NEW book cover revealed!

Released by Satalyte Publishing 30 August at Gleebooks, Sydney


Satalyte Publishing has revealed the new cover for my novel, FAKE PROFILE. And I love it! The novel will be released on Saturday 30 August at Gleebooks in Sydney.

It’s going to be a very busy weekend that weekend because as well as the launch event, the novel will also feature at the Australian Book Expo at Sydney Olympic Park, 30-31 August. The book expo is a pretty big event. Organisers expect about 10 000 through the doors across the weekend. The first hour of both Saturday and Sunday are exclusively for teachers. This gives them a chance to browse the stalls and various publisher tables for school library and/or classroom resources before the general public are let in at 10am. You’ll be able to meet your favourite authors, get books signed, and find plenty of fabulous reading material, both as eBooks and pBooks.

I am also going to be speaking on a panel about the inspiration for my book . There was a particular event I witnessed first-hand that got me thinking about its premise. But you’ll have to come along to hear all about it!

The launch is at Gleebooks, 3:30pm Saturday 30 August. Come along and say hi.

Creating anomalous characters

charactersEmpathy is a valuable skill as a writer. Being able to put yourself in someone else’s position to get an idea of how and why they might think or feel about something is important when you are creating characters that might be different to yourself. But what about when it comes to understanding what motivates a person to do something that you yourself would or could never do? How do you go about writing such a scenario with any kind of authenticity when you can’t possibly conceive of it? Should you even try?

Every writer has heard the oft-used saying ‘write what you know’, and probably for good reason. Believability, even in fantasy, is what makes a strong story. Characters have to be genuine. And by genuine, I mean true to form, consistent, real. 

 If you’ve never had any experience of hatred, how can you write hate? If you’ve never been in love, how can you write a romance? If you’ve never been betrayed, how do you write about betrayal? If your natural state of being is one of optimism, how do you write a character that is depressed with any kind of authenticity?

I’m not suggesting that as an author, you shouldn’t create characters that experience these things, but you do need to at least understand what motivates people who experience emotions strong enough to drive them to actions that are outside of your personal experience.

Observing people, listening to people, talking to people who are polar opposites to yourself is one way to do this. And that is not necessarily an easy thing to do. Recently, I went to a workshop on Ethics and Integrity as part of a PhD conference I attended. As a PhD candidate it was help, but as a writer it was incredibly insightful.

 One of the scenarios we were presented with related to the ethics of animal testing and experimentation. Now as a long-time vegetarian and animal lover myself, I found it very challenging to hear some of the perspectives put forward by researchers who were involved in this type of activity; so much so that I found myself feeling quite distressed. Particularly as one of those outlining the necessity of such (abhorrent) activities, made his position seems so rational and (almost) understandable.

I caught myself in the middle of this conflicted emotion, took a step back, and just observed the group participants on both sides of the debate. Speakers for and against were getting equally as passionate, each trying to get their point across as vehemently as the other. I watched those arguing for the testing and really listened to what they were saying to try and get an isight into their motivations. I’d never before considered how anyone could really believe that using animals for research into humans could be a good thing. And I still don’t believe it. But listening to the discussion without emotion gave me a look inside a person who thought and felt very differently to me, in a way that I’d never really experienced before.

Though I found this observation incredibly challenging, as a writer it was fabulously insightful. I’ve always been a people watcher, it’s a valuable tool when creating characters. But if you get the opportunity to engage in people-watching in a situation that is completely outside your comfort zone, and remain detached and objective (well, as objective as you can possibly be), it can be an amazing experience and hugely beneficial to your writing.











The trouble with grammar


‘Intelligence supersedes grammar… Grammar is secondary to content… Language is changing anyway so grammar doesn’t really matter…’

These are some of the statements I (over)heard during the week at a conference I attended for PhD researchers. These candidates were were having informal discussions about their work and their personal processes in writing up their research.

As a writer, I was astounded. But as someone who recognises the need for content to be accessible, I was horrified. These people were completely missing the point. Grammar provides a structure for writing to ensure that it is able to be read. As I tell my writers’ group participants, grammar is the road rules of writing. It is a set of rules that, if followed, ensures everyone is able to read your writing. Grammar provides a framework for communication.

In the context of the conference, I had to wonder, what is the point of spending 60+ hours a week for four years reading, researching, analysing, synthesising, then writing up your work if you can’t communicate it?

There are many issues relating to grammar, not the least of which is credibility. Credibility is vitally important in effective communication.The mechanics of writing can’t be underestimated if a writer wants to present a credible, trustworthy message. There seems to be a common (mis)perception that if the material to be read contains information that is intelligent and important, then people will read it regardless. This is not necessarily the case.

Reading any type of communication, whether it be a novel, an email, a blackboard menu (and haven’t we all fought the urge to edit one of these?), or a thesis, is is done so with a common understanding of what it is to read. And thought the definition of ‘reading’ is changing (the subject of my PhD and a discussion for another time),  this should not undermine or reduce the importance of the common understanding by which we currently read and understand material. Each language has its own syntax, and to communicate effectively in whichever language you use, you must understand and be able to replicate it in order to communicate with others, especially in the written format.

Generally speaking, people will not be able to see through a grammatically incompetent piece of writing to recognise the value of the content. If a person wants to establish themselves in a field with any kind of authority, they must be credible; not just in their specific field, but in the broader context. And that means being able to engage people.

I’m not just talking about PhDs here. If you are an aspiring writer and you send a query to an agent or publisher, do you really think they’ll read past the first grammatical error they see? Probably not.

I used to get a lot of requests to review books and/or manuscripts. Some authors made the job of rejecting a manuscript easy. I’d delete any emails that were not grammatically sound, without even reading the abstract. Often, one paragraph in an email would tell me more about a writer, than the entire content of their manuscript. Sound harsh? It probably is, but it is also indicative of being time poor. And aren’t we all time poor these days?

Another example of how important grammar is to credibility came to mind recently when I received an email newgrammar2sletter from a local politician. There was an error in the very first line. I moved to delete the email but then noticed the picture of the person and recognised him. It was a young politician that I’d met and spoken to at length a few months prior. He was earnest and idealistic (as many pollies are when they first start out) and he genuinely wanted to make a difference. Instead of deleting his attempt to reach out to his community, I edited his email and sent it back with an offer to edit future communications. He accepted, gratefully.

People don’t generally notice correct grammar, they’re too busy reading the content of the message. But people DO notice bad grammar and are quick to dismiss it BEFORE getting to the content, hence message lost. Don’t let this happen to you.

So, back the to the title of this post, grammar doesn’t really matter… WRONG!  GRAMMAR DOES MATTER. Use it properly. Or if you can’t use it yourself, get someone who can to help you out.

Fellow grammarphiles might appreciate Weird Al Yankovich’s take on the matter. Watch the video above.


Are Australian Authors Being Priced Out of the Market?

I had an interesting conversation with a school librarian the other day.  She’d just received a shipment for her school library and was chatting about the titles she’d ordered. I asked what criteria she used when deciding what books she wanted. She said value for money was important, and though she tried to include a few books from Australian authors ‘if she could’, it wasn’t always possible to do so.

The response surprised me. I -perhaps naively- thought it should’ve been the other way around. After all, this is an Australian primary school. I assumed the majority of titles would’ve been from Australian authors with maybe a few foreign titles. The librarian raised one eyebrow and said, “That would mean maybe five new books for the library, instead of 25.”

It got me thinking. And worrying.

I’m getting ready for the release of my novel at the end of August. And the price the publisher has set is ten dollars more expensive than any of the books the librarian purchased for the school library. I understand why the book is priced the way it is. My publisher is a small Australian publishing house, and he wants to use Australian printers and distributors. And I am totally with him on this. We need to support and promote the local industry.

This country is not without great writers. We have some fantastic authors of children and young-adult fiction and non-fiction. Iconic even, for generations of kids. But as the writing and publishing context changes, and ebooks, PODS, and cheap overseas printers become the norm, how will this impact on the local industry?

 If a school librarian won’t pay more than $15 for any title, where does that leave the Australian publisher who can’t get a book printed and marketed locally for much less than that? And if the publisher is forced to look elsewhere for printing and distribution, where does that leave local printers? If booksellers can’t  sell Australia titles for the price of the cheaper imports, will they continue to buy local authors’ products?

And if kids aren’t exposed to Australian writers at a time in their lives when they’re most likely to read –at school, will they continue to look elsewhere (online, overseas) for new reading material as they grow and their reading interests mature?

What does all this mean for Australian authors? Particularly those who are aspiring and emerging authors? Thoughts…?