Bookshop Workshop

Today I ran a two-hour intensive writing workshop for kids aged seven and up, at Eltham Bookshop. It was all about structure and planning. Several of the participants were interested in using the group planning activities as a basis for their own writing, so I promised to put photos of the whiteboard plans up on my website for them to look at. So here we go…

First up is the plan for an interactive horror story, in which the reader either goes to a graveyard full of zombies and accidentally facilitates the creation of a Mega King Zombie, or gets kidnapped by a haunted car and taken to a deserted carnival where they are attacked by a shape-changing killer robot clown.

Next up, we have the mind mapping of potential new OTHER WORLDS stories. The one that seemed to get the most interest was about a paleontologist visiting a prehistoric world just as the dinosaurs are about to be wiped out by an asteroid.

During the session I read a little from You Choose: Creepy Crawly Chaos and then told them about my experience of posing for a photo with a bird-eating spider (don’t worry… not only was it dead, but it was also frozen). They wanted to see the pic, so here it is…

After the workshop was over I spent a bit of time signing books for the participants, and then all the remaining stock for the shop. So if anyone wants a signed copy of one of my books, Eltham Bookshop has LOTS!

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Speccy-tacular AFL Stories

Happy Publication Day to this awesome footy anthology. I’m pleased to have a story (about football on another planet) in this book, along with those written by Michael Wagner, Tony Wilson, Nicole Hayes, Adrian Beck, Michael Panckridge, Sherryl Clark, Patrick Loughlin, Meredith Costain, Shivaun Plozza and David Lawrence. And the illustrations are by Simon Rattray.

 

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Beast World book trailer

The BEAST WORLD trailer has been released. So exciting!

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Perfect World book trailer

LOOK! Perfect World has a trailer…

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The Doorway Opens

Today, the doorway opens on OTHER WORLDS with the publication of books one and two – Perfect World and Beast World. This new series of sci-fi/fantasy/adventure books, aimed at kids aged 8 and up, is officially launched today! I celebrated Publication Day this morning with a fancy cheesecake. :-)

I am so excited about this series of books. I’ve always had a liking for portal fiction, so getting the chance to write my own has been a dream come true. Plus, I’ve thrown so much of myself into this series, the stories reflecting my belief in diversity and inclusiveness and the need for everyone to be who they really are. I hope readers will like it.

Today is extra special, as I can also reveal the covers for books three and four (which will be published on 28 May). All the covers and internal illustrations are again by James Hart, the man who gave the You Choose books such an incredible vitality and who now brings a dynamic excitement to this new series. Thanks, James!

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Fly! Be free!

Today the latest two YOU CHOOSE FLIP ME books have been released into the wild.
Creepy Crawly Chaos / City of Robots
and
Extreme Machine Challenge / In the Realm of Dragons

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Merry Christmas

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FLIP ME again!

January 29 will see the release of another two FLIP ME! You Choose editions…

The first will bring together Extreme Machine Challenge and In the Realm of Dragons. And the second has Creepy Crawly Chaos and City of Robots.

This will complete the set of FLIP ME!, 2-in-1 You Choose books. Very exciting!

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The massive OTHER WORDS reveal

The time has come to unveil my new OTHER WORLDS book series. This is where I get to tell you a little about it and also show you the first two covers – illustrated by the always awesome James Hart (who also does the covers for my You Choose series) and designed by Tony Palmer.

This is a four-book series aimed at kids aged 8 to 12 (although I’m hoping that like the You Choose series it will have wider appeal). It’s about mysterious keys that open doorways into other worlds. Each book is a stand-alone story with a new set of characters. But, for those who read the entire series, there’s also a thread running through the first three books that gets tied up in Book 4 (which I’m still writing :-) ).

Series Blurb:

Find the Key! Open the Doorway! Enter the Other World!
An exciting new series from the author of You Choose.

Book 1: Perfect World

Blurb:

Keagan finds a key . . .
It opens a doorway . . .
He steps through . . .
Into a weird world of clones who are obsessed with perfection. But this world isn’t as perfect as it seems. Keagan is determined to return home – all he has to do is find a way out of the city, survive the Dumping Ground and outsmart a bunch of rogue clones!
Will Keagan escape Perfect World?

Originally titled Clone World, it had a name change during the writing of draft 1 to something a little less obvious and hopefully more intriguing. It is without a doubt, the most difficult writing experience I’ve ever had. While I am really happy with the end result, it took about 17 drafts to get there (I usually only do about 9 or 10)!

This book is complete. It will be published on Monday 26 February 2018.

An early review based on an uncorrected proof ARC (advance readers copy) has already appeared in the industry mag Books + Publishing. If you subscribe to it you can check out the full review. If not, here’s a taste…

It’s great to see a sci-fi action-thriller aimed at 8- to 11-year-olds, since it’s an area with many eager readers. George Ivanoff, who penned the excellent ‘You Choose’ series, does a fantastic job of setting up a strange world in the style of The Midwich Cuckoos. This is a racing read that will grip reluctant readers . . . There’s also a strong moral lesson here: be proud of your individuality.

Book 2: Beast World

Blurb:

Xandra finds a key . . .
It opens a doorway . . .
She and her brother are sucked through . . .
Into a crazy world that looks like steampunk London. Except in this world there are no humans – only animals. Xandra and Lex encounter rhino police, armadillo housekeeping staff, rodent inventors and even a lion on the throne. Here humans are the endangered species!
Will Xandra and Lex survive Beast World?

Originally titled Animal World, it had a name change early on in the writing process ‘cause really… Animal World is a pretty uninspiring title. :-)

This book is almost complete. It’s currently being proofed. It will be published on Monday 26 February 2018.

Book 3: Game World

No blurb yet. This one is set in a futuristic cyberpunk world where humans and robots are battling it out in a virtual arena with games. Except, of course, that not all is as it seems. It’s managed to retain its title all the way through the process.

A draft is complete and with my editor getting its first structural edit. It will be published some time 2018.

Book 4: Dark World

This one is just an outline with a few rough chapters at this stage, so I’m not telling you anything about it yet. It will be published some time 2018.

So there you have it. I am so incredibly EXCITED about this series! I cannot wait to actually hold copies of the book in my hands! I cannot wait until they are set free into the world!

SQUEE!

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Central Coast NSW

In October this year I had the pleasure of touring the Central Coast area of NSW, courtesy of the local branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Over the course of five days I visited seven schools, two bookshops, a library book club and a Teacher-Librarian networking event. And I even managed to squeeze in a little sight–seeing, some writing and a bit of Pokemon GO playing. It was a jam-packed week and heaps of fun.

Thank you so much to the Children’s Book Council of Australia – (NSW) Central Coast Sub Branch, and particularly to Lyndall Coles who was the mastermind behind this book tour.

I loved every minute of this tour — from signing books for readers to meeting the dedicated teachers and librarians at the various schools — but there are a couple of highlights I wanted to share on my blog.

During my presentation at Our Lady of the Rosary School in Wyoming, one of the teachers, Sarah Evans, did an on-the-spot illustration of one of the zombie bunnies from You Choose: Maze of Doom. Such an awesome pic! And a lovely surprise to be presented with the illustration at the conclusion of my visit.

I visited Warnervale Public School, presenting to the Year 4 classes. Sadly the Year 3s weren’t able to attend. Knowing that they were going to miss out on seeing me, they wrote me cards and letters. It was such a buzz being handed this massive pile of mail at the end of my visit. I read each and every one of those cards and letters when I got home. There were quite a few questions, so I answered them in an email that I sent to their teacher.

Book tours are an aspect of my job as a writer that I adore. The opportunity to connect with readers is simply wonderful. I look forward to more touring in 2018.

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KOALA Honours

I still can’t quite believe it, but You Choose: Alien Invaders From Beyond the Stars has been named as an Honour Book in the KOALA Awards for the second year in a row. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all those who voted for it. And, of course, thank you to the organisers for running the awards.

Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators who were shortlisted, who had Honour Books and who won their categories in this year’s awards. I feel very honoured to be among you. The full list of winners is up on the KOALA website.

The ceremony was held in Sydney. I wasn’t able to attend, so they asked me to make a little thank you vid. Of course, I am completely incapable of making an ordinary thank you vid. So, I did this instead…

And just in case you’ve forgotten (or want to revisit it), here’s the vid I did last year…

 

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OTHER WORLDS teaser

Not long now before I can reveal the covers for the first two books in my new OTHER WORLDS series, along with some info. Until then, here’s a bit of a teaser.

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Happy Halloween

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MWF: Me and my artist pass

Hands up, who went to this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival? [LOTS, given the crowds of people I saw.] Who had a wonderful, inspiring, creative time? [Insert deafening cheers.] I was there! This was my second year in a row running a sold-out workshop as part of the Schools Program. How lucky am I?

The workshop itself (Choose Your Own Stories – writing interactive fiction) went really well, with all the spaces bar two, being booked by the one school. I love doing festival sessions like this because you know the kids actually want to be there and are super excited. My group this year was enthusiastic, engaged and really creative with their ideas when the time came to plan out an interactive story together.

But for me, the highlight was not the presenting – it was getting to see other authors strutting their stuff. As a presenter I got a wonderful little piece of plastic called an Artist Pass. This wondrous little card gave me access to as many sessions as I wanted. How cool is that!

I got to see Carole Wilkinson discussing dragons, Belinda Murrell slipping back in time, Leigh Hobbs drawing the cantankerous but loveable Old Tom, and Amie Kaufman competing with Jay Kristoff to identify their own Tweets (it’s not easily explained… you had to be there). And I got to chat with so many writers between sessions and at the Artists Party.

If I had to single out one highlight as my favourite, it would be the Artists Party. Held on the 35th floor of the Sofitel, with the Melbourne nighttime cityscape as our radiant backdrop, this was the chance to meet and talk to a wide range of writers and editors in a casual and friendly atmosphere. And it’s talking to people like this, that makes you realise what a small world it is, filled with amazing connections. The most interesting connection… I met historical writer Harry Blutstein, who told me that Shiela Fitzpatrick was at the festival this year. OMG! Shiela Fitzpatrick! She was one of my history lecturers at Melb Uni. She was totally AWESOME! Sadly, I couldn’t find her at the party and I had missed her session. :-( I would have loved to tell her what an amazing influence she had on me as a student. Even though I didn’t get that opportunity, the simple connection made at the party brought back so many memories. What a joy!

All up… I had an absolute BLAST!

I’m not arrogant enough to assume the festival will want me back for a third year (although I live in hope)… but as the festival progressed, I couldn’t help but dream up sessions that I’d love to run, moderate or participate in – from licensed writing, to the creation of fictional villains; from world-building, to writing stuff-ups.

Three weeks have now passed since the festival ended, but I’m still feeling so enthused and inspired by it. And I’m already looking forward to attending next year’s MWF.

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Footy Publication Day

Time to take a specky, kick a goal and read a book… oh… and eat some Tim Tams. ‘Cause today, You Choose AFL: Footy Fever hits the shops!

I always celebrate a new release with food. And with a book about the most famous of Aussie sports, what could be better than the most famous of Aussie bickies. Break out the Tim Tams!

This book is a little different from my other You Choose titles, in that it’s an official AFL book. There’s even an AFL logo on the cover. This means that I was able to use real teams and players in the story. How cool is that!

If you need more footy, then you can also check out the post about footy books on my LITERARY CLUTTER blog – Fabulous Footy Favourites.

Finally… many thanks to Michael McGoldrick, whose help with this book was invaluable. In fact, this book is actually his fault, as he introduced me to the game of football in the first place. Thanks Michael… you are specky-tacular!

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13 Cosplay

I’m still so excited about the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor in the TV series DOCTOR WHO, that I went to the local park today and did this…

‘Cause, guess what? Men and boys can, you know, have women as role models.

Many thanks to my talented wife, Kerri Valkova, for taking the photograph and working her Photoshop magic (did you notice the Artron energy on my house key?).

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A new Doctor in the TARDIS

So… I woke up this morning to one of the most exciting pieces of casting news ever! Jodie Whittaker has been announced as the 13th Doctor in the long running British sci-fi series DOCTOR WHO. I’m VERY, VERY, VERY excited about this. Let me tell you why…

I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. I love this show more than any other series/film/book/bit of media. And the announcement of a new actor taking on the role of the Doctor is always exciting.

Jodie Whittaker is superb actor and I have no doubts that she will bring something unique and brilliant to the role. If you don’t believe me, just go watch Broadchurch.

It’s a woman! I’ve been hoping for a female Doctor for years. Not because of political correctness (as some people insist). Not because I think the casting of another man would have been sexist (‘cause it wouldn’t). But because it will take the story in interesting directions. This is a series with a longevity that is a result of its ability to embrace change, often radical change… and this is a change with such potential.

Beyond my personal excitement over the casting, two other things made my day…

Today is the first day of the new school term, and I opened my 14-year-old daughter’s door this morning expecting to have to drag her zombie-like form from bed (pretty standard for a school morning). Instead I found her sitting up, all bright-eyed, staring at her iPad. She looked up at me with a massive grin as she said “I’ve seen the new Doctor”.

But perhaps the best reaction came from my 8-year-old daughter. When I told her the new Doctor was a woman she shrugged and said “So?” She went on to inform me that the Doctor could be a man or a woman and that it really didn’t matter. And that is the way it should be.

As the Doctor said in “World Enough and Time”:

We’re billions of years beyond your petty obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes.

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Regional Roaming

In late May I had the pleasure of going on a promotional book tour in Wagga Wagga and the surrounding Riverina region. I visited six schools in Henty, The Rock, Ashmont, Junee, Coolamon and Wagga Wagga, as well as doing some media and an in-store event with the tour organisers, Gateway Bookshop (if you’re ever in the area, you have to visit this lovely store).

One of the perks of doing this type of tour, is managing to squeeze a little bit of touristy sightseeing in between events. On this occasion I got to visit the Monte Cristo historic homestead (a beautifully restored building and supposedly “Australia’s most haunted house”), the Junee Licorice and Chocolate factory (where I spent too much money), the Museum of the Riverina, the Victory Memorial Gardens and the many beautiful buildings within the main area of Wagga Wagga (their library is AWESOME).

I’ve done a fair few regional tours and festivals over the years, and I never tire of them. Australian is such an amazing country and it is a pure joy getting to visit its more out-of-the-way areas.

The further out from the main cities you get, the less common school author visits become. Many of the schools I’ve spoken at rarely get these sorts of visits, and a few have never had one before. The excitement in these schools is palpable. The kids are so delighted, enthusiastic and appreciative. And I get such a buzz out of speaking to these audiences.

Aside from this latest trip, past visits have included Mackay (see blog post), Goulburn (see blog post), Gippsland, Newcastle, Minyip (where The Flying Doctors TV series used to be filmed), Rockhampton, Ballarat, Portarlington, Drysdale and the Pilbara (see blog post). I’m hoping to add a few more locations to the list before the year is out. Hunter Valley and Central Coast NSW, here I come!



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SCRIBE AWARDS shortlist 2017

I am totally blown away by this! “An Eye For and Eye”, my story from The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, has been shortlisted for a SCRIBE AWARD. Shortlisted! As in, one of only five stories! Blimey! That certainly calls for a bit of celebrating.

As an author, I’ve never chased awards. But it is very nice indeed when you are nominated. It is particularly appreciated in this instance, as tie-in fiction is an area of writing that I’ve had an interest in for many, many years – first as a reader, and now as an author. This story is, in fact, only my second published piece of tie-in fiction (the first being a Doctor Who short story back in 2008). I have aspirations to continue writing in this field. Fingers crossed that more opportunities may cross my path.

A HUGE thank you to Jonathan Maberry, editor of THE X-FILES: SECRET AGENDAS and the previous two volumes. Thank you so much for taking a chance on an author from across the seas who you had never worked with before. Thank you for allowing me to play in a universe that I’ve been a fan of for many years. And thank you for persisting when emails went astray. All very much appreciated.

The SCRIBE AWARDS are organised by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW) and are described in the official blurb as follows…

“Acknowledging excellence in this very competitive field, the IAMTW’s Scribe Awards honor licensed works that tie in with other media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books. They include original works set in established universes, and adaptations of stories that have appeared in other formats and that cross all genres. Tie-in works run the gamut from westerns to mysteries to procedurals, from science fiction to fantasy to horror, from action and adventure to superheroes. HALO, Elementary, 24, Star Trek, Mike Hammer, Star Wars, Shadowrun, Doctor Who: these represent just a few.

The winners will be announced at ComicCon San Diego in July. The full shortlist is…

Adapted – General and Speculative

  • Assassin’s Creed by Christie Golden
  • Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins
  • Suicide Squad by Marv Wolfman

Audio

  • Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire by Roy Gill
  • Torchwood: Broken by Joseph Lidster
  • Torchwood: Uncanny Valley by David Llewellyn
  • Doctor Who: Mouthless Dead by John Pritchard

General Original

  • 24: Trial by Fire by Dayton Ward
  • Don Pendleton’s The Executioner: Missile Intercept by Michael Black
  • Murder Never Knocks by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
  • Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn by Ace Atkins
  • Tom Clancy’s True Faith and Allegiance by Mark Greaney

Short Fiction

  • “A Dangerous Cat” by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
  • X-Files “Drive Time” by Jon McGoran
  • X-Files “An Eye for an Eye” by George Ivanoff
  • X-Files “Love Lost” by Yvonne Navarro
  • X-Files “XXX” by Glenn Greenberg

Speculative Original

  • Assasin’s Creed: Heresy by Christie Golden
  • Warhammer 40,000: Warden of the Blade by David Annandale
  • Star Trek: Elusive Salvation by Dayton Ward
  • Supernatural: Mythmaker by Tim Waggoner

I feel incredible honoured and over-the-moon excited to be included on this amazing list.

CONGRATULATIONS to all the nominees. And extra special CONGRATULATIONS to Jonathan Maberry. Four of the five stories in the Short Fiction category are from his anthologies. That’s high praise indeed for his abilities as an editor. And it’s a pretty good indication that everyone should rush out and buy all three volumes. As a reader, I can assure you that they are a damn good read!

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