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30 June 2011

Guest post and competition: Nicole Murphy

One of the themes I've been running with in my life lately recently is change and “fuck plan b”. The fuck plan b phrase comes from something Amanda Palmer (one of my inspirational idols) tweeted at a muso about his music career. I've taken it on as my new motto and my twitter friends and I have had a lot of conversations about fuck plan b, life changes and pursuing dreams. Nicole Murphy, a wonderful writer from Australia, was to write a guest post for Book Bites as part of her blog tour for the release of Rogue Gadda and this is what Nicole had to say about pursuing dreams:

Fuck Plan B

This is one of the scariest things to consider – and one of the most liberating. We’ve all got dreams – something that we wanted to achieve. And for any of you saying “I don’t” – think back to when you were a teenager. What were you passionate about? I bet it still gives you a thrill, right?

So yes, we’ve all got something we WANT to do with our lives. The problem is, society is really good as telling us it’s not possible. You need to have a job. You’ve got to have lots of money. Security. You have to have x by this age, y by this.

I fell into the trap. I knew in high school that I wanted to do something creative. I had some music lessons. I did art up to year ten. I studied drama in year eleven and twelve. I did amateur theatre productions. But the thing I loved most of all was writing.

I made some attempts to live a creative life – I auditioned for the drama course at University of Western Sydney. But I let all the (well-intentioned) folks telling me that I needed a fall-back position to influence me and so when I left year twelve, I went to teacher’s college.

The problem with a fall-back position is that you’ll fall back to it. I did. I dabbled in writing from time to time, but I wasn’t serious about it. I certainly wasn’t acting any more. All my creativity, my passion, went into teaching.

I lasted at teaching for a bit over nine years, until I had a mini-breakdown. When that happened, I’d been lucky enough to meet and marry my husband who wants me to be happy. He asked if I could do anything in the world, what would it be and I had one answer – writing.

So I started to pursue it. Over time, my confidence in myself waned and I found other ways to use the skills I was developing by becoming a journalist, but now that I’d let the dream have some air to breathe it wouldn’t let go of me.

Finally, in 2007, came the crunch time. On the one hand, it had become clear that I was never going to be more than an average journalist – I didn’t have the guts to go for the hard stories – and I wasn’t satisfied with that.

On the other hand, I was struck by a sudden, intense vision. I saw myself on my death bed, thinking to myself “maybe I would have been published if I’d just tried harder…”

It chilled me, in a way few things have, and I swore that if I got to the end of my life and I wasn’t published, it WASN’T going to be because I didn’t try. So with hubby’s support, when I left journalism I got a part-time job at a supermarket so I could focus all my creativity and energy on my writing.

That was February, 2008. History now shows that I sold the Dream of Asarlai trilogy in July 2009 and here we are, two years later, with the third book being released.

Is fucking Plan B and running with the dream an easy thing to do? No. The worthwhile things aren’t easy. People around you won’t understand. You’ll have to go without for a while and make a whole range of sacrifices. But here’s the thing – the happiness you gain from knowing that you’re doing what you want with your life will make up for most of that. And the downs don’t last forever.

Dreams do come true, but not without a whole lotta work and effort. And there’s no reason you can’t start that work today – except for fear.

Giveaway question – To win a copy of Rogue Gadda tell me, what’s your Plan A?

Please provide your email with your answer so Nicole can contact the winner!

Terms of the giveaway:
The winner is decided based solely on the response Nicole chooses.
The winner will be contacted by email.
This giveaway is open internationally.
The give away ends at 12pm on the 5th of July, 2011, Australian EST. 

Note: The giveaway is now officially closed!

Here is a sneak peak of Rogue Gadda.

She took a deep breath and then poured the potion over the amulet, onto her chest. It was jumping into a fire – instantaneous agony that drew a scream of horror from her throat.

She closed her eyes but couldn’t avoid the stench of burning flesh. She’d erred. Despite all her consideration and planning, she’d made the wrong choice. This wasn’t going to save her.

It was going to kill her.

The Dream of Asarlai trilogy by Nicole Murphy:

28 June 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:

The portable m-scanner resembled a sewing machine covered in clockwork vomit. It detected residual magic and spat the result out as a graph of colors: green for shapeshifter, purple for undead, blue for human. It was neither precise nor infallible and reading an m-scan was more art than science, but it was still the best diagnostic tool we had.

Page 58 of Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

23 June 2011

Books are my cocaine

 So I just logged into my bank account and this shit just got real! I usually have about $200 of disposable income after I pay my rent and living expenses each fortnight, and I just tucked that away somewhere safe to pay rent while I am unemployed. This leaves me with no money to buy books or go out to dinner, etc. O.O I know, I know, I knew this already... But for some reason I didn't think about that when I quit my job... I knew I would have to tighten my belt, but it didn't hit me that that meant I cannot buy ANY books for the next two months! And ebooks haven't featured in my book budget, so I didn't think of myself not being able to buy them when I felt like it. I did seriously think all these sums through! I even sat down and made lists and dusted off my calculator!! But for some reason, by logging into my bank to pay my rent today, it has really hit home... I'm poor! I can't buy books because I want them! I have to read books I already own! I have to pay my library fine! I need to start posting reviews and apply for ARCs! O.O

I know this is totally a #firstworldproblems meltdown, and I have done it tough before (I grew up quite poor, especially by Australian standards), but I have had a steady income for so long that I just didn't remember what it was like to look at a book shop and pine! I have to remember, this is better in the long run. But damn, I do so want all those books I can't afford to buy!!! D:

To deal with this crisis I plan to:
  • Pay my library fines (I am pretty sure I owe them money, anyway)
  • Start posting reviews (I have some written in my notebook which need to be typed up)
  • Fill out my Net Galley profile
  • Organise my bookshelves and decide which I can reread without wanting to shoot myself
  • Organise my slush pile and TBR pile and consider trading some of the slush with friends
  • Suss out the second hand store in a nearby suburb that Kat is always talking about
  • Read all the books I downloaded from Project Gutenberg but never got around to reading
  • Not give in to the lure of book shops! *whimpers*

Books really are my cocaine. Books are the reason I choose not to have a credit card. I just know I would convince myself that every book I pass is actually an emergency and that I must buy it. Or else. And I couldn't stop at just one! The only self control I have about books is not getting a credit card :( I've told myself I am allowed one more ebook and then it has to stop! I can't even justify a trip to Galaxy! One ebook that costs less than $5 D: I'd better make it worthy!

22 June 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:

And this roguish behaviour, Agent Braun, is exactly what troubles me. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is far more than simply acting on one’s impulses in the name of the Queen. The best way to defeat the shadows of menace and evil is to become a shadow of yourself. We protect the Empire in secret, a detail you seem to overlook . . . often. You could take a lesson from your predecessors, and perhaps develop a lesser reliance on black powder and dynamite.

Page 21 of Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris


In the words of Amanda Palmer, fuck plan b! I've quit my day job!

So, now it is official I can tell you that I resigned from my full time job last week. I’ll be looking for part time work as I want to get back into archaeology, and I couldn’t do that when I was working 40-55 hour weeks (and being paid for 38 hour weeks).

Why is this relevant to Book Bites? Well I also want to spend more time dedicated to blogging, reviewing and writing fiction. It won’t be a walk in the park (more like a fast sprint through scrub) but I’ll be happier doing what I love. It means I won’t be buying as many books, but I have a backlog of classics on my ereader I plan to read, and I’ll be renewing my acquaintance with libraries again. I still have a backlog of books in my TBR pile that I need to sort through, and I also have a notebook full of reviews I need to type up. So Book Bites may become more busy in the next six months! I have felt guilty that I haven’t had the time or energy to dedicate myself to this blog. I love blogging and the blogging community, and I love reading and the reading community. The fact that I have had to step back from both has been depressing. But, you know, I had a salary to earn and the work of two people to do *shrugs* Life, hey?! Anyway, there are changes a’brewing!

But for now:
  • Teaser Tuesday (it is late, but I had a migraine yesterday)
  • Supanova wrap up some time this week!
  • Kylie Chan will be signing at Galaxy on Saturday, 12pm. It is now squeezed above Abbeys on York Street (a few doors from old Galaxy and there is no signage yet) and I have no idea how they will fit anyone in – new Galaxy is claustrophobic enough as it is :( But they are resourceful, so I am sure they will work something out!! :D
  • A guest post by lovely Australian author Nicole Murphy will be appearing very soon! <3

To do list:
  • Sleep for a week
  • Move my desk and organise my workstation
  • Reply to blog comments I've missed
  • Type up reviews
  • Rearrange bookshelves
  • Organise TBR pile
  • Make sure I don’t have any library fines
  • Update Goodreads (recently read books and owned books)
  • Fill in my Net Galley profile
  • Start writing reviews for other blogs (Sorry guys, life got in the way!)
  • Organise a balanced reading/writing/blogging/job search/archaeology timetable
  • Review the design of Book Bites
  • Review how Book Bites interacts with its associated sites (Tumblr, Facebook, Flickr, Goodreads, Twitter)
  • Have an awesome career in archaeology!

What do you think makes a “successful” blog? Is there something I have been doing that I should do differently? I know I haven’t been blogging much and rarely review but I plan to change those. Do you like it when I get in guest bloggers? Should I do this more often?

16 June 2011

The future of the book shop: some thoughts.

This is purely an opinion piece based on my current inexpert knowledge and with my own personal experiences as a customer over the last 15 years.

I've been reading all these articles lately about the demise of the physical book shop in Australia. They (the generalised voice of the conversation) say that the demise has been caused by the sale of ebooks and stores like The Book Depository and Amazon with their reduced shipping fees and undercut prices. To my knowledge (and no, I haven’t researched it, I just felt like blogging) the two big chains that recently imploded, Borders and Angus and Robertson, are both run by RedGroup. I haven’t heard of other large chains closing all their stores in Australia. Like I said, I haven’t researched that fact, however, the panic I have seen revolves around those two book shop chains. Are the other chains like Dymocks threatening to close their doors, or is the fact that RedGroup ran both Borders and Angus and Robertson being underplayed for the sake of a sensationalist headline?

I really think there is a place for book shops in the Australian communities I have lived in. And I have to say, as someone who lived in regional Australia, I was never suitably impressed with these big chains. They clogged our shopping centres but sold the same books. There was no specialisation. Well, Dymocks stocks a great reference section, but generally, the chains stock the same 50 or 100 books per genre. So for speculative fiction, there are the new releases and then the big authors like Tolkein and Gemmell. That is NOT a lot of variety. It is fine if you read 5 books a year – you are rarely after variety when you read that many books. But for someone who reads 5 books a week, it was as frustrating as hell. If I wanted a book, I had to order it in. The process for that was very involving, and the staff usually huffed and puffed because it took time. And yes, I used to go through this process quite a bit. It was NOT a satisfying buying experience, and I am sure I would have bought up more books if I had have had access to them instead of waiting 6 weeks and paying higher prices. I ended up buying most of my books second hand because a local second hand book shop was run by a lady who loved speculative fiction. I could always find something new to read, and the range was extensive and eclectic enough that I could even find books by Charles de Lint (he is my yardstick author because he isn’t so easy to find). I also preferred buying there because the books were cheaper and the owner was familiar with her stock and could recommend others.

Specialisation and knowing what the customer wants.

Flash forward a few years. I moved to Sydney. The Big Smoke. I was so excited by the possibility of large book stores filled with gems just waiting to be discovered! And I was largely disappointed. I went to Borders and while they had a few more books than the regional smaller book shops, I still wasn’t impressed with their range. I started buying Nora Roberts books because all the book shops stocked them. It wasn’t until a year after moving to Sydney that I rediscovered Galaxy Bookshop and found my heart-home. I really think the way of the future is the indie book shops who specialise. I could walk into Galaxy and there would be row after row after row after row of speculative fiction. In fact, the WHOLE shop was dedicated to it! No wonder I would spend hours browsing! And the staff knew who I was because I quickly became a familiar face. They knew the books I read and could recommend others. I became part of the speculative fiction community just by being a frequent customer and meeting others, making friends and sharing recommendations. They run a book club for paranormal romance and we feed each other’s book addictions by recommending new authors – which of course, we then have to go and buy. I buy more books as a Galaxy customer than I ever did as a customer at Borders, Angus and Robertson, Dymocks or QDB and I believe that is because they catered to diversity. They create a community atmosphere and their love of their genres is shared with their customers, this in turn creates more sales. These are the things that are missing in the chains. I know they left a vacuum behind them, but I think there is a place for book shops in Australia in the future, but a place for indies, for genre specific shops and for shops with heart. Books are very personal. The things that hit your switches don’t hit someone elses. No person likes the exact same 50 books, and the fact that the chains tried to guess those books is one of the things that I believe lead to the demise of RedGroup. I also wouldn’t be surprised if had something to do with management and spreading themselves too thin – and the jamming of 5 book shops to a shopping centre probably doesn’t help!

Ebooks and online sales may be impacting book sales, but I doubt they are selling more books than physical books sold in Australia (remember, I haven’t researched this, I am just going on comments friends have made about their own buying habits). Most of the bibliophiles I know who buy ebooks still buy physical books – in fact, a lot of them, like myself, still buy physical copies even if we have bought the ebook! So we are spending MORE money in the book industry than we used too. Book Depository and Amazon may be a problem if the book shops in Australia don’t step up their own campaign for online sales. I think partly it is the convenience, and partly the price. I refuse to buy from either. I have made a pact to myself. I support indie book shops, and I won’t take my custom somewhere else for my paperbacks. I know that both companies have agreements in place about their shipping and this is why local stores can’t compete, however, I think they need to do more to lure back the customers. The sales experience is difficult. I find the CMS of the big online chains are easier to navigate than say, Angus and Robertson’s, which lagged, didn’t have a full catalogue and had missing metadata, covers and blurbs. I do not believe in Nationalism, but maybe calling up a feeling of national pride in our Australian book industry will help boost the book shop industry and guilt some customers back from buying at Amazon or Book Depository. I don’t know. It is just an idea I was having. Basically, these two companies worry me where ebooks don’t. Ebooks are different from physical books, and you buy them for different reasons. I can’t think to predict what the format of choice will be in 50 or 100 years, but I think books are safe for the next 10 to 20 years in the very least. I have read too much science fiction to think it will remain that way for the next thousand years, but I would like to think they will. There is so much more to get out of a physical book! But that is a discussion for another day.

I also think it would be really interesting to see how big a role second hand and online second hand book shops play in the future of the industry!

Thank you for putting up with my ramble on this topic. As I have said, I am saying all this as a reader, not anyone of standing in the book industry. I could have spent weeks researching this article, but then it would sit languishing in my drafts folder like all the other unfinished posts I have left half written. So, for the sake of expediency, these are my thoughts verbatim, without further research, polishing or input. You can take this as the thoughts of a reader you pass in the street, a conversation you might overhear in a café. I hope it made sense.

So how do you think the book industry will change in the next 20 years, 50 years, 100 years?

09 June 2011

The Silence

I have some bit things happening in my personal life at the moment, and haven’t had time or attention to focus on reading or blogging. Sorry for the lull. I hope to make up for it with Supanova occurring next weekend.

Don’t forget, Erica Hayes, Tracey O’Hara and Nicole Murphy will have a stall in the artist alley – pop along and say hi! They’ll be representing the urban fantasy authors in Australia!

06 June 2011

Book Bites is now on Tumblr

Book Bites now has a Tumblr ^_^ It is a place for me to share and reblog quotes, book p0rn and bookshelf p0rn! Because, you know you want to… ;-p I'll still be uploading pictures to Flickr, so mostly the Book Bites Tumblr will be where I post random pictures that excite a bibliophile like myself ^_^

NB bookshelf p0rn and book p0rn are pretty pictures of the same. I don’t post any naughty pictures there – just in case you are the type to worry about that (sexy pictures get posted to a different Tumblr LOL).

You can see the new Tumblr at

What kind of pictures do you want to see there? What quotes should I add? Do you have a Tumblr obsession too?

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