kathy petkoff

Writers Writing Writers: Slush Pile

I always find books about authors really interesting, it’s a little bit like a dream within a dream – an author created by an author. Slush Pile by Ian Shadwell (Puncher and Wattmann Fiction) is a perfect example of just this phenomena. Kathy Petkoff went on this ride through the world of writing, publishing and plagiarism. Here’s her thoughts on Slush Pile


Michael Ardenne is a very successful intellectual writer, just ask him.  His one and only published novel (it is not a book and most definitely not a text), ‘Ephesus’, is, in his opinion, very intellectual and inspiring…

Slush PileFourteen years ago Michael Ardenne dazzled the world with Ephesus, a brilliant debut that won him the respect of his peers, plenty of easy sex and the coveted Booker Prize.  Since then, there’s been nothing but false starts and dead ends.  He can’t even finish a short story. 

With debt collectors at the door, the cellar empty and the mortgage on the line, it’s crunch time.  His wife, Tanya, issues an ultimatum: get a job or get a divorce.  Forced into assessing his literary agent’s slush pile to help make ends meet, Michael discovers a dark gem.  He rewrites it as his own.  His publisher loves it.  Fame beckons and his literary standing soars… until the real author appears. 

But sadly, ‘Ephesus’ is all Michael has ever managed to write.  It has been 14 years since it’s publication and not a scrap of decent writing has he produced since.  The internet provides him with outlets, plenty of distractions, that allow him not to write.  His dedication to ‘managing’ his own Wikipedia page, his love of researching wine and his need for ‘release’ through soft porn sites makes it hard for any reader of Slush Pile to love this character.

Michael owes money to everyone.  His friends, the bank, the local grocery store, he can’t even convince his friends to shout him a round of beer at the RSL trivia night.

Shadwell does the most beautiful job of creating a dirty character.  The way he creates Michael makes sure that you feel his laziness, his sense of self importance and how really to Michael, no one else matters.  He is the great Michael Ardenne, Booker Prize winner, Michael Ardenne.

“And the winner of the 1995 Booker Prize was…”

Something in Michael propelled him from his chair.  Arms raised in triumph, his feet hopped a little victory dance.

“Me.  The answer is me, Michael Ardenne.”

Alongside Michael is his hard-edged wife, Tanya.  She is a workaholic and has finally had enough.  For the most of the book you see Tanya through Michael’s eyes.  It would seem that she is there primarily to prop him up, to make him feel good about himself, but Michael also sees her as closed and unadoring.  But, Shadwell cleverly allows the readers glimpses into who Tanya really is.

She looked at him incredulously.  Then burst into uncontrollable sobs.

“I really, really thought you would want to write a love story about us like you wrote Ephesus for that other girl”

Out of desperation, in an attempt stop himself from losing everything, Michael gets a job working for his next-door neighbour installing roof insulation under the governments Pink Bat Scheme.  Complaining and moaning the whole time he works, he offers his great and sage-like advice on writing to a co-workers.

As well as this manual labour, Michael finds himself a gig with his literary agent helping to sift through his ‘slush pile’. Very much to his surprise, he finds one manuscript in the pile that grabs his attention. It is brilliant.  It is chilling.  It is plagiarised and rewritten for Michael’s chance to become great again.

Of course, as one might expect, things such a plagarism rarely go unnoticed, and when then the real author seeks out credit for what is rightfully his, trouble comes Michael’s way.

This is Shadwell’s first novel.  For me his character building is fantastic, he’s written a despicable protagonist who I didn’t like at all, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed his novel, it was a great book.  It opened all kinds of questions for me – how long from when you held a role can you still call yourself by that title?  How long can we really maintain the look and feel of youthful irresponsibility and not look completely idiotic?

Slush Pile is a great read.  It will get under your skin and encourage you to ask all kinds of questions.  I’d highly recommend it.


Find out more about Slush Pile by Ian Shadwell here…


Fifteen Realms: Scent of Magic

Today’s review is from TBYL Reviewer, Kathy P. She’s been visiting the Fifteen Realms…


At my age, I don’t read a lot of books aimed at the teen market.  After my most recent read, Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder (Harlequin) this is something I’d like to change.

Scent of MagicScent of Magic is the second book in a trilogy.  It follows two main characters – Avry of Kazan, a healer with magical healing powers who is thought to have died, and her boyfriend (for want of a better term) Kerrick, a Prince who has yet to accept his father’s legacy as King of Alga but has forest magic.

As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists.

Despite her need to prevent the megalomaniacal King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. 

Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to oppose King Tohon. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and stopping Tohon’s most horrible creations; and army of the walking dead – human and amimal alike.

War is coming and Avry is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible… again.”

The world of the Fifteen Realms is well laid out.  It is complicated but well explained.  Maria V. Snyder has thought about distance and travelling time, as well as the layout of the landscape.

The use of magic is very interesting.  People who have magical ability develop the ability close to puberty, but it is an intensification of the world around them.  Healers heal by removing the injury or disease from the patient and drawing it into themselves.  This leaves the Healer with the scars of the injury or illness and the recipient of magic without mark.  The Healers heal much faster than ordinary people, but still it is fascinating to see how Snyder has given the use of magic unique consequences.

The characters are very complex and their relationships are even more complex.  As this is the second book in the series and because I have not read the first book, Touch of Power, I found the complexity of the relationships and characters a little difficult to catch up on, and as a result I had a little trouble getting into the story in the beginning.  There was no short explanation as to what has come before this book – it started at the next moment after conclusion of Touch of Power.  Some explanation of the intricacies of the story were  provided later in the book but to begin with I found myself looking for a bit more information, and unfortunately even at the end I was left wondering how some characters really fitted in. I think this would have been different had I read the first book.

In saying that – what a read!  An edge-of-seat ending and I absolutely did not want to leave the book alone to do anything else while I was reading. It well and truly delivered.  I’d like to back track a little and read the first book to fill in a few gaps, but I also can’t wait for the sequel to be released.


You can find out more about Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder here…

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Discovering a Legacy: One Mountain Away

It seems most of the TBYL team have had a chance to do a little reading and writing over the break! Kathy P has been enjoying a very touching story in One Mountain Away, by Emilie Richards (Harlequin). Here’s what she thought of it…


One Mountain AwayOne Mountain Away is the story of Charlotte Hale, a woman who seemingly has it all.  She’s rich, the CEO of the company she built from scratch and people in her community almost fear her power.  But she is also isolated, from her family and from her friends.  She is divorced and hasn’t seen or spoken to her daughter in ten years, not since the birth of her grand-daughter. She’s never met her own grand-daughter.

Charlotte is dying and wants to mend some of the bridges in her life…

One terrifying day, facing her own mortality, she realises that her ambition has almost destroyed her chance at happiness. So Charlotte vows to make amends, not simply with her considerable wealth, but by offering a hand instead of a handout. Putting in hours and energy instead of putting in an appearance. Opening her home and heart instead of her wallet.

With each wrenching, exhilarating decision, Charlotte finds that climbing a new mountain — one built on friendship, love and forgiveness — will teach her what it truly means to build a legacy.

Emilie Richards weaves her story with clever use of characters, enabling the reader to see the story from everyone’s viewpoint.   Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective and from Charlotte’s newly started ‘First Day Journal’.

Charlotte’s journal tells us of her history and in turn provides us with an understanding of who she is and where she’s come from.   Cleverly, Richards doesn’t just offer up a usual storyline, rather, this is the story of one woman discovering what her legacy should be.  It is very much a spiritual journey.

One Mountain Away is a fantastic holiday read.  It will envelop you and give you something to think about in your own life without being too heavy or hard going.


If you’d like to find out more about One Mountain Away, by Emilie Richards, you can visit here…

Tuesday bites…

I’m in the city today, in day-job mode, but I thought I’d sneak a little blogging in over lunch time. Here’s a couple of bites to brighten up your Tuesday afternoon…

1. Have you checked out this great little video from National Year of Reading 2012? It’s now been converted to cinema format… let me know if you spot it?!

2. It’s Spring, and I’ve been hit by the Spring cleaning bug worse than ever before. Planning my approach, I thought that my workspace might be a pretty great place to start, and these tips from Mum’s Business should give me just the kick-start I need.

3. Do you think I could sneak off to Brisbane this week? Okay, perhaps not, but those of you in sunny Queensland might like to check out the Brisbane Writers Festival. It starts tomorrow!

4. Lastly, if you’ve not already done so, why don’t you pop on over and meet our two new TBYL Reviewers? I can’t wait to bring you lots of reviews from the lovely Tam and Kathy!

What’s your afternoon shaping up like?

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