Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wall Of Spears tour wrap-up

Well, it's finally over - after more than 50 bookstores across the last two months, more than 1200 books hand-sold, easily 1000 people spoken to, five states and one territory.
Firstly, a massive thankyou to all those people who stopped and chatted to me about the books - it was a pleasure and a privilege to speak to you.
Another huge vote of thanks to the bookstores and their staff who helped me.
Thanks also to all my friends who helped me around the country - you made it all possible.
So here's a few random thoughts about the tour:

Best question asked:
Hands down, one from a young couple out at Penrith. "Who would win in a fight between Martil and Sendatsu?" It made me smile and it made me think. I'll have to put together a blog entry giving my answer in the next few weeks!

Weirdest reply to my opening line of "Do you like to read?"
From two seniors, one in Melbourne and the other in Perth. "I only read pornos!" What are our seniors up to these days?!?!?!!

Most popular questions:
A dead heat between "How long does it take you to write a book?" and "How do you get published?". The first is obviously easier to answer than the second. In fact, these days, the second question is very tricky to answer. It's very easy to self-publish but nobody has the magic answer to how to get a mainstream publishing contract.

Dumbest answer:
Sadly, I received this one multiple times. "I can't read, I'm illiterate!" Now those words by themselves would be sad, but when said with a proud smile, really turn my stomach. If people tell me they don't like to read, then that's fair enough. But when they take pride in it, then that's alarming.

Fastest-growing question:
"Are these available as eBooks?" The growth in this question has been enormous on this tour, compared to my previous tours.

Strangest reaction to saying I write fantasy:
Many people pull a face and then tell me they don't read fantasy. One woman ranted and raved for nearly a minute about how much she hated the genre. I thought she was never going to shut up about it! And one woman in Wollongong told me - 'I don't read that crap!' with an expression of pure disgust on her face. Then she looked at me and her face fell. She reached out to grab my arm and said earnestly: "But I'm sure yours is great!"

Hopeful but no:
On several occasions, people told me they only read biographies. Then they looked wistfully at the table covered in fantasy books. "Do you have any biographies?"

Random questions:
"Do you sell calendars?" Only what I have here!
"Do you know where the Post Office is?" Madam, I'm not even from this state, let alone this suburb. I'm afraid I can't help!
"How could I write a relationship between a warrior and a little girl, like you did with Martil and Karia?" Weeelll ... maybe start by having a daughter and go from there!

Best queue:
Penrith Dymocks was the clear winner. I arrived a few minutes late and quickly set up my massive banner. By then a couple of people were looking at the table of books. I chatted to them and they picked up the Empire Of Bones series. I was about to sign them when I looked up and saw about 15 people waiting for me, eager looks on their faces and books in their arms. "You'd better go and pay for those and then join the queue!" I said.

Best sales result:
Dymocks Belconnen, with exactly 50 books sold. Dymocks Erina went fantastically well and I might well have beaten it there - except I sold out of books at 43! Belconnen was great, with a mix of new and returning readers.

Secretly funniest moment:
I was at Cronulla with my Viking warrior Uthred when a surfie told us that he hated books and he was proud to be illiterate. As he walked away, Uthred pulled out his throwing axe. 'I can hit him from here - I can you know!' he said, miming it.

Most shocking moment:
I was chatting with a lovely lady in Perth when she noticed that two of the main characters in Empire Of Bones are called Huw and Rhiannon. "That's my son's name, only he spells it Hugh and that's my daughter's name!" she exclaimed.
`Wow, what a coincidence!' I said, thinking that surely she is going to want to buy the series now.
But then her face fell.
`My daughter died two years ago today,' she said, her voice choking up.
I didn't know what to do. Inadequately, I told her how sorry I was, then she left, visibly upset. I certainly couldn't talk to anyone else for a few minutes after that, either.

Best moment:
Every time somebody bought a book, or returned to buy the next in the series, or brought in previously bought books to be signed. It is a thrill that never goes away. I love writing, I love bringing stories and characters to life and I love the chance to share them with others. It is what I have wanted to do since I was seven.
Thank you all for making a dream come true.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Penultimate week of Wall Of Spears tour

As the Wall Of Spears 50 Stores In 50 Days tour winds to a close, I headed down to Canberra for the last interstate leg - two days in Canberra and then back via the NSW South Coast, at Batemans Bay and Nowra.
The trip down was delayed, firstly by a breakdown on the F3 Freeway, then by a succession of "roadworks" on the Hume Highway south.
Fixing up the road surface is one thing but do we have to slow down to one lane and 40km/h just so two guys can put up a new sign at the side of the road?!?! I've heard of OH&S regulations but surely this was a little ridiculous ...
First cab off the rank was Paperchain Manuka, a beautiful little store in a rather posh part of Canberra. Of course I had forgotten to bring some change with me, because there's no such thing as free parking in Canberra. As far as the government is concerned, there's always a free lunch in Canberra but that's another story ...
So I had to get money out, get change and then buy parking before putting up the big banner and getting down to work.
I met some wonderful people there but also had a few amusing moments.
After chatting to one lady, I was sure she'd buy The Wounded Guardian - but at the point where I was about to offer to sign it for her, this dog started sniffing around the bottom of my huge pop-up banner. I jokingly said that I hoped it wasn't about to wee over my banner (hey, everyone's a critic these days ...!) but she got quite indignant.
`That's my dog and she'd never do anything like that!'
Off she went and, after a few moments, off went the insulted dog as well.
A few minutes later I was chatting to a bloke who didn't like fantasy but said his partner did. So I told him about the books, making special mention of Karia, the feisty orphan girl with magic powers and Merren, the Queen fighting for her throne.
`Oh, that doesn't sound like the sort of thing HE'D like,' the man said.
`But it has great battle scenes,' I said, performing a verbal backflip that would have had most of Canberra's politicians nodding with approval.
Too late ...
After selling quite nicely at Paperchain, it was off to Dymocks Civic, in the heart of Canberra Central. This store has changed position recently and I couldn't find it. In fact, I had to get one of the store assistants to talk me through the centre to get there! In my defence, it is hiding behind the escalators at the food court ...
Richard and Alison, the delightful store owners, were on hand to help me when I put up the banner only to have it fall to pieces! Luckily Richard was able to fix it while I sold a trilogy to one of their customers!
It was a quiet afternoon, with few people about, but the ones I met were fantastic!
Second day was much busier, however.
I started at Dymocks Belconnen. Every author has to go here once. It's like author tour nirvana. An endless procession of people who love to read and are excited to meet authors.
Owners Andrew and Steve kept the green tea and the replacement books up to me and people just kept buying - 50 books exactly!
One of the highlights was seeing Shaheen from Speculate Fiction, an online book review blog that you should sign up for - and I'm not just saying that because she keeps giving my books five star reviews!
Next stop was Dymocks Tuggeranong, the other perfect spot for authors. My personal record of 52 books sold was set here and owner Fiona was delighted to hear she was still the queen, that I hadn't quite beaten her record at Belconnen!
Thanks again to the likes of Rebecca and Jessica, who came in to pick up Wall Of Spears, after coming in previously to get the other books. It's a huge pleasure to see those people!
40 books later, it was time to wave a fond farewell to Canberra.
Day three kicked off at Hooked On Books at Batemans Bay, a lovely store that went indie after the collapse of A&R. They'd even advertised my arrival in the Bay Post!
This was a sell-out, selling all Wounded Guardians, Bridge Of Swords and Valley Of Shields in the store and meeting many fantastic people along the way.
All done by 11.45am, I hit the road to Nowra, a store I hadn't visited since 2010, on my Radiant Child tour. I struck a caravan convention on the road and was a little slower than I expected into town.
But I arrived in time to meet a bunch of great people, including Alex, who had bought Bridge Of Swords off me at Kinokuniya and had driven down from Wollongong to get the rest of my books signed. That was a fantastic honour!
Sadly Nowra was cut short by an enormous thunderstorm, which emptied the high street of people. Spookily, my last trip to Nowra was also cut short by a massive thunderstorm. I do hope there was no connection ...!
So ended my last interstate trip, with big smiles and 1146 books hand-sold in total, smashing my Radiant Child total of 1032, with four stores left to go.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Big week in Perth for Wall Of Spears

This week it was time to head west and hit Perth and surrounds in Western Australia.
This was my third trip to Perth and the longest as well - nine bookstores across three days.
And it was a fantastic trip, with more than 200 books sold across the three days, plus more than 100 extra signed and left at the various bookstores across the city.
Perth had been suffering with plenty of hot days and little rain and the first day showed that off, with a steamy 37 degrees of sunshine.
Luckily I was inside for all but the last of the three stores!
It kicked off at Dymocks Belmont, which is a fantastic store, made all the better in my opinion because all three of the staff there love fantasy and bought my books!
Next stop was specialist fantasy store Stefen's Books in the city, where there was quite the queue waiting for me.
This is a wonderful store if you like fantasy or sci-fi and it was great to see people like Kris and Garry who had come back for the second and even third time to get signed books from me, as well as some of the new friends I made like Crystal, who bought all six of the books.
One of the more hilarious moments was when one guy's three-year-old daughter wanted me to sign her Tarzan picture book, so it could be like the Wall Of Spears I signed for her dad!
Last stop for the day was Kaleido Books, above Perth train station, which I managed to sell out. One of the highlights was selling a book to Jesus (not the guy with the flowing hair and sandals, able to walk on water but pronounced Hey-zeus). This Spanish guy wanted to make sure he could read The Wounded Guardian, as English was his second language. One chapter later it was viva Espana!
I was staying at the Miss Maud Hotel in the city. Not the most glamourous but certainly possessing the best buffet breakfast in Australia. I've never had better. After eggs, bacon and sausages, followed by pancakes and maple syrup, then muffins or pastries with fresh fruit, I was able to work right through lunchtime selling books!
Day two kicked off at Joondalup and proved to be both successful and emotional.
I sold more than 30 books but had some interesting experiences as well.
First up I had an older lady tell me she doesn't read books - only pornos! That followed the old guy in Melbourne who gave me the same answer. What is it with our seniors these days? Have they gone all frisky?
Next up was an encounter with a bloke who gave me a curious reply.
`Do you read fantasy?' I asked him.
`No, only the Bible,' he replied.
A few comebacks about some of the more outlandish stories in the Bible did spring to mind but I held my tongue!
Bu the third encounter was the most emotional. I was chatting to a lovely lady when she noticed the name of the main characters.
`Rhiannon - that's my daughter's name! And Huw, that's my son's name, only he spells it Hugh!' she exclaimed as she read the back page.
Naturally I thought this is going to be a guaranteed sale - she'll buy it for them if not for herself. Then her face crumpled.
`My daughter died two years ago today,' she said.
Instantly I was horrified. `I'm so sorry,' I said, inadequately.
She walked away, visibly upset.
I couldn't talk to anyone for a couple of minutes as I had to compose myself as well. In all the encounters I have had with people, that was perhaps the most shocking.
Next up was Dymocks Morley, where I met an amazing group of people, including a mum and daughter whose husband and dad is a huge fan and they were delighted to get all six books signed.
Finally it was off to Garden City, a very affluent area where, strangely enough, most people didn't want the deal and instead just bought one book. Still, they'll be back!
One mum and daughter were delighted to see me - they were huge fans of the Dragon Sword Histories and then bought Empire Of Bones series. When they are so excited they are almost shaking as they pose for a photo, it is a special moment indeed for an author!
The last day was going to outlying suburbs - first up was Rockingham, which went fantastically well. I met a great assortment of fans both new and old before heading to Midlands and then Carousel.
I hit 209 books for the three days and was able to head to the airport absolutely knackered, with a voice going hoarse but feeling very happy at the very warm welcome I had in Perth!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wall Of Spears tour week five wrap

Week five was focused on Brisbane - in fact it was all about Brisbane. And racing around in taxis!
Thanks to Queensland steadfastly refusing to switch to daylight savings time, I flew out at 6.20am and arrived in Brisbane 10 minutes later. The perfect time to hit bookstores - not!
First up was TLC Books, a delightful bookstore in Manly, a waterside village on Moreton Bay. It's exactly the sort of indie bookstore I love to support but there was one problem. No books!
The HarperCollins delivery driver was stuck at a Kmart shop about 15 minutes away. Now, what he was doing being stuck at Kmart I have no idea and, frankly, don't really want to know. It's his business entirely. But all I could do was chat with owner Tanya and then sign some books when they arrived exactly five minutes before I was due to leave. Now that's timing ...
Next up was the big city Dymocks store. This is a great store but almost all the books are upstairs, so I have to get people to stop and talk before they are on the escalator up. Not easy. But I met many wonderful people, including a couple from Singapore who bought all six books to have them shipped back home.
There were also a few people who insisted they hated to read, even though they were in a giant bookstore. Hmmm ....
Next up was Angus and Robertson, around the corner, or so I remembered. I didn't remember that well, because I spent 15 minutes wandering the streets before I found it. Nothing like a brisk walk in 30C heat to get you cool, calm and collected ...
The table was also set up in the sun, which meant I and the table kept inching backwards as the sun chased us into the store.
This was a challenging one - not helped by about 25 Japanese tourists posing for photos with stuffed animals out the front of the store for most of the time I was there. Seriously, don't they have stuffed animals back home? If it was a display of live marsupials I would have understood but 150 selfies with a toy tiger?
Anyway, thanks to Jamie who came in specially to buy the new series, after picking up the originals last time I was there, as well as a bunch of other lovely people, it was still a pleasant afternoon.
Then I was off to Carindale, a huge shopping centre with a great Dymocks. That went superbly, highlighted by meeting Aaron.
He was the perfect example of why you can't tell who might read fantasy. About six feet tall and the same across the shoulders, with plenty of tatts, it turned out he was a David Gemmell fan and bought my original series, then came back to say he'd read chapter one and loved it. He's the sort of bloke that makes me love coming out to stores and meeting readers!
Then there was Tony, who posed for a selfie with me on his iPad, after coming in specially to pick up the rest of the books after he got hooked on the first series and had been following me on the blog. That is fantastic for a writer!
After a short 40 minute wait for a taxi (!) I collapsed, ready for day two.
This kicked off at Pulp Fiction, the specialist fantasy store in Brissie. But, again, the delivery was missing and they only had Wall Of Spears. Not an easy sell to someone who hasn't read book 1, let alone book 2 ...
Next stop was Dymocks Indooroopilly, which is undergoing renovations and I'd never been to before. No problem, because the people were great and we sold out in under 2 hours.
Highlights included the lovely lady from Mackay who bought the whole new series in case she was stuck in Brisbane with nothing to read because of the cyclone forecast to hit her home town and the lady who bought the new series for her fantasy-loving husband's 45th birthday the next day!
Last stop for the day was Chermside, truly one of the biggest shopping centres in Sydney. First time I visited there, I wandered, lost and bewildered, for what seemed like hours. On my third trip back, I actually went in the right door and walked into Dymocks a few minutes early.
The delightful Anne and her daughter Eden were waiting for me and bought the new series, having picked up the earlier books already. We compared tendon scars - mine is pretty much healed but hers needs more operations, which is a bizarre way to start but lovely to catch up once again!
It was an interesting mix of people, some who wanted to grab the whole series, others who wanted the books but didn't have the money that day. Still, as long as they remember the name ...
I also had to control myself from laughing at one point. A young woman was walking past, wearing almost nothing so she could show off the tattoos that covered her. That wasn't hilarious - the expression on the face of the middle-aged woman walking behind as she pointed and gestured and silently commented on this sight to her teenage daughters was. But, of course, I couldn't give away what was going on behind the tattooed girl by smiling myself ...
Chermside was busy but always lurking in the back of my mind was the need to catch a taxi to the airport and the huge wait I'd had at Carindale, plus the rush hour traffic that was surely building. By 4.15pm I couldn't wait any longer but needn't have worried - after just five minutes I jumped in a cab to the airport.
Brisbane. It was indeed beautiful one day and perfect the next ...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Want to have a character named after you in my next book? Then enter this great giveaway!

How would you like to be rewarded for reading my books - over and above the reading experience, of course!
One thing I have noticed about the Wall Of Spears tour is how many more people are declaring they only read the books digitally.
Now there's nothing wrong with eBooks and I'm always happy to pose for a photo with the books, so people know what to look for online (although I'd prefer it if they had a Kobo or Sony or iPad rather than a Kindle ...).
But while my books have received fantastic reviews online and in newspapers (thanks Tsana's Blog, Speculate Fiction and Newtown Review Of Books!), plus stacks of great reviews on Goodreads, these haven't been posted directly to the various eBook sites.
After The Wounded Guardian was featured on iTunes earlier this year, it has picked up some great reviews but that is the exception to the rule. If you look on iTunes, Amazon, Kobo - hardly any reviews at all. Bridge Of Swords, for instance, doesn't have a single one.
So, if you have read my books, then perhaps you can help remedy that by reviewing and rating the books on iTunes, Amazon and Kobo.
Now I do appreciate that is time and effort on your part, so here's the giveaway:  I'll be giving out a prize for the two most creative reviews. I do want to stress here that I'm not looking for the most suckworthy reviews but rather one that shows you've read and enjoyed the books and reveals some aspect of that.
The prize is simple - you will get to have a character named after you in my next series. You will also get to choose whether you want that character to be a goodie or a baddie. It can also be named after your first name or a nickname, whatever you wish.
The competition will run until the end of April 2014, to give everyone I meet on my Wall Of Spears tour a chance to enter.All you have to do is post the review and then let me know you've done so, either through a comment on this post or through Twitter, Facebook or via my email address on the top of the blog.
At the end of April I'll contact the winners and let them choose how they want to be named.
Finally, please be honest, I'm not looking to swamp these sites with five-star reviews but rather more accurately reflect how my books are regarded.
Thanks and good luck for the giveaway!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Wall Of Spears Week Four wrap-up

This was my busiest week of the 50 Stores tour extravaganza - nine stores in Melbourne and three in Sydney, across five solid days.
Luckily it was a resounding success, with more than 250 books hand-sold, plus more than 100 signed and left at various stores across Victoria and NSW.
The week kicked off in Melbourne with another 4.15am wake-up for the flight down south. Oh, how I love those 4am starts ...!
First port of call was Minotaur, the specialist comic/fantasy store in the heart of Melbourne.
Actually, the first port of call was a chemist to buy an umbrella, as Melbourne was drizzling down nicely!
Minotaur is a fantastic store but they do have an unusual approach to meeting authors. I was informed that they'd had to leave a fresh cup of coffee to talk to me (they could have kept drinking, or even offered me one, I suppose) and that they were in a rush, as there was a fresh delivery of comics coming. But, they added mournfully, there was hardly anyone about anyway ...
Having escaped from that weirdness, after signing two sets of trilogies for them, it was the real start of the day, the big Melbourne Dymocks at Collins St.
The people there were fantastic - an endless stream of them. I sold out within two hours and even sold a copy of Risen Queen to someone who desperately wanted a signed copy of something!
Then I met my friend Jason, a Melburnian who drove me around that town to the various bookstores. No doubt I drove him around the bend but it was great to have that help and support and it made things so much easier!
Day one finished at Victoria Gardens, a big shopping centre where the Dymocks has a Boost Juice outside the front. I thought that might cause all sorts of problems but actually brought extra people over, who could hear the spiel and got interested. Some of the highlights included a delightful Asian couple who wanted me to pose for pictures with them after buying Empire Of Bones, plus a bloke who hadn't read fantasy since David Gemmell died but who was delighted to hear that I write the best battle scenes since Gemmell and bought Wounded Guardian to celebrate!
Day two was four stores long and a tough one - kicking off at Glen Waverley. After a slow start we kicked into gear but I found it hard after a shocking encounter with an elderly gent. The clientele there were mostly senior and very well dressed. They were happy to respond to my usual question of "Do you like to read?" although fantasy wasn't their thing. Except for this well-dressed 60-something bloke who replied: "No, I only read pornos!"
It took me a few minutes to regain the composure after that ...!
After almost selling out there, I sold out both the Collins and Dymocks stores at Fountain Gate (Not Fountain Lakes, there was no Kath and Kim there) before heading down to Chelsea and fantasy store Notions Unlimited.
If you are in Melbourne and like fantasy or sci-fi or comics, then you need to go there. Owner Chuck has a stunning store and well worth a visit.
It was his 2nd birthday as well as a launch for Wall Of Spears and it was great to meet Chuck and his customers. It was also fantastic to meet the Ormsbys, who had driven an hour up from the south to chat. They run Satalyte Publishing, an independent publisher who is into steampunk, fantasy, sci-fi and more. Also worth checking out!
Day three of Melbourne kicked off at Knox Gardens (sold them out) then finished at Southlands (sold them out) where I ran into David, the fantastic manager of both Dymocks Southlands and Fountains Gate.
I even made it early to the airport - although Jetstar wanted $400+ for an earlier flight. I don't think so!
Saturday it was back in Sydney and first up was Dymocks Carlingford, where I ran into Michael, who decided to appoint himself my offsider for the day. Michael was about 13 and hanging around the shops while his mum worked at Fitness First. He loved the idea of the books, chatted to me in between customers - tried out the seat behind the desk that I never used - and was giving me thumbs-up for each sale and waves of encouragement. At the end, he offered me a $1.20 tip for the show and entertainment!
Next up was Dymocks Castle Hill, which was unbelievably busy. Almost too busy, and I was getting exhausted - not least by the 30 minutes it took to find a parking spot there! Still met some great people there, making it all worth it.
Sunday it was off to Dymocks Burwood, which was unbelievably good. Trilogies were flying out the door as people got particularly excited about Newtown Review Of Books giving Wall Of Spears a rave review through the week. (Newtown is just around the corner from Burwood). That was a great way to end a week where I racked up more than 250 sales.
Now for a little rest before I arrive at Brisbane ...!