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

PS. Follow me on Twitter

 

Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: DVD review – Wide Open Road

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HAZARD RIVER – TOADS’ REVENGE AND BLOOD MONEY

TOADS’ REVENGE

Toads’ Revenge features all your favourite Hazard River characters in a new world, literally. They’ve climbed aboard a time machine and travelled ten years into the future only to discover that their beloved Hazard River has been turned into a wasteland by an environmental disaster ten years earlier.

Can they get back to the present day and will they do it in time to prevent the disaster from happening?

Jack, Ben, Mimi and Lachlan will need the help of Josh, the son of Just Orsum, but they’ll also have to rely on their own wits and cunning.

There are some really nasty giant mutant Cane Toads that they’re going to have to outwit and a future they will have to change, but these kids are resourceful.

Toads’ Revenge is an action-packed page turner from page one and there are some really gross bits that kids will love. The characters stay true to form in this adventure and I like the way that Jack always manages to save his younger brother Ben, even if it’s sometimes a bit reluctantly.

BLOOD MONEY

What kid doesn’t want to be rich? Jack’s latest plan for making money is selling coconuts so…

When Jack and his friends find a bag full of money, it looks like all of their dreams have come true.

But as they soon discover, sometimes money buys a whole lot of trouble. It really seems as if the money is cursed. First they’re chased by a red-bellied black snake, then when they find blood on the money, it seems as if things could get even more serious.

They decide to spy and see just who owns the loot, but the stakeout proves fruitless and when they return home, they find Jack and Ben’s father in a fury because someone has trashed his shed. Straightaway, the kids think it could be the owner of the money.

When they realise the money could belong to their cranky neighbour, they go looking for clues and discover endangered reptiles in cages – something is definitely not right in Hazard River.

Blood Money is another new action-packed adventure in the Hazard River series.

As always, the story is narrated by Jack and I enjoy his dry humour.

I take a piece of white soggy stuff out of the tree. I hold it up for Ben to see. ‘It’s toilet paper, not a Mummy’s bandage,’ I say.

The Hazard River books are written by J E Fison and feature amazing covers by Marc McBride. The characters, action and the language make them a great read for even the less confident reader.


From the newsroom to Hazard River

How do you go from television news to children’s books? Author of the Hazard River series, JE Fison, worked in television news in Australia, Asia and Europe, before turning to kids’ fiction. Today, she’s visiting Literary Clutter to tell us how she made the change and how her years as a reporter have helped and hindered her adventure-story writing.

From television news to kids’ fiction
By JE Fison

It’s a Sunday morning in June 1989 and it should be a quiet day in Hong Kong’s Asia Television newsroom. Instead, as I walk into the office, the place is buzzing with emotion – a couple of veteran reporters have tears in their eyes, others are grabbing at the wire service copy and reading out the developments in Beijing, the news editor is barking down the phone to our correspondent on the ground. Within minutes I’ve cobbled together a story, slapped on some makeup, and I’m in the studio, delivering a news bulletin – troops have opened fire in the Chinese capital, unleashing what will become known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and ending the student protests that many hoped would bring democracy to China.

It’s a day that stands out from my memories as a television news reporter, partly because I was in Beijing when the student movement first took off and because the bloodshed had such a profound effect on China and Hong Kong, which was home to me at the time.

The fourth of June, 1989 certainly wasn’t a typical news day but I mention it because it sums up the essence of being a news reporter – most of the time you’re trying to pull together facts that no one wants to give you, rushing to meet a deadline and flying by the seat of your pants to get a story to air. Then, when the bulletin is over, you do it all over again for the next one.

Writing fiction can be as far from that as possible – it’s more about waiting for the muse to strike, then writing, rewriting, rewriting some more, then waiting, waiting, and waiting some more to find a publisher, then waiting again for the story to hit the bookshops. For an impatient former news reporter all that waiting can be a killer. But I don’t feel like I chose fiction writing as a career path – it really chose me.

I gave up television news after having children and moved into freelance feature writing and marketing because it was more family-friendly. The idea of writing fiction for kids crept up on me a few years ago, during a family holiday on the Noosa River. My two sons teamed up with friends and spent the summer building rafts, exploring sand banks, setting up camps, dodging stingrays and avoiding snakes. I had to write about it.

I’d had plenty of experience as a writer, so I knew I could string a sentence together. I also thought my ability to write to a deadline would be helpful in the future. But my first attempt at fiction was mired in my eagerness to report what had actually happened on the Noosa River. I had trouble breaking away from the truth and it took several rewrites before the Hazard River series came together – full of adventure and action, that is inspired by (rather than based on) real events.

Apart from having to make stuff up, there were several other challenges I faced – writing 10,000 words on one story wasn’t easy and I had to learn to use description to draw in the reader. As a reporter, the focus is on boiling down a complex story into one minute and thirty seconds worth of information, and using the visuals to help convey the message. The words just back up what the audience sees. Writing fiction works the opposite way and that’s something I’ve had to work at. I’m constantly fleshing things out when I rewrite a story to build up the scenes, so they’re not just sketchy outlines of what’s going on.

I have done plenty of reading and listened to the advice of experienced writers to improve my work. I also get lots of advice from my two sons. They never let facts get in the way of a good story. And if they think I have, they let me know – with a fat, red marker pen.

George’s bit at the end

The latest books in the Hazard River series, Toads’ Revenge and Blood Money were released today. For more info about the books visit the official website. For more info about Julie, check out her blog.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll switch from children’s books to tv news… and I’m much too verbose for news. 😉

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FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – MORE GREAT HAZARD RIVER ADVENTURES

J E Fison’s Hazard River adventures (published by Ford Street) just keep getting better and better.

TIGER TERROR

I was completely hooked in by the start of this book.

It was probably my mother’s screaming that frightened the cat. It’s just a guess. No one knows for sure why a cat fell from a ten-storey building onto my head.

So who is this cat and where does it come from and what does it have to do with tigers?

Everyone knows that tigers are on the verge of extinction, so what’s a tiger’s paw doing in a medicine shop in Chinatown?

Jack, his brother Ben and friends, Mimi and Lachlan become junior spies and set out to solve the mystery. But having a cat fall on his head is just the beginning of Jack’s problems. There’s also the embarrassment of Thomas the Tank engine pyjamas and the fact that he has missed the Chinese Circus.

None of these are life threatening, but Scarface and One Finger the crooks they are trailing, certainly are. The kids from Hazard River are going to need all their wits about them to survive this one.

Tiger Terror is the third book in the Hazard River series is packed with more great humour and action.

BAT ATTACK

Jack and his friends are getting ready for a night of New Year’s Eve fun at the local disco but then a mad driver almost runs them over and things start to go wrong.

Jack has always fancied himself as a dancer and is determined to win one of the two  iPods on offer at the disco, but success doesn’t taste as good as he expected – especially when a bully with green hair thinks he should have been the rightful winner.

In this adventure, the kids also have to contend with quicksand and a vicious dog.

And when they encounter the mad driver again, they discover that he has a plan to blow up the old mine and this will lead to the destruction of an entire colony of endangered ghost bats living there.

Jack, Ben, Lachlan and Mimi are determined to do whatever it takes to save the bats.

Bat Attack is the fourth Hazard River book and I am enjoying seeing these four characters develop across the series and emerge in their individual ways.

The Hazard River books are fast-paced easy reads, even for reluctant readers. They have likeable characters, humour and action to keep kids turning the pages.

They deal with issues of endangered animals without giving kids a ‘lesson’ and the fabulous cover illustrations  have all been done by the talented Marc McBride.

A Hazard River book trailer can be viewed at the Hazard River website

A Celebration of Books at the Ford Street Literary Festival

Last week I attended the Ford Street Literary Festival at Scotch College in Hawthorn and I really wanted to blog about this inspiring example of kids having fun with books and their creators.

(Pictured below are Jo Thompson, Meredith Costain and David Miller who got down to the bare bones of writing and illustrating at the Ford Street Literary Festival.)

What better way for an author to spend a day than in the company of other authors and illustrators and 175 enthusiastic kids and their dedicated teachers?

Graham Davey (champion of children’s literature in Australia) was the MC for the day and he kept the kids entertained and the day moving along smoothly.

Students from schools across Victoria from Years 5 to 10 gathered to talk books and writing with Paul Collins, Meredith Costain, Justin D’Ath, Hazel Edwards, George Ivanoff, , Phil Kettle, Doug MacLeod, Felicity Marshall, Foz Meadows, JE Fison, Liz Flaherty, Sean McMullen, David Miller, Michael Salmon, Jo Thompson and me.

It was fantastic to see kids enthralled by books and coming to an event like this prepared with enthusiastic and informed questions for authors and illustrators.

A book quiz challenged the kids to work together and share their book knowledge to win a box full of books for their school – and all competitors attacked the task with enthusiasm.

Then Michael Salmon (pictured right with Phil Kettle) did an illustration demonstration that kept the kids mesmerised until it was time for JE Fison’s launch of her exciting new Hazard River Series.

It was great for me to catch up with fellow Boomerang Books Blogger, George Ivanoff from Literary Clutter – and of course the entire group of inspiring Children’s  authors and illustrators.

After the quiz and author chats with students, we all moved to the auditorium to watch Michael Salmon work his magic.

Then there was the sales and signings where students could buy their favourite Ford Street titles.

The Ford Street Literary Festival was a reminder that there are so many great ways to celebrate books and what they can bring to a child’s life.

GREAT READS FOR YOUNG ADVENTURERS

The new Hazard River books are full of adventure, great characters and plenty of humour.

10 year old, Jack Wilde and 6 year old brother, Ben like to spend time at Hazard River, but it always seems to lead to trouble. Jack thinks of himself as a bit of a boy genius and is always trying to come up with the most ‘brilliant plan ever’, like in Shark Frenzy when he decides to find out who is killing the Hazard River sharks. He spends a lot of time saving his brother and eating Pancakes with maple syrup, chocolate sauce, strawberry sauce, caramel sauce and sprinkles whenever he gets the chance.

Jack’s bossy friend, Lachlan is 12 years old and he likes to play practical jokes on his friends and this can lead to some tense moments like the time he pretends to be a shark in Shark Frenzy. His nickname is the Master of Disaster and when you read Shark Frenzy, you’ll understand why he gets called this a lot.

The other character in the gang is 12 year-old Mimi, sometimes called Professor Bigbrains because she seems to know everything about everything.

With Jack’s brilliant plans, Ben’s habit of collecting smelly dead things, Lachlan’s ability to find disaster and Mimi’s brains, it’s no wonder there’s plenty of conflict at Hazard River.

In Shark Frenzy, the four set out to find out who has been killing sharks and cutting off their fins. If they don’t catch the culprits soon, the Grey Nurse colony in the area could become even more endangered.

There are plenty of tense moments in this adventure, but it’s also full of humour and typical kid behaviour, like when the kids drink all the soft drink out of the baddy’s fridge.

Snake Surprise is the second book in the Hazard River series and Jack’s boring wet day soon turns to adventure when he finds a note on an abandoned boat with the words ‘Help Me’.

The gang must find out who needs help and why, but it soon becomes clear that they could be the ones in the most danger.

Snake Surprise is another page-turner from start to finish.

As well as being full of the humour and adventure that kids love, the Hazard River books are a manageable length and have amazing colour cover illustrations created by Deltora cover illustrator, Marc McBride.

The Hazard River series also features themes of friendship, loyalty and the environment; making them great for classroom discussions.

These books have great characters and readers will enjoy the unique voice of author, JE Fison who admits to being an international adventurer who has come face-to-face with a lion, shaken hands with an orang-utan and eaten wok-fried grasshoppers.

Book trailer URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZP4wqrSQSk

The Hazard River Series is published by Ford Street.

THE WILD LIFE OF A WRITER – MEET JE FISON

Today at Kids’ Book Capers we’re talking with JE Fison, author of the new hugely popular Hazard River series published by Ford Street; books packed full of fun and adventure.

How did you become a writer?

I started my career as a television news reporter for a regional television station in Albury in 1986. I guess I’ve been writing ever since. I was a television reporter and presenter in Hong Kong for Asia Television, then a reporter and producer in London for Worldwide Television News. Since moving back to Australia, six years ago, I have written travel stories for newspapers and magazines. I started writing fiction a few years ago during a family trip to the Noosa River. My two sons teamed up with some friends and spent the summer holidays building camps, pulling down camps, setting up new camps, building rafts, discovering sand banks, dodging snakes, avoiding sting rays, jumping off jetties and generally having a Boys Versus Wild adventure. I was inspired! I decided to write a series of children’s adventure books about three boys and a girl  on an endless summer holiday adventure. I set out to make them fast-paced and fun, easy work for reluctant readers. I also added an environmental theme to each story so readers don’t just get a fun story, they can also discover a little bit more about the world they live in.

What did you enjoy most about writing the Hazard River books?

I had a lot of fun writing the Hazard River books. I live in Brisbane, but I do most of my writing when I’m on the Noosa River. I have a desk overlooking the river. In between boat trips on the river, visits to the beach and bike rides through the bush, I write. The part about writing I enjoy most is my sons’ involvement. My twelve and nine year old sons’ adventures provide the basis for some of the action in the stories. Oliver and Max are also astute critics. One of my sons reads my manuscripts at bedtime with a red pen in one hand. The boys, along with my husband, are also my greatest supporters. The path to publication has been very much a family affair.

What was the hardest thing about writing the Hazard River book?

I don’t find writing hard. Once I have a story idea in mind, it’s just a matter of getting it down, then reworking it, until everyone is happy with it. The biggest challenge, of course, was finding a publisher. Luckily Ford Street Publishing loved the stories. Paul Collins saw their potential for reluctant readers and liked the fact that the series had an environmental theme, so it appeals to kids and the parents and schools that actually buy the books.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

I’d say the most important thing about writing is having a complete package to offer to a publisher. I went to Ford Street Publishing with four stories (rather than one book and a few ideas for more). I had a clear idea about my market. I knew a gap existed for my series and I was confident that the Hazard River stories would be popular in my chosen market. New writers need a great story or series of stories and a good marketing strategy.

Is it true you shook hands with an Orangutan? What did it feel like?

I visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Sanctuary in Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) when it was little more than a boardwalk through the jungle. Each morning a park ranger put out food for orphaned orangutans and they would come out of the jungle to eat. On the morning I was there, a youngish male was misbehaving. He stole a tourist’s scarf and wiped his bottom with it, then took an interest in a friend’s money belt. He unzipped it and ate a handful of cash before something else caught his eye. I thought this was all very funny until I was leaving the sanctuary. The same orangutan took an interest in me. He grabbed my hand as I walked along the boardwalk and wouldn’t let go. My friend tried to distract him with pens and other shiny objects. He just grabbed them with his spare hand or foot and continued to cling on to my hand. It must have been half an hour that I spent trying to talk the orangutan into letting me go. He was too strong to push off and the park rangers and other tourists had disappeared. I was beginning to think I’d be spending the day on the boardwalk when the orangutan got bored. He let go of my hand and disappeared into the jungle to find some other hapless individual to taunt. I understand the Sanctuary now has viewing platforms and supervision. I’d like to go back there, but I’ll be keeping my hands to myself.

I hear you have eaten Wok-fried grasshoppers. Can you tell us about the experience?

I had an amazing trip through Laos when the country was just opening up to visitors. I travelled with my brother from the capital Vien Tien to the old imperial city of Luang Prabang by plane and then took a boat on the Mekong further north. We disembarked and headed into the local village in the back of a ute, along with everyone else. When we arrived we found the only guest house in the village was full. Our driver, very generously, offered to put us up for the night at his house. He invited some friends to his house, in our honour, and there was music, singing, laughing and flash-fried grasshoppers in garlic and chilli. My brother spoke a smattering of Thai (similar to Lao) and our host spoke a handful of English words which seemed to be enough to get up through the evening. Later on that trip we took a river barge to the Thai border. The trip was supposed to take a few hours. But possibly we had misunderstood our captain. The trip took two days and we dined on rat and river-weed soup and slept on salt sacks. Another memorable experience.

Is Hazard River based on an actual place?

Hazard River is inspired by the Noosa River in Queensland. It’s really a stunning place and it’s impossible not to be inspired. Most people who visit Noosa see the Main Beach, Hastings Street and the National Park. But the Noosa River is every bit as beautiful. And the north shore of the river, which is accessible only by car ferry, is really special. It’s largely undeveloped and there are endless opportunities there for adventures. You won’t find rogue fishermen, smugglers, nasty developers or too many nasty sharks there, but you’ll find a lot of other things from the books.

Where is your favourite place to go for a holiday?

I love holidaying in Noosa. I love the beaches, the bushland, the river and the restaurants. I also love to explore a new city or country on holidays, but I spent a long time away from Australia, exploring other people’s countries and cities. Now I’m enjoying exploring Australia. I recently had a family holiday driving around the centre of Australia. I would thoroughly recommend it.

Do you try out Jack’s adventures before you write about them or have these things happened to you already?

Many of the incidents in the Hazard River series have taken place – a dead shark (a small one) washed up on the riverbank, so did an old houseboat and a lot of thongs and other things. And the themes in the books are all based on real issues. But the main action is fictitious. I have warned my children that these books aren’t manuals for misadventure and there’ll be serious consequences, if they try to copy the adventures of Jack, Ben, Lachlan and Mimi.

Has your curiosity or sense of adventure ever got you into trouble? Can you tell us how?

I’d say naivety or just plain stupidity has got me into more trouble than curiosity. I can remember being very scared when I was camping in Kenya one night when two male elephants started fighting outside the tent. It was lucky we weren’t trampled, but staying in the tent was safer than making a run for the car. Generally, though, I’ve been in more trouble in cities than in remote places – getting hopelessly lost in Beijing, ripped off in Bangkok, robbed in Hong Kong, robbed in London, robbed in Seville and in Phuket. I didn’t have a good track record!

What’s the wildest thing you ever did as a child?

I wanted to be an explorer in Africa when I was young. I’m not sure I knew what that meant, but I did a lot of exploring on family holidays to prepare myself and read a lot of wildlife magazines. I led my brother and cousins on many intrepid bush expeditions and rowed them around Moreton Bay on marine excursions. Nothing too wild, though. It was my parents who packed up and sailed around the world in a 40ft yacht. That was pretty wild. I joined them when I could. I’d given up on becoming an explorer by then and had become a television news reporter. A newsroom – that’s also a pretty wild place to be!

On Friday at Kids’ Book Capers, we’ll be reviewing the Hazard River books.

What’s new at Ford St

Ford Street Publishing is a small Australian publisher specialising in books for kids and teens. Set up by author Paul Collins, it is an imprint of Hybrid Publishers. In just three years they have published over 20 books from established authors such as Hazel Edwards and Gary Crew through to newcomers like Foz Meadows and Chrissie Michaels. Hell… they’ve even published me! I’ve blogged about some of their books before (particularly my own), but I thought it was time I did so again. So let’s check out their latest titles and see what the future holds.

The latest release is a gorgeous picture book called The Glasshouse, written by Paul Collins and illustrated by Jo Thompson. Thompson’s haunting style of illustration works well with this story of obsessive perfection and paranoia. A girl named Clara lives in a glasshouse and grows perfect pumpkins… but her pursuit of perfection becomes an obsession, as her fear of the outside world turns to paranoia. But everything changes with the arrival of a young boy. This book has been getting some pretty great reviews so far — check out the reviews at Buzz Words Books and Kids Book Review.

Paul Collins and Jo Thompson signing copies of The Glasshouse.

Next month sees the release of the first two books in the Hazard River series by JE Fison. With colourful, eye-catching covers from Marc McBride, these adventure books are bound to be a hit with kids of about 8 and up. Jack Wilde and his gang of resourceful friends, on holiday with their families at Hazard River, are faced with a series of dangerous and humorous adventures. In Shark Frenzy! dead sharks with missing fins are being washed up on the river’s shores. In Snake Surprise! they find an abandoned houseboat with a snake and a message for HELP. Fast-paced and fun, these books also have a strong environmental angle. As with The Glasshouse, the great reviews have already started — check out the Bug in a Book reviews for Shark Frenzy! and Snake Surprise!.

And in March next year the next two books in the series will be released — Bat Attack! and Tiger Terror!. For more info about the Hazard River books, check out the official website.

There’s loads more books coming from Ford Street in the near future, including Into the Beech Forest by Gary Crew and Den Scheer; The Key to Starveldt (sequel to Solace and Grief) by Foz Meadows and Ships in the Field by Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro. For more info about Ford Street Publishing, check out their website.

And tune in next time as I have a little rant about Ralph Lauren’s foray into kids’ books.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter