The very time you need a cape…

I had it all planned.

Catch the local train, swap to Bendigo train. Arrive in time for Lorraine to pick me up on the way to the Library for the launch of her new book, ‘Chantelle’s Cloak’. Good plan.

Didn’t plan on the rain though. Wiped out the signals alllll along the track and turned a 1 hour early arrival into something other. I arrived 5 minutes after the Library locked the doors AFTER THE LAUNCH.

And I’d made a cape an’ all.

Sigh, nothing for it.

Lorraine and I played dress-ups all by ourselves.

Under construction

 This fence is made from stripped coconut leaf-fronds. Not sure what it was keeping in – or out – there were only two sides…

This construction was on a tiny island which appeared to only have vertical cliff faces for ‘shores’. Apparently the ‘birds-nest collectors’ only come after the birds have nested and moved on, but security protects the ten-year leases of this site all year round.
This ‘pier’ was constructed from lego-like connections between pieces that resembled – and felt like –  airfilled, plastic bottles. Even the ‘safety’ rails were constructed from the same plastic with single rope-link.

How you define ‘under construction’ or ‘temporary’? When does something become ‘constructed’ or ‘permanent’? Or dare one say, ‘finished’? Is anything ever finished?


 While in Thailand recently, it was easy to be overawed by the size and splendour of royal buildings and temples. And sometimes it is in looking closely that the majesty of the constructions can be appreciated. For me anyway. Here are three close looks.

Ceramics on a stupa, I think

 A window shutter

This on a pillar at Wat Po, temple of the reclining buddha.

Sometimes I think I should be linking the images I post to a piece of wisdom about writing. But I seldom feel I have wisdom, let alone am in a position to advise others. So I offer these images because they appeal to me, pure and simple, and perhaps they will speak to you, however they will.

A poem for National Poetry Week

the earth holds her breath
and the air hangs
heavy as a sleeping child
far away
thunder rumbles a warning
and the wind puffs
tiny cool-breath promises
clouds boil and bubble
darken and double
and light drops
sudden as a lightbolt
it arrives
sky empties
angry fistful after fistful
bouncing sliding running away until
the earth wakes fresh
the day begins again

Flowers and fruit

When we arrived in Bangkok airport recently, we had to wait some hours for our connecting flight in an almost empty airport. It was easy to see the beautiful flower pots that were liberally scattered through the terminals.

And once we arrived at our destination, the fruit and flower offerings weren’t much less spectacular. 

And it didn’t hurt that this was the view from the restaurant…

Welcome J. E. Fison

Books! Books! Everywhere there are books and stories. 
Today, welcome to J. E. Fison, author of the Hazard River series from Ford St Publishing. These two new titles, ‘Toads’ Revenge’ and ‘Blood Money’ are the fifth and sixth in the Hazard River series.

Welcome Julie!
Why children’s books? How did you begin?
The idea of writing children’s fiction crept up on me during a family holiday on the Noosa River a few years ago. My sons teamed up with friends and spent the summer exploring the river, building secret bases, finding useful stuff, dodging snakes and avoiding stingrays. I was inspired. My children liked the first story I wrote – Shark Frenzy, so I kept writing. I am happy to say my sons don’t get into as much trouble as the gang at Hazard River does – finding themselves up against smugglers, dodgy developers and rogue fishermen. Although there are scary animals on the front covers of the Hazard River books (thanks to the very talented Marc McBride), the animals are the good guys. The mutant cane toads on the cover of Toads’ Revenge are the exception to that. 
How did your previous jobs prepare you for writing for children?
I have been writing professionally, I suppose, since my first job in 1986. I started out as a television news reporter in regional New South Wales, then worked in news in Hong Kong and London, before returning to Australia and writing freelance business and travel pieces as well as doing marketing. News is great training for writing concisely and simply – both good assets for writing for children. But in television news, the pictures carry a lot of information – you don’t have to describe something that the viewers can see for themselves. So, I’ve had to work at building detail into my stories and making things up! The other job that’s very useful for writing for children is motherhood. I am a mother of two boys – extremely valuable training for writing children’s fiction.
Did you plan for Jack and his friends to be part of a series at the start? Or did you set it up for a single story? If series, how many did you plot?
I had a series in mind from the start. My own children love a series, so I thought that was a good enough reason to write one. I also felt that Jack Wilde, his brother Ben and their friends Mimi and Lachlan had a lot of adventures still in them after the first story – Shark Frenzy. I wrote four stories initially, so when I pitched to Ford Street Publishing, I had a series all ready to go, which appealed to them.
Toad’s Revenge crosses over into almost spec fiction, whereas the first two books in the Hazard River series, although wild adventures, were more grounded in reality. How has the series changed over its evolution?
There wasn’t anything conscious about moving Toads’ Revenge to the future, but I was looking for a new place at Hazard River for the kids to explore. And the future is where I found it. I have retained the environmental theme with the two new stories Toads’ Revenge and Blood Money, and they are still fun and action-packed, but I’m trying not to go over old ground – which I guess is the danger in a series that is set in one place.
Will Jack, Ben, Mimi and Lachlan stay the same age? Was that a conscious decision?
There are six stories in the series so far and they are all set over one summer holiday, so the kids don’t age more than a few weeks. I think when you’re young Christmas holidays just seem to go on and on and that’s what happens at Hazard River. It’s an action-packed summer!
List Jack Wilde’s five favourite foods. Does Ben like the same ones?
Jack Wilde is a bit of a foodie. He’s very keen on pancakes (with all the toppings) and likes custard pies, apples pie, blueberry pie, in fact any kind of pie. Having spent a bit of time in China town, he’s also a big fan of BBQ pork buns, but draws the line at chickens’ feet. Ben is happy to try anything once!
Are there more adventures on the way? Others stories?
I think there’s still time on the summer holiday for one or two more adventures at Hazard River. I am also working on a trilogy for teenage girls. I want them to be fun – I think there’s space in the market for more laughs for girls. Why should boys have all of the fun!
See more details at
Read my blog for young writers WRITE NOW at
Or see the Hazard River trailer at
The Hazard River series is published by Ford Street Publishing. Covers are by Marc McBride.
Thanks for visiting, Julie

Second annual Yea MARC Literary Festival

Yesterday, I was at Flowerdale for the second Annual Yea MARC Literary Festival with four other author/illustrators (from L: Diana Lawrenson, Libby Ahern, Mark Wilson, moi, Corinne King and Marjory Gardner). Four other schools were bussed in for the day. It’s organised by the indefatigable Libby Ahern and enjoyed by us all.

For the rest of the year, Libby drives the library van around to small schools in the region who don’t have libraries of their own. Mark painted the van and it features all manner of Australian native animals.

Can’t wait for next year.

Welcome Tania McCartney!

It’s always nice to have visitors (when else would the house be cleaned and the fine china dusted off?) and today my visitor is Tania McCartney.

Welcome Tania!

Tania’s journey to publication took a different path to mine, and is a fascinating story. Today she talks about that process and contrasts it with the publication of her newest book, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat.

Whenever I tell people I’m an author, they invariably ask me how I got published. Of course, asking that question is like asking the length of that proverbial piece of string, but suffice to say, after many years of wallpapering my house with rejection slips, I was first published (You Name It, Hodder Headline 1995) thanks to hard work, tenacity and patience.

I have to say, however, that patience is not my strongest point – and this was one of the main reasons I ended up falling into self-publishing. It was never planned – it just sort of happened that way.

After Jill-of-All-Trade-ing my way through my 20s and 30s, it wasn’t until my late 30s that I finally found myself in the glorious position to be able to write full time. We were on post in Beijing when I began sketching out the idea for my first children’s picture book. When Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing was finished, I considered submitting it to publishers in Australia, but a unique set of circumstances instead pushed me to explore self-publishing.

The first circumstance was the aforementioned impatience. The second was my strong desire to explore the world of publishing. The third was the fact that printing books in China was exceedingly inexpensive. The fourth was that I was a Kids Editor, Features Writer and Columnist for three English language expat magazines, and therefore had media support and market saturation at my disposal.

These elements all came together to form a beautiful, ripe, self-publishing cherry, which I plucked at just the right time. The way in which Sleeping Dragon came together was truly fortuitous and so began a Self-Publishing journey that has completely changed my life.

Although my SP journey fell easily into place, self-publishing is far from easy. The actual process is simple enough – but it’s the full time and endless dedication and professionalism required for this process that really sorts the wheat from the chaff.

I do NOT stop. Marketing my four self-published books has been an all-encompassing task that demands my time night and day, seven days a week. I am only one woman, and have a family to run, a house to maintain and hair-washing to perform on the odd occasion… and even then, these parts of my life are often neglected (especially the hair).

So then… if it’s all so intense, why self-publish? And what benefits does self-publishing have over trade publishing?

The first hurdle to Self-Publishing is the stigma. Self-published books have traditionally been seen as substandard and unprofessional, and this is mostly thanks to the Vanity Self-Publishing companies who will publish anything and everything (yes, even unedited or substandard books) if an author is willing to pay them the money to do so.

Thankfully, as more and more authors turn to Outsourcing Self-Publishing (where, like myself, the creators do everything – bar printing and binding – themselves) and make use of the professional-standard software and printing capabilities available to virtually anyone, the quality of books on the Self-Publishing scene is rapidly improving.

In a technical sense, creating a publishing-house standard book is now relatively easily… if you are willing to research the processes and operate to the highest standards across all areas of the book-creation process. Teachers and industry professionals who have seen my Riley the Little Aviator books have told me they had no idea they were ‘self-published’ – but I had to work incredibly hard to ensure these books were of the highest standard, and I wore many hats, from typesetter to market researcher to book distributor.

This is one of the many downsides of self-publishing. You need to wear so many hats and need to be skilled in or spend a lot of time learning, in many areas. The hours required are relentlessly long and don’t stop once the book hits the shelves – in fact, that’s when the work just begins. Writing, editing, printing, publishing are all good and well – but marketing, promoting, distributing and selling are the most vital parts of the publishing puzzle… and these things continue to challenge me. Remember, I am only one woman. And I have hair to occasionally wash.

Going through a publishing house means an author has a team of professionals behind them. They have a system that has been in place for many years that runs like a well-oiled machine, with existing structures, contacts and resources in place. When self-publishing, you only have yourself. Filling all these myriad roles is overwhelming and worst of all – has little capacity for market saturation.

Publishing houses know all about market saturation. Not only do new books need to reach maximum potential buyers, they need to be physically distributed across the country (and around the world). One wife and mother with a neglected kitchen floor has little chance of getting 10,000 book copies onto shelves around the country. This issue is, absolutely, the biggest hurdle for any self-publisher – and securing a book distribution company for self-published books is vital.

And unless you’re extremely and freakishly lucky, no, you will not sell 25,000 copies by selling exclusively from your website. In fact, you’ve got more chance of being accepted by a major publisher than doing this.

Then there’s the upfront cost of self-publishing. Whilst printing in Australia has become much more affordable, a decent print run costs a considerable whack of money. You do, however, make between 30 and 80 per cent of the retail price on all books sold, which makes recouping that outlay relatively fast (if you are an active seller).

Through a traditional publisher, the author generally stands to earn between just 5 and 10 per cent of RRP, but there is no upfront cost, a lovely advance payment on royalties is usually received, and the author has the backing of a team of professionals, not to mention major market-saturation and distribution.

They also have ‘credibility’, which self-publishers often lack.

So, if it’s all so hard, why self-publish at all? For me, a set of unusual circumstances made it an affordable, lucrative, very do-able option. It’s been much harder with my two last self-published books (being that I published them when we returned to Australia) but I have persisted and I do feel it has been more than worth it. My self-published books have been so well-received, I have no doubt they’ve helped me enormously with my writing career.

But just because I self-published four books, doesn’t mean I’ll do so forever. I only have a limited amount of hours in my day! Since returning to Australian in 2009, I’ve continued to avidly pursue trade publishers and have secured three new publishing deals – so I’m by no means ‘anti’ trade publishing. What I am about is exploration and following the desire to learn and grow as an author – to seize the moment and believe in your work. And if that means giving the Self-Publishing route a go, then by all means do it.

Self-publishing has been an intense journey but it’s also been the greatest professional achievement of my life, and I’ve loved every minute of it. For those of you tossing up the idea of self-publishing, consider the following pros and cons before making that decision. Whichever route you choose, my most important piece of advice is simply this: do everything with Excellence.

Trade Publishing Cons

·         having to wait many months, even years to have manuscript submissions looked at

·         being able to wallpaper your house in rejection slips

·         having your work altered or edited; releasing creative control

·         waiting for lengthy periods before publication

·         publishers have other books to market; you’ll still need to commit to promoting your work wherever possible

·         no guarantees for success

Trade Publishing Pros

·         gaining credibility and status

·         having your work looked at more readily by other publishers

·         gaining invaluable publishing industry connections and relationships

·         market saturation

·         potential to earn good money

·         prestige

Self-Publishing Cons

·         stigma associated with SP (rapidly improving)

·         the extensive research, outsourcing and learning required

·         heavy, non-stop workload

·         up-front costs

·         can take a while to recoup outlays

·         distribution costs (around 70% of RRP)

·         distribution saturation issues

·         market saturation issues

·         you cannot rely on self-published work to secure a trade publisher

·         having few people to rely on for help

·         having to wear so many hats

·         no guarantees for success

Self-Publishing Pros

·         having full control of the look and feel of your work; creative fulfilment

·         being able to publish at whim; when it suits you

·         if you do it well, your books could attract the attention of trade publishers

·         being able to sell book copies directly and earn a large percentage on RRP

·         gaining invaluable publishing industry connections and relationships

·         learning an invaluable part of the publishing industry

·         potential to earn good money if you work extremely hard

·         it’s great fun

See for more on Tania’s work.

 Tania is going to need Riley’s plane and all of his gadgets if she is to achieve all the stops on this blog tour! Go here for details. Good luck and here are your goggles Tania. Thanks for visiting.