Guest Post: Turning negatives into positives with Thomas Brooke

It was an October night, and I was returning home from a night out with a few friends in my local pub in London,
when something happened that changed my life dramatically.  The nights were closing in, so it was already dark by the time I left the pub, but I was in a good mood.   I’d recently returned from a trip to Pompeii , so I’d been telling everyone of my excitement at walking through the Roman streets, marvelling at the murals and depictions on the well preserved houses, and laughing about the seedier aspects of the ancient city – the brothels and street graffiti that had also survived the great volcanic eruption of AD 79.

It was probably because I was so preoccupied with these thoughts, that I didn’t see the guy who came out of an alcove and wrapped an arm around my neck.  My first thought was, ‘Am I being mugged?  Who’s going to mug me??’ – I’m a big guy, over six feet tall and I keep myself in pretty good shape, so I’d always thought the chance of this happening in London were pretty remote.  But I was wrong.

When the second guy came out from behind a car, then the third from behind a bush I knew I was in trouble.  This was no ordinary street robbery; these guys were out for blood, and the three of them surrounded me and between them punched, kicked, and smashed me to the ground, beating me to an inch of my life.

Afterwards, as I tried to hobble home – one of them had crushed my foot, to prevent me from getting up – another passer-by saw me covered in blood and called an ambulance.  I was lucky, I got to live another day.  And within a few weeks, my bruises healed, and I began to walk without a limp, all physical signs of my encounter disappeared.  But that was just the start of my nightmare.

I was completely unprepared for the mental-trauma that such an incident inflicts on you.  That winter was torture for
me.  After any night out, I was terrified to go home; I found I was scared of the dark, constantly thinking that people
would jump out of the shadows at me.  I’d never previously been a heavy drinker, but over that winter I found I needed to drink a lot just to give me the courage to walk home.  I could have called a taxi, but then people would wonder why I was taking a cab for such a small journey – this became another all-encompassing fear:  that
others would find out about my terror. This might seem irrational, but at the time, that fear was almost as
great as being mugged again.

Those first six months were very difficult, but then as the nights started getting lighter, an idea came to me.  After
visiting Pompeii I’d been searching for a character to be a lead in a novel set in ancient Rome – someone who fully embraced the entirety of Rome, its seedier aspects as much as its magnificence.  Why not put my experiences to good use, rather than having it a weight bearing me down, let it be something that produces something positive.  At the time, the news on the television was full of stories of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with
post-traumatic stress and it made me think how soldiers dealt with such issues in the ancient world.  My experiences had shown me the power that traumatic events can play on the mind, and I quite simply didn’t believe anyone who claimed that in the ancient world such a thing was not a concern because life was different back then.   The human mind was biologically exactly the same then as it is now, and just as fallible to conditions we now diagnose and
understand the importance of.

So I came up with the character Cassius, a great soldier, but someone who’d been affected by a terrible battle a few years before in the forests of Germany.   I knew from my own experiences how easy it was to fall into a trap of blaming yourself for your own perceived weakness, and I knew how living a lie to hide that same weakness can become a part of life.  I then started my novel in Rome so I could show Cassius being seduced by the many vices of that ancient city – something that is all too easy under such circumstances.  I then returned Cassius to Germany where he learns to understand and come to terms with his fears, just as I did whilst writing my novel.  The novel culminates in the Teutoburg forest and one of the most dramatic and historically significant battles of the ancient world. Cassius needs to draw on all his courage and strength in the midst of that terrible event.

I’m now pleased that I encountered those three men, that fateful night in October.  It was a terrible experience, but it gave me something so much more – I wouldn’t change it for anything.

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Dec 17, 2015 - Uncategorized    No Comments

This actually came last week but I am terrible. 

THANK YOU to my Aus YA Bloggers Santa! You are fantastic, and I am really looking forward to using my bookmarks in every book ever, but also while reading this one!

Dec 16, 2015 - Uncategorized    No Comments

EXCITED FANGIRLING! A very big thank you to Harper Voyager for sending this over, I can’t wait to get stuck into it. 

Dec 16, 2015 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Speaking of the Centre for Youth Literature, I gathered many books while in Melbourne! 

The Year Ahead in Youth Literature event:

From Dymocks:

  • Tales from the Arabian Nights (marked down to $10!!) 
  • The Raven Boys
  • The Lives of Tao (although technically this came in the post while I was in Melbourne but close enough)

Scholastic warehouse sale:

Dec 16, 2015 - Waiting on Wednesdays    No Comments

Waiting on Wednesday: 2016 Edition

These books will all have their own WoW posts closer to their release dates but I can’t wait to share them! In fact, I am so excited about these books that I’ve created a whole new shelf for them. 

Without any further ado and presented in (current) publish date., these are the 15 books that I am MOST excited about.

What if the most terrifying person you’d ever met was your ten-year old sister? A spine-chilling psychological thriller from one of Australia’s finest YA authors. 

‘I promise,’ said Rosa. ‘I won’t kill and I won’t make anyone else kill.’

I can’t see the loophole. Since the guinea pig there’s been nothing. Months now without Rosa killing as much as a mosquito.

How is this not deliciously terrifying? I don’t read as much horror-type stuff as I used to, but this is a must-read.

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world…

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years – a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

My love for Aladdin knows no bounds, and I am super excited for this retelling. 

Isaac, Ryan, Harley and Miles aren’t four best friends, they’re three guys with the same best friend. When Isaac dies, they have to learn to fill the space he’s left in each other’s lives. And after so many years of being sidekicks, it’s harder being stars than they ever anticipated.

I am 100% a sucker for this kind of find-yourself-after-tragedy story, especially in the YA space, and this one looks fantastic. 

As night fell, something stirred the darkness. Birds shrieked, rising into the air as the peace cracked and fell apart. Flashes of crimson uniform cut the smothering black of the woods. The smell of smoke lifted through the boughs and choked the leaves. A drum beat out a steady pulse as soldiers tore over the dead leaf matter, hacking their way through the web of forest.

The prisoner ran.

Continuing the #LoveOZYA trend is this little gem from Text Publishing. Waer won the Text Prize in 2013, and I want to read it right now

England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose.

I’m not usually one for paranormal romance, and I often disregard overblown comparisons, but the blurb and “Jane Austen meets X-Men” has me all curious. 

Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for.

I LOVED We All Looked Up, and if this is even half as good, then Tommy Wallach will have made me a fan for life. 

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

This is another djinni-centric novel, but I think no Aladdin in sight. It still looks pretty good though, and I’m very much looking forward to it. 

Sorcerers, pirates, and thieves collide in this thrilling conclusion to Glenda Larke’s epic fantasy adventure series, The Forsaken Lands.

I only have two things to say about this one: 

1. I have until April to read book two. 

2. No booktopia, I did not mean “beaver adams”

A new chapter for Locke and Jean and finally the war that has been brewing in the Kingdom of the Marrows flares up and threatens to capture all in its flames.

There is nothing that I don’t love about the Gentleman Bastard Sequence. I demolished the first 3 books in 4 days, while parked on a beach in New Caledonia and cackling like a crazy lady and I predict a similar experience on a Melbourne beach next year. 

Rounding out the list are a few that don’t have covers and/or blurbs yet, but I’m still super excited about:

  • A World of Ash by Justin Woolley – this marks the end of his Territory series, and if you haven’t read them yet, I strongly recommend you do. Zombies in outback Australia – what more can  you want?
  • Time Catcher by Cheree Peters – I confess that when Cheree was up talking about her book at the Centre for Youth Literature event a couple of weeks ago, I was too busy having a breakdown at seeing Isobelle Carmody to give her my full attention, BUT what I did hear sounded pretty kick ass, enough that I scribbled a big circle around it (but no other notes, so not actually sure what it’s about). 
  • Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb – another series I’m a little behind on, but I can’t wait to get stuck into book 2, hopefully before this one is out. 
  • Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – I haven’t actually read Six of Crows, or even finished the Grisha trilogy, BUT I WILL and then I will chomp Crooked Kingdom down like a ravenous beast. 
  • The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil – I read The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl and Life in Outer Space earlier this year and MY GOODNESS THEY ARE AMAZING. I’m also super chuffed that this is coming out just in time for my birthday (hint hint). 

This is FAR from ALL the books though, and you can find the rest on goodreads. (Keep an eye out over the next few days as I continue trying to decipher my notes from 2016: The Year Ahead). 

Dec 11, 2015 - Book Tour    No Comments

Book Tour: THE SEVENTH HOUR by Tracey Ward

The Seventh Hour
Tracey Ward
Publication date: January 6th 2016
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult

When the Earth’s rotation slowed to a crawl mankind was plunged into a harsh world of burning hot days and endless, arctic nights. Some fled to the mountains for shelter. Others took to the seas, sailing forever in the perfect gold between the night and the day; a place known as the Seventh Hour.

Liv was raised aboard a ship chasing the Seventh. She’s never seen the night, never known true cold, and when a storm destroys her home she’s on land for the first time in her life. She’s alone, surrounded by strangers and perils she couldn’t have imagined in her worst nightmares. Her only chance at survival is Grayson.

He saved her. He’ll protect her. He hates her.

Old grudges run deeper than the sea, and Liv and Gray will have to overcome them together to make it to morning.

To survive the longest night.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

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Dec 8, 2015 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Aussie YA Bloggers – Secret Santa Blog Hop

As part of the
Australian YA Bloggers & Readers Secret Santa Blog Hop, we want to know
whether you’ve been a good or naughty blogger this year.

This blog hop is
for the participants of the Aussie YA Bloggers Secret Santa list to help you
find out more about your fellow santas and santees and hopefully find out who
your santa is!


1. What are your
top 5 favourite books this year?

Sneak peek at my
top 10 list for this year! In no particular order:

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott
Havenstar by Glenda Larke
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Akarnae by Lynette Noni
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

NOT ENOUGH. Also look at all those beautiful ladies (Jay has been promoted).

2. How did you go
with your Goodreads challenge?

Thanks to a little
thing called the Aurealis Awards, I have flogged my challenge within an inch of its
life. As of right now I am at 102/50 and I many many books to read before the
end of the year.

3. How many times
did you post a week on average? Do you think you’ll post more/less in the

I aimed for twice a
week but I am pretty forgetful and there were several slumpy months. Everything
is mostly back on track now though so hopefully that will also mean more
original content, which is one of my goals for next year.

4. What is your
favourite blogging moment/achievement of 2015?

Hmm. This isn’t
really a blogging achievement but I was pretty damn chuffed to be chosen as an
Aurealis judge. Doomsday-proportion pile of books aside, it’s be an awesome
experience and I have found many books that I wish I knew about earlier.

5. Did you read
mostly review or non-review books this year?

Excluding Aurealis
books, probably 60% review books, but a large portion of them I would have read

6. What are your
blogging goals for 2016?

Mostly to not scare
away my followers.

7. What books are
you looking forward to in 2016?

MILLION DIFFERENT ONES. I am going to do a big huge 2016 wishlist in the near
future, so keep an eye out for that. A handful that I’m super excited about
though are:

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
The Forbidden Wish by Jessica
– The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

and then a whole bunch of
series sequels.

Based on the answers above, have you been a good or naughty blogger
this year?


Ah, pretty bad
overall. I’m trying to do better!

Leave 3 clues to help your santee guess who you are!

1. You live in my
favourite city

2. We have very
similar taste in books!

3. You’ve been to a
few events recently that I wish I could have gone to!

#LoveOzYA? Join the
Australian YA Bloggers on Goodreads and Facebook to join in the fun!

Guest Post: Writing Great Characters with Michael Fletcher

The truth is, I have no idea. But I’ll talk
a bit about my process and if you’ve read my dark fantasy novel, Beyond Redemption, you can decide for
yourself whether it works.

Step One:

Embrace insanity. At the very least be
willing to wade nostrils-deep in schizophrenia.

You aren’t writing about these
characters, you are these characters. Get into their heads. Pretend you
are them. Role-play their parts as you write. Never have a character say or do
something simply because the plot requires it, always allow them to say and do
what they must to be true to who they are. Give them freedom. If you have to
fix your plot outline after one of your characters runs amok, so be it.

At all times you must keep in mind what
each character actually knows. If they didn’t witness an event occur, unless
another character tells them, they don’t know about it. Each character must
make decisions based on what information is available to them, your precious
plot outline be damned.

Though you know what each character
is thinking and what impetus is driving their decisions and actions, the other
characters do not. Just as in real life—if there is such a thing—each of your
characters should make decisions based on what they think is going on.
Your egocentric swordswoman is going to read a situation very differently from
your gigolo-with-a-heart-of-mud. If you want your characters to seem real, make
sure they’re at least occasionally wrong in their interpretation of events and

Step Two:

Choose the point-of-view you write in
carefully…and get ready for more insanity.

The majority of science fiction and fantasy
is written in the third person (he did that, she said
this) rather than first person (I said this, she told me that).

Since third person POV is my personal
favourite, that’s what I’m going to focus on.

Don’t write in a Close Third POV, write in
a Suffocating Third POV. Be in the character’s head. Share their thoughts,
describe everything from their point of view. And I don’t
mean describe it from where they’re physically located, I mean describe it the
way they would, see it through their filters, through their personality.

Bob is a gardener and he’s looking at a
rock. It’s flat and round and smooth, glowing in the morning sun. It would look
perfect against a verdant background. There’s that garden he’s designing…

To Gwen, the assassin, it’s a brown rock
she can smash someone’s skull with. It looks well-balanced, easily thrown. It’s
fist-sized and will send teeth skittering like startled cockroaches.

And there you have it, my two step program to losing
your mind and ending up in a psyche ward writing great characters.

What is your favourite POV and why?

About Michael R. Fletcher

R. Fletcher is a science fiction and fantasy author. His novel, Beyond
, a work of dark fantasy and rampant delusion, was published by
HARPER Voyager in 2015.

His début novel, 88, a cyberpunk tale about harvesting children for
their brains, was released by Five Rivers Publishing in 2013.

The next two Manifest Delusions novels, The Mirror’s Truth, and The
All Consuming
, are currently in various stages of editing while Michael
tries to be the best husband and dad he can be.

Michael is represented by Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.


About Beyond Redemption:

Faith shapes the landscape, defines the laws of
physics, and makes a mockery of truth. Common knowledge isn’t an axiom, it’s a
force of nature. What the masses believe is. But insanity is a weapon, conviction a shield.
Delusions give birth to foul new gods.

Violent and dark, the world is filled with the
Geisteskranken—men and women whose delusions manifest, twisting reality. High
Priest Konig seeks to create order from chaos. He defines the beliefs of his
followers, leading their faith to one end: a young boy, Morgen, must Ascend to
become a god. A god they can control.

But there are many who would see this would-be-god
in their thrall, including the High Priest’s own Doppels, and a Slaver no one
can resist. Three reprobates—The Greatest Swordsman in the World, a murderous
Kleptic, and possibly the only sane man left—have their own nefarious plans for
the young god.

As these forces converge on the boy, there’s one
more obstacle: time is running out. When one’s delusions become more powerful,
they become harder to control. The fate of the Geisteskranken is to inevitably
find oneself in the Afterdeath. The question, then, is:

Who will rule there?