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James Bond 007: For Special Services by John Gardner

James Bond 007: For Special Services by John Gardner

James Bond 007: For Special Services by John Gardner

I’m not really a James Bond person, I have read a couple of the original books and I find it telling that the only thing that’s stayed with me is the description of James Bond and the only man who fits that description is Timothy Dalton, very interesting. I don’t find that kind of character appealing, he charms his way into every woman’s clothing and out of every situation usually making a lot of mess and destroying anything from a room to several buildings. He doesn’t apologise, nor does he pay for any damage he does and it rankles with me. Which means they’re the best background movie when I want noise and to do some work, I look up occasionally but mostly just get stuff done. And the times when I look up he’s generally paying court to some gorgeous female, it’s almost as if it’s designed to get me working again.

What I do love is the stunts. I would like to pay some homage to the stunt arrangers and the stunt men and women, but mostly men as these movies are rather sexist and the women are generally just there to look glamorous and gorgeous, although things are changing as the years go by. Now to segue to the book.

This book is not written by the original author, Ian Fleming, it is written by John Gardner and it’s his second Bond book. In the Author’s Note he talks about updating things a little by making Bond less misogynist and giving females more action.

So, Bond is given a female sidekick who generally does a good job of getting stuff done without resorting to Bond saving the day for her. Except! Actually, I shouldn’t spoil it and the ants get their comeupance, the poor things.

This is reasonably well written. I mentioned stunts, there’s a whole car race and it’s detailed over several pages. I did try to follow it through but there were several words I didn’t know and wasn’t prepared to look up, my bed is rather comfortable and warm.

There’s a bit of science fiction in here and I found it an interesting concept. I’m sure the idea has been used before but the method of delivery was not one I’ve seen used in previous books. Yum!

If you like James Bond there’s a good chance you’ll like this. If you’re wedded to Bond in the original form and won’t view or read anything that’s not strictly canon then I suggest you steer around this book.

There’s more to publishing than just writing

I’ve been pondering the vast leap in numbers of published authors now that many companies make it so easy to publish your own manuscripts and just wondering what that does to the market. I heard some numbers the other day and I forget the exact digits but my memory tells me it was something like 50 new books being published every single day. By the law of averages some of those will be quality but most won’t.

In the days of traditional publishing a lot more thought went into publishing a book. The publishers had to put in a lot of money to get a book published, including money for editors, proofreaders, cover design, desktop publishing and finally, printing, distribution and marketing. In order to give themselves a really good chance of making a profit on the book they choose incredibly carefully, reading their slush pile when they needed to but relying on their tried and true authors to write them books they knew they could sell heaps of.

And when it came to printing they would go for value for money. I’m in the process of printing new business cards. The difference between printing 500 cards and 1,000 cards is $10. Why? Because most of the cost is in the set up. Once they have the printing machines running, it’s really easy to just keep going and double the number you need for little cost. Publishers have worked on this principle for many years, when they feel the book has finished selling they dump the bulk of the remaining texts into remainder bins. You’ve seen them in supermarkets or newsagencies where you can buy a book for $4.95 when you’ve normally pay $18.95.

After three paragraphs you’re probably wondering where I’m actually going with these thoughts and you’d be right to ask. My current reading matter is a copy of Meanjin from 1997. The first essay is called The State of the Art by John Barth. At the time of writing he’d been in the writing business for 41 years so he had a fairly good idea of what he’s saying. He was talking about ebooks (he calls them e-fiction, it’s that early in the realm of ebooks) and how he’d been given a manuscript back in 1981 that was wordprocessed! It was the very first one, before that he’d been given hand written manuscripts and some typed on a typewriter (probably most of them were on a manual typewriter as this is only a couple of years after I learned touch typing on a manual typewriter and the year before I first used a wordprocessor in 1982). Barth showed it to Leonard Michaels and the response was:

This is terrible! They’re going to think the stuff is finished, and it only looks that way.

And therein lies my point. How many people write the first draft of a book on a computer with software such as Word which can make anything look good (good but not typeset) and think they’ve finished? How many of those people then upload it to one of these self publishing places and declare it ready for people to buy? I’m sure some of these books do actually go through several drafts and have actually been read by other people but that begs the next question. How many people actually get someone objective to read their work and give them proper feedback? How many of them have family and friends read it, people who just want to be encouraging and tell them it’s good, people who don’t really understand there’s more to selling than just reading?

One blog entry I read some time ago caused a great stir in the book blogosphere. It was meant to be a book review but the blogger mentioned the vast number of typos she found and then all hell broke loose. There were many comments including some from the author responding with swear words and hostility both to the original blogger and to some of the commenters. Typos make it harder for many readers, sometimes they can totally change the meaning of the sentence. This is the biggest reason you need to have your manuscript proofread. The minimum I’d suggest before you upload your manuscript and turn it into a book is editing by an editor and proofreading by a proofreader, get someone who is objective and doesn’t know you.

As you can see I have far more questions than answers. I am approached by a lot of new authors and I do try to give them some time as it’s important for people to actually start somewhere. I often wish I was approached by them with the view to reading their works for suitability for publishing rather than with the view that I’ll write about them on my blog and give them some free marketing.

Meanjin Virtuous Reality 3 & 4 1997

Meanjin Virtuous Reality 3 & 4 1997

Now that we can make any text look publishable and legible (you should see my handwriting, so unreadable) with just a few minutes work the temptation is to write the book and get it out there ready for selling. So many people think that just because it’s in the world wide web that people will see it and buy it. I know I had similar thoughts when I first started selling pre-loved books online. I thought people will somehow just SEE my excellent and funny copy and think ‘that book looks good, I’ll buy it’, how wrong I was. There’s far more to selling a book than listing it for sale and that’s the subject of another rant.

Before I hit 1,000 words I’m going to finish with a repeat of my previous advice. Get some objective advice before you publish your manuscript. 

I have discovered…

This is another of those rants where I totally lose my cool, if you could read my mind you’d be thrown across the room in shock at the number of swear words.

I’ve been back at uni for a week and a couple of days. The first day I wasn’t enthused but got my mojo back for day two and was happily getting involved in the study, the classes and the very serious business of talking to classmates. And getting organised so I can study effectively, what a strange concept that is.

Until…I suddenly discovered I couldn’t save my work. You might remember from this little screed I wrote how I was planning on acquiring as many articles as possible in pdf so I could highlight and notate with great ease. It’s currently being my downfall leading to many words to shock everyone and much shouting. It seems that some of the files although they’re pdf are actually images and while I can write notes in them I can’t highlight. This is all on the computer, on the iPad it’s slightly different, sometimes it saves and sometimes it doesn’t but I still can’t highlight. Between the highlights and the notetaking feature I was going to be so organised I’d have no trouble finding stuff for my assignments.

Not only but also. I’m able to access some of the ebooks I need to look at from the Deakin library but I can only download them in .acsm format which is only readable using Adobe Digital Editions and you’ve guessed it, I can neither highlight nor notate in this programme. Nor can I even print the pages I need so I can do things old school.

Just when I think technology can’t get any better and make things any easier to study I hit a road block. It’s blocked my mind from being able to do anything useful and now I’ve spilled the beans I hope concentration will actually happen. Thank you for being there, whether you read this or not.

A few minutes later…

It worked nicely. Spilling all my swear words has fixed my .acsm problems and I’m now able to convert them into pdf but only thanks to the way the software works. And it doesn’t let me highlight or write notes in the body of the work.

The Man on The Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

The Man on The Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

The Man on The Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö


Before I start I’m going to add the words ‘trigger warning’ in here before giving more details later on.

I love the first paragraph of this book. Here is it is and then I’ll explain why.

At a quarter to three the sun rose.

This could be anything, with this sort of opening it could be a science fiction book or it could be in poles of the earth or who knows what. I read it several times and then went back and read it again later on. I must have read the blurb on the back when it was added to my To Be Read Pile but not remembered the details, I’d never heard of these authors and knew nothing about it when I opened the covers and put eyes to text. That first paragraph really floored me and I puzzled over it for some time until I realised it was set in Sweden in the summer. A little googling found this site which tells me that Stockholm gets 19 hours of sunlight a day in June and if you go to Kiruna in the northwest you’ll experience 24 hours of sunlight! But we never find out the reason for the horrific crimes mentioned in the next paragraph.

This text pulls few punches and we’re told with no graphic details that these children have been raped and murdered. We’re not told the whys and wherefores, just that it’s been done.

I had to keep reminding myself it’s translated from the Swedish. The word usage was only a little odd and the police procedures slightly different to those I’m used to reading or watching from English speaking countries. This book is all about the chase, the hunt for the criminal and not on why he’s done what he did. It’s short, as they all were in the 1960s and ’70s, have a look at all the Agatha Christie whodunnits, they’ll all like this book somewhere around 200 pages, this is 179.

Trimester 2

I feel like I’m pregnant again with all this talk of trimester 1, 2 and 3, and it could feel a bit like childbirth in 2019 when I finish and have a qualification but it’s just uni jargon and I need to wrap my head around so many new concepts so what’s one more in the general scheme of things? I am wondering if there’s one that breaks the brain and makes it impossible for the brain to imbibe any more concepts and maybe this is the one. I did leave Trimester 1 with a full brain so my thoughts are not entirely in jest.

The speed of learning at Uni is far faster than anything I’ve ever experienced before, even when I had kids I didn’t need to learn quite so fast or so much. Yes, I had to keep relearning as they got older but there were lots of breaks while they consolidated what they knew and I was able to do similarly. At school you have a subject broken down into smaller bits but each subject lasts a whole year. At Uni each subject lasts for 11 weeks and so you’ve got a whole year’s learning stuffed into 11 weeks. There’s a lot of self learning where you’re given the resources to learn from and some of it is discussed but some isn’t and you’re expected to go outside these resources and look at other documents. In other words, you’re taught how to learn, there’s no spoon feeding.

One of my subjects this trimester is Writing Spaces and part of that is learning where to be published to give us a portfolio or to add to our portfolio to make us more publishable in the future.

Another subject is From Horror to Romance and in this we’re talking about genre. Learning what the conventions are and how to circumvent them. I kept referring to Joss Whedon in class as he keeps doing this, he identifies the conventions of the genre he’s working with then takes them and does the opposite. The opening of this class was to introduce ourselves and tell each other a bit about our reading, I was pleasantly surprised to find I’m not the only eclectic reader in the class. I’ve always been the only one to read across genres and to get to a place where I’m the norm is just an awesome thing and I made note of that in my introduction.

Anyway, I feel like I’m at home. My classmates are awesome and ignore me pointing out I’m old. They’ve read many of the same books as me and they’ve also seen and agree with me about many of the same movies. I get quite distracted when in discussion and they need to keep bringing me back to the topic at hand. It’s a good thing someone can do that.

Yes, I’m rambling…could you tell?

FlashSpec Volume two edited by Neil Cladingboel

FlashSpec Volume two edited by Neil Cladingboel

FlashSpec Volume two edited by Neil Cladingboel

I bought this some time ago at a convention, it’s one of those really special tomes I’ve been saving, not for a rainy day, but for when I need a change. All I can say is that I should have read it earlier!

It’s one of those books I got to mention in writing class today as we talked about short fiction. These are jewels, written by authors from all over the world with a word count of no more than 750 words for each story, some of them are much less. I thought I had guessed how some were going to end and I was completely wrong except for one story with an ending as expected but such beautiful writing I had to read it three times, all the rest were such a surprise.

They are not for the faint hearted. I’d suggest they’re streets ahead of Steven King and I’d probably even put in a trigger warning or two.

I’m saying nothing more other than giving you the list of authors and a place to buy it at a vast discount, sadly the publishing company is no longer with us. While you’re there you should buy more books to make the postage worthwhile.

Debra Findlay
Damien Kane
Christopher Holloway
Natalie J. E. Potts
K. A. Patterson
J. G. Thomas
Brett A. Hall
Bren MacDibble
Susan Boulton
Lynne Lumsden Green
Joanne Anderton
Cheyenne Warlock
Neil Cladingboel
Stephen Jones
Peter Hart
Julia Felicity Ker
Derek Smith
David Schembri
Susie Hawes
Brett A. Hall
Sin Deniz
Christopher Elston
Peter Tennant
Cheyenne Warlock
Matt Tighe
Simon Petrie
Shei Tanner
Christopher Holloway
Amanda Pillar
Mark Smith-Briggs
Kirstyn McDermott
Clinton Green
Donna Maree Hanson

Keeping the mojo happening

It’s so easy to get into a rough spot when writing and find yourself unable to continue. Authors who’ve published real live books or journals have found themselves there time and time again. Although some professional writers say they’ve had no problems. What do I do to help keep my writing brain fresh? You mean besides starting uni and doing lots of writerly type of learning?


Podcasts are awesome little gems. You’ve got to find the one or ones that suit you because everyone’s different and it depends on what you’re looking for from them. I love So You Want To Be A Writer by Alison Tait and Valerie Khoo of the Australian Writers’ Centre. I’m sure I’ve mentioned them before. Tait is the author of the Mapmaker Chronicles and has been writing since forever while Khoo heads up the Australian Writers’ Centre and her interests range from writing to business. They say they don’t have writer’s block because they have too many things on the go at once and if they hit a road block in one piece of writing they switch to something else, when they come back to the first piece they’re ready to move on.

I did used to listen to a business one but I found their little vocal tics too distracting. I did like the voice over man but I’ve met him and he’s very good and funny without the vocal tics. A good voice over is generally not enough to make a podcast worthwhile.


I love watching Words of a Reader, her videos show books in all their glory and make me feel normal as she sometimes shows off the beautiful endpapers.

Grav3YardGirl is a professional, she makes pots of money out of her vlogging. She’s more than a little crazy but she’s my type of crazy. And she’s not a book vlogger, just to show I do think about more than just books.

The ladies from the Katering Company are awesome fun. I’m sending you to this apology video because no-one does an apology quite like they do. And it seems as if you need to pay for Season 2 of their show, a whole $AUS0.49 per episode! What an extreme amount of money this is.

I won’t mention Vintage Books, promise. Nor Forgive Us Our Press Passes, if you look carefully I’m in one of their videos. I seem to have an eclectic youtube account, it’s very easy to click on ‘subscribe’ and then watch them later…


I feel the difference between podcasts and vlogs is minimal. Podcasts are downloadable and listened to on your computer or transferable to many different devices for your audio listening pleasure. Vlogs are video blogs and while many people will combine blogs and vlogs there are also many people for whom talking in front of a camera is much more preferable to putting fingers to keyboard. Vlogs are harder to move from one device to another.

A few last words

I do also read, less than I did but still copious amounts and I watch the odd programme on TV. Between all of these I feel I have a good balance of writing and cooking but not quite enough business. You’ve got to address each side of your personality and I’m addicted to learning about business.

I would love you to share with me the podcasts or vloggers you pay attention to. What do they do that makes you want to listen/watch?

Diaries 1969-1979 The Python Years – Michael Palin

Diaries 1969-1979 The Python Years - Michael Palin

Diaries 1969-1979 The Python Years – Michael Palin

You’ve probably vaguely heard of Michael Palin. He’s not been terribly busy or open about his work over the decades. If you ignore Monty Python, Ripping Yarns, The Frost Report, A Fish Called Wanda and his work in the travel industry writing travel books and documentaries you’ll find he’s not done much. Therefore, it was with nothing much in mind I picked up this tome of 673 pages and avidly dove in.

You probably can’t see the many bookmarks I left so I’d be able to wend my way back through the myriad of information to have a chance of writing something coherent for you.

Let me go back more decades than I admit to being alive to when Monty Python was on TV in Australia. I used to watch it, sometimes cringing and sometimes laughing uproariously. The Python team spent their time taking the mickey out of absolutely everything, trying to highlight the ridiculousness of people or situations, they were ahead of their time on so many occasions. If you look at the words of The Lumberjack Song you’ll find it has as much relevance today as it talks about transvestites…I’ve always loved scones.

But, to the book.

This shows Palin caring about so many things, his family, his work, politics, and as his children become old enough for school, the school. He has diarised his father’s increasingly ill-health and some of how his mother copes with it all. There are comments on politics, strikes and how they’re coping with rolling gas stoppages. We see little comments on how his family copes with the increasing wealth as Python goes from strength to strength. And I’m not mentioning comments about his co-workers…promise.

As I expected, it’s well written and edited. Thank heavens he edited it. I spent five weeks reading this book, it wasn’t boring but I’m over committed and couldn’t spend much time each day on reading, if Palin hadn’t edited parts out then I’d still be reading. But, to get comments on things that were happening on the day they happened was pretty awesome.

On his fans

There are times when he’s totally gobsmacked by his fandom. Like the time when they accidentally met up with George Harrison who declared himself a big fan, they end up friends and collaborate on various occasions.

We also see other occasions with some non-famous fans who have decided they’re not leaving the hotel until they’ve spent some time with Palin or some of the other Pythons. It doesn’t get ugly but it shows how these situations could become go from pleasant to unpleasant.

On his working

Some of the bits I love the most involve telling us how much work he’s done and in what time span. One entry talks about John Cleese and how he rang up suggesting they do some writing that day. They spent most of four hours and wrote four minutes of screen time! He considered that a good afternoon’s work.

The book in general

Some of his descriptions are lovely. On going to a Playboy Club he describes it as a ‘taste wilderness’ and ‘the bare shoulders [of the girls] are quite pleasant, but the costume’s brutal and unsexy’.

Where he talks about bombs going off in London and they just go on with daily life. ‘But the fact that I heard the explosion in our kitchen seemed to bring the whole horror closer to me’. I found this bit chilling, it was October 1975 so probably an IRA bomb. That’s an episode in English/Irish history which I’m glad is over and moving towards a better understanding.


Just because I haven’t given you a link to buy a book in just about forever I’m giving you two. This one is for the actual book I read and this one is for three of his diaries from 1969 – 1998 just in case you want to go further than me.

Limmud Oz 2016

I’ve mentioned Limmud Oz before, it’s a weekend of learning for those interested in Jewish topics. It’s massive, for every lecture I attended there were generally another two or three I would have liked to have seen. Held in alternating years in either Sydney or Melbourne we have some world class speakers and some not so good speakers but the topics are always interesting and exciting. I won’t tantalise you with much of the programme or what I actually did but here are just a couple of things.

For the first time it started on Saturday afternoon with a couple of interesting sessions at the Theodore Herzl club before finalising the Sabbath with a beautiful Havdalah Service, a break where we ran home for dinner and back to Monash University in Caulfield for the normal Saturday evening sessions and the opening night’s concert. After the concert I was introduced to some cousins, and no, I’m not name dropping here. Then back to Monash Uni in Caulfield for 9:30am Sunday and then again 11am Monday for learning. Normally by the end of Monday my brain is dead from all the information but I took time out Monday afternoon to attend a funeral, not someone I knew but in Jewish tradition we need 10 Jews in attendance for various services and I went to help make up the 10.

One of the sessions I attended on Saturday afternoon was about a short story by Sholem Aleichem. You’ve heard of Aleichem, he wrote the original stories that became Fiddler on the Roof. He wrote in Yiddish, I’m thanking translators at this point as it means I’ve been able to read his works, my Yiddish is pretty awful and I’m discovering most of the words I know are actually quite foul so the number of Yiddish words I will use is diminishing rapidly. It’s quite a colourful language and during the session the lecturer had people read out the story paragraph by paragraph, some read in English while some in Yiddish, there was much laughter with the paragraphs in Yiddish.

Other highlights were watching snippets from Orange is the New Black and discovering all the Jewish bits in it. A very gritty programme, it doesn’t pull many punches. Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a Swedish journalist who managed to get a visa for Iran and spoke about her experiences travelling round and talking to Jews there, she was given a minder, he’s 33 years old, Muslim and single – so much subtext there.

One more story before I leave you drooling for more.

My last session for the day was a fascinating one about reclaiming one of the 330 or so lost Aboriginal languages in Australia. Ghil’ad Zuckermann came from Israel as a linguist to work in Adelaide and looked around to see how he could give something back to Australia. As a linguist he found much information about some of the languages we used to have here and has started studying with people of the Barngarla language to revive it, the results have been fabulous. It was only during the last video he showed that I figured out how I’d known his face before. Last year as part of my English Language classes we were shown parts of Stephen Fry’s Planet Word, during one episode he was driven around Jerusalem by a personable young linguist and they discussed how Hebrew was reclaimed and how it has taken on many words from other languages including English, Zuckermann screened part of that episode…you’ll never guess who that young linguist was. Anyway, I mentioned to Zuckermann how I’d already seen that episode, he was amazed to find his fame spread far and wide. I now await a reply from an email I sent to my teacher from last year, this should be interesting.

Oz Comic Con and finally…

The panel with CS Pacat, Isobelle Carmody and Marianne de Pierres was interesting. They talked about a number of topics including getting published in Australia, how much work you need to do on your manuscript before submitting it to a publisher and their different journeys to publication. Carmody got her start when things were easier whereas Pacat started publishing her writing on a blog before attempting approaching publishers and finally hitting the mark by self-publishing. They also talked about the importance of getting your manuscript edited, talk to editors about their editing before engaging them, not every editor suits every writer. Carmody talked about pitching, where you learn how to talk about your manuscript so as to be able to pitch to the publishers quickly and succinctly, practicing is a must.


CS Pacat, Isobelle Carmody and Marianne de Pierres

Another panel for comic book creators was also interesting. While I’m not so interested in graphic novels or comic books I was fascinated by their discussion. They talked about what publishers do and how important they are in this business, including making sure the talent gets paid and helping make their work better. When creating your story don’t put in cliches and don’t be parochial, make sure to put in the human element with real emotion. There’s not a lot of money in comics so you have to be dedicated. And there is a Melbourne Comics Creators Meet Up, held the first Saturday of every month at the Bull and Bear in Flinders Lane from 2pm till 6pm, I’d say this is a must attend as here you’ll get feedback from those who understand what’s happening and much more importantly, you’ll make contacts which you’ll need at some stage.

Andrew Constant, Katie Houghton Ward, Marc Noble, Wolfgang Bylsma

Andrew Constant, Katie Houghton Ward, Marc Noble, Wolfgang Bylsma

I’ve also got some notes for another talk I attended but I don’t understand them. I’ll have a good read through and see if I can knock them into some semblance of understanding for everyone. The big problem with attending talks is being able to write fast enough to take proper notes so I can understand them later and while I managed it for two talks it seems I need to practice this skill a lot more as the third one is just a mess of words.

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I want to thank the Koolin people for their thousands of years of guardianship and caretaking of the area where I live.