Paladero: The Riders of Thunder Realm – Steven Lochran

Thanks to Collins Chirnside Park for the review. Happy to say that Book 2 is scheduled for release in February, so not too long to wait!

Chirnside BookChat

This is a world where technology ranges from swords and dinosaurs to shock rifles and hovering bikes.

Joss is a young orphan and apprentice to Sur Verity, but dreams of becoming a Paladero. Paladeros are knights that herd dinosaurs on an everyday basis, but when war comes they take up arms. Joss is given the opportunity to prove he has the skills to be a Paladero, but only gets one shot at it.  If he fails he can only become a field worker, or worse, a beggar.

To become a Paladero, Joss and his faithful raptor Azof have to go on a quest to retrieve an egg from rare questing birds. The night before he is due to go on his quest, he is visited by a mysterious man who calls himself Thrall. Thrall offers him a proposal – everything that he could ever want in exchange for the constellation key that…

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PALADERO: THE RIDERS OF THUNDER REALM full cover reveal

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Boom.

So. What do you think?

Paladero: A’s to your Q’s

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Much like winter, July is coming. As is the release of PALADERO: THE RIDERS OF THUNDER REALM. I recently had the opportunity to talk to booksellers about the series as part of Hardie Grant Egmont’s 2016 roadshows, and without too much preamble I present to you an overview of everything we discussed. Enjoy!

 

Can you tell us more about where this incredible world came from?

I originally created the Kingdom of Ai in 2007 as part of an entirely different novel. It was a contemporary fairy tale along the lines of The Neverending Story, featuring a brother and sister on a quest to find their missing father. Along the way they entered the strange territory known as Thunder Realm where they met a dinosaur-riding paladero by the name of Josiah Sarif, a Han Solo-type character who ended up being their bodyguard. I created the term paladero by combining paladin – another word for knight – with vaquero, the Spanish term for cowboy. This word rolled around in my brain for years, with the paladero character stealing the limelight from the rest of the characters. 

After writing about a third of this novel, I shared it with my wife Simone and with HGE publisher Hilary Rogers. Both of them agreed that the story was trying to cover too much ground and that it would help to simplify things. I decided to focus on what I felt was the most interesting element; the paladeros of Thunder Realm and the character of Josiah Sarif. Where had he come from and what was his world like? I went back to when Josiah was a teenager known as ‘Joss’, and started all over again from there.

 

Tell us more about Joss, and what your inspiration for his character was. What makes him special?

Joss is a fifteen-year-old orphan from the island-city of Daheed, which was destroyed when he was very young in a similar fashion to Atlantis. The only survivor, he was taken in by an Orphan House on the mainland where he grew up dreaming of becoming a paladero and living his life out on the open ranges of Thunder Realm, where dinosaurs known as ‘thunder lizards’ roam.

Joss is a combination of influences. My original intention with him was to create a Marty McFly-style character, a bit of a troublemaking smart alec with an unerring sense of confidence. In working on the manuscript with my editor Marisa Pintado, we zeroed in on Joss’s nobler characteristics and ditched the more arrogant elements. Not only did this make him a more sympathetic character but also a more grounded one with a greater arc. While he’s brave in the face of danger and has an innate sense of justice, he’s still prone to doubt and fear. He keeps mostly to himself, and has to be drawn out of his shell by the other apprentices with whom he’s sharing his quest. 

He also has amazing rock star hair. Apparently they’ve got salon-grade hairdryers in Thunder Realm. Who knew!

 

Tell us more about Joss’s brethren, who accompany Joss on the Way?

When Joss is sent on the ancient quest known as the Way to prove himself, he goes through a binding ceremony where he and the other hopeful apprentices (or simply ‘prentices’, as paladeros call them) are sworn to look out for each other. This makes them brethren, but it doesn’t necessarily make them friends.  

All of Joss’s brethren are older than him, leaving him an outsider in more ways than one. What he doesn’t realise is that they themselves are outsiders, and that they’ll have to overcome their differences if they have any hope of succeeding.

I wanted to create a cast of characters that could each feel like the star of their own book. They all have their own secrets, their own backstories, and I hope that they’re diverse enough that there’s a character for almost everyone to identify with and count as their favourite.

 

What makes fantasy great reading, especially for this 8+ readership? Where do you see this book sitting on the shelves?

Fantasy and Middle Grade fiction overlap in many ways, with both having strong themes of discovery and coming of age. What makes Fantasy especially great for this age range is that it’s a genre that’s entirely preoccupied with storytelling. Everything has a history, everyone has a tale to tell. There are stories within stories, ready to engage and excite the imagination. It also helps that there are captivating landscapes, thrilling action sequences and, in this case, dinosaurs. 

As far as where PALADERO is likely to be shelved, we were discussing this the other day and it was pointed out that ‘Lochran’ sits right next to ‘Landy’. While I’d never presume to say I’ve accomplished what the SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT series has done, I think PALADERO would easily appeal to the same kind of reader as it’s a little bit thorny, it’s a little bit challenging, but it’s still also a lot of fun. I’d also go so far as to say that, if a parent of teacher came in looking for what to recommend to any STAR WARS or JURASSIC WORLD fans who may be a little reluctant on the reading front, PALADERO would make for an easy sell.

 

How do you manage a demanding job and the intensity of writing a series?

There’s this myth that a writer needs huge slabs of uninterrupted time to get anything worthwhile done. The truth is, if you train your brain to do it, you can get a lot accomplished in 10-20 minute bursts. That’s not to say that a day spent totally absorbed in your manuscript isn’t appreciated. In fact, the closer I get to deadline (and over it) the more weekends I need to spend doing that. But that’s a luxury, and one that not many people can indulge in with work and family commitments. 

If all you can spare is 10 minutes to write down as little as 100-200 words, you’d be surprised at how quickly those words accumulate into a novel. A lot of this book has been scribbled out in notebooks over a coffee, then written up and revised late at night or over a weekend. And I can’t count the amount of long car trips I’ve spent daydreaming about where next to send Joss in Thunder Realm, all set to an appropriate movie score or ambient soundtrack that keeps me from getting distracted.

 

And lastly, perhaps you could tell us what’s next for the Paladero series.

I’ve just handed in the first draft of Book 2, and I can say that many of the questions about Joss’s past that are asked in the first book will be addressed in the next one. We’ll be delving a lot more deeply into his history, as well as that of his brethren Ganymede Drake’s, all while learning more about the dark conspiracy that’s working away behind the scenes that could spell doom for them all.

Of Cowboy-Knights and Long Delays

I try to avoid writing “Where I’ve been and why I haven’t been blogging” posts as I feel they’d be woefully repetitive at this point. To describe my blogging as “sporadic” these days would be more than generous. But! There’s a very good reason for that…

Without having made much fanfare about it – self-sabotaging modest as I am – I signed a four-book deal with Hardie Grant Egmont at the end of last year. Retrospective huzzah!

Since then, I’ve been buried in a cycle of writing, editing, proofreading, writing some more, editing some more, procrastinating, writing, sneaking off to watch Youtube, writing, editing…oh, and also working full-time and trying to maintain some semblance of a life. After all, dem bills don’t pay themselves, and that lawn don’t keep itself mowed.

God. Mowing the lawn. Is that really the most exciting example of living life that I could come up with? Heavens to Murgatroyd.

Anyway.

What’s the new series about, you might ask? And even if you didn’t ask and don’t care, I’m going to tell you anyway. That’s just the kind of guy I am.

It’s a Middle-Grade Fantasy series called Paladero, with the first book subtitled The Riders of Thunder Realm. The next natural question is ‘What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is a pala-whateveryousaid?’

“Paladero” is a term I came up with all the way back in the hazy days of 2007. First I took the word paladin (another term for ‘knight’), and then I took the word vaquero (the Spanish term for ‘cowboy’) and I smooshed ‘em together and came up with ‘paladero’.

Which is exactly what these characters are; they’re cowboy-knights. Or cowperson-knights, to be more specific.

Cowperson-knights who ride dinosaurs, to be even more specific than that.

Awwwww yeah.

This is an idea I’ve been working on for nearly a decade now in one form or another, and it’s so tantalisingly close to being out there in the world yet still so far away. The tentative release date for The Riders of Thunder Realm is currently July 2016, though this may shift depending on how I go with that whole writing-editing-watchingYouTube-writing-editing-working-living thing.

One way or another, I’ll make sure to update you as things progress. As it stands right now, I’ve seen some early cover designs that look so immensely exciting that I can’t wait to share them, but unfortunately I have to demonstrate some of that “patience” stuff your parents always warned you about. Blah.

But! Again! In the meantime I’ll be hosting another Writers Victoria workshop. This time it’ll be taking place over two days, which means we can get into even more detail about the writing and publishing process. It’s YA for Beginners, it’s Saturday 24 October to Sunday 25 October, it’s going to be awesome, and you can find more details on the WV website.

And even if I’m not blogging, you can still find me online. I have links all over this page to my Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr accounts. Please check ‘em out, give ‘em a follow, and stroke my fragile artiste ego. Tis much appreciated.

Til next time.

7 Tips for Aspiring Authors

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I recently had the opportunity to teach a workshop at Writers Victoria on Young Adult Fantasy. I’ve been a member of both WV and, before that, the Queensland Writer’s Centre from when I was first trying to get published over ten years ago. So to say the prospect was both daunting and thrilling is a bit of an understatement.

I needn’t have been so daunted, however, as everyone who attended turned out to be bright and eager and articulate and engaged, and together we discussed all things YA Fantasy, as well as the challenges of working on a manuscript and trying to get it published.

More than anything, it took me back to when I was working on my first (unpublished) manuscript, toiling away with what felt like a dim hope that somehow, someday, it might end up as an actual book. I remember feeling very confused at the time, and frustrated, and uncertain.

I’m often asked what advice I have for aspiring authors, and it was no different with the workshop. And in thinking it over, I came up with the advice that I know I could have used when I was starting out. So with that in mind, these are my 7 tips for aspiring authors. Why 7? Because I had to stop myself somewhere, otherwise I’d still be going.

 

1. Think three-dimensionally.

We read a book from beginning to end, so naturally we think we have to write a book from beginning to end. Not so. If you’ve gotten to a point in your manuscript that you’re stuck on but you have an idea of what happens later on in the story, then jump to writing that part of the story. Come back later and fill in the blanks. Nobody will know the difference in the finished product. You’re not a bricklayer. You’re a time traveller. Don’t be afraid to jump around.

 

2. Work on more than one project at a time.

When you’re writing your first manuscript, you naturally want to put everything you have into it. All your time, all your imagination, all your passion. And that’s as it should be. If you’re going to sit down and write tens of thousands of words, those words need to be on something that you care deeply about.

The problem comes when you start re-drafting, and re-drafting, and re-drafting. You want this manuscript to be perfect. You want it to have the best possible chance of finding an agent, landing a deal, becoming a bestseller. Your entire worth as a writer and aspiring author becomes laser-focused on this one book.

But nobody wants to become an author so they can publish just the one novel. Unless you’re Harper Lee. Or JD Salinger. And I’m going to stop listing counter-examples now because it’s not helping me make my point.

Most writers want to go on keep writing books. So my advice is this. Write your manuscript. Re-draft it. Make it the strongest piece of writing that you can. But while you’re doing that, permit your imagination to wander. Think of what you might like to write next. Jot down notes. Write a fragment here, a line there.

In other words, start developing the idea. Filmmakers often develop multiple projects simultaneously, and end up going ahead with the one that gets the most amount of momentum and interest behind it.

And the reason for doing this as a writer is two-fold; firstly, it means you don’t live or die on the fortunes of one manuscript. More importantly, it means that if you end up getting a meeting with a publisher or an agent and they inevitably ask if you’re working on anything else, you can say that you are and then pitch them that project at the same time.

 

3. Nothing comes out as perfectly as the way you imagined it.

Before the story moves onto the page it first lives in our heads as a sequence of images, possibly tied together by a few select words and phrases. The work comes in trying to connect the dots and transmit all those images, thoughts, and feelings into the heads of our readers.

We are very rarely happy with how we accomplish this. We can be satisfied, we can feel that we’ve more or less done it, but it’s never the same as how we first envisioned it. It might be better, it might be worse, but mostly it’s just different.

And I think one of the major reasons we keep writing is because we keep striving for that moment where we reach into our skulls, pluck out the ideas exactly as we imagined them, and plop them down in front of everyone as if we’ve just pulled a rabbit from our hats.

But if you’re having trouble with that, don’t get frustrated. Don’t give up. You’re just experiencing the same anxieties as every other writer, from beginners starting out through to Booker winners working on their latest masterpiece.

 

4. Know what your book is about and where it sits in the market.

I was once talking to a friend about the book they were writing and I asked them what it was about. They couldn’t say. Now to be fair, “What is your book about?” is a deceptively tricky question, especially when you’re in the midst of writing it and still discovering that for yourself. But it’s a question you’re eventually going to have to answer, and that you’re going to have to answer confidently.

If this is a question that baffles you, my suggestion would be to think of it this way; if you worked in a bookstore and you were trying to recommend this great new novel, how would you do it? What other books would you compare it to, what would you identify as the “hook” of the story that would capture a reader’s imagination?

And if that’s too tricky, I’d suggest breaking it down further. Still imagining yourself as a bookseller, pretend that a customer comes in raving about your book. What do you imagine they’d pick out as its distinguishing characteristics? What other books would you in turn recommend to them?

When a publisher is considering picking up a new manuscript, they look at how it fits with what’s currently popular and what they think is missing from the market. If you can identify those elements in your work, you’re already one step ahead of all the other manuscripts that are stacked up on the publisher’s desk.

 

5. Take all advice with a grain of salt.

When we’re starting as writers, we naturally seek out the advice of those who’ve gone before us. Many authors will provide you with long list of “Dos” and “Do nots”. But those “rules” are the ones that worked for them. Pick and choose the advice that works for you. Try different methods. Don’t worry if you’re doing something “wrong”. Writing is an art form. There are no rules in art. But that said, try to avoid using too many adverbs. And don’t mix your metaphors. And eat all your vegetables, they’re good for you.

 

6. There is no straight line to publication.

No author can tell you the secret of how they got published in a way that can be perfectly replicated. Just as every story is different, so is every path to publication. You might get an agent on your first try or it might not happen until your second, or your third. It might not happen at all, and you may never even need an agent in the first place. You may know someone in publishing who can help you, you may live in the back of nowhere with no contacts and no place to start. There are no qualifications you need, there are no tests to be taken, there is no secret door to pass through. All you can really do is…

 

7. Just keep writing.

Don’t get bogged down in research. Don’t focus on one element of your story at the expense of all the others. Don’t draft and re-draft and polish and tweak and hyperventilate and rinse and repeat. Write. Keep writing. Finish writing, and start writing something else. Send your writing out into the world, and celebrate or console yourself as need be. And then go back and keep writing.

The only time it’s guaranteed that you won’t succeed is when you stop trying.

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