Lian Tanner
 

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Win a book for Christmas!

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Would you like to win a signed copy of my latest middle-grade fantasy adventure, The Rogues Book 1, Accidental Heroes? Or a signed copy of Icebreaker? I’m running a competition for Christmasand you can enter it three times!

Here’s how to enter:

1. Follow me on Instagram, like the competition post, tag two people in the comments (make sure it’s two people who might like to win a book) and tell me which of the two books you’d choose if you won.

2. Like my Facebook page, like and share the competition post, and tell me which book you’d like to win. (You’d better tell me that you’ve shared the post, too.)

3.  Subscribe to this blog – the link is on the left-hand side of the page somewhere. You’ll need to watch out for an email that confirms the subscription – it might turn up in your spam folder. Leave a comment on this blog post telling me which book you’d like to win.

I’ll be drawing the competition on Saturday, December 2.  It’s open to anyone anywhere in the world – though I can’t guarantee that the book will get to you by Christmas.

Good luck!

Love Your Bookshop Day

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Last Saturday was Love Your Bookshop day, and I was invited to Dymock’s bookshop in Hobart, along with Katherine Scholes and Adrian Beck, to talk to people and answer questions.

I was a bit worried that no one would have any questions for me, so I took along a competition, and whenever I saw a kid who looked as if they fitted somewhere between the ages of eight and sixteen, I grabbed them. This was the scenario: their best friend was trapped in a house with three entrances. One of the entrances was guarded by a vicious dog, one was guarded by two members of a criminal gang armed with knives, and the other one had three padlocks which were checked by one of the criminals every twenty minutes.

And the question? How would they rescue their friend, using trickery, not violence? (They only had to get through one of the gates, and could choose which one.) The prize was an advance copy of Accidental Heroes, the first book in the Rogues Trilogy, to be delivered to them some time in September.

At the end of two hours I had a stack of entries.

So when I got home, I settled on the sofa with a vanilla slice and made a short list.

Most of the kids tried to get through the gate guarded by the dog, and the favourite method was to tempt it away with a bit of steak or something similar. But there were some clever variations on that. Here’s the shortlist. I haven’t chosen the winner out of these three yet.

1. Give a large piece of meat to the criminals on door 2. Then make a trail of meat to the dog at door 1. Then the dog would go after the meat and scare the criminals off. (Hannah)

2. I would let the dog see me so that it starts barking and brings the guards of the second entrance over. While the guards are distracted with the dog I will sneak through the second entrance. I would leave clothing near the dog so that the guards think that the dog has finished me off, and then they won’t come looking for me. (Adelle)

3. I would call the pound, say that the dog is homeless, and then they would come and get the dog and while they were taking it away, I would run in and save my friend. (Layla)

Which one do you think should win?

A book I wish I’d written

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Back in 2010, when I was in India for the Bookaroo children’s literary festival, I met fellow Australian author Wendy Orr. I’d heard of her, because she had written the very well-known Nim’s Island, but this was the first time we had run into each other.

At the time, Wendy was talking about a book she wanted to write. I think at that stage it was still fairly vague, just an idea that had been hanging around her for a while.  But this year – and I’m sure it’s the same book – she published Dragonfly Song, the story of Aissa, an outcast girl in ancient times who becomes a bull dancer.

I particularly love stories that have the Cinderella framework – where someone goes from the very bottom of the heap to the top. Icebreaker was one of those stories, and Petrel continues to be one of my favourite characters because she overcame so much.  But right now, I’m wishing I had written Dragonfly Song. It kept me reading all yesterday when I was supposed to be doing a hundred other things – the writing is beautiful and the story is so moving. If you get a chance, check it out and let me know what you think.

A sneak peek

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I got a sneak peek of the new book,Accidental Heroes, this week and it looks wonderful. Here is Tracy (Tracey?) from Booktopia having a look at it, just after I arrived in Sydney. This is close to the final cover, but not quite. It will come out in hardcover first and paperback later. The illustration is by a Melbourne artist called Sher Rill Ng. She will be doing all three books in the Rogues series.

And here is the first afternoon tea, at a cute little place in Sydney called the Tea Cosy! (I ate too much.)

The second afternoon tea, in Melbourne, was equally wonderful, and they had a gorgeous collection of teapots. (I rather like teapots. If I was going to collect anything, which I’m not, it would probably be teapots.) I ate too much again.

Now I’m home again, enjoying the solitude and the quiet after the bustle of the cities. And of course I bought some books, so I’m about to get stuck into reading them.

(Incidentally, I am told that Harry behaved himself very well this time. Last time I was away, he attacked my house sitter in the middle of the night and drew blood. I had to speak to him very severely.)

Afternoon teas

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I’m heading off to Sydney this Wednesday, to do some pre-publication promotion for Rogues #1, Accidental Heroes. My Australian publishers, Allen and Unwin, are holding an afternoon tea for booksellers – one in Sydney, and then one in Melbourne the next day. Which seems to me a very civilised way to promote a book, given that I love afternoon teas.

It’s not just me – Jaclyn Moriarty will be there too, with her latest book, The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone. I haven’t read it yet, I’m going to do it today. Jaclyn usually writes for young adults, and this is her first middle grade novel, so I’m looking forward to it. Looking forward to meeting her too!

And the publishers will have proof copies of Accidental Heroes, so I will get to see what it looks like as a book at last.

Bruny Island and Battlesong

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I’ve been on Bruny Island for the last week. It was supposed to be a working holiday, and I did a bit of work on Secret Guardians, but it’s hard to stay focused when the view from your office is like this.

 

It made me realise how much I love being able to look out my window and not see any other houses.  And waking up in the morning to no sound except birdsong.

Late on Tuesday morning I dropped in on Bruny Island Primary School to give them some books, and the librarian said, ‘What a pity you weren’t here this afternoon. Grades four, five and six have a library session this afternoon, and you could have been our show-and-tell.’ I haven’t done a school visit for a while, so I said, ‘What time do you want me here?’ And that afternoon I spent half an hour talking to the nicest group of kids you could imagine. I also gave them a sneak preview of the cover for Accidental Rogues, which no one except me has seen. And they liked it!

The only downside of the week was, I didn’t have an Internet connection, so on Wednesday I took myself to the local pub, which had free Wi-Fi.  Checked my email and found a message from my American publishers, with the first review for Battlesong (Fetcher’s Song in Australia and New Zealand), from School Library Journal.

I can’t show it to you yet, because this edition of SLJ isn’t out until June 1, but I can tell you that it was a starred review (which is a very good thing), and that it included phrases like ‘unparalleled world-building’ and ‘masterly writing’. So I came away from the pub feeling very pleased with myself and the world.

I’m back home now for a week, then off to Sydney and Melbourne for a couple of days to talk to booksellers about Accidental Rogues.  And I really must get stuck into Secret Guardians. I feel as if I’m a bit behind on it, so will have to write faster!

First page proofs

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It’s always wildly exciting when the first page proofs arrive from the publisher. This is when a story starts to look like a proper book at last. The first page proofs of Accidental Heroes arrived on Friday – now I have to read through them to see if I want to make any small changes. I can’t make huge changes at this stage, but I know there are a couple of things I want to correct.

It’s also wildly exciting when I see the cover artwork for the first time. I caught a glimpse of it last week – not sure if it’s final yet, but it looks wonderful. Can’t wait to show it to you!

I’m going down to Bruny Island for four days this week, so I’ll take the first pages with me to work on. I’m also taking my computer and the slowly growing text of Secret Guardians, so it’s not quite a holiday, but Bruny is so gorgeous that I don’t mind. I always think that Lauderdale is quiet, until I get to my niece’s house, and wake up in the morning to the sound of birds and a view over Great Bay.

A friend will be house-and-cat sitting for me while I’m away. Harry was sick for a few days, vomiting everywhere, so I took him to the vet who thought it was probably hairballs. Now he has laxative paste once a week – he is not exactly excited about taking it, though he quite likes the taste once it is in his mouth.

First chapters

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For me, the first chapter of a book is nearly always the hardest part to write. So much so that I sometimes leave it till last.

The first chapter has to grab people straight away. It has to introduce them to the main characters and give them some sense of what the story is going to be about. It has to intrigue them, so they want to keep reading.  That’s hard enough with a stand-alone novel, but with a series it becomes even harder, because there’s a whole lot of back story that needs to be fitted in somewhere.

I know The Rogues Book #2 needs to start with Duckling, because she’s the central character for the whole series – though Pummel comes a close second. But what I’ve got in Chapter 1 at the moment is a horrible mishmash that isn’t the least bit interesting.  It’s certainly not enough to keep people reading.

This has been annoying me all week.  But yesterday I was reminded of some questions that definitely help:

‘What does Duckling want? What does she want desperately? What does she need? What’s standing in the way of her getting it?’

Every good story has a central question. What does your main character need more than anything else in the world, and what’s standing in their way? This is what drives the action. This is what grabs hold of the reader and keeps them reading late into the night.

I know exactly what Duckling wants at the beginning of Book #2. And there are a whole lot of things standing in her way – some she knows about, some haven’t appeared yet.  But this at last gives me a focus for that first chapter.

Meanwhile, the days are getting colder in Lauderdale – and Harry is doing situps in front of the fire.

Onward!

How I write

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I’ve been thinking a lot about how I write, recently. How I go about getting a story down on the page. It might seem obvious – think of words, write them down. But I have just recently bought some voice recognition software, and it is enormously different from typing, or from writing by hand. I’ve used it before, years ago when I had repetitive strain injury, but once I got over that I very happily went back to typing. There is something about seeing the words come out of the tips of my fingers that is very satisfying.

So why voice recognition software? Simply, my neck. It doesn’t mind editing, but it complains dreadfully when I sit down for half an hour and type madly. Which is what a first draft is all about. So, it was either stop writing (nooooooooo!) or find some other way of doing first drafts.

The technology is a lot better than last time I used it – which is a very good thing. Though I miss some of the mistakes it used to make. One of my favourites was ‘the far distant pasta’ instead of ‘the far distant past’. And a friend of mine was telling me of someone with a heavy cold who sent her an email message that was supposed to read ‘Hi Jules, I left a message on your answering machine’, but came out as ‘Hi Jewels, I bid to welcome you to my ancient regime’. I can only hope that my software will give me such splendid misinterpretations. 🙂

So now I have to work out how I can talk my story, instead of writing it. I’m sure it can be done – it’s just a matter of practice. (I’m talking all of this, so it’s not doing a bad job.)

In other news: I handed in the second edit of Accidental Heroes last Tuesday. It was a bit of a rush, because my Australian publishers want to put out a reading copy, so everything had to be done very quickly. And now, or rather tomorrow, I’ll go back to writing Secret Guardians. The covers of all three books should be done soon, and I’m dying to see them.

School Magazine

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I had an email during the week from Allen Edwards, the editor of Australia’s longest-running children’s literary magazine. The School Magazine has been going since 1916 (!!!!), and is published by the NSW Department of Education in the form of four different magazines – Touchdown, Orbit, Blast Off and Countdown. It’s also where I got my start as a children’s author.

Here’s the first children’s story I ever had published, back in February 2000.

The title of the story came to me in a dream, and was there on my lips when I woke up the next morning. Hmm, I thought. Hairy Scary. What’s that about?

It turned out to be a sort-of horror story – only not very horrible. Just a bit creepy. I sent it off to The School Magazine with a polite cover letter, and they accepted it and got the amazing Drahos Zak to illustrate it. I went on to write a number of stories for School Mag, and like a lot of Australian authors and illustrators, I’m deeply grateful to them for giving me a chance.

A few years later I was commissioned to write a puppetry play for the wind section of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. I had to do a lot of research, and at the end, when I’d finished the play (which was called I’ve Got Wind), there was a really interesting story about the ancient Greek warrior Ulysses that I hadn’t used.

When Ulysses was trying to sail home from the Trojan wars, he and his crew stumbled across the island of Aeolus, the Master of Winds. Aeolus gave Ulysses a leather bag containing all the winds of the world except the West Wind, which was supposed to blow them home. But Ulysses’ crew thought the bag contained gold, so they opened it and were blown back the way they had come.

It was one of those stories that are just begging to be turned into a short, funny play. So that’s what I did. And once again I sent it off to the School Mag.

It was published in 2009 under the title Blown Away, with illustrations by Kerry Millard. And it’s about to be re-published – that’s what the email from Allen Edwards was about.

It’s always nice when these things are brought back to life. If you’re in NSW, watch out for it some time during the year.