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!