Blog, blog, bog

Bog instead of Blog! If I could have a dollar for every time I’ve made that typo. One missing letter and you have a potential catastrophe (albeit a rather amusing one). Mostly it happens on Twitter. I’ll quickly post a link to a bog instead of a blog. I did it this morning.

I wrote a guest post about character names for the blog of fellow author Goldie Alexander (see “What’s in a name?”). The post went online this morning and I Tweeted about it.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Guest post on Goldie Alexander’s bog about character names…

Thankfully I spotted my error and deleted the Tweet within seconds, replacing the offending typo.

Anyway… this got me thinking about blogs. These days, it seems like every author and his dog has one. And all these authors are also doing guest posts on other people’s blogs. I certainly seem to spend more time writing blog posts than fiction.

I write two regular blogs — this one and a DVD/Blu-ray reviews blog called Viewing Clutter. I also write an irregular blog on my homepage. In addition to this I write guest posts on other people’s blogs, mostly as a way of promoting my blogs and my books.

I write my blogs as a way of cementing my ‘author brand’. Although I must admit that I hate that term — ‘author brand’. It makes me sound like a packet of breakfast cereal or some such thing on a supermarket self. But in today’s publishing industry, it’s a reality. Authors need to get out there and create a brand and be recognisable, so that each time they bring out a new book, people will know about it… and hopefully buy it.

Branding aside (god, now I have an image of corralled authors being herded like cattle), I actually enjoy writing my blogs. I like inflicting my opinions on an unsuspecting blogosphere. And there’s no editor telling me what I can or can’t say… which is not necessarily a good thing, but it is liberating.

As for the guest posts… they are usually specifically focussed on promoting a particular book or series of books. So, as well as my post on Goldie’s site, other recent guest posts that I’ve written, have all been about my Gamers books and, in particular, the latest one, Gamers’ Challenge. Want a couple of examples? Of course you do…

I’ve written about setting novels within virtual worlds for Ian Irvine’s blog.

I’ve written about book trailers for Ripping Ozzie Reads.

I’ve written about letting my imagination run wild for ReadPlus.

Etc, etc…

And, of course, I’ve hosted guest posts from other authors here on Literary Clutter. Recent visiting authors have included Ian Irvine, Sean McMullen, Simon Hayes and JE Fison.

Is all this blogging actually helping authors? You know, I have absolutely no idea. I know that people are reading my blogs (In fact, I’ve got stats apps that are telling me exactly how many people.). But I don’t know if my blogging has helped me to sell any more books. Do people who read my blogs also read my books? I’ve no way of knowing.

So, why do I keep doing it?

Well, for the time being I’m enjoying it. And so long as I’m enjoying it, I’ll keep doing it. If it ever gets to be a chore; if it ever stops being fun — that’s when I’ll stop. In the meantime, you’ll just have to put up with me. 😉

Catch ya later,  George

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Ian Irvine goes up and down

Australian fantasy author Ian Irvine has a new novel. Vengeance is the first book in a new series called The Tainted Realm. Today, Ian has dropped by to tell us a little about the up and downs of being a writer. Take it away Ian…

The Ups and Downs of Writing
By Ian Irvine

It’s a rum business being a writer. No matter how many books one has written, it doesn’t get any easier.

Well, that’s not entirely true. After 24 years, I still feel a sick horror when I look at one of my appalling first drafts, though I comfort myself with the thought that almost all writers hate their drafts. ‘The first draft of anything is shit,’ said Hemingway. And also, having written 27 novels totalling 3.6 million words, I generally know how to fix the draft, though doing so can be like breaking rocks in a prison yard.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. One of the best things about being a writer is the dream – that the book I’m about to write will be original or provocative or funny or life-changing, or non-stop, edge-of-the-seat suspenseful. Sometimes, in moments of authorial madness, all of the above. And everything in my life, every snippet of research, every odd idea jotted down or moment of inspiration (for instance the article I just read about books being carved into sculptures) can go into the pot, get a good stir, simmer for weeks or years, then miraculously and effortlessly flow into the story. Ha!

One of the very worst parts of being a writer is grinding out the first draft. It usually starts well, and sometimes runs well for as much as eight or ten chapters. Vengeance, my latest huge epic fantasy novel (Book 1 of The Tainted Realm,) did. And I was lulled, poor fool that I am. Yes, I thought, this book is going to be a snap.

Then come the days when I sit down to write and every word comes with an effort, every sentence is banal, every character cardboardy and done to death, every situation clichéd, boring and repetitive. Those snippets I talked about earlier have been discarded like confetti – none of them worked; none inspired. What’s gone wrong? What if I’m one of those writers who only has a few books in him, and I’ve used all my ideas up? I start to think that I’ll never write anything worth reading again.

Nearly every novel has this stage, which generally occurs about a quarter of the way in, and sometimes lasts until half-way. Of all my books, the only ones I’ve not been stuck on were the last two books of my humorous adventure stories for younger readers, Grim and Grimmer. They were written to such short deadlines and with such wild and wacky enthusiasm that there wasn’t time to get into the writer’s ‘death zone’.

Then along came Vengeance. It took an interminably long time to write, because several years ago I agreed to a number of large writing projects whose deadlines inevitably ended up overlapping, and I spent the best part of a year in the despair of the death zone. Really big books present a writing challenge that doesn’t occur with small ones – it’s impossible to keep the whole vast canvas in mind at once and the only way to write such books (for me, anyway) is in long, uninterrupted slabs of time. It can take hours of continuous writing to get back into the story each day, yet every interruption hurls me out and I have to write my way back in again. No matter how good yesterday’s writing went, every new day presents the same challenge.

For a full year, my work on Vengeance was constantly interrupted by other deadlines, sometimes for months at a time. I plodded on when I could (any progress is better than none) until I could block out many weeks of uninterrupted time to work on the book full bore.

Then I turned off the internet, made excuses to clients, friends and family, to all those piled books waiting for their turn to be read, and to the unmowed lawn. I set the alarm clock for dawn and wrote, wrote, wrote through to late in the night, never looking back over what I’d written until the draft was complete. For me this is the best way to short circuit the ‘my writing is crap’ phase, and in these weeks I make more progress – and better – than in months of plod writing.

One of the greatest joys of writing comes when it’s going well and the story is flowing on to the screen as fast as I can type. The faster I write, the better the story seems to work and the less editing is required afterwards, perhaps because the creative side is fully in charge and the sneering critic temporarily banished.

Actually, most of my writing life is great. I love editing my books, particularly in the later stages. Doing the final draft (with Vengeance this was the tenth draft) is always a joy. The story has finally come together, it’s tight and dramatic and full of surprises, and as I go through it I see hundreds of places where tiny changes can add so much depth, drama and suspense: a line of dialogue, a character’s sudden terror or insight, reshaping a moment or a setting to heighten the mood. I wish it would never stop.

But the deadline is here and the work has to end. I’ve done the final read-through. I’m out of time. I’m happy with it for the moment. Quick, press SEND! Yes, it’s gone. It’s out of my hands and, for a few minutes at the end of nearly 3,000 hours of Vengeance, I’m floating.

Then there’s the waiting. Even after 27 books, waiting for the real, printed book to appear is interminable. Why is it taking so long? Surely it’s printed by now? What’s it going to look like, feel like, smell like?

I’m inhaling the aroma of the pages as I write – a faint smell, not unlike fresh sawdust (I grew up in a forest and know these things). For the first few days I carry the book with me, just to know it’s there.

I never read my books after they’re finished. That’s a dangerous pastime – what if I uncover some dreadful error, or want to re-edit the whole book? Rarely, however, I’ll make a leisurely pass through the first couple of chapters, perhaps to reassure myself that it gets off to a good start.

And Vengeance does. It’s a mile from perfect, but it’s a good story, it’s out there and it’s too late for me to change anything.

That’s the greatest joy of all.

Maybe I’ll use that silly idea about sculptured books in Volume 2.

George’s bit at the end

Ian Irvine, a marine scientist who has developed some of Australia’s national guidelines for the protection of the oceanic environment, has also written 27 novels. These include the bestselling Three Worlds fantasy sequence, an eco-thriller trilogy and 12 books for younger readers. His latest fantasy novel is Vengeance, Book 1 of The Tainted Realm.

To find out more about Ian and his writing, check out his website. And if you’re on FaceBook, he also has a page over there.

Catch ya later,  George

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Today we have a very special guest at Kids’ Book Capers. Ike, the star of the Grim and Grimmer series has promised us an EXCLUSIVE interview.  He is here to talk about his latest adventure, The Calamitous Queen.

Please be kind to him. He’s never been interviewed before and he’s a bit shy so he’s also brought along his best friend, Mellie.

1. Ike, you have been on such a journey throughout the Grim and Grimmer series. Can you tell us how your adventures have changed you as a person?

‘Thanks for asking, Dee, though I’m not sure how to answer that. I’ve never been much good with words and stuff.’ (sighs). ‘Well, here goes. Um, before I came to Grimmery –’

‘And accidentally betrayed the princess,’ Dee says helpfully.

‘I was hoping you wouldn’t bring that up. Before then I was Useless Ike. I never did anything good; never believed I could. I always gave up.’

‘What made you change?’

‘It wasn’t just me in trouble this time. The princess was going to be killed, because of my stupidity, and I couldn’t bear it. I had to make something of myself. I had to save her, no matter the cost.’

‘How did you make something of yourself, Ike? How did you change?’

‘Er, um.’ Ike struggles to remember the details, blushes, stares at his big feet. ‘Sorry, I’m no good at analysing myself.’

Beside him, Mellie groans, rolls her eyes then elbows Ike out of the way. ‘Luckily I’m brilliant. I’ve been trying to work him out ever since we met.’

‘That doesn’t exactly sound like a compliment,’ says Dee.

‘Who’s telling this story?’ Mellie snaps. ‘Ike learned perseverance under Grogire’s tree, when he refused to give up and made that brilliant, though disgusting, dung balloon. And he overcame his fear of heights when he crawled blind across the beam over the abyss to rescue me from Gorm’s hut. He’s overcome all kinds of fears since he met me.’

‘I’ve had to, the way you keep getting me into trouble,’ mutters Ike.

‘Shush!’ says Mellie. ‘What would you know, anyway? When Nocty attacked the demon, Spleen, as she was carrying us away from Gorm, you showed great selflessness by becoming a night-gaunt to save us.’

‘Great stupidity, you mean.’

‘Yes, but selfless stupidity. Need I go on?’

‘I think Dee’s got the point,’ says Ike.

‘You also learned courage, ingenuity, endurance and so forth. And at the end, you sacrificed one of the most important things in your life, your quest to clear your parents’ names – just to save me.’

‘That was the most painful lesson,’ says Ike.

‘To say nothing of the many faults you’ve learned to overcome,’ Mellie goes on. ‘I can list them, if you like.’ She laughs aloud. ‘I once wrote down all your flaws. Took three sheets of paper.’

She looks up, and the smile fades. ‘Ike’s the bravest boy I’ve ever met, Dee. He never gives up. It’s all because of him that Grimmery has been saved. That’s how he’s changed.’

2. Can you tell us what you like most about your best friend Mellie and why you became such good friends?

‘Mellie is everything I’m not,’ says Ike, eyeing her warily. ‘She’s clever and quick, and … and really pretty too, in a pixyish kind of way. She’s warm and generous, but she’s also terribly reckless, and always carrying out outrageous thefts to prove she’s the best apprentice thief as ever was. But she’s got a dreadful temper, and when she’s cranky even Achernix, the terrible Duke of Darkness, runs for his immortal life.’

Ike ducks, as if expecting her to wallop him one, but Mellie is smiling. ‘I’m not the least bit reckless. I call it bold and daring, and since it got me through my Reckoning, no one can argue.’

Ike stirs, as if to say, But I got you through your Reckoning, then smiles and closes his mouth again. He doesn’t need to say anything.

3. What is the worst thing that happened to you on your journey?

‘I don’t know how to answer that,’ says Ike. ‘Was it the competition I had, as Useless Ike, with Grogire the firewyrm (the most brilliant mind in the world) in her stinky lair? Or the contest with that sly, smirking conman, Con Glomryt, to get through the doors of the dwarf kingdom of Delf? Or my dreadful embarrassment after Mellie’s failed spell blew my bottom up to the size of a small airship, and I spent a whole day bobbing around the ceilings of Delf being mocked by angry dwarves?’

He rubs his bony jaw. ‘No, I think it was the time I had to fight the dreadful night-gaunt in Emajicka’s palace, to stop him tormenting Pook and the other Collected children and stealing their nightmares for Emajicka to bathe in. That was the most awful time I can ever remember. Yet I’ll never forget how brave little Pook was, trying to hold off the monstrous night-gaunt all by himself.’ (Ike brushes away a tear at the memories).

4. What is the best thing that happened to you on your journey?

‘Harrumph!’ says Mellie.

Ike grins. ‘A lot of good things happened, too many to count. One of the best of them was when I worked all night to make that balloon fuelled with exploding firewyrm dung, to rescue the princess. Everyone laughed at me, but when I finally put the balloon together, it floated up into the air just the way it should. It was the first time I realised that I didn’t have to be Useless Ike.’

‘Harrumph, harrumph!’

Ike gives her a sly, sidelong glance. ‘But no, the best thing that happened, the very best in my life, was meeting Mellie and plucking up the courage to ask her to help me, after she’d stolen my magical pen. Mellie’s the first real friend I’ve had, and definitely the best thing that has ever happened to me.

‘Though I wish she wasn’t so darn cranky.’

(Mellie boxes his ear, though she is wearing an enigmatic smile).

5. Where to next for Ike?

I’ll answer that, says Ian. (who has fortunately come along too – otherwise the interview could deteriorate into an Ike/Mellie war.)

Well, Ike’s a Gate Guardian now, though admittedly a very young one, and it’s his duty to guard the four gates into Grimmery and protect this brave little country from all the terrible enemies lurking outside. And none of them have given up.

The Fey Queen Emajicka still wants Grimmery back. Grogire the firewyrm still wants revenge for the dreadful humiliations Ike and Mellie made her suffer, and the Demon Spleen, who is now the Duchess of Darkness, still wants to make them pay for Mellie’s stealing the Bloody Baton and Ike’s burning a hole though the wall of the underworld.

Oh, and Nuckl never forgets. He still wants to eat Ike’s liver.

‘Thanks for asking, Dee,’ says Ike. ‘I’ve never done an interview before. I was really nervous. Hope I wasn’t too awful.’

Thanks for visiting us here at Kids’ Book Capers, Ike, Mellie and Ian. Hope you enjoy the rest of your blog tour (see details at the end of this post about where the blog tour has been already and where it’s going to from here.)


The Calamitous Queen is the fourth installment in Ian Irvine’s hilarious Grim and Grimmer series for readers aged 10 +

In this final book everything comes to a head and if Ike doesn’t defeat the evil Emajicka, his good friend Mellie will perish and Grimmery will be destroyed. And even if Ike saves Mellie, has her family been burnt alive by the evil Fey Queen’s minions?

To make matters worse, Mothooliel is out to steal Ike’s eyeballs, Spleen and Nuckle want to eat Ike’s innards, and Grogire the Firewyrm plans a disgusting death for him. Then there’s the ongoing conflict between Lord Monty and his newly reattached head.

Emajicka and her army of a million Fey are marching on Grimmery, and if Aurora isn’t crowned very soon, the kingdom will be lost – possibly forever.

Ike must get the Book of Grimmery to Aurora in time to prevent this from happening, but how can he when he doesn’t even know where it is?

In The Calamitous Queen, Ian Irvine ties up all the loose ends for the reader. We see Ike come full circle and realise how much he has changed and grown over the course of his adventures from the clumsy boy who couldn’t do anything right to the Gate Guardian everyone is relying on to save the world.

Ike finds out who he really is in both the literal and spiritual sense and Mellie faces her Reckoning. There is so much at stake for all the characters in this book. Will Pook free the Collected children and how will Lord Monty overcome the ultimate act of betrayal?

14 year-old Ike has the fate of the world in his hands in this book.

As well as the non-stop action, the humour keeps coming right to the last line of the book, even finishing with a bodily function. The Calamitous Queen is a hilarious and exciting end to the four book Grim and Grimmer series.

You can find out more about the series by dropping in to the other great blogs that Ian is visiting on tour.


The Grim and Grimmer blog tour, part 2

Last post, Ian Irvine told us about the 10 things he enjoyed most about writing Grim and Grimmer Book 3: The Desperate Dwarf. He’s back again today. But this time he is going to tell us about…

10 things I found hardest about writing this book
by Ian Irvine

1.                   Right Beginning

Initially, The Desperate Dwarf began with Ike, Mellie and Pook lost in the mountains, running out of time to find the Book of Grimmery. Once I’d completed the first draft I realised how pedestrian this opening was. I started afresh with a blind seer weaving the threads of Ike’s future (under the direction of a hidden watcher), and making everything go wrong. This beginning, though better, was more remote and rather dark.

My editor suggested I reveal the hidden watcher to be Ike’s nemesis, Emajicka, and inject some humour into the beginning, since the succeeding chapters were grim. Now the stern old seer foresees Ike’s most humiliating moment, a failed spell that blows his backside up to the size of an airship. I renamed Chapter 1, ‘Ike’s Bum” and it’s an appropriate and original opening to the story.

2.                  Appropriate Ending

The Desperate Dwarf is the third book of a quartet, which is awkward for storytelling because the story neither begins at the beginning nor ends at the ending. Furthermore, the ending has to satisfyingly complete the events of this book, while leave the overall series questions unanswered so as to draw readers to the last book.

Since the book begins with drama and humour, for symmetry I wanted to end it with humour and drama. Ike’s friend, Lord Monty the headless highwayman who talks through his bottom, regains his lost head but it goes on backwards and abuses him ceaselessly. Monty and his head have the ultimate inner conflict.

3.                  Sagging Middle

Sometimes stories lose direction in the middle. One solution is to cram the book full of action, though action, by itself, can become tedious. The middle can also be strengthened by adding subplots though that wasn’t an option; these books are relatively short. Instead, I chose to deepen Ike’s conflicts and make his every choice more difficult.

Ike has three conflicting objectives: to recover the Book of Grimmery, without which Grimmery will be overthrown; to clear his parents’ names, because they’re accused of betraying Grimmery; and to help Pook rescue the children whom Emajicka has stolen for her Collection. To tighten the middle of this book, I make each of these conflicts more difficult and urgent, and force Ike into a situation where he sees how terribly the children are suffering, yet can do nothing to help them.

4.                  Characters

I’ve written 27 novels with a word count around 3.6 million, in the process using up a lot of characters. My challenge with each new book is to create fresh and original characters. As I’m designing characters for a new book, I analyse them, and where they resemble characters I’ve created before, I rewrite to make the characters new.

5.                   Freshening the Plot

Similarly, over several decades of writing I’ve used thousands of different plot elements, and it’s an increasing struggle to avoid repetition; one’s writing tends to follow familiar patterns. In the early days I did little planning, making the story up as I went along. These days I develop plots in considerable detail, examine them closely for repetitive elements, and rewrite to make them fresh and original.

Well, no plot can be truly original – the twenty or thirty plots that exist have all been used thousands of times. But it is possible to tell an old story in a new way, or freshen a well-loved plot with striking, empathetic characters. If the reader cares enough about the characters, it doesn’t matter if they’ve seen the plot before.

6.                  Story World

The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Casablanca and Gone with the Wind are all unique and drawn so vividly that, decades afterwards, their story worlds are still vivid. But the story worlds of most books aren’t memorable, because the author hasn’t spent enough time to create them in living detail.

In Grim and Grimmer, this is one of my greatest challenges. How to tell a familiar story – about an ordinary boy becoming a hero – in a fresh and vivid way. And how to use stock fantasy beings such as trolls, goblins and dwarves without evoking memories of Tolkien’s dwarves or JK Rowling’s goblins. The solution was to dig deep in creating the world of Grimmery – to bore through the clichés of fantasy and uncover the living, breathing details that make these characters and their world unique.

7.                  Simplifying

When writing involved action scenes involving a variety of characters, and also when describing exotic fantasy locales, my initial drafts of the scene can be difficult to follow. These days I do several extra drafts of all such scenes, making sure that readers can see clearly what is going on. Examples in The Desperate Dwarf include the various gateways that open from Fluffia Tra-la-lee’s carpeted cave, and Ike’s leg-wrestling match with the dwarf Con Glomryt on the edge of a thousand-foot chasm.

8.                   Dialogue

Dialogue is always a struggle for me; I never feel that I’ve got it right. Readers can usually tell who my characters are by their attitude and actions, but sometimes one character’s language does sound like another’s. I’m still working on that.

9.                  Humour

There are some genuinely funny moments in the Grim and Grimmer books, but I’m also aware how much of a novice I am in writing of humorous stories for children. A lot of the laughs come from schoolboy humour or simple wordplay. If I were writing these books again, I’d be working hard to broaden the sources of humour. But then, has any author ever set down a finished book and not seen flaws in it?

10.                  Language

I have a relatively plain writing style. I don’t use a lot of imagery apart from relatively simple similes and metaphors. There’s nothing wrong with this – plenty of writers employ language that doesn’t draw attention to itself – but I would like to broaden and deepen my storytelling by making use of all that the English language offers. Next time.

George’s bit at the end

My thanks to Ian Irvine for making Literary Clutter part of his current blog tour. He is making other appearances on other blogs, so be sure to check out the complete list.

If anyone has any questions for Ian, ask them in the comments section… he’ll be stopping by to answer them.

And tune in next time for a post about reviews.

Catch ya later,  George

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The Grim and Grimmer blog tour, part 1

Author Ian Irvine is currently touring blogs across Australia in celebration of his latest novel, Grim and Grimmer Book 3: The Desperate Dwarf. And guess which blog he’s stopping at today? Take it away, Ian…

10 Things I enjoyed most about writing this book
by Ian Irvine

1.                   Title

I had the idea for the series Grim and Grimmer in Borders’ in Perth, while waiting for a scientific meeting. I’d been struggling with a title for months, then it came in a flash, the best title I’d ever thought of.

Titles are rarely easy, and can be a nightmare. For my fantasy series, Song of the Tears, I spent 24 hours going through options and still wasn’t satisfied; it’s a special joy when a title comes right. I’ve never mentioned Grim and Grimmer without getting a smile, and the title expresses my storytelling philosophy – make my characters suffer, ha, ha!

2.                   Hero

I generally write heroes who, for all their faults, are clever in one way or another, so it was a treat to begin with a kid, Useless Ike, who couldn’t do anything right. Ike is tall and gawky, hopeless at sport, bottom of the class and, because he knows he’s useless, always gives up. The one thing he can do is draw, but what use is that?

This posed special challenges. Few people want to read about a hero, no matter how good-hearted, who’s so hopeless that he never does anything. Therefore I put Ike to a personal crisis in the first chapter, when his oafish classmates are mocking him and his teacher, the perpetually disappointed Mister Flogger, is about to expel him. In that moment Ike realises that he has to make something of himself, or shrivel and die inside.

Ike’s other fault is impulsiveness. He’s forever going off half-cocked and getting himself in worse trouble – as when, after he’s drawn the door that takes him to magical Grimmery, he tries to save Princess Aurora from robbers lurking in the woods, only to discover that they were her rescuers and he’s betrayed her to the wicked Fey Queen. To death! But, reckless to the end, Ike vows to rescue Aurora no matter what, though she mocks him cruelly and refuses to be saved by a no-account peasant. This precipitates the events of the next 3.75 books and sets in motion his personal growth from Useless Ike to the hero who saved Grimmery.

I have a great fondness for Ike. Perhaps because he began so low, his rise and transformation is all the more moving.

3.                   World of Grimmery

Being used to setting my stories on epic canvases – whole worlds and multiple worlds – in these books I enjoyed being restricted to Grimmery, a small, mountain-locked land surrounded by great enemies.

But even here, I succumbed to the temptation to send my heroes, Ike and his friend, the apprentice thief-girl, Melliflua di Sorrowgrove (Mellie) to foreign lands, like glorious Feyrie and the grimly magnificent underworld of Orcus. Small compasses just aren’t for me.

4.                   Humour and Risk

I’ve never set out to write humour before, and had no idea how to go about it. What if I tried to write funny and it wasn’t? It would be as humiliating as some of the disasters I put Ike through – like his disastrous wyrm-dung fuelled rocket, or the disgusting troll-bum door he has to squeeze himself and the pretty princess through.

Books didn’t help. I read a dozen books about writing humour without learning anything save that no one understood how it worked. Then I found John Vorhaus’s The Comic Toolbox, which explained humour in terms that even I could understand.

Don’t get the wrong impression – there’s an awful lot of schoolboy humour of the farts and bums variety in Grim and Grimmer. But it’s my first stumbling step on the path to making people laugh.

5.                  Wacky Characters

When writing comedy, there’s no such thing as too much exaggeration. For the first time I allowed full rein to my wacky side, creating characters like the malicious guard imp, Nuckl, whose sole desire is to eat Ike’s liver; the insane hermit, Gorm, whose fifty-year obsession with the Key to all Magic is so all-consuming that he hasn’t bathed in that time and new ecosystems have evolved under his disgusting toenails; and the sweet, murderous old lady, Fluffia Tra-la-lee, whose cave is carpeted in foot-deep shag pile and defended by an arms’ race of weaponry.

Such fun I had with the many crazy characters in these books. I’ll miss them.

6.                   Length

I’m best known for an 11-book, 2.3 million word epic fantasy series consisting of two quartets (The View from the Mirror and The Well of Echoes) and a trilogy (Song of the Tears), which can be read as one gigantic story. I love writing epic fantasy and I’ve spent much of the past twenty-four years doing so, but it’s an enormous investment in both time and creativity, and very draining.

At the end of each series I work on something completely different, and when Song of the Tears was finished in 2008 I decided to write some relatively short, humorous stories for children. But not books that were mainly wit and wordplay – I wanted to write funny stories with strong, driving plots. That’s the kind of story I like best.

By this time, I’d written many children’s books – the relatively long Runcible Jones quartet as well as the brief Sorcerer’s Tower series (fabulously illustrated by DM Cornish). On reflection, the Runcibles are too long, but the Sorcerer’s Tower books, considered ideal for reluctant readers in mid-primary, were a greater challenge – I struggled to adapt my writing style to such a small canvas. The Grim and Grimmers, at 40-50,000 words each, seemed perfect – long enough for a depth of characterisation and an involving plot, yet short enough that they only take a pound and a half of flesh to create.

7.                  Publisher and Artist

These books are put together by the lovely people at Omnibus in Adelaide and they’re a pleasure to work with. The covers were done by World Fantasy Award-winning artist Martin McKenna. Never in all my books have villainous characters been so perfectly realised as Aigo on the cover of The Grasping Goblin, and Con Glomryt the leering huckster on The Desperate Dwarf.

8.                  Age Group

These books are for ages 8-14, and older readers too. Readers in their thirties have told me they really enjoyed them. I love writing for this age group: they’re young enough to be captivated by a well-drawn story world, yet old enough to want something longer and deeper and more complex. I struggle to write stories for younger readers.

9.                  Ending

2010 was a desperate year for me, 2009 and 2008 too. (Moment of self-analysis: must have a problem with over-commitment). Each book of Grim and Grimmer was written to a more urgent deadline than the previous one, yet each book is better than the one before. For Book 4, The Calamitous Queen, which will be published in June, I ended up with so little time that it could not be done, and I despaired. Then I told myself, the book has to be done in a couple of weeks, and done well, and I’m going to do it.

And sometimes, when I plan a book well and write it at a furious pace, it works far better than the stories I stop and start, sweat over and grind out over months – perhaps because I’m in the zone the whole time. But don’t get the wrong impression; I could never work this way on the first book in a series, only the last. And only in desperation.

My editor and publisher loved it and thought it a fitting end to Grim and Grimmer.

And then they said, “But we weren’t expecting it for a couple of months.” Teeth, ungnash!

10.                  Aftermath

If there’s anything better than writing a much-loved series, it’s sending off the last proof corrections and knowing it’s out of your hands forever, and away to live or die on its own.

Finished at last. The best feeling of all.

Two hours pass.

What am I going to write now?

George’s bit at the end

To find out more about Ian Irvine and his books, check out his website. And tune in next time, as Ian returns to tell us the 10 things he found hardest about writing book 3 in the Grim and Grimmer series.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.





In The Grasping Goblin, Ike picks up a frozen lightning bolt.

What is the most dangerous or difficult thing you have ever done?

Let us know in the comments section of this post and Ian will pick 3 winning entries over the competition period to receive a free copy of Grim and Grimmer.




Today, I’m very excited to be the first stop on author Ian Irvine’s blog tour to celebrate the release of The Desperate Dwarf, the third book in his hilarious Grim and Grimmer series for readers aged 10 +

Ian Irvine is a marine scientist and has written 27 novels, including the bestselling Three Worlds fantasy series, an eco-thriller trilogy and 12 books for children.

Ian grew up in a forest and spent his entire childhood reading books and climbing trees (and frequently both at once, to the terror of his parents). He had no interest in writing as he’d always wanted to be a scientist. Work has since taken him all across the eastern hemisphere, including idyllic locations like Mauritius, Bali, Fiji and Western Samoa. This provided absolutely no inspiration for his books as Ian prefers to send his characters to unpleasant places, there tormenting them to the limit of human ingenuity.

If you check out Ian’s website at you’ll see  that his Grim and Grimmer series is described as hysterical horror and hopeless heroes and this pretty much sums them up.

It’s not easy to be a hero when your bum is the size of an airship and you’re bobbing around the ceilings, mocked by a host of angry dwarves.


The Series Reviewed

Ike has always been good at drawing but when he accidentally steals a fountain pen in The Headless Highwayman, it changes his life forever. It soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary pen and when Ike draws a door with it, the door comes to life and when Ike goes through it, he finds himself in the strange land of Grimmery.

There Ike discovers that he is not who he thought he was and that he has talents and qualities he didn’t know he had.

After accidentally betraying the Princess of Grimmery to the evil queen, Emajicka, Ike sets out to save the Princess. This sets him on a strange adventure with his new friend, the thief Mellie, a headless horseman, a meat eating horse and an evil imp who wants to eat his liver. He visits strange places and ends up on the back of a giant wrym and eventually inside the butt of a giant troll, wondering if this could be the last door he ever goes through.

In Book 2, The Grasping Goblin, Ike is being hunted by Emajicka, the Nightmare Queen, for more reasons than he can possibly guess. But this is not going to be a happy adventure for him – funny for the reader, but not happy for Ike. Struck blind, forced to eat maggot soup and again in deadly peril, Ike is going to need a lot of luck and ingenuity to survive this quest. And on top of all this, he is still being hunted by the imp who wants to eat his liver.

In Book 3, The Desperate Dwarf, Ike is the only one who can save Grimmery now. But to succeed, he will need to outsmart a lying, cheating dwarf and survive more bad smells and gruesome incidents.

I gasped and laughed my way through these first three books in the Grim and Grimmer series and I have to confess to feeling eager anticipation, but a certain trepidation as I anticipate what Ike might have to face in his next adventure. It is bound to smell and taste foul.

Which is exactly why kids will love these books. Not only are they full of gross bits that boys in particular love, they are action packed and have flawed but likeable characters. The hapless Ike who feels he isn’t good at anything and his super-confident best friend, Mellie are an unlikely pair but they work well together.

Things get grimmer and more grotty as this series progresses, and Ike finds himself in more dire situations.

The Grim and Grimmer series is written by marine scientist and high-profile adult fantasy author, Ian Irvine. So all the antics and effects have been well thought out and Ike’s world is weird but believable. The setting is full of incredible detail and the fast-paced scenes will keep readers turning the pages.

Children aged 10+ who love action and humour won’t be able to put these books down. They will be carried along with Ike and Mellie just like I was, wondering what could possibly happen next.


To find out more about how Ian wrote his books, follow his blog tour to all these fabulous stops:

March 21, 2011                               

Kid’s Book Capers                                    Review and competition – 3 BOOKS TO BE WON!

March 22, 2011                               

Dee Scribe                                                  Writing Ike’s Character

March 23, 2011                               

Our Lady Of Lourdes School                 General Writing

March 23, 2011                               

Tristan Banck’s Blog                                Creative Process/Workspace

March 24                                           

Kid’s Book reviews                                   Top 10 Writing Tips

March 28, 2011                               

Robyn Campbell                                        About the writing life and this book

March 28, 2011                               

George Ivanoff                                           10 things I enjoyed most about writing this book

March 31, 2011                                

George Ivanoff                                           10 things I found hardest about writing this book

April 6, 2011                                     

DC Green                                                     Where the character and story ideas came from

April 11, 2011                                    

Bug in a Book


In The Grasping Goblin, Ike picks up a frozen lightning bolt.

What is the most dangerous or difficult thing you have ever done?

Let us know in the comments section of this post and Ian will pick 3 winning entries over the competition period to receive a free copy of Grim and Grimmer.