BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Why I chose the chef life… by Mr Dan Hong, author of Mr Hong

danhongWriting Mr Hong gave me the opportunity to reminisce about the early stages of my career and think about exactly why I chose a life in food. Putting it all down on paper was a lot of fun and gave me the opportunity to think about the significant moments in my food journey that changed everything for me.

Mr Hong is full of recipes, of course, and stories about my life to date – from growing up in my mum’s Vietnamese restaurant in Cabramatta, to experimenting with supermarket staples while left to my own devices at home during high school, and later my culinary training at some of Australia’s most prestigious restaurants.

My first job was at Longrain, a wonderful place to start my journey in food, and included packing away all the fresh produce every morning, making six different curry pastes and deep-frying shallots – a great learning curve for me at that stage – and I’ve been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors throughout my career ever since Longrain.

Thinking about it, David Chang is one of my greatest food heroes because he was one of the first chefs to dare to throw out all the rules focus on one thing: deliciousness. For me, the best food is delicious, easy and fun. Couldn’t live without fish sauce! I love bold, strong flavours, freshness and balance – and most of all, I see food as something that connects people, makes them happy and can be shared with the people I love.


Mr Hong is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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mr-hong

Mr Hong

by Dan Hong

Eat like you never have before, with Dan Hong at the reins it will be an enjoyable ride. Dan’s appetite for rare sneakers, hip-hop and collecting cookbooks is only surpassed by his passion for food: everything from fast food to fine dining. Growing up in the suburbs of Sydney with a food-obsessed family and a mother who fell into owning a Vietnamese restaurant by chance, Dan has gone on to become a critically acclaimed chef, working at some of the most prestigious restaurants in Australia, including Sydney’s Mr Wong, Ms G’s and El Loco.

Dan’s potent mix of proud heritage, technical skill and boundless enthusiasm for experimenting with big, bold, fresh flavours makes his approach to food truly unique. Mr Hong is as much an exploration of Dan’s colourful path through life as it is a beautifully illustrated book of one hundred scintillating recipes – Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, as well as fusions of the three – re-imagined and re-invigorated for a new generation of food obsessives. Feast your eyes and dig in.

About the Author

Dan Hong has worked in some of the most prestigious restaurants in Australia, including Tetsuya’s, Marque and Bentley, and his mentors include Mark Best, Brent Savage and Thomas Johns. He has opened some of Sydney’s most exciting dining destinations, including Ms G’s, El Loco and Mr Wong (honoured with a hat in its first year of business at the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide awards) and most recently Papi Chulo, a smokehouse and grill at Manly Wharf, Sydney.

Mr Hong is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: “Where do you get your ideas?” by Scott Westerfeld, author of Afterworlds

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Author: Scott Westerfeld

The question that writers most hate is the perennial, “Where do you get your ideas?”

We could just answer, “from everywhere,” but even that isn’t big enough to cover it. When deep in the writing process, holding a hundred thousand words in our heads, writers hover half in this world and half in the world of the novel. The edges blur, and ideas roam freely back and forth. Not only do the events in real life influence the story, but the reverse happens too—the travails of those characters leak out to infuse reality around us.

I wanted to capture some of that dual state in Afterworlds. The odd-numbered chapters of the book are the story of Darcy, a young writer reworking her first novel under the looming pressure of a high-paying book contract. Having just moved out of her parents’ home, she has to balance the practicalities of living on her own with the allure of her shiny new membership in the community of YA authors, all while charging headlong into her first serious love affair. At the same time, Darcy is rewriting her novel from the ground up, applying the lessons of her new adulthood to the draft she wrote as a callow high school student.

The even-numbered chapters are the text of Darcy’s novel, a story about another young girl caught between worlds. On her way home from a visit to her estranged father, Lizzie Scofield is caught up in a terrorist attack at an airport. She plays dead to escape the gunmen, but she plays too well. From that moment on she can see ghosts, like the eleven-year-old Mindy haunting her mother’s home. As Lizzie unravels the mystery of Mindy’s death, she faces the secrets of her own family as well.

Both of these young women are in the process of transformation, and both have the power to transform the other. Darcy the writer, of course, holds Lizzie’s fate in her hands. But Lizzie the character is also the key to Darcy’s future, because Darcy’s publisher wants a happy ending, not the tragic finale of her first draft.

Each story not only influences the other, but also holds the secret of its salvation. That’s how us writers live, half in real life and half in our fictional worlds. Half finished and half rewritten, we are all made of drafts.


Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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afterworlds

Afterworlds

by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld is renowned in the YA fiction market, this is a perfect blend of contemporary love story and fantastical thriller.

Darcy has secured a publishing deal for her three paranormal books. Now she must find the wherewithall to write the second one whilst she has a reprieve from going to college, thanks to her savvy sister. She has enough funds for 3 years in NY… if she eats only noodles every day.

In the story Darcy has written, the character Lizzie survives a traumatic shooting event only to discover that she has become a phsychopomp; a spirit guide to the dead. But she’s not dead.. or is she? With one foot in each world, Lizzie’s challenges are somewhat unique. Then there’s her hot spirit guide… and all those ghosts that keep appearing… and the ‘living’ friend she usually tells everything to…

More than all I’d seen and heard. It was coming back to life that made me believe in the afterworld.

Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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GUEST BLOG: A Week in the Life…by Anna Romer, author of Lyrebird Hill

anna romer

Author: Anna Romer

Monday.
It’s 5 am, pitch black out here in the wilderness. Stars splash across the sky, and the river whispers in the dark. The scent of lilies floods the bungalow; it’s out of place, but I can’t bring myself to discard the flowers. I can’t even look at them.

I’m sitting at my desk. Usually at this hour I write in my notebook, but today I’m at the laptop. A blank page stares back at me. Ideas are simmering, the plot’s got bones – but there’s no spark. I hammer out a paragraph, then press delete. I try not to freak, but the page seems determined to remain blank.

Tuesday.
Just what I need … a bloody bushfire.
While checking the fences, I smell smoke. No visuals, but it seems to be drifting from the east. I rush back to the bungalow, pack the car and collar the dogs, ready to evacuate. Then I connect the Internet. A fire is raging on my neighbour’s property three miles away. Flames have cut across the track, blocking my escape.

I hunch at my desk and try to breathe. The smell of lilies engulfs me. I wish I could cry, but the tears are stuck. I wish Dad was here. He’d know what to do. The world isn’t the same without him.

‘Stay alert, love,’ I hear him say. ‘When the fire front comes, there’s always the river.’

Wednesday.lyrebird-hill
All night I sit at the window, gazing into the trees. I keep imagining I can see flames, but when I go out there’s just the dark starless tranquillity…

And an aftertaste of smoke.

Back inside, I stand before the lilies, forcing myself to look. Forcing myself to inhale their scent. That day flashes back: the cold room, and the stillness of my father’s body; the desolate cry my sister gave when she saw him. And the ache in my soul as I clung to his hand for the last time.

I stand there forever, breathing the lilies.

Then a sound distracts me. It’s faint at first, baby-fingers tapping the tin roof. It grows louder … and suddenly it’s drumming. I run outside and gaze at the sky. Rain.

Soon it’s streaming down my face like tears.

thornwood-houseThursday.
It’s 6 am. Raindrops patter the roof. The smoke-smell has gone; just the lilies linger.

The dogs are restless but I can’t leave the laptop. I’ve set myself an easy goal this morning, 500 words. I’ve been sitting here for hours, but the page is still blank. Panic grips me. I stare at the screen, willing the words to appear. Weaving stories brings me to life; it’s a glorious feeling when I nail it … but when I bomb, the disappointment feels fatal.

Friday.
The air’s clear today. A solitary heart-shaped cloud drifts over the bungalow. It feels like a sign. Taking advantage of my momentary optimism, I empty the lilies into the compost. Then I open all the windows and let in the sunshine.

Saturday.
A piping hot bath jump-starts my brain. Water always has that effect. One minute I’m towelling dry and climbing into soft pyjamas – the next, ideas are flowing. There’s a funeral, maybe two sisters. The scent of lilies. And heartache that finds resolution one rainy day by the river.

My pulse picks up. Suddenly I’m consumed by a magical rapture, as if the strands of my heart are finally unravelling. I hurry back to my desk. Smiling to myself, I boot the laptop, open the blank page…
And fall head over heels into my story.

Grab a copy of Anna Romer’s Lyrebird Hill here


Lyrebird Hill

by Anna Romer

From the bestselling author of Thornwood House

When all that you know comes crashing down, do you run? Or face the truth?

Ruby Cardel has the semblance of a normal life – a loving boyfriend, a fulfilling career – but in one terrible moment, her life unravels. The discovery that the death of her sister, Jamie, was not an accident makes her question all she’s known about herself and her past.

Travelling back home to Lyrebird Hill, Ruby begins to remember the year that has been forever blocked in her memory . . . Snatches of her childhood with beautiful Jamie, and Ruby’s only friendship with the boy from the next property, a troubled foster kid.

Then Ruby uncovers a cache of ancient letters from a long-lost relative, Brenna Magavin, written from her cell in a Tasmanian gaol where she is imprisoned for murder. As she reads, Ruby discovers that her family line is littered with tragedy and violence.

Slowly, the gaps in Ruby’s memory come to her. And as she pieces together the shards of truth, what she finally discovers will shock her to the core – about what happened to Jamie that fateful day, and how she died.

A thrilling tale about family secrets and trusting yourself

About the Author

Anna Romer spent her wayward youth travelling the globe, working as a graphic artist while she soaked up local histories and folklore from the Australian outback, then Asia, Europe, and America. On returning home to Australia, she began weaving stories of her own and was quickly hooked. A visit to her sister in north Queensland inspired her first novel, Thornwood House, a story that reflects her fascination with old diaries and letters, dark family secrets, rambling old houses, the persistence of the past, and our unique Australian landscape.

Grab a copy of Anna Romer’s Lyrebird Hill here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: If you ever borrow a book from me, give it back! By Ellie O’Neill, author of Reluctantly Charmed

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Author: Ellie O’Neill

If you ever borrow a book from me give it back to me. It’s probably a book that I’ve told you about. A book, that I’ve clasped my hands in excitement, and smiled and sighed dreamily trying to explain it to you. It might be a book that I ran my hand across the front cover like I was stroking a pet. It’s probably a book that I held to my chest when I finished reading, lovingly absorbing its’ truth.

When you read it you might find that some pages are close to falling out, that’s where you’ll see a passage I loved so much I had to revisit it again and again, to record it, to feel it, to lose myself once more. It might remind me of a time in my life, a love affair, a sandy beach, a cocktail with an umbrella in it.

When I give you one of my favorite books I’m letting you see a piece of me, a private piece of me. You thought you knew me but you don’t. This book gives me shivers.

This book makes me think.

This book makes me laugh.

This book hurts me.

And if you don’t feel the same way, I will briefly question why we are friends. Then I’ll remember it doesn’t matter, you will have your favorite books too. But please remember if you borrow a book from me give it back to me.


Ellie O’Neill’s Reluctantly Charmed is a featured title in Simon and Schuster’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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reluctantly-charmedReluctantly Charmed

by Ellie O’Neill

Witty, enchanting and utterly addictive, Reluctantly Charmed is about what happens when life in the fast lane collides with the legacy of life, love and its possibilities … and a little bit of magic

It’s Kate McDaid’s birthday and she’s hoping to kickstart her rather stagnant love-life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great-great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.

Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Instantly, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye. As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil the final, devastating step of the request . . . or whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t.

Reluctantly Charmed is about what happens when life in the fast lane collides with the legacy of family, love and its possibilities… and a little bit of magic.

Ellie O’Neill’s Reluctantly Charmed is a featured title in Simon and Schuster’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: My Journey Started With a Book by Kurt Fearnley, author of Pushing the Limits

In many ways, my journey started with a book. When I was a baby, my mum had been wandering through the maze of disability when someone gave her a copy of Alan Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles. This book is as close as you’ll get to a ‘how to’ guide for raising a child with a disability in the bush. It’s the story of a boy who lost the use of his legs through polio and follows his growth into a young man. When the medical profession told my mum that the focus should be on me looking normal, Alan wrote about feeling normal. When the medicos pushed the importance of me being kept clean and safe inside the house, Alan spoke of the self-confidence he gained by dragging himself through mud.

Kurt Fearnley credit Tim BauerMy family only wanted one thing for my life, and that was normality. They believed that the worst possible repercussion of my disability was that I would live my life watching it from behind a window. Alan Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles gave them the confidence to allow me to be out there and in the driver’s seat. Whatever way I would propel myself up every tree and over every damn muddy puddle that I could possibly veer into, it would be a long way from that window.

Another book that I will never forget is Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One. My sister Tanya would read this to me in my late primary school days. It was before I had found my way into sport but after I had left my cocoon of Carcoar, around the time I had started to figure out that I was different. No matter how much I tried, I would never be the same as my able-bodied peers. I had started to experience people staring at me as they passed by. The confusion I felt when they reflected my difference directly back at me was a hard thing to handle. In a way, I found confidence in Peekay, the seven-year-old boy with dreams of being the welterweight champion of the world. He was different, he was smaller, he was Piss Kop, but he was strong. I must have read The Power of One a hundred times since I was eleven. Before Bryce passed away, I had the good fortune to thank him for giving me Peekay.

I have loved every minute of my journey and I can’t ever understand the adulation that I have received because of it. I find it hard to predict what someone will get from reading Pushing the Limits but I know that I Can Jump Puddles and The Power of One gave me strength when I needed it. If my story offers one ounce of this kind of strength to a reader, then every metre that I have travelled is more rewarding because of it.

Pushing the Limits is a part of Penguin Australia’s Booktoberfest Showcase.
Click here for more details
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Kurt-Fearnley-560x560Kurt Fearnley was born without the lower portion of his spine. He grew up in tiny Carcoar in NSW, and took up wheelchair racing in his teens. He has gone on to be a three-time Paralympic gold medallist and has won marathons all around the world, including the prestigious New York, London and Chicago marathons multiple times.

His exploits are not confined to wheelchair racing – he has crawled the Kokoda track and the Great Wall of China and sailed with a winning Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race crew. Kurt’s exploits both in and out of sport saw him recognised as the 2009 NSW Young Australian of the Year. He lives in Newcastle with his wife and son.


pushing-the-limitsPushing the Limits

by Kurt Fearnley

When Kurt Fearnley was a kid, he would leave his wheelechair at the front gate and go exploring with his brothers and sisters. ‘You’re going to have to be stronger than we are,’ they told him, ‘and we know you will be.’

The kid from Carcoar was raised to believe he could do anything. At fifteen, he won his first medal. Then he conquered the world, winning three Paralympic gold medals, seven world championships and more than 35 marathons. A world-beater in and out of his wheelchair, Kurt is a true Australian champion.

Inspiring, exhilarating and highly entertaining, Pushing the Limits takes us inside the mind of a kid with a disability growing up in a tiny town, a teenager finding his place in the world, and an elite sportsman who refuses to give up, no matter how extreme the challenge.

Pushing the Limits is a part of Penguin Australia’s Booktoberfest Showcase.
Click here for more details
.

GUEST BLOG – Bestselling author Rachael Johns on her real life Outback Blaze

I’m so excited to be releasing the second book in my Bunyip Bay series, Outback Blaze. As the title suggests, the book involves a fire and although the fire and the story that accompanies it are fictional, this book was in part inspired by a real-life event.

In 2009, my husband and I lived in Kojonup (a small but vibrant community in South Western Australia). My husband was the manager of the supermarket part of the Kojonup Co-op – a business owned and operated by the people of the town for over fifty years. The building was a historic icon in town and the business it housed was the hub of the community.

I still remember the night of the fire like it was yesterday. I was in bed early (I had a newborn) and was typing on my laptop when I smelt smoke. I thought it was my laptop and asked hubby if he could smell it. He looked at me like I was insane but within a few minutes the smell intensified.

We rushed into our boys’ bedroom where we had a pedestal fan going to check on that, but all was good, so that’s when we stepped outside. As we smelt the intense aroma of smoke in the air, hubby’s phone rang with the news that the shop was on fire. He rushed down the road and I rushed next door (how convenient) to my mum’s house to ask her to watch the kids so I could follow him.

Pic 2By the time I arrived, the shop was well and truly up in smoke, the local volunteer firefighters were in attendance and half the town had congregated to watch the disaster unfold. I remember looking around at everyone dressed in their pajamas and slippers and thinking two things:

1)     How absolutely devastating this was for the town and all the people that might no longer have jobs.

2)     That one day I was definitely putting this drama into a book!

While my husband, his boss and the other Co-op employees were thinking about their future and how to rebuild the shop and the business, I was thinking about what it would mean for the town if it was discovered an arsonist had started the fire.

Pic 3How would locals feel knowing one of their own had done this and was living within their midst? Would they be worried about it happening again? Would they start looking at everyone with suspicion?

Thankfully the fire at the Kojonup Co-op was a tragic accident but the fire in Outback Blaze is not! This is the first time I’ve written an element of suspense in one of my rural romances and I had a lot of fun doing so.

I hope you enjoy reading Outback Blaze and I’d love to hear your thoughts once you have.

Photos courtesy of my hubby and my friend Jacqui from Kojonup.

Grab a copy of Rachael Johns’ Outback Blaze here

Outback Blaze

by Rachael Johns

Ruby wasn’t looking for love, Drew wasn’t looking to stay… until they found each other. Can their fling survive the darkness of Ruby’s past and Drew’s desire to move on?

Ruby Jones was always an optimist, but the trauma of her past had made her wary. So when she flees to the small rural community of Bunyip Bay to start afresh, she has her sights firmly set on establishing her horse-riding business and rebuilding her life. The last thing Ruby wants is a romance. In fact, after all she has been through, she can’t imagine she will ever believe in love again.

Police officer Drew Noble has no intention of staying in Bunyip Bay — he is just an outsider seeking temporary refuge. But as the charm of the town sways him, Drew finds himself increasingly drawn to the community and its inhabitants, as well as another newcomer, the lovely Ruby Jones.

When Drew investigates a suspicious fire at Ruby’s parents’ business, he finds himself feeling strangely protective of the girl with the flowers in her hair. As the details of Ruby’s past emerge and she comes once more under threat, Drew realises he will do all in his power to save her.

Soon these outsiders discover they have both lost their hearts — not only to the town but to each other.

Grab a copy of Rachael Johns’ Outback Blaze here

Jen Storer on the inspirations behind her bestselling Truly Tan Series

One of Australia’s most popular children’s authors Jen Storer writes this exclusive blog on her inspirations behind her Truly Tan Series.

In the Truly Tan series, Tan is discovering her world at the same time as the reader (and the writer) and this provides pleasure and enriches the reading experience.

The goings on in Peppercorn Valley pay homage to all the old stories that I hold dear, where friends and communities rallied around and looked out for each other.

Clearly the Truly Tan books take their lead from the Famous Five books. But other stories have been just as influential such as Anne of Green Gables, Cold Comfort Farm and of course, Gerald Durrell’s, My Family and Other Animals.

The goings on in Peppercorn Valley are also heavily influence by television shows such as A Country Practice, Jam and Jerusalem and for those who remember, Bellbird.

Tan Callahan’s life is unashamedly idyllic but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think that in this age of helicopter parenting it’s inspiring for young readers to see other kids out in the world just doing ‘stuff’— unorganised spontaneous play.

One of my favourite filmmakers, Hayao Miyazaki, says that even though he himself is quite pessimistic, he is ‘not going to make movies that tell children, you should despair and run away’. It’s the same for me with Tan’s stories.

I work hard to create a playful, visceral world where there’s a lot of physical interaction with the environment, where there’s imagination, joy and mischief. Where kids think for themselves, question authority, are granted plenty of autonomy and thrive as a result of healthy neglect.

jinxed-Tan’s adventures are inspired by my own childhood in the country. Mine was a 60s childhood infused with the stories of Enid Blyton, lived in a time when kids were literally free-range. ‘Be back by teatime’ was the standard line from our mothers.

In that sense, these stories are slightly nostalgic and I have been asked if today’s children can relate. Such questions underestimate young readers. Kids are imaginative and expansive. They’re open to difference and to alternative points of view. That’s the joy of being a kid, of being inquisitive and free of prejudice.

If as a ten year in rural Australia I could delight in the antics of a bunch of middleclass tweedies in the English countryside, I think urban kids today can relate to Tan.

While the setting and circumstances of her life may vary from the reader’s, the themes of friendship, daring, family and community love are universal. Likewise Tan’s interest in death and all things spooky intrigues young readers. Kids love to be scared. I’ve had many youngsters proudly tell me that Tan was their first scary book. Apparently it’s a rite of passage to read a scary book and see it through. I feel proud when I hear this as writing ‘scary’ for kids is challenging. How far is too far?

What is pleasantly scary, what’s terrifying, what’s babyish? I’ve come to realise that my books need to be like the ghost train at the Show—lots of scary stuff and a bit of squealing but plenty of silly skeletons to make you laugh too. I also balance the scary elements with mountains of food.

If Enid Blyton taught me anything it’s that one can cope with all manner of drama so long as there’s a mug of hot chocolate and a slab of orange cake at the end…

Check out the full Truly Tan series here

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