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The Misadventures of an Author on the Road

Long before I was a published author, I tried my hand at filmmaking. And being a playwright. And learning the guitar. That last one might not be relevant. At all.

But the first two are. And when I say “filmmaking” and “playwright”, I mean in the broadest, most amateurish way possible, like making dumb little movies with friends and writing a particularly tragic high school play that shared its title with the one and only movie that Britney Spears ever starred in.

So I know what it’s like to have people read out dialogue you’ve written. Sometimes it’s embarrassing, or frustrating, but every so often you hear your own words read aloud to you and they sing (the words, that is. Not the person reading them).

It’s been a long time since I last experienced that, but this past week I once again had that opportunity.

I was thrilled to be invited to the Carey Celebration of Literature, a writers’ festival held by Carey Baptist Grammar. The day started off with a workshop where the students and I went through the fundamentals of storytelling, with a lot of activities peppered throughout, before I set them the task of creating their own superheroes. I was really impressed with the imagination and storytelling instincts on display.

But as impressive as that was, I was even more blown away when I showed up for the talk I was to present in the afternoon to find that a few of the kids had put together a dramatic presentation of a scene from Vanguard Prime: Goldrush (specifically, the scene where Major Blackthorne introduces Sam to Agent Alpha, and they discuss the history of the team).

As with all adaptations some changes were made, the major one being (no pun intended…well, maybe slightly intended) that Major Blackthorne had been split into two characters, one named Blackthorne and the other called Silverleaf. This is, of course, so utterly brilliant that I’m now sorely tempted to introduce a clone of Blackthorne called Silverleaf…and given that Blackthorne’s hair is silver, Silverleaf’s hair would of course be black.

I think I just came up with a fanfic idea for my own book series.

In addition to the Celebration of Literature, I also got the chance to call on Ivanhoe Grammar again, where this year’s bunch of students were just as bright and inquisitive as last year’s. I’m often asked what my favourite part of writing is, and I have to admit that getting to meet the readers would be right at the top of the list.

So thanks to both Carey Baptist Grammar and Ivanhoe Grammar. I had a great time and was honoured to have been invited along, making it well worthwhile that I never learned how to play the guitar. And if Major Silverleaf should end up in a story, please don’t sue.

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Vanguard Prime: The Movie

One of the questions I get asked the most is whether Vanguard Prime will ever be made into a movie. And from what I’ve experienced, I’m not the only author to be asked this. I know Stephen King was particularly puzzled when he was asked what the film prospects of Vanguard Prime are, given that he’d never heard of it before.

I may have made up that last part.

In any case, book-to-film translations are always a hot topic of conversation. People don’t seem to feel a work has been truly successful until it’s been rendered cinematically with a running time of 2+ hours, and they get the chance to complain about the filmmakers completely missing the point.

But to answer the original question; the chances of Vanguard Prime ever being adapted to the screen are, safe to say, slim to none. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be excited to have it happen, but I’m not exactly pinning any particular hopes on it. After all, it took about 30 years for Ender’s Game to be made into a film, and though I’m quite proud of Vanguard Prime, it’s not exactly recognised as a classic of its genre the way Orson Scott Card’s book is.

So now that I’ve couched all of this in a thick blanket of self-awareness, let’s pretend that a Vanguard Prime movie is something legitimately possible. Who would I cast in it, you might ask. And even if you wouldn’t ask that, I’m going to tell you anyway. That’s just the kind of guy I am.

Goldrush

This would be the trickiest part to cast, given that there’s not really much physical description of Goldrush/Sam in the books. I wanted every reader to formulate their own picture of him…which was kind of defeated when it came time to design the cover, but that’s beside the point. The other issue with casting Sam is that it’s a very time sensitive role; anyone I nominate now would probably be too old in just a couple of years. But if we were going with who I had pictured in my head, it’d have to be Jordan Dang, probably best known for his role as Tim Okazaki in Chris Lilley’s TV series Angry Boys.

Jordan Dang Picture

Machina

I think I’ve discussed this before, but one of the visual inspirations for Machina was Brie Larson, of Scott Pilgrim vs the World and 21 Jump Street fame. She’s not English, and at 25 she may now be a little too old for the part, but between her roles in Scott Pilgrim and The United States of Tara, she’s what I imagined Machina to be.

Brie Larson Picture

Major Blackthorne

There were a few different actresses who informed my image of the Major, with chief amongst them being Charlize Theron (particularly because of her role in the music video for Brandon Flowers’ song Crossfire).

Charlize Theron Picture

But there were a couple of other faces floating around in my head when creating her, which included Stephanie March of Law & Order fame, Australian actress Emma Lung and, most recently, Haywire star and MMA fighter Gina Carano.

Agent Alpha

Everyone wants Idris Elba cast in everything. Who am I to deny them? And why would I want to?

Idris Elba Picture

The Knight of Wands

David Bowie’s appearance in the video for China Girl was very inspirational for the Knight’s appearance, as was Guy Pearce in Memento, but it comes down to two actors for this role. Either I stick with the Prometheus theme that’s developing and say Michael Fassbender, or I go the Jedi route and nominate Ewan McGregor. Either way, everybody wins.

Michael Fassbender Picture Ewan McGregor Picture

(I can not get these two pictures side-by-side for some reason. Clearly they’ve had a disagreement.)

Gaia

Outside of a cameo on 30 Rock I have no idea about Padma Lakshi’s acting ability, but she was highly influential when it came to envisioning what Gaia looked like. But I think Freida Pinto could just as easily make the role hers (and once again, their photos are fighting with each other).

Padma Lakshmi Picture Freida Pinto Picture

So that’s the team, but what are heroes without some villains to fight? Here’s a small selection of who I’d pick to be the Big Bad.

The Overman

Alexander Skarsgard. Because obviously.

Alexander Skarsgård Picture

Big Brother

The lead antagonist in War Zone was inspired by singer/actor/general awesome guy Henry Rollins, who may now be a little too old and grey for the role but…well, who cares?

Henry Rollins Picture

I always pictured Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the Emperor, the Knight of Wands’ brother and chief adversary. Obviously, and very sadly, that’s no longer a possibility, and given that I can’t wrap my head around it I figured I’d nominate the next member down the food chain in the Major Arcana. Namely…

The Magician

And this is a bit of a weird one, because I imagine it to be Doc Hammer, the co-creator and one of the lead voice actors from The Venture Bros animated series. He plays a variety of characters on the series, and I’m sure his skills would translate easily to live action. Plus it would amuse me immensely.

And that’s my list. Hopefully this doesn’t contradict too much with what the readers of the series have pictured, and if it has then just bear in mind that this is only my opinion. If you have a completely different vision, I’d love to hear about it. Otherwise I’ll be over here. By the phone. Waiting for that call from Hollywood to come. Which I’m sure will be any minute now. Especially given that international superstar Doc Hammer is attached to star. Box office gold. License to print money. Third salient point.

Fin.

‘Vanguard Prime: War Zone’ Full Cover Reveal

The title for this post pretty much says it all, huh? I mean, there are times to be ambiguous and, clearly, this is not one of those times.

You may have noticed that the banner image above has changed. And if you haven’t seen the image before, allow me to very proudly say that it’s the artwork from Vanguard Prime: War Zone. As with the previous books in the series, illustrator Chad McCown has delivered a beautiful, energetic piece of wraparound artwork which this time features the Vanguard Prime team on the front battling it out with the [unnamed mysterious bad guys] on the back.

You can see the finished product for yourselves when War Zone is released on August 29, but in the meantime you can enjoy the full cover image by clicking below;

Pretty awesome, huh?

Pretty awesome, huh?

But that’s not all! I also have Vanguard Prime: Red Alert news! Penguin has now set up a landing page for the eBook, which means you can find links to it in all its various formats in one handy spot. Click here now to check it out.

If you haven’t had the chance to read it as yet, I highly recommend it as it’s a bite-sized adventure featuring the whole Vanguard Prime team, as well as a variety of new, exciting villains. This is in addition to the first two books in the series available in digital formats at $4.99 – a bargain if ever I saw one!

What else has been going on? Well, for one thing I participated in the pop-up library that Werribee Plaza set up for Book Week, where I got to read one of my favourite picture books (Instructions by Neil Gaiman, if you’re curious) as well as talk with the kids in the audience about writing and storytelling. I’ll make sure to post some pictures when they become available.

I mean, how often do you get a picture of yourself sitting on a giant storybook throne?

‘Til next time.

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!

redalertcover

‘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 Church of Joss Whedon

joss-whedon-is-our-leader-now

When I was on the promotion trail for Vanguard Prime: Goldrush, I did an in-store Q&A where I cited Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a big influence on my writing. The brilliant Leanne Hall, who was leading the Q&A, turned to the audience to take a quick poll: How many of you are familiar with Buffy the Vampire Slayer? To my surprise, only one hand went up.

I had just assumed that Buffy had permeated culture enough that everyone knew what it was. Of course, it didn’t occur to me that most of the audience was 10 years old, and that Buffy had been off the air for the entire time they’d been alive. Thankfully, I had Leanne there to help explain the show, given that she too was a Whedonite and had encountered a similar situation at one of her own events.

But the fact that nobody had heard of the show really threw me. You see, I was such a big Buffy fan while growing up that, when I went away to leadership camp in Year 11, my drama teacher instinctively knew that he should tape the latest episode for me so that I wouldn’t miss out on seeing it (proving why he made such a good mentor…and just how much television-viewing habits have changed since I was in high school).

That fanboy love continued onto the spin-off series Angel, and from there onto Joss’s other TV work, including the modern classic Firefly and the under-rated Dollhouse. In fact, I was such a fan of Whedon that I’d follow him anywhere. I’d try to pick out the lines that were his in the movies he’d script-doctored, including Toy Story, Titan AE, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and the original X-Men. I sought out the hardback graphic novel that collected his entire Astonishing X-Men comics run. And nothing can describe the heartbreak I felt the day I found out that the cinema I was working at had hosted a Q&A session with the man himself…a year before I started working there!!

Those of you unfamiliar with Joss might ask why his work inspires such loyalty. Is it the intriguing plots, the insightful use of theme? Or is it the witty dialogue that’s proven so influential it’s had a trope named after it? Well, yes, it is those things. But at the heart of it is his focus on character.

In short, Joss creates characters you love. They range from idealistic to cynical, erudite to streetwise. They’re flawed, but they’re always trying, and that’s what makes them so relatable. And once you feel like they’re close friends, like they’re family, that’s when Joss will throw a curve at you and break your heart…and though it’ll be through hot salty tears, you’ll love him all the more for it.

Through his work, Joss taught me to be a better writer. Through his interviews, he taught me the importance of including strong female characters in your writing, and why men shouldn’t shy away from considering themselves feminists. He taught me that smart and funny equate to cool, and that while high school may be hell, it’s a hell that can be conquered.

That’s why it was so heartening to see him hired by Marvel to direct the first Avengers movie and, when it succeeded, to see him jump to the top of the Hollywood A-list. And while I’ll gobble up every detail I can about Avengers 2 to find out what Joss has in store for us next, I’ll content myself in the meantime with seeing his take on the work of one of the few writers I’d rank higher than him (and I think he’d happily agree with me on that score).

So if you’ve never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I heartily recommend you check it out. And when you’re done, I’ll happily welcome you into the Church of Joss Whedon.

We’re getting jackets made.