boney, and his hands were a little large as if he still had some growing to do before he grew into the man he would be.

“I’m strong,” he said. “I don’t know a lot about fixing cars, but I used to help my uncle keep his bug running.”

I believed he was strong: werewolves are. As soon as I had picked up the distinctive musk-and-mint scent, I’d had a nervous urge to drive him out of my territory. However, not being a werewolf, I control my instincts — I’m not controlled by them. Then too, the boy, shivering slightly in the damp November weather, roused other, stronger, instincts.

It was my own private policy not to break the law. I drove the speed limit, kept my cars insured, paid a little more tax to the feds than I had to. I’d given away a twenty or two to people who’d asked, but never hired someone who couldn’t appear on my payroll. There was also the problem of his being a werewolf, and a new one at that, if I was any judge. The young ones had less control of their wolf than others.

He hadn’t commented on how odd it was to see a woman mechanic, and that bought him some points. Sure, he’d probably been watching me for a while, long enough to get used to the idea — but, still, he hadn’t said anything, and that won him points. But not enough points for what I was about to do. He rubbed his hands together and blew on them to warm up his fingers which were red with chill.

“All right,” I said, slowly. It was not the wisest answer, but, watching his slow shivers, it was the only one I could give. “We’ll see how it works.”

“There’s a laundry room and a shower back through that door,” I pointed to the door at the back of the shop. “My last assistant left some of his old work coveralls. You’ll find them hanging on the hooks in the laundry room. If you want to shower and put those on, you can run the clothes you’re wearing through the washer. There’s a fridge in the laundry room with a ham sandwich and some pop. Eat and then come back out when you’re ready.”

I put a little force behind the “eat”, but I wasn’t going to work with a hungry werewolf, not even almost two weeks from full moon. Some people will tell you werewolves can only shapechange under a full moon, but people also say there’s no such thing as ghosts. He heard the command and stiffened, raising his eyes to meet mine.

After a moment he mumbled a “thank you” and walked through the door, shutting it gently behind him. I let out the breath I’d been holding. I knew better than to give orders to a werewolf — it’s that whole dominance reflex thing.

Werewolves’ instincts are inconvenient — that’s why they don’t tend to live long. Those same instincts are the reason their wild brothers lost to civilization while the coyotes were thriving, even in urban areas like Los Angeles.

The coyotes are my brothers. Oh, I’m not a werecoyote — if there even is such a thing. I am a walker.

The term is derived from ‘skinwalker’, a witch of the southwest Indian tribes who uses a skin to turn into a coyote or some other animal and goes around causing disease and death. The white settlers incorrectly used the term for all the native shapechangers and the name stuck. We are hardly in a position to object — even if we came out in public like the lesser of the fae did a decade or so ago: there aren’t enough of us to be worth a fuss.

I didn’t think the boy had known what I was, or he’d never have been able to turn his back on me, another predator, and go through the door to shower and change. Wolves may have a very good sense of smell; but the garage was full of odd odors, and I doubt he’d ever smelled someone like me in his life.

“You just hire a replacement for Tad?”

I turned and watched Tony come in from outside through the open bay doors where he’d evidently been lurking and watching the byplay between the boy and I. Tony was good at that — it was his job.

Today his black hair was slicked back and tied into a short ponytail and he was clean-shaven. His right ear, I noticed, was pierced four times and held three small hoops and a diamond stud. He’d added two since last time I’d seen him. In a hooded sweat shirt unzipped to display a thin tee that showed the results of all the hours he spent in a gym, he looked like a recruit poster for one of the local Hispanic gangs.

“We’re negotiating,” I said. “Just temporary so far. Are you working?”

“Nope. They gave me the day off for good behavior.” He was still focused on my new employee though, because he said, “I’ve seen him around the past few days. He seems okay — runaway maybe.” Okay meant no drugs or violence, the last was reassuring.

When I started working at the garage about nine years ago, Tony had been running a little pawn shop around the corner. Since it had the nearest soft drink machine I saw him fairly often. After a while the pawn shop passed on to different hands. I didn’t think much of it until I smelled him standing on a street corner with a sign that said, “Will Work for Food”.

I say smelled him, because the hollow-eyed kid holding the sign didn’t look much like the low-key, cheerful middle-aged man who had run the pawn shop. Startled, I’d greeted him by the name I’d known him by. The kid just looked at me like I was crazy, but the next morning Tony was waiting at my shop. That’s when he told me what he did for a living — I hadn’t even known a place the size of the Tri-Cities would have undercover cops.

He’d started dropping by the shop every once in a while, after that. At first he’d come in a new guise each time. The Tri-Cities aren’t that big and my garage is on the edge of an area that’s about as close as Kennewick comes to having a high- crime district. So it was possible he just came by when he was assigned here, but I soon decided the real reason was he was bothered I’d recognized him. I could hardly tell him I’d just smelled him, could I?

His mother was Italian and his father Venezuelan, and the genetic mix had given him features and skin tone that allowed him to pass as anything from Mexican to African American. He could still pass for eighteen when he needed to, though he must be several years older than me — thirty-three or so. He spoke Spanish fluently and could use a half dozen different accents to flavor his English.

All of those attributes had led him to undercover work, but what really made him good was his body language. He could stride with the hip swaggering walk common to handsome young Hispanic males, or with shuffle around with the nervous energy of a drug addict.

After a while, he accepted I could see through disguises that fooled his boss and, he claimed, his own mother, but by then we were friends. He continued to drop in for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and a friendly chat when he was around. He didn’t much undercover work around here anymore, though, too many people know his face so his visits had become more rare.

“You look very young and macho,” I said. “Are the earrings a new look for KPD? Pasco police have two earrings so Kennewick cops must have four?”

He grinned at me and it made him look both older and more innocent. “I’ve been working in Seattle for the past few months,” he said. “I’ve got a new tattoo, too. Fortunately for me it is somewhere my mother will never see it.”

Jimmy claimed to live in terror of his mother. I’d never met her myself, but he smelled of happiness not fear when he talked of her, so I knew she couldn’t be the harridan he described.

“What brings you to darken my door?” I asked.

“I came to see if you’d look at a car for a friend of mine,” he said.



My eyebrows climbed in surprise. “I’ll take a look, but I’m not set up for American cars — I don’t have the computers. He should take it somewhere they know Buicks.”

“She’s taken it to three different mechanics; replaced the oxygen sensor, spark plugs and who knows what else. It’s still not right. The last guy told her she needed a new engine which he could do for twice what the car’s worth. She doesn’t have much money, but she needs the car.”

“I won’t charge her for looking, and if I can’t fix it, I’ll tell her so.” I had a sudden thought, brought on by the edge of anger I heard in his voice when he talked about her problems. “Is this your lady?”

“She’s not my lady,” he protested unconvincingly.

For the past three years he’d had his eye on one of the police dispatchers, a widow with a slew of kids. He’d never done anything about it because he loved his job — and his job, he’d said wistfully, was not conducive to dating, marriage, and kids.

“Tell her to bring it by. If she can leave it for a day or two, I’ll see if Zee will come by and take a look at it.” Zee, my former boss, had retired when he sold me the place, but he’d come out once in a while to “keep his hands in”. He knew more about cars and what made them run than a team of Detroit engineers.

“Thanks, Mercy. You’re aces.” He checked his watch. “I’ve got to go.”

I waved him off, then went back to the transmission. The car cooperated, as they seldom do, so it didn’t take me long. By the time my new help emerged clean and garbed in an old pair of Tad’s coveralls, I was starting to put the rest of the car back together. Even the coveralls wouldn’t be warm enough outside, but in the shop, with my big space heater going, he should be all right.

He was quick and efficient — he’d obviously spent a few hours under the hood of a car. He didn’t stand around watching, but handed me parts before I asked, playing the part of a tool monkey as though it was an accustomed role. Either he was naturally reticent or had learned how to keep his mouth shut, but we worked together for a couple of hours mostly in silence. We finished the first car and starting on another one before I decided to coax him into talking to me.

“I’m Mercedes,” I said, loosening an alternator bolt. “What do you want me to call you?”

His eyes lit for a minute. “Mercedes the Volkswagen mechanic?” His face closed down quickly and he mumbled, “Sorry. Bet you’ve heard that a lot.”

I grinned at him and handed him the bolt I’d taken out and started on the next. “Yep. But I work on Mercedes, too — anything German-made. Porsche, Audi, BMW and even the odd Opel or two. Mostly old stuff, already out of dealer warranty, though I have the computers for most of the newer ones when they come in.”

I turned my head away from him so I could get a better look at the stubborn second bolt. “You can call me Mercedes or Mercy, whichever you like. What do you want me to call you?”

I don’t like forcing people into a corner where they have to lie to you. If he was a runaway, he probably wouldn’t give me a real name, but I need something better to call him than “boy” or “hey, you” if I was going to work with him.

“Call me Mac,” he said after a pause.

It was different enough, I was pretty sure it was part of his name, last or first. The pause was a dead giveaway that it wasn’t the name he usually went by, though. It would do for now.

“Well then, Mac,” I said. “Would you give the Jetta’s owner a call and tell him his car is ready?” I nodded my head at the first car we finished. “There’s an invoice on the printer. His number is on the invoice along with the final cost of the transmission swap. When I get this belt replaced I’ll take you to lunch — part of the wages.”

“All right,” he said sounding a little lost. He started for the door to the showers but I stopped him. The laundry and shower were in the back of the shop, but the office was on the side of the garage, next to a parking lot customers used.

“The office is straight through the gray door,” I told him. “There’s a cloth next to the phone you can use to hold the receiver so it doesn’t get covered with grease.”

Visit the official website for more: www.patriciabriggs.com

So Im off to begin the Mercy Thompson adventure, if you want to let us know what you think of these novels please leave a comment.

Happy Reading!

2010 Pulitzer Fiction Prize Winner

The 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been awarded to Paul Harding for his novel Tinkers.

If you’re wondering what this Pulitzer winning novel is about, read this book summary from bookbrowse:

An old man lies dying. Confined to bed in his living room, he sees the walls around him begin to collapse, the windows come loose from their sashes, and the ceiling plaster fall off in great chunks, showering him with a lifetime of debris: newspaper clippings, old photographs, wool jackets, rusty tools, and the mangled brass works of antique clocks. Soon, the clouds from the sky above plummet down on top of him, followed by the stars, till the black night covers him like a shroud. He is hallucinating, in death throes from cancer and kidney failure.

A methodical repairer of clocks, he is now finally released from the usual constraints of time and memory to rejoin his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler, whom he had lost 7 decades before. In his return to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in the backwoods of Maine, he recovers a natural world that is at once indifferent to man and inseparable from him, menacing and awe inspiring.

Tinkers is about the legacy of consciousness and the porousness of identity from one generation the next. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, it is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.

Bookbrowse also provides book reviews from reputable magazines and other publications, please follow the link to read more:



2009 NBCC Award Winner

The 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award goes to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  This historical novel claimed last year’s Man Booker Prize and although I have not read it myself I believe it must be an incredible read.  In the month leading up to the NBCC award winner announcement, Critical Mass (the official NBCC blog), posted a series of posts entitled 30 Books in 30 Days which provided reviews of the work of the thirty finalists.  The 30 Books in 30 Days post for Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is a magnificent article.  Here is an excerpt:

“It’s the story of the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell, who emerged from humble origins to become one of the richest and most powerful men in Tudor England. Brilliant, hardworking, and competent, Cromwell caught the attention of Henry VIII, who made him his confidante, his chief secretary, his Lord Privy Seal, and in time a nobleman–all before sending him, as Henry sent so many of his confidantes and capable administrators, to the executioner’s block. In the process of telling the enthralling tale of Cromwell’s early years, Mantel takes the hoary genre of historical fiction, turns it on its head, and makes it as fresh and new as the latest of postmodern fiction.

She finds the other side of that story and gives us a man whose politics were far ahead of his time, a humanitarian and social radical who is as loving to his family and friends as he is harsh to those he opposes. Her Cromwell “is at home in courtroom or waterfront, bishop’s palace or inns yard. He can draft a contract, train a falcon. Draw a map, stop a street fight, furnish a house and fix a jury.” Lawyer and financier, he’s a master of languages, an admirer of Latin poetry, an adoring husband and father, a man who can speak truth to power, brandish a stiletto, cook up a gingery eel sauce, evaluate the worth of an oriental rug, and stay loyal to his friends even when the rest of the world shuns them. More, he’s efficient. “My sins are my strength,” he ruminates. “The sins I have done, that others have not even found the opportunity of committing. I hug them close; they’re mine. Besides, when I come to judgment I mean to come with a memorandum in my hands; I shall say to my Maker, I have fifty items here, possibly more.” What a man to get to know!

Why is the book called Wolf Hall when Wolf Hall, the ancestral home of Jane Seymour, who will be Henry’s third wife, figures only minimally in the narrative? Yes, there’s a passage about the scandalous shenanigans at the manor, where Jane’s father is having an affair with her brother’s young wife. And yes, there’s a mention of the Latin saying homo homini lupus. “Man is wolf to man.” Some critics have attempted to explain the title by focusing on one or the other of these references, speculating that the book is called Wolf Hall because the doings at the estate indicate that the English nobility was so depraved it could not rule, or that the Latin proverb indicates the lesson to be drawn from the period’s invidious politics. But to me it seems far more likely that the title is another of the author’s cunning tricks. The book ends with Mantel’s Cromwell noting in his diary that he is about to make an excursion to Wolf Hall. It is after this excursion that history’s Cromwell will reach the height of his aspirations, becoming virtually royal by wedding his son to the future queen’s sister, and it is after that grand slam that his mighty career will begin to unravel. The book, like Cromwell, goes to Wolf Hall. What happens afterward is the subject of the sequel Mantel is planning.”

Go on over to Critical Mass to read the full article: 30 Books in 30 Days: Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel



2010 PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction Winner

The winner of the PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction has been announced.  And the award goes to War Dances by Sherman Alexie.

Take a look at what The Seattle Times had to say about War Dances:

“War Dances” collects 23 stories, essays, poems and call-and-response sequences that examine themes of love, the hazards of love and betrayal, as well as Indian stereotypes, race relations and the corrupting nature of success.

In the announcement, made Tuesday morning from Washington, D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Library, judge Al Young stated, ” ‘War Dances’ taps every vein and nerve, every tissue, every issue that quickens the current blood-pulse: parenthood, divorce, broken links, sex, gender and racial conflict, substance abuse, medical neglect, 9/11, Official Narrative vs. What Really Happened, settler religion versus native spirituality; marketing, shopping and war, war, war. All the heartbreaking ways we don’t live now — this is the caring, eye-opening beauty of this rollicking, bittersweet gem of a book.” ‘

Alexie said Tuesday that the award is particularly meaningful to him, both because he’s the first Native American author to win and because “it was established by writers, for writers. The fact that writers give the award is big for me, especially for this book.” He called “War Dances” a “mixtape” of writing styles and forms that not all reviewers and readers understood; “stories, poems, themes intersecting themes. Some people missed that.”

Read the full article – Seattle Times: Sherman Alexie wins PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, for ‘War Dances’

For more information please follow the link: http://www.penfaulkner.org/news_media.php?id=596


2009 Bram Stoker Award Winners

The Horror Writers’ Association announced the 2009 Bram Stoker Award winners at the Stoker Banquet on 27 March 2010 in Brighton (UK).  This is the first time the stokers have been presented outside of the North American continent.  They were awarded within 8 categories; Superior Achievement in a Novel, a First Novel, Long Fiction, Short Fiction, an Anthology, a Collection, Nonfiction, Poetry.

And here are the category winners:

Superior Achievement in a Novel
AUDREY’S DOOR by Sarah Langan

Superior Achievement in a First Novel
DAMNABLE by Hank Schwaeble

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction
“In the Porches of My Ears” by Norman Prentiss

Superior Achievement in an Anthology
HE IS LEGEND edited by Christopher Conlon

Superior Achievement in a Collection

Superior Achievement in Nonfiction

Superior Achievement in Poetry

For more information please visit the official blog: Horror Writers Association Announces 2009 Stoker Winners


10 Rules for Writing Fiction from Established Authors

Elmore Leonard wrote his ‘Ten Rules for Writing’ which has inspired The Guardian to ask established authors for their 10 rules for successful writing.  The guardian post “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction” is a composite of advice from a wide range of successful novelists including;  Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, AL Kennedy, Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson.

Here is an excerpt from the post featuring Michael Moorcock’s advice which I particularly liked:

Michael Moorcock

  1. My first rule was given to me by TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies and was: Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.
  2. Find an author you admire (mine was Conrad) and copy their plots and characters in order to tell your own story, just as people learn to draw and paint by copying the masters.
  3. Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel.
  4. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction.
  5. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development.
  6. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution.
  7. For a good melodrama study the famous “Lester Dent master plot formula” which you can find online. It was written to show how to write a short story for the pulps, but can be adapted successfully for most stories of any length or genre.
  8. If possible have something going on while you have your characters delivering exposition or philosophising. This helps retain dramatic tension.
  9. Carrot and stick – have protagonists pursued (by an obsession or a villain) and pursuing (idea, object, person, mystery).
  10. Ignore all proferred rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say.

A reservoir of advice from the masters!  Head over to The Guardian to read the full article: The Guardian: Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

Writer Spotlight: Jodi Picoult

Whatever Jodi Picoult writes these days goes straight to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers’ List.  Her latest offering, House Rules, is no exception.  Picoult’s novels intrigue me (and everyone else) because she goes where others may not want to go.  She seeks out life situations without easy answers, those situations in which we hope we will never find ourselves or never have to face as a bystander.  A good example of this but not the only one is that of My Sister’s Keeper which was an incredibly popular and poignant novel and was later made into a feature film.

Jodi Picoult (pronounced pee-KOE) was born in Long Island, New York on the 19th May 1966 but moved to New Hampshire when she was 13 years old where she currently lives with her husband and 3 children.  While studying writing at Princeton University she had two short stories published in Seventeen magazine.  Since her graduation she has had various jobs within the writing field: text book editor, technical writer for a Wall Street brokerage firm, copywriter at an ad agency, written 5 issues of the Wonder Woman comic book series for DC Comics in 2007 and has worked as a high school english teacher after which she went to Harvard to complete a Master’s degree in Education.

Some of Picoult’s favourite authors include; Jo-Ann Mapson, Anita Shreve, Ann Hood, Amy Tan, Diana Gabaldon, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Sara Donati, Susan Isaacs, Elinor Lipman, Chris Bohjalian, Ann Tyler, and Jane Hamilton although I have been led to believe her absolute favourite is Alice Hoffman.


  • 2003 New England Bookseller Award for Fiction
  • Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association
  • Book Browse Diamond Award for novel of the year
  • Lifetime achievement award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America
  • 2007 Cosmopolitan magazine’s ‘Fearless Fiction’ Award
  • Waterstone’s Author of the Year in the UK
  • Vermont Green Mountain Book Award
  • Virginia Reader’s Choice Award
  • Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award
  • Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award


  • Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992)
  • Harvesting the Heart (1993)
  • Picture Perfect (1995)
  • Mercy (1996)
  • The Pact (1998)
  • Keeping Faith (1999)
  • Plain Truth (2000)
  • Salem Falls (2001)
  • Perfect Match (2002)
  • Second Glance (2003)
  • My Sister’s Keeper (2004)
  • Vanishing Acts (2005)
  • The Tenth Circle (2006)
  • Nineteen Minutes (2007)
  • Wonder Woman (vol. 3) #6-10 (cover date: late May 2007 – August 2007)
  • Wonder Woman: Love and Murder (2007) (hardcover volume collecting Wonder Woman #6-10)
  • Change of Heart (2008)
  • Handle With Care (2009)
  • House Rules (2010)

Please go to Picoult’s official website for more information.  You will find very interesting interviews with the author which will without a shadow of a doubt reveal more to you about Picoult than I have done here!


3 Personal Book Suggestions to Help Your Writing

These three books on writing and the writing life are the best and most helpful that I have read so far.  Since there are so many books out there that seek to help the budding writer, I thought I would share with you the ones that have most helped me.

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is not so much about giving you step by step instructions or tips on how to get your writing done or your career going but more a commentary on what the writer’s life is like, what to expect, and how to tackle it.  Using beautiful examples from her own life, Lamott communicates the joys and difficulties of being writer.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” With this basic instruction always in mind, Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life. From “Getting Started,’ with “Short Assignments,” through “Shitty First Drafts,” “Character,” “Plot,” “Dialogue.” all the way from “False Starts” to “How Do You Know When You’re Done?” Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses “Writers Block,” “Writing Groups,” and “Publication.” Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive. If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life.”  (GoodReads)

Andrew McAleer’s 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists is a compilation of advice from different published authors on all the areas of writing that are 101HabitsNovelist_250important.  Ranging from your writing routine all the way to your editing process, this book is clear and informative.  I have earmarked multiple pages in this book and found valuable advice on the technicalities of creating publishable writing.

This title focuses on the behaviors necessary to succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of fiction writing by asking successful authors how they practice their craft. Readers will learn how to adopt those habits on their quest to become novelists. The book will inspire, nourish, and provide the needed kick in the pants to turn the wannabes into doers! “The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists” is full of “aha” experiences as the reader uncovers the collected wisdom from the cream of today s fiction writers.” (GoodReads)

Stephen King’s On Writing is a treasure.  All my questions that were left unanswered by previous books were addressed by this book.  This book gave me so much more than answers though.  King doesn’t repeat what other writing books have already said about routine and the technicalities of writing, instead he shows you what the rules are, which of them can be broken and how, and how to make your writing a truer reflection of yourself, your intention, and your story.   This book is a must read and it is incredibly enjoyable because you get to enjoy King’s distinctive style while getting advice from the master.

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. (GoodReads)

Happy Writing!



Writer Spotlight: Henning Mankell

I recently moved from my beloved home Cape Town, South Africa to the city of Maputo in Mozambique.  Knowing how much I love to read a friend of mine suggested I read Kennedy’s Brain by Henning Mankell because parts of it are set in Mozambique.  I discovered that Mr Mankell resides in Maputo for half the year and it is for this reason, interest piqued, that my Featured Author posts begin with Henning Mankell.

Henning Mankell, born February 3rd 1948 in Stockholm, Sweden, is a novelist as well as playwright and publisher.  He is known for his crime fiction and thrillers, particularly his Kurt Wallander series.  Mankell has lived in Sweden, Norway, Zambia, Mozambique and other African countries and was invited to run the Teatro Avenida in Maputo, Mozambique where he continues to work.  As a young man he was a left wing political activist strongly opposing the Vietnam war, South African Apartheid and the Portuguese colonial war in Mozambique.  Mankell is an avid charity donor and recently donated 15 million swedish kronor to the SOS Children’s Villages to build a village in Mozambique for homeless children.  Mankell has also created his own publishing house, Leopard Förlag, which supports young talents from Africa and Sweden.

Mankell’s Bibliography

Crime Fiction:

Kurt Wallander Series:

Faceless Killers

The Dogs of Riga

The White Lioness

The Man that Smiled


The Fifth Woman

One Step Behind


The Pyramid

The Troubled Man

Linda Wallander Series:

Before the Frost


The Return of the Dancing Master (2004)

Kennedy’s Brain (2007)

The Man from Beijing (2010)

Other Fiction (translated into English):

The Eye of the Leopard

Chronicler of the Winds

Son of the Wind (to be released in 2012)



Italian Shoes

Children’s Books:

Books about Sophia Series:

Secrets in the Fire

Playing with Fire

Fury in the Fire

Joel Gustafson Series:

A Bridge to the Stars

Shadows in the Twilight

When the Snow Fell

The Journey to the End of the World

Mankell’s Awards and Honours:

1991 Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy, Best Swedish Crime Novel Award for Faceless Killers

1991 The Nils Holgersson Prize for A Bridge to the Stars

1992 The Glass Key Award For Best Nordic Crime Novel: Faceless Killers

1993 Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for A Bridge to the Stars

1995 Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy, Best Swedish Crime Novel Award for Sidetracked

2001 Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year: Sidetracked

2005 Gumshoe Award for Best European Crime Novel: The Return of the Dancing Master

For more on Henning Mankell visit his official website:  www.henningmankell.com


Philosophers & Books that Changed the Way we Perceive the World

This post by Glyn Hughes, which I came across on Squashed Philosophers, is a condensed list of the prominent philosophers and their books which have changed the way we think and value the world today.  I found it very interesting and so let’s revisit the thoughts of the greats and see if we can take new meaning from old words for today’s world – a world vastly different from theirs.

Henry D Thoreau’s “It is never too late to give up our prejudices…” particularly resonated with me given current issues and circumstances.  It’s also never too late to read the classics…

Squashed Philosophers:  The Books which Defined the Way we Think Now by Glyn Hughes

Thanks to Glyn Hughes for this insightful post!

Please visit the Squashed Philosopher’s website in support of this information:


You can download some of the above mentioned texts at the following website:      www.earlymoderntexts.com

2009 LA Times Book Prize Finalists

The Los Angeles Times recently announced the 2009 Book Prize finalists within 10 categories of writing which include; biography, current interest, fiction, graphic novel, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science/technology, young adult literature and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.  The book prizes will be awarded on the 23rd of April 2010.

Here, I have included a selection of categories and their finalists:

Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment
The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam
Blame by Michelle Huneven
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert
A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias

Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah
Tinkers by Paul Harding
American Rust by Philipp Meyer
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower

Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott
The Hidden Man by David Ellis
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
A Darker Domain by Val McDermid
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

To read the full LA Times article and view all categoreis and finalists please visit the website:


2009 Costa Book of the Year Winner

The 2009 Costa Book of the Year was awarded to Christopher Reid for his poetry collection; A Scattering.

A Scattering is said to be a poetic tribute to Reid’s late wife, Lucinda Gane who passed in 2005.

The Costa Book Awards Press Release had this to say about the award winner’s work:

“Following the judging, Josephine Hart, chair of the final judges, said: “Out of a personal tragedy, Christopher Reid has written a masterwork which has universal power. Austere, beautiful and moving – we all felt this was a book we would want everyone to read. Packed full of unforgettable lines – A Scattering is a remarkable piece.”

For more information please read the full press release on the Costa Book Awards website:


2010 Edgar Award Nominees

The Edgars, named after the famous Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers’ of America.  Some of our most beloved mystery writers have won this award; Raymond Chandler, John le Carré, Dick Francis, and Frederick Forsyth.  Here are the 2010 Edgar Award Nominees:

2010 Best Novel Nominees:

The Missing by Tim Gautreaux

The Odds by Kathleen George

The Last Child by John Hart

Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston

Nemesis by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett

A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn

2010 Best First Novel (by an American Author) Nominees:

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano (Grand Central Publishing)

Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Simon & Schuster – Touchstone)

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (MIRA Books)

A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur Books – Thomas Dunne Books)

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (HarperCollins)

In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur Books)

2009 Costa Book Award Shortlist & Winners

The shortlist for the 2009 Costa Novel & First Novel Awards was released in November 2009 and is as follows:

Costa Award: First Novel Category Shortlist

· The Finest Type of English Womanhood by Rachel Heath

· John the Revelator by Peter Murphy

· Beauty by Raphael Selbourne

· The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

Costa Award: Novel Category Shortlist

· Family Album by Penelope Lively

· Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

· The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson

· Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

The 2009 Costa Awards Category Winners were announced in January of this year and are as follows:

2009 Costa Novel Award Winner

Colm Toibin Brooklyn

Judges: “Poised, quiet and incrementally shattering – we all loved this book and can’t praise it highly enough.”

2009 Costa First Novel Award Winner

Raphael Selbourne Beauty

Judges: “Pitch perfect on every level – we loved this book.”

Keep on the look-out for the Costa Awards’ Overall Winner to be announced shortly.

Review: Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife

I recently watched the movie; The Time Traveller’s Wife after having read the book – thank goodness!  I will be honest and say that the movie does no justice to the beauty and elegance of the novel.  One particular point you’ll notice is that the movie is so condensed a version of the book that you feel it goes way too quickly and the result is confusion.  If you are interested in this story read the book: The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.audrey n time travellers wife

It was the most beautiful love story I have read in a very long time.  In fact, I cannot think of any novel that has better portrayed the intricacies of a romantic relationship.  Both Clare and Henry are such different and independent people yet they find peace together under very strange circumstances.  They accept each other fully and it is evident that their love for each other is unerring.  Audrey has woven an intricate fabric of a plot to tell us this love story through the experiences of a woman and her time travelling partner.  They meet each other in the past, present and future.  But don’t yawn yet because this love story is not without speed bumps – it is this point which makes the novel so great because having a time travelling partner arouses relationship problems that I can only begin to list.

It is one of those thought provoking books which also tugs your heart strings and leaves you wondering if such things as time travelling are really impossible and how people might deal with this phenomenon as well as integrate a time traveller into their lives. Enjoy it!

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent


Review: Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy

I have always savoured the December holidays as a time for reading. Some of you in the Northern Hemisphere might enjoy this same activity over Christmas as the weather turns cold and cosy. What could be better than snuggling into an armchair beside the fire in the middle of winter? I live in the Southern Hemisphere where Christmas is characterised not by snow but by endless sunshine. And what did I find myself reading by the side of the pool? Stieg Larsson’s trilogy:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire & The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. When they first came out I wasn’t exactly dying to read them but I have a Swedish friend who came to visit me and I was suddenly intrigued as to why these books had become so popular.

It is worth mentioning straight away that it’s not advisable to read these books as standalone novels. The stories are direct continuations of the previous one and you would miss out on so much if you skipped or jumped around. Essentially the three novels tell one long story concerning Lisbeth Salander who is a well-rounded character with special skills. She is an intriguing woman with an unbelievable story to tell along side a cast of equally interesting and full characters.

Stieg has created a marvellous story that will keep you reading until the last page of the last book. He has included many interesting details about Sweden and its democracy. I don’t like spoiling books for others so I’m not going to tell you what it’s specifically about but there was definitely a recurring theme of Freedom of Speech and freedom in general. An interesting detail is that just after handing over the manuscripts for all three novels their author, Stieg Larsson, passed away.

They were refreshing novels and fall within my recommended reads.

lilolia review rating 4 stars great