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PALADERO: The Edge of the World

It’s been a long time in the making but it’s finally here!

May I present to you the cover for Paladero Book 3, The Edge of the World

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Thank you once again to the incredible team at Hardie Grant Egmont and to artist extraordinaire Jeremy Love for producing such a stunning cover! I can’t wait to see how it looks sitting alongside the first two Paladero books once it’s released on July 1st.

And in the meantime, I’ll be buried deep in line edits. Send as much tea and sympathy as you can muster.

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More than anything, it took me back to when I was working on my first (unpublished) manuscript, toiling away with what felt like a dim hope that somehow, someday, it might end up as an actual book.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

Speaking as an Author

A lot of people think that the life of an author involves nothing but writing. If only that were true!

Setting aside the fact that most authors don’t make enough money from their writing to do it full time (and thus have to hold down another job in addition to their writing career) there are a lot of other components that go into being a professional writer that often go overlooked. And public speaking would have to be the big daddy of them all.

Before I was published, I’d heard of writers being provided with media training by their publishers and thought I may experience something similar. As it turned out, I was more or less thrown in the deep end and had to learn along the way. Thankfully, I’d attended enough author events to have an idea of what was expected of me, but it’s one thing being an audience member and something completely different to actually be the focus of attention.

In high school, I’d been a bit of a drama nerd, acting in a few plays and even writing one (it was our Year 12 production and it was terrible…but hey, I was 16! Or 17. I think. It gets harder to remember as you get older).

I was really thankful that I had that background to draw on when heading out on the promotional trail. I used my experience on the stage to help channel my stage fright, to project my voice, and to keep the audience’s attention.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a lot to learn…and still do!  As with many things in life, you only learn through doing, and you only get better through experience. As it stands now, I still get nervous before an event, and think of all the things I should have said afterwards.

But as it turns out, the in-between part? Where you’re actually onstage, interacting with the audience? It can be a lot of fun.

So if you’re looking to be a professional author, there are a few things you’ll have to make peace with now. Unless you’re very lucky, your contract won’t be of the “Rich and Famous” variety. They reserve that for high-profile non-fiction writers (aka celebrities), self-published authors with phenomenal sales numbers to back them up, and vunderkind [vunderkinds?].

The rest of us will be published almost anonymously, and you’ll have to fight to get people’s attention. In doing that, you should say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity you’re offered to go out into the world and talk about your book. And you’re going to have to work out for yourself how to do that in a way that’s both entertaining and informative.

The first step in developing those skills (short of attending a public-speaking course) is to go see other authors and pick what works best. Discard the rest.

It may not be what you imagined the life of a writer to be, but I promise you that it’s essential. And along the way, you may even have fun. 

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I’ve been meaning to write a new post for some time now, and while my usual excuse has to do with ‘Life’, this time it has to do with writing. Unexpectedly, I’m about a quarter of a way into writing a new book that I hadn’t planned to tackle at this stage. I’m still very much in that honeymoon period, where the ideas are rushing out of you and the whole endeavour is proving strangely enjoyable (I say strangely because I still vividly remember the painful process of getting both War Zone and Wild Card out into the world). Fingers crossed that the words continue to stream out of me and this becomes a story I can share with you all before too long.

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The Goodreads competition for War Zone has now closed – congratulations to those who won and thanks to everybody who entered! In case you haven’t seen it yet, the first review has gone up on Goodreads, though be warned that it contains some mild spoilers. If you don’t want to know one of the main mysteries of the book, I suggest waiting until after you’ve read it yourself before checking it out.

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Listening: Theme from Shaft by Isaac Hayes.

Watching: ER Season 2.

Reading: Railsea by China Mieville.

Money for Nothing and Your eBooks for Free!

It’s here! The moment has arrived!

After what feels like months of promising that it’s on its way, you can now download Red Alert, the free Vanguard Prime eBook that tells a whole new story featuring Goldrush and the whole Vanguard Prime team!

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‘As Vanguard Prime takes the field… I wonder how I come across to all the soldiers gathered around us, dressed in the black-and-gold V-suit that looks as if somebody skinned a Lamborghini and made a lightweight spacesuit from its pelt.

Do I look like the others; a seasoned superhero ready to take on the world? Do I look like Sam Lee, AKA Goldrush, super-speedster extraordinaire? Or do I look like how I feel; a kid who’s swallowed a crate of fireworks and is counting down to the horrible moment when they explode?’

In this exciting free novella, the perfect introduction to the series, Vanguard Prime is responding to a Red Alert: a multi-billion-dollar research think tank has just been stormed by a supervillain strike force headed by the Red Death.

Each level of the centre is booby-trapped with bombs and the Red Death has handpicked an arch-rival (aka murderous psychopath) to neutralize each member of the VP team. But this is just the maze that Vanguard Prime has to run to find out what’s really at stake, where Red Death himself waits for an enormous machine to warm up on Sub-Level 4…

We’re currently putting together a page on the Penguin website to host the file, but in the meantime you can find it in the iBooks store (just search for ‘Vanguard Prime in iTunes and it should come up) or you can download it directly by clicking here and selecting the red ‘Slow Download’ option on the left.

It’s currently available only in ePub format, though most e-readers (if not all of them) should be able to open it. And if you don’t have an e-reader to load the file onto, try downloading Adobe Digital Editions to read it directly on your computer. If you have any problems accessing the file, let me know and I’ll pass the info onto Penguin.

I’ll also make sure to update you guys as more download sites come online. But in the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading this brand new adventure as much as I enjoyed writing it!

And if you’re a new reader to the Vanguard Prime universe – welcome aboard! You couldn’t have picked a better time as the third book in the series, War Zone, is set to be released in just over a month…ao watch this space as the updates will start coming thick and fast!

Happy reading.

UPDATE: A ‘Giveaways & Competitions’ page has been added to the website where you can now download Red Alert in PDF format. Enjoy!

The Adventures of Links

I’m currently working on two new blog posts, both of them part of The Ideas Shoppe. They’re also both on the wordy side, so they’re taking a bit more time to complete than I’d like, especially as I’m aiming to have a new blog post up every week. So in the meantime, I thought I’d provide some updates of what’s been going on Vanguard Prime-wise.

 

The September issue of DMAG has a review of Vanguard Prime: Goldrush, while the September issue of K-ZONE has an interview with me in it. Hopefully I’ll be able to provide some scans soon. Vanguard Prime: Goldrush is also reviewed in the latest issue of Magpies magazine, a publication for librarians and teachers, where they have a lot of positive things to say about it. Check the Books page for quotes!

 

Penguin’s Off the Shelf magazine has a double-page spread on the Vanguard Prime team, which you can see right here. The best part is that it separates out the characters so you get to see Chad McCown’s awesome illustrations unobscured. Adelaide’s Sunday Mail also ran an interview with me that featured the members of the team, which you can read here. And the Goodreads entry for the book is sprouting more readers every week, with a couple of really insightful reviews up as well.

 

I handed in the manuscript for Book 3 a couple of weeks ago now and have started work on Book 4, though I may be getting ahead of myself as Book 4 isn’t currently contracted. If you’ve read Goldrush and want to see the series continue, make sure to tell all your friends and family about it! Nothing sells books like good word of mouth!

 

And finally, I think it’s worth mentioning again that I’ll be at Dymocks Southland on Saturday 22nd September from 1-3pm. Come and say hi!

 

‘Til next time.