August Falling – Book Review

August Falling by Les Zig

It’s a great privilege to see the development of a story. I first read this book when it was called ‘House of Cards’, which seemed a very apt title when I read it but I’m guessing was changed due to the US television series of the same name. Titles can be so hard to get right, and you really need to look at what else is in the market so that people don’t have preconceived ideas about your book, or that you don’t get mixed up in someone else’s promotion. I will admit that I didn’t love the new title at first, but it has grown on me and the original title is a cliched phrase.

I love the simplicity of the cover and while the colour isn’t what I would have chosen, again it has grown on me. It lends itself well to the great visual promotions that I have started to see on Instagram from the publisher, Pantera Press.

So the cover and the title get my tick of approval but why am I mentioning them at all? The first impressions of a book are very important and can be the difference in getting it into a reader’s hand. Because I have seen this story in development, I love observing how everything has come together into a tight package. I can see that the author, Les Zig, and the production team behind him, have worked hard to bring it all together in a considered and strategic way.

What about the story? In essence, the story itself hasn’t changed dramatically from the first draft that I read because Les knows structure. He knows what his story is about and where to take it. This is always very evident in early drafts and I suspect that he wouldn’t have people read it until he thought it was ready for feedback. The difference between the draft and final product is a story with layers that is tight, easy to read and character driven. Everything that the characters say and do have a purpose that drives the story forward.

August Falling is about a man finding his way in the world after a disastrous relationship. Nothing new there and it would be easy for the author to throw him into another relationship that ends in true love. What we get is not a love story but the journey of August who has never really trusted himself or the world he lives in and this has been amplified by his last relationship. Every time August apologises, you feel like banging him on the head. He’s socially awkward and not confident about where he fits in his life, so when he sees an attractive woman in a café he never believes that she might give him a second glance.

Enter gorgeous Julie and you expect that this will lead to a love story and you’ll be annoyed with the author for telling you otherwise. From the moment they hook up, you’re barracking for them to be together and live happily ever after (that’s the romantic in me), while quietly berating August for being so awkward and to get his shit together.

Enter ‘the secret’. Okay this is a classic, keep-the-lovers-apart technique in storytelling because we all know, once they really get together, the story is over. The thing is ‘the secret’ might be a deal breaker and that this is not a classic love story. This is where August really needs to get his shit together and decide who he is and what he stands for. He needs to learn to trust. Can he do it? You need to read the book to find out.

August Falling is the perfect book for discussion. I can see readers talking about it in book groups because there are talking points for all the characters and not only the August and Julie relationship but the relationships between minor characters as well.

If you’re in Melbourne, why not go along to the book launch this Sunday at 2pm, Buck Milligans, 217 High Street, Northcote.

Blaise the book chick

Bendigo Writers Festival 2018: Let’s Get Curious 10–12 August

Bendigo Writers Festival 2018

It was by accident that I attended the Bendigo Writers Festival last weekend, thanks to someone who was part of the program but couldn’t attend. I was asked to help out and I was happy to because it meant that I would finally commit to going. Each year I have considered going but other events or projects have gotten in the way.

On arriving in the city centre, I remembered how pretty Bendigo is with its stately buildings and gardens. I instantly knew that I was going to enjoy myself.

I’ve been to many writers’ festivals around the country and I consider the ones held in regional areas much better than the big cities. I think this is because the cities are so spoiled for choice when it comes to bookish events and the regional areas appreciate the opportunity much more. This festival was no exception.

Now in its seventh year, it felt like the festival is well established as an annual event to the region and I could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air despite the chilly winter weather on a Friday afternoon when I arrived.

My first panel was about DIY publishing and the room was full of enthusiastic writers. Everyone was engaged and I loved the conversations I had with my sister panelists, Mira Schlosberg and Amy Doak.

After the panel, I was free to enjoy the festival until Sunday when I was to be part of the Share Fair at Trades Hall. It was hard to choose what to see with each timeslot having four or five different events from author talks, to discussion panels and live performances. I decided to see things that were not my usual choices:

  1. Nurturing Yiddish with Bente Kahan and Arnold Zable.
    I cannot speak Yiddish but I found this an interesting discussion from the point of view of a language that needs to be preserved.
  2. Opening Gala (Let’s Get Curious) with Benjamin Law, Ann Cleeves, Gareth Evans, Carly Findlay and Jenny Graves.
    An almost full house at Ulumbarra Theatre (the old Bendigo Gaol) with a lively discussion about curiosity. Benjamin Law is a great presenter and handled being heckled for his shoes-with-no-socks fashion very well.
  3. Secrets, Lies and Dark Deeds with Michael Robotham and Cecile Shanahan.
    I’m not a big reader of thrillers but I found Michael very personable and funny and who doesn’t love a good story story about getting the first book deal the way he did? I’m adding his books to my TBR (to be read) pile.
  4. Death, Decay, Disaster with Sarah Kasnostein and Gemma Raynor.
    I can’t remember where I had heard about The Trauma Cleaner but I was curious to know more. And there is so much more to this story. I’m looking forward to reading this book, also now on my TBR pile.
  5. Not Such a Bad Place to Grow Up with Paddy O’Reily, Jay Carmichael, Sofie Laguna and Ellen van Neerven.
    I attended this because of my own love of the bush and because I had noticed that many books are being set in urban landscapes. The Choke was already on my wish list but after this panel, I also got Jay and Ellen’s books. I was particularly impressed with Ellen and have put her book at the top of my pile.
  6. Surviving Words with Bente Kahan. I attended this because again I was curious to see how she was going to present the various artists that she promised. This was a mix of English and Yiddish and I found it very moving and even a little tear inducing, even though I can’t really explain why.

I realise that my descriptions of each event are brief but I could do a full review for each. It’s enough to show that there was great variety and big names attending and that is only a portion of the 100 or so events.

Going to writing festivals is good practice for many reasons. Not only is it fun to immerse yourself in books but it gives you a sense of what is happening in the industry, you learn something from each event in terms of writing practice or the journey of a story. All of this will add to your skills as a writer and as a businessperson because writing is a business. It isn’t enough to just sit and write despite the fact that is what we’d love to do. Yes, you do need to focus and write the book but once that is done you will need to work out how that story gets in front of readers. This is the same whether you are published traditionally or do it yourself. More than anything, attending writing events will give you inspiration because it’s hard not to be buoyed by bookish conversations.

Do yourself a favour and get along to something. We really are rich with events around Australia. The Melbourne Writers Festival starts 24th August and Write Around the Murray (another great regional event) is 7–9 September. If you feel that the expense is beyond you, think about volunteering for a festival. That way you will meet people behind the scenes and get free entry to events.

Have fun!

Blaise the book chick

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