Paladero Book 2 Cover Reveal (Excited exclamation mark!)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly six months now since the release of The Riders of Thunder Realm. A lot has happened in that time, the least of which includes the book receiving some very generous reviews. The biggest thing – for my wife and me at least – was the birth of our son, Max.

Max is our first child, and we had all these ideas of how he would arrive in the world. He defied almost all of them, with an emergency c-section leading to a week spent in the NICU. I’m happy and relieved to say that he’s in the best of health now, but there were times where that was much less certain, and they were the scariest of my life.

In the midst of Max’s dramatic arrival, I was also writing and editing the second book in the Paladero series. Meeting deadlines proved to be a challenge between hospital visits, meeting with doctors and eventually making it home with a newborn to look after, but somehow those tricky waters were navigated and the manuscript was delivered.

And even more exciting than that – the cover reveal! This happened at the Centre for Youth Literature’s 2017 YA Showcase, as presented by my fantastic publisher Marisa Pintado. Not being very good at ze tweets, I tried to play it off like I was unaware of what was going on, with the intention of turning around and being all ‘Whoop! There it is!’ when the image finally dropped.

Mostly, though, I think I came off a bit bewildered, reinforcing to myself that I need to develop a new tweeting style that less resembles a certain spray-tanned autocrat’s; declarative statement, end on excited exclamation mark!

Ahem. I have, again, wandered off-topic. All of this is to say … Paladero Book 2 will be released in February 2017. It’s called The City of Night Neverending, which can be added to your Goodreads TBR list here. And this is its absolutely stunning cover, as once again provided by dynamo illustrator Jeremy Love:


And to do you one better, here’s the blurb:

Joss has always wanted to become a paladero, and now he finally has that chance. But before he can start training, the town is attacked by vicious pyrates who abduct half the villagers, including Joss’s best friend Edgar … and then vanish into thin air.

Joss has no choice but to forge alliances with merchant captains, merfolk and ancient creatures from the deep in an effort to rescue his fellow prentice – all while risking the paladero training he’s worked so hard for. But the stakes are even higher than he knows. Joss’s rescue mission will set him on a crash course with his own tragic past, and a mysterious figure he’s long-thought dead …

I still have the original pitch document for the Paladero series saved on my computer, where the plot for this book was originally allocated as belonging to the third entry in the series. The story demanded that it be moved forward, and I began writing it at the start of 2016, a year that would turn out to be horrible in so many ways and the absolute best in one very particular instance.

The thing that strikes me most is how a book that has so much to do with fathers and sons would be getting finalised, entirely by coincidence, just as I was becoming a father to a son.

Accordingly, I’ve dedicated it to Max. Hopefully he’ll get the chance to read it one day, and maybe even enjoy it. If he’s not too embarrassed by how mushy his dad is about him.

Happy holidays, everyone. Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it. And may the new year find you trying new things, making new friends, discovering new places, reading life-changing books, and dreaming the biggest and best dreams.

End on excited exclamation mark!

With Sympathies to George RR Martin

It’s been a few months now since the publication of Paladero: The Riders of Thunder Realm and I thought an update was well overdue.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who’s taken the time to read the book, as well as those who’ve reviewed it on Goodreads and various other sites. The reception it’s had has been overwhelming, and I really appreciate it.

Now, for those who’ve been wondering about Book 2 – good news! Paladero: The City of Night Neverending will be published in February 2017. We’re still finalising the cover and synopsis, though I can tell you that Jeremy Love has returned to provide the artwork. I couldn’t have hoped for a better illustrator for The Riders of Thunder Realm, and I’m thrilled that he’s back.

In addition to finishing up the copyedit for The City of Night Neverending, I’m also in the midst of writing Book 3 in the series. It fries the brain a bit to be editing one book and writing another, especially when it’s a Fantasy series and you have to either research or invent every object, location, term and turn of phrase. I’ve never felt so much sympathy for George RR Martin in my life.

That said, while progress is slow it’s still steady. So I don’t think we’ll be encountering any Winds of Winter situations anytime soon. Hopefully.

In the meantime, there’s still a couple of days left in the Goodreads Riders of Thunder Realm giveaway. If you haven’t read the book yet, and would like a free one (and really, why wouldn’t you?), make sure to enter before time runs out.

I’ll also be appearing at Dymocks Camberwell as part of Star Wars Reads Day, where I’ll be reading the first chapter from Adventures in Wild Space: The Escape. I’m a lifelong Star Wars fan – which I think is pretty obvious if you read the Paladero series – and I’m delighted to be participating in what should be a very fun day. I’ll be there from 1pm, so please make sure to come along and say hi.

And that’s it. I’ll be back to drop the Book 2 cover/synopsis on you before too long, I promise. So long as writer’s block and mental burnout doesn’t get me first.

‘Til next time.

Paladero: A’s to your Q’s


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.