Book Launch

DemiChat and the Kent Street Mystery   by Toni Brisland (Sid Harta Publishers).

Launch ‘speech’ by Jeni Mawter 25 July 2010

First, there was Nancy Drew (1930), a young female amateur detective, then came George, or Georgina as we came to know her, from the Famous Five (1942), closely followed by Trixie Belden (1948) and now we have DemiChat, with her trusty sidekick, Lord Flannery.

When Toni first asked me to launch her novel DemiChat and the Kent Street Mystery I was extremely surprised but very flattered. To take a great idea, then hold a published book in your hands is a quantum leap. Only another author can fully appreciate that journey. Today we have several authors in the room who have come to celebrate the success of DemiChat and the Kent Street Mystery. When I first met Toni, I did for her what some of these authors had done for me – offered the hand of friendship,  welcomed her into a group of like-minded souls, and encouraged her to follow her dreams. Two such authors were Wendy Blaxland and  Susanne Gervay. Susanne and I were talking one day and lamenting the fact that our writing journey had been hard – not just hard, gruelling in fact. We decided that a handful of writers started their writing careers with an elevator ride to the penthouse of publishing success. For the rest of us, we had to take the back stairs – blindfolded – and shackled. I’m sure there’s been many times along the way when Toni questioned the sanity of her back stairs journey. Well today Toni, finally, the blindfold and shackles have come off.

As one author to another I salute tenacity, ingenuity and courage that has gone into the publication of this first book in what will hopefully be as successful a series as that of that Sir Arthur bloke’s.

Toni tells us that this book and its characters were inspired from her own life, with her blue-point Himalayan cat assuming the role of DemiChat, and her niece’s beagles going by the name of Lord Flannery, the name borrowed from Toni’s other cat. But after reading this Sherlock Holmes spoof I realised that Toni has actually based this character on herself. Like DemiChat, Toni used her feminine intuition and wit in order to solve the publication problems placed before her. Like DemiChat she has the devotion of a Lord Flannery in her husband, Richard, and the devotion of a Jake in her daughter Deen, and like DemiChat she has a great penchant for mystery, although to all the members of the Diorio family I’m not sure why Toni put the Italians as the baddies!

Toni will say that the message behind DemiChat and the Kent Street Mystery is about teamwork but to me, there is a much more powerful message in this story. Unlike most heroes of today who use magical powers to solve their problems, Toni’s characters do not. Her characters use skills that all of today’s children can relate and aspire to, those of acute observation and logical reasoning. In much of children’s literature today the message is that you can easily ‘magic’ your way to a solution and this has been of growing concern to me. I’m delighted that Toni has gone against this trend – there’s not a vampire or werewolf in sight! This courage to go with her own conviction is yet another DemiChat characteristic.

At this point I must applaud the exquisite black and white film noir-ish illustrations of Peter “Zane” Haywood. I can see why Toni fell instantly in love with the illustration that was to become the cover, and why Peter was chosen by the publisher, Kerry Collison of Sid Harta Publications. They certainly add a depth and quirkiness to the book.

And finally, to Sid Harta Publications. “Publishing is a competitive and difficult business. More people are writing and there is less room among the big publishers for consideration of newcomers. Opportunities for good writers and many good books are lost because of this. So what can replace the big publisher’s power and influence in selection of writers and success on the book shop shelf? The small team – dedicated to encouraging and supporting the development of fine writing.’ Recognition must be given to this publishing house of vision, and congratulations for helping to produce a truly beautiful book.

Before I finish up I would like to give Toni a small gift to help her with her school book launch and for what I hope will be the start of many public speaking engagements. Firstly, a Lord Flannery hat. I would have loved to be giving you a DemiChat hat but as I’ve discovered, Deerstalkers are a bit thin on the ground. There is also the obligatory, detective disguise kit as well as some modern-day weaponry which is great for ‘boy appeal’.

With its mysterious kidnapping, a missing secret formula, and the most delightful animal Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson partnering, it is elementary, my dear Toni, that this book can’t go wrong. Now Toni, there’s a few people you’d like to address so I’ll ask you to pretend this is a Champs Elysees catwalk, that you are a former jewellery model, and please come over here and speak to your adoring audience.


Adventure Writing for Children

Capturing a Sense of Adventure by Jeni Mawter

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Helen Keller.
When thinking of the action/adventure genre, most people think of a tale filled with excitement and danger, a tale that will keep them on the edge of their seat, turning pages until the very end. The adventure novel is essentially a quest story, where the primary complication is often physical danger to the protagonist. R.L. Stevenson said that if you’re confronted with great fear and danger all you need are imagination and courage.
In writing for children and young adults we’ve all been told that we need to use all five senses to bring fiction to life – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch – but for me, there’s two other senses that also need to be used: the sense of adventure and the sense of mischief.

Do you dream of being stranded on a desert island? Would you like to live in a tree, or experience adventures on the high seas? Battle mysterious creatures or stop a crime ring? Then adventure writing is for you.
Elements of the action/adventure genre.
* A likeable protagonist. Takes on some sort of heroic quest, where they must prove their own worthiness. If that protagonist should fail their task, there’s often dire consequences to them or to others.
The quest may be literal (survive hardship and terror to deliver this ring to an ancient wizard), or more abstract (finding a way to improve a relationship). The quest is a long and difficult search for something. The traditional quest involves: treasure, a mission, an exploration, or, at its simplest, survival. As a reader, the quest is something we can all identify with. Like the main character we’ve quested with, we all hope to find that certain something – or someone – that will change our lives. And this is the key to the power of the quest in story: it represents our innermost desires.
* An unlikable antagonist. Tries to do everything in their power to thwart the efforts of the protagonist.
* Obstacles. These can be 1) human (the enemy; savages; criminals; corrupt police); 2) elements (the ocean, the jungle, the ice, the desert); 3) institutional (the army, the CIA, the KGB, the political system) or: 4) obstacles the hero discovers within themself (pride, physical weakness, desire for luxury or comfort, greed, or fear).
* Physical action. Characters are often placed in extreme situations.
* Fast paced.
* Violence. Violence is not justified simply for personal gain. It’s justified in defense of others, in defense of oneself, or in defense of a wider moral order.
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* Setting. It underlines the danger and obstacles to be overcome. It is often exotic, or at least, in out-of-the-way corners or underworlds of areas closer to home.
* Danger. Anything can happen. It will be as extraordinary as possible.
* Not necessarily lawful. However, the goal of the action must meet society’s standards of acceptability.
Writing Adventure
Adventure stories are a thrill ride through landscapes of the mind. They’re not to be explained, they’re to be experienced. Adventure leads the reader to astonishing places they have never imagined, to places they would never normally go of their own accord. Genre doesn’t matter. It could be fantasy, mystery, horror, or anything. What matters is that the reader wants to take the trip along with you. So how do we do that? Factors to consider include:

1) Characters

Good character dynamics and relationships can propel a story as much as plot does. In Freewheelers I used a small group of friends: 1) some with a shared history; 2) minor characters who have no relation to the main characters and; 3) a mysterious ‘other’ character.

The readers must care about the characters, be willing to follow them to the ends of the earth, live through the adventure with them. Heroes and heroines are only as impressive as the forces arrayed against them. They are at their best when pitted against strong, resourceful and dedicated forces of darkness. A fully rounded baddie seduces us by their flagrant disregard for the rules, and their defeat satisfies a deep-rooted human need to see order reign within the universe. Coax your inner baddie onto the page!

2) Events

Your adventure story has to be propelled into action by some event or sequence of events. Throw in some jaw-dropping surprising events to keep characters (and readers) at the end of their seats. In the action scene, the mechanics of movement must be described believably and with precision. Dialogue is important but it can’t get in the way of narrative tension.

3) Setting

Put your characters in situations they aren’t familiar with.

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4) Plot

Each story will start with a quest. The hero, flawed in some way, will encounter obstacles. And more obstacles. They encounters risk. Don’t avoid the risks.
Always keep in mind: What happened before? What’s happening now? What will happen next? It is said that adventure writing embodies the literary equivalent of the Newtonian laws of motion – every action brings about a subsequent, though not necessarily equal or opposite, reaction. The writer must follow through from event to event in a believable and consistently defined manner. The action scene is like a string of dominoes in three dimensions – or multiple strings that interact in time, space and depth.
Seduce the reader while assaulting the reader – Build your adventure story so that each sentence introduces a new twist or turn, assaults the reader from a new direction, moves the narrative focal point around in unpredictable, though interconnected, ways. Keep the sentences terse and lean, the style stripped, and try opening your sentences with action verbs to put the reader directly into the frame of reference. And, last but not least, never pull your punches. When you get to the hard parts, when you’re tempted to take the easy way out and find the simple resolution, push through and go for the solution that feels like it’s tearing your soul out.

Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Yesterday I was described as a thought leader. Not knowing the term, I googled it and to my delight I found out the following. A thought leader is a futurist or person who is recognized for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable distilled insights (thinklets).


And what was this in reference to?

Kiss Kill. A young adult novel that has met with rejection from traditional publishers, but has been embraced by the world of digital publishing. In the coming weeks  this blog will explore my digital publishing journey, but for now I’ll include a brief snippet on the issue of copyright and intellectual property found at the Thought Leaders web site: