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Space Opera and why YOU are reading it!

Posted September 18, 2014 by

Here’s something you weren’t expecting to read today – I Love Space Opera! I have ever since I was grown from a crystal in the orbital laboratory of Dr Klien Purnicious.



To make your own!

Jokes, was NOT grown in lab in space (because I’m a human) BUT I do love me some space opera. Let me inform you, dear reader, of why space opera should be in your eyeballs more than it already is. If it’s already in your eyeballs 100% of the time – Congratulations!


You, nerd, may rest for this article.

Romance and Drama

So of course you like the minute of human drama and romance because, who doesn’t? Seriously, give me their names. Sure maybe you don’t appreciate The Bold and The Beautiful but you like characters and plot points and twists and…like…Story 101. We’re not even going to argue about this.



Hush that sweet brain of yours.

So imagine the minutiae of human drama and romance spread on a galactic scale! It’s an exciting idea that’s been explored in space opera ever since a person looked to the stars and said “Let’s put people in that”. We’re talking the basis of religion here. The Greeks, Romans, everyone knew that that’s where the magic was. That’s where Gods descended from, that’s where they returned and that, my friends, is space opera.



Ok, I may be flinging the metaphorical bone a little high here but it’s not an entirely stupid point.

Modern space opera continues the tradition but instead of magic bringing them down here, we’ve got the technology to take us to them. Them in this case is stars and planets – not Gods.

It’s not like we have stories about missions to the God of War.




Or to the King of the Gods.


Nailed this one pretty hard, amirite?

But free from the Earth the romance and drama of human existence can expand to fill the cosmos itself! It’s pretty cool, you can admit it.

Still not cool enough for you? How about I put it in terms you can relate to…


That’s right, space operas are often so good because they are a gritty reboot of earth operas! Not literally operas per say…





You put a crew of people in a submarine then suddenly – Emergency! Oh noes! How do they escape? Who was responsible? Is it Red October or U-571 rules?



Das Boot? Damn it!

Now, you put them on a spaceship headed to a new colony, or they’re testing a new dimension-jump-warp-accelerator and suddenly BAAM! – Emergency!



In the first instance the worst thing that happens is drowning, maybe some light radiation poisoning followed by drowning.

But in space? Where no-one can hear you scream? You can break the speed of light, go through a black hole where you and the crew a spegettified and then come out the other side as a mix of everyone that was on board. No one died, but there’s something…new on board. After defeating the…being…you turn the ship around but don’t have enough plasma-cooling-dilithumm-crystals to go back through the black hole and when you investigate the nearest source it turns out to be an exact duplicate of YOUR ship!


Really? Das Boot rules again?!?

You can see where this is going. Submarine? Drowning. Spaceship? Exploration of the human condition, our place in the universe, our fears, monsters and daemons AND drowning!

Really?!? I thought for sure the drowning would get you hooked. Let’s try…

Genre Mashing

Ahh, the great Mash of ’09, such a great summer. We were young and foolish back them. Why I remember when we combined pop rocks and chocolate in our McFlurry. Those were the days – the terrible, cramp filled days.

McDonalds Mississippi Mud Pie McFlurry2


It both created, then sealed, stomach ulcers.

But not all mashing is a bad idea. Potatoes do well with a bit of mashing, as does…



She only wants you for your brains, man.


What if you combine space and the wild west?



Space opera!

What if you combine space and romance!?



Space opera!

Or even space and war?!?!



Space opera!

Long story short, put something in space and it’s just better. As well as being space opera.

And that, sweet summer child, is why you should read Space opera.

 Love space opera? Try the bestselling Aurora series by Amanda Bridgeman! Aurora: Darwin is 99c for a limited time only!


Agent Superman: Mashing thrillers and superheroes

Posted September 17, 2014 by

Fun question, if thriller novels contained superheroes, which superhero would play which character?

Your time starts now…

Did you get them all? You didn’t, too bad. Here is my definitive* list of the answers!

*not even slightly definitive. Like, not even a little bit.

James Bond


Women want him, men want to be him. We’re starting with the greatest secret agent in the known, unknown and theoretically impossible Universes. That’s right, Bond. James Bond. 007, licence to kill! Also licensed for invisible cars and space shuttles.


It got a little silly

With his drinking, womanising and preference for gambling over, for example, shooting the bad guy across the poker table, James Bond is the debonair creation of Ian Fleming – who was himself a master spy with Christopher Lee in WWII.


Many spies have many eyes.

So which superhero could fill these requirements and play the perfect Bond?



mon cheri?

Remy Etienne LeBeau, stolen from the hospital where he was born and raised by The Thieves Guild, would make the perfect Bond. With a preference to drinking, gambling and ladies this cajun-voiced rogue would be the ultimate in James’. Of course, he’d get more done because he’d kill the bad guy sitting across the poker table, so…yeah. A better James Bond? 


A better reason to cry tears of blood.


Dirk Pitt


Dirk Pitt is the invention of Clive Cussler, and he is kind of like a James Bond who is obsessed with things under the water. He drives antique cars, shoots guns, dates sexy ladies, has smouldering green eyes, and works for NUMA, the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Which means there’s only one possible option for the super hero who best represents him:




He is an ocean based superhero, ’nuff said.

Sherlock Holmes


The good doctor doesn’t approve.

Thanks to Conan-Doyle the human race has the perfect detective to feel stupid next to. Yes, he has a few bad habits, the morphine addiction and superiority complex to name a few, but what kind of sleuth would he be if he didn’t have a  few distinguishing traits. So, which super person could play the eponymous hero?

Tony Stark


Before you all yell at your internet because the same actor has portrayed both and it seems like I’m being lazy let me remind you of two things;

1) I can’t hear you through your computer screen so you’re only embarrassing yourself.


Pictured: Doesn’t count.

2) I don’t count Robert Downy Jr. as Sherlock Holmes because the first movie was AWFUL and I didn’t see the second one because the first movie was awful!


He’s constantly surprised the mask doesn’t answer back because drunk.

Tony Stark has a huge drinking problem in the comics, Tony Stark has a huge superiority complex and finally, who else could be Sherlock Holmes? Hmm? Oh, not so tough now.

Captain Shane Michael Schofield


Call sign ‘Scarecrow’. Some of the best ‘manventures’ I’ve ever read and someone you do not want to get angry. With his elite military training he’s saved the President, he’s defeated an army of thieves and he has kicked the teeth in of every opponent he’s ever had. Just, total boss. So, which super hero could try and compete at his level?

Nick Fury 

Ok, so this one you can yell at your internet. Yes, Nick Fury isn’t technically a super hero. He doesn’t have any mutant powers, he can be killed and he has to wear an eye-patch.


Point moi, Internet!

JUST LIKE SCARECROW! (Except Scarecrow has to wear anti-flash glasses but c’mon!)


Please, continue to argue.

A superb leader, brilliant tactician and strong of heart Nick Fury would be the perfect super hero to play Scarecrow in the upcoming film series (PLEASE BE A FILM SERIES BEFORE I DIE!)

Alex Hunter


A.K.A. ‘The Arcadian’, Alex Hunter was your everyday tall, strong, good looking solider. But after qualifying for the GENESIS program Alex became…something else. While struggling to control his Other, Alex continues to lead his team into some of the strangest missions too secret to tell you here (‘coz available here). But when he gets angry, well lets just say that he’s not such a nice guy…



Pictured: Hulk making promises he can deliver on.


Jason Bourne


The man without an identity, the man who needed to discover who, and what, he was. The mystery, the enigma, the internationally hunted Jason Bourne.


Can’t read German, think they’re looking for a flatmate?

Created by Robert Ludlum, Bourne is the next-gen Bond. He’s smarter, faster and far sneakier than Bond has ever been – possibly because he doesn’t introduce himself to EVERYONE by his real name.

Who could be him?



Jason? Is that you?

With the ability to teleport, adhesive hand and feet and super agility Nightcrawler as Bourne would explain how he can evade Interpol forever, appear in the very place he needs to be and at the right time. Also, would pay to see Matt Damon in indigo face paint praying in an abandoned church.

I…I can’t tell you why.

So there it is. If you can think of a better thriller/superhero match up let me know in the comments.

I bet you a lump of adamantium you can’t…


Path to Publication V: The big day

Posted September 16, 2014 by


No, you idiots, I’m already married.

I typed this on the evening after the release of my first novel, The Foundation. But to avoid spamming my social media to death with ‘book stuff’, I let it stew for a few days prior to posting.

This is the last of the Path to Publication posts. In this series, I’ve shared with you the pitch and contract, dealing with the big issues, the edits, and the cover and marketing. Each stage is a giant anvil upon which your manuscript is hammered into a book able to be sold.

This edition is a little different: a look at what happens when the lights go on and the show begins.

The countdown


With everything in the bag and the book off to production, I found the lull between working hard to finish the book and getting it to market tricky. By this point the author is pretty much off the clock on the book itself, though there’s plenty of marketing to do.

I found this part the hardest of all, which is quite surprising given my fingertips are now bloody stumps from all the keyboard pounding and my mind is some strange, rancid ooze from too much hard thinking.

I fulfilled my side of the marketing and enjoyed having a social life again, but the most overwhelming feelings after all this hard work were, in order:


By the time I reached the last few days prior to launch, I just wanted to hitch a ride with the Doc and Marty McFly and get there, but the only guy I know of with a DeLorean is Matthew Reilly, who might resent me pinching it.

The launch


Rockets are cool.

But hey, it launched! So what actually happened on the day my first book comes out?

  • Yes, I still went to work.
  • No, I didn’t get as much done as I usually do.
  • Yes, it felt as amazing as I thought it would.
  • No, I didn’t crawl under my bed and hide.
  • Yes, the back slapping and congratulations of friends and colleagues felt good.
  • No, a marching band and dancing girls didn’t signify the release.
  • Yes, there was some anxiety of the ‘what if everyone HATES it’ variety.
  • No, I didn’t refresh madly for the first review to appear.
  • Yes, I did go out for dinner and have a few drinks to celebrate.
  • No, I didn’t go on a 48 hour bender on my publisher’s tab.
  • Yes, I did thank the great people at Momentum for their hard work.
  • No, I didn’t read it again. It’ll be a few months before I do that.

And, like that, The Foundation was amongst the millions of other books jostling for its place on the mountain. I was hoping it’d reach the peak, to hang out with Dan Brown and his supermodels, but if nothing else that it’d have a nice spot on the side.

But behold! It shot to the top of the Amazon Australia Political Fiction lists to claim #1 spot for a while.


Take that John Grisham! Eat my dust Ayn Rand! Though I’m not sure it’ll last, it was a nice pat on the shoulder for a nervous first timer.

The first review


But wait! There was more unexpected good news! My first review!

Although, technically, my first review was from the incredible John Birmingham, that was pre-release.

The honour of the first review post-release, at least as far as I’m aware, goes to Head over there. It’s a great review.

I must admit, when I saw it, I felt nervous clicking on the link. But I was quite honestly chuffed with the result. My favourite lines?

‘…a roaring political thriller that is unnerving in its description of how the world would go to war.’

‘This is a jet-setting, alarming, bang-pow-kaboom read full of metaphorical and literal bloodshed, political machinations you’ll hope desperately will never become reality, and late-night giant-popcorn-wielding funsies.’

I’m sure the snarky one-star Amazon reviews are coming, but for now I’ve got a nice little protective bubble going on. Thanks ReadingKills!

The sign off


So we’ve come to the end of the path to publication. The book is done, readers are… reading and my wife is telling me we’ll be late for dinner.

But wait! There’s one last lesson, you (probably don’t) scream! Okay:

Lesson 10: Don’t let fear of failure stand in the way of your dreams. I’ve wanted this since I was young, but it was always too hard, not good enough, wouldn’t be liked and not a priority. It will not stop me anymore.

Thanks to those of you who have joined me on this journey. I’ve had some great feedback on these posts from other authors – established and aspiring – and from some readers who enjoyed being a fly on the wall to see how a book reaches market.

I hope those of you who enjoyed the series might consider purchasing The Foundation, so I get to keep doing this and calling it work. If you do, then double thanks, and I hope you enjoy the book. Let me know what you think.

I’d love to hear from you on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or the web.

In the meantime, I’m mashing out the sequel.

Stay tuned.


Weekend Bargain Reads

Posted September 12, 2014 by

At Momentum, the only thing we like more than the working week, is having a weekend off to get excited about the next working week. So in our infinite largesse, we’ve given you some AMAZING free and cheap-as-free books, available at their current prices for limited times only, to read over the weekend.


When sensible schoolteacher Ella Lucas rides into her home town on a Harley and seduces the resident football hero, Jake Prince, she figures she can be forgiven and move on. After all, she’s just buried her mother. Winner of the ARRA 2013 Favourite Contemporary Fiction Award.  Finalist in Romance Writers of Australia Ruby (Romantic Book of the Year) Award 2014.



A brutal massacre. A terrifying madman. Get it FREE.





To celebrate the release of AURORA: MERIDIAN, we’ve discounted AURORA: DARWIN to $0.99 and AURORA: PEGASUS to $2.99.

Have a great weekend, everyone!



New Releases: The Foundation, Aurora: Meridian and Shatterwing!

Posted September 11, 2014 by

We’ve got three fantastic new releases out today, and we’re so excited about them. First up:



High pace political thriller: Read a sample here.


He who holds the pen holds the power.

“Great fun. A two-fisted thriller, escaped from five minutes into the future.”

—John Birmingham, author of the Axis of Time and Disappearance trilogies.

When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.

Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation’s deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.

Enter Jack’s boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation’s plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack’s the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it’s too late.

As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.



The third in our fantastic Aurora series, read an excerpt here.

Their hardest battle will be fighting the enemy within …

Captain Saul Harris has found himself at a crossroads. Haunted by dreams of the dead, he fights to keep his soldiers safe as events spiral out of his control. But has his search for the truth led him to discover there is more to this mission of chasing Sharley than meets the eye?

 Meanwhile, Corporal Carrie Welles seeks revenge. Consumed with demons from her past two missions, she goes rogue in the hope that her actions will end all the pain and suffering the Aurora team has endured. But will facing the enemy free them all from Sharley’s cruel grasp, or has she condemned herself to a suicide mission?

 As the mystery of Sharley and UNFASP unfolds and lives hang in the balance, Harris and Carrie are forced to search deep inside themselves, and what they find will shock them.



Epic contemporary fantasy: read a sample here.

Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

 The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

 There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.


Cover Reveal: Dark Desire (Dark Series 2) by Lauren Dawes

Posted September 10, 2014 by

The time of Odin is over. The Aesir gods now live among the humans in their bustling modern cities. Their brutal dominion over the other gods and their eradication of the entire dark elf race may have ended, but their actions have not been forgotten.

With the death of Adrian still haunting Taer’s every waking breath, she dreams of getting revenge on the dark elf responsible for her brother’s murder. But when the one person she’s depending on to train her in the art of weaponry refuses to help, she has no other choice but to get instruction from the most unlikely of people. Driven by an undeniable desire, Taer finds herself learning more than just how to fight.

Eir, the goddess of healing, has had her spirit destroyed with the death of her twin at the hands of a deranged god. Still struggling with her loss, she is merely surviving each day. That is until a chance encounter with a human shows her that her broken heart can be mended in the simplest of ways.

Dark Desire goes on sale October 23, or is available for preorder. Also check out the first in the series, Dark Deceit.

Cover Reveal: A Town Called Dust by Justin Woolley

Posted September 8, 2014 by

Stranded in the desert, the last of mankind is kept safe by a large border fence… Until the fence falls.

Squid is a young orphan living under the oppressive rule of his uncle in the outskirts of the Territory. Lynn is a headstrong girl with an influential father who has spent her entire life within the walled city of Alice.

 When the border fence is breached, the Territory is invaded by the largest horde of undead ghouls seen in two hundred years. Squid is soon conscripted into the Diggers—the armed forces of the Territory. And after Lynn finds herself at odds with the Territory’s powerful church, she too escapes to join the Diggers.

 Together Squid and Lynn form an unlikely friendship as they march to battle against the ghouls. Their journey will take them further than they ever imagined, leading them closer to discovering secrets about themselves, their world, and a conspiracy that may spell the end of the Territory as they know it.

A Town Called Dust goes on sale 13th November 2014, and is available for preorder now.

Best Dad Jokes – Win a Father’s Day Book Bundle!

Posted September 5, 2014 by



Do you like DAD JOKES? At Momentum, we love dad jokes. Jokes that make you roll your eyes and say ‘Daaaaaaaaad’ and then you get on your skateboard and go and hang out with Samantha.

Because we love DAD JOKES so much, we’re offering a bundle of books to anyone who gives us an excellent dad joke in the comments. Look at all the amazing books you could win:





9781743340332_Chimera Vector_cover






So just leave your favourite dad joke and your email, and you too could win!

This competition is closed as of Monday 8th September, congrats to the winners!


How I learned to write

I figured it out.

It only took me a good decade or so, but I’m there now.

After countless lectures to myself, my students, and various blog posts where I’ve pretended to talk to everybody else but really I’m still just talking to myself, I’ve finally found a way to prioritise writing. And not just prioritise it, but have it become a regular, schedule, focused time for getting black on white.

I’ve never been one to run to schedules, generally following the well-intentioned but logically insane theory that nothing creative can come from stifling routine – art can only come from chaos, right? But as I’ve gotten older, the paying jobs more serious, and the life becomes wonderfully occupied with the fruits of existence that just seem to happen, the day just gets filled up.

So finding a time to write became El Dorado, Atlantis, Avalon and Shangri-La. Some mythical place that everyone (me) searches for, yet no-one (me again) is able to find.

But like I said, I figured it out. The great big secret: how do I find time to write? It’s simple. I’ll tell you. In three easy steps.

1. Writing is the job

I can’t quit my job, I need the money. Others depend on me having the money. So the job (money) stays. And with that comes the understanding that I can’t change the hours the job runs. For that means:

Leave for work at 7:30am, get home by 5:30pm.

Which is a fair chunk of the day. Unavoidable. And with that comes the understanding that I’ll generally be exhausted by the end of it. But if writing’s the job, how can I do another job after the other job that I just spent all my time doing, because job money?

Do it first.

All I did was shift my waking time to earlier, by about an hour, and all of a sudden I had an hour of writing when I was fresh, clear-headed, and unencumbered by all the other work that comes later.

But get this: the best thing, the absolute best thing about writing before you go off to your paying job is that you feel absolutely bloody great. And why wouldn’t you? Before you go to work you’ve already written your words. Suddenly all the little things that might irritate you about a day on the job don’t, all the obligations and exhaustions that occur seem far less of a bother, because they’re no longer getting in the way. It’s marvellous.

The only sacrifice here is going to sleep earlier, but considering that’s happening during a time of the day when you’re already exhausted, it kind of makes sense? Sleeping when tired?

So the simple thing is get up earlier, and make the writing come first. It’s all so logically obvious I’m high-fiving myself while still kicking myself.

2. Turn your technology against you

The distractions that come from technology are unending, but in keeping with the trend of turning weaknesses into vicious enabling strengths, I’ve found a way to make technology support my new routine.

This is mainly focused on my phone.

Firstly, there is only one alarm that goes off. There is no snooze, there is no second alarm, or second second alarm, or friendly supportive backup to the second second alarm. There’s just one, and it goes off. And I have to wake up, because if I don’t I’ll sleep right through and feel terrible. Psychologically, this seems to work.

Secondly, I made use of Commit, which is one of many different apps you can use to guilt you in to doing things like there’s no tomorrow. It’s pretty simple: I set up one task (write 500 words each day), and set a trigger alarm for it (7:15am), and every morning it goes off and asks me smugly: ‘Have you written your 500 words today?’

Every time you have, it logs it in a nice running counter at the bottom. Any time you miss a day, and disappoint your bastard phone, it leaves a gap. Gaps look bad, the phone feels bad, and I feel bad.

Thirdly, I type with Scrivener, which I have for a while now. But contained within Scrivener is the wonderful Project Targets feature, which allows you to set your target total word limit, and the date you’d like to finish by, and it calculates a daily rate for you. Even better, it also lets you set the days you write on, and adjusts accordingly.

Since I’m now writing every weekday morning, I no longer need to write on the weekends (which is wonderful and means the weekends are weekends, and the writing is still the job, see?) so the targets adjust for a Monday-Friday writing routine and tick over as I type.

3. Stick to the routine

To get back to where I started, I always thought routine would stifle things. But that’s a flawed logic. What the routine does, what getting up at the same time each morning and writing each day before work does, is allow the creativity to happen.

All that’s occurring is the routine has made an arena for the creativity to take place. This has a twofold benefit.

On one hand, the writing becomes the central focus, and you’re able to channel all the great, imaginative ideas into the time you have for the writing, rather than having them fit and sputter all across your day like exhaust fumes.

On the other hand, all the non-writing, non-essential parts of the routine start to fade into the background, and run on auto-pilot. And again, it’s logical. These moments in the day stop being things you need to do before you can start writing, and instead become time to switch off and keep thinking about the writing. Because you trust the routine, you’re no longer worrying about eking out small moments of time and energy to try and write. It’s wonderful.

This is not rocket science. Really it was just about changing one small part of my daily routine. But the implications have been enormous, but will only continue to as long as I stick to the routine. Everyone’s routine is different, everyone’s approach is different. But we have to prioritise the writing, but when we do, we commit to that priority. Don’t give up. Make it first.

Cover Reveal: Skywatcher (Dragon Wine #2) by Donna Maree Hanson

Posted September 4, 2014 by

There is more to fear from the sky than dragons.

Violence and devastation spreads through Magra as the Inspector’s influence grows throughout the once peaceful lands. But Salinda, one of the Inspector’s most important weapons, has escaped. After being rescued by Nils, the last of his race, she is brought to the wondrous subterranean city of Barrahiem. With Nils’ vast store of knowledge and access to pre-Shatterwing technology, Salinda sees a way to defeat the Inspector, but only if she can convince him that humankind is worth saving.

Above ground, Brill and rebel leader, Danton, march for the observatory of Trithorn Peak, the only city yet to fall to the Inspector’s forces. With them are one of Trithorn’s Skywatchers, and a mysterious young woman whose eyes reflect a power not unlike Salinda’s. This misfit crew must work with Trithorn’s remaining Skywatchers to prepare for a desperate battle, not only for the observatory but for the future of Margra. For it is not only the Inspector that threatens their precious lands, and the Skywatchers are the only ones that can save them from the final moonfall.

The second in our epic fantasy DRAGON WINE series, Skywatcher is now up for preorder. Shatterwing: Dragon Wine #1 goes on sale on the 11th of September 2014.


Path to Publication IV: Cover and marketing

Posted August 28, 2014 by

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but I reckon that’s how the majority of people make a decision about whether to read a blurb and pull the trigger on purchasing a book, especially those by debut authors.

Enter Path to Publication IV: The cover and marketing (click here and here and here for the earlier instalments). In short, I’m tracing the journey of publication for my book, The Foundation, from the pitch right through to release.

In this edition I’ll be looking at the steps that the author has limited control over: Cover and marketing. This edition will have the most quotes from the fine people at Momentum, because these are areas they largely control.



It’s funny, for something so important to the success of a book, the cover is actually something I had few thoughts on. This is a good thing, because you don’t want me in charge of artwork. I left it up to the professionals, beyond saying ‘AWESOME JOB GUYS’ once it was done.

I asked Haylee Nash, commissioning editor at Pan Macmillan, to explain how she goes about scoping and designing a cover:

“When reading a manuscript, I jot down key imagery and icons that appear through the text. I then look at these and the competitive market for the book I’m commissioning to create a cover brief. The cover brief gives key information about the book, tone, setting, mood and potential imagery that I want to be conveyed on the cover. This is sent to a freelance designer, which Momentum has a pool of across different genres from which we select. After that, it’s up to the designer! It often takes a few rounds to find something we’re happy with, but we always get there in the end.”

I received the cover for The Foundation about six weeks out from publication, and I think it’s pretty snazzy.

Publisher marketing


Edits done, cover designed… the next step is beaming the book out to the world so that you fine people buy it, read it and love it. This helps keep the team at Momentum in business and allows me to keep writing and to say ‘I’m WORKING!’ when my wife asks me to cook.

Obviously the first step in eating a steak off the back of a supermodel is writing a good book. But what helps it sell? I asked Joel Naoum, publisher at Momentum, for his views on what makes a good ebook fly:

‘Ebooks are a very focused sort of reading experience. Readers buying ebooks tend to buy for themselves (rather than gifting books), and they read quickly, immediately looking to the next reading experience if they liked it. The ebooks that fly are the ones that have great pace, action and conflict.

The other thing that helps sell ebooks is genre – readers dive deep into their favourite genres and are willing to try out new authors. Our marketing strategies generally try to tie in these two factors – increase the discoverability of books in ebook stores and build connections with the community of readers around particular genres.’

Enter Patrick Lenton, marketing guru at Momentum. He’s the one responsible for delivering on this marketing vision, getting The Foundation out to the world and keeping me in fine, single malt scotch. I asked him for the approach he took when marketing my book:

‘Digital readers are voracious for thrillers. Momentum has had success with all sorts of thriller writers, including Chris Allen and Greig Beck. Our strategy is simply getting The Foundation out into the community, finding reviewers, getting interviews and guest posts, and just making people intrigued by the premise enough to go and buy a copy.’

Lesson 8: The array of professionals that your publisher brings to your book is formidable. From contract staff to editors to illustrators to marketers to the senior staff that coordinate it all, seeing the whole orchestra in action is an impressive sight. Not all books succeed, but it is this small army of support staff give your book every chance to succeed.

Author brand


So Momentum has its own marketing mojo, but I wanted to help. It’s in my interest as much as theirs that the book succeeds, both to line my pockets with treasure and so it might make sense to publish another one.

In short, I had to ‘build a brand’ without really knowing how. I quickly decided against the Foghorn Leghorn approach. It’s not me, and I’m not sure how much impact shouting into the void has anyway.

I decided the right approach for me was thinking of how to generate interest prior to release, accepting opportunities that popped up, looking for mutual back scratching opportunities and getting my web/social media thing up to scratch.

Problem is, this is all time consuming and each minute of ‘brand’ is one less minute of ‘writing explosions’. Given the majority of word slammers work full or part-time, writing time is precious.

But when there’s no shelf, each person who buys your book has found your book through word of mouth, reviews, bestseller lists (we can only hope) or ‘people who bought X’ lists. There is a need to (respectfully) help readers to find books.

This all sounds simple, but I didn’t know what type of effort would translate into exposure. It felt a bit like sitting in front of a massive console with heaps of buttons, madly pressing each of them but not knowing which one will do something.

Lesson 9: Even if you don’t know what buttons to press, you owe it to your publisher to do your best to mash the console madly. Publishers will do their thing to market your book, but if you chip in as well, you just might find something that works. In fact, I suspect that publishers, especially in the digital space, have come to expect this sort of effort from their authors.

Press madly I did, right up until the day of release and beyond. I’ll share that with you next time.



Every blockbuster is literally the same now

Posted August 27, 2014 by

We might as well give up. Buy your ticket, take your seat, sit back and forget worrying about the plot because it’s literally all be done before.

If there’s something to be learned from Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s that spending a bit more time on character development can make everyone go completely batshit crazy for your film, even if the story is essentially the same recycled claptrap we’ve been watching for the last ten years.

It’s hard to fathom how we’re all so giddily excited over a film – and yes I know I was talking favourably about it recently – when the actual fabric of that film, the plot, is offering us the same structure, the same character beats, the same goddamn thematic notes that we’ve been getting for ages, especially from Marvel.

First off, meaningless macguffins. Guardians of the Galaxy actually referenced this trope in a scene, likening the orb (ball? Silver thing? Does anybody actually care?) to the briefcase from Pulp Fiction, the ark of the covenant from Raiders, or the titular Maltese Falcon. But once it’s onscreen, we all know how it’s going to work, especially the (gasp!) big reveal that the benign orb is all-powerful and suddenly jeopardises the universe. Come on. The universe must be sick and tired of being in jeopardy all the time.

Next: why must every hero use the loss of a parent (or both) as a trigger for their journey? And why is the father the one that gets to be wise and counsel-spouting, often reappearing from the dead, whereas the mother is only allowed to be emotionally propelling due to her death? And while the father was notably absent in Guardians (cue hints for the sequel), please see every Marvel film for evidence of this. Also DC. Also everything else. Heroes can learn practical things from their fathers, but they must be emotionally torn and unfulfilled because of their mother’s absence.

Then we get the love-interest that isn’t a love-interest. We could spill more ink on Marvel’s short shrifting of female protagonists, and how this film is merely just another perpetuating of their Fear of the Woman, but you can almost see the cogs turning in the writer’s room when they decided that Zoe Saldana’s Gamora would almost-but-not-quite kiss Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill. This is the same move that Pacific Rim pulled off, where they try to avoid criticism for offering an underwritten female character who only acts as a love-interest by not making them a love-interest.

Really? Just because the hero doesn’t seal the deal with the token female character does not make the film any kind of culture-changing empowering statement. Try harder.

Further to this, the final act is becoming quite redundant. And while Guardians is clever enough to play with this redundancy (particularly in the ‘We’re all standing in a circle’ scene), riffing on a trope is not the same as offering something original. But we get to the point where it’s just the same banging, crashing and sound without the fury in the film’s final act – increased and amplified with every new blockbuster. The latest cliché though is to have the final jeopardy take place on some nominal home planet or city, even when all the action has taken place elsewhere.

The reason? Human cost. Raise the stakes by threatening the lives of every computer generated civilian who doesn’t get a credit. And while films like Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel were highly criticised for this, particularly for using cities as disasterpornscapes, Guardians seems to have taken this on board and learned something.

Only slightly. No less than four times characters reference the evacuation of the city and the citizens, so that the audience feels a little bit more comfortable with the wanton destruction that takes place. Better? Not really. What we have now is films upping the stakes by threatening innocent people, but then removing them from harm lest it become offensive, thus nullfiying the entire point of the action. The strange thing is nobody came up with a better way to end the story.

The plot is utterly meaningless in Guardians of the Galaxy. You do not have to pay one scrap of attention to any of the details, safe in the knowledge that it’ll still end up right where you expect it to. And they know it. The prison escape scene was pretty much constructed around this joke of not needing to digest any of the details because it’ll just happen anyway. And as much as I enjoyed some of the new elements, particularly its excellent construction of humour in a tiresome setting (see this brilliant analysis for more), I long for the day that audiences can be completely surprised by a blockbuster’s story.

It was first predicted when Avatar came on the scene, but many are noting now that we may be entering a ‘post-plot’ era of films. Personally, I think audiences are wise enough to know when they’re being served last year’s tripe, and the tide will eventually turn, much as it did in the late 1960s.

The difference here is that I fear most of the original and creative talent has abandoned the creatively dull film maintsream and headed for television, which means when the tide does turn, there isn’t that saftey net of brilliant writers and directors as there used to be.

Enough of the meaningless plots, please. Enough of the irrelevant action and hollow resolutions. Enough of the fifty billion interpretations of the hero’s journey. Offer us something new, and more unique than the surface polish that was Guardians of the Galaxy.