Sunday, 10 August 2014

Andy Flegg at the Australian Book Design Awards

This week is a big week for Andy Flegg as I've just found out that the  book has been short listed for the People's Choice Award at the 62nd Bookworld/Australian Book Design Awards. 

Whilst I can claim a tiny  bit of the credit for including a very dodgy map that was in theory similar to this in the original manuscript, I think its fair to say pretty much all the credit for the book's nomination must go to Tony Palmer and Penguin Australia's creative people for coming up with the final design.

So yes, perhaps you can't always judge a book by its cover, but it seems you can judge the cover by the cover.

If you like this and want to have your say, go here and scroll down to vote. If you don't like it and want to vote, go here.

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Writing Process Blog Hop continued...

This blog tour/hop thing comes courtesy of the wonderful CristyBurne; the globetrotting, former garbage analyst and science circus performer who is probably best known for her fantastic Takeshita Demons series.

Cristy kindly tagged me to respond to the four burning questions that every half competent author is surely asking themselves each and every day.

So, here are my answers. 

What am I working on?
Right now I am surely just days away from completing what will certainly be the very last draft of the follow up to the Not Bog Standard short story collection,  whilst simultaneously embarking on an incredibly exciting new series of junior fiction novels so devilishly clever and addictively entertaining that if I told you a single detail about them here I would have no choice but to hunt you down and remove several of your body parts with a pencil until you swore on your favourite pet’s life to keep it a total secret.   So yes, that is a very long sentence and it’s definitely best I don’t say anymore.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?
Every author’s work is about seeing the world through their own filter and mine is mostly all about humour. I have it on good authority (everyone in my family, at least) that this part of my brain peaked at the developmental level of an immature twelve year old. But the adult part of me also occasionally likes to explore some serious issues too. Hopefully this mix makes for a mildly original take on kid’s fiction.

Why do I write what I write?
Because an idea gets stuck in my head and I have to write it down to make it go away.
Also because I enjoy doing it or at least I enjoy the act of having created something.
Mostly because someone else has already written Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.

How does my writing process work?
The answer to this question seems to vary quite a lot depending on time of day, what I ate last night and generally how I am feeling at any given moment.  In the past I have been at both ends of the scale and everywhere in between – In my anal retentive phase I spent hours spread sheeting everything, writing reams of notes, planning flow charts, character profiles and anything else I could think of to delay the inevitable attempt at anything creative. At other times I have simply launched into a project without any idea of where it is going from one paragraph to the next.

The truth is, both approaches have worked and both have also failed. I am still none the wiser as to the right way to do this except to say that I’m not sure it even matters as long as the idea is a good one and remains strong and authentic all the way through.  Just to bring you up to date, my main strategy just recently has been to try to avoid absolutely any form of procrastination (housework, personal hygiene, toilet breaks etc) and commit to writing as frequently and regularly as possible.

And now the handball...
 I have deftly passed the blog hop tour thing mantle onto fellow Readings Children’s Book prize shortlisted nominee, Penny Tangey.

Penny currently lives in Melbourne and when not pumping out highly acclaimed YA fiction she hangs out with a stuffed horse at Museum Victoria. In a previous life she also had a pretty good go at being a stand up comedian and on top of all that even had time to make a very interesting video about nappies.

So far she has authored three YA fiction novels, the latest being Stay Well Soon.  She is undoubtedly way more talented than me and already on the road to author stardom, which is why I am hoping she can at least say something sensible about her writing process that I might be able to steal for my own desperate purposes. Over to you Penny.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Aiming for the Stars!

Some thirty plus years after winning my first writing award (The Lyons Maid Ice Cream Company’s ‘Best Story About Our Zoom Icy Pole Award’), I am pleased to announce, I finally have an outside shot an one more.

No not another gong for my classic tale of the Zoom rocket ship that flies to frozen planet and gets eaten by very appreciative aliens. This time it’s for Andy Flegg which has just been shortlisted for Readings inaugural Children’s Book Prize. You can check it out here.

The winner won’t be announced until July and sadly even if I do win, I don’t think these guys do the 'year’s supply of icy poles' thing. But it’s still very exciting all the same!


Monday, 24 March 2014

Festival Fun

I’m currently recovering from a hectic but brilliant few days at the Somerset Celebration of Literature Festival on the Gold Coast and I have to say thanks to so many people who made it so.

Firstly to all the kids who came to my sessions, bought my books or just bailed me up for a chat. Secondly to all the other authors who were so generous with their time and words of wisdom who made the entire experience such fun. And finally to the fantastic organizers and their awesome army of parent and student volunteers who did it all with such good grace and style.

Highlights, apart from living on a diet of junk food and buying a stack of great books, had to be getting to listen in on so many hilarious, insightful, inspirational and/or simply genuinely entertaining authors do their thing.

The legendary Freya and Sophia
Lowlights which were very few, would definitely be my brush with the dangerously inedible ‘Inferno’ pizza and the random rattling shopping trolleys at a rather weird panel discussion about writing humour, that was (for no obvious reason) held outside a suburban Coles supermarket.

Anyone anywhere near the Gold coast in March 2015, I thoroughly recommend that you put Somerset into your calendar-maybe skip the Coles thing though, unless squeaky heckling is your thing.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Short story writing - some thoughts

A big thanks to Shenton College here in Perth, for last week inviting me in to talk to their 'year nine' students on the art of short story writing.

Apart from being lots of fun, talking about writing for me at least is also a great way to consciously consider the process I am trying to follow. It’s very easy to simply sit down and write without thinking too much about the rules that I know work for me.  So for anyone who's interested, here are a few of my favourites:

Your creative brain is a muscle that needs regular exercise. Analyse the books you read and think about how your favourite authors bring their stories to life. Take their work apart and try to identify any elements you might want to replicate in your own writing.

Start with a connection
Find a theme or topic that you actually care about or are interested in – your writing will be far better if you do.

Flip your head and ask 'what if..?' 
Brainstorm for plot ideas and always write them down together on one piece of paper. Seeing them together in concrete, black and white is very different from collecting a bunch of  thoughts in your head.

Crazy beats cliched 
Take risks and don’t be afraid to try something that may at first appear too ‘out there’. 

If you’re stuck for ideas then think about themes that resonate for you. Write your own simple log-lines for your favourite books and films.  Are these plots you could adapt too? This is not the same as plagiarizing!

Start with a plan 
I know not all writers do this but I can’t work without one. A rough understanding of where the plot is going and how it might be resolved, informs my writing as I go. That doesn't mean things won’t change but I find it helps to avoid hitting that wall.

Remember the genre
One or two main characters dealing with a single conflict, usually over a short period of time. Avoid complex back stories and sub plots-those are for novels.

Experiment with your voice
Find what works for you - choose a point of view, tense and mix of action, thought and speech to carry the plot forward. If it doesn't feel right then change things around.

Don’t lobotomize your characters. 
If you don’t believe in them then your reader won’t either.  Get inside their heads and highlight their flaws and unique traits. No one is perfect and if they were they’d be boring. See the world through their eyes and keep checking your writing to see if it still rings true.

Hook em
Have a great hook to grab your reader. No right or wrong way to do this as long as it’s compelling, relevant to where your story is going and raises questions the reader will want to find answers for.

Less is more 
This is true for all writing but short stories are called that for a reason. No one wins prizes for word counts. If the text isn't telling the reader something important about the plot or your characters then why is it there? 

The short story arc is a roller-coaster not a mole hill. 
Scene setting and character building is all done within the plot. Introduce the problem up front and move rapidly to the climax using a series of complications. If you find yourself writing a flat patch then it isn't going to work .

Short stories don’t have epilogues. 
A good ending is a succinct one. Move the character past the conflict then finish with a neat line or two to wrap it up. Open ended resolutions can be great but are also very risky. Only use them if it’s clear the reader is left with two possible alternatives. This is not the same as running out of steam and leaving your climax hanging – that’s called a cop-out.

Did I say read a lot? Do that one again.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

There and back again...and again

With the holidays in full swing, what better way to escape Perth’s latest heatwave than with a fun packed family outing to a nice air conditioned cinema? And with my entire clan all fully paid up members of the Mr Tolkien franchise fan club, it seemed we had little choice but to check out the latest Middle Earth blockbuster.

Not saying I didn’t enjoy it, but whilst chomping through my own body weight in popcorn, I couldn’t help wondering what Andy Flegg might make of it. A keen movie critic and Lord of the Rings (LOTR) fan himself, it seems to me he may have felt a little let down...
Desolation of Smaug review by Andy Flegg

Warning - Contains spoilers!
Here’s the good news - Unlike the movie, this review will not require multiple meal breaks and a family sized adult nappy pack.

In a nutshell, Hobbit 2 continues to follow the adventures of a furry footed Dr Watson from the Sherlock TV series, who for no obvious reason has teamed up with Gandalf the (not very) magical tramp from LOTR, plus a crew of height challenged medieval bikies (AKA the dwarves).
For reasons not clear, the dwarf bikies are convinced that Dr Watson can help them find their ancestral home known as Lost Mountain, that yes, you guessed it - they’ve lost. 

Sadly without the aid of modern day GPS equipment or apparently even a decent map, all of them spend the first few hours of the movie wandering aimlessly around an old LOTR set. The action only really gets going when Gandalf finally gets bored and dumps them for one of his tramp mates. Shortly after this, Dr Watson and the bikies get captured by a very freaky looking Orlando Bloom and his family of angry Swedish hippies (AKA the elves).
It’s never actually explained why the hippies are so angry, but I’m guessing that it may have something to do with Orlando’s disastrous series of DIY botox experiments that have left his once handsome face looking like an over inflated yellow beach ball.

Dr Watson can't help him but luckily he can still do the old ‘one ring to rule everyone’ trick which he cunningly uses to free his little mates. However, shortly after escaping the hippies, the bikies totally luck out again and are set upon by an even angrier mob of Western Sydney Wanderers supporters (AKA the orcs), who presumably mistake them for Melbourne Victory fans.
The good guys eventually get away by cleverly pretending to get smashed to pieces in some rapids and a couple of giant waterfalls. Then their luck finally turns for the better when they meet a sulky boatman who seems to think he’s still auditioning for Aragorn’s part in LOTR. After Sulky Aragorn takes them to his smelly village they fortuitously spot the lost mountain they’ve been looking for, right next door.

After yet another punch up with the angry hippies and the furious soccer thugs, Dr Watson and most of the bikies finally make it up to the mountain. There the head bikie who has spent large chunks of the movie mistakenly reading from Boromir's old LOTR script, decides to send Dr Watson inside the mountain alone. Sadly the furry footed medical sleuth totally stuffs this bit up and wakes a giant dragon who can not only speak perfect English but just happens to have exactly the same voice as Treebeard the Ent  from LOTR. What are the chances?
That’s pretty much it, apart from far too many lame scenes where the bikies try (and fail) to be funny and lots of much more amusing CGI action stuff where the bikies and the hippies compete to see who can come up with the most creative methods for killing the soccer thugs.

As for a Rotten Tomatoes score, I would give it 45% and summarise by saying it was a bit like watching the original LOTR on novocaine whilst having your wisdom teeth taken out by a plumber. Not totally excruciating exactly, but way too much needless gore and definitely took far too long.





Monday, 4 November 2013

Lost dog seeking help from time management guru.

Having a problem with time management?

Spending your whole life constantly struggling against a tide of ever growing critical ‘must do’ commitments?

Are even the simple tasks of keeping food in the fridge and maintaining basic hygiene a challenge in your insanely time poor world of 24/7 chaos and guilty stolen power naps?

If so then you’ll know what I’m saying when I tell you that having committed to a full time teaching role for  the remainder of the year, I have been struggling just a little with finding large chunks of time to dedicate to this blog, in between continuing my writing.

Personally I’m not even sure if it would bother me, if I didn't know there were a whole subset of disgustingly perfect people out there who can do all this stuff in their sleep.

It’s hard to smile sweetly and say the right thing when some perfectly groomed uber person tells me how lazy they feel for only writing one novel this year when the only other commitments they've had have been juggling the house renovation with their short six month stint building a water treatment plant in that African refugee camp. And how it almost felt like cheating because their six month old triplets are such ridiculously easy kids to breast feed.

 Normally I avoid these people like the plague. I figure why make yourself feel totally inadequate for no reason. But desperate times call for desperate measures and that’s why I’m asking for help now.  

Are you that person? If so I need to know. What’s your big secret? How do you do it? And where do all those hundreds of extra hours come from?

And if you won’t do it for me, then please do it for my family. My daughter’s school uniform is so dirty, even she’s started complaining-and that’s saying something. Plus if the things in the fridge aren't
thrown away soon, someone is going to get bitten.

And that’s not even mentioning the dog.  She’s been lost in our back yard since we came back from holiday. If I don’t somehow cut the grass this weekend, there’s every chance we may never see her again. Would someone who cares about African refugees really want a rotting dog on their conscience? I don't think so. 

So forget all that stuff I said about you under my breath and let’s put our differences aside. We don’t have to be friends forever. In fact I promise I’ll go back to hating you next year as if none of this had ever happened. But just this once, can’t you please share your secret?

Remember my blog may depend on it.