Where The Weird Things Are, edited by Clare Rhoden and Austin P Sheehan

book cover

I’m delighted to announce a new member of the family: Where The Weird Things Are Volume 1 is here!

A collection of strange and sometimes spooky stories, Where The Weird Things Are Volume 1 is your guide to travelling Australia and Aotearoa … but with fantastic and freaky adventures.

My story ‘A Beechy Boy’ was inspired by the little bush block we had for a long time at Gellibrand River in Victoria’s Otway Ranges. Some of you have visited me there! My, it was beautiful.

But that persistent fog. Those strange noises in the night. That creeping cold. That monstrous king wallaby. That sense of remoteness in the night.

They all come together in a story that riffs off the old ‘Little Boy Lost’ tale. I hope you enjoy it!

Available now as an e book at the Zon: Weird Things Vol 1 e book

 

And as a paperback on Booktopia: Weird Things Vol 1 PB

 

And I’ll have my own paperback copies coming soon, for anyone who wants it signed.

Where the Weird Things Are Volume 1 is published by Deadset Press, one of Australia’s foremost independent publishers of awesome speculative fiction (PS, check out their site for new story calls!)

From the Wasteland: what’s it all about?

A new anthology of speculative fiction called From the Wasteland will gather original stories inspired by TS Eliot’s The Waste Land  

I first had the idea for this collection last December while walking the Empress (otherwise known as Aeryn Spoodle).  I was listening to an episode of ABC Classics’ The Game Show (music from video games). This episode had a very dark theme. Naturally my mind turned to my studies into First World War literature, and then to The Waste Land.

The Waste Land begins with a chapter titled The Burial of the Dead. The very first line says that ‘April is the cruellest month’. What an attention-grabbing start!

The 434-line poem is Eliot’s extended lament for the lost lives and the destruction of the 1914-1918 war. He’s talking about the collapse of civilised behaviour, the wanton wreckage, the widespread despair. And he does it in style.

Australian headstones at Tyne Cot cemetery
Australian headstones at Tyne Cot cemetery on the Western Front (my photo from my 2011 study tour)

When I got home from my walk, I looked up the poem, recalling that it includes dozens of splendid lines. Then I discovered (re-discovered?) that the poem’s first publication was in 1922.

Lo and behold, 2022 would be the centenary!

The idea of an anthology of Wasteland stories burst into my head. Wow! so many good lines there that are almost irresistible as story titles – for something in literary speculative fiction genres. (Literary spec fic? Think Margaret Attwood and Octavia Butler.) Look at these phrases for a start, all from The Waste Land:

  • a heap of broken images
  • they called me the hyacinth girl
  • looking into the heart of light
  • the barbarous king
  • are you alive, or not?

I’ve invited a select band of other active speculative fiction authors to write short stories springing from Eliot’s poem. I’m thrilled to say that we are a merry band of 19 writers. You can see more about them here.

snow covered trees
My story is based on line 5 of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land’: Winter kept us warm, covering earth in forgetful snow’, from the first section of the poem, ‘The Burial of the Dead’.

‘From the Waste Land: speculative fiction inspired by Eliot’ will include ghost stories, fantasy, horror, steampunk, dystopia and queer romance. All will be intriguing and amazing tales.

I’m doing my best to ensure that this anthology will come out in the second half of 2022 to coincide with the poem’s centenary. I’m very busy querying publishers–no easy feat when we don’t actually have a completed manuscript on hand yet! And of course, I’m writing up a storm with my collaborators…

It’s going to be fabulous. Keep an eye peeled for more news about this wonderful project.

More new stories: 2022 writing projects

Welcome to 2022

A year of potential, of reckoning, of change and reassessment. A year of the Tiger, a strong character who banishes evil and demonstrates courage. It’s a year to keep going.

For me, 2022 is a year for new writing projects, and the completion of earlier ones. Let me show you my planned journey.

New writing projects

From the WasteLand

An anthology of literary speculative fiction inspired by TS Eliot’s seminal poem The Waste Land, first published in October 1922.

Stories inspired by one of the most important poems of the 20th century

If you are unfamiliar with the poem, suffice it to say that it’s as long as a novella, and its subject matter is the fragmentation of society during and after World War One (WWI). All in beautiful, strange, evocative words. I’ll be writing a lot more about this project soon. It’s going to be wonderful and amazing.

Peggy’s Story

A companion novel to The Stars in the Night

In this novel, I’m focussing on the Australian home front during WWI.

I’m writing a new novel about the women left at home during WWI

If you’re familiar with Stars, you’ll know that it’s the story of two brothers, Harry and Eddie, who fight at Gallipoli and in France. This new book will fill in all the gaps about what was happening back in Semaphore. More about this story as it progresses. I hope to have the whole manuscript completed this year to submit for publishing in 2023 or 2024.

Where the Weird Things Are

Aussie Speculative Fiction are about to publish a guide to the fantastic, freaky, and far-out in Australia and New Zealand.

Coming in early 2022, Where the Weird Things Are Volume 1 will feature a story of mine, inspired by our former bush block in the Otway Ranges.

How could a kangaroo inspire a horror story?

I’ll be working on the edits soon and I can’t wait to see this tale in print.

How to Survive Your Magical Family

My middle-grade novel

Don’t worry, How to Survive Your Magical Family is definitely coming this year, from the wonderful Odyssey Books. There have been just too many interruptions to the publishing industry, and too much pressure on staff due to the pandemic.

How to Survive Your Magical Family (2022 release)
How to Survive Your Magical Family (2022 release)

I’m now hoping for a February release. And I’ll most definitely keep you updated!

Forthcoming stories

In 2021, I kept busy with some substantial shorter fiction for themed anthologies, as well as the odd little tale for drabble collections (a drabble is a tale told in EXACTLY 100 words, no more, no less).

New Tales of Old Volume 2

New fantasy tales based on old myths, fairy stories and legends.

New Tales of Old Vol 2

This features my story ‘Starting Over’, set in the same world as The Chronicles of the Pale. It’s being published by Black Ink Fiction — and yes, I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available.

Fantasy on Four Feet

Tales from the animal kingdom: fantasy stories coming in 2022

Original stories from the animal kingdom

This fantastic (pun intended) anthology is coming from Black Ink Fiction in March. My story features the Cwn Annwn, ghostly hounds of the Welsh hunt.

Ancient Gods

Stories about a fantasy ancient kingdom inspired by Greek myths and legends

Ancient Gods: tales inspired by Greek mythology (2022)

In this wholly realised world, gods and demons vie for supremacy, with humans at risk. Twelve inter-linked stories unfold the tale of the semi-divine women who must face the demons. My story is  ‘Ione and the Sea Demon’. This is also coming from Black Ink Fiction in 2022.

Cursed Shards

Fantasy tales of a malevolent magic mirror

Lady Marian’s Gambit in Cursed Shards…coming in 2022

An ancient curse, a lingering threat: these stories tell of the evil effects of the broken mirror’s curse. The stories are all based on legends and all feature the fateful Fae mirror. My story ‘Lady Marian’s Gambit’ plays with the Robin Hood legend. This is coming in 2022 from the groundbreaking Australian independent Black Hare Press.

Winter Shocks

This wintry horror collection features my drabble about the Sugar Plum Fairy. The book is available now from Black Ink Fiction. Here’s a link: Winter Shocks

Winter Shocks – tiny tales of terror published by Black Ink Fiction

And not forgetting From the WasteLand

…but a whole lot more about that next time.

Till then, happy reading.

 

 

My Five Star Reads of 2021 … and a peek at 2022

taking-baby-for-a-walk

Here are (some of!) my five-star reads from 2021.

Of the 80 or so books I read every year, some stand out. As I’ve mentioned previously (see my post on book choices), I’m pretty good at judging what books will suit my readerly needs. I should be, after reading so many!

If your reading preferences are anything like mine, you might like to check out this selection from my 5-star reads this year.

Recommended Reads 2021

Permafrost

A stunning debut collection of wonderful short stories

 

Permafrost by SJ Norman

Coralesque

Prepare to be amazed. A great book to take on your beach holiday, full of scary seaside stories

Artifact Space

A wonderful first instalment in a new coming-of-age series. take yourself to the stars and beyond with this exciting and diverse novel

Worldshifter

A brilliant little novella about a world-building alien who just happens to be one of the sweetest -dog-like characters you’ll ever meet

Worldshifter by Paul Di Filippo
Worldshifter by Paul Di Filippo

Taking Baby for a Walk

A terrifying story about a missing child, set in an ordinary Queensland town. Unputdownable. How about that cover in the top image of this post?!

Danged Black Thing

Black fiction that leaps and cavorts, alive with challenge, wit and a very big heart. Read these stories with gusto and amazement

Before You Knew My Name

An unusual read for me. This is the best murder mystery I’ve ever encountered, and I love the way it foregrounds the victim instead of the vile killer. Eye-opening and such great writing.

Court of Silver Flames

My favourite of the entire series. An insightful and tender exploration of depression and anxiety through the lens of dark fantasy.

The Gulp

Ha! Want to be terrified on your summer road trip around Australia? Meal-sized tales of antipodean horror from a master.

The Harp of Kings

The first of a new series by Juliet Marillier, whose evocative writing immerses the reader in ancient Ireland. Myth, romance, adventure and tragedy combine in this wonderful story.

Watch out for in 2022

As a reviewer, I’m privileged to read quite a few books prior to their release, in the form of ARCs (advanced reader copies). I love being considered an advanced reader LOL! Here’s one I adored for its teeming, lush fantasy world.

Saint Death’s Daughter

And here’s two that I can hardly wait for! From the marvellous Odyssey Books, out early in 2022:

Fleetwalker by J Victoria Michael
Fleetwalker by J Victoria Michael

Fleetwalker

The eagerly-awaited third book in the GriffinSinger series … and of course

How To Survive Your Magical Family

A fabulous new fantasy from yours truly 🙂

The link is to the Booktopia pre-order page, but I’ll have my own pre-order page early in the New Year. Keep your eyes peeled!

 

How to Survive Your Magical Family (2022 release)
How to Survive Your Magical Family (2022 release)

Run and won: The Stars in the Night giveaway

Book

Thank you to everyone

Almost 100 people entered the draw for  The Stars in the Night  book giveaway earlier this month. Awesome! It’s nice to be wanted.

I’m happy to tell you that a signed copy of the book, plus the little rosemary sprig badge, went to country Victoria and received a glowing welcome!

Here’s some ideas for anyone who missed out:

  • ask your local library to order a copy for you to read. Getting the book into more libraries means that it reaches more readers, which is wonderful. And a trickle of Public Lending Rights cents go to the author, which is a lovely thing … yes, if you see my book on the shelf, please borrow it 😉
  • keep an eye out for a special price on the eBook version coming next month – for most of December, The Stars in the Night will be on special
  • see if your book club would consider adding The Stars in the Night to their 2022 reading list. I guarantee that it would make fabulous reading for the month of April, when Anzac Day shines renewed interest on war service and its aftermath

Some reflections on social media for authors:

I decided that The Stars in the Night book giveaway would do two jobs: send my work to another reader, and give me feedback on my communication channels.

I’ve listed the effectiveness of each channel, in descending order:

  1. My newsletter received the bulk of responses (76%)
  2. Personal Facebook page (8%)
  3. Author Facebook page (6%)
  4. Author Instagram (5%)
  5. Personal instagram (3%)
  6. Word of mouth (neighbours) (1%)
  7. Word of mouth (family) (1%)
  8. Twitter (0)*
  9. Pinterest (0)

Of course, this is my experience with one giveaway, and most of the numbers reflect my pattern of usage. I’m not on Twitter much (*someone did enter from Twitter, but ineligible as it was for Australia only), and rarely on Pinterest (though I have an absolutely AWESOME collection of pins related to my books).

HOWEVER

I don’t send newsletters very regularly. The strong response surprised and gladdened me! With this mini-experiment, I have a new direction for communication in 2022.

Oh – and keep an eye out for my December newsletter. Coming soon!

Book and brooch
The Stars in the Night November giveaway

The Good Child: exploring how power is shaped

Historically, men have power over the lives of both nations and women. Commerce and politics are traditional realms of masculine influence in cultures worldwide. The latest Australian historical fiction by S.C. Karakaltsas (see my review here), The Good Child explores the public and private aspects of how the behaviour of some influential men affects their loved ones as well as the rest of the community.

Author S.C. Karakaltsas answered some of my questions about writing this fascinating novel. And congratulations on Release Day!

What inspired you to write The Good Child?

Sylvia: There are good powerful men and there are bad ones. And I’ve always wondered what the mothers of bad powerful men must think and feel. What sort of relationship do they have with their child? That led to the characters of Lucille and her son Tom. Lucille’s reflections about her life and what part she played in shaping her son drives the narrative — one I really wanted to explore.
The excesses of the eighties and the consequent fall out for ordinary hardworking people drew inspiration for Quin. She’s an ambitious and hardworking young woman who falls into the trap Tom sets for her.
I also wondered what would happen when Lucille and Quin met. And indeed they do, on a train, which makes for an interesting trip.

It certainly does!  A gripping Australian historical fiction, The Good Child spans a number of decades, charting the everyday existence of ordinary Australian women across the 20th century.

How important is it to you that the stories of ordinary Australian women are told?

I think there’s more appetite to hear women’s stories: their voices, what they endured, how they lived, their aspirations and challenges. And that is largely coming from the number of wonderful women writers and the huge audience of women readers.

In the case of Lucille, born in 1920, she lived her life under the control of males. That was largely how life worked for women of her generation. Women’s aspirations centred on the need for financial security by being married and being a home maker.

For example, the challenges of having children during war time and the medical care at the time had an enormous impact on women whose husbands were away at war. What women wanted was never particularly given any attention.

The plot revolves around Tom, the man at the centre of the action, a man we always see through the eyes of others. Was this a deliberate story-telling decision, or

Did the women demand to tell the story from their perspective?

It wasn’t important to give Tom a voice as I wanted his character to be slowly revealed from the perspective of the two women he had affected the most. I thought they deserved to tell their side, to explain the choices they made and how they lived with the consequences. In Lucille’s case her love for her son is severely tested. In Quin’s case it’s her loyalty.

 

The financial excesses and frauds of the 1980s – mostly not uncovered until much later – lie at the heart of The Good Child.

How much research went into developing this story? Was it easy to find out how the fraud schemes operated?

As with all historical fiction there is always lots of research. It’s hard not to wander down rabbit holes.

But backing that research was my own experience and having worked in the financial industry at the time. I could draw on my own recollections of what was an extraordinary, tumultuous time.

I saw first hand what happened to everyday people whose fortunes changed suddenly through no fault of their own. That had an enormous impact on me.

It also surprised me that the most unlikely people commit fraud which just goes to show that if they can get away with it, then people will do it.

 

The ending of The Good Child carries a strong note of hope for women to (learn to) manage their own finances.

Do you have any examples of whether the financial aspect of life has improved for women? And is there still work to be done?

Legislation as well as banking codes of conduct were put into place in the nineties in order for consumers to be better prepared about what they were getting into. Yet the recent Banking Royal commission in Australia has disappointingly highlighted issues where consumers have been adversely affected by the wrong doings of some financial institutions. I guess like many other people, I’m tired of the lack of accountability and the power imbalance.

I know of women today who are financially controlled. Interestingly, since I started this book three years ago, there’s more focus on improving financial literacy and understanding.

But I think there’s a long way to go. I suspect that we may see history repeat in the next few years.

Money jars
Money management the old way

 

 

The emotions in this Australian historical fiction complement and expand on the action, helping us to see the personal impact of business-as-usual.

What strategies did you use to keep the story on a personal level?

I think when a story is told from a personal perspective the reader should feel every part of it. Dealing with the everyday challenges of love, loss and survival are more relatable if told from the character’s point of view.

I hope readers will feel that they know Lucille and Quin, that they can relate to them, feel for them, be hopeful and yearn for them to find their way through.

 

You write about things and events that are relatively unknown. Your first two novels were quite different – one set on a phosphate island and the other about the Greek Civil War.

What are you working on now?

I’m half way through another split timeline novel set in a small town in Northern Queensland. It’s historical crime mystery with two main characters, a missing man and environmental damage in the sixties causing long term generational health problems.

The working title is The Palace Hotel. I’m very excited about this project.

 

So am I! I can’t wait to see it. Thanks again for sharing so much interesting background to The Good Child.

S C Karakaltsas, author
S C Karakaltsas, author

See more great fiction from SC Karakaltsas

Website: https://sckarakaltsas.com

LINK:

The Good Child is released on November 15th 2021.

https://www.amazon.com.au/Good-Child-S-C-Karakaltsas-ebook/dp/B09FJ818D6/

 

The Good Child: a review of upcoming Australian historical fiction

THE GOOD CHILD

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and warn your younger self? Get ready to have that feeling as you follow the adventures of Lucille and Quin in the forthcoming Australian historical fiction:

The Good Child by SC Karakaltsas

An enthralling read, The Good Child tells the story of two women whose lives are linked – and damaged – by the one man.

Unfolding through a series of flashbacks interspersed with current happenings of the 1990s, the story introduces us first to Lucille and Quin. They’ve both lost everything. The two women meet on a country train headed to Melbourne. They’re on their way to attend a trial. Although they don’t know it for a while, they both have their lives invested in the man in the dock.

Lucille, like many of our mothers or grandmothers, was born between the wars. She lived through the hungry 1930s and blossomed in the 1940s. She suffered some awful tragedies, the sort that rip the heart out of women. Then WWII stamped all over her life.

Maybe her grandmother’s warning was right:

“Marry the wrong man and your life will be nothing but misery.”

When at last Lucille raises Tom, a golden boy, everything seems better. Perhaps life will be kind after all. Maybe the mistakes and heartaches will disappear into the mists of time.

A well-loved child, Tom leaps on the ‘greed is good’ train of the 1980s, spreading his charm and his captivating energy with a generous hand.

How could anything go wrong with his ambitious financial scheming? Well, what about shady dealings? Or the mates’ rates he shares glibly? And what about his greedy, grabby habits?

Ah well, if you lived through the 80s you’ll know what can go wrong.

Quin was one of Tom’s star workers, writing up loans, sealing deals, helping as he schmoozed up customers.

She knows that some of what she did enabled Tom’s rapacious dealings, but she wasn’t prepared for the double cross that sacrificed her to the wolves when the going got tough.

Quin would love to right her own wrongs and see Tom pay for his crimes. Her budding relationship with Lucille promises to heal some of the wounds of the past.

Finally, the compassionate insight of women bypasses the slick and deadly traps of masculine over-confidence.

This story is very generous in detail

The Good Child recreates its diverse time periods with such a keen attention to everyday life that readers are immediately immersed in the settings.

It’s almost possible to smell the kitchen of the 1940s, touch the dresses of the 1950s, hear the hubbub of the 1960s six-o’clock swill, and taste the extravagance of the 1980s.

Author S.C. Karakaltsas has a thorough understanding of the periods covered in this wide-ranging novel, as well as a keen eye and a happy gift with dialogue. Perhaps most remarkable is her ability to bring out the green shoots of hope in a story that charts so many tragedies.

It’s easy to get lost in the world of The Good Child, riding the emotional lows and brief highs as the story inevitably unfolds to its very satisfying end. If you love Australian historical fiction with a feminist slant, this one is for you.

A story that rings true in every scene, and

one that will make you glad that you read it.

See more great fiction from SC Karakaltsas

Website: https://sckarakaltsas.com

Pre-order link:

https://www.amazon.com.au/Good-Child-S-C-Karakaltsas-ebook/dp/B09FJ818D6/

 

The Ten Stages of Writing a Series: Part 3 Book Three

One novel is now a post-apocalyptic series.

Welcome to Part 3 of how I wrote a post-apocalyptic fiction series: from one novel to three novels in three years.

Let’s recall the first five stages:

  1. An Idea
  2. A Short Story
  3. A Novel
  4. A Rejection
  5. An Acceptance

If you need a full recap of how it all started, check out this post.

And then three more steps:

  1. The Sequel
  2. A Plan for Book 2
  3. Writing Book 2

If you need a recap of how I got to Book 2, check out this post. Now we’re up to Book 3.

The Ruined Land cover
The Chronicles of the Pale #3: The Ruined Land

Stage 9: The End Game

I admit that deadlines are good for me. I love writing inside a time frame. But remember, I’m a bit weird – I loved exams. Adrenaline = inspiration for me.

Broad Plain Darkening raised a lot of questions that I couldn’t wait to tackle. So many issues that I wanted to resolve. Imagine me rubbing my hands together in glee.

Once again, I needed a plan.

Strangely, my “plan” looks almost like a maths problem. How does it work?

Notes in a book
Example page from my TRL (The Ruined Land) notebook
  1. You’ll notice very few words. The story was in my head. These are just reminders so that nothing got left out. Sticky notes for my brain.
  2. Chapters are important. They need a starting point, an action or change point, and some sort of conclusion – one that leads to the next chapter, or one that closes the action and allows the next chapter to tackle another aspect of the story.
  3. Chapter length is important. That’s what the numbers are about. I’m moving scenes around to ensure that each chapter is a similar length.
  4. The first page of this notebook is dated Oct 19th, 2018. Three years ago today! That means that I was deep in writing Book Three while waiting for the edits to come back for Book Two.

Editing and writing at the same time: heaven!

Editing is such a satisfying task. You wrestle with what comes back; you suddenly see what doesn’t work. Then you scratch your head over how to make this or that point any clearer. You laugh at your hilarious typos (the runted land LOL!) and in your imagination, you high-five the editor at the brilliant saves.

Once again, working with Odyssey Books suited me down to the ground.

So within two years of launching The Pale, and inside 12 months of launching Broad Plain Darkening, I was back at Readings Carlton, surrounded by well-wishers, thrilled to introduce my new book to the world.

The Ruined Land was born, and my idea for a novel is now a post-apocalyptic series.

Stage 10: The Series in a Box

The Chronicles of the Pale is now a complete entity. You can even buy it as an ebook box set:

The Chronicles of the Pale Complete Series

The Chronicles of the Pale Complete Series available as an ebook
The Chronicles of the Pale Complete Series available as an ebook

Seven-piece Essential Toolkit for Writing a Series

  1. follow up your good starting idea
  2. create characters to care about … ones that YOU care about
  3. expect a great deal of work writing your idea into the first novel … possibly years
  4. refrain from killing your characters too early – but be prepared to kill them at the right time
  5. keep tweaking and submitting until you find a match
  6. be responsive to your publisher’s needs
  7. treasure the publisher who believes in you and your work

What next?

I have a dozen ideas for short stories set in the world of the Pale, but it’s no use planning a short story collection (working title The Chronicles of the Pale #4: Before and After) until I actually write those stories.

Jotted words in a notebook – useful as they are – do not turn themselves into publishable writing. And I also have in mind the possibility of a graphic novel or an animation. So a lot of work to be done first, but the world of the Pale now has to wait on edits for my current projects.

In the meantime, watch out for my next novel

How to Survive Your Magical Family

which will be out in time for Christmas. More news soon!

Coming soon
Coming soon: How to Survive your Magical Family

Taking Baby for a Walk: terrifying thriller – a review

taking-baby-for-a-walk

Taking Baby for a Walk is a terrifying new novel

by Australian writer Kathryn Gossow. Kathryn writes across genres (yay! a fellow genre-hopper!) and I’ve previously reviewed her mythical fiction book Cassandra.

Her new entry into the realm of Australian rural noir is pitch-perfect.

The Story:

Neglected five-year-old Bree-Anna decides to walk into town to her friend’s party, wheeling her precious doll Baby in a toy stroller. That’s easier than getting her older brother to take notice, or waking her mum up after a big night.

It’s hot and humid as small town Queensland builds up to Christmas, and Bree-Anna is easy pickings for a sociopathic misfit. Kidnapped, terrified, locked in and beaten, with her beloved Baby imprisoned in a suitcase on top a wardrobe and so, so far out of reach, Bree-Anna has nobody to rely on but herself.

In so many ways, that’s always been the case.

My Thoughts:

The pacing in this thriller is awesome. You won’t be able to put it down.

We meet Bree-Anna’s family and the rest of the townspeople of Stinky Gully, named for the small Queensland town of Fernvale, formerly called Stinking Gully, in the Brisbane River valley, about 60km west of Brisbane.

Stand-out characters Eloise and Jake get dragged into the mystery, while Bree’s mother Amber struggles under her loss.

This is a dark story, especially because Bree is only 5 years old, but the story – unfortunately – well within the realms of reality. I was reminded of true life cases that have haunted me for years.

Scared
Don’t read it alone at night

 

 

This book would make a fantastic TV series – real Australian noir with loads of atmosphere and a few well-defined, strong roles. Bring it on! I can even assign roles … although lovely Aaron Pederson is possibly a bit old now to play Jake. But put Aaron in any terrifying thriller and I’ll watch it.

What is most refreshing about this story is Bree herself.

What a character! Bree’s five year old voice rings very true, and so does her growing reliance on herself, her inbuilt resilience and instinctive resistance to every horrible aspect of her life. Bree is a fighter, courageous without being rash, and readers can’t help but be drawn into her battle for survival.

No spoilers.

Take a deep breath. Be courageous. Be inspired by Bree-Anna and Baby.

Read this now.

And if you know anyone who likes mystery, thrillers, and suspense, this is the perfect Christmas present you need for them!

Taking Baby for a Walk by Kathryn Gossow

Booktopia

Odyssey Books

The Ten Stages of Writing a Series: Part 2 Book Two

Once upon a time, a single idea became a novel, and a novel sparked a series.

Welcome to Part 2, where I cover the big picture of how I moved from a stand-alone novel to a post-apocalyptic fiction series: from one novel to three novels in three years.

Let’s recall the first five stages:

  1. An Idea
  2. A Short Story
  3. A Novel
  4. A Rejection
  5. An Acceptance

If you need a full recap of how it all started, check out the previous post.

Stage 6: The Sequel

It took a little while to get my head around the possibility of more novels in the world of The Pale. A whole series of post-apocalyptic fiction? But hey! The world was all there, the characters created, and a trajectory beckoned. Plus the world always needs more books with talking animals.

All I needed to do was pick up where I left off, right?

It’s not that easy. Something I found quite testing was to check and re-check my built world, to ensure the consistency of both stories. Remember that I’d invented a highly-detailed setting, with too many characters, too many places, too much that was too clever by half (including an over-clever calendar)? Well, thanks to me being such a smarty-pants, there was too much in my head. I had to match the published version of my world, not the one teeming in my brain.

Hmm, did I mention this particular detail before? I kept asking.
I told myself: probably not.

Can I include it? I thought: Yes, but…

Can I do without it? Answer: YES!

The thing about world-building

It so happens that I know a lot more about the back-stories of the characters than will ever be published.

And that’s the way it should be. I am the iceberg. The published work is the best fraction of it.

Readers really only want to know what’s happening NOW.

They want ACTION. And they want EMOTION. They want RESOLUTION.*

*Beware generalisations. Some readers like the long way round a story

Readers don’t want to know about the hours I devoted to googling baby names as I tried to make my cast diverse and interesting. They don’t want to know about my failed attempts at tracing maps of Tasmania and putting Pale-style names in tricky terrain. And they especially don’t want to hear me arguing with myself about just how evil I can make the villain without turning science fiction into horror.

Stage 7: A Plan for Book 2

Take one ambitious time frame, add a thriving cast, lots of conflict and then make the world explode. Or at least cause the ground to shake.

I’m a pantser by nature, but I needed a plan. More, I needed – for the first time in my fiction writing – to create lists and signposts. I discovered that writing a series is like writing a thesis: there is more material than you can keep in your head at one time. You MUST be organised.

A character list was easy enough, and here it is. I also asked for it to be included in the printed book, because many readers like to refer back as they’re reading.

A map! Fortunately, I have very talented people in my family – they’re so creative, this lot! – and @bernardjmaher listened carefully, coped with my scribbled diagrams, and voila! a map.

Territory and city map ThePale
Territory map for The Pale

Stage 8: Writing Book 2

The deadline was good for me: six months to the first draft – remember that the first novel took several years to gestate.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. My method is to write a lot, and then edit, edit, edit. Then I add, subtract, rearrange and polish.

Characters from offstage demanded to be heard – for example, Helm, the lost tribesman. He’d always been there as Feather’s missing father, but he insisted that he had a much bigger part to play. More talking animals wanted to be heard, and many of the villains began to flex their muscles. Dystopia is like that!

Back and forth with editing. It was so much better this time around. I was more relaxed about strangers’ eyes on my imagined world, and more confident in my choices. I mus say that working with Odyssey Books has been amazing – truly life-changing.

Amazingly, within a year of launching The Pale, I was back at Readings Carlton, surrounded by well-wishers, thrilled to introduce my new book to the world.

Broad Plain Darkening was born, and my idea for a novel became a post-apocalyptic fiction series!

The Chronicles of the Pale #2: Broad Plain Darkening

 

Next time, I’ll talk about how Book 3 rounds out the series, and test out whether there’s more to come from the world of The Pale.