BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: The Wonder of Books by Monica McInerney

web-McInerney-Monica-_Michael-Boyny__Size4Looking back, I’ve had a pretty busy fourteen years.

As a writer, here are just some of the things I’ve got up to:

- I spent ten months running a winery-restaurant in the Clare Valley.

- My two sisters and I had a big falling out and didn’t speak to each other for three years.

- I moved to New York, where I not only found a job with a cantankerous old woman, but also met the love of my life.

- I moved from England to Australia with my family and turned an old house in the Victorian goldfields into a tourist attraction.

- I ran a charity shop in a small town.

- I lived on a sheep station in outback South Australia, from where I accidentally sent out a Christmas letter that spilled the beans on all my family’s secrets.

That’s not all. I’ve been busy as a reader too. I’ve been a Cold War spy. A sociopathic Irishman. An international photojournalist. Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. A lighthouse keeper off the coast of Western Australia. A shop assistant in the cocktail dress section of an elegant Sydney department store.*

That’s the wonder of books. Whether we are writing them or reading them, stories take us out of our own lives and put us into other people’s shoes, minds, lives, homes and countries. I learned to read as a four-year-old, sitting on the roof of my family home in country South Australia. I read about the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, about snow and the Mississippi River, about places I never thought I’d see but was still able to imagine. As a writer, I have travelled all around the world fictionally and in real life. I’ve imagined events through my characters’ eyes, laughed with them, cried with them. I’ve had that same experience with other authors’ books.

Reading enriches us in more ways than we can imagine. Books are our passports to new lives and ways of thinking. Our tickets to a world of wonders. Magic carpets for our minds. Happy reading, everyone – not only during Booktoberfest, but every other month of the year too.

*The books I’m referring to are: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré. Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent. Half Moon Bay by Helene Young. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. The Women in Black by Madeleine St John.


Monica McInerney’s Hello from the Gillespies is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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hello-from-the-gillespiesHello from the Gillespies

by Monica McInerney

For more than thirty years, Angela Gillespie has sent friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled ‘Hello from the Gillespies’. It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself – she tells the truth.

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping poorly with retirement. Her 32-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together – and pull themselves together – in wonderfully surprising ways.

Monica McInerney’s Hello from the Gillespies is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: My Writing Season…. by Karen Hall, co-author of Wychwood

karennhallWhen I first sat down to chronicle the past two decades of our lives creating our garden at Wychwood, it never occurred to me that the actual routine of writing would weigh more heavily on my mind than the words themselves. I’ve never been short of words. More often than not I am the person who fills awkward silences with an excess of them for fear of losing the company of the person next to me. I overemphasize and use way too many adjectives, I embroider a story in the hope that it will prove much more interesting than it actually is. Words weren’t the issue.

It was the routine. My head was exploding. I’d never had to write this much before.

Do I write in the mornings or the afternoons? On the weekends when the kids are home or during the week when the house is relatively silent? If I get up to turn the coffee machine on will I be inviting Writer’s Block to rear its head? Perhaps I should squeeze in a yoga session before I start so I don’t get stiff from sitting for too long, or would it be better to wait until after I’ve done 2000 words so that I’d earned the right to free my mind? If the phone rings, do I answer it or leave it and worry I’ve offended someone by ignoring it?

In the end, I settled on mornings, after a yoga session and walking the dog. Three hours would disappear in no time, sometimes at frightening speed. There were some mornings when most of the three hours disappeared in infuriating frustration – the words wouldn’t come or those that did just weren’t right – but by and large they proved satisfyingly productive and I could close the lid on my laptop with a self-righteous snap.

In the end I did it. Way too many words of course, but once it was over I missed my newfound writing routine and was glad that finishing the first draft coincided with the days beginning to lengthen and the soil starting to warm. Before long, my laptop was forgotten as my garden beckoned.


Karen Hall’s Wychwood is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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9781743360651Wychwood

by Karen Hall, Peter Cooper

The garden at Wychwood, at the foot of the Great Western Tiers in northern Tasmania, is one of the world’s most magical places. Wychwood combines Scandinavian design sensibilities with temperate-climate country-garden charm. And to top it off, the idyllic Mole Creek, which is home to brown trout and a platypus, runs through the back of the property. Wychwood commemorates a garden over 22 years in the making, brought to life by a very special family who dreamt of the simple life in Tasmania.

The book details the evolution of the garden from bare paddock to world-class attraction, with its iconic labyrinth, espaliered fruit trees, naturalistic planted beds and curved, clipped lawns. It gives the reader insight into the techniques and secrets that make the design of this garden so successful, offering inspiration and encouragement at every turn, and for every level of gardener. Peter Cooper’s beautiful and haunting photography captures how the garden has transformed with the changing seasons and settled into its surroundings.

About the Authors

Karen Hall is the co-owner of Wychwood, blogger at GardenDrum, chair of the Tasmanian Open Garden Scheme and runs the rare-plant nursery at Wychwood. Peter Cooper is the co-owner of Wychwood, freelance garden designer, photographer and truffle consultant.

Karen Hall’s Wychwood is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Stephanie Alexander, author of The Cook’s Companion, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Stephanie Alexander

author of The Cook’s Companion

Six Sharp Questions
___________

1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Not a new book at all but a thorough revision of my classic and very successful The Cook’s Companion.

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

I have moved house which went from being the worst possible experience to go through to the best decision I have made. I also embraced digital technology and worked with a great team to convert the full text of The Cook’s Companion to a marvellous app.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

My dad said to me! ‘ nothing or nobody is as good or as bad as they first appear’. Interesting observation but not very profound but for some reason it has stuck in my head.

Stephanie-Alexander

Author: Stephanie Alexander

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

Live alone so only have to cope with myself although that is not always easy. I write best early in morning and for long stretches in the weekends.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I have been writing about food and produce and the power of the shared table for more than 35 years. Seem to have influenced the marketplace actually as the food media has just gone on expanding as have cookbooks.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only a few books with you. What do you take and why?

The cook’s Companion volume, and also the Cook’s Companion App and get them all cooking.

Stephanie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Cook’s Companion here


9781920989002The Cook’s Companion

by Stephanie Alexander

The Cook’s Companion has established itself as the kitchen ‘bible’ in over 500,000 homes since it was first published in 1996.

This 2014 revision includes two major new chapters, two expanded chapters, 70 new recipes and a complete revision of the text to reflect changes in the marketplace and new regulations. Stephanie believes that good food is essential to living well: her book is for everyone, every day. She has invaluable information about ingredients, cooking techniques and kitchen equipment, along with inspiration, advice and encouragement and close to 1000 failsafe recipes.

About the Author

For 21 years from 1976, Stephanie Alexander was the force behind Stephanie’s restaurant in Hawthorn, a landmark establishment credited with having revolutionised fine dining in Melbourne. From 1997 to 2005 Stephanie, along with several friends, ran the Richmond Hill Café and Larder, a neighbourhood restaurant renowned for its specialist cheese retailing. In her recently published memoir, A Cook’s Life, she recounts how her uncompromising dedication to good food has shaped her life and changed the eating habits of a nation.

One of Australia’s most highly acclaimed food authors, Stephanie has written fourteen books, including Stephanie’s Menus for Food Lovers, Stephanie’s Seasons and Stephanie Alexander & Maggie Beer’s Tuscan Cookbook (co-author). Her signature publication, The Cook’s Companion, has established itself as the kitchen bible in over 400 000 homes. With characteristic determination, Stephanie initiated the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College in order to allow young children to experience the very things that made her own childhood so rich: the growing, harvesting, cooking and sharing of good food.

Grab a copy of The Cook’s Companion here

 

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Once a Shepherd backstory… by Glenda Millard

In 2005 I was awarded a May Gibbs Fellowship and as a result was given a month’s use of a studio in Adelaide, South Australia. My main objective was to begin work on a new book. Along with that, I agreed to regularly spend time with the grade 5 girls at Seymour College in Adelaide.

Mary Clark was the teacher librarian at Seymour at the time and we communicated for several months before I arrived in Adelaide as to how to best use my time with the students.

What I hoped to do was show the girls in a very practical, hands-on sort of way, how to source a single idea and transform it into a story. It would be a challenge, not only for the students but for me, as I too promised to take part in the exercise.

glenda41I suggested an off campus excursion to a number of different locations around the city of Adelaide, including the Adelaide fresh foods market, a Japanese garden and a St Vincent de Paul charity shop. Mary readily agreed and arranged buses, permission notes from parents and numerous other things required to make the outing possible.

The students were given questionnaires for each location to prompt them to use their observation skills and to encourage them to ask questions. Our aim was to find something that would stimulate our curiosity and then, using a questioning technique I provided and our imaginations, to discover more about it. I hoped that ultimately the chosen article, place or person and the questions we would ask ourselves about them would lead to the framework of a story.

The object I chose was an old military coat at St Vincent de Paul’s. The girls and I, and Mary, all completed our stories over the four weeks I was at Seymour. My story, or course, turned out to be Once a Shepherd.

In the first few drafts, my focus was on where the coat might have come from in a real sense. For example, wool production and the process it goes through to make a garment, from shearing, carding, dying, weaving and then sewing the woven cloth into a garment.once-a-shepherd

However it soon developed into a much more personal story: the love story of Tom and Cherry, the coming of war, the hand-stitched coat, Cherry’s labour of love for her husband, the birth of their baby, the effect of Tom’s bravery and humanity on an unknown, enemy soldier.

I have a great fondness for handmade things. My mother used to make soft toys for my sister and me when we were little girls. I made them for my daughter when she was small and will make others for my first grandchild when it arrives next March. My daughter makes me an apron every year for my birthday. To create a gift for someone, to spend time on it, is significant to both the giver and the receiver, whether it be a garment, a toy, a cake or something else. With each stitch, Cherry put love into the coat she made for Tom and did so again with the toy lamb she made for their child.

I have used a circular technique in the book – beginning and ending with a lamb. There are many symbolic references to the lamb in history and in mythology including purity, innocence and new life. This could also be said of the child in Once a Shepherd.


Glenda Millard’s Once a Shepherd is a featured title in Walker Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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once-a-shepherdOnce a Shepherd

by Glenda Millard

A story of love and war.

Once there was a shepherd, a very special coat – and hope.

A moving tale that will help grandparents connect personal experiences of war with young children.

About the Author

Glenda Millard was born in the Goldfields region of Central Victoria and has lived in the area all her life. It wasn’t until Glenda’s four children became teenagers that she began to write in her spare time. She has been writing full-time since 1999 and has published several books for children. Her first book with Walker Books Australia, Isabella’s Garden, has been awarded Honour Book in the Picture Book of the Year category in the 2010 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, and has won a Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award, Best Book for Language Development, Lower Primary Category (5-8 years), 2010; and short-listed the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards Children’s Book – Mary Ryan Award, 2010.

Glenda Millard’s Once a Shepherd is a featured title in Walker Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Are you a Booktoberfest prize winner in Week 3?

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WEEKLY PRIZE DRAW WINNERS –
CONGRATULATIONS TO:

Booktopia Weekly Prize Draw :

$250 Booktopia Gift Voucher


Week 1 L.Pettit, Merewether, NSW


Week 2 M.Taylor, Marrickville, NSW


Week 3 A.Brozicevich, Fremantle, WA


Booktoberfest is on right now, and you’re invited, so come and celebrate with us!

Booktopia’s Booktoberfest is a month-long celebration of books, authors, publishers and most importantly you, the readers! We’re running competitions, giveaways and lots of other goodies for you all October.

Australia’s biggest publishers have come to the Booktoberfest party with some incredible prizes, with over $13,000 worth of books up for grabs!

And don’t forget about our weekly prize draw! Simply place an order between during October to go in the running for our weekly draw – we have 4 x $250 Booktopia Gift Vouchers to give away!

So put on your party hat, grab your dancing shoes and let’s have some fun. Get your Christmas shopping done now and you could win!

Click here to check out Booktoberfest 2014

Booktoberfest Partners

Click here to check out Booktoberfest 2014

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Adrian d’Hage, author of The Alexandria Connection

dhageI’m a keen reader of non-fiction including authors such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which provided an early warning of the coming environmental crisis; Samuel Huntingdon’s The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order; and The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, including an analysis of hidden Christian texts such as the Gospels of Thomas and Mary Magdalene, challenging long-held dogma of the place of women in Christ’s circle and throwing a new light on Mary’s relationship with the Christ.

To be honest, I don’t read many thrillers, because I am wary of unwittingly using other authors’ ideas. The Omega Scroll – a lost biblical scroll hidden in the deserts of Qumran for over 2,000 years contains a terrible warning for humankind (much of which appears to be coming to fruition!) had similarities to Dan Brown‘s The Da Vinci Code – but as I hadn’t read Brown, it was coincidental. In a similar vein, I am told that Daniel Silva and I write on remarkably similar themes and even choose similar locations (his The English Girl is part set on Corsica, as is The Alexandria Connection). This too is coincidental – I haven’t read his books although given our similar but separate thoughts, perhaps one day we should meet.the-inca-prophecy

In my novels, I draw on my time in the military (including as Head Defence Planner for Security at the Sydney Olympics) and my degrees in science and theology to address some of the critical issues facing the world today. The Omega Scroll, The Beijing Conspiracy, The Maya Codex, The Inca Prophecy and The Alexandria Connection, whilst set in fast-moving worlds of Curtis O’Connor and the CIA (along with his attractive and highly intelligent archaeologist accomplice, Aleta Weizman), have warnings embedded. Bike chases in the Alps, diving for hidden artefacts in Lake Como in Italy and Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, and perilous journeys into the jungles of the Amazon are just some of the settings for what we face today: biological terrorism and what might happen if the deadly Ebola virus and the more prevalent smallpox virus are combined; the reality of what is happening at the heavy water reactor and the production of the Iranian nuclear bomb; and closure of the Strait of Hormuz cutting off a major maritime oil trade route, to cite just three.

the-alexandria-connectionThe Alexandria Connection was, in part, inspired by my research into The Bilderberg Group. Until relatively recently, little was known about the secretive annual meetings of the world’s wealthiest CEOs, royalty and political elite. The participants are household names: David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Queen Beatrix, Tony Blair, to name but a few who have attended the heavily guarded meetings. Conspiracy theories abound on the real reason for these gatherings, but whatever the purpose of the Bilderbergers, Alexandria’s Pharos Group contains some of the world’s most powerful individuals and their aim is very clear: nothing less than a New World Order. According to Oxfam, 85 people in the world share a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion – equal to the combined wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population – 3.5 billion people. Sheldon Crowley, a member of Pharos and the world’s wealthiest industrialist, controls massive coal mines; an oil multinational that dwarfs Exxon-Mobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell combined; Brazilian timber mills in the Amazon; and a huge arms conglomerate, from which the latest top secret generation of missiles are mysteriously turning up in Afghanistan. O’Connor is tasked with getting into Afghanistan’s notorious Korengal Valley to find out why. The critical Strait of Hormuz – through which 45% of the world’s maritime oil trade flows from one of the world’s largest oil refineries, Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tenura – is under threat. My research took me into the jungles of the Amazon, where O’Connor has also been tasked with investigating whether or not the missiles are being shipped amongst the timber gained from Crowley’s illegal logging of one of the world’s greatest wildernesses.

My research also took me to the pyramids of Giza and Alexandria where O’Connor’s ‘partner-in-crime’, the acclaimed international archaeologist, Aleta Weizman, is searching for an ancient papyrus. The papyrus, said to be authored by Euclid, the father of geometry, might finally reveal the true purpose of the Great Pyramid of Giza and a long forgotten source of energy. But when thieves break into Cairo’s Museum of Antiquities and make off with the priceless mask of Tutankhamun, the threads surrounding the missiles, the mask and the papyrus start to lead back to the Pharos Group, and Aleta’s life and that of O’Connor are placed in very real danger.

I hope this novel is as enjoyable to read as it was to write.


The Alexandria Connectionthe-alexandria-connection

by Adrian d’Hage

A New World Order is upon us . . .

In the shifting desert sands of Egypt, rumours abound of a lost papyrus that will reveal the true purpose of the Pyramids of Giza. Could these ancient monoliths be the source of a new kind of energy, one that comes at no cost to the planet? CIA agent Curtis O’Connor and archaeologist Aleta Weizman are determined to find out.

Close by, a shadowy and powerful group known as Pharos meets in Alexandria, its membership a closely guarded secret. Its first order of business: to orchestrate chaos on international financial markets with a series of spectacular terrorist attacks on the world’s fossil-fuel supplies.

And in Cairo, amid the anarchy of Tahrir Square, thieves have broken into the famed Museum of Antiquities and stolen one of the world’s priceless artifacts: the mask of Tutankhamun. Is the audacious theft linked to the Pharos Group?

Nimbly weaving politics, history and science through a rip-roaring plot, from Afghanistan to Washington, Sydney to London, The Alexandria Connection is a spectacular and stylish ride.

About the Author

Adrian d’Hagé was educated at North Sydney Boys High School and the Royal Military College Duntroon (Applied Science). Graduating into the Intelligence Corps, he served as a platoon commander in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Military Cross. His military service included command of an infantry battalion, director of joint operations and head of defence public relations. In 1994 Adrian was made a Member of the Order of Australia. In his last appointment, he headed defence planning for counter terrorism security for the Sydney Olympics, including security against chemical, biological and nuclear threats.

Adrian holds an honours degree in theology, entering as a committed Christian but graduating ‘with no fixed religion’. In 2009 he completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Dean’s Award) in oenology or wine chemistry at Charles Sturt University, and he has successfully sat the Austrian Government exams for ski instructor, ‘Schilehrer Anwärter’. He is presently a research scholar, tutor and part-time lecturer at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (Middle East and Central Asia) at ANU. His doctorate is entitled ‘The Influence of Religion on US Foreign Policy in the Middle East’.

Grab a copy of The Alexandria Connection here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Books… by Dee Nolan, author of A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to France

dee-nolanThere wasn’t a time when I didn’t hanker after books. I grew up seeing the deep pleasure my mother got from reading and wanted it for myself. Pocket money funded my little girl obsession with pony stories as I fell utterly under the spell of the Pullein-Thompson sisters and Pat Smythe. The English horsey world they wrote about was so far removed from my Australian farm life but I was living it in my head every time I tried to make my grumpy pony jump hay bales like the heroines did in books with stirring titles like For Want Of A Saddle. I bombarded the children’s page of the Adelaide Advertiser with my little stories and poems. Submissions deemed worthy received certificates, and a sufficient stash of certificates qualified for a book. A sort-of early Fly Buys for kids. The first book I chose was The Three Musketeers. I still have it.

Books ignited my childhood imagination, bringing the world to my bedroom, laying the foundations for a lifetime’s curiosity about faraway places and awakening a passion for the written word. I can’t be the only one to want for today’s children the best things of my own childhood so, when babies arrive, my present is a book. Of course, a very special boy born in London and named George Banjo by his homesick Australian mother, received the collected verse of his namesake along with an adorable children’s edition of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, a personal favourite since forever. It’s now four years on, and an email arrived last month with a heart-melting photo of a kindergarten class dressed as their favourite characters for Book Week. There, in between Bob The Builder and Buzz Lightyear, was George in loud striped socks, trousers rolled up and a flamboyant spotted cravat – a dead ringer, as A.B. would have said, for the Mulga Bill of the delicious Niland illustrations in what has become George’s favourite bed-time book. It was an emotional moment. I think he has caught the craze.


Dee Nolan’s A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage To France is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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a-food-lover-s-pilgrimage-to-france

A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage To France

by Dee Nolan

Dee Nolan laces up her walking boots for more adventures of the cultural and culinary kind, this time retracing the footsteps of the early French pilgrims, who travelled to Santiago de Compostela in vast numbers. In this book, as in her previous book A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage Along the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, she seamlessly weaves together her two great passions: the history and religious relics of the medieval pilgrimage and her keen appreciation of food and wine.

As Dee winds her way through the vineyards of Burgundy to the gastronomic capital of Lyon, across the vast Aubrac plateau of the Massif Central and through the fertile valleys of Quercy and Gascony, she discovers that ‘what is old is new again’ – not only are the ancient pilgrim paths enjoying a resurgence in popularity, but early farming methods are making a comeback and there’s a renewed interest in regional produce and food traditions. Travelling at ‘human pace’ reminds her of the importance of connection – to our past and present, to the land we live on and the people we meet.

This captivating book unearths numerous treasures in the French countryside, from exquisite Romanesque churches to world-renowned wine and cheese caves, colourful local customs and food experiences of both the Michelin-starred and home kitchen variety.

Dee Nolan’s A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage To France is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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