It’s not often that authors get to enjoy some glamour. Writing is a lot of hard work, and there aren’t many opportunities to kick back and enjoy the fruits of our labours. So I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked on an email from the Greek Festival of Sydney organisers, and saw that it contained invitations to some exciting events. The official launch at a reception venue overlooking Botany Bay, and a (wait for it!) cocktail cruise on Sydney Harbour! I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

The Greek Festival of Sydney is an annual event that’s now entering its 36th year. This is the first time I’ve been involved, and I’m delighted with the warm welcome I’ve received. I’d sent the organisers a tentative email explaining that my Greek-mythology based books were about to be released, and would they be interested in my running an event as part of the festival? Their enthusiasm and encouragement was wonderful. Within days, plans were being made.

The 11-week long cultural program has now begun. My role’s not until late April, so I’ll blog more about what I’m doing as it approaches. For now, I’ll just say that I’m lucky enough to be able to launch my Hopeless Heroes series at the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum. I’ll also be doing an author talk and workshop at St Peters Library. I can’t wait!

Until then, come along to the festival. It’s run by the Greek Orthodox Community of New South Wales, established 120 years ago. The events are spread out all across town. From concerts, to plays, talks, exhibitions, documentaries, food, dances … the list goes on.

It’s about celebrating who we are, who we were, and where we’re going. Greece and the Greek people have changed a lot over the millennia. We’ve spread across the world and adopted new homes. But some things haven’t changed – we still love life, family, friendship and hospitality! Thank you so much to the festival organisers for the stellar treatment. The champagne was excellent.

My wonderful publisher Sweet Cherry Publishing has arranged a blog tour for the release of my new children’s books. Based on Greek mythology, the Hopeless Heroes series is an action-packed adventure full of heart and giggles. Suitable for ages 7 – 10, the books are being released on 22 February this year. Have a look at the gorgeous trailer! I’m in a lather of excitement just thinking about it 🙂

The blog tour has begun, and I’m very fortunate to be hosted by some marvellous bloggers. It’s running up until mid-March. I’m loving reading people’s reactions! Have a browse through some more of their material while you’re at it. There’s no shortage of articles and reviews to keep you enlightened and entertained!



A book tag has been created to accompany the blog tour. If you’re into Greek mythology, I’d love you to join in! Do please let me know if you do. I’m looking forward to getting to know more about you and what kinds of books you like!

The best thing about writing for children is getting to see through their eyes again. Once you’re an adult, it’s all too easy to forget how astonishing the world used to be. We’ve seen so much that we tend to get jaded. But when you’re a kid, everything is fresh and sharp and startling. I feel so lucky to be able to write for an audience that’s brimming with enthusiasm. I’m particularly delighted that I can write about the things I love. Greek mythology has always been a big thing for me – thanks to my Greek immigrant parents – and now I can share the love with a whole new generation!

In my Hopeless Heroes series, I get to combine some quirky humour with tales that have stood the test of time. I have to twist them, of course, otherwise I’d be adding nothing new. For instance, we all know the traditional stories about Hercules, but how would he behave if he were here today? Would his super-strong (but not so super-smart) strategies work for tackling school bullies and housework? In book 1 Here Comes Hercules I got to play around with this idea and have a giggle at the same time.

The other question that interests me is: how would it be if we were to suddenly find ourselves in mythical times? In the later books, the setting switches between modern-day England and Ancient Greece. What would it feel like to meet Theseus, Jason and Odysseus? Could I do a deal with the giant spider Arachne, or outwit the three Grey Women who share a single eye?

While I’m writing, all the problems of the modern world fade away. Instead of watching the horror stories we call the news, I can cling onto an ancient vase and travel through time. I get to meet some famous heroes … who are maybe not quite so heroic after all. I encounter bizarre monsters, cross ancient landscapes, solve baffling puzzles, and defy the gods themselves. I only hope they don’t hold grudges …

Fortunately, I get to do it all through a 10-year-old boy called Tim Baker, who in a rather unsettling sort of way is me. At least, he would be me if I were 10, which I’m not. Or a boy, which I’m also not. Except for when I’m sitting at my writing desk – and then I can be anything I want to be!

The theme of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Week this year was ‘Escape to Everywhere’. It felt very appropriate for me personally, as I drove to areas unknown to visit a couple of lovely schools. I left the bustle of Sydney’s inner South and found myself driving along country roads lined with trees and cows and sheep. Luckily there was civilisation not too far away!

I visited Al Faisal College’s Minto and Austral campuses, where I received wonderfully warm welcomes. The kids were adorable and very enthusiastic.

I’ll never forget the questions the youngest kids asked me. ‘Do you like writing?’ was the most common. ‘How long have you been writing?’ was another. ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ was the hardest to answer, because I don’t know. They just sort of … appear. But the most astonishing question I got was ‘How old are you?’ Note to self: do not ask them to guess. Answers ranged from 27 (I happily agreed with that one …) to 60 (nearly passed out …) I guess anything over 20 to them is simply ancient!


The older children asked more penetrating questions: ‘How do you deal with writer’s block? (I go for a walk), ‘How old were you when you first started writing? (nine) ‘Do you make much money from writing? (hollow laugh).

I had a marvellous day meeting sparkling children and hospitable teachers. Thank you to Five Senses Education and my publisher at Steve Parish books for organising the visits.


Like many Greek Australians, I grew up on a steady diet of Greek mythology. Herakles and Theseus were as familiar to me as Cinderella and Snow White. That’s why I’m so excited to add my voice to the stories that have been told and retold over the millennia. Of course, I had to give them my own little twist … well, rather a big twist …

I’m keen on history and have always been fascinated by the idea of time travel. I’m also a lifelong fan of quirky kids’ books like Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland. Why not mash it all together?

First I had to find the right main character. I didn’t want some cool, tough little dude hurtling around in time and space. I wanted an ordinary boy, down on his luck. Someone who never once expected that he carried the seeds of greatness within himself. Enter Tim Baker.

So how could he meet a Greek hero? I decided to borrow from the Arabian Nights – well, they borrowed baklava from us – and use the idea of the genie in a bottle. Except it wouldn’t be a genie, but the hero Hercules. And it wouldn’t be a bottle, but a Greek amphora (which in later books gives Tim the ability to travel to Ancient Greece).

In this first book, Hercules tries to help Tim with his problems – but although he’s super-strong, he’s not exactly super smart. His attempts to recreate some of his twelve labours in the modern world lead to comic chaos. How do you convince a hero you don’t need his help?

Sweet Cherry Publishing has done a great job and I’m delighted they took the series on. I’m also thrilled with the illustrations by Nick Roberts. I went into a lather of excitement when I saw him depict Hercules the way he’s shown on Greek pottery, complete with heroic poses. Here the hero is wrestling a tiger skin rug … as one does …

I hope kids love reading the book as much as I loved writing it 🙂

Available from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Book Depository, The Nile, Waterstones  and probably some more too!

gormless_gods_invite_london_launch_partyAt the London Book Fair! In case you’re not familiar, the Book Fair is a global marketplace for rights negotiations and the sale and distribution of content. My new publisher Sweet Cherry Publishing are exhibiting there, and they’ll be celebrating the upcoming launch of our new junior fiction series Gormless Gods and Hapless Heroes with some yummy Greek snacks. I’ll talk more about the first book Tim Baker and the Ancient Curse in a future blog, but for now I couldn’t resist sharing this information. As you may have guessed, the series is based on Greek mythology 🙂


aliensI’m not being flippant or silly. I really have seen a ghost. In fact, the sighting sparked the interest that led to my writing Aliens Ghosts and Vanishings. I was intrigued rather than frightened, and wanted to understand it.

The sighting isn’t discussed in the book. It’s nowhere near thrilling or scary enough to warrant a mention! The book looks at major haunts in historic Aussie locations, such as the convict settlement at Port Arthur, the brutal Old Melbourne Gaol and the notorious Sydney Quarantine Station.

No, my sighting happened in a very humble location – my home. Nobody else saw it, so I can’t call on any witnesses to corroborate me. But I know what I saw.

It wasn’t one of those near-waking experiences, where you could feasibly say it was only a dream. It was in the middle of the day and I was wide awake.

My house is large, modern and open-planned. I was walking from one room to another when I happened to glance towards the front door. The security screen door was locked, but the wooden door was open, letting in a light midday breeze. There, standing near the doorstep, was a young man. I saw him very clearly.

He looked to be in his early twenties. He had blond hair with a longish fringe that flopped over his forehead, with a short back and sides. He was wearing a white shirt and high-waisted jeans. His head was tilted quizzically to the side and he had a gentle smile on his face. Nothing malevolent or creepy – just inquisitive.

I stared at him, wondering what he was doing  there. Was he going to approach the house? Did he want to sell something? Was he collecting for charity? But he just stood there, looking. I was about to approach the door to find out what he wanted, when he vanished. Yep. Right before my eyes!

As I mentioned, I was more curious than frightened. Yes, I felt quite shaken, but that was more a case of confronting the unknown. I had no sense that he meant me any harm. Rather it seemed like he was wondering what I was doing there. So … was he a previous occupant, wondering what we’d done to his house? I can’t think of any other explanation!

It got me thinking. Assuming ghosts are real (and if they’re not I’m probably going nuts, which is even more scary!) what are they? Are they fading images being played back on something like a psychic screen? Or are they sentient beings, aware of us and what is going on around them? It certainly seemed like he was looking at me. But who knows?

After all that research, I still don’t understand what that figure was. It’s taught me, however, the importance of keeping an open mind. Scepticism is important, but it needs to be balanced. Maybe it’s okay not to have all the answers, as long as we don’t pretend to understand…

Have you seen a ghost? If so, please share your story in the comments!



One of the most exciting things about writing is getting to work with a talented illustrator. You get to see your ideas brought to life in ways that you didn’t know were possible! I was lucky enough to be teamed up with Richard Morden for our recent book Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings. His drawings range from funny to creepy to downright scary – not just echoing the text, but also enhancing it.

Richard Morden, illustrator

Richard Morden, illustrator

Based in Melbourne, Richard works in a range of styles and is fascinated by Australian culture, history, prehistory and natural sciences, gothic horror and science fiction. He was happy to share his thoughts about this latest adventure.

1. Tell us a little about your research for this project.

I looked up all the people, places and animals to make sure they looked just right. I also added accurate details that weren’t necessarily in the text. The aim was not just to draw what was in the text, but to expand on it in a complementary way, helping to create an informative experience for the reader. Some of the animal drawings were based on photos I have taken in museums and a lot of the landscapes were based on photos from my own reference library. Interestingly, I met some of the witnesses of the Westall UFO sighting years ago at a talk promoting a documentary. I asked them what they experienced and their answers helped inform the Westall UFO illustration in this book: best reference ever.

The Westall UFO sighting

The Westall UFO sighting

2. What was the most surprising thing you learned while researching the book?

I loved the story of medieval African coins being found on the North coast of Australia. As well as being an exciting story of a chance discovery it hints at possible histories beyond the generally accepted accounts of Australia’s past. It left me wondering what wonderful historical surprises yet await us.

3. What was the most difficult part of this project?

Some of the more serious topics covered in the book continue to have an effect on people’s lives to this day. Stories such as the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain required representation in a way that is informative and engaging yet respectful to those affected. Illustration concepts such as these need more consideration than others. On a less serious note, what does a bunyip look like? Nobody really knows. How then to illustrate a bunyip? I struggled with this question, changing my mind several times. In the text is a suggestion that extinct megafauna could have been a real life basis for the legends of bunyips. Following this train of thought, I sketched a Zygomaturus, an extinct giant marsupial swamp cow, and decided it looked weird enough to fit the bill. What do you think a bunyip should look like?

4. What was the most fun or rewarding part?

Illustrating all the mysterious locations, situations and characters was a lot of fun, but by far the most rewarding aspect was all the learning involved. I was already familiar with some of the stories but many were new to me, and when researching the illustrations I learned even more. Behind the incredible stories is a backdrop of intriguing Australian personalities, culture and history; exactly the kind of subjects I enjoy learning about.

5. What’s the strangest or most mysterious experience you’ve ever had?

What do you think explains it? In 1996 on a cool but sunny spring morning I saw three large black cylinders quietly floating over the western suburbs of Melbourne. I couldn’t identify them so for me at least they were UFOs. Years later I searched on the internet for what I had seen, and found many pictures of floating black cylinders identical to what I remembered. They were real. I am pleased to say they were not aliens, they were solar balloons! Someone had been playing a prank. Look them up, they are strange looking things.

aliensDid a UFO drag a family’s car off the road in the middle of the outback? Is there really such thing as the gleaming-eyed swamp monster known as the bunyip? How did rocks rain from the sky in WA?  And just what became of the prime minister who went into the surf and was never seen again?

Sure, you’ve heard about UFO sightings in far-flung corners of the United States. You’ve heard of Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster. You may have even watched a late-night show exploring conspiracy theories surrounding missing media tycoons. But these stories are for grown-ups, and mostly from overseas. Then there are some stories that are so mysterious that only kids can handle them! Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings is a book for young readers, all about the extra-terrestrials, the supernatural and bizarre disappearances in our very own backyard. It’s ideal for readers aged 10 to 15, or for anyone who has the burning curiosity of a child!

I’ve always wanted to write a book like this, and absolutely loved researching all these amazing events. I hadn’t realised just how many strange things have happened on our own shores – hauntings, sightings, disappearances. I’m delighted that the book was taken on by Penguin Random House, who did a marvellous job bringing it to life. Richard Morden’s illustrations are brilliant!

I wanted to share my interest in the bizarre with young readers – but I wanted to go further than that. This book doesn’t just relate the (albeit juicy) tales. It encourages critical thinking skills. I don’t force any conclusion onto the readers. Rather, I encourage them to look behind the claims. To ask themselves why people say the things they do. When someone makes an outlandish claim, are they lying, mistaken, or simply telling the truth? Everything needs to be judged on its own merits, maintaining a healthy balance of open-mindedness and scepticism.

Oh, and by the way, I’ve seen a ghost.

Yes. Really.

After getting my first junior novel published nearly two years ago, I felt certain that all would be plain sailing from then on. I had my foot in the door, as they say. It was a rude awakening when I discovered that wasn’t necessarily so – at least, not for fiction. Thankfully my non-fiction work was still going strong, and was indeed more interesting and rewarding than ever.

But still. I’d created a proposal for a five-book fiction series and was sure it was only a matter of time before it found a good home. It was awful when the rejections started coming. I re-read my work again and again, trying to see where I’d gone wrong. I tweaked it here and there. But I still liked it and couldn’t see why it was being rejected. Could I have misjudged the market so badly?

I would have given up if it wasn’t for some feedback I received via the Faber Academy. My work was read by the wonderful Sophie Hamley, who assured me it was merely a matter of finding the right publisher. Someone who liked quirky. She encouraged me to not limit myself to the Australian market, but to approach overseas publishers. I’d never tried that before, and thought it would be too difficult.

sweet cherryActually, it was far easier than I expected. Many publishers in the UK and US refuse to consider unsolicited manuscripts (even more so than here), but there are still some that do. The first  I approached asked me whether I was prepared to turn my five-book proposal into a ten-book proposal. Prepared – yes. Delighted – even more so!

It took a while for the pieces to fall into place, but I’ve just signed a contract with that publisher. Horray! I’m so glad they’re prepared to work with a writer who lives half way around the world. They’ve even agreed to generous deadlines, enabling me to keep writing my non-fiction material. Their name is Sweet Cherry, a British independent publishing house specialising in children’s fiction. I checked out their list before I approached them, and felt an affinity with the types of books they publish. This is really important. It shows our styles are a good match, and that’s something authors should always keep in mind.

So thank goodness for sweet cherries! I much prefer them to sour grapes 🙂


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