The fact behind the fiction – why sometimes your backup plans need their own backup plans

Three weeks to go until Evacuation Road comes out! I’m so excited, and I’m loving how many early reviewers are really connecting with Eva and her story!

This week I’ll be looking at one of the important foundations for the book. Resilience. Getting back up when you’ve been knocked down. Making new plans when your original plans die a terrible death. And then devising even more cunning plans when your back up plans fail as well.

And, sometimes, throwing all your plans in the proverbial bin and coming up with a entirely new aim that at least gets you out of there.

I did a lot of this sort of thing as I travelled around South America, and one of the best (and most enjoyable) examples involved a train called Death, somewhat monotonous food, and a few phantom buses. It was my first blockade (of many) and it went like this …

Firstly, follow your dreams. Always. No matter how hard.

And a dream I had? One that had grown and flourished for years? It was to take the so-called Death Train, which ran from Quijarro in the very east of Bolivia to Santa Cruz, kind of in the middle. It could take anything from sixteen hours to days and days, apparently. Traversing amazing countryside. I really wanted to experience it.

(And that wasn’t a death wish or anything. It wasn’t the Death Train because it was super dangerous to ride in. More because either lots of workers died laying the line, or because it had once been used to transport people sick with Yellow Fever and/or the bodies of those that died in the outbreak.)

Anyway I planned it out and I got there. Quijarro. Nice and early in the morning on a Friday. Went straight to the train station. Butterflies in the stomach. This was it.

Except it wasn’t.

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The fact behind the fiction – why sticking together is way better than the alternative

In four weeks my next book ‘Evacuation Road’ will be out in the world, and that calls for a super celebration countdown! So every week I’ll be bringing you some of the actual events that inspired some of the story.

Let’s start it off with a bang. One of the big mantras that Eva and my other characters learn to live by as they race for the last flight home, is “Stick together”.

It’s something I learned the hard way. How? Glad you asked …

Getting kidnapped is not recommended

I don’t think anybody is out there just aching to be kidnapped (though thinking about this has me coming up with some great story ideas!). And I was no different.

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Evacuation Road is off to the printers!

Every book has a set of milestones, and sending it to the printers is definitely a great (and mildly terrifying) one for me!

After all the months and years of writing and editing, the submissions, the rejections, the happy acceptance, the final edits and the typesets… now ‘Evacuation Road’ is becoming an actual book. One I can hold in my hands. I’m so excited!

Think end-of-the-world road trip. Think danger and humour, friendship and fear. All against a ticking clock.

Evacuation Road is out in August with Rhiza Edge. I hope you all love it!

Five teens.

One week.

Half a continent.

Eva is far from home when everything goes wrong. And it only gets worse after her evacuation bus leaves her behind, stranded with classmates she barely knows. The chase is on. But South America is big, and the old rules are changing quickly.


This is the road trip Eva never knew she needed.


This is the race for the last flight home.

An ode to NaNoWriMo (and a Happy Birthday too!)

IMG_6904It’s almost November! And that means two very cool things for me:

  • NaNoWriMo (of course!), and
  • My debut book’s first birthday month is almost over.

The two are actually linked, because ‘The Lost Stone of SkyCity’ was written during NaNoWriMo 2016. I had heaps of fun writing it, but I had no idea it would be the first of my MSs to be published.

aurealis-awards-finalist-high-resI certainly never dreamed it would be shortlisted for an Aurealis Award (OMG!!!). Or that it would get such a positive response from readers. The past year has been full of new experiences for me, from first writers festivals to first COVID-19 cancellations, crash-courses in online presenting and then – just last week – first CBCA Children’s Book Week as an actual author!

I’ve been really lucky that my state (Western Australia) has finally turned having the world’s most isolated capital city into a real bonus for everyone: our kids are back at school and I was doing in-person presentations every day. I loved that I could meet so many awesome students, filled to overflowing with so much epic imagination and inspiration!

So, as a thank you to my TLSSC baby and a thumbs up to NaNo, here’s a short history and me and NaNoWriMo 🙂

2014 – Don’t even ask. Seriously.

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Five lessons I’ve learnt on the path to my debut: ‘The Lost Stone of SkyCity’

9781925815948_WEBLARGEMate. There are no decent maps to show the path you’ll take to your debut and beyond!*

My middle-grade fantasy adventure ‘The Lost Stone of SkyCity’ came out this month. As my debut, it’s been a whirlwind of preparation and editing and excitement and <eeep> stressing about the unknowns. Which there were a lot of.

Still are, actually.

My book was originally scheduled for publishing Q1 2020, until one sunny day in February I got a phone call from my publisher. A spot had opened up for October. Could I get everything done in time?

To which I replied, ‘I have no idea what “everything” is, but yes.’

(Note to self: awesome on-the-spot thinking! This was totally the correct answer!)

I’m still learning at this game, but for what it’s worth here are five lessons I’ve learnt on my way to getting published:

*Note: this post probably isn’t a good map either!!! If you feel like you’re stuck in a forest, and my path sounds like I was up a mountain, relax … I think that’s how most of us feel! 🙂

Lesson 1. Find the writing process that works for you (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo rocks)

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My definitive guide as to why goats are awesome

goat selfie_LII totally love goats! Little did I know that when I was writing ‘The Lost Stone of SkyCity’ with some cheeky goat side-kicks called gotals, I would imbue my love of goats into the very story.

Evidently, I did. Because when people read the book, they’re always saying ‘You must love goats! Why is that?’

Aha! Glad you asked!

What’s not to love? Our two species have a shared history, and goats have got to be one of the smartest, funkiest animals. EVER. Here’s what I love the most about them … Continue reading

Getting my Stone Age on – ‘Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile’

TarinOfTheMammoths.jpgThere is a happy place where the reader and the scientist in me combine to devour both books and chocolate, all with a smile on my face. Only found amid the pages of truly fab books, I found that happy place reading ‘Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile’ by Jo Sandhu.

Hey if your kids (or you!) love history and science and all things Stone Age, then this is the book to read. It’s got danger, adventure, friendship and a diverse set of characters.

It’s got mammoths, too.

The things that work so well in this book are the basic building blocks of any great read: world-building, narrative and character.

 

World-building so epic you forget how to use a zip

I loved how Sandhu built the world for her book, with historical gems like reindeer hide and flints and boots with stuffing, and then added magic. Look, I’m no expert on Stone Age life, but I get the strong feeling Sandhu might be close. Her writing is alive, her world works. And no one slips up and lights a fire with matches or zips up their jacket or anything 🙂

Brilliant. The authenticity of the world is what really drew me into this story. Like I was learning at the same time as I was enjoying the read. Continue reading

A scrumptious second instalment – ‘Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow’

WundersmithNow, I’m the sort of person to approach a series with trepidation … Sometimes I LOVE the first book SO MUCH, I don’t want to ruin it by reading a substandard follow-on. (Who’s with me?)

But then, there are series that are totally ace at being a series. Where the whole premise just gets better and better with each new book. I’m thinking Harry Potter, Lintang, Chronicles of Prydain, The Old Kingdom …

When authors get it right, I’m eagerly awaiting every new book.

Thankfully (because – mate – I really enjoyed ‘Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow’ and there was no way I wanted to mess with that level of love) the Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend only got more awesome with the second book, ‘Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow’.

Like, if awesome went out kayaking and then had a lemon and lime tart and some hot chocolate in a comfy armchair by the fire to celebrate how awesome the day was. That kind of extra awesome. Continue reading

A delightful series to sink your fangs into: Amelia Fang

Amelia-Fang-Cover-Image.jpgI love it when a tip from a fellow blogger leads me to a gem of a book.

And I adore it when it leads to THREE books, with another one just released!!

The Amelia Fang series by Laura Ellen Anderson is – quite simply – fabulous fun! From the different coloured end-paintings on each book to the gorgeous illustrations they are a delight to behold and read.

<and I actually wanted to display them backwards on the bookshelf>

Filled with humourfriendship and adventure, not to mention the cutest pet pumpkin ever, this Junior Fiction series has excellent characters and great themes. I loved reading them aloud with my own little junior reader – especially putting on Florence the Yeti’s voice! Continue reading

As big and as bold and as awesome as a wingerslink – ‘Ottilie Colter and the Narroway Hunt’

OCATNH.jpgThis book has stolen my heart! I enjoyed reading it so much.

I loved it on the first read, when I was captivated by the friendship, humour and exciting world filled with unknowns that I just wanted to know.

I loved it on the second read, as I discovered some of the tricks author Rhiannon Williams used to make it so super-duper awesomesauce.

And then…

YES! And then!

AND THEN!!!! I went out and bought it because my library only had an e-book and I love paper books. And I loved it on the third read with its beautiful cover and fabulous messages for kids.

‘Ottilie Colter and the Narroway Hunt’ by Rhiannon Williams is a delight for middle-grade readers. It won the Ampersand Prize. I can see why. If I’d been judging, I would have hugged the manuscript after I’d finished it.

(I may have hugged the book) (I do that sometimes)

Why did I enjoy so much?

Because it has action and suspense and camaraderie with this deep underlying theme of challenging gender stereotyping and being true to who you are.

AND I enjoyed it because I felt like I was in safe hands with the author – the reason why came apparent in my second read because Williams follows a pretty standard structure for the book. This isn’t a bad thing at all – it’s standard because it works for the reader, keeps them hooked and reading to the end.

So, a quick summary (and careful if you haven’t read it, because I can’t explain without a few spoilers!!): Continue reading