Book lovers give the best Christmas gifts!

Looking for a special present for a special someone? These “December specials” might suit you. While stocks last, you can get three fabulous deals:

DEAL #1 — How to Survive Your Magical Family 

A sweet magical coming-of-age novel for ages 11+ and all cat lovers

One signed paperback and a small cat-themed gift, plus free standard postage, for only $22.95 (Australia only). Order it by December 12th for pre-Christmas delivery.

Magical Family with wrapping
Time to wrap up your gifts for book lovers

DEAL #2 — The Stars in the Night

My historical novel of the Great War. Buy one signed paperback plus free standard postage for only $19.95 (Australia only). Order it by December 12th for pre-Christmas delivery.***

Book The Stars in the Night
‘An emotional and beautifully-written novel about a war that should never be forgotten’

DEAL #3 — The Chronicles of the Pale Box Set

A stunning dystopian world with heart, soul, and hope. For ages 15+. 

The complete Chronicles, with one copy of all three novels, signed, plus standard postage for only $45.95. Order the box set by December 12th for pre-Christmas delivery.

three books of chronicles of the pale
The Chronicles Box Set … won’t come in this box!

“Progressing through the series, I was in awe of the author’s ability to handle grief and intense drama, yet bring hope, faith, loyalty and kindness into such abysmal chaos.”

 

Thank you for reading and sharing my books.

And please remember how awesome it is if you ask your local library to order one of my books. It helps me to reach readers and adds it mite to the upkeep of the writing attic, all at no cost to you. Thanks!!

Halloween: Special Price on magic cats and scary adventures

girl reading book

This Halloween, there’s a special price on signed copies of How to Survive Your Magical Family!

Order here before MIDNIGHT on OCTOBER 31st for your copy at the spooktacular price of $22.95 including postage! Australia only.

Grab your copy now!

Here’s what readers are saying:

What an incredibly sweet story about a boy, friends, family and a loveable group of cats! — Megs, on Goodreads

This is a fun magical story! Really really cool worldbuilding here. I love in general that cats are the “good guys” even though this is a story about cool, sometimes spooky, magic. — Julia, on Goodreads

“Waiting is the hardest thing ever.” Heart, soul, and adventure; this one has it all. Absolutely a light, fun read. — MyBookNest7

I really liked how cute the story was, where it went, the cats, and how they colored the whole story. I feel like there’s a second book in the future. There is not really a cliffhanger, or any thing to indicate that specifically, but I was left with some questions I could see wrapping a second story around and I would absolutely be there to read it. — Steph Bauer

♥️If you like books featuring cats…ESPECIALLY magical cats….this is your next book to pick up♥️
🐈‍⬛ 👀🐈‍⬛👀🐈‍⬛👀🐈‍⬛👀🐈‍⬛👀 — ShortBookThyme on Instagram

Hashtag Magical Family! Miaow!

Read all the Goodreads reviews here

My cat fever is getting spooky

boy holding book

I have cat fever. It’s like hay fever but much more furry. Can it have anything to do with How to Survive Your Magical Family?

Everywhere I look, there’s a cat. It’s quite spooky now that my cat book is here. Seems the neighbourhood cats know something.

Maybe they sense me spending too much time on cat memes and images like these.

black kitten looking sad
Cats everywhere! Image by Huda Nur from Pixabay

My page of cat links is live with cat-loving video games, movie recommendations and more. Can you suggest any more links for me to feature?

In the meantime, here’s a little snippet of the action:

While Helen drew the sedan over to the side of the carriageway, I walked slowly along the wet verge, scanning the asphalt where the cat was struck, listening for any mewing. There was no sound other than the slick swishing of tyres on rainy road as the traffic sorted itself back into its usual pattern. There wasn’t even any blood. In the gutter, though, was a silver bracelet.

The bracelet was pretty battered and bent, but it looked like solid silver. I considered picking it up. It had a charm clipped on it, in a kind of round shape. But I was searching for something alive, so I walked right on, scanning the verge. Nothing. I turned back toward the car.

Passing that shining bit of silver again, I could see that the round charm was actually in the form of a cat, and the bracelet was more of a bangle and not so battered as I first thought. When I turned to look at it a third time, the round cat charm was seated upright on top of the bangle, looking directly at me.

I gave in. I’m not my father’s son for nothing. Okay, cat plus charm plus silver equals magic. Though why the street cat thought this was a kitten …

I picked up the bangle…

***

Can’t wait to read on? How to Survive Your Magical Family is available now at these online stores:

Odyssey Books

Booktopia

Amazon Australia

Barnes & Noble

book cover How to Survive Your Magical Family
How to Survive Your Magical Family

But wait – there’s more!

Watch out for more news – a Halloween special is coming.

With a book featuring magic cats and clever crows, it’s only right.

Spook you soon – I mean, speak to you soon!

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!

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

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.

 

 

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