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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.

Festivals and Filming

I covered it briefly in my last post, so you already know that the weekend just gone was a doozy.

It all kicked off with the Ballarat Writers and Illustrators Festival on Saturday. I arrived early enough to be included in a tour of the Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute – the festival’s venue – which has nothing to do with cars and is, in fact, one of the oldest buildings in Ballarat.

The Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute (photo from their website).

Jill Blee, President of the Institute, showed us the many beautiful rooms the building had to offer while detailing its history for us, which included a book collection that stretched back to the 1700s and subterranean shop fronts that still stand, windowless now, beneath Sturt Street. The entire time I was making mental notes to use all this as a story setting in the future, but given that I was at a writers’ festival I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. In fact, I know I wasn’t…

Author and fellow panelist Michael Panckridge was on the tour with me, which meant that if we were late in getting back that two-thirds of the panel would be MIA. Thankfully we returned in time, meeting third panelist and author Hilary Badger, as well as our moderator Maryanne Ross.

We each discussed our paths to publication, our experiences in the industry, the challenges of writing a series for younger readers, and finally fielded questions from the audience. It was the first time I’ve ever participated in a panel rather than watching one, and was such a great experience that I can’t wait until the next time I get to be on a panel…festival organisers beware!

The next morning my fiance Simone and I set our alarm early(ish) to watch my TV debut, after recording an appearance on Kids’ WB a fortnight earlier. It was a lot of fun, especially given that I was already a fan of the show and couldn’t believe I was getting the chance to appear on it.

Me with Kids’ WB hosts Lauren and Andrew (in his superhero disguise).

The hosts, Lauren Phillips and Andrew Faulkner, were both very friendly and welcoming, as was Allison the producer and all the crew. The studio, which looks big on the screen, turned out to be the corner of a room hidden behind a giant sliding door in the lobby of the Channel 9 building in Melbourne.

Arriving there, I was quickly whisked away to get my make-up done, which was thirty seconds of having my face dusted as Julia Morris sat in the chair beside me cracking jokes about Justin Bieber (no Wikipedia bio necessary). It was so surreal and inexplicable that I’m still not entirely convinced that it wasn’t a dream.

I reported back to the studio, where we managed to get the interview done in two takes (with the second take being done to get a close-up on the book as I pointed to it). The second segment, where Andrew and I competed in a quiz, was done in one take, with Andrew and I chatting about video games between set-ups and Lauren revealing that the first time she’d appeared on TV was when she was nine-years-old and Catriona Rowntree interviewed her for What’s Up Doc?, the ancestor to Kids’ WB that people of my generation still remember fondly.

We wrapped ahead of schedule, finishing up just as I was getting a taste for it, the high school drama geek that still dwells inside me having reawakened. Of course, just because I enjoyed the filming didn’t mean I felt any less self-conscious as we watched it air on Sunday morning. Simone had to keep me from leaving the room more than once, despite my insistence that bagels needed to be buttered and tea had to be poured!

Even as the segments were airing, traffic on this website was seeing a huge spike. If you’re one of the new visitors that came along after watching the show, let me take this chance to say welcome! And for those of you who didn’t get to see it, Kids’ WB uploads a lot of its segments onto their website. Once it’s up I’ll make sure to link to it.

So with that weekend over and done with, things will be a little quieter for the time being. The next event I have scheduled is an in-store appearance at Dymocks Southland on September 22nd (details on the Events page). Make sure to come along and say hi! And in the meantime, I’ll continue looking for a spot to keep the Pillow Pet I won from the Kids’ WB. They’re surprisingly huge and tricky to store, even if they are delightfully soft to the touch.

…that sounded weird.

‘Til next time.

What’s Up, Doc?

Today I’m heading off to the Ballarat Writers and Illustrators Festival to participate in the Action, Action, Action: Sports Stars to Superheroes panel with Michael Panckridge and Hilary Badger. It’s going to be my first writers’ panel and I’m very much looking forward to it. If you’re heading to the festival hopefully I’ll get the chance to see you there, but if you’re not and you want to see what my giant head looks like in motion and with words coming out of it, then you’re in luck!

Because tomorrow morning on GO! I’ll be making on appearance on Kids’ WB alongside hosts Lauren and Andrew. I’m going to be in two segments; one where we have a quick interview and the second where I get to take part in a superhero quiz against Andrew. If I’m not mistaken the segments will be appearing before Young Justice and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (so somewhere between 9am and 10am). So get your cereal bowl filled and make sure to tune in to watch me squeeze a rubber chicken (that’s not a euphemism).

Yes, that’s a chicken I’m holding.

In other, non-chicken-related news, I thought it was worth mentioning that I delivered the manuscript for Vanguard Prime: Book 3 this week. It was due on Friday but I got a bit antsy and sent it in early on Wednesday. We’re only about to start editing Book 2, so Book 3 is still a long way off (it’s scheduled for release September 2013), but this should give you an idea of just how far in advance things run in the publishing industry!

I’m pretty sure that’s everything I had to catch you guys up on. I need to go finish ironing my shirt and hit the road for Ballarat!

‘Til next time.