Friday, March 27, 2009

Shortlisted For Charlotte Duncan Award

I have just received some wonderful news.

I entered one of my children's stories, "Marina Mack and the Magic Paper" into the Charlotte Duncan Award. The shortlisted books were announced and I am honoured to say that Marina Mack made it onto the list.

Marina Mack is a young girl with Spinabiffida. She is shy and self-conscious but she gains the confidence to go out into the park after discovering the pad of paper her Nanna gave her was magic. Marina creates origami figures from the paper and uses the magic to help people and to make new friends. She discovers in the end, that it is not the magic her friends like. It is her.

The Celapene Press - Charlotte Duncan Award is for a short story for young readers aged 9-12 years and proceeds from the Awards are donated to the neo-natal unit at the Melbourne Royal Children's Hospital.

I have to say the news came as a complete surprise. The entry guidelines stated the winners would be announced on the 2nd of May so I wasn’t expecting any news about the Award for over a month. It wasn’t until I opened an e-mail from children’s author and founder of Buzz Words, Di Bates congratulating me on my nomination that the penny dropped. (Just a note: Buzz Words has to be one of the best writing resources I have found and if you are serious about writing for children and you haven’t subscribed, you are missing out).

Talk about a buzz! I don’t think my feet have touched the ground all day.

I have to also thank Sandy Fussell, author of “Polar Boy” and the “Samurai Kids” series for pushing me to start entering competitions. Thanks for sending all the contest links too, they are much appreciated.

Check out Sandy’s web site here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

I found this Teaser Tuesday on Sandy Fussell's "Stories are Light" Blog
and though it would be fun to have a go. The original concept came from the "Should be Reading" Blog.

So here is goes.

Griffin stopped to listen to the small sounds of the afternoon that mostly got lost amongst the busy living noises of his large family. It was so quiet that he could almost hear his heart beating. He unbuttoned his shirt and put his hand on his chest, over his heart. He remembered when Mama had let him press his face against her big belly, to feel the beginnings of Tishkin.

This excerpt is from "The Naming of Tishkin Silk" written by Glenda Millard with illustrations by Caroline Magerl.

It is a touching and beautiful book. If I had to describe it in one word, it would have to be Dreamy...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pictures and Growing Up

Urban Decay

I have done a few writing blog posts but since the blog is called Words and Pictures, I thought I should do a post with some of my art.

The picture above is one of my favourite pieces. It is acrylic on board mixed in with some watercolour. I couldn’t get the pickets the way I wanted in acrylic so I painted each picket as a separate watercolour painting and layered them onto the picture.

The theme of the piece, growing up, childhood lost, is recurrent in my work, particularly my writing. I was inspired to paint this after standing at the front of my old childhood home. Strangely enough, it doesn’t have a picket fence but that doesn’t matter.

The Ghosts of Childhood's End

There is a place called Childhood's End.
A place where dreams begin, and end.
Where children no longer wish for youth
And belief becomes a need for proof
When we, who know how childhood dies
Look back, like ghosts with hungry eyes.
Oh! To be a child again
And not just dream of Childhood's End.
Ok, so I couldn't help throwing is a few words.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Marketing Strategies for Fiction Writers

June 2009 will see the major release of J.C. Hutchins’ new supernatural thriller, Personal Effects: Dark Art.

The series was created by Jordan Weisman. Produced by entertainment company Smith & Tinker and published by St. Martin’s Press, Dark Art combines the narrative experience of a traditional thriller novel with an Alternate Reality Game.

Clues in the novel — and items that come with the novel, such as ID cards and photos — will propel readers into an online experience where they become protagonists themselves. Readers will learn more about the novel’s story, and unearth plot twists that the book’s heroes may never see.

Set in a mental institution for hopeless dead-enders, Personal Effects: Dark Art chronicles the life of Zach Taylor, a young and optimistic art therapist. Gifted at his job, he uses his patients’ personal effects — the personal items catalogued during their admission to the hospital — to help decipher the secrets of their mental problems.

But Zach is soon obsessed and overwhelmed when a new patient is admitted to the facility: a man who is a suspected serial killer. But how can this man have killed a dozen people when he’s blind? And how does he know how Zach will behave … before Zach himself does?

Read Zach’s notes. Call the phone numbers. Explore the websites. Follow the clues…

It seems productions like this are becoming more popular. Rick Riordan did a similar thing with "The 39 Clues" series, encouraging readers to become involved in the story and even offering up $25,000 woth of prizes as a bonus.

J.C. Huthcins has built up quite a following in the world of podcasting and released his first three novels "The 7th Son" trilogy as a free audio books through podiobooks. The number of subscribers to those first books lead to St Martin's Press picking up "Personal Effects - Dark Art" for publication. I'm a big fan of J.C.'s work and look forward to the release.

One added thing J.C Hutchins and Jordan Wiseman have done leading up to the release of the book in June 2009, is open the doors to Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital - well sort of. The invitation is not to visit BUT to be committed!

By visiting As they put it;

Welcome to a first-ever in publishing called Commit Yourself To The Brink.

Here, you’ll find ways to inject yourself into the Personal Effects universe and become a patient of art therapist Zach Taylor. Create a patient profile (complete with backstory), receive your admittance papers, contribute artwork, video and more … and earn the horrifically cool privilege to appear on Brinkvale’s official website.

Get creative. Get crazy. Get committed.

I have already started my profile for the site. I might even see you there.


Monday, March 16, 2009


What an intriguing idea.

Write-a-Book-in-a-Day is a fundraising initiative of the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre and Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. Write-a-Book-in-a-Day is a one-day writing marathon where sponsored teams will write a children's book in a day, raising funds 40% for KSPWC and 60% for Children's Hospitals in each Australian State. Additionally a copy of each finished book will be donated to the hospital library.

That is the gist of the contest.

Actually it is only half a day. Entrants in the three categories; Primary Schools, Under 18's and Open teams are emailed the details of the story they are to write at 8.00am. They are given a random setting, two human characters, one non human character, an issue and five random words and using these parameters, must plan, write, illustrate, print and bind the book by 8.00pm.

Teams consist of five to ten participants who must work together to complete the challenge. Teams nominate which children’s hospital receives the funds raised by them during the competition. Funds consist of the entry fee ($300 per team – 60% to the hospital) and 100% of any sponsorship money raised by the team members goes to their nominated children’s hospital.

The Write-a-Book-in-a-Day contest has been running since 2003. I think this would be an interesting challenge to undertake so I’m going on the hunt to find a team.
Further details can be found at :-

Friday, March 13, 2009

Role Models

As a fiction writer for children, I have just discovered how careful you need to be when creating your characters. There are impressionable children out there. Children who tend to model their behaviour on favourite characters.

Case in point:

In the afternoons, I work as a School Crossing Supervisor at the local primary school. Last week, a young girl about three years old came to the crossing with her mother to collect her brother from school. When they reached the crossing, the girl refused to hold her mother’s hand as they crossed the road.

“Dora doesn’t hold hands,” she stated defiantly.
“She does when she’s crossing a busy road,” her mother replied.
“No she doesn’t! She’s an explorer.” The girl shouted and ran across the road.

Luckily, I had the traffic stopped.

The same thing happened the next day as well and mum was getting frustrated.

I’m not a huge Dora the Explorer fan myself and have no idea if she holds hands crossing the road or not, but this girl needs to or she’ll end up a statistic. That’s not going to happen at my crossing. The paperwork for that would be unbelievable!

So, I had an idea and this is what I came up with. I printed it up on a fridge magnet.

The following day I took the girl aside and explained the picture to her; how Dora was holding Boots’ hand to keep him safe and how she had to hold mum’s hand so mum could keep her safe crossing the road.

I gave her the magnet as a reminder.

Every day since, she has held mum’s hand at the crossing and she always says hello and has a smile for me.

So the moral is write characters who will have a positive influence on children.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Recently, I found the Podiobook web site. For those of you who are not aware of the site, it hosts a large quantity of serialised audio books.

I know what you are thinking, “So what. Audio books have been around for years.” Well that’s true, but Podiobooks differ from most other audio book sites in one spectacular way. All the content is FREE!

Is there a catch? Well not really. Possibly, the only catch is that the quality of some of the content is average. That could also be a matter of personal taste. However, there are print books out on the bookshop shelves that could only be described as average too.

Most of the authors are not widely known in traditional publishing circles but there are exceptions to that rule too. Fantasy author Mercedes Lackey, and New York Times bestselling author Tracy Hickman both have content on the site. The authors who utilise the site do so mainly as a vehicle to promote their work and gain an audience. The books range from straight reads, usually by the authors themselves, through to scored, full cast audio dramas. There is nothing like reading a good book but sometime you don’t get the time. Audio books are great for listening to in the car, while out walking, doing the shopping or housework.

There is a facility on the site to donate money to an author if you enjoy the work but it is not a requirement for using the site or listening to the books. So, how do the authors make a living?

Some probably don’t. I can’t tell you how many people donate to the authors but many of the books on the site have print versions that are available for purchase, usually through Amazon or similar companies or through the author’s own sites. Early on, there was a lot of speculation that giving the book away free in an audio format would kill any chance of selling a printed version. This seems to be incorrect. Not everyone who listens to a book is going to buy it but some do. Many of the popular authors on the site attract a subscribed listening audience in the tens or even hundreds of thousands. Even if only a small percentage actually buys the book, it still relates to larger sales than most self or small press published books can boast. I personally have purchased four print titles from authors I found on the site. This is taking into consideration, the books were purchased through Amazon from the USA with prohibitive exchange rates and high postage costs. I can get traditionally published books of bestselling authors from book stores at a much cheaper rate but I have still purchased the books even though I can listed to them again any time I like.

Another recent development is that publishers are starting to take note. In these times where guaranteed sales are a huge factor in deciding what books publishers produce, authors coming to the table with a following of over 100,000 fans is a big selling point. Authors like Scott Sigler, Mur Lafferty, J.C Hutchins, Matthew Wayne Selznick, Tee Morris, Philippa Ballantine and Christiana Ellis have all recently been signed by publishing companies.

Another feature of the site for me is you can follow a link direct to the author’s personal web site. Unlike a lot of print book authors, the Podiobook authors encourage interaction from their audience and are happy to follow-up queries, respond to feedback and give advice. There are several Podiobook authors who I regularly maintain contact with.

My personal recommendations:

Playing for Keeps
by Mur Lafferty

Not so super, super heroes

Forever Fifteen

by Kimberly Steele

Ideal for fans of Stephanie Myres Twilight series

Brave Men Run

by Matthew Wayne Selznick

X-Men meets Breakfast Club

Billibub Baddings
and the Case of the Singing Sword

by Tee Morris

Classic detective novel meets Lord of the Rings

Quarter Share

by Nathan Lowell

(or any of Nathan's other books in the series)


by Scott Sigler

High action thriller (adult content and violence)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I've Got You Covered

Computers are wonderful tools for writers. The internet is an invaluable medium for research and networking with other writers and industry professionals. BUT, both also offer a myriad of distractions for writers.

I can’t count the times I have sat down, with all good intentions, to write only to discover I have checked and replied to my emails, taken a (not so) quick look at some of my favourite writing sites and done any other number of things on the net. The outcome of this is not a lot of writing going on.

One method I have employed to remedy this and cut through the distractions is to create the cover art for my current project and set it as my computer desktop screen. This does two things. First, it gives me the inspiration to complete the story and fill the space between the cover with writing. The second thing it does is to guilt me into writing. Every time I turn the computer on, my book cover flashes up before my eyes. It makes me feel guilty if I am not writing. So far it seems to be working.

My current Young Adult work in progress is a speculative thriller titled “The Zoo” deals with secret scientific experiments, animal cruelty, government conspiracy and trying to fit in.
Fifteen year old Mira is different to other teens. She has just moved into a new foster home, in a new city and she has made an enemy of the most popular student in her new school.
After a class excursion to The Zoo, where a prank against her has unexpected results, Mira begins to suspect she is being followed. She gets caught up in the middle of a series of deadly events she doesn't understand. Mira is sure it has something to do with Katt Baxter, a young teacher she met during her first days at Haven High several weeks earlier and who is now working as an education officer at The Zoo.

Strange things begin to happen, people disappear and Mira and Katt find themselves drawn together into terrible danger. There are powerful people who will do anything to guard their secrets. Making a fifteen year old foster child and a first year teacher disappear seems like the easiest solution.
The other thing I have discovered is that I really enjoy creating book cover art. I recently had my first cover art commission for Queensland Author, Cheree Smith, for her forthcoming novel "Reaper".

Hopefully I will have more opportunities soon, to create more book covers.