How to Survive Your Magical Family

cat and book cover

How to Survive Your Magical Family is here.

I have actual paperback copies in hand and I’m thrilled.

smiling woman with book
It’s here! How to Survive Your Magical Family is in the hands of readers. Enjoy!

Here’s the blurb of my new book:

Toby’s family is no ordinary family.

They are magical, talented, and special.

Toby’s father is a surgeon and his older sister is a lawyer. But Toby’s dad is also a renowned wizard, and so is his uncle, and his sister can influence people. His mum was special too, but she had to leave…

Toby isn’t any of those things. The only special thing he can do is pretty useless. Toby can talk with cats.

When Toby and his sister rescue a family of abandoned cats on the side of the road and Toby spots a mysterious silver bangle in the gutter, everything changes.

Mia is Toby’s best friend. She’s not magical either – she doesn’t even know magic exists! But when she watches Toby get on the wrong bus to school and a ferocious bus driver screams away with Toby on board, Mia’s world is about to change too.

How to Survive Your Magical Family is an exciting adventure filled with mystery, cats, friendship, and of course, magic!

girl reading e book
Making little waves in reader-land: How to Survive Your Magical Family

If you love cats, or magic – and especially both! – this is your book. For confident readers 10+, and cat lovers of all ages. It’s a book with a dual point of view (‘dual POV’ in book-speak), with half of the story told by Toby and half told by Mia.

cat posing for scratches
Is this Katkin the arch-cat? Image by rihaij from Pixabay

I’ve made a page all about this new book, including a variety of buy links, and I’m also putting together a page of CAT LINKS!

If you love cats, you might want to check it out.

And if you have any great cat sites that should be included, please let me know!

Miaow for now, my friends.

Fantasy on Four Feet: out NOW!

Look below for your link to a wonderful collaboration of nine original fantasy tales all about animals.

Check out the list of fantastic authors and their wonderful stories. Then read them! You’ll love them all!

I’m thrilled to be involved in this project, as a story-teller and the editor, and I’m very grateful to Black Ink Fiction for ushering this precious cub into the real world.

PS: Let me know if you’d like a signed paperback – they are on the way!

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!)

New Tales both Old and New (again)

March brings change and growth, they say. There’s certainly a lot happening in my writing world, with new tales. New Tales of Old, both old and new. Let me explain.

New Tales

I’m thrilled to say that my story ‘Starting Over’, set in the world of The Chronicles of the Pale, is now available in a splendid new wolf-themed anthology from Black Ink Fiction. New Tales of Old Volume II: Wolves Among Us has just been released.

From the blurb, to whet your appetite:

Once upon a time, there was a Big, Bad Wolf … he blew down the houses of swine, stole from little girls visiting their grandmothers … but maybe the wolf wasn’t so big or bad … Twisted fairy tales centred around this majestic creature written by 45 indie authors from all over the globe

New Tales of Old V2 blurb
New Tales of Old Vol II: Wolves Among Us

New Tales Again

Just as exciting is the news that Black Ink Fiction have acquired the rights to New Tales of Old Volume I (previously published by Raven & Drake.

New Tales of Old Volume I, republished by Black Ink Fiction.

So if you missed this anthology in its former too-short life, now is the chance to add it to your collection. I love the new cover too!

 

Fantasy on Four Feet

Finally, I can reveal the cover for the upcoming anthology Fantasy on Four Feet, my first foray into editing a collection. I spoke a little about this collection in a previous post.

cover image
Fantasy on Four Feet: a forthcoming collection of animal-themed stories.

Enjoy the cover. Isn’t is great? More about the stories when the book becomes available soon, from the amazingly prodigious Black Ink Fiction.

 

In the meantime, please feel free to check of New Tales of Old, and maybe ask your local library to buy a copy too!

 

LINKS

New Tales of Old Volume I

New tales of Old Volume II: Wolves Among Us

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 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

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.

 

 

 

The Ten Stages of Writing a Series: Part 1 The First Novel

The Chronicles of the Pale series

This month is the second book-iversary of my dystopian fiction series The Chronicles of the Pale.

I’m very proud of these books and still very much in love with them.

But how did this love affair with talking animal stories begin?

Today I’m letting you into the ten hidden stages behind the Chronicles.

Stage 1: An Idea

Ideas comes from everywhere. I can’t stop them.

This one began with a dream in 2014. We were shut inside a gated compound while outside, crying babies were dying from exposure. We couldn’t get out, but my dog Dinny (an ancient and beloved German Shepherd) snuck out and carried the two babies into safety.

German Shepherd Dinny
German Shepherd Dinny, the original model for Mashtuk

From small kernels of inspiration, a big story grew.

Dogs had to feature!

Stage 2: A Short Story

The story of the babies left to die Outside was too good to lose, especially during the height of the worldwide refugee crisis. The wise and compassionate canini Mashtuk and Zelie, the heartless humachines, and fully-human Hector appeared in my head.  I wrote them into a story and submitted it to progressive journal Overland. My first ever short story acceptance!

Man-machine-dog-Illustration
Man-machine-dog-Illustration from Overland #215

Man/Machine/Dog‘ is available online.

If you’ve read The Pale, you might like to see where it started.

Stage 3: A Novel

After the story was published, an indie publisher contacted me because my Overland bio said that I was writing a novel about these characters.

Ahem.

I hadn’t started, but I immediately began. Ideas came too fast and the novel grew too long, but I submitted it within six months.

Stage 4: A Rejection

Sadly, The Pale Version 01 didn’t make the grade. The novel was BLOATED with too many characters and dozens of subplots, and falling over itself with over-complex world building.

While the feedback was positive, the novel needed severe editing.

Stage 5: An Acceptance

More time passed. I took a good hard look at my manuscript and pruned a few thousand words. Some of the off-cuts were old favourites: names for every (and I mean every) minor character, a newly invented calendar based on the many seasons recognised in indigenous cultures, and a subplot involving flashbacks to the time before the Great Cataclysm…

Then I sent the new manuscript to my dear, dear beta readers. Their ultra-valuable feedback (thank you – you know who you are!) resulted in more tidying…and THEN

I sent the manuscript off to another indie press looking for new authors.

The Pale cover detail: Mashtuk
The Pale cover detail: Mashtuk

About three months later, and email came, asking if The Pale was still available.

Yes! I shrieked. Yes, yes, yes!

(Thank you Odyssey Books!)

 

What next?

Oh, my. Having a novel published was a lifelong dream come true.

I fell onto a steep learning curve. Working with fiction editors challenged me, but I could see that every discussion, every point, made my work better. A wonderful cover artist sent me concepts, and I jumped with delight on the one with the city and the canini – of course, it’s Mashtuk!

I’ve talked about launching here, and I can still remember the wonderful feeling. The Pale sold some copies. Readers contacted me and asked about the characters and what happened next? The characters gambolled around in my head.

And the publisher said: is there a sequel?

Next week, I’ll explain how I got from a single dream to a three-novel series … and perhaps a set of short stories in genesis.

The Pale
Chronicles of the Pale #1: The Pale

 

Love is in the … anthology

Crown Affairs

Do you like romance?

If you’re keen on a little HEA (happily ever after) in these locked down times, maybe a peek into this romantic anthology is just what you need.

Crown Affairs: royal entanglements of steamy proportions , from US publisher Paramour Ink, is now available in both Kindle and paperback editions in Australia:

 

Scandal, love affairs, tales of relationships that go against the odds and more can be found between the sheets…pages…of Crown Affairs, steamy tales of love among royals.

From olden time romances to modern royalty trying to escape the paparazzi, there’s something for all romantic types in this anthology from Paramour Ink.

Keep a fan handy, because things can get a little hot…

 

Watch out for my story “An Unexpected Arrival”. Poor Crown Prince Felix didn’t plan for his mistress and his betrothed to visit him at exactly the same time…

Stories in this anthology are from Lynn Yorke  (Author), Chisto Healy (Author), Clare Rhoden (Author), Lana Trick (Author), Alice Mollihan (Author), S.O. Green (Author), Dorian J. Sinnott (Author), Jodie Francis (Author), and Matt McGee (Author)

Don’t forget me, cobber

Grave of an unknown Australian at Fromelles

Fromelles Anniversary Book Bundle

What is it that makes the Attack at Fromelles resonate with Australians?

Fromelles Anniversary Book Bundle
Fromelles Anniversary Book Bundle from Odyssey Books: three fascinating WWI stories from Australian authors

July 19-20, 1916

The Battle of Fromelles was Australia’s first action on the Western Front. It was disastrous.

Arguably the worst 24 hours in Australian military history, there were over 5,500 Australian casualties.

Five hundred men were taken prisoner and almost 2,000 were killed.

In one night at Fromelles the Australian casualties

were equivalent to those in

the Boer, Korean and Vietnam Wars, combined.

 

The Fromelles Anniversary Book Bundle Special features three Australian novels of the war. Now available at these online stores for only $9.99. Grab your copy before the end of July!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Apple Books

Google Books

 

This statue, titled “Cobbers” by Melbourne artist Peter Corlett was was installed in the Australian Memorial Park at Fromelles, France in 1998.

In the days after the battle rescuers recovered some 300 wounded from no-man’s land.

As one soldier carried a wounded companion from the field he heard a call for help.

Don’t forget me, cobber

Cobbers

The “Cobbers” statue in the Australian Memorial Park at Fromelles in France features Sergeant Simon Fraser from Western Victoria carrying a fallen comrade from the field.

Cobbers is a memorial to Australian service and sacrifice at the Battle of Fromelles. Fraser risked his life and a possible court martial when he returned to save a stricken soldier whose identity is unknown.

(Photo by Clare Rhoden)