Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Whirlwind Tour of Stevenlochran.com

This Sunday morning, I’ll be making my second appearance on Kids’ WB. As much fun as I had the first time around, this time was even better…

...though I have to admit, I didn't expect to make such a spectacle of myself.

…though I have to admit, I didn’t expect to make such a spectacle of myself.

Last time I was on (which you can read about here and here), this site saw a huge spike in traffic. So in advance of that, I thought I’d write up a post to say ‘Welcome!’ to all the new visitors.

And if this is the first time you’re visiting, you may be curious about exactly who I am and what kind of books I write. Thankfully I haven’t had to write up a big piece explaining all of that, because in one of my earliest posts on this site I wrote all about my background and influences, which you can read here.

Of course, that’s not to overlook the About and FAQ pages, which should also help shed some light on the enigma that is me. And if all that hasn’t helped, there’s always the Links page where you can find links (well, what else would you find there?) to some interviews I’ve done.

But that’s enough about me. After all, as far as people go I’m really kind of boring. Maybe you’re here because you’re curious about this “Vanguard Prime” thing and you want to learn more about it.

Well, in short, Vanguard Prime is the name of the series of books I’m currently writing. It’s also the name of the world-famous superhero team that teenager Sam Lee joins when he suddenly develops mysterious powers. You can read more about the books on, appropriately enough, the Books page.

But if you don’t want to go wading through all that, let me share some of the highlights with you, including this rundown on all the members of the team. The Books page also has a link to an extract from the first book, Goldrush, which you can read here.

You’ll also find on the Penguin website that you can buy the book directly from them, as well as a variety of online sellers listed (once again) on the Books page, but my favourite option is to visit your friendly neighbourhood bookshop and ask for it from them directly. You can even get the second book, Wild Card, at the same time.

But maybe you’re still unconvinced. Maybe you need to be bedazzled by some awesome reviews. Well, you can find links to the reviews the series has received, once again, on the Books page. But seeing as I’m in a bit of a scrapbooking mood, here are some of my favourite quotes;

– “Steven Lochran’s first novel is a fast-paced action text…the plot remains tense and the sense of drama and excitement are maintained until the closing pages. Lochran has created interesting and complex characters with plenty of scope to develop them further and will appeal to readers in the 10 to 14 plus age range.” – Children’s Book Council of Australia

– “Pacy…plenty of teenage humour…Lochran’s thorough approach to constructing his superhero world pays off.” – Fiona Purdon, The Courier Mail.

– “Think CHERUB, Alex Rider and Artemis Fowl all rolled into one…then you’ve got Vanguard Prime!” – DMAG.

– “Vanguard Prime: Goldrush is a funny, stylish and action-packed read.” – Jack Heath, author of Money Run, Hit List and the Agent Six of Hearts series.

– “[Wild Card is] a book that, like the Percy Jackson books, combines quick-draw pacing with intelligent, self-aware humour and a wonderful sense of the humanity that is underscored by its super-human characters…Brimming with imagination and wit and with pacing so fast that you’ll be in pain from the G forces, Wild Card is a overall thoroughly enjoyable addition to the superhero genre.” – Read In a Single Sitting.

But maybe you’re looking for something a little more cerebral. Maybe you’re a writer yourself and you’re wondering what goes into the creation of a book. Well, I’ve written about that too in various places on this site, like this post on what music inspired my writing, or this post on what books were direct influences on Vanguard Prime. And that’s to say nothing of the series of posts on what it takes to create a superhero character, which you can find here, here and here.

Of course, you might just like pretty pictures, in which case you’re also in luck! Illustrator Chad McCown has done an amazing job with the cover imagery for the Vanguard Prime series, which you can enjoy by simply clicking on the images below.

'Goldrush'

‘Goldrush’

 

'Wild Card'

‘Wild Card’

And finally, if you don’t mind subjecting your ears to potentially harmful noises, you can listen to the Vanguard Prime theme song I cobbled together on my laptop…

Phew!

Well…that’s just about everything I can think of to share with you. Of course, there’s plenty of other posts I’ve written that you can dig through the archives to read. And should you have any questions, or if you end up reading Vanguard Prime and want to let me know what you think of it, you can either email me here or you can find me on Twitter.

Make sure to keep track of this site in the months to come, as Book 3 in the Vanguard Prime series will be getting released in September this year, along with a free digital novella which will feature an all-new adventure for the Vanguard Prime team.

And that’s it. I’m tapped. I hope you’ve enjoyed this whirlwind tour of stevenlochran.com as much as I’ve enjoyed conducting it. Actually, I hope you’ve enjoyed it more than I’ve enjoyed it. But I’ll settle for ‘as much’ if need be.

‘Til next time.

Lessons in Villainy

Some guy doing some talking thing.

Some guy doing some talking thing.

The Somerset Celebration of Literature finished last Friday, though I didn’t get home until Sunday after staying on the Gold Coast to visit family…and if you ever get the chance to check out the Gold Coast Hinterland, I highly recommend it!

I’ve been to writers’ festivals as an author before…well, once before…but this was the first time I’d had multiple sessions over multiple days. And the experienced was incredible. I learnt so much in so short a period of time, and I can’t wait to take all the knowledge I’ve gained and start applying it to my future events.

Something that I found especially interesting was how engaged and switched on all the kids were, with many of them showing a confidence I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was their age. When I asked if there were any writers in the audience, one girl raised her hand and said she was writing a verse novel. A verse novel! I wouldn’t have the guts to try that now, let alone when I was a teenager!

Spurred on by her calm self-assurance, I decided to take a chance and read out a poem I wrote a year or so ago and recently rediscovered in my notebook. Admittedly, I did it mostly to fill time, but the kids in the audience responded really well to it, so I may end up posting it here…in fact, I might even add it to the end of this blog post. Let’s see how I feel by the end…

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One question I was asked during my sessions was  “What makes a good villain?”. I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of the guy who asked me that particular question, which is awful of me given that he came to my signing line after the talk and was very sweet. I felt at the time that I gave him a bit of wishy-washy answer, so I thought I’d take a moment to address that critical error.

What makes a good villain?

It’s something I ask myself a lot because, in writing adventure fiction, you want to create an antagonist that is memorable, that is intimidating, that is worthy of your hero, and who maybe even has some shades of sympathy to him/her. I think the best villains are the ones who are a little morally ambiguous – perhaps they have a tragic back story, or a legitimate reason for doing what they do, even if they’ve taken it too far.

But more than that, the best villains are the characters that shed light on your protagonist. In dealing with the quandary of this opponent, facets of your main character’s personality and history are revealed. Villains are dark mirror images of heroes, serving as a warning of what we can all become if we give into the weaker elements of ourselves.

I could write up a whole essay on this subject, but I think I’ll leave it at that for the time being. Don’t be surprised, however, if there ends up being a future blog post that digs down deep on this topic to an almost tedious level!

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In addition to Somerset, I’ve also made a trip in the past week to Channel 9 studios, where I filmed my second appearance for Kids’ WB. I’ll blog more about that in the future, but in the meantime enjoy this behind-the-scenes snapshot;

I'm the one in the middle. Thankfully not in costume.

I’m the one in the middle. Thankfully not in costume.

The segment should be airing at the end of March, though that’s yet to be confirmed. Watch this space for updates!

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Okay, so we’re at the end of the post. Will I put up that poem? Hmmm.

You know what? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So here’s the poem, but before you read it there’s a few things you should know;

1) I have no idea if it’s crap or not.

2) I’m not a poet. See point # 1.

3) It got a good response at the festival, but I think that had mostly to do with how I read it…and the demand I made for applause at the end.

4) It’s about writing and being a writer.

5) I studied poetry at uni but the best I got was a ‘C’.

6) I don’t have a title for it.

7) I’m stalling now.

8) Here’s the poem…

We are dream merchants. And magicians.

We are astronomers, charting the stars,

and astronauts, reaching up to touch them.

We work instruments made of mirrors,

weaving invisible threads.

We stitch together scraps of cloth collected across a lifetime,

to make flying carpets and coats of many colours.

We are explorers. And hermits.

We study the soul and bring it names.

We take names and make them ideas.

We sell inspiration. We sow fancy and bottle stray thoughts.

We do this with ink in our veins and with our hearts beating to the rhythm of a keyboard.

We do this because we have to.

We do this because we can’t imagine anything else.

And that’s it. Hate mail can be sent here.

‘Til next time.

Some Quick Thoughts from Somerset Writers’ Festival

You'll recognise me as the least famous one in this photo.

You’ll recognise me as the least famous one in this photo.

I’m up in sunny, steamy Queensland at Somerset College’s Celebration of Literature and having a fantastic time talking to all the kids attending. I’ve only had two sessions so far, with a dinner and then a third session still to come, but I’m already picking up some trends that I thought I’d share with you;

– If you’re a children’s/YA author who doesn’t have an opinion on One Direction, I recommend sitting down and formulating some kind of response because you will be asked what you think of them, and no matter what you say half the room will erupt in protest.

– Also, Marvel versus DC tensions run deep.

– Daleks versus Cybermen is also strangely controversial.

– Kids be smart, man.

And that’s it, other than to say I’ve been having a great time. It’s amazing to see so many kids excited about and interested in books. The enthusiasm is overwhelming! But for now, I’m off to work out exactly how I feel about One Direction. Muttering “somethingsomethingsomething Harry’s one, right?” has NOT been cutting it!

 

3 Tips for a Successful Author Signing

In a couple of days I’ll be flying out to the Somerset Writers Festival to kick off the promotional tour for Vanguard Prime: Wild Card. There’s a variety of events you’re asked to do as a writer, and I have to admit that I find the Q&A-style events the easiest; after all, it’s pretty straightforward answering questions about yourself.

In promoting a book, however, you’ll sooner or later be asked to do one of the trickier style of events; the in-store appearance. Of course, if you’re a famous author you’ll more than likely find a clamouring crowd of fans waiting with bated breath on your arrival, and you can just sit down and start signing.

But when you’re starting out, the situation’s very different. You’ll arrive at the store to find a table set up with a chair and a pile of books, and you’ll take a seat and wait…and wait…and wait.

If you’re a new author heading out for their first in-store appearance, allow me to offer three pieces of advice that may make the experience a more successful one for you.

 1         Everyone loves a freebie

It can be hard getting people’s attention, and even harder finding a way to strike up a conversation. There’s a very simple solution to this; sugar.

If you take a big bowl of lollies with you, you’ll have something to offer people as they pass by/enter the store/do their best to avoid making eye contact with you. I recommend a variety pack of individually wrapped lollies; that way people can pick a flavour that appeals to them, and they know they haven’t been breathed all over.

I know one author who makes up goodie bags whenever they’re doing an in-store appearance, with a couple of lollies included in a netted bag with a postcard flier for their book.

If you feel guilty about the prospect of widening the spread of diabetes, however, you could look into getting promotional bookmarks made up with your book cover printed on it…but people will be less likely to take something like that than they are a free sugar hit.

 2         Don’t be afraid to come out from behind the table

One problem that keeps authors from having a successful in-store appearance is that they feel they should be anchored to the one spot, sitting in their chair behind their signing table waiting for people to come up to them.

You may feel shy, you may feel like you’re owed the public’s attention, but the simple fact is that no one’s going to come to you; you have to go to them.

So stand up, make eye contact, stand in front of the desk, or even on top of the desk if you have to. Smile, say hello…and then ask them if they want a lolly. You’ll have much more success with the public if you engage with them instead of sitting there thumbing your iPhone.

 3         Don’t go for the hard sell

People don’t like being aggressively marketed to; they prefer to make a connection with someone. You’d be surprised the kind of reaction you’ll get if you ask people what kind of books they read or what they’re looking for, rather than jumping straight to who you are and why you’re here today.

In fact, I had that very experience myself – people were much more likely to pick up my book and consider buying it if I’d chatted with them first, rather than falling all over myself to try and put the book in their hands. Be confident enough to take the slower path. Make a connection. In short, have fun.

 

At this stage, I don’t have any in-stores lined up for this tour, but should one arise I’ll be doing my best to keep my own advice in mind. After all, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re in a situation like that…but if I were to add one more piece of advice, it would be to relax, breathe and remember; this is life as an author. Enjoy it!