Publication day for Wanderer!

Today is the publication date for Wanderer, the brilliant new novel by one of Australia’s greatest storytellers, multi-award-winning author Victor Kelleher. It is his first new middle-grade novel in over fifteen years, and we are so proud to be publishing it!

Wanderer is not only an exciting, immersive adventure, with unforgettable characters, set in a brilliantly-imagined alternative world: it is also a lyrical love song to the power of books and stories. You can read more about the story here, and watch a great trailer for it here, but here below too are some words from Victor to readers, about the book and its themes.

I wrote Wanderer while living in the Channel Country of southern Tasmania. It grew out of the waterways and landscape I looked onto every day, and more or less demanded to be written. So like all my fantasies, it is grounded in a real place. Only the time has shifted, from the present to a not-too-distant future, when the world is learning to heal itself again.

 The notion of healing runs right through the book, from the main character, Dane, who has been mentally wounded by the manner of his mother’s death and his own feelings of guilt; right through to the animal kingdom, which has turned against humanity after millennia of ill-treatment and neglect. Then, too, there are the abandoned children who, for me, symbolise the plight of poor kids everywhere.

 The stories told by Lana, and the books she and Dane are trying to rescue, can also be seen as a part of this healing process – though they clearly symbolise much more. Again, for me, the image of the lost kids sitting around the campfire listening to Lana tell her tale is central to so much of what I was trying to convey. Stories can heal us, as First Nations people throughout the world have known for many, many centuries.

 In this respect, let me confess something here. I hadn’t written a novel for some years and telling Lana and Dane’s story helped restore my writerly self. It reminded me of a part of myself that had been missing. Does that make sense? I hope so, because it’s the simplest truth I took away from this act of authorship.

 But that’s enough about healing. Readers can further explore that theme for themselves.

 Just a final word about one of the many other issues raised by the novel, and that’s the thorny problem of violence. In and of itself, violence is a nasty thing. On the other hand, it’s something we’re all capable of. Why does, say, Lana show restraint at critical moments, while her father, Karl, gives free rein to his basest passions? What constrains her?  Or Dane come to that? Or to look at it in another light, why do the people of Skull veer one way, and the people of Elysia another?

 Much greater writers than myself have tackled this problem, and it even arises in many fairy tales. So it would have been foolish of me to pretend that Wanderer supplies all the answers. It doesn’t. But at the heart of my young characters’ quest, there are, I hope, some clues as to how and why we become who we are.

Happy reading!

Wanderer

By Victor Kelleher

ISBN 9780645378818

Cover and internal illustrations by Lorena Carrington

Published August 2022 by Eagle Books, an imprint of Christmas Press

RRP $19.99

Available in all good bookshops.

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Cover reveal for Wanderer!

We are absolutely delighted to reveal the beautiful cover of Victor Kelleher’s magnificent middle-grade novel, Wanderer, which we are publishing in August. The cover was created by the brilliant photographic illustrator, Lorena Carrington: isn’t it just superb!

Wanderer is the first new middle-grade novel in over fifteen years by multi-award-winning author Victor Kelleher, one of Australia’s greatest storytellers. An exciting adventure set in a brilliantly-imagined world, it is also a lyrical love song to the power of books, and stories. We are so proud to be able to bring this wonderful book to the world!

You can read more about Wanderer here.

Publication day for Children of the Wild!

We are delighted to announce that today is the official publication day of Michael Grey’s stunning debut YA novel, Children of the Wild! It’s an amazing speculative fiction story, set in an unusual dystopian world, with a cast of memorably vivid characters, full-on adventure, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and fantastic world-building. We are very proud to be publishing it, and warmly congratulate Michael on the book’s release! We also congratulate the wonderful Lorena Carrington, who created the striking cover illustration and internal chapter decoration.

You can read more about Children of the Wild here.

Cover reveal for Children of the Wild!

We are delighted to reveal the gorgeous cover of debut novelist Michael Grey’s fantastic YA novel, Children of the Wild, which we are publishing in March 2022. The beautiful cover illustration is by the wonderful photographic artist Lorena Carrington, and design is by Authors’ Elves. Lorena has also created an elegant motif to use as chapter headings throughout the book.

We’re excited to be publishing Michael’s book, the first YA novel we’ve taken on. Powerful, action-packed and thoughtful, it is an absolutely gripping read. Read more about it, and Michael, here.

Publication day for Charlie Chaplin!

We are delighted to announce that today is the official publication day for Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect! Written and illustrated by the dynamic mother-daughter duo who create books under the joint pen-name of Phoebe McArthur, it’s an exciting middle-grade mystery set in a picturesque Australian country town, and features a bright, spirited heroine in the Nancy Drew/Trixie Belden mould, but with a very contemporary twist. And it’s enhanced by fantastic, atmospheric black and white illustrations.

Congratulations to the talented Phoebe McArthur duo–we are delighted to be publishing this fabulous book! And we hope lots of readers will love it as much as we do.

Phoebe McArthur on writing Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect

Next Monday will see the official release of the new Eagle Books title, Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect, a gripping contemporary mystery set in the picturesque country town of Gulgong in central west NSW. And today, as we wait for the big day, author Phoebe McArthur tells us something about how the book came to be, the influences on the story, and the research that had to be done…Enjoy!

Writing Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect

So, Phoebe McArthur is the nom-de-plume for a mother-daughter writing team. Generally one of us writes the initial draft of the story and then sends it to the other one for editing/adding/rewriting.  In the case of Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect, the daughter (me) of the  team, wrote  the  story  and  the mother (hereafter known as ‘Mum’) was the one doing the edits and additions. Whenever we’ve got a completed manuscript we can’t tell who wrote what!

I can’t remember if I started with Nancy Drew or The Famous Five, but I’ve always loved mystery stories. Recently, I came across one that I’d started writing when I was about 8. It’s very embarrassing and the punctuation is atrocious.

A little while ago, I was given inside information that a publisher was after a ‘Trixie Belden’ style middle-grade novel. Yay! This was right up my alley! Originally, with Charlie (whose name was Meg for the first few drafts) was moving into a tiny house with her mother. It changed to an old post office when I realised that so many of Australia’s original post offices were now something else.

After a meeting with the publisher (who was encouragingly excited) I headed off to Gulgong to check out the Pioneers’ Museum (her suggestion). And yes, it was perfect! I took a lot of photos, which ended up being perfect for Mum to use as the basis for her illustrations, ate a LOT of food and didn’t write a single word. However, plot was bubbling away in my mind.

I grew up in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. It is rumoured that there are tunnels under the main street between one of the pubs, the big hotel and the bank. Apparently these were for visiting royalty to be able to move around and not be bombarded by the masses. While in Gulgong, I almost fell down a hole in the main street. It turns out that it is used to deliver barrels of beer to the pub. How boring! So, for the story that hole became an entry point to a labyrinth of secret tunnels that run under the town of Gulgong. To the best of my knowledge this is something I’ve made up, but I’d love it to be true! Almost all the Famous Five stories have secret passages and tunnels, so I simply had to add them into Charlie Chaplin.

I also have a memory of Mum telling me that we’re secretly descendants of Queen Victoria. Something about one of her sons and a maid and someone being sent out to Australia to avoid a scandal. How true that (or my memory) is, I have no idea, but it made its way into the book, nonetheless.

One thing I was determined not to have in the book was romance. One thing that I love about Enid Blyton mysteries is the lack of mushy stuff that gets in the way of solving the mystery. I get very annoyed when the main characters get distracted by their feelings and end up in a lot more trouble because of it. I put up with it in the Nancy Drew books, because (most of the time!) the romantic aspects didn’t encroach on the overall storyline, whereas in the Trixie Belden books I found it to be forced. Thankfully Mum fully agreed with that decision and we now have a book that we are very proud of!

We are working on our next few projects together — concurrently, of course! Life isn’t as fun if it’s not as full and busy as humanly possible!

What the Davitt Awards judges, and Jenny, said at the awards ceremony

At the 2020 Davitt Awards ceremony the other day, presenter Sue Turnbull read out the judges’ great comments on Jenny Blackford’s prize-winning book, The Girl in the Mirror, after Val McDermid announced her win. That was followed by a short speech by Jenny herself. We thought readers might be interested to see the transcript, which follows, courtesy of Sisters in Crime Australia. And remember, you can watch the whole thing here.

DAVITT  AWARDS CEREMONY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2020.

SUE TURNBULL: This year 12 crime books competed for the Davitt for Best Children’s Crime Novel. 4 were shortlisted.

 VAL MCDERMID: And the Davitt for the Best Children’s Crime Novel goes to JENNY BLACKFORD for The Girl in the Mirror (Eagle Books, an imprint of Christmas Press)

 JENNY BLACKFORD is an award-winning Australian writer and poet. Her poems and stories for adults and children have appeared in Asimov’s, Westerly, The School Magazine and many more Australian and international journals and anthologies. She won two prizes in the Sisters in Crime Australia Scarlet Stiletto awards 2016 for a murder mystery set in classical Delphi, with water nymphs. Eagle Books published her spidery, ghostly middle-grade novel The Girl in the Mirror in October 2019. It’s based on a story that originally appeared in The School Magazine. Pitt Street Poetry published her third poetry collection, The Alpaca Cantos, in April 2020.

 SUE TURNBULL: This is what the judges had to say:

“Separated by more than a hundred years, and brought together through a mysterious mirror, Maddie and Clarissa provide comfort and wisdom at a time when they feel desperately alone. The girls band together to defeat a creeping evil that threatens the lives of their families. The Girl in the Mirror is a refreshingly contemporary time-slip mystery. Maddie and Clarissa are intensely relatable with their shared frustrations at the way in which they are dismissed by the adults in their lives. Jenny Blackford has captured the pains of early adolescence – loneliness, fear, uncertainty – in a gripping mystery that is perfectly pitched to the middle readers who will love it.”

Over to you JENNY.

JENNY BLACKFORD:

“I’m so delighted! The Sisters in Crime do an amazing job of encouraging and supporting Australian crime readers and writers. In 2016 I won two prizes in the Scarlet Stiletto awards, run by the Sisters in Crime, for a murder mystery set in classical Delphi, and that has certainly encouraged me to write more crime fiction and poetry. And now this, the Children’s Crime Novel Davitt for The Girl in the Mirror. Thank you, Sisters!

“I must thank Christmas Press Commissioning Editor Beattie Alvarez, who pulled my submission out of the slush and turned it into a real book. Eagle Books is the adventure story imprint of Christmas Press, based in Armidale and run by Sophie Masson, Fiona McDonald and David Allan. Huge thanks to them all. They were the perfect publishers for my mix of crime, ghost story and mystery, with added spiders. The design of the book is amazing, thanks to Beattie and Fiona – there are tiny redback spiders on every page, and gloriously creepy black and white illustrations sprinkled through it. And thanks to illustrator Liz Anelli, who launched it at MacLean’s Booksellers and at Maitland Library.

“My friends and family have been admirably patient whenever I’ve stopped doing whatever I was halfway through and looked blankly into space. Many of them have also helped with proofreading and editing for many drafts of the manuscript – especially my husband Russell.”

Very exciting news!

PRESS RELEASE

September 27, 2020

Christmas Press is absolutely delighted to announce that Jenny Blackford’s fabulous middle-grade novel, The Girl in the Mirror, which we published in our Eagle Books imprint in 2019, is the winner of the Best Children’s Crime Novel category in the 2020 Davitt Awards.

The Awards, which were presented by legendary Scottish crime writer Val McDermid in a virtual ceremony yesterday, Saturday September 26, featured a shortlist of 24 books across six categories. You can find the video of the ceremony here.

Prestigious annual awards with a 20-year history, the Davitts are run by the Sisters in Crime Australia literary organisation and showcase the best crime novels by Australian women writers.

The Girl in the Mirror, an enthralling mix of murder mystery, time slip and ghost story, is the debut middle-grade novel of acclaimed poet and short story writer Jenny Blackford. Illustrated with atmospheric black and white pictures by Fiona McDonald, the novel has received wide acclaim, with reviewers praising its ‘clever storytelling’ (Buzz Words), ‘silky smooth prose’  (Compulsive Reader) and its ‘enjoyable and revelatory’ qualities (ReadPlus). As Geoffrey McSkimming writes in the back cover quote, it is truly a ‘spine-tingling winner.’

Publishing director of Christmas Press, Sophie Masson, said, ‘Jenny initially submitted her novel to us some time ago in one of our open submissions period, and it immediately caught the eye of our commissioning editor Beattie Alvarez, for its haunting atmosphere, gripping narrative and sharp, evocative writing. We loved working with Jenny and are very proud to have published The Girl in the Mirror. We warmly congratulate Jenny on this very well-deserved win and thank the Davitt Awards judges and Sisters in Crime Australia for supporting the best in crime fiction by Australian women writers.’

Some fantastic news!

United Publishers of Armidale, a collaboration between children’s books publishers Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books, is delighted to announce that it is the recipient of a 2020 Resilience Fund Grant, an initiative by the Australia Council for the Arts. 

The 2020 Resilience Fund is designed to provide emergency relief to support the livelihoods, practice and operations of Australian artists, groups and organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australia Council has directed more than $5M to the Resilience Fund to provide immediate relief to the Australian arts sector.

United Publishers of Armidale was granted funds under the Adapt stream of the Resilience Fund, to create a wide range of fun new free activities and resources centred around their books, to join those already featured on their website, www.unitedpublishersofarmidale.net These are aimed at children, families and schools. Funds will also be used by the publishers to create special ‘Journey of a Book’ video presentations for adults which will look at aspects of writing, illustrating and publishing children’s books, around a focus on books produced by each publisher. These presentations, to be hosted on the UPA You Tube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCebJK9zqg1f1ROlrSrtAFuA,  and showcased on their website, will be aimed at aspiring creators as well as anyone interested in children’s books.

Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books, under our United Publishers of Armidale banner, wish to warmly thank the Australia Council for their generous support of our joint initiative. We look forward to creating some fantastic resources–watch this space!

(And as a Christmas Press imprint, Eagle Books is delighted to be part of it!)