Narrative Transport. The official Michael Pryor website.
  • April14th

    And here it is, the cover for my next book, a zany fun adventure for younger readers. In a world very much like ours, 10 year old Leo da Vinci is an inventor, artist, dreamer, and dedicated fighter against supervillains …

    And don’t I just love Jules Faber’s illustration? Outrageously good!

    Look for it in August.

    leo front cover

  • March2nd

    Keats said it, and said it best.autumn small Autumn is the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. I love the cool, dewy mornings. I love the way the hot air balloons arrive, happy in the calmer, cooler skies. I love the long, blue afternoons that fade into drowsy dusk. I love the changing colours of leaves and the smell of wood smoke in the air.

    Autumn, my favourite season.

     

    TO AUTUMN – John Keats

    1.

    Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

    Conspiring with him how to load and bless

    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

    And still more, later flowers for the bees,

    Until they think warm days will never cease,

    For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

     

    2.

    Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

    Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

    Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

    Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

    Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,

    Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:

    And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

    Steady thy laden head across a brook;

    Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

    Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

     

    3.

    Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

    Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

    While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,

    And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;

    Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

    Among the river sallows, borne aloft

    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

    And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

    Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

    The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;

    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

  • February5th

    Leo da Vinci. Artist. Scientist. Inventor. Dreamer. Ten year old fighter against supervillains.

    As promised, it’s time to reveal some details of my new writing project. This is another departure from my writing for Young Adults, and I’m fairly and squarely writing for primary school readers this time with The Adventures of Leo da Vinci.vitruvian man

    To those small-minded people who might be prone to quibble and suggest that Leo da Vinci was actually an Italian Quattrocento polymath, I say ‘Pish’. As any fule no, Leo da Vinci is ten years old and engaged in an eternal struggle against evil, as long as he can fit it in around his school and other commitments. To this end, he has formed Fixit International Inc and gathered a cadre of eccentric and hard-bitten comrades, including a wood-burning robot and a talking pig. Leo invents, draws, sculpts and plans in a constant frenzy of creativity, while battling with the nuances of making friends and navigating the modern world.

    And if can just paint that Mrs Gioconda’s quirky smile right, he’ll be happy.

     

    The first book in this ground-breaking series will be published by the good people at Penguin Random House Australia. The first will be released this August, and the second early next year. Look out for them, buy them, discuss them, adore them, share them with friends, advocate them, nominate them for prestigious awards and, if you own a major Hollywood studio, option them for blockbuster movies, at the very least.

  • December30th

    It’s that time of the year again, when our elected representatives head off on holidays and newspapers are groping for copy.romance books The result is the standard ‘What are our politicians’ holiday reads?’ where our pollies nominate the books they just haven’t had time to get to during the year. The Age managed to move with the times by recognising that summer is also a time for catching up on missed TV, so it combined reading and viewing when it braced our gallant parliamentarians in its ‘What your politicians are planning to watch and read this summer’ article on Sunday 28 December, available online here.

    These articles appear like clockwork at this time every year, and every year I notice the same extraordinary patterns. As in previous years, almost every book nominated is non-fiction. History, international relations, economics, biographies and, yes, politics, dominate the reading lists put up by our chosen few. They’re, good, weighty, worthy tomes, no doubt with many pages, printed on both sides.

    What troubles me is the almost total absence of fiction. While I have no reason to doubt that Clive Palmer is going to whip through War and Peace, as he nominates, only two fiction titles really get a gong: The Narrow Road to the Deep North and The Game of Thrones (despite the fact that there is actually no book of that title …). Two fiction titles, seven non-fiction. This is actually an improvement on previous years when no fiction titles were deemed worthy of inclusion.

    This concerns me. A wealth of recent research has established firm connections between reading fiction and establishing and maintaining a sense of empathy. Empathy. That vital capacity to feel what another person is feeling, to see things from another’s situation, to feel what another is feeling. Fiction has the immersive power to put a reader into unfamiliar circumstances in ways that no report, inquiry or white paper ever will. Through fiction we can feel the pain of the dispossessed, the anguish of the bereaved, the joy of the welcomed, and we can feel this in a way that affects us deeply. We are moved by fiction.

    So it disappoints me to see that our politicians, the ones who need to be in touch with other lives, are eschewing fiction. I’d like to see them read more stories. It might help.

    By the way, out of a total of nine titles mentioned by our politicians, only two of them were Australian books. Make of that what you will.

  • December12th

    Recently, I was  cleaning out an old relative’s garage and I came across bundles of ancient magazines. One such stack was devoted to an obscure journal called The Australasian Sophist. Among articles about bush ballads, inland explorers and rough-hewn heroes of the past was a recurring column of surprising scientific content. The expert who answered correspondents’ enquiries is anonymous, but as I read column after column, I couldn’t help forming an image of a crusty, intolerant, combustible know-it-all who lacked the genial lovability that would make him a household name. Was he a real academic? Was he as knowledgeable as he claims, or as good-looking? Despite extensive research, I’ve been unable to find the answer to any of these questions. The Professor will remain a mystery, I’m afraid – but his wisdom can live on. To that effect, I reproduce one of the columns below, edited only slightly to fill in some unimportant parts that were eaten by silverfish.

    Ask The Professor

    Dear Professor,

    My friend says that scientists have found that birds are actually too heavy to fly.  Is this true?

    Signed Flighty.

    Dear Flighty,

    First, let me put you straight on one thing.  You’re not fooling anyone with this “my friend says” business.  As soon as I hear that, I know that it’s someone trying to cover up their embarrassing lack of knowledge by palming it off on a mythical companion.  It’s the same for “I read somewhere”.  Pathetic.

    Birds too heavy to fly?  For a start I’ll assume that you’re not dumb enough to be thinking about emus and kiwis and ground lovers like that.  I’ll take it that you’re referring to the usual, everyday birds.  Sparrows and seagulls and howler monkeys and stuff.

    Well, I may have a surprise for you, my shy friend.  Recent research has actually shown that birds are too heavy to fly.  But what about, I can hear you ask, what about all those passerines and raptors I see flitting past my window every second of the day?

    This, my unlearned friend, can be explained by two hitherto unknown phenomena.  Phenomenon 1 is Persistence of Learned Memory, or the After Image Effect.  Put simply, this means that because you’ve seen pictures of flying birds many times, when you look out your window you unconsciously superimpose the image of the flying birds onto the background of the sky.  Simple.  I’ll leave the rest to you.

    Phenomenon 2 is the Enhanced Buoyancy Effect.  Have you ever noticed that whenever you accidentally ram your vacuum cleaner nozzle into a split in a feather pillow, then swap the hose around to blow instead of suck, the way the feathers immediately defy gravity?  Especially if you have the nozzle pointing upwards?  This is a demonstration of the Enhanced Buoyancy Effect in birds.  Put simply, feathers are actually repelled by air.  In other words, birds are actually squeezed upwards, thanks to the action of air on their feathers.  This, of course, explains why birds have claws – to grab hold of perches, the ground and pirates’ shoulders in an effort not to shoot upwards like a cheap champagne cork.  And it also explains the customary nervous disposition of most birds.

    Of course there are some nit-pickers who may claim that Phenomenon 1 (the Persistence of Learned Memory) and Phenomenon 2 (the Enhanced Buoyancy Effect) actually contradict each other.  This, of course, has been reconciled by the Avian Uncertainty Principle, which states that wherever birds are concerned, either Phenomenon 1 or Phenomenon 2 explains why they don’t fly.

    All in all, it’s a relatively straightforward set of affairs, really.

    The Professor.

  • November20th

    The Centre for Youth Literature is helping out all you dedicated NaNoWriMoers out there.

    As part of this support program, I’m going to be ensconced in the grand dome of the State Library of Victoria this Saturday 22 November, doing my own writing (as a model!) and offering suggestions, strategies and counselling for those who are in the middle of the furious writing that NaNoWriMo is all about.

    More details here.

    See you there!

     

  • November10th

     

    WoH audio book

    At last – The Laws of Magic is now appearing as audiobooks!

    The fine people at Audible are turning the adventures of Aubrey, George, Caroline and Sophie into quality audio texts. The first to be released is Word of Honour and the books will be read by the very talented Rupert Degas.

     

    Here’s his bio:

    Rupert Degas can be heard reading True History of the Kelly Gang, PS I Love You, If You Could See Me Now, Lord Loss, Demon Thief, Slawter, and The Saga of Darren Shan. He is also the voice of Pantalaimon in Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. He has lent his voice to numerous cartoons, including Mr Bean, Robotboy, and Bob the Builder and has performed in over thirty radio productions, including The Gemini Apes, The Glittering Prizes, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He spent eighteen months in the West End performing in the comedy Stones in his Pockets. He has also read A Wild Sheep Chase and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle for Naxos AudioBooks.

    And he does a splendid job with Word of Honour.

    To help celebrate this audio launch, I have some copies of the audio Word of Honour to give away. Just go to my contact page, scroll down to the contact form, and send me a message with the subject ‘WoH audio’. I’ll run this promotion until the end of November.

  • November9th

    Strawberry Jam

    Posted in: Food

    With plenty of good, flavoursome strawberries available at this time of year, strawberrieswhipping up a batch of strawberry jam is fun thing to do. Not only for personal consumption (ahem) but a jar of hand-made jam is a lovely present in the festive season.

    I make a number of different versions of strawberry jam, including a sublime strawberry and banana(!) version, but here’s a good, straightforward recipe from Edwardian times, with modern measurements and a few interpolated notes from me.

    Strawberry Jam

    Ingredients

    1 kg strawberries, washed and hulled

    1 kg sugar

    1/2 cup of lemon juice

    Method

    Place sugar in a large stock pot/boiler.

    Over a low heat, add enough water to just dissolve the sugar.

    Add lemon juice.

    Bring to a rapid boil.

    Add strawberries.

    Boil rapidly until setting point is reached (104 degrees C). If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, spoon a little jam onto a cold saucer and push to one side. If a wrinkled skin forms, the jam is ready.

    Bottle in jars that have been well-washed and then heating in the oven while the jam is being made.

    Serve with scones and cream.

    The advice from the past is that strawberry jam should never be over-boiled, as it ruins the flavour. Under-cooking is preferable, so that it’s only slightly set.

    Note: strawberry jam can be tricky to set, so it’s worth having some pectin (‘JamSetta’) on hand, just in case. It’s available from most supermarkets; just follow the directions on the pack if your jam is temperamental regarding setting.

  • October23rd

    Here’s a sneak peek at something I’m working on right now.

    Dad put both hands flat on the table in front of him and stared at them. ‘You need to shoot your own dog.’

    ‘What? Where did that come from? Is this non sequitur week?

    ‘I can’t let you do it, Anton. Sometimes, a man needs to shoot his own dog.’

    ‘Aargh! Repeating it doesn’t make it any better! What are you? A character in an old western movie?’

    ‘I –’

    ‘That’s so dumb, “A man’s gotta shoot his own dog.” No he doesn’t! Why not save it? Get it the right treatment, an operation, whatever. I mean, that sort of stoic guy stuff is a cop out. Who are you thinking of, the dog or you? If I don’t take care of my dog I’ll look bad? Sheesh. All over the wild west, I bet dogs lived in constant fear, just in case their masters glanced at them with the ‘That dog’s seemin’ a mite poorly’ look in their eye.’

  • September10th

    Lots of experts have advice to help your children read. I have one suggestion that I’m going to offer in ten different varieties, and it’s all to do with the power of modelling. Your children observe you and are shaped by what you do and say. It’s the power of modelling.reading man My suggestion is all to do with you modelling good reading behaviour so your children will subtly learn that reading is an enjoyable, fun experience. Too often, the only reading a child sees his/her parent doing is professional reading – spreadsheets, reports, quality control documents. And how do we read this? Scowling, muttering, frowning and giving every indication that reading is anything but pleasurable. So let’s turn this around!

    1. Let them catch you reading – and enjoying it.
    2. Let them see you reading and smiling, or frowning, or crying, or laughing.
    3. Let them overhear you talking about the book you’re reading, and how much you’re enjoying it.
    4. Let them discover the book you’re reading, left around on the kitchen bench with a bookmark in it.
    5. Let them see you mess up something because you were too deeply immersed in the book you’re reading.
    6. Let them see you recommend a book to someone.
    7. Let them see your ‘To Be Read Pile’.
    8. Let them hear you say, ‘Not now, I’m reading a really good book.’
    9. Let them see you Googling whether the book you finished has a sequel or not.
    10. Let them see you sigh when you close a book upon finishing.

    So go and read a good book. Enjoy, and don’t be afraid to show it!