It’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.
I 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.
Mate. 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)
I 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
There 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
Now, 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
I 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 humour, friendship 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
This 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.
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
Walls, fences, dense trees, high-rise neighbours, eaves, and patios… With the rise in urban living, we’re finding more and more shade encroaching on our gardens. And those gardens are becoming increasingly precious, as pockets of green in an urban landscape.
So what do you do with those dark corners of your block?
Do not despair, there are many native plants that can grow and thrive in shady areas. To prove this, we’ve compiled a rainbow of plants to brighten up the dark. All you need to add is a hammock, and your shady spot will be the ideal summer haven.
Planting in shade – the basics
- The deeper and darker your shady spot, the fewer flowers you’ll get. The plants we list in this article are happiest and most colourful in dappled shade, but will tolerate deeper shade.
- Shaded plants often become ‘leggy’. Regular light pruning will help them to remain compact.
- If your shade comes from a deciduous tree, the pileup of leaves in autumn can smother plants underneath, as well as provide too much nutrient to a native garden. Regularly rake up the leaves in autumn – you can make leafmould from them for your vegetables!
Our shady rainbow plants
Red- Holly Flame Pea Chorizema ilicifolium
This cheerful pea has yellow/orange and red flowers from July to October. It is low-growing, rarely reaching 0.5 m, and grows well in sand and over limestone. Continue reading
Hope against despair. Courage fighting fear. Joy beating sadness.
‘Catching Teller Crow’ by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina is profoundly moving, at times painful, addictively suspenseful, and all woven together with strength and love.
This is a powerful novel. Filled with powerful female characters and a dad who could be a role model for dads everywhere.
The way it’s told pulls the reader in, and then makes them question everything.
I love the clever use of POV. Beth Teller is dead, and narrates in first person prose, past tense. Yet second narrator, Isobel Catching, narrates in 1st person verse, present tense, even though she’s mainly telling the “what has been”. Her narrative tricks you at first, until you realise the truth and your mind flips and the story suddenly gets a heck load deeper into your gut.
‘Catching Teller Crow’ is a jewel of a murder mystery with paranormal side serves and some intriguing gusts of wind. Continue reading
OMG. I have just finished reading one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, full of heart and feeling, strength and healing.
The gorgeous ‘Roses Are Blue’ is by the fabulous Sally Murphy, and illustrated by Gabriel Evans, so it’s West Aussie through and through.
It’s written in verse, adding to the poignancy of everything that MC Amber relates. Amber is filled with so many emotions kids (anyone) (me included) can relate to – wanting to fit in, fearing being different, wishing for the impossible and not liking herself much sometimes for wishing that. Amber is a lovely narrator, the story is beautiful. Continue reading