Review by Cecilia Jansink of the Confessions of a Booky Monster blog.

This only landed in my review pile less than 24 hours ago and from the very start the concept had me intrigued. I didn’t so much read this as devour it.

Ashwin has taken our present reality and twisted it into a future that is both horrifying and transfixing. A superb mix of corruption, mind blowing science, love and fear; The Mask of Deceit will leave you puzzling over the fact that this could very well become reality and leave you with questions long after the last page is turned.

Anton is a strong lead who will soon have you feeling as though his footsteps and battles are indeed your own and will immerse you fully in his plight. The many layers of corruption and conditioning will leave the reader wondering just what “truths” are indeed real. The descriptive scenes are visually stunning to the piont you can almost feel and smell the sanitiser on your own skin.

The writing style is fresh and fast paced and Ashwin has truly nailed all that is delightful about Spec-Fic with her own unique twist. In fact, the authors own comments in the press release sum this novel up beautifully. When asked her motivation for the novel, Ashwin replied “I set out to write a quest book with a modern theme. At the time, there was a lot of political talk about GM food and superbugs so I used these in a speculative fiction context. I wrote about the science that is happening in the 21st century and what it would be like if it were to go awry.”

Quite frankly in my opinion she has nailed it. This is a novel that should be on everyone’s TBR list.


Timely and Intriguing Speculative Fiction


By Hettie Ashwin.


Even though it is speculative fiction, the novel The Mask of Deceit couldn’t be more timely.

News headlines constantly scream about corruption, cover ups, and environmental issues. This insightful novel paints a grim picture of the inevitable result if these issues are allowed to continue.

When asked her motivation for writing the novel, author Hettie Ashwin said, ‘I set out to write a quest book with a modern theme. At the time, there was a lot of political talk about GM food and superbugs so I used these themes in a speculative fiction context. I wrote about the science that is happening in the 21st Century and what would it be like if it were to go awry.’

The story is set in the future and is a story that will horrify and amaze the reader. It is a story of a world after carbon trading, after conglomerate GM food production, after the global warming crisis. This is the world of the main character, Anton. It is a world of fear of the natural environment and virtual imprisonment in a city totally controlled by government.

When his partner Buloké disappears, Anton sets out in search of her. Leaving the city and the only life he has ever known, Anton embarks on a journey to a place that to him is only legend. Fighting for his life against a controlling government, hoards of rapacious arthropods, and the freezing cold, Anton discovers a whole new world. A world he didn’t believe existed. What he learns in this wondrous place will change his life forever and set him on a quest to fight for truth against a government rife with corruption and deceit.

When asked if there was message in her novel that she wanted readers to grasp, Hettie said, ‘Be careful of government freedoms. Governments appear to give you stability, freedom, and choice, but it is a double edged sword. One man can make a difference; it just takes courage to be an individual. Everyone needs hope for the future.’

Even though it is speculative fiction, the author conducted extensive research in genetics, modified food, global predictions, weather predictions, global warming, insects and their survival, human endurance, physics of magnetism, and positive atmospheric pressure for the book.

The book in paperback and eBook formats is available from http://morrispublishingaustralia.com and many online stores, including Amazon and The Nile. The paperback is available at your local bookstore through Dennis Jones and Associates.

 Author Marianne de Pierres, will launch the novel at the Cairns Tropical Writers Festival on Saturday September 15th at 3.50 pm.

Story Before Facts: Successful Historical Fiction for Kids


By Anne Johnson

One of the traps of writing historical fiction is the urge to cram in as many nifty historical facts as possible. Hey, you did all this amazing research. You owe it 

to your reader to share every footnote, right?

Actually, no. If you write with that attitude, your reader will feel like history is being shoved down his/her throat. That’s not a fun sensation.

This particular peril doubles with kidlit historicals, because we authors tend to think “kid” and closely follow that with “needs to be taught.” We put those two ideas together and shift into Teacher Mode. The manuscript may end up chock-full of factoids, but the writing will probably be awkward and forced. Fighting the urge to over-teach in historical children’s fiction is worth a renewed effort with every paragraph.

For Trouble at the Scriptorium, I wanted to introduce kids aged 9-12 to concepts of the medieval craft of bookmaking as well as Gregorian chant. The only way to do it without boring them to sleep was to use the information very specifically to support a good story and well-rounded characters. Those elements had to come first. Adventure, action, danger, humor, emotion, just like I’d write in another genre. But, in this case, all those things happened to apply to life in a fiefdom in early Thirteenth-century England.

On the other hand, there’s an advantage to using a child protagonist in writing historical fiction: A young character probably has a lot to learn about the world around him or her. I chose to focus Trouble at the Scriptorium on two very different kids (a servant boy and a noble girl), each of whom has particular things to learn during the novel. Between the two of them, they discover the way books are made at a scriptorium, how monks notate and sing chants and psalms, how other cultures affect English life, and how power is divided from the King on downward in the feudal system. Learning those things about their own world is essential to their solving the problems that face them in the story. And the reader learns along with them, incidentally.

At least I hope that’s how it turned out! I tried to remind myself constantly that my primary job was to entertain. But the fact is, I love to just sit in the library and peruse historical documents. To me, they are entertainment, in and of themselves. My secret hope is that some of the kids who read Trouble at the Scriptorium will become so interested in medieval history that they’ll want to learn more about it, beyond what they can find out through fiction.

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You can purchase Trouble at the Scriptorium directly from the publisher: http://www.rfwp.com/browse/novels

You can learn more about Anne at her website. http://anneejohnson.com/

For updates on Anne’s publications and appearances, “like” her Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anne-E-Johnson-Author/249053641780972 or follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/AnneEJohnson


‘Captured’ by Elaine Ouston

What an incredible week I have had. First, I had news that a small shire in NSW that is having a special event for their book week celebrations, and had chosen an author from each state to feature, chose me to represent Queensland. One of the high school drama group will read a presentation speech from me and read from one of my books. They have purchased several copies of all three of my books to display. I am so proud to have been chosen.

Then, on Sunday, I launched Captured, the second book in The Mystery of Nida Valley series, and had a wonderful turnout. I am grateful for the support I have received. Below is the launch speech by Ron Day, co-ordinator of the Capricorn Writers group. I have his permission to use this as a review.

‘Captured’, the second in the Mystery of Nida Valley series captures the reader in a web of intrigue and magic, spells and potions, teleporting and time travel. It casts a spell that compels us to read on with excitement, anticipation and dread. The good guys exercise their powers to protect the wondrous secrets held within the Valley while the bad guys weave their evil to attempt to take over the Valley so they can commercialise it.

The book has many levels. At one level we have teenagers being thrust into situations where they need to develop the skills and maturity to take their places as leaders in a ‘Brave New World’. At that level we walk with them through what amounts to an initiation process where they are forced to question their resolve, their courage and ethical stance as they face dangerous situations.

At another level we have an excellent example of the struggle between those who value the planet and want to retain some natural environment for future generations, and those who are only interested in plundering the resources for profit.

The book also provides a storehouse of scientific knowledge. Elaine has carefully researched Australia’s pre-history and brings us in close contact with a huge family of mega fauna; those creatures that swam, walked, slithered or flew on this land millions of years ago. There is even a real fire-breathing dragon to round out the animal kingdom.

Each person wears a Dick Tracey-like watch that provides the ability to communicate, and teleport. And, just like Harry Potter and his cronies, they wield magic wands carefully disguised as pens.

One of the important aspects of this series is that it encourages full use of the imagination. Readers find it easy to identify with one or other of the characters and to share vicariously in their experiences. This provides an important foil against the passive and mindless television, iphone and xbox activities most teenagers spend their time with.

So we have a series of books for teenagers of all ages who will be enthralled by the characters and their activities, mind-stretched by the magic and mystery, educated by the environmental issues and science, and delighted by the eventual defeat of evil.

Move over Harry Potter. It is time to make room for the Mystery of Nida Valley.

Ron Day

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