Amazon’s weekly charts

Amazon has started bringing out weekly book charts.  The top 20 books sold, and the top 20 books read

They do fiction and non-fiction. You can find them at

Looking at the fiction lists, there are few surprises in the Books Sold.  These are the books you see in the display area of any bookshop.  The bestsellers are the same online and off.  Included among these are the books that have television or movie adaptions coming out soon.  Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

There is one unexpected (to me) entrant.  Dr Suess’s, Oh, The Places You’ll Go comes in at number eight.

It’s when you get to the Books Read list that the results start to differ.  Putting aside the question of how Amazon knows what you’re reading—Big Brother is definitely watching us—the results are interesting.

Here’s the full May 14 list of the 20 most books read on Amazon.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  2. The Fix, by David Baldacci
  3. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
  4. Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark Sullivan
  5. Golden Prey, by John Sandford
  6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling
  7. Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins
  8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
  9. It, by Stephen King
  10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
  11. 16th Seduction, by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
  12. Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
  13. Beach Lawyer, by Avery Duff
  14. Dead Certain, by Adam Mitzner
  15. A Court of Wings and Ruin, by Sarah J. Maas
  16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
  17. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
  18. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
  19. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling
  20. The Black Book, by James Patterson & David Ellis

Sure, the bestsellers are in there, but look how many Harry Potter books there are.  Five.

There also looks to be a slight lag on buying books and reading them. I’m sure if we had charts from the previous weeks we’d see authors like Sarah J. Maas on the Books Sold list.

Movie/television adaptions The Handmaid’s Tale and American Gods are joined by Stephen King’s It.  Again, because we don’t have the prior week charts we can’t tell if these are new readers reading books they have just bought, or if readers who already owned the book are rereading it. I suspect it’s the latter.

It’s Harry Potter that’s the interesting.  I know J. K. Rowling still sells a lot of books, but I think a lot of those reads are rereads. People who own the books already, have read them before, and are re-reading them.

It’s what we do, as readers, with a book we like.





It’s May. It must be Eurovision

It’s Eurovision time.

This year has gone fast. It seems only a few months back I was talking about last year’s Eurovision Song Contest. It’s one of the must-watch items on our television calendar, but lest you think all Australians watch it, they don’t.  Enough of us watch it that we’ve had an entrant in each of the last three years, but none of us know what we’d do if Australia won. (I know, we’re not part of Europe. As some journalist once said, just go with it.)  But it’s not a massive event on our social calendar. Not like, say Grand Final, or Melbourne Cup, which everyone watches.

We watch the final, which is on Sunday night Australian time.  It’s a delayed telecast, so we try not to watch until then. Or hear who won.  That’s why, as I post this, the competition is probably over, but I don’t know what’s happened yet, and I’m talking as if the semi-finals haven’t even happened.

So trends?  Men with high voices.  It felt like every second male sang high.

I’m a sucker for a power ballad.  There are a couple that get close, but no standout for me.  This year, my two stand-outs are songs that may not even make the finals.

How does rap yodel sound?

Ilinca, featuring Alex Florea, from Romania.

Or what about a little operatic background from Jaques Houdek, of Croatia? I’ve heard a version of this song without the deeper voice in the background.  I love the slightly-operatic version best.

Enjoy it, if you’re watching it. Have fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Yesterday we saw the Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

I’ve got a new favourite character.

I adore baby Groot.

The opening scene was gorgeous. A James Bond-style action sequence, with baby Groot dancing along to the music on the sidelines, and each of the main characters stopping in the middle of the battle to pick him up and take him out of danger.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the movie.

As I sat there, watching some of the fight scenes, I couldn’t help being a little envious.  In a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy, the fight scenes are over the top.  A novelist has to justify the odds.  If your characters are fighting and they’re outnumbered or out-skilled, you have to explain how they can win.

(Obviously, this thought comes directly from the fact that we struggled to have our protagonists in our next book win some of the fights when they’re up against some superior forces.)

Stay right till the end of the credits to see all the codas, .



What does Fergus Burns sound like?

Famous non-classical baritones. (This picture comes straight from the Wikipedia entry List of Baritones in Non-Classical Music


The predominant feeling among the line sevens right now was a baritone eddy of hope. It hadn’t been there before, and it sounded a lot like Fergus.



Back in Linesman, we never really gave much thought to the sound of line seven.  We knew what it did (even back then), but the sound?  There was that one throwaway line about it being a baritone and not much else.

When you’re writing a trilogy you don’t always consider how what you write in book one will impact what you write in future books.

Sometimes, serendipitously, something you write sparks an idea that becomes ‘the’ idea for a new story.

Terry Rossio, writer on Pirates of the Caribbean, once said, “Who knew the throwaway line, ‘Clearly, you’ve never been to Singapore’ would turn into movie three?” [Paraphrased here, because I can’t find the original quote.]

And sometimes you write throwaway lines like ‘a baritone eddy of hope … sounded a lot like Fergus’ and realise later that you never really thought of Fergus Burns as a baritone.  You’ve always thought of him as a tenor.

You can’t change something that’s written.  It took all of book two and part of book three to get into the mindset.  Fergus is a baritone. Fergus is a baritone. His voice is deeper than you think it is.

We’re getting there.

Elvis Presley was a baritone.  So were David Bowie and Johnny Cash.

Right now, we’re imagining his voice as a cross between Elvis Presley and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.






Answers to last week’s mystery fantasy quiz

Answers to last week’s mystery fantasy quiz.

Stop right here if you haven’t tried to answer the questions yourself, and go to last week’s post first.


Continue reading Answers to last week’s mystery fantasy quiz

Quiz Time—Fantasy Whodunnit

I love a good mystery novel. Even better, I love a good speculative fiction whodunnit.

Time for a quiz, I thought.  Science fiction mystery novels.

So I started writing the quiz.  Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel, Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Real Time.  They were easy.

I need a minimum of five novels for a quiz.  I googled some more. And stopped, realising that I hadn’t read many of the more modern science fiction mysteries.

O…kay.  Science fiction mystery quiz on hold until I’ve read more of the SF mysteries that have been released in the last ten years, not in the last fifty.

But … I have read some fantasy mysteries more recently.  So, let’s do a quiz about that instead.

This is a mix of urban fantasy, Flintlock fantasy, and what I would call traditional fantasy.  They’re not all murder mysteries.  In at least one of the stories, it’s not a traditional murder but the protagonist is searching for someone. (And that’s as many clues as you get.  🙂 )

These books are from our bookshelves.

Mystery One

Someone is disembowelling children.  Not only that, they’re tattooing the arms (and thighs) of the victims, from wrist to elbow.  I’m from the local policing force; young, but I’ve been around the force a while.  My two companions in the investigation are the man who killed my friends when I was younger (not happy about him being along, as you can imagine), and a dragon.

Mystery Two

I am a constable at the Met (London Metropolitan Police).  While standing guard over a murder site one morning (the victim was beheaded), I speak to a witness.  There’s just a slight problem.  The witness is dead.

Mystery Three

I make a living finding dead people, seeing how they died.  In this first job I get called in to find the body of a missing woman who was murdered in what appears to be a murder-suicide.  Except it wasn’t. It turns out both the victims were murdered.  And in fact, the female victim’s sister was also murdered (a few months earlier).

Mystery Four

I am a disgraced magician.  I draw pictures that tell the truth.  I am forced into taking a lowly-paid job with the town coroner, sketching the newly deceased. My truthful sketch of a young, dead girl shows the child was from a wealthy family, and murdered.

Mystery Five

I live a double life as both myself and my private detective twin brother.  I take a job hunting for a missing aristocrat, who has run off with a mysterious machine that everyone, including the all-powerful Patent Office, is looking for.

How did you go?

Answers next week.




How different would fantasy novels be if there was no tipping?

Australians don’t tip.

Sure we’ll leave the coins at a restaurant after a meal, but that’s as far as we go.

That’s why, whenever you get to a country where tipping is required, you’ll find the first thing the Australians do is talk about tipping. Trying to get a feel of how much to tip, what to tip for, and so on.

We get used to it, but still find it awkward.

I was reminded of this on our recent trip to south-east Asia, because we tipped everywhere, and oftentimes it seemed it wasn’t so much a tip, as actual payment for service.  (I know that’s technically what a tip is, but to me it’s a tip when you are also making another base payment for that service. For example, when you have a meal, you pay for the meal. Then you tip as well.)

It got me thinking about what a tip was, and how different fantasy novels would be if there was no tipping.

Maybe no different at all?

First, we have to decide what is a tip and what is payment for services rendered.

Asking a stranger for information

Petra stopped a man dressed in well-made, but faded, clothing.  A scholar, she guessed, but not in a popular line of study, for otherwise his sponsors would have provided enough to keep him better clothed.

“Excuse me, but could you tell me the way to the Cascades?”

“The Cascades.”  His deep voice didn’t match his skinny frame or the freckles on his face.  He moved, and she saw the purple stains on the inside of his cloak. A chemist.  Definitely not a career someone looking for fame would choose.  “Lady, just follow everyone else.  They’re only going one way.”

Petra glanced at the crowd in front of her. There were six streets off the square. So far as she could see, people were going all ways.

She looked back at the scholar, raised a brow.

He pointed.  Past the square, half-way up the hill on the other side of town.  She could see tiny figures moving over there.  All going uphill.

“Thanks.”  Her feet were sore.  Her legs ached just thinking about the distance.

About now, in a regular fantasy novel, Petra would toss the informant a coin as thanks for his information.

But … in a regular fantasy novel you probably wouldn’t pick this particular guy to get information from, either.  You’d be more likely to choose a beggar, or an innkeeper. Someone who expects to be paid for the information they give.

Paying for bathwater

This one’s easy. Not everyone tips the innkeeper when they bring the hot water and the tub.  Many times you pay beforehand. Fee-for-service.


On reflection, maybe not much would change.  Because often what people do in fantasy is fee-for-service, rather than a tip.

Except perhaps, protagonists might get less information.


We’re back

The flight is only eight hours, and the time difference between the two cities is 2-3 hours (depending on daylight saving) so we shouldn’t be jet-lagged, but Singapore Airlines was determined to feed us. By the time we’d had dinner and settled, it was midnight, and they woke us at 4:00am to start breakfast.

We’re home from our international travels. A little bit tired. It’s an overnight trip from Singapore, leaving at 9pm, getting back into Melbourne at 6am. I even manged a couple of hours sleep, but we’re still sleeping most of today. Overnight travel drains you.

We’ve some local travel still to do (then back to work after Easter, sigh), but we’re back with consistent internet access. I can’t believe how much I rely on (reasonably priced) internet access nowadays.

We’ve a few comments and mails from readers. We’ll start replying to those as soon as we’re coherent enough to form full sentences.





Still relaxing

The view from the bar on deck eleven. It’s the first real cloudy day we’ve had. No rain though.

I’m sitting in a bar on deck eleven. Behind me, two women have a private dance class.  They’re dancing to Footloose.  I’m not even watching. I’m sitting, facing a full window.  There’s a little patch of grass outside. I can’t determine if it’s real or fake.  It looks real, but I cannot possibly see how the crew can maintain it, so it’s probably fake.  But it’s the realest looking fake grass I have ever seen.

Past that is the sea, and off in the distance I can see land. (I think. I need binoculars to be certain.)  Everyone is at lunch, so up here on the eleventh deck it’s blissfully peaceful.

We’re cruising, and life is relaxing.

The South China Sea is like a millpond.  It’s funny to realise that although we’ve cruised before, we’ve always cruised on the ocean.  This is our first sea, and the ship doesn’t roll much at all.  (This ship is so smooth you can’t even tell when it moves away from port unless you’re actually watching.)

We’re into the last week of our overseas holiday.   Next week we’ll be jet-lagged, but home.

It will be good for the blog, at least. On holiday, it’s hard to think of anything but holiday posts. 🙂

Sailing out of Singapore

There are a lot of boats in Singapore harbor.

Sailing out of Singapore. Boats everywhere. Or do I call them ships?

Our internet will be a little erratic for the next two weeks.