Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Christmas signings

I've had a few stores ask me to come back out for a Christmas signing ... so if you want a book signed, feel free to bring it along and say hello!
Here's the dates:
Sunday December 5: A+R Kotara - from about 11.30am
Tuesday December 7: A+R Newcastle Mall
Sunday December 12: A+R Miranda Fair - from about 12pm
Thursday December 16: A+R Town Hall Square - from about 12pm
Sunday December 19: Borders Tuggerah - from about 1.30pm
I don't have any time off through December (I even have to work Christmas Day!) so have had to keep it a bit limited; just the stores that specifically asked me back for Christmas but I'd be happy to see anyone at any of those locations!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First draft of a first book

It occurred to me the other day that writing the first draft of a first book can be compared to many things - but I like to compare it to a stumble across a darkened room.
But not just any room.
I like to check on my kids just before I go to bed and, as I was trying to sneak quietly out of my daughter's room the other night, decided that this trip was not unlike writing the first draft of the first book in a new series.
Let me explain.
You know the starting point (the bedside). You can see where you have got to get to (the lit hallway outside). But the route you take to get there can end up very different, even if you have envisaged it clearly in your mind beforehand.
There's a night light in the room, which changes colour four times in a cycle, from quite a bright blue light to a dim red glow. At any moment, your path forward can be plunged into darkness, or revealed in a burst of dazzling light.
There are any number of pitfalls waiting for your uncertain step. Obstacles that must be avoided, or stepped over, or even moved to one side to enable you to go forwards. Some feel soft, and safe - but could make a terrible noise. Others are sharp and will cause you lingering discomfort.
Sometimes the best route is to take a few steps sideways, even one step back - but always you must press on forwards. Head for the light.
But don't rush. Often, when you are striding forwards confidently, a sudden plunge into darkness can throw you off balance. An obstacle you were sure you could avoid is suddenly somewhere underfoot. A wrong step could be disastrous at this point.
Occasionally you must pause, wait for a little extra illumination to be thrown on the subject, to see your way forward.
Naturally reaching the end is a relief.
But take time to look back and see where you mis-stepped, or over-stepped, or perhaps could have strode out a little stronger. There is always a better route to take. Hindsight allows you to examine your progress critically, see where you might do better next time.
But never forget, you have safely reached your goal.
Anything is possible from here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

AussieCon 4

Just back from AussieCon4, the world fantasy convention held in Melbourne and it was truly an amazing experience.
I found it a bit strange just because I am not a big fantasy reader! It is ironic that I enjoy writing fantasy but have not read the genre as widely as many people - and certainly not to the degree that many of the fans had.
It's almost embarrassing - and I certainly got some funny looks from volunteers at a book signing - when you admit you've never heard of another ``famous'' author in the genre you write in.
But there were so many wonderful people, both fellow panellists and particularly the other attendees.
I spent three days at AussieCon, which itself went for five. Sadly I couldn't get more time off from work, especially as I missed out on a Star Wars panel on the Monday that I really wanted to be part of!
It was also a bit of a sacrifice - the Sunday was Fathers' Day and I missed out on seeing my kids ... best I could do was get up early to Skype them and watch them open my presents for me!
Of course, me being me, I also arranged a bunch of bookstore appearances in Melbourne!
Friday began with me flying down to Melbourne, with a hectic schedule planned to the minute. of course JetStar was more than 30 minutes late, which had me chasing my tail all day.
I had arranged a stint at Borders in central Melbourne and planned to drop my bags at the hotel before catching a tram there. Running late, and not in the mood to decipher tram timetables, I decided to walk with a 6kg bag over the shoulder. It was a mere 1.7km (according to Google maps) and I was sweating lightly when I lobbed, late, at Borders.
They kept me in water and I sold a bunch of books (mainly Wounded Guardian) before racing off to Dymocks central Melbourne. There I discovered, to my horror, that I was only in for an hour before more fantasy authors were due to arrive - and I was 20 minutes late! Luckily Fiona McIntosh didn't want to do the hands-on selling that I specialise in (basically she doesn't need to!) and I could keep going until 3.30pm.
Then it was finally time to check in and change, to sign in for AussieCon and get ready for my panel on Lost, the television show.
Of course then I had to sprint over to the Crown, for the Voyager 15th birthday party!
That meant I had to leave Lost at 4.55pm, while it was still going.
It was an interesting panel, with me being the only Aussie on it! The audience was pretty strongly American as well ... in fact there were US accents everywhere at AussieCon - plenty made the trip across for this fantasy extravaganza.
I should have made a few more points, but got a little swamped by this UK TV critic!
One of the things that I wanted to say - and annoyed myself by not getting it across - was the death of Jin and Sun.
(Lost geek alert!)
Not only did it devalue Sayyid's self-sacrifice, but Sun would never have let Jin stay with her without telling him to save himself for their child. It should have at least made Jin choose between the woman he had sworn never to leave and the child he wanted but had never seen. Even better, they should have escaped, validating Sayyid, then been killed by Jack stupidly attacking Dead Locke in his hero complex, thus making him more interesting ... basically I like to put characters through the wringer and this didn't...
(Back to normal!)
The Voyager party was great, although I managed to walk right around and through Crown Towers before finding it! I met and chatted to Ian Irvine and a bunch of others ... unfortunately didn't catch up with as many as I'd hoped but I (foolishly as it happened) thought I'd have plenty of time...
Saturday began with a signing ... wasn't expecting many to turn up but I had five people come and chat, including Tarran Jones (A+R Edwardstown) and Lynette who I'd met at Infinitas.
Then I raced around trying to find people for a story for the Sunday Herald Sun (which didn't run that Sunday but is apparently due up on September 12) before racing off to Dymocks Southland and then back to Borders Central.
Those both went very well, with the Dymocks boss demanding my return and Borders offering me a job!
Sunday was my big day, beginning with a kaffeeklatch (coffee meeting) then a reading and then three panels, back to back.
I met and chatted with some great people - some of whom went out and bought my books! - and then kicked off with a great panel about Adams and Pratchett and comedy writing.
This was my best panel of the Con and a lot of fun.
With plenty of humour in my books, it was kind of a perfect fit for me.
Next was Crowns And Monarchy, which didn't go so well. I realised afterwards that I hadn't planned for it properly - and then let myself get intimidated a little by the glittering array of other panellists - Australian fantasy royalty!
They were talking about their Russian covers - I was tempted to remark that I didn't have Russian covers but I had once had a problem with Rushin' undies (you know, the ones that try to give you a wedgie whenever you sit down) but had fixed that by switching to boxers ...
Anyway, I did point out that I too have been published in wonderfully exotic places. Like Dubbo.
I wanted to talk about the way I treat royalty, with the succession, with a Queen in a country ruled by men ... but bottled it.
Still, all valuable knowledge and I'd have a much better idea for next time.
My last panel was about elves ... and I was the moderator! It was a case of the blind leading the blind there but we kept things going in the face of plenty of questions ... and decided that we'd rather read books about orcs, not elves!
It was amazing to see so many people so passionate about fantasy and sci-fi (and steampunk and others).
Perhaps the US and UK attendees will go home and want to read my work, after hearing me at a panel.
Perhaps not - but it was still a real experience!

Monday, August 23, 2010


Like many other fantasy fans and authors, I shall be attending WorldCon, or AussieCon 4, in Melbourne from September 3-5.
If anyone is also going along, and is interested in catching one of the panels I am on, or attending a reading, a signing or a kaffeeklatsche (a small group chatting over coffee), here is my itinerary:
Friday Sept 3 at 5pm, Room 213: Six Years On An Island: Discussing the TV show Lost.
(Earlier this year I interviewed Jorge Garcia - Hurley - for The Sunday Telegraph TV Guide, s have some interesting information about this one)
Saturday September 4 at 10am, room 201 - book signing.
Sunday September 5: (this is the big day)
11am- Kaffeeklatsche
1pm - reading
2pm - Writing in the shadows of Adams and Pratchett
3pm - Crowns and swords, the worlds of fantasy and monarchy
4m - Where do elves come from? (Note, my next series, among other things, is a gentle send-up of elves in fantasy, so there might be some information revealed here - assuming, of course, that HarperCollins wants to publish it!)
I shall also be doing a few bookstore appearances around Melbourne on Friday and Saturday ... I'll post places and times later!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Big July - finished at last!

I can barely believe it - my madcap month of planes, trains and automobiles to get me around to so many bookstores is actually over.
In the end, I only visited 49 bookstores in the 31 days I set aside ... although I do have Number Fifty, A+R Town Hall, set aside for Thursday August 5 lunchtime, although I won't call it truly part of The Big July.
But, and here's the fantastic bit - I sold 1016 books to wonderful people across three states and the ACT!
Along the way, The Radiant Child hit the Dymocks Top 10 Fantasy Bestseller List at number 9, climbed to 4 and stayed there for two weeks, then finished the month at No. 6.
That was amazing, particularly as I think only about nine of my stores were Dymocks - the rest were Borders, A+R or independents (who don't do a bestseller list).
Still, The Radiant Child was THE best-selling book, of ANY book, for Erina A+R, two weeks after I visited there, while also being the top-seller for the month at Umina's Book Bazaar and a big seller for Infinitas at Parramatta as well.
My last four days of store appearances were a whirlwind ... Roselands and Miranda on Thursday, Newcastle on Friday, Parramatta on Saturday and then Hornsby and Macquarie on Sunday.
Thursday was a long day ... Roselands proved to be a tricky one as it was swamped with mums and screaming kids because Target (just around the corner from the A+R) has launched its big toy sale. That was a solid one and then I had Miranda Fair for late-night shopping.
That went really well and I met some great people, including Belinda Every, who bought the entire trilogy and is trying to start a fan page for me on Facebook! I also met a top bloke called Kurtis, who wanted me to write a character with his name and appearance into my next book: ``Just say he's got a beard like a lion!'' he suggested. You'll have to wait and see...
Friday was a fantastic day - although I got a massive shock when I arrived in Newcastle to see the A+R store boarded up, with posters saying it had closed the day before! As my heart slowed, I saw that it had, in fact, just moved down the road.
Despite it being in a worse location, the people were great, both there and at Borders Kotara down the road, and I sold about 55 books on the day, leaving me hugely confident I could crack the magic 1000 over the weekend.
I kicked off Saturday at Infinitas, which has been a wonderful supporter of mine. Waiting for me were a bunch of pre-bought books, ready to sign, including an entire trilogy for a US fan, Jan Barlow. This guy is a real fantasy expert, and I have to admit to being a little nervous sending my trilogy off to him ... he's gone to a great deal of trouble and I hope they live up to it!
Parramatta Dymocks is another favourite but, this time, I realised all my fears about Saturdays at big shopping centres were realised! It was just too busy, too loud and I couldn't get people to stop and listen. That's the biggest lesson I'm taking away - shops may like Saturdays but I don't!
This left me 20 books short of the 1000 target, with two Borders stores on Sunday to visit.
I was super-confident, as both Hornsby and Macquarie are great stores, plus I used to be the editor of the Hornsby Advocate, and Hornsby Borders is where I interviewed Raymond E Feist and began this whole adventure!
There were people waiting for me at Hornsby, including an old work experience girl, now a uni student and a budding writer herself! It was great to talk to them and sign some books but those didn't count as sales so I hurried off to Macquarie with six books still to sell to hit my target.
By now I was starting to feel some pressure - stupid, I know, and unnecessary but I habitually put myself under pressure - just one of many character flaws!
As time ticked on and people only bought book one, it began to feel less like a monkey on my back, more like an obese gorilla!
Then a lovely couple bought the entire trilogy to hit the magic 1000 mark and all the pressure was off ... no matter what the ``score'' for the month was, it was still a success, but it was still a real relief to reach the goal I had set myself!
There was no gold glitter falling from the ceiling, no balloons and streamers - perhaps I should have brought along a few friends to supply something like that - would have been a nice touch!
After that, it was easy to kick on until things really quietened around 4pm and I went back to friends at Turramurra for a quiet beer and a big sigh of relief!
Galaxy Books in my lunch hour, by comparison, was easy enough, although I sold few books I handed out plenty of bookmarks and chatted to what seemed like a lot of would-be writers!
So The Big July is over ... and what have I learned?
Well, I learned not to do anything quite as big as that again - I'll need to stretch things out!
I also learned there are wonderful people who love books, and fantasy, all across Australia. You just have to get out there and find them.
And I couldn't have done it without the help and support of the wonderful people at HarperCollins and, especially, my friends and family.
Thanks to everyone I met ... you have helped create a memory that will stay with me forever.
This was a massive challenge for me and I couldn't have done it without you all!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Big July - back home

With a glorious three days off so close that I could taste them, I just had two more days of store appearances to go.
After arriving back home at 10.30pm from Adelaide, it was up early the next day to see my son's soccer team fight out a thrilling 3-3 draw before hading up the road to Leading Edge Books, Lakehaven.
This is a fantastic store, run by two lovely people, Sue and Howard, and they are always well prepared for me coming up there. They've been great supporters and it is the fourth time I have been to their store, which is always a pleasure.
There were people waiting for me there, which is always nice to see, including Prema and Tyce, who have had me sign all three of their books now!
It's funny though - when I talk to bookstores, they always want me out there on a Saturday. But, to be honest, I find Saturday one of the hardest days. Everyone is in a rush and it's hard to get them to stop and talk.
So it proved at my second stop for the day, at Erina Dymocks. This store is in a great location and had set up a fantastic window display for me.
There was a small queue of people waiting there, including Max, who is the only person to have contacted me on MySpace so far!
My older sister Julia was also there to get a couple of books signed for a friend and it was great to see so many friendly faces.
Sadly, it was a struggle to get anyone to stop and talk that afternoon, although I still sold more than 20 books there.
Contrast that with Sunday, when I headed up to A+R Kotara. This is in a major shopping centre in Newcastle and was my third visit to that store.
On the Sunday, people were willing to stop and talk and I racked up 26 books sold ... I sold out of WGs and was about to go, only for them to rush off to the storeroom and return with more!
But the break seemed to have triggered a shift in the rush of people outside and I was only able to sell one more book after that.
It strange - sometimes you just get on a roll and feel that every person who walks by is a fantasy reader, ready and eager to talk to you and, perhaps, pick up a copy. Then the feeling goes and nobody is interested.
Whether all that is in my mind or not is another matter.
During the month, I have experimented with combinations of shirts and pants, as well as seeing if wearing a particular pair of undies provides more luck than others!
It's not a particularly scientific experiment and seems to have proved that no pair of undies is luckier than others, while no shirt seems to get more positive reaction than another. But the time of day and the day itself do seem to all have an effect!
So I'm off on a mini-break, gearing up for four days of frantic store appearances which, I hope, will see me break through the 1000 books mark.
Wit the counter sitting at 853, the end is in sight - literally and figuratively.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Big July - Adelaide

My last trip away for this amazing month of selling books was to Adelaide.
My main reason for going down there was A+R Edwardstown, which has been a great supporter my books and so I was keen to support them back.
I was being met by HC rep Anthony down there, who would look after me for the first day, then Graeme would take over for day two.
I was a little nervous, as they had warned me it was not like Sydney but at the same time I was confident I could make a good impression.
After all, this is not just about selling books. It is about meeting sales staff and getting the stores enthused about you, bringing your books out from the pack.
It was grey and drizzly as I flew in and headed out to A+R Westlakes, a combined book store and newsagency in a big shopping centre.
My fears were unfounded as I sold 21 books in the two hours there and chatted to some great people ... strangely enough both Anthony, myself and store manager Bradley had the same style of close-trimmed beard - make of that what you will!
A+R Edwardstown was next, an older centre but the store I was down here to see.
They were just as nice in person as they were on the Net, with Tarran and owner Jo snapping endless pictures of me!
After a slow start I kicked into gear and sold 22 books for them. A pair of spruikers were trying to sell exercise equipment just across the aisle from me - that was to happen a few times in Adelaide and I even tried to sell them some books (without success). Still, I thought, if I can sell to a spruiker ...!
I checked into my hotel, The Medina Grand, which used to be the old SA Treasury Department building. It was stunning - 15-foot-high ceilings, real old-world charm and in the heart of the city. I grabbed a early dinner in the Chinatown before heading out for Thursday night shopping at A+R Marion.
This was a tough gig, my toughest of the day. Not only was my voice really starting to break up but everyone was in a rush and very reluctant to stop and talk!
`MasterChef is on!' one exclaimed as she tore past me.
Still, I sold 17 books, aided by the manager, who loved the books and even persuaded one customer not to buy the fantasy book she had selected but to get mine!
Anthony, my fantastic guide for the day, dropped me back at the hotel for green tea, a hot bath and the hope that my voice would hold up tomorrow...
Graeme picked me up from the hotel at 9am ... only of course we waited for five minutes for each other at different entrances!
First up was Elizabeth, a working-class suburb on the outskirts of Adelaide, famously home to Jimmy Barnes at one point.
Like Campbelltown or Penrith, I had high hopes for Elizabeth, even though Graeme was sounding a note of caution.
But it went great - I sold 25 books and spoke to some amazing people. I even set a new record for myself, personalising WG for four women, who were going to share it and read it - still my highest number!
There were a few curious sights there as well.
I saw one bloke with the most magnificent mullet. A burnished gold colour, it was truly a thing of beauty. Fluffed up at the front, spiked on top, falling to a glorious length below his shoulder blades. I asked him if he liked reading but he answered `No!' and of course, I should have thought a little more before opening my mouth.
Maintaining and preening that amazing hair style would take all his time and, probably, spare cash. A hobby like that would leave no time for reading, sadly ...
Next stop was A+R Tea Tree, where I had a woman waiting for me, entire trilogy at the ready for me to sign.
It doesn't start much better than that and, despite the noise around me, including the centre's desire for piped music at a level just short of deafening, I sold 34 books and again spoke to some marvellous people.
The one sad thing about this massive, whirlwind tour, is that some of these people begin to blur in my mind. I come away from an appearance thinking those people were just lovely ... and then struggle to remember them all.
Last stop was Borders Adelaide, where they'd had to take down the big display of my books because too many were being sold! They only had a handful of books left when I arrived and I sold them out pretty quickly, to finish my Adelaide trip.
Luckily I caught up with Peter Cooper there - a Facebook friend who is about to become a published author himself. After corresponding by Facebook, it was nice to see the man in person!
Adelaide was a wonderful two days - great people, lovely stores and a fantastic pair of guides in Anthony and Graeme.
I like to think I brought a little good luck down with me as well - the Adelaide Crows defeated the rampaging title favourites Geelong that Friday night, as I was flying out!

The Big July - contrasts

I had a day off - at last!
It was lucky, because I had brought back a virus, or perhaps I was just exhausted. Either way, I spent most of Monday on the couch, trying to recover.
I seriously doubted if I could get out to Penrith Dymocks the following day and I started thinking about perhaps putting it off for a week. My voice was shot but, more importantly, I was exhausted. I had also picked up a cough - not good when you need to speak a great deal!
The welcome news that Radiant Child had hit number four on the Dymocks Bestseller list for fantasy perked me up but not as much as a tip from my brother-in-law, Bruce. He recommends putting Vicks Vaporub on the soles of your feet overnight - and it works!
I felt much better on Tuesday and ready to get out to Penrith.
I used to work out there so actually knowing roughly where you are going for once was quite the treat for me - and Penrith did not disappoint. More than 30 books sold and a great many wonderful people met along the way - it was a great session.
Next day was Borders Bondi, one of the glamour stores in the exclusive eastern suburbs. My family came down with me on the train; they were going to the beach while I hit the bookstore.
The staff at Borders Bondi were absolutely lovely - but the customers made an interesting contrast with Penrith.
Ask Sydneysiders - especially those living in the trendy suburbs - and 9/10 will tell you that they would rather sell books at Bondi than Penrith. Penrith, unfairly so, is seen as the home of `westies' and full of flanellette, not Faberge.
Yet I sold twice as many books at Penrith as I did at Bondi.
Some turned their noses up at fantasy, some were of the `ho-hum, yet another author' school and even the buyers only wanted book one, not the whole trilogy.
Perhaps they had spent so much on their mortgages that they actually had less disposable cash than their Penrith cousins ... who knew?
But I found it very interesting that it was far easier to talk to people (and sell) in the despised Penrith than the glamourous Bondi.
Make of that what you will!

The Big July - road trip finishes

I arrived at my friends' house in Horningsea Park, near Liverpool, late on Saturday night, to beers and roast lamb.
I was feeling pretty tired but really positive as well ... Canberra had gone really well.
It as great to be with friends - Ann desperately wants a part if the series ever gets made into a movie and has even offered to play a prostitute, an extra - anything!
After being spoilt with a big dinner and then scrambled eggs for breakfast, I was ready to tackle the day ahead, at A+R Macarthur, Borders Macarthur and Dymocks Liverpool.
Like many of the other outer suburban stores, I love appearing at these ones. Why other authors ignore them, I don't know.
A+R Macarthur is run by Karen Sharp, who had been at the Borders upstairs.
Sadly it was a slow start, with not many people about and I couldn't do much for her.
But that all changed at Borders Macarthur.
The staff there were fantastic, with quite a few picking up my books themselves. James came in on his day off to get book three signed, after I'd done the first two for him on my previous two visits.
They were funnelling people over to me and things got crazy as I shook hands and signed books.
Old friends from Campbelltown Theatre Group popped in to see me and take photos ... it was a lovely time and I sold more than 40 books there.
I was almost sorry to leave but I had almost sold out and had just one more store before heading home. I really wanted to see my family again but Dymocks Liverpool is one of my favourite stores.
The owners are lovely and this was my third time back there.
Sadly, by now, I was starting to really feel the effects of the travel and the long hours outside the front of bookstores.
The crazy traffic and struggle for parking at Westfield Liverpool didn't help and I was nearly 30 minutes late as a result.
Again, though, I met some wonderful people ... a lady called Kristi, who bought WG from me on an earlier visit and loved it so much, she was back for book three. Quite a few of the people there were coming back for book three, which was marvellous.
Likewise I had a great chat with a would-be author called Dan, who wants to get his children's series published. Always good to meet people like that!
But by about quarter to four, I was pretty much out on my feet and had to call a halt.
The drive home took forever and no time at all ... although one Mitsubishi driver doing 30km/h through a roadwork zone near my house nearly had me chewing the steering wheel in frustration.
It nearly broke me, that road trip. It was one day too long and probably two stores too many - but I met so many wonderful people and sold many, many books.
It was an experience I shall not forget.

The Big July - Canberra

Two days in Canberra, with seven stores, hundreds of eager readers sure to walk past me and the guidance of HarperCollins rep extraordinaire, Jodi Callas. I was looking forward to it!
I kicked off in Queanbeyan, the NSW town on the border of the ACT, early on Friday.
The bookmarks had just arrived, which proved handy, although things took a while to warm up ...
One hour in, I had sold two books and had the nasty feeling that this was not going well ... then it all turned around.
People started buying the entire series left, right and centre and I actually finished with two people nearly fighting over the last Wounded Guardian, with the unsuccessful bloke ordering a copy in to go with the signed copies of books two and three
This was the first time I've ever been able to sell a trilogy without book one!
It was not without its dramas, with one bloke with a runny nose insisting on shaking my hand and a kid spilling its milkshake right in front of the table I was working from, so a cleaner had to block everything off while he fixed that ...
Still, it was the perfect start and had me warmed up for Dymocks Belconnen at lunchtime.
This was going great - until the renovated Belconnen centre decided to kick in the lunchtime entertainment for the littlies.
The sound of Shrek, Donkey and co doing the macarena and other dances from the centre square beneath us made my efforts to talk to people pretty difficult. But I still chatted to some great people - one bloke bought all three and declared he was going home to put his feet up and start right away!
Again, I sold out of WGs and so it was off to Dymocks Civic.
This is in a quiet spot but there was still plenty of action. One lady decided she wanted a better deal than the one Dymocks was putting on for the entire trilogy and waved a $50 note at me.
`Let's do a deal. $50 for the three, I put the money down and walk away with the books. Right?'
A little flabbergasted, I directed her inside to the manager, after failing to explain that while these were `my' books, they actually belonged to the store until I had sold them.
`No deal!'
Off she went, leaving everyone a little bemused!
I found myself having a long chat with a couple called Navin and Rebecca, who bought all three, and we talked more about what I'm writing now than this trilogy. They explained they were having a rough day at work, had come out for coffee and run into me - and our chat had lifted their mood. Well, they certainly lifted me as well!
Then it was off to my last store for the day - Borders Canberra, where the manager Geoff, is a fan.
A lovely lady called Jess made a special trip across town to buy the entire trilogy, while another bloke came in to get book three - always a huge thrill for me.
It was busy and I chatted to everyone I could until I was about ready to drop!
I grabbed some dinner in the food court outside, then it was back to the hotel that had been arranged for me through my planned travelogue story for the Sunday Telegraph.
The Novotel Canberra can be summed up in one word - sumptuous. I had a hot bath and fell into bed!
Next morning, Saturday, was my last in Canberra and I hit the buffet breakfast, loading up for a big day.
First stop was A+R Woden, where I began fast and then slowed a little, defeated by the distance between myself and passers-by a little - although I did sell WG to the wife of the manager!
Next was Dymocks Tuggeranong, where I was haunted by a lack of WGs. Apparently they had more somewhere in store but could anyone find them ... after selling out quickly, then attempting to sell trilogies minus the first book (not recommended) to a couple of blokes, I had one woman stop me as I was leaving.
Now, we'd talked earlier and she'd said she was going to `think about it and maybe come back'. To me, that's code for `don't call us, we'll call you' and is a very polite farewell. But, she came back, wanting to get all three books and I didn't have them to sell to her!
The fact I was going downstairs to the A+R store didn't even save things.
She was disappointed and I was gutted.
It took me a while to get going at the Tuggeranong A+R as a result - but then I got going and sold them out of WGs, racking up nearly 35 sales all up and selling the final trilogy (minus books one!) to a lovely young writer called Rebecca, who arranged to get it ordered in from A+R Woden.
It was a great way to finish in Canberra but all the Ricola elderflower lozenges and green teas had not saved my throat - I was feeling a bit scratchy and still had a full day tomorrow - Campbelltown and Liverpool!

The Big July - road trip I

My last Sydney date before the big south coast-Canberra-Campbelltown road trip began was at A+R Warringah.
Some days you get the feeling that people are just not in the buying mood - happily, they were at Warringah! I sold out of Wounded Guardians in little more than an hour and so was able to get home early and prepare for my big road trip.
One of the more interesting people I spoke to was the father of Mark Timmony, the manager of Galaxy Books in the city, which will finish my 50 stores extravaganza - not that he needed to buy the books but it was great to talk to him!
Fourteen stores, four days and easily 700km in driving ... this was going to make or break The Big July. Possibly both!
My first day was driving south to Batemans Bay stopping at Shellharbour and Nowra along the way. As contemplated fitting in four store appearances around a 350km trip over 11 hours, I began to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew...
The trip to Shellharbour A+R was easy enough, despite the best efforts of roadworks to slow me down. At Shellharbour they had decided to restrict three lanes into one, then lean on a few shovels and watch their handiwork snail by. Then I discovered that there are actually two Stockland malls in Shellharbour, one for retail and one for bulk goods and of course I picked the wrong one first up...
The A+R was in a good spot but was probably one of the more challenging appearances I've had, thanks to the chicken shop across the aisle, where a spruiker was in full flight, extolling the virtues of their drumsticks.
Why all spruikers must have cockney accents and a desire to double entendre with specials on lovely legs and chicken breasts I don't know but there we are ...
Shellharbour really stuck in my mind. Firstly I sold Wounded Guardian to the sister of Ian Irvine, the famous Australian fantasy writer. Kerry was there with her mother and they kindly decided to support me - even better, Kerry came back 20 minutes later saying she'd read the first dozen pages and was hooked and wanted the whole trilogy!
But beyond that was a lovely Aboriginal lady, who was friends with the store owners, Doug and Beryl. She didn't buy the books but we chatted for a while, where she told me that I was writing something else now ... and then told me about it. She said she had some psychic powers, that she does not always reveal, but that sh felt compelled to talk to me. What she said will remain private but it left the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. It was accurate ... so accurate that she touched on things that I have only told a handful of people. I have to admit, it left me a little shaken - as well as uplifted.
I needed a little time to get my head back in shape and so stayed at Shellharbour a little longer than I planned, so set out for Nowra running a bit late.
It was a good trip down and I arrived at the Dymocks Nowra only 10 minutes late. I said before about how some days you just feel that people are ready to talk to you, and eager to buy. This was one of those days andI sold 16 books in less than an hour. There were few people walking by but they were almost all enthusiastic readers!
Just as was finishing, and preparing to go around the corner to the A+R, the heavens opened.
By the time I got to the A+R, the people who were ready to talk were all gone, replaced by people running for cover!
Nevertheless, things still went quite well, where I sold eight books, including one to a girl who had come in specially for book three (always a huge pleasure to sign one of those) and a family of teenagers, who bought book one after the oldest girl, who the father said would ``never'' read a book as thick as mine, begged and begged.
If Wounded Guardian gets her started on reading, and I hope it does, then that will be a huge thing for me.
So it was off to Batemans Bay, where I was staying with dear friends, dodging 4WDs along the way, who seemed utterly convinced that they always had the right to pull out at any moment, and other traffic had to avoid them.
Thursday night in Batemans Bay was chilly, and the people few and far between, although I did have an interesting discussion with one bloke down on holidays.
`What's your longest battle - how many pages?' he inquired.
So we examined my retelling of the battle of Pilleth in Risen Queen, which goes for four chapters and more than 120 pages.
`That's good enough,' he declared, satisfied.
He was from Sydney's north shore, and I remembered I had to sign a book for a chap at Chatswood, in a similar vein (so to speak) who wanted me to write ``enjoy the blood spray''. Not that I'm into glorifying war (the series goes the other way) but I'm happy to write whatever makes people happy...!
So I crashed at my friends' house in BB that night, thankful to have made it through a tough day - and with two days in Canberra to follow.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Big July - A Big Day

Saturday July 3 saw me zooming around the Central Coast, visiting Mandi at Book Bazaar in Umina and Kate at All Good Books Gosford, before watching my son play soccer (they lost 1-0) and then tackling A+R at Erina Fair.
Book Bazaar and All Good Books are not the biggest stores, nor are they in the busiest shopping centres but I really enjoy going there. The independents, more than anyone, work harder to bring people in and I sold 18 and 14 books respectively at the two stores, meeting some wonderful people along the way.
One lovely lady came in to buy Radiant Child for her grandson - this was the third time she had been into All Good Books at Gosford to get a book signed by me - the ONLY person to have come out three times!
I really like to support stores that have supported me and those two are just great.
A+R Erina is another store that has been a great supporter - in many ways they were the ones who started me on this big adventure, putting my details on the A+R intranet and basically booking me at a bunch of other stores. This was the fourth time I went there and it was a pleasure to sell for them again.
The day ended with a flurry as well, with two people buying the trilogy, both at the same time!
I also met a lovely bloke called Daniel, who had bought and read the first two - and was both surprised and delighted to find book three was out and he could get it!
Sunday saw me at Borders Rouse Hill, which is another great store, run by Aimee Green, who used to be the manager at Hornsby and I was pleased to be able to put in a huge day for her and her top team, selling 49 books to equal the record set by Borders Tuggerah!
They tell me authors are reluctant to go out to Rouse Hill but I don't know why - I met endless charming people, including a bunch who had come out specially to buy book three, including Facebook friend Alex Heydon - it's the second time I signed books for him and lovely to meet readers like Alex!
I posed for three photos and signed and gave away a stack of posters as well ... all in all it was an unreal day.
Monday saw me at Borders Chatswood and meeting the great staff there. Lucas, Jez, Nathan and the others were great - they even gave me a card and a box of chocolates to thank me afterwards. They also seemed quite impressed by my sales ability.
Proof of that came when I chatted to a young bloke about the book - only for him to admit he worked in the multimedia section and Jeremy had sent him down to talk to me and get some tips on sales manner!
It was another solid day, selling mostly Wounded Guardians but that's just fine with me - means they'll be back for the other two later!
So, just FIVE days into July and NINE days into my 30 days, I've already hand-sold 291 books ... well on the way to my target!

The Big July - Brisbane Part II

I checked out of the Royal Albert Hotel at 10am and had an hour to spare before heading up to Pulp Fiction, the specialist fantasy store in Brisbane. So I wandered around the streets, ducked into an internet cafe to write the first part of the Brisbane blog, and found myself noticing far more of the buskers and spruikers on the streets.
I listened to a busker and threw a couple of dollars into his guitar case, shook hands with a Red Cross spruiker, who had a nice line in greeting patter ... I found myself thinking it was only right that I give as many as possible the time of day when I walked past an old man shouting something about ``The Indonesians are coming!''
I drew the line there.
It was great to go to both the Brisbane Dymocks and Borders stores and it was fascinating to see the people who like to read fantasy.
The first guy to buy a book in Borders was this biker called Froggie (well, that was what I signed the book to) who had a full beard, a delightful Irish accent and the ability to use the word ``Fooken'' as both a noun, adjective and a compliment.
Two blokes who both bought the full trilogy were big New Zealanders, who looked like they'd be happier ripping apart a scrum than they would settling down with a book - just goes to show that you can never judge a book by its cover ... (groan!)
I have to admit I was walking on air the whole time, after the manager at Dymocks, Pam, told me that Radiant Child had gone straight onto the Dymocks Top 10 Bestseller List for fantasy! Obviously I was delighted - although couldn't help thinking perhaps I should have scheduled a few more Dymocks apperances, rather than all those A+R and Borders ...!
One more wrestle with the GPS, which I turned off as I approached the airport, with it imploring me to chuck a u-turn immediately (perhaps it didn't want me to leave) and I was heading back for Sydney and a busy weekend of appearances.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Big July - Brisbane Part I

Well, here I am in Brisbane, it's cold and a little rainy - perfect book-reading weather I say!
My first day here was both interesting and frustrating - interesting because of the people I met and frustrating because all the roadworks going around the place freaked out the GPS I was using in the hire car!
I still have to return to the airport, and must admit I am dreading to hear those metallic words ``re-cal-culatating''. Not only it is infuriating to know that the GPS is baffled, it is also an affront to the English language to hear it mangled like that. And coming from me, who needs a great editor and proof readers to avoid committing the same crime, that's a big statement!
Yesterday, while travelling from Manly to Chermside (in Brisbane's northern suburbs), it took me on a route back to the airport - and started screaming at me ``U-turn now!'' and ``in 100 metres, make sharp right down an alley!''
I looked at the concrete barriers to either side, and the trucks whirling past me at 100km/h and screamed back: ``You stupid bitch, we're both gonna die!''
Suffice to say we managed to find our way there in the end.
My first stop was at Borders Garden City, which was a wonderful time. The place was packed though, and it took me nearly 20 minutes just to find a park.
My friend from Campbelltown, Maureen Thompson, a fellow thespian from Campbelltown Theatre group, winters in Brisbane and she came along and bought books two and three, being almost all the way through the first. It was wonderful to see such a friendly face - unfortunately the vagaries of the GPS had me behind all day, so we couldn't sit down for a coffee and a proper chat.
There were many lovely people I met, including a couple of budding writers and a lovely girl called Yassmin who had already read the first two and then came back for book three and insisted on getting a photo with me. Why anyone would want to look at my rough head (I have a great face for writing) is beyond me but I am always happy to oblige. Luckily Maureen was there at the same time, so could exchange photographic duties!
Then it was on to TLC books at Manly, a small store in an outlying suburb but the owner, Tanya Caunce, is a Facebook friend and it was her contacting me that led me to come to Brisbane. I love to support the stores that support me, so it was a pleasure to come out there. For such a small place, we did remarkably well, selling 14 books there in about 90 minutes!
Lastly I was out to Chermside, which is a simply massive place. After my parking troubles at Garden City, I grabbed the first spot and saw and it took me five minutes to walk to the store. I had some lovely chats with people, including Facebook friend Besa Ajazi, who took out time from her work in the cinema upstairs to come down to see me, which was fantastic.
I sold out of my first book, although still had plenty of books two and three there, so had to call a halt.
By now, not trusting my GPS entirely, I made my way into the city, to my hotel, the Royal Albert Boutique Hotel. Amazingly, I managed to get there without more than a couple of snippy comments from the GPS, who was now saying things like: ``please drive to the marked route''.
I didn't dignify that with a reply.
The staff were very kind to a frazzled writer who was both tired and famished, and I was able to soak in a hot bath and think about the next day ahead.
So, I'm off to Pulp Fiction in a few minutes, then Dymocks and Borders in the city. Just walking around the city, I find myself talking more to spruikers and buskers than I would have done a year ago, before I began this book selling. I appreciate them much more.
However, that nearly got me into trouble last night, when a spruiker approached me as I walked to the hotel. I was about to at least offer them a smile and a polite no when I realised what they were spruiking - a gentleman's club! My polite no came as I walked very swiftly away!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Big July begins

The Big July is off to a flying start, with 69 books already sold at the first two stores!
Well, I kicked off the humoungous tour of 50 stores, across three states and the ACT, over 30 days, at Maitland.This is the third time I've been to the A+R at Maitland and one thing I have learned is they love a chat up there!
I would have to say Maitland is probably the friendliest of all the areas I have been to - even the people who brush me off do so very politely, with a smile!
I was met up there by Deb Tate, and her two kids. Deb is a Facebook Friend and it was lovely to start it off with someone who was excited about the books and had come along to deliberately buy The Radiant Child, as opposed to someone who'd never heard of me before!
Sadly I had to cut things short at Maitland, in order to get back down to Borders Tuggerah. I had planned to get there at 2pm and ended up being about 10 minutes late, because people at Maitland kept wanting to talk.
One charming older man told me he never read fantasy, then spent a good 10 minutes going through the A+R shelves and bringing over books he thought I'd like to read! (He recommends The Kite Runner, by the way).
I met a couple of budding young writers, who were just finishing their first works - and hope that seeing if I can do it, they can as well.
Things had gone pretty well at Maitland - but they went off at Tuggerah!
For the first half hour or so, I was just signing and chatting to people who had come in to buy either just book three, or books two and three, as well as the grandparents of my son's best friend, who had come in specially to buy all three. I didn't have to try out any lines on people for ages!
Best of all was hearing from people who had read The Wounded Guardian and The Risen Queen and couldn't wait to read Radiant Child. I can never get tired of hearing that people have really enjoyed the books. After all, that was why they were written.
But when I got down to chatting to people, I found plenty who loved fantasy - must have been one of those Sundays!
An older couple ended up buying all three ... the man said he used to read fantasy but hadn't for years but was retiring soon and needed something to get him out of his wife's hair! I didn't think they would buy one, or perhaps just The Wounded Guardian but they bought the whole trilogy. Just as I was finishing, they walked out of the store, having obviously spent most of the time down in the Gloria Jeans section, where he told me he was already halfway through The Wounded Guardian as he couldn't put it down!
Another older chap listened patiently as I talked about the books, then strolled into Borders, saying he would think about it, which is usually code for ``I'd rather have dental surgery''. But a few minutes later, he's back, having picked one off the shelf inside and wanting me to sign it for him!
At one point, I had three people around me going through the books and I was down to just two of The Wounded Guardians, so had to desperately signal for Kellie, one of the managers at Borders, to bring out extra stock!
The guys at Borders were fantastic, led by Mark and Kellie. Mark spent the last hour out the front with me, trying to offer me food and drinks and, at the end, they presented me with a box of chocolates to say thankyou!
So, off to a great start ... next stop Brisbane!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The full list

Here it is, the full list of bookstores I shall be visiting over 30 days - June 27 to July 29.
The times for my first day in Brisbane (July 1) and my two days in Canberra (July 9 and 10) may change slightly - I'll post any changes there and you can always check with the store closer to the date.
I'd love to see not just new readers but anyone who has read and enjoyed the books - come up and introduce yourself before I ask you if you like reading!
Sunday June 27
11am A+R Maitland
2pm Borders Tuggerah

Thursday July 1 (Brisbane)
11.30am Borders Mt Gravatt
2.30pm TLC Manly
5pm Borders Chermside (until 7pm)

Friday July 2 (Brisbane)
10am Pulp Fiction
11.30am Dymocks Brisbane
2.30pm Borders Brisbane

Saturday July 3
10am Book Bazaar Umina
11.30am All Good Books Gosford
2.30pm A+R Erina

Sunday July 4
11.30am Borders Rouse Hill

Monday July 5
11.30 Borders Chatswood

Tuesday July 6
11.30 Borders Parramatta

Wednesday July 7
11.30 A+R Warringah

Thursday July 8
11am Shellharbour
1.30pm Nowra Dymocks
2.30pm Nowra A+R
4.30pm A+R Batemans Bay

Friday July 9
10am A+R Queanbeyan
12pm Dymocks Belconnen
2.30pm Dymocks Central
5pm Borders Canberra

Saturday July 10

10am A+R Tuggeranong
11.30am Dymocks Tuggeranong
2.30pm A+R Woden

Sunday July 11
10.30 A+R Macarthur
11.45am Borders Macarthur
2pm Dymocks Liverpool

Tuesday July 13

10.15am The Turning Page Springwood
12pm Dymocks Penrith

Wednesday July 14
11.30 Borders Bondi

Thursday July 15 (Adelaide)
11.30 A+R Westlakes
2pm A+R Edwardstown
7pm A+R Marion

Friday July 16 (Adelaide)
9.30am A+R Elizabeth
12pm A+R Modbury
2.30pm Borders Adelaide

Saturday July 17
11.30 Leading Edge Books Lake Haven
2pm Dymocks Erina

Sunday July 18
11am A+R Kotara

Thursday July 22
11.30 A+R Roselands
4.30pm A+R Miranda

Friday July 23
11am A+R Newcastle Mall
2pm Borders Kotara

Saturday July 24
12.30pm Infinitas Parramatta
2pm Dymocks Parramatta

Sunday July 25
11am Borders Hornsby
2pm Borders Macquarie

Thursday July 29
12.30pm Galaxy Books, Sydney CBD

And that’s the 50!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Big July Part II

I almost have my full list of stores now and will soon post dates and times so you can, if you wish, come along and say hello and perhaps get a book or three signed!
Key dates are: Thursday July 1 and Friday July 2 in Brisbane, Thursday July 8 doing the south coast from Shellharbour to Batemans Bay, Friday July 9 and Saturday July 10 in Queanbeyan/Canberra, Sunday July 11 Macarthur and Liverpool, Thursday July 15 and Friday July 16 in Adelaide and finishing up with a Thursday lunchtime (July 29) at Galaxy Books in the city.
Along the way, I shall visit every Borders store in NSW and the ACT, Newcastle, the Central Coast and all points of the compass in Sydney.
Along the way I shall try and blog as often as possible, talking about the places I have visited and the people I have met.
PS: The link to my video on YouTube I posted earlier is not working ... you can either go direct to YouTube and search for me, go to my Facebook site and see it there, or go to the Harper Voyager site and see it there!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Big July

It seems amazing but almost a year has passed since The Wounded Guardian first appeared on shelves.
It has truly been an amazing ride.
Now The Dragon Sword Histories is about to end, with The Radiant Child, book three, to be released on July 1.
To mark this, I am planning something special - The Big July.
One of the things I have learned over the past year is how effective getting out into the bookstores to meet both the sellers and the people on the streets is.
Not only do you get the chance to meet some amazing people and talk about your books, but you also get to speak to the booksellers directly, let them know about you and you books
I have written before about how much fun this is, and how much I feel it has helped both promote my books and helped me understand more about what people are looking for.
So I am going to bring everything I have learned over the past year to The Big July.
In these 30 days, I plan to visit 50 bookstores and hand-sell 1000 books. That's not just The Radiant Child, but copies of The Wounded Guardian and The Risen Queen as well.
I am hoping the various booksellers will be keen to help me achieve this huge goal and fingers crossed we might be able to get some deals for purchases of two or more books.
I will be posting updates through the month as I travel not just around Newcastle, the Central Coast and Sydney, but visit Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra as well, while also going further afield in NSW.
Please follow my progress - and I would love to see you at one of many stores!
Check out the following link for a YouTube video with some more details, which I recorded for HarperCollins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21p5xGnBoB4
You can also see it on my Facebook page.
I shall be posting full lists and times of store visits as they are arranged.
I hope you can help me achieve my goal, and truly make The Big July happen for me and my books.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What I will write next ... you decide?

At my frequent bookstore appearances, one of the most frequent questions I get (right behind the hypochondria-inducing ``have you written them all yet? You;re not going to die before you finish the series are you?'') is: What are you writing next?
Now while I have begun writing on the train again (let's face it, my only other alternative is listening to someone gibbering away on their mobile) I am still undecided as to which way to go.
Basically I have four stories I would dearly love to tell, two trilogies and two stand-alone novels.
I should say that it may well not be my final decision as to which way I go ... obviously a massive amount depends on sales for my existing trilogy and how that affects whether or not HarperCollins wants to keep me on, as well as what they might be interested in.
Naturally I would like the opportunity to write them all!
But I am curious to know what people think, what they would like to see. I'd love to hear opinions as to what you might like to read - and who knows, it could be the thing that tips me towards one over another!
So, in no particular order these are:
Trilogy 1: Set 10 years after the events of Radiant Child, many new challenges await the surviving characters from The Dragon Sword Histories. I can't say too much more than this, for fear of giving away parts of The Radiant Child, but they will all be tested to the limits - and beyond...
Trilogy 2: One of the great fantasy cliches is elves and magic. But what if one elf failed his test of magic? Well, he would be exiled to the brutal human world, driven out of all he has known. But, with his knowledge, his skills and his archery, he might just be a wild card in a people's fight for freedom from a ruthless King. with no singing, no dancing and definitely no elven poetry (he breaks up an inn when the drinkers mock him) he teams up with a young bard with dreams of peace and a young dancer with dreams of magic to change not just the human world but the hidden elven one as well.
Stand-alone 1: Loosely (very loosely) based on the Japanese tale of The 47 Ronin (Google it if you are interested). But this is in a fantasy setting and focuses less on Japanese tradition and more on a story of a sword captain whose Lord might be the saviour of an empire - if he survives. He must find out how far you are prepared to go for honour, for revenge - and whether you are prepared to lose yourself, your family, everything, to save your country. With Keanu Reeves reportedly signed up for a film adaptation of the Japanese legend, slated for a 2012 release, this might be the only window I have to write this tale...
Stand-alone 2: The term ``hero'' gets applied to sportsmen too easily. And in a country where the national sport is a cross between rugby and gladiatorial combat, the champion team is given everything they want. But when they travel overseas on an exhibition tour, they find they are being used by an evil King to distract his people. Forced out of their privileged existence, caught up in a rebellion, this team must decide if they want to be real heroes, even if it costs them their lives...
So please, tell me what interests you - even rank them in order if you have the time/desire!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I was at yet another bookstore appearance (Borders Macquarie) and was lucky enough to get a visit from my copy editor, Abigail Nathan. In between me talking and selling, we had a disjointed conversation where she mentioned the fear of speaking to people versus the fear of putting yourself out there through your writing.
At the time I didn't really think about it - being somewhat more occupied with chatting to people - but it struck a real note with me.
Fear is an ever-present part of your life when writing.
When I was younger, I just wrote because I wanted to, because I loved to write. I sent books off to agents because I was blithely confident and knew no better. But, as each successive knockback came, the fear began.
What would people think of this book? What would people think of me?
Sending off a manuscript is at once a simple exercise - and one of the most daunting things you can undertake.
Asking to be judged - it's a big call. As I've written before, it's not unlike those reality shows such as Australian Idol, where you put yourself out there (albeit to a smaller audience), inviting criticism and hoping for acceptance.
Going to a bookstore and talking to people is like this, only on a smaller scale.
Yes, you are inviting people to reject you - but you go in with the mindset that this is going to happen. You know many of the people you talk to won't like reading in general and fantasy in particular.
Besides, after you have put your manuscript out there and it has been accepted, a little rejection in a bookstore is less of a worry.
But the fear does not go away.
There have been times when you think: This is all too much. When it seems as though it would be easier to stop writing, stop appearing, just walk away to a place where there is no fear.
But what keeps you going is the reaction from readers, and from people you speak to in stores.
Hearing that someone loved reading your book, chatting to someone who is excited and eager to buy your book - it is the perfect counterpoint to the fear.
I guess I've found that while the fear can be strong, it brings with it a positive reaction that's just as strong.
Yes, I get afraid. But it brings me alive at the same time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bookstore appearances for February/March

After a short break, I’m back into the bookstores over the next couple of months.
My program is as follows:
February 21: Borders Hornsby 12pm-2pm
February 28: Borders Macquarie 12pm-2pm
March 14: Borders Macarthur 11.20am-1.30pm and Dymocks Liverpool 2.30pm-4.30pm
March 21: A+R Warringah 12pm-2pm
March 28: Borders Rouse Hill 12pm-2pm
Easter is the first weekend in April, then I'll probably have a couple of others lined up then (most likely Parramatta and Chatswood).
Once again there will be free posters to hand out and I will happily chat with anyone who comes along (or even past!)
Plus, if you have already bought one or both of the books but have them unsigned, bring them along and I'll sign them for you.
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Australian Book Idol or So You Think You Can Write

I was watching an episode of So You Think You Can Dance last week, where the last few hopefuls were told whether they had made it into the Top 20 or would be doomed to disappointment for another year (at least).
At first I was whimsically imagining what Australian Book Idol, or perhaps So You Think You Can Write, would be like.
We'd have a team of judges, eager to put the book into the hopeless hopefuls.
``If I see another vampire story, I'm going to scream!'' the nasty judge would bellow, before throwing piles of paper onto the floor.
``Honey, you need to learn how to spell, you hear what I'm saying?'' the nice judge would offer.
``I can't believe someone tried the `It was a dark and stormy night' opener!' the credible judge would gasp.
But, jokes aside, watching shows like SYTYCD or Idol, at the moment when the final cut is made, can offer the budding writer some really good advice.
A few years ago, while I was nervously waiting to discover if The Wounded Guardian would be picked up by HarperCollins, I watched a similar show, and the desperate desire of young dancers/singers to make their dream come true really resonated with me. It still does.
You work hard, you train, you pour blood, sweat and tears into your craft, all in the hope of being able to share it, because it is something that burns deep inside you.
No wonder they burst into tears, even when they get the good news.
Apart from the human drama, I do like some of the advice the judges offer.
One line in particular struck a chord with me: ``You have to believe you deserve to be here, or you won't be''.
For a writer, nothing could be purer. Everyone suffers rejection, and it is only when you truly believe in your work that you can pick yourself up and try, try again.
Sure, your work can always be improved - there are few books that cannot be made better with advice from expert copy editors and proof readers. But there must be something inside that you believe so passionately in that you are prepared to put yourself out there, prepared to suffer humiliation for it.
Perhaps there is no national television audience but sending your work away to be `judged' by agents and publishers takes courage. But maybe seeing the young hopefuls on Idol or SYTYCD might help writers in their journey.
I doubt there will ever be a Book Idol. But every day, in agencies and publishing houses, the equivalent of So You Think You Can Write is going on.
It's made me look anew at these TV talent shows.
And marvel anew at the good fortune that allowed me to be one of the lucky ones.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Music and writing

As I have written before, all three of my books have been written on the train, commuting to and from Sydney.
As you can imagine, peace and quiet and CityRail trains rarely appear in the same sentence together - unless the phrase ``can't find any'' pops in somewhere.
Thanks to the marvels of the iPod, I can shut out most of these distractions. But music serves as more than a way to block out the gibbering of some idiot at the end of the carriage.
I find music helps my writing and, in fact, I get inspiration from lyrics, as well as help myself get into the mood to write certain scenes thanks to songs.
At Conflux last year, I was on a panel that tried to answer the question ``Where do you get your ideas?''
Obviously not an easy one to answer but one of the things I said was lyrics of songs. I find that certain lyrics jump out of songs at me - and can take my mind spinning off in different directions, thinking about characters and even plot lines.
Julianne, one of the people who came along to the Risen Queen book launch at Infinitas (who posted her lovely review of the book on the Infinitas website) asked me there about the music I listened to - and probably got more than she bargained for when I started talking about it!
I should add that, while I remembered the lyrics, I certainly didn't sing. To use a phrase from the classic comedy series `Allo `Allo, I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.
But I do remember lyrics - and I think that while listening to music while writing is not for everyone, they have helped take me in different directions, as well as truly get me in the mood to write different scenes.
Some examples:
Coldplay's Fix You has fascinating lyrics that could be a promise from Martil to Karia - but also, equally could be a promise from Karia to Martil - `I will fix you'.
Hoobastank's The Reason has a great line for Martil: `I've found a reason for me/to change who I used to be/a reason to start over new/and the reason is you'.
Live is not to everyone's taste but they have some interesting lyrics that jump out at me. Take their song Mystery: `Mine eyes have seen the glory of a love that does transcend/Mine eyes have seen the worst inside of man/And fear is like a fallen bridge, A broken promise/And the proof is in the bloodshot eyes of the one who failed to see'
Undoubtedly they are talking about God but I also take a different interpretation from that ... particularly the line `mine eyes have seen the worst inside of man'.
Or how about this from The Rasmus' song In The Shadows: `I've been watching I've been waiting/In the shadows all my time/I've been searching I've been living/For tomorrows all my life'.
These sorts of lyrics get me thinking about dark, lost characters, searching for a way back. But then I even get something from the likes of Chumbawumba's drinking song - `I get knocked down/I get up again/You ain't never gonna keep me down'. I take from that someone who refuses to give up, no matter what life throws at them ...
Music is as intensely personal as writing - I just find the two of them can be complementary and perhaps take the mind off in different directions!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Risen Queen book launch speech

After having a staggered release just before Christmas, to go with its official release of January 1, amazing as it sounds, I have only just got my head around the release of Risen Queen.
I had an unofficial official launch at Infinitas Bookstore at Parramatta on January 28 and it was only there, while giving a short speech, that I truly thought about what the second book means to me.
For those unable to be there - and it was only ever going to be a casual affair - here's a rough account of what I said.
With your first book, it is the realisation of a dream and a highlight of your life.
The second book is a little different, especially coming just six months after the first, as mine did!
But The Risen Queen is a very special book to me.
Firstly, for the mood I was in while writing it. I had just been told by HarperCollins that they were going to publish The Dragon Sword Histories and I was propelled by a wave of excitement and adrenalin.
Words just flew out of me. I normally try to write about 10,000 words a week while on a first draft ... I find a weekly target allows me to catch up if I have slow days. With Risen Queen there were no slow days! I was punching out 12,000+ words a week, I couldn't wait to get on the train to write them.
Secondly, Risen Queen deals with one of the inspirations for this series - the battle of Pilleth. I have written about this before, the amazing defeat of an English army by the last true Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwyr. Here the Welsh archers the English had hired or threatened to make them fight changed sides in the middle of the battle.
This had always fascinated me - and the fact history has not come up with a definitive reason for their defection AT THAT POINT - had me coming up with my own solutions.
While my battle of Pilleth does not quite follow the historical model, being able to write that was still massive for me.
This is also the book that sees the greatest development of Queen Merren.
Risen Queen - and myself - have been picking up comparisons to the late, great David Gemmell, from reviewers and bookstores alike. While I love Gemmell's work, his one failing was his inability to write strong female characters. I am honoured to be mentioned in the same sentence as him - but I really want to be known for female as well as male characters.
I truly hope readers can enjoy Risen Queen even half as much as I enjoyed writing it!