Interview at Freshly Squeezed Reads!

Pop on over to Freshly Squeezed and you can read an interview with me :)


Weather

Today is the hottest day this Spring so far. According to the internet, it hit 39 degrees (celcius) about 25km away. We’re usually just a little hotter, so I’m guessing that we may have been about 40 degrees here. And it’s only October.

We’ve done hot. For years we lived in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia, so we really know what hot is. One year, we arrived back in our little town, 300km inland from the coast on the 28th of December, and it was 48 degrees. (118 degrees for those of you still using Fahrenheit). It was 40 degrees every day until March. It was the hottest, driest summer we’d ever experienced in our sixteen years in the Pilbara.

Maybe that’s why I like winter so much. Now that we live the Hunter Valley in NSW, we experience all four seasons each year – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. In the Pilbara it was Summer and Winter. Winter lasted about six weeks and on either side of winter was about six weeks of absolute perfection. The only problem was the lack of rain.

Why am I writing about weather? Well today was hot, so I got thinking. When I built the world of Frontier, one of the features was the weather. The enormous storms of Frontier were based on our experiences of cyclones in the Pilbara. It was one of those moments when ‘write what you know’ was a good plan – I can describe the experience of cyclonic winds because I’ve sat through a real cyclone inside a house, watching the windows bend (a somewhat frightening experience) and the roof lift as the wind gusted and the rain blew horizontally.

Weather shapes our experiences and our lives. The daily temperature determines what we wear, and how we build, and what we do. It determines what we can grow and what leisure activities we indulge in. It shapes our world and our shorelines, and makes our travel perilous. It’s an almighty force.

At the moment I’m writing another story, based in space. So far weather hasn’t featured, because everything so far has taken place inside a spaceship. It’s sort of weird, and of course I’ve never been inside a spaceship except in my imagination, so this time I’m not ‘writing what I know’ but making pretty well everything up. We’ll see how that goes…

Anyway, it’s still hot, and the whole week is forecast to be hot. I’m hoping it’s not a hint of true summer – which doesn’t arrive for another six weeks. Winter – come back!


Dr Who Musings

I”ve been a Dr Who fan for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, we’d watch an episode every week day evening from Monday to Thursday on the ABC. The first doctor I remember clearly was Patrick Troughton – the Dr with the recorder stuck in the Tardis console. I vaguely remember William Hartnell, and did get to know him later during repeats, but it was the end of Patrick Troughton’s tenure that led me into watching Jon Pertwee in all his subsequent adventures and confirmed my enthusiasm for the series.

I remember waiting with baited breath for the familiar theme to begin pouring out of the television speakers and then the swirling pattern of greys would begin to herald the opening credits. (We only had black and white TV in those days.)

We’d go from adventure to adventure with The Doctor and his companions, and wander off to exotic world after exotic world meeting new cultures and sometimes being scared of them.

With Sarah Jane and Tom Baker, we watched as the Daleks were born, and I remember thinking about the potential paradoxes of time travel for the first time. I was slightly freaked out by the Mistfall when The Doctor first met Adric, and then saddened when Adric died. I enjoyed the intrigue of the Doctor’s encounters with The Master, and the search for The Key of Time when he first met Romana.

Leela was one of my favourite companions – she didn’t scream, which I considered a huge plus, and was very prone to waving her knife around.

As I was watching tonight’s episode with Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, I was marvelling at the longevity of the series, which has even survived a hiatus and reimagining.

I really like Capaldi’s Doctor. His portrayal reminds me very much of Jon Pertwee – his age and alien qualities are evident in his mannerisms and comments, and there are hints of the way Christopher Eccleston played The Doctor. (I’ve always wished he’d had more than one season.) Obviously the script is a large part of this, however I really like the way he doesn’t mince words. There’s such a mixture of irritation, anger and vulnerability in this doctor that I’m intrigued, and can’t wait to watch each episode.

I think it’s the universal themes that Dr Who explores that keeps the audience hungering for more. Some episodes are just pure fun, but more often than not, The Doctor and his companions are faced with moral and ethical dilemmas, and sometimes the choices are not clear cut. Underlying all of this however, is the inherent nobility of the character – an angry and sad character at times, yet always a character who is willing to self sacrifice for the greater good, a part of the character that sometimes alienates his companions.

It seems to be taken for granted that Jenna-Louise Coleman (Clara Oswald) will be leaving the series shortly. I wasn’t initially fond of her character when she first appeared with Matt Smith, but this latest series has developed her character much more fully, and I’m really enjoying her interactions with Peter Capaldi. I suspect (hope) that her leaving episode will be an absolute classic, but it’s really nice to see a character develop her own life, separate to The Doctor, during the season.


Goodreads Giveaway

I decided that I’d celebrate the release of Frontier Resistance, book 2 in the Frontier Series with a Goodreads Giveaway.

If you click on this link you’ll be taken to the giveaway. I’ve also made a widget for this blog, but for some reason or other that I’m not clever enough to fix, I’ve had to put it at the bottom of the sidebar so that it doesn’t distort the rest of the blog. (Any solutions are happily received!)

There are three signed copies of Frontier Incursion (Book 1) available to win. Good luck!


Manuscript First Pages – Things I’ve learnt along the way.

One of the things I’ve learnt since my publishing journey began, is that I’m not that great at first pages or back cover blurbs.

I’m lucky that I have a publisher who looked past my first chapter and read the whole story and thought it had enough potential to publish – something that many publishers wouldn’t have done. When I first wrote Frontier Incursion, I spent days, and possibly weeks, agonising over the first chapter – I knew it wasn’t quite right, but I didn’t really know how to fix it. There are probably more discarded beginnings of that chapter than just about anything else, sitting in my computer folders. Sometimes it was a prologue. Sometimes it was a brief blurb, and sometimes it was a whole chapter. Fortunately I had an editor who gave me tips and suggestions so that I eventually approached the whole thing differently. What that meant was lots of rewriting – and I mean lots. I think I rewrote the first chapter three times in its entirety, even after being accepted for publication.

I’ve learnt a number of things as a result:

Firstly, I often start things too slowly.

Secondly, I sometimes forget to develop my characters into living, breathing people who grab the reader immediately.

Thirdly, because I know what the whole story is, I sometimes forget that my readers won’t understand the significance of the little things in the first chapter.

The second book in the Frontier series (Frontier Resistance.)has just been published in digital form. Andrew at Hague Publishing made it available on Netgalley for ARC review prior to the official release date. An early reviewer pointed out that the first chapter wasn’t helpful if you hadn’t read the first book. I’m going to link to the review, even though I cringe a bit when I read it, (OK I cringe a lot), because it made us both take another look at the beginning, and then restructure it. I will be eternally grateful to that particular reviewer, because those comments were the stimulus behind a much better first chapter. It’s one of those moments when you realise that a one star review is advantageous – if you have time to think it through and make it better, and because I’m now approaching first chapters in a completely different way.

So, back to my points.

Firstly – Don’t start slowly. You need something to grab the reader, tug at their emotions and suck them into the story. Another reader recently sent me an email. She’d just read the first (revised) chapter of Resistance, and this is what she said: ‘With those opening pages! You sucked me in! My brain only just started thinking – no. This has to be a bad dream…’ That’s music to an author’s ears. After reading the revised portion at the launch a few days ago, I felt happier and happier with each word I read, and so, apparently, did the audience, judging by the comments.

Secondly – When I wrote Incursion, I was still confused about showing versus telling. I told too much and showed too little. If you’re wondering what I mean, then have a look at this link. It says it much more clearly than I can. Showing helps the reader connect with the character, stay interested and keep reading. Too much telling (it’s important that you balance it, which is a writing juggling act) bores the reader and leaves them an uninterested observer. As readers, we want to be swept up into the story, not sitting on the sidelines.

Thirdly – remember that the reader doesn’t know what’s going to happen twenty-three chapters in, so if you don’t grab them at the beginning, they’re not going to keep reading.

Nowadays, I understand just how crucial those first words are. Are they interesting? Do they grab you? Can the reader see the character? Feel the character? Are they swept up? Or are they sitting on the sidelines?

All authors need test readers. Ask people to read it, but demand they tell you the truth, and don’t expect that they’ll always say things you like to hear. Tell your test readers to be blunt and say what they liked or didn’t like. And one more thing – sometimes friends don’t make the best test readers because they don’t like to hurt your feelings! (I can however, recommend test readers who are your children…!)


What a Weekend! (And it’s still not quite over…)

Well, Frontier Resistance is now officially launched. Friday night, at the opening function of the Scone Literary Long Weekend, I had the lovely opportunity to speak in front of nearly 100 people about eBooks, and how a brand new eBook is published, and then read from the first chapter of Resistance to officially launch the book.

Resistance is the second book in the Frontier Series. It’s officially YA science fiction, like its predecessor Frontier Incursion, but Incursion seems to have appealed to adults and cat lovers as well as young adult readers, judging by the feedback I’ve received. (I might add that one of my best performed blog posts is on Cats, so perhaps I should just write about our furry friends forever.)

Thank you to all of the purchasers of both books. As the author, I always feel honoured that someone has chosen to read what I’ve written, and although Incursion has now been published for two years, it’s still a funny (in a good way) feeling. Sometimes I can’t believe that one of my long held dreams has come true.

Today I participated in a panel that discussed the future of the printed word, with Phillip Adams, Dom Knight, Julie-Anne Ellem, Kate Mailer and Mike Pritchard. It was ably moderated by Jill Emberson. It was a fascinating panel, and we did gallop off onto a few tangents – namely the online world, social media, the sense of community, the smell of books, and (briefly) politics.

It was encouraging to hear from a number of the audience members that they could have kept listening, and that the time (an hour!) was possibly too short. It would have been a lovely topic to continue to discuss, and apparently most of the audience would have enjoyed participating in the discussion themselves. I’d say that it means that the topic was well chosen.

Tomorrow we’ll finish off Scone’s inaugural Literary Long Weekend with readings from members of three of the local writers groups. The session will be compered by Anthony Scully from the ABC. If you haven’t checked out some of the things he facilitates, you really should wander over to ABC Open, and have a browse.  If you look closely, you’ll discover that I have a couple of pieces on there – one on ‘The Odd One Out‘ and the other one on ‘Bully.’


Frontier Resistance Launch – Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the official launch date for Frontier Resistance. It’s the second book in my Frontier Series, and continues the tale of Shanna and her friends as they confront the alien invaders.

‘The Garsal have landed and Frontier has changed forever. Even as Shanna and her friends struggle to master their new gifts before the Garsal enslave them all, Council infighting threatens the new alliance. But only by uniting do the Scouts, their starcats, and the Starlyne have any chance of surviving, and time is running out for the people of Frontier.’

It’s an exciting moment, and one that is part of a long held dream to be a published author.

Here’s a link to the trailer for Frontier Incursion since for whatever reason, WordPress won’t let me upload it directly.

Resistance carries straight on from Incursion, so it is worth reading Incursion first (shameless self promotion of first book), so that you know who the characters are, and what they’re all up to. I’ve had some lovely reviews from readers of the ARC, and some very helpful comments.

As a writer, you never really know how – or even whether – someone will enjoy/be impacted by/dislike the thing you’ve written until they’ve read it. Thank you to those who’ve picked the book up on Netgalley, read it, and taken the time to review it.

Many thanks to Andrew at Hague Publishing, who took a punt on an unknown writer, and let me introduce Shanna and her starcats to a wider audience, and who continues to work so hard on producing a quality product.

More than anything, thanks to my family. Thanks to Mal, who puts up with me writing for hours, and tirelessly plugs my book to his unsuspecting workmates, to Briana who test reads everything I write (couldn’t do it without you), and to Lach, who supplied much of the background drumming/marimba playing to my writing and then read Incursion and liked it. I find it highly amusing that sometimes the drumming has really helped me concentrate – I never thought I’d say that when you began playing at thirteen! Love to you all.

You can purchase either of my books on Hague Publishing’s site, or from any of the major eBook platforms.


Cats

It’s only a few days now until Frontier Resistance is published, and apart from thinking about that, I’ve been thinking about cats.

Why might you ask? I think it’s because I enjoy writing about them, and they form a very important part of the Frontier Series. I am, very definitely, a cat person. Even now as I’m writing this post, I’m covered in cat fur because Nosey has spent the last hour hopping on and off my neck. At the moment, I’m sitting on the couch and he’s on the back of it.

It doesn’t matter what I do when I’m home, there’s usually a cat watching me, following me, or sitting on me. We have two – Socks who belongs to our son, and the aforementioned Nosey.

The mannerisms and behaviours of many of our family cats have snuck into my writing, and very much into my starcat characters. For those of you who haven’t read my book (soon to be books!), starcats are 100kg, black or dark grey felines, with glowing ‘tidemarks’ that fade and brighten dependent on their mood, and flicker in complex patterns. They can vanish at will, move so fast that they blur, and still like to sleep on the bed.

In Frontier Incursion, one of my characters gets woken up by a whisker up the nostril. I know how horrible that is, because a now deceased feline friend of mine (Roly) used to do that if I ignored his pats on the cheek when he was hungry and I was trying to sleep in. Nosey inspired some of the antics of Ember and Nosey (yes I used his name) in Frontier Resistance. Panda (he was black and white) inspired the starcat love of water, and Nicholas the persistence of one of the cats I’ve written about in Book 3. (Just completed the initial drafts.) Fatso, otherwise known as ‘The Fat Cat’ or ‘Fatsy Catsy’ appears in various places with his love of resting, body contact and cheese.

I once read that you should write what you know. I think that’s partly what I’ve done in the Frontier Series. I’ve written cats – lots of cats, behaving as cats do and as I imagine they’d like to, were they larger.

Me? I am the Fat Cat and I am comfy.

Me? I am the Fat Cat and I am comfy.

Fats relaxing.

Fats relaxing.

I must sits in it.

I must sits in it.

Socksy packing for our holiday.

Socksy packing for our holiday.

I was tired. And very comfy.

I was tired. And very comfy.

Christmas Nosey.

Christmas Nosey.

Were you writing? You should be patting.

Were you writing? You should be patting.

I has my lion.

I has my lion.

He went to Uni, so I shall look after his marimba until he returns.

He went to Uni, so I shall look after his marimba until he returns.


New Video Trailer for Frontier Incursion!

Frontier Incursion, book one in the Frontier Series, now has a brand new book trailer!
You can view it on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvymDYRwj6Y


When Is Enough Enough? (Or why should young women expect to be groped or harassed every time they go out?)

As regular followers of my blog probably know, I have a bit of a feminist bent. My last post was about heading off to celebrate our daughter’s twenty-first birthday in the town where she attends university.

Over the last few days we’ve been chatting and catching up, and one of the subjects that came up was going out for the evening to a pub or club to go dancing. Our daughter enjoys dancing, doesn’t tend to drink when she’s out because she always has to drive home, and doesn’t go out a lot, but like many young women, enjoys the occasional night out.

But she tells me that pretty well every time she goes out, she and her female friends have to fend of ‘handy’ young men. It’s not unusual, it’s just what happens all the time.

There are apparently a number of techniques that these young men use. (Apparently it’s mostly young men.) There’s the ‘grind up against you’ when dancing, the sneaky arm around the waist or chest so that the hand can head for ‘side boob,’ there’s ‘the butt grab,’ and if you have a fairly largish cup size, there’s the question “Are those real?” followed by “Can I touch them?”

As a result, there’s a number of techniques to counter all the above. Firstly the grind – apparently you let them grind, and then step away suddenly so that they fall over. The sneaky arm involves arm removal thereof (usually a repeat move) and the butt grab involves high heel on the instep. The boob questions have necessitated the use of knee to groin as a deterrent. (Mainly because of the inability of the young men to understand a two letter word – NO!)

Today we discussed the thumb grab, the location of the ulna nerve and the elbow snap as creative alternatives to some of the above. Apparently as the alcohol flows, so do the hands. Another useful technique involves positioning yourself near the bouncers so that you can dance in an unimpeded fashion. There are apparently also some older blokes who sometimes intervene when the younger blokes persist with their unwelcome intentions, but that depends on who’s there at the time.

As we sat talking, I was astounded at the expectations of being groped in a public place. I was astounded by the matter of fact way our daughter described it as just ‘something that happens’ when you’re out. (This is not what we’ve taught as normal in our family.)

As a parent, I was appalled. As a feminist I’m extremely dismayed that any man could think he has the right to do that to any woman without her consent.

What gives any young man the hide to think that he can manhandle any girl just because she’s dancing with her friends in a pub or club? What gives them the idea that it’s normal to grope a girl? Or ask her about her breasts? Where does this sense of entitlement come from? Or the idea that this kind of behaviour is not offensive? Why do they not understand that this is sexual assault?

I’ve campaigned against the early sexualisation and objectification of women and girls for years now. I absolutely class myself as a feminist. It’s 2014, and women can now have careers, higher education, good pay, and perform tasks previously reserved for men.

But somewhere along the way, that one essential thing seems to have gone missing – RESPECT.

Respect is when a woman can go out in public and NOT be groped. When she can walk to her car or transport without feeling the need to put her keys between her fingers for safety ‘just in case.’ Respect is when that two letter word ‘NO’ is enough. Respect is when she’s a person and not a collection of body parts to be made accessible to others because they feel they’re entitled to them.

There’s been quite a few young women ‘not needing feminism’ recently. Today has confirmed that we need it more than ever, because it’s very obvious that respect is not yet universal.


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