A quick note on my health

Hi everybody,

I’m really grateful to everybody who has joined me for the adventure with Tooth and Blade. Part One is selling well, and I am on track to release Part Two by the end of May. I appreciate all the support the project has received over the last few weeks, especially from reviewers. It has been such a thrill that the serial is finding its readers.

However, I’m afraid that my health over the last few months hasn’t been very good. Things have reached a head this week, to the point where I was facing the return of the chronic illness which plagued me as a teen. Don’t worry, I will recover soon, but I’ve had little choice but to take some proper time off from both my day job and my creative work.

Unfortunately, in the interests of preserving my health, it will be necessary to delay the release of the final installment of Tooth and Blade by a few weeks. It will be released in July. I don’t feel particularly good about this and appreciate that nobody likes to be left hanging. However, the alternative is a heck of a lot worse. I didn’t factor sickness into my plans.

Thanks for understanding. It means a lot to me.

Julian

2019: The Adventure Unfolds

Salvete, readers!

A belated happy new year!

It has been a little while since my last update, hasn’t it? I’ve been hard at work to reach a deadline. I had to provide a complete draft of The Ivory Gate, the sequel to The Way Home, by the end of January. Good news, I made it! It’s still a bit rough at this point, but helps assure my publisher that the book can be scheduled for 2019. So I’m glad to say I’ve already met my first goal for 2019!

But guess what? That’s not all I’m publishing this year.

Starting from April, I am going to publish my first serial, Tooth and Blade. It’s three short, punchy novellas which together form an epic. I’m really excited about this story. It is historical fantasy based on Norse mythology. Here’s the elevator pitch:

A young woman raised by trolls must find her place in human society. Caught between worlds, Dóta must bridge the gap between man and beast.

The first short instalment, Foundling, will be available for pre-order soon on Kindle.

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After that it’ll be time to get ready for the release of The Ivory Gate in August!  I had been working toward a publication date of October 2019, but due to some shifts in the schedule the book has been moved up. There is much to be done—edits, illustrations, cover design, the whole shebang.

Squeezed between these projects I will contribute to an interactive fiction project, Magic in the Mail, edited by the fantastic Felicity Banks. Remember me telling you last year about Murder in the Mail? This is a similar concept in that it’s a mystery told through letters and art which you receive in the post, only it’s a fantasy and aimed at kids. I get to write in character as a dragon. How cool is that? I’m also thrilled that Murder in the Mail will be published as an illustrated book—it’ll be slightly surreal to see my handwriting in a published book!

That’s the first half of the year pretty much taken care of. After that, I’m going to shift my focus to some academic research, the translation of the early sources related to St Nicholas. This will hopefully be submitted to an academic publisher by the end of the year. 

Throughout 2019 I will continue searching for the right agent for my Middle Grade fantasy. It would be wonderful to see it in print.

I’ve also been invited to be a panelist at a couple of cons, which I’ll update you on soon.

That’s… a lot. However, The Ivory Gate is largely done, and I’ve got the first Tooth and Blade finalised, and I’ve made a very good start on St Nicholas. So it’s achievable, so long as I can keep my focus.

It’s good to have a lot of irons in the fire! That’s what having a creative career is all about. There’s no such thing as a ‘big break.’ It’s about doing a lot of little things until they lead to big things.

Until next time,

Valete

PS. I’m offering a free short story exclusively to followers of my newsletter. Sign up here for your copy! Fear not, I won’t give away your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.

2018: A word of gratitude

Salvete, readers!

I just thought I would write a quick note to say thank-you to everybody who has supported me through 2018—thanks to you, this has honestly been one of the best years of my life. This was the year in which I published my debut novel, The Way Home. It managed to reach #1 on several charts.

As a special thank-you, the e-book of The Way Home is available for a mere 99 cents at online retailers worldwide until 24 December 2018.

The novel would not have succeeded without you—when the book was released, I had no idea whether it would find any readers, but people really took the story into their hearts. I am in no danger of becoming the next J.K. Rowling, but at least once a week I get a message from somebody letting me know how much they enjoyed the book. That means the world to me. The Australian publishing industry is small but thriving, and I’m glad to be a small but thriving part of it.

Words cannot express how much I appreciate everybody who has taken the time to review The Way Home. Authors basically live or die on their reviews, and writing an honest review is the best thing you can do to support an author.

I’m particularly grateful to the hosts of my favourite writing podcast The Bestseller Experiment, who were instrumental in helping the novel succeed. Over the past six months or so hardly a week went by in which I didn’t hear my name mentioned on the show. At the invitation of friend and fellow author Mark Stay I ended up recording several episodes about craft for the show, and just recently I was a featured guest on the show. I chatted with Mark about The Way Home, epic story-telling, ancient myths, YA literature, Animorphs, small presses, the Australian publishing industry, koalas with boundary issues, and the horror that is Thomas the Tank Engine… You can check it out here.

I’m really, really looking forward to 2019, which will see the release of my series of Tooth and Blade novellas and hopefully the second Ashes of Olympus book.

Until next time,

Valete

My evening with Independence Day: Resurgence

4:16 pm

I have the house to myself tonight. My wife is going to her work Christmas party. Okay, more specifically, I have some time to myself after I have fed my boys, supervised their nightly ablutions and put them to bed. Then I can watch a movie I’ve been meaning to see: Independence Day: Resurgence!

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Honestly, I meant to see it at theatres when it came out a couple of years back, as I have a lot of fond memories of the first movie. But, eh, I never quite got around to it. Babysitters not being forthcoming, my wife and I knew we’d only get one shot at seeing a movie together at the cinema that year. Resurgence was the fifth choice in 2016 after Finding Dory, Rogue One, The Jungle Book and Warcraft. I had seen the trailer for Resurgence on YouTube and didn’t really care that much, but maybe it might recapture some of the feels from the first movie. And I was kind of curious what had happened after the alien invasion. Kind of.

Yet somehow, Finding Dory won out as the date movie of choice that year, and I eventually snuck out to see Rogue One on my own. I managed to pick up a second-hand blu-ray of Warcraft really cheap last year and watched it when I was home sick from work, and it was the definition of okay. I did enjoy The Jungle Book, but don’t recall when I saw it. Anyway. I wasn’t exactly going to burst into flames if I didn’t see Resurgence, as the story was pretty much done in the first film. But on a whim this afternoon I picked up Resurgence along with the first film at supermarket for 10 bucks. This seems like a fair price and not a terrible way to spend an evening.

Should be okay. I have vague memories that this is an alternate history where the alien tech has been retrofitted to 90s tech and spun off from there. That actually could be cool. And, hey, they managed to bring back the original director.

How bad could it be?

8:56pm

Okay, the boys are asleep and I’ve finally managed to put my phone down. Time to movie!

9:05pm

Sort of weird that the world is now united. Something tells me that’s not how it would go down if there was some kind of global disaster or alien invasion. Also, there are third world countries that now have access to vastly superior alien tech. How would that affect the balance of power? What would capitalist societies do with the technology? Actually the world looks pretty much as it does today, only with more flying stuff and ray guns. Didn’t the aliens have biomechanical armour? Didn’t they control their technology telepathically? Didn’t their ships have shields? Why haven’t humans exploited that technology? No sense of wonder. So many missed opportunities.

9:06pm

The moon has earth-like gravity. Huh.

Oh, stop it Julian. You’re over-thinking it. The first was a big, dumb action blockbuster and so is this. You’re not normally this nit-picky these days. Just sit back and enjoy it! The effects are pretty at least.

9:16pm

Wait. Will Smith isn’t in this one, is he? That’s, um, oh. Okay. There’re a few characters from the original, but mostly new characters. Hang on. They’re meant to be the kids from the first movie. My bad. They are still pretty much new characters though. And no Will Smith. Apparently, his character died on a test flight. Hmm.

9:18pm

The new characters… Who ARE these people? I don’t just mean in terms of their bios—who are they as characters? I don’t really have any sense of what they are like? There’s the hotshot pilot, his wise-cracking sidekick, the first daughter (is that the term? Probably not), the son of the hotshot pilot from the first film… But they’re all kind of cardboard cut outs I’ve met a million times before. It isn’t necessarily a problem that it’s formulaic—but formulaic and lacking personality is criminal. The first film is formulaic and cliché, but the actors brought a lot of energy and charm to the parts. The characters shared a chemistry. You knew who they were in the very first scenes—the characters don’t need to do super heroic deeds to be memorable. It can be something as simple as a shared joke or a way of walking. Everyone here looks tired. Like they don’t really want to be in the movie. Everybody is world-weary, even the young players. That isn’t a good sign.

9:34pm

Oh good, the aliens are here! Time for the movie to start.

9:36 pm

My wife is home! Gosh, that wrapped up early. I happily hit pause and we chat about the Christmas party.

9:45pm

Back to movie. The aliens’ new gravity weapon is actually pretty cool. Weaponised gravity is a genuinely terrifying concept. But couldn’t they just wipe out the entire planet in one shot? Actually one of the characters makes the point that this gigantic ship could just smash through the planet. But, erm, it doesn’t for inexplicable reasons.

10:12pm

I’m sleepy. That’s kind of interesting—the other night I watched Die Hard and despite being physically exhausted the film was so engaging that I didn’t feel like sleeping at all.

Resurgence is not great. I didn’t really think it would be– I went in with low expectations. It’s not terrible either. It’s just not a whole lot of fun.

There are aliens smashing stuff and humans scrambling to survive and I just am not feeling it because there’s no one character to care about. There’s Jeff Goldblum, I guess. We are halfway through the movie and nobody has really done anything.

I could stay up, I suppose. Is this movie worth being tired tomorrow? Is it worth sacrificing a bit of sleep to see how this turns out?

10:15pm

I put the remote down and stagger to bed. I’ll finish watching it tomorrow.

Probably.

It’s okay, I think as I pull back the covers. I got the first movie on DVD at least. And it comes with the second film as a bonus feature I’ll probably never watch again.

PS. I’m offering a free short story exclusively to followers of my newsletter. Sign up here for your copy! Fear not, I won’t give away your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Free short story!

Salvete, readers!

Publication day for The Way Home, Book I of the Ashes of Olympus trilogy is just a few short weeks away. In the meantime, I’ve written a short prequel, which I’m giving away to newsletter subscribers for free!

Betrothal introduces the characters of Aeneas and Kreusa, whom we here meet as children. The story takes place ten years before the events of Ashes of Olympus. On the eve of the Trojan War, a young girl must find her voice to stand before the gods… As an added bonus, you’ll also get a first look at the first three chapters of The Way Home.

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I’m offering the e-book exclusively to followers of my newsletter. Sign up here for your free copy to read on a Kindle or any other e-reader! Fear not, I won’t give away your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.

This was an absolute blast to write and I’d love to hear your feedback!

Until next time,

Valete

Cover Reveal! Ashes of Olympus: The Way Home

Salvete, readers!

As promised, I’m absolutely thrilled to unveil the cover and blurb for my upcoming novel, Ashes of Olympus: The Way Home, coming July 2018 from Odyssey Books. It’s a YA historical fantasy based upon Greek mythology, in which a band of refugees must face the wrath of the gods to find a way home.

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I’m absolutely in love with the cover, and I am so grateful to my editor and the graphic designer for coming up with such a wonderful image. But what’s it all about? Read on for the blurb…

The gods betray you.
The winds are hunting.
Nowhere is safe.
The journey begins…

The war of the gods has left Aeneas’s country in flames. Though he is little more than a youth, Aeneas must gather the survivors and lead them to a new homeland across the roaring waves. Confronted by twisted prophecies, Aeneas faces the wrath of the immortals to find his own path.

First in a trilogy based on Virgil’s epic poetry, ASHES OF OLYMPUS: THE WAY HOME is a tale of love and vengeance in an age of bronze swords and ox-hide shields.

The novel will be released both as an ebook and in print, July 2018.

Until next time,

Valete

 

P.S. Sign up to my free monthly newsletter for news and previews, as well as an exclusive prologue chapter to the Ashes of Olympus series! Over the next couple of months I’ll be giving readers an exclusive sneak preview of the amazing interior artwork in the book.

 

Free short story: The Electric Touch

Salvete, readers!

I have been hard at work for a few weeks on a short story, a prequel to Ashes of Olympus, my historical fantasy novel which comes out in July. I finished the draft this very morning and will send it to my publisher soon. Working on the short story got me looking through my old files in which I dabbled with the genre, and I was startled to discover a YA science fiction story I had completely forgotten. I thought I would share it here. If you enjoy the work, please consider signing up to my newsletter. 

THE ELECTRIC TOUCH

You never forget your first love.

She was called Maya—naming your children after American provinces was fashionable, once upon a time. She had freckles on her nose, wore a beret sometimes, and would whistle a tune as we walked hand-in-hand. I suppose it’s Maya’s eyes I remember most. They would glow like St. Elmo’s fire when she smiled. They were meant to do that, of course. She’d designed them herself.

In my day, they still called people like Maya cyborgs. Such a cold, clinical name for something so beautiful! And people like me? My parents took me to a psychiatrist, and ze diagnosed me as a bionsexual. It’s strange to think the word doesn’t carry a stigma any more, but it had them worried. They weren’t the only ones. Somehow it was everyone’s business that the organic-looking kid wanted to be with the ‘borg. To most people, me and Maya were just a dirty pair of sparkers.

Maya didn’t care; her parents were OK with it. Mine weren’t.

Dad almost had a fit when I first brought Maya to our place for afternoon tea. He stormed out, gnashing his teeth. Tata, who was so much gentler, ran after him. That night, after Maya had gone home, I tried to talk about it with them.

‘Dad, it’s no different from when you met Tata—G’pa didn’t like that, either. But you showed him—you’re married now and everything!’

But that didn’t help. Dad didn’t much like talking about his father.

‘The Church forbids it, I tell you! The Imperatrix Sacra will never, ever forgive you!’ he said.

As I sobbed into my pillow, Tata stroked my hair.

‘Why is Dad so angry?’ I asked.

‘That girl has corrupted her flesh into the likeness of a man-made object,’ said Tata.

‘But Tata, I love her.’

‘I know you think you love her. And I’m sure she’s a very nice girl, underneath all the tech. But her very soul is corrupted, my honey. Your daddy’s right to be upset.’

‘But… I don’t see how someone like Maya—’

‘It’s complicated. You’ll understand when you’re older. Anyway, there’s still plenty of time for love. You’re barely seventeen after all. Don’t be so quick to decide. After all, this could just be a phase. A lot of kids go through a curious stage. You’ll grow out of this someday, you’ll see.’

But I didn’t. I couldn’t.

I wanted to be what my parents wanted me to be. It would have saved me a lot of mobbing on the cybernet. Great G’ma would just tut and tell me not to worry about ‘trolls,’ whatever that meant. But it’s hard not to worry when shimmering holographic avatars mob you as soon as you log into school.

‘Hey, lover-borg,’ they’d hoot as my avatar entered the library-space. Sometimes they’d scrawl the words ‘sparker slut’ on Maya’s Socialspace Wall when the administrative mainframe wasn’t looking. No-one was ever as brave as Maya.

To this day, I still don’t understand why they were so afraid of us: for some people like Dad and Tata, it was a religious thing. That, I could get, sort of. But the other kids? Maybe they were just repeating what their parents told them. Maybe they were just weirded out because a bionsexual connects to the conscience and not to the body. I dunno, I got my contracep on my eleventh birthday like everybody else: Dad and Tata said to go nuts. And I could have, I suppose. But I just sort of… forgot.

I wished I could like organics, wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t have anything against organics and I still don’t. It’s not like I hate people or anything. Or at least, I hope not. When I was little, some of my best friends were organics. By the time I was a teenager, there was a kind of distance there, but I still cared for them. It was weird. I could love an organic like they were my own family but not in any other way. Even then, I could not deny the allure of the synthetic. I could not resist the electric touch of Maya’s hand stroking my face, or the way the sunlight would catch in the golden wire of her hair.

I decided I didn’t care what Dad or the Imperatrix Sacra said after we had interfaced for the first time. We made sure we had the house to ourselves. It was important that we were connected face-to-face. It wasn’t safe to interface over the cyberweb. You never knew what pervs were watching and recording: this way, our brainwaves were our own. We were careful, we were cautious. We used a firewall. At school they had warned us of spontaneous virus transfer.

She brushed her fingertips against my temples: a slight tingling. I stared deep into her eyes and our breathing synchronised. The world fell away in ripples of colour and light, and we let go of all but each other.

I could feel anxiety emanating from her like ink-drops in water. In her eyes I saw mine widen in surprise. I don’t know why, but I hadn’t realised this was her first time too. Breathe. Just breathe. The tendrils receded. Reach. Touch. Never moving, we caressed in the twilight. Slowly, hesitantly, our very selves merged. This was communication beyond words, beyond skin on skin. We walked together in a dream, flew together over the Advanced Nations and joined the stars. Our consciences crackled and then roared as euphoric fusion. I lost myself in her, and she in me.

And then the greatest shock of all: to see myself as she saw me. Not with her eyes, but with her heart. How could I be so lovable?

At last we withdrew back into ourselves. Maya wiped my eyes. The decoupling was gentle, but it almost seemed the connection was lost before I knew it. Holding her against me, I understood. I had Maya, and she had me.

The rest was up to God.

 

© Julian Barr, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julian Barr and jbarrauthor.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Murder in the Mail

Salvete, readers!

Guess what? An interactive fiction project I wrote for a while ago has launched on Kickstarter! Check it out here.

When Felicity Banks, the editor of the project, approached me to work on it, I knew I had to take part. I had read and enjoyed her novel Heart of Brass, as well as her previous interactive fiction projects. I appreciate Felicity’s deep characterisation and attention to detail in constructing settings. When I read her work, I’m in the company of interesting characters, all with their own voices and personalities. More than that, though, her books are great fun, with a keen sense of adventure.

Murder in the Mail is an innovative way to tell a story. Basically, the story goes that a teenage girl is murdered at her own birthday party. One of her artist friends is the killer. Sounds like a typical Agatha Christie style murder mystery, right? The awesome part is the way the story is told. You get to play the role in the story as characters post things to you. Over the course of 8 weeks, subscribers receive letters, postcards and artworks in the mail from the characters, all of which contain clues to unlock the identity of Naomi’s killer. Each character’s letters are written by a different author, ensuring that the character voices remain distinct. And each character’s artwork is created by a different artist. It’s a great showcase of Australian talent.

My character? Oh, I write as Naomi, the girl who is murdered. I had a choice of parts, but I leapt at this one because I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and write in a voice totally different from anything I’ve tried before. I can’t say I’ve ever taken on the persona of a teenage girl. I had to dig deep to write for Naomi. It is one of the most emotionally raw things I’ve ever written. Here’s a portrait of Naomi by artist Shauna O’Meara. It was specifically commissioned for the project.

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It contains several clues and Easter Eggs which become apparent as you read through the story. And, um, if you look closely at the bookcase, you may spot a copy of my upcoming novel, Ashes of Olympus: The Way Home.

If you’d like to subscribe, the best way to do it is via the Kickstarter. The crowd-funding campaign will end in 26 days. If you pledge to the project, you will be supporting the work of numerous Australian artists and writers. Any amount is gratefully appreciated!

Until next time,

Valete

Some very good news!

Salvete, readers!

As you may have seen on Facebook and Twitter, I have just signed a publishing contract for my debut novel with Odyssey Books. The Ashes of Olympus trilogy kicks off in 2018, both digitally and in print. It’s a YA historical fantasy based on Greek mythology, in which a band of refugees must face the wrath of the gods to find a way home.

I want to convey how thrilled I am to share this news, but words just won’t cut it. Instead, I’ll let my good friend Snoopy do the talking.

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This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to publication, but still, it’s my debut novel. Academic publishing and commercial fiction are universes apart, and you can bet I’m going to make the most of the experience. Publishing fiction has been a dream of mine since the first grade, when I wrote a story about a boy who was transformed into a koala.

I look forward to sharing the adventure with you over the coming months. As we get closer to publication day, I’ll share the cover with you and tell you more about the story and what went into it.

I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

Until next time,

Valete

Coffee adventures

Salvete, readers!

Sometimes ordering a coffee can be an ordeal…

‘Your name, please?’
‘Julian.’
‘Dulian? With a D. That’s unusual!’
‘Um, no. Julian. With a J.’
‘Oh. Isn’t that a girl’s name?’
‘No, it’s not a girl’s name.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes, I’m sure.’
‘Because we don’t really like it when people give us fake names. It makes things confusing.’
‘It’s an Italian name… A very old Italian name. You know, like Caesar.’
‘The salad?’
‘Can I have my coffee, please?’

Until next time,

Valete