Shiver Me Timbers!

I said I had big news. This is it.

My middle grade (age 9-14ish) trilogy, all about fantastical pirates and monsters, has just been officially accepted for publication by Odyssey Books.

The first book is called THE MONSTER APPRENTICE, and will be launched in February 2018 (in time for Goulburn ComiCon).

It’s set in a fantasy world called “Rahana” which I invented seventeen years ago. It’s like Narnia, with pirates.

I wrote the first draft of THE MONSTER APPRENTICE in a New Zealand backpacker in Christchurch when I was twenty-two. I know exactly how old I was because I had just scraped into the upper age bracket for the Young Endeavour Sail Training Vessel (doing writerly research for STORMHUNTER).

I’m thirty-five now, but this is a pic of me at twenty-two on board the Young Endeavour, with New Zealand in the background. The character of Captain Sol in the story was inspired by the tales told by one of the navy staff on the boat (taken and altered with her permission).

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Oh, how I love research!

So it turns out Louisette’s pirate outfit last weekend was extremely appropriate.

People who’ve known me a long, LONG time will know that STORMHUNTER, the first book in my young adult magical pirate trilogy (also Rahana), was accepted for publication a while ago, but that particular publisher isn’t running any more. The story is here and here.

This is the closest I get to non-fictional piracy these days:

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Arrrr!

I really haven’t changed all that much after all.

I’ll start reading THE MONSTER APPRENTICE aloud to Louisette this evening. (Finally, a book of my own I can read to her!) Five year-olds are a tough crowd, so I expect I’ll be doing some more editing based on her reactions.

If you can’t wait until February, I have a definitely-not-suitable-for-children pirate game called SCARLET SAILS already on sale (and the beginning is free) here. Or you can search for “Scarlet Sails Hosted Games” on your favourite app store.

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“Stormhunter” flounders as Satalyte falls to Earth

Most small publishers stop running within two years. Which is not surprising, when you consider that the large publishers make a loss on the vast majority of the books they produce. It’s the occasional bestseller keeping everyone afloat. People just don’t read enough books.

With that reality, small publishers deserve more credit rather than less. They know they’re probably going to fail. In my experience, publishers are greater dreamers than writers—writing, after all, costs very little.

Satalyte Publishing accepted my novel “Stormhunter” some time ago, but ultimately has just decided to close their doors. It’s not an easy choice, but I became friends with the couple running the show, and I’m glad they were smart enough to step away from their beautiful dream before it became a nightmare.

So, the fate of “Stormhunter” is once more a blank. It certainly eased my concern that I have SO much paid writing work to do already, and that “Heart of Brass” is safely published and in the hands of readers all around the world.

Despite an unfortunate end to our professional relationship, I have gained several good friends and quite a bit of useful knowledge from my journey with Satalyte. The publishing house is no more, but those friendships will last forever—and all the more because of a shared experience of grief.

Like many small publishers, Satalyte deliberately published the kind of books that are excellent, but not considered “marketable”. They made publishing better forever, and I’m grateful to them as both reader and friend.

Conflux 2016

Conflux is Canberra’s speculative fiction conference. It happens every year on the October long weekend (even when that means starting in September, like in 2016 and 2017).

Each year features guests of honour from around Australia and the world; panels on a variety of topics (including deliciously blatant fanfests); workshops; book launches; pitching sessions; a dealer room; and opportunities to hang out with like-minded people (some of whom happen to be authors with varying degrees of fame). A few people do cosplay, which is always fun.

The reason I’m able to handle conferences when I can barely handle dropping my kids at school is simple: adrenaline. I’m generally moderately with it as long as I feel like I’m performing.

In 2014 TJ was a teensy baby and I had a sudden thought: I hadn’t finished a full original novel since Louisette was born in 2012. Had I lost the knack?

At around the same time I noticed there were five possible pitching sessions at Conflux: A large publisher, three smaller publishers, and an agent. I decided to pitch to every single one with a different book. That meant writing a brand new book in a couple of months (which I pitched to the agent, so I had time to edit it before any publishers saw it). That book is “Flight of Fancy.”

Satalyte accepted my pirate young adult fantasy novel “Stormhunter”. For various reasons it hasn’t been published yet, but it’s going to be published eventually. I love doing pitching sessions with publishers, because they’re always nice people and they like meeting authors.

In 2015 I pitched “Flight of Fancy” and “Heart of Brass”. Odyssey Books ultimately accepted “Heart of Brass”, which meant that this year I FINALLY had a book to actually sell to people!

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This year at Conflux I ran an interactive fiction workshop (lots of writers attend the conference every year), assisted with several panels (especially the steampunk ones), actually attended one session (very rare for me, since I get sore sitting in chairs without masses of adrenaline helping me out), and spent hours hanging out in the dealer room (mostly on the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG) table rather than the Odyssey table, because there were four other Odyssey people there and it was crowded). The familiar tension of, “Why am I talking on a panel when I don’t even have a novel published?” was gone (it’s worth pointing out that I haven’t gotten any smarter or more interesting than last year – panellists should be readers, but their writing life is almost always irrelevant), and I enjoyed the new tension of, “I’m absolutely trying to sell my book here”.

Our family car died suddenly the day before Conflux, so travel was complicated (especially with the uncharacteristically vicious weather), which complicated matters. My interview on interactive fiction at the local ABC 666 radio station was an unexpected bonus.

It was definitely fun chilling out with friends (Odyssey, Satalyte, CSFG, and others) and I think I recognised about 60% of the people. Conflux is my “home” conference, and the CSFG (which runs it) is a truly excellent group of people.

I enjoyed taking stupid pictures of my book, too.

 

This year people walked past the bar/restaurant on the way to the conference, so there was plenty of hanging out over food/drinks which was really excellent too.

This Saturday I’ll be at the Book Expo in Parramatta (Sydney), which I’ve never been to before. It’ll be interesting to see what it’s like!

“Scarlet Sails” covers, redux

I wrote about designing the cover for SCARLET SAILS (aka my interactive pirate book….probably coming out within two months, yay!) over here.

The cover has to come in several versions, with very specific dimensions. So here’s what I have now:

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All of the above (which I now realise should have borders so you can actually see the dimensions, but whatever) are the descendants of this lovely lady (below, with watermark to protect the artist), from Shutterstock.

 

You can see the changes I made (eye colour, feather, etc) for yourself. The middle image above is far too short and wide to have the same word-and-image-and-nothing-else design, so I went with a slightly different concept.

I think the key to this cover design is its simplicity, so I’m avoiding the temptation to mess with it too much. We’ll see how that goes.

I’ll be VERY interested to see how this book sells in comparison to “Attack of the Clockwork Army”, and especially what ratings it gets. I think I’ve grown as a writer (the book is longer, the backstory far simpler, and the setting familiar) but we’ll see!

And of course, I really like my covers. I’ll know if I’ve screwed up if people rate it badly based on their impression of the cover. Her prettiness probably suggests more romance than the book has, but we’ll see (allowing polyamory in the book is a treat for people who’d like to romance more than one character, but/and it was a nightmare to code).

 

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Supanova Sydney

Oh, wow. All the wows.

It got me when I found out Nathan Fillion would be there.

It got me when I found out Dr Karl would be there.

It got me when I saw a pack of medieval cosplayers, with enormous weapons, at Sydney Central.

It got me when I asked at Central how to get to Olympic Park, and the guy said, “For Supanova, you go to… ”

It got me when a fairy and a sith lord recognised each other from online photos, and started chatting on the train.

It got me when I saw the line: a thousand strong when I arrived on a weekday, moving quickly due to clever organisation, and more entertaining to watch than a marching band.

It got me when I saw faces coming out of a man’s chest.

It got me when I saw two people riding dinosaurs.

It got me when the automatic announcement said that weapons check-in was next to first aid.

It got me when I saw Weta Workshop’s Gollum-with-his-fish.

It got me when I couldn’t actually see the other end of the dealer room.

It got me when I saw the Tardis.

It got me when a pint-sized Wonder Woman got to meet a perfect Queen Elsa.

It got me when I ran into Keri Arthur, and Tracy M. Joyce, and Kevin J. Anderson, and Donna Maree Hanson.

It got me when the pink Deadpools started dancing.

It got me when a lady who custom-makes corsets for Gallery Serpentine said she’d love to host an event for my book in Melbourne.

It got me when male Loki bowed to female Loki.

It got me when I saw the weapons booths.

It got me in Artist Alley.

It got me when I saw Kaylee in overalls.

It got me when I saw Kaylee in That Dress from “Shindig”, sweeping the floor as she came.

It got me when Darth Vader and Queen Elsa wandered by, chatting.

It got me when John Jarratt hung out in the booth across from mine (my booth is 133 with Satalyte Publishing).

It got me when my publisher wandered off with the intern and left me to run the booth solo.

It got me when I bought a drink and they called me “Jack Sparrow”.

Oh, Supanova, how I love thee.

Saturday begins in an hour and a half! It’s super cheap to just show up!!

 

Do Pirates Squee?

This one does.

Fifteen – yes, fifteen – years ago I invented a fantasy world called Rahana based on Indonesia (I was sitting on a folding chair in a concreted Indonesian room attempting to listen to a sermon at the time). My idea was that if I had a rich and complicated world I could base a whole lot of books inside that world.

I was sick of white men dominating. . . everything. . . so I wanted a fantasy world that, to me, felt female. And non-white (much as my own heritage is Omo-white for generations). So I created a tropical world where there was enough magic that physical strength wasn’t necessarily important to gain power, and where art and storytelling was considered to be the most valuable (and best-paid) type of skill. People looked Indonesian, and people and place names were based on Indonesian words.

Soon after that, I began writing a young adult trilogy set in that world. Then I wrote a middle-grade trilogy set in the same world. Altogether so far I’ve written around half a million words and received seventy rejections just for this series.

Every time a book was rejected I asked myself, “Why was it rejected? How can it be better?”

The first book of the young adult trilogy has been edited so dramatically and so often it barely resembles the original draft (which I wrote in three weeks). Eventually, gradually, it became a good book. The simplest way to describe it is in three words:

Narnia with pirates.

A few days ago I received an offer of publication for that book – my paper baby – STORMHUNTER.

It’s really happening. My first book is going to be published. I can’t believe it. . . this is so great. . . I’m going to tell EVERYONE EVERYWHERE. . . pirates are so cool. . . this book helped me meet my husband. . . I’m going to sign books, and do conferences, and schmooze reviewers!. . . What the. . . has it really taken FIFTEEN YEARS!?!?!?!?

I won’t actually publish this blog entry until I have the green light to do so, but I thought I’d better write it now (Easter Sunday 2015). At the very beginning. [Observant readers will notice that I accidentally posted it at the time, then deleted the content. . . but left the tags, which are pretty awesome clues.]

Anything could happen from here. Ninety percent of published books flop. . . but I’ve come this far, and I intend to keep going. Ninety-nine percent of books don’t get published at all, so I’m doing pretty well 🙂

This is a picture of some of my pirate research – aboard the Young Endeavour sail training vessel at the tender age of twenty-three. That was ten years ago, and I was doing research specifically for STORMHUNTER. I guess it paid off, huh?

Some of my main audience wasn’t born when I came up with the idea for the world of Rahana. In fact, the middle grade readers weren’t born when this picture was taken five years later. What were YOU doing in the year 2000?

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STORMHUNTER will be released in both print and digital formats in 2016, by Satalyte.

If you’re interested in writerly stuff, stick around and/or like my facebook page. TJ turns one in less than ten days, and after that this blog will be much more about writing (and piracy, and reading) than it has been for a long time.

If you want to know major announcements only (but reliably – unlike facebook), send me an email at fellissimo[at]Hotmail.com and I’ll add you to the official mailing list, which will average less than an email a month (including info on conferences I’m attending and book signings etc).

Squee!