AUDIOBOOK GIVEAWAY!!

WhisperBooks

To celebrate the audiobook release of WHISPER on Audible, I’ve decided to host a giveaway! Since it’s been released in the USA, UKand AUS/NZ, there will be 9 LUCKY WINNERS — 3 in each territory!!

SO!

To win, all you have to do is send an email to lynettenonigiveaway@gmail.com with the following:

  1. State your name and which territory you live in (USA, UK, AUS/NZ)
  2. Explain why you would like to win the audiobook of WHISPER
  3. Name the most recent audiobook you’ve listened to
  4. Name your favourite audiobook of all time
  5. Confirm that you have an account with Audible (this is needed to claim your prize!)

That’s it! 

The competition will be open for one week (until midnight on Saturday 5th October) and winners will be drawn at random and notified by email over the following few days with instructions on how to claim their free audiobook.

The Magic of Book Covers

It’s no secret that I’ve been very fortunate when it comes to the cover designs of The Medoran Chronicles. All six covers are absolutely stunning, and as such, it’s something I’m asked about quite frequently: “How did you end up with such gorgeous covers?”

Well, the short answer is, my publishers hired brilliant cover designers. The longer answer is that it took time and communication and a LOT of drafts. But all those things combined (plus a heap of talent from the designers) ended up creating pure magic.

Since the cover design process is one of my favourite parts of publishing, the wonderful team at our Sydney-based designers, XOU Creative, have given me permission to share how it all comes together. So here goes, from beginning to end — AKARNAE through to VARDAESIA!

First up, I should mention that it’s my editor who sends cover briefs to the designers. After chatting with me about a vision and asking for any inspiration pics I might have (yay, Pinterest!), as well as talking with my publishers’ sales and marketing teams, my editor then sends through ideas to the designers, including portions of text directly from the book/s. The designers are left to draft up a few different possibilities — “concepts” — which they then send to my editor. Often, I won’t ever see these early concepts. It’s only once a draft is considered as having potential that it’ll come my way for feedback, sometimes with a few different options for me to decide between.

The first time I ever got to experience the excitement of cover design was for AKARNAE back in 2014 (for a 2015 release — covers are usually finalised 6-12 months before a book hits stores). I was sent two different concepts and asked my preference as to which path I’d prefer to go down:

Akarnae original option 2

Akarnae original

The first cover was a bit too “Alice in Wonderland”-esque for me. It seemed a little juvenile for what I was after in my debut YA fantasy novel. The second cover, however, had the magic and wonder and mystery I was looking for, and I fell in love with it on sight. However, it still needed work — which is completely normal with cover designing, and also why I was brought into the conversation at this point.

One of my main concerns was that I felt as if Alex looked like she was some kind of middle-aged office executive. Her hair and clothes didn’t imply teenager — she just looked way too stiff and mature. Thankfully, this ended up being a really easy fix by letting her hair out (literally) and changing her outfit. We played around with a few different clothing choices before settling on jeans and a leather-look jacket, resulting in this:

Akarnae Ring on hand

The above looks pretty close to the final version, right? Well, the funny thing about covers is how many suuuuuper small problems you can find right up until the very end. Case in point, if you look really close at the above image, you’ll see that Alex has a ring — on her wedding finger. (#Awkward!) So little stuff like that was what we tweaked for the final few draft rounds, including changing the design of her hands and adding extra sparkles and things like that, until we hit the jackpot of the final version:

Akarnae Final Cover

With AKARNAE done, RAELIA came next, about a year later. Of all the covers in this series, I didn’t see many of the early concepts for book two until long after we’d locked in the final version. (I have them now, though, so can add them into this post.)

I had a really clear vision for RAELIA’s cover in my head — I thought it’d be powerful to have a snow-covered forest with the mushroom-circled clearing, and a lot of the moodiness and mystery (and anguish) that comes from that final cliffhanger scene where you-know-what happens with you-know-who.

Unfortunately, I was told that all of the cover designs with snow and forests weren’t coming up “magical” enough, so that was a bit disappointing and it meant I had to wipe my vision clear and open my mind to what else might be presented.

The problem was, apparently there were some issues whereby too many different opinions resulted in too many cover possibilities. Here are just a few of them that I saw down the track, all of which are gorgeous, but none of which really epitomised the feeling or content of the book. (Also note the snow ones, which are super pretty, but I can see what they meant about the lacking “magic” — and also ignore the title typo, which was obviously corrected later):

Raelia not it 6

Raelia not it 5

Raelia not it 4

Raelia not it 2

Raelia not it

As you can see, none of the above concepts really have anything to do with the book, even if they are pretty. And, confession: I actually still really love the snow ones, haha. BUT that doesn’t mean I’m not delighted with what ended up being the final version, with the city of Meya in the background, and the Silverwood trees as a feature:

Raelia1

Next up came DRAEKORA, and out of all the Medoran books, it was probably the easiest and the fastest cover to come together. Part of that was because we all had the same clear vision, which resulted in this being the first cover concept we received from the designer:

Draekora original

On the whole, we were all delighted with it. I absolutely LOVED that the floating islands were so obvious, though I did have concerns about the draekons being a spoiler. That said, it just looked so good that I was stoked. So then it was just a matter of playing with the colours — making it more vibrant overall, but also fixing up whatever was happening with the psychedelic flowers at the bottom. Plus, we wanted to see if we could add some extra elements, like details on some of the islands.

… Funnily enough, though, the next version came back perhaps a bit too extra:

Draekora overkill

You can see that it’s definitely vibrant, but it’s also a bit too OTT as well. There’s just so much happening, and so many colours. It’s like, “MY EYES, MY EYES!!”

So we had the designers tone things back a bit and even out the colours, and a few more back-and-forths resulted in the stunning beauty of the final version:

DraekoraCoverJPEG

GRAEVALE was the next cover to come along, and similar to DRAEKORA, the early concepts came back really strong, with this being the first draft I saw:

Graevale original

I loved the moodiness of the colours and the city of Graevale being half in shadows, half in light, plus the storm added the sense of danger and mystery and just… ahh, so much love for this cover. But there were still some problems that needed ironing out — things like how the mist was blowing in one direction, while Alex’s hair blew in the other direction, and things like lacking clarity and having an oil-painting/smeared appearance. Plus I still have no idea what was going on with her pants and why they were red… Nor do I know what the creepy black root things are, but I think they were meant to represent shadows… *shrugs*… 

Regardless, again, I absolutely LOVED this concept and I was so excited to see where it would end up. A few rounds later and we were at this:

Graevale not it

… And you can see that there’s a lot more clarity as well as a number of other tweaks. But I still wasn’t happy with her red pants, plus her hair seemed to have a mind of its own again (as in, it shouldn’t have been that windy if the mist/cloud wasn’t moving as fast)… plus, one VERY IMPORTANT THING was still missing: the sparkles!

All of those changes and then a few others led us to eventually reaching the gorgeous end result:

Graevale FINISHED COVER JPG

Next up came WE THREE HEROES, and this cover presented us with a whole slew of new problems. Previously, we’d only ever had Alex on the cover before, never D.C., Jordan or Bear. So the designers had their work cut out for them, creating not just a new cover, but three new characters.

Until VARDAESIA (which I’ll get to in a moment), the cover for W3H was definitely the hardest. A lot of the problems, however, ended up not being the characters, but with the academy itself. It was surprisingly difficult to envision the school and how it would look. I mean, I’d always known it would be nestled in the middle of a forest and beside a lake, with a snow-capped mountain off in the distance, but the buildings themselves? “Medieval mixed with modern and advanced” is essentially the description the books give, but how, exactly, does that translate into design?

It was a mission, that’s for sure, and the following covers show the drafting progression:

W3H1

Above is the first concept that I saw. I loved the colours and the overall layout (even if my one small gripe is that the mountain (which is a bit strange-looking in this first draft) is actually meant to be on the other side of the lake — as in, off-screen behind where the characters are, but sometimes creative liberties must be taken!), but there was still room for improvement.

When it came to the characters, Bear needed the most work (basically an entire overhaul), but D.C.’s hair and clothes also needed some help, and Jordan’s hair was too “high school jock” for my liking. These were all relatively easy fixes (aside from Bear, who took a number of drafts to get right), but the academy itself was the most challenging part. As you can see above, it looked very much like some kind of massive, gothic mini-city, and we had some trouble transforming it over the next few drafts…

W3H2

This version above is a little better — Jordan’s hair is a more normal, and D.C. looks more D.C.-like. I still had some problems with Bear (he now looked like a country bumpkin), but only small changes were needed for the other two at this stage.

As for the academy itself, you can see it’s much better, but still too big. The mountain, at least, looked a lot more like a mountain, and the lake reflecting the sunset added a really nice effect, too. 

W3H3

By this stage above, the designer was playing around with a few different ideas for the Arena and the Tower in the school. Again, he had a lot of trouble because I was struggling with what my vision of the academy was and how to communicate that, which left us with the colosseum-like structure above. On the plus side, Bear was beginning to look a lot more Bear-like, so I knew we were very close to getting where we all wanted to be.

A few more back-and-forths, and eventually we landed on the absolutely perfect end result that we now have, and I couldn’t be happier with how it came together! Everything from the characters to the academy — it’s spectacular!

W3H4

Last but definitely not least, VARDAESIA, the final book in The Medoran Chronicles. Yikes, this book was HARD to get the perfect cover for — and that was because we wanted it to be “perfect”. Every cover previously had kept getting better and better, so we knew the final book had to have the best one out of them all, and the more we tried for that to happen, the more impossible it became.

Here are some of the early concepts so you can see what I mean:

V1

V2

V3

As you can see from the three drafts above, we started out trying to use the desert and the city of Vardaesia as the feature. But while all these are great, none of them “felt” like VARDAESIA to me. None of them felt right, none of them fit in with the series. And so, the designer then tried a different angle with what he came back with next:

V5

At this point, I was grateful that we were trying something new, but I liked it less than the originals. I knew we could change the colours (since purple was too similar to GRAEVALE) but I just didn’t connect with it at all, and certainly not for this book. It also felt too sci-fi for me — too “out there” and space-like. While gorgeous, it still didn’t fit in with The Medoran Chronicles. And the same is true for what came next:

V6

Honestly, I’m pretty sure everyone was ready to pull their hair out by this stage, especially since I was still really unable to connect with it. But what I knew of the book didn’t relate to the above cover at all (or any of those previous), and so, with very little time left before my publishers needed to be feeding a finished cover out for sales and marketing, the designers went back to the drawing board and came up with this:

V8

My relief was endless, since this clicked with me instantly. Like the previous books, I knew it needed some work to make it more magical, but we were definitely (finally) on the right track since I could see the potential for this and how stunning it could end up being.

… And I was right, because after a few more back-and-forths, we had the most perfect cover for the final book in the series:

Vardaesia Cover FINAL

There’s a lot that I’ve left out in this post — a lot of the process that only my editor would know, a lot about the communication with the designers and how small changes happened that I’m not even aware of. Then there’s the rest of the cover — the spine and the back — but that’s a whole different kettle of fish, as they say. (Tangent: what does that saying even mean?)

The long and short of it is, I’m so beyond grateful to the wonderful designers at XOU Creative for coming up with the most perfect covers ever. I can’t recommend them highly enough to anyone looking for designers across a whole variety of fields, so click here to find out more about them if that’s something you’re after!

And just to end, here’s all the gorgeous final versions lined up side-by-side!

Straight line

 

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!!!

Eeeee, VARDAESIA is officially out in the world!

I started writing THE MEDORAN CHRONICLES 8 years ago so it is incredibly surreal to have the sixth — and final — book now released! 

You can find VARDAESIA in all good bookstores across Australia (and New Zealand) from today, and online as an e-book through all the usual places, plus coming as an audiobook really soon!

Happy reading!

Cupcake

What does “YA fiction” mean to me?

I completely forgot that I was interviewed during Supanova last year! They’ve just posted the episode, so click on the video below to hear me chat about everything from what “YA” means to me, to my take on insta-love in fantasy fiction! (Plus some other fun answers!)

I’m up first, but after that you can keep watching to listen to the super-cool Vic Mignogna, or just skip straight to the end to watch the magnificent “God of Thunder” himself — Chris Hemsworth!

Writer’s Block

 

“How do you deal with writer’s block?”

This is easily the most common question I get asked. But the very fact that so many people ask implies that it’s a real thing that writers struggle with, so I figured I should finally post my advice for all to read.

Do I struggle with writer’s block? Maybe. I’m not convinced that I do. I definitely struggle from “writer’s lack of motivation” and “writer’s procrastination.” But writer’s block? When you’re facing imminent deadlines, as the saying goes:

That said, there have been moments where I’ve hit a wall in my writing and have had no idea how to proceed. Things like characters causing unforeseen problems and plot holes that I don’t know how to write my way out of. And things like having no idea what to write next, or — worse — having too many ideas and not sure which is the best way to go. These things all make it really difficult to continue writing. They “block” the path, so to speak.

So, what do I do when I hit these blocks? Here are a few things that help me:

1. Get active

I’m not a natural plotter. Every time I’ve tried to plot out a novel, it hasn’t worked for me — my characters decide they want to go in a different direction to what I’ve planned, and they drag me (kicking and screaming) after them, trailing ink and paper in my wake. (Okay, not really, but you get the visual.) When this happens and I have no idea where they’re taking me or how to write their journey, I find the best thing I can do is to get outside and get moving. Something about being active really helps get my “creative juices” flowing, the stimulation of exercise heightening my imagination. Personally, I like to get my heart pumping for this to be most effective, but if you’re not inclined towards that kind of thing, then just a relaxing walk in the sunshine can do wonders for your creativity. Go to the beach, go to the mountains or the forest or the field or wherever you live, just get outside and amongst nature. Breathe it in, still your mind, and let the ideas flow naturally. Some will be inspiring, some won’t, but they’ll all help nudge you forward so that when you’re back with your laptop or notebook, you’ll have some motivation to press onwards.

2. Read a book

This is the oldest trick in the book (excuse the pun). There’s nothing more inspiring than reading a (good) book. There have been way too many times in my life where I’ve been reading something and have had to put it down just so I could stare into space and think, “This. This is the kind of magic I want to create for people.” There’s something so incredibly motivating about being inspired by the words of others. (Also, when I’m really struggling with my equivalent of writer’s block, I’ll often re-read an old favourite, knowing that it has encouraged me in the past, rather than risking a new book that may not be wonderful enough to give me the push I need.)

3. Spend time with family and friends

Don’t be so hard on yourself — sometimes the reason we struggle so hard with writer’s block is because we’re pushing ourselves too hard. The “I should be writing!” reprimand is dangerous, because the more we say it to ourselves, the worse we feel, and the harder it is to actually get writing. So, don’t. Instead, do something you love. Spend time with your family or your friends and just experience the world. Gain a fresh perspective. Go easier on yourself, and soon you’ll feel ready to give writing another shot. Rinse and repeat.

4. Seek entertainment

Don’t underestimate the power of a good movie or TV show or game. These are all called “entertainment” for a reason, and the power of storytelling is strong in them. Like reading a good book, it can be incredibly inspiring to watch or play something, and like exercising, it can relax your brain enough for your writer’s block to unblock.

5. Get creative

Do something else on the creative side of things that is unrelated to writing. Buy one of those colouring books. Paint or sketch something (or even just doodle). Knit something. Act out a scene from your favourite book or movie. Bake something. Pick up an instrument or sing along to your favourite tunes (it doesn’t matter if you’re tone- deaf — just have fun and belt out those notes!). Do some scrapbooking. Go out and take some photos. Just do something — anything — creative.

NOTE: If you’re up for it, try and do something that is related to writing, but not the project that’s causing you problems. (For example, right now I’m at a sticky spot in my current manuscript, so I’m writing this blog post instead. And now that I’m coming towards the end of it, I’m already feeling refreshed enough that I’m ready to get back into the manuscript!)

6. Just do it

This last point is the one you won’t want to read, but I have to add it from a “tough love” perspective. I’m sorry to say, sometimes you just have to give your own butt a kick and, as Nike’s slogan encourages, “Just do it.” By this, I mean, just write. Write messy, write bad, write nonsense. It might (and likely will) be awful, especially if you’re so blocked that you have no idea what to write. You’ll probably cringe your whole way through it. But — and I promise you this — you’ll eventually write yourself out of your block. You’ll reach a place where you find some momentum, and your story will start coming together again. And that’s when you can go back and clean up the messy words that got you from the bad place into the good place.

Writing is mostly about discipline. Hopefully it’s something you love to do, but it’s also hard work. And like any hard work, it is mentally and emotionally draining. (Sometimes physically, too.) So when you reach the point where you’re blocked, where you can’t go on, where you don’t know what to do, sometimes you just have to make yourself get on with it. That can be challenging. No — that can be impossible. You may want to rip out your hair and scream at the top of your lungs. You’ll consider throwing your laptop out the window. You will likely want to give up. You will have self-doubt and, on the worst days, self-loathing. It’s painful, tiring, endlessly frustrating.

But… if writing means something to you, then you have to take the hard days with the easy days. You have to press on and push past whatever is blocking you, and more often than not, it’s that writerly discipline that will get you through. To use the common exercise example, to strengthen any muscle, you have to work it. Over and over again. Same with your writing muscle — to get through writer’s block, you have to keep writing. Over and over again. No matter how difficult it is, no matter how messy the result. Because, as Ernest Hemingway says:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

The Amazingness of Proofreaders!!

This is an appreciation post to highlight the wonderful work of my Australian proofreader, Desanka Vukelich, who I’ve worked with on three of my four Medoran Chronicles books. I’m currently going through her edits of Graevale, the fourth book in the series, and gah, she’s just so amazing!

The thing is, when you write a novel, there are a LOT of words involved. Sentences, paragraphs, sooooo many places where mistakes can slip by unnoticed. And truthfully, there’s probably not a book in existence that doesn’t have some kind of mistake (the trick is to have it be so engrossing that readers don’t notice those mistakes, or if they do, they don’t care). But while errors in printed books are almost always inevitable, you still want to have as few as possible. That’s why authors really need to be able to trust their proofreaders, since those proofreaders are, essentially, the final line of defence.

To be perfectly honest, it actually scares me a little every time I receive a proofread manuscript and see just how many mistakes Desanka has managed to uncover. I mean, she only ever sees the manuscript AFTER all the editing stages (structural edits, copy edits, line edits, ALL THE EDITS), so in most cases, many eyes have already checked (and re-checked) for problems. So when there are STILL problems, it just really brings home how integral it is to have a professional (and experienced!!!) proofreader checking things right until the very end. (She even looks over my ‘Acknowledgements’ section!)

Will there still be errors in the printed version? Probably. I mean, hopefully not, but when we’re playing with around 130,000 words (give or take), the chances are pretty high that something might still slip through the cracks. But just think of how many more mistakes there would be WITHOUT an amazing proofreader?

All I can say is that I’m so incredibly grateful to Desanka and her meticulous eye when it comes to my books, and I hope I get to work with her on many more projects in the future!!

I wish I could give multiple examples of the (sometimes hilarious) mistakes she’s found, but for fear of revealing Graevale spoilers, I’ll just share this one. It’s only a simple typo, but I actually laughed out loud when I realised how it would have read if she hadn’t flagged it:

… Because everyone wants their clothes to be insulted, right? LOL! (And oops!!)

As far as I’m aware, Desanka actually works freelance, so for any writers who might be on the hunt for an amazing proofreader, be sure to check out her website here.

 

How Do I Get My Book Published?

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is along these lines:

“I’ve written a book… but how do I get it published?”

The thing is, as simple as that question might seem, the answer is considerably more complicated—and lengthy. But given how many people ask, I figure I should try and answer it as best as I can, so here goes.

Continue reading

How Do I Get Stories From My Head To My Page?

Over the last year I’ve presented a number of writing workshops, and something I’m asked over and over again by budding authors is this: “How do I get what’s in my head out onto a page?”

I’ve always found this a fascinating question, because for me, it just happens, and very little thought process goes into making it so. But given the regularity of this question, I know that’s not the case for everyone. Much like writer’s block, this is a very real conundrum for a number of people, so I want to offer my advice in the hope that it might encourage some people.

The way I see it, there are three (main) things that can help turn your imagined-stories into written-stories:

First up, just like when it comes to writer’s block, we need to accept that writing is not always rainbows and butterflies; sometimes it’s purely a result of self-discipline. For me, writing is a complete joy 90% of the time , but 10% of the time it’s just plain hard work. There’s no easy way to say it: sometimes you just have to make yourself write—even if the result of that isn’t very ‘good’. It might be a total mess of words on a page, it might not even make sense. But if that idea in your head is ever going to get out of your head, then you need to start somewhere. Listen to the wisdom from Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The same goes for writing: A story of a hundred thousand words begins with a single letter.

Secondly, gain a fresh perspective. Go for a walk, spend some time amongst nature, head to the beach, visit a friend—just get out of your house or office or wherever you’re normally confined with your laptop, and see what the rest of the world is doing. Experiencing a new environment will give you a boost of energy and get those endorphins running (even more so if you actually do something active like exercising), and it’ll clear the cobwebs from your mind enough that you’ll have more clarity when you sit down to write again.

Lastly, sometimes it helps to see your story play out like a movie across your mind, or like a script that a director would be following. If that’s the case, then write it down as it comes to you—words, impressions, sounds, sights, smells, whatever it is that you’re experiencing. Even if you just bullet-point your notes down, you can then go back and do these wonderful things call “fleshing out” and “editing”. (Authors everywhere rejoice at the power of these two writerly gems.) This final point kind of merges in with the first point, that being just to start writing. Because if you don’t start, you won’t start. (Sheer genius, right there.)

There are heaps of other things that can help, and it all depends on the kind of personality you have (for instance, some people might not be good in nature and you’d instead benefit from watching a television show, while others might be inspired from reading a wonderful book—both methods of which can also help with generalised writer’s block). But all in all, the most important thing is to find out what works for you—and to just start doing it.

To finish, I personally think the main reason writers struggle to get ideas out of their heads and onto pages is because they just don’t think they have the ability to harness words well enough to capture the entire “perfect” vision of their story. As writers, we are our own worst critics, and sometimes that can stop us in our tracks and keep us from trying to begin with. This makes me sad, because there are so many people out there with such incredible stories inside of them, but they don’t believe in themselves enough to have a crack at actually writing those stories. But my rebuttal to the argument of “I’m not a good enough writer yet” is simply this: “How will you ever become a “good enough” writer if you don’t take a risk and just start writing?”

You’ll never know if you never try. So dust off those writing caps, folks, and ignore the mess of where you might begin.

… Just begin.