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A mighty fine week

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You know how there are some weeks when everything seems to go right? Well, this has been one of those weeks. The early morning writing regime has worked brilliantly, and I did five days of solid work without distractions.

Why did it make such a difference? I think it’s something to do with how easily our minds fill up with rubbish.

Up until this week, I’ve been doing a whole lot of other stuff before I get down to writing – checking my email, checking the news, taking the neighbour’s dog for a walk, having a shower, having breakfast …

So by the time I start writing, my head is full of tangles. Which makes it really hard to focus.

But if I don’t do any of those things, the only things inside my head are night dreams and early morning wonderings, which help the writing rather than hindering it.

So it’s early morning writings again this week, and my aim is to get this draft finished by the end of March. Here’s my new office – i.e., my bed.

But a new writing regime wasn’t the only nice thing that happened. On Thursday morning, I got a message from author Jo Sandhu: ‘You need to check the Aurealis Awards shortlist.’

I checked it. And there was Accidental Heroes, shortlisted for the Best Australian Children’s Novel! *puffs out chest with delight*

The only one I have read – apart from my own – is The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, which is a gorgeous book. So I’m setting out to read the others. Assessing the competition. Ha!

Early mornings

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I love early mornings – always have. That time of day when there’s hardly anyone else around, when the birds are waking up and the air is clear and clean. Especially after rain.

For me, it’s the best time of day for doing just about anything, especially going for walks on the beach or in the bush. Which makes things complicated, because there’s only a certain amount of early morning, and only a certain number of things I can fit into it.

Right now, I’m trying to make writing one of those things.

It’s all about self-discipline. Last Friday, I started trying to write the beginning of Haunted Warriors (The Rogues #3), and because beginnings are always hard, I was endlessly distracted. It was far too easy to turn to email and the internet and everything else, and I didn’t get much further than the first line.

So now I’m trying something new. Early morning writing. In bed.

Here’s my new routine, at least for the next couple of weeks: get up, turn off the internet, feed Harry (top priority for at least one person in this household), have a quick walk around the garden, make a cup of tea, grab the laptop and take it and the cup of tea back to bed. Write.

It’s always been one of my favourite times for writing. Years ago, I used to wake up, sit up, grab a writing pad and pen from beside my bed and write whatever came into my head for ten minutes. It was good discipline, and it taught me a lot about writing.

This is different, because I’m trying to write a novel rather than just writing practice. But I think it will help, all the same. Maybe it’s just changing routine. Maybe it’s the quietness. Maybe it’s Harry’s company. 🙂

I’ll see how I go this week, and report back next Sunday.

Horrible old sayings

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You know how there’s sometimes a good deal of common sense and wisdom in the old sayings that have been passed down through the generations?

Yes, well sometimes there isn’t. This last week I’ve stumbled across three old sayings that fill me with horror.

The first is probably the worst. ‘A wife, a dog and a walnut tree; the more you beat them the better they be.’

It’s hard to know how to react to such an obviously appalling statement, except with open-mouthed wonder that there were once enough people who believed it to turn it into a common saying.

I don’t even know if it’s true about the walnut tree. Probably not. Ugh.

Here’s the second saying: ‘You have to be cruel to be kind.’

Now there’s actually a teensy weensy bit of truth in this. There are some things that are better done quickly, to get them over with, rather than dragging out the agony. E.g. ripping off a band-aid, breaking up a relationship. I guess you could ALMOST call that having to be cruel to be kind.

But whenever I see this saying, I remember Mr Goss, who lived next door to my family when I was a kid. When I was about seven he got a new pup, and he was determined to make it obey him. When it didn’t (because it was only a pup, and he was a rotten dog trainer) he whipped it. And when I protested, he said, ‘You have to be cruel to be kind.’ And kept whipping it.

I have loathed that saying ever since. Want to be kind? Then be KIND!

The third saying is a bit more subtle in its revoltingness. ‘A coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man only one.’

I suspect this is a remnant of the British Empire, where being a coward was the worst possible fate, and Honour and Courage were all that really counted. Except Honour and Courage were defined in a really strange way.

Because the people who die a thousand deaths (i.e. imagine their deaths over and over again before they actually happen) aren’t cowards. They are simply people with very good imaginations. And anyone who never ever thinks about their death before it happens probably has no imagination at all. Nothing to do with courage. Nothing to do with cowardice.

Ugh again.

So – glad I got that off my chest. Anyone got another saying that they hate?

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.