Archive for July, 2009

Today is a very special day, Sandy Fussell author has come to visit. She has brought with her, Niya Moto, the star of ‘Monkey Fist’, the latest book in Sandy’s Samurai Kid’s series.niya 

It’s especially special for Sandy and Niya because today is THE day that ‘Monkey Fist’ is released to the reading world. Congratulations Sandy and Niya!


I scissor kick high as I can and land on my left foot. I haven’t got another one. My name is Niya Moto and I’m the only one-legged samurai kid in Japan. Usually I miss my foot and land on my backside. Or flat on my face in the dirt. (White Crane, the very beginning)

An Interview With Niya

1.  What is your favourite food?

That’s an easy one. Honey rice pudding. The finest food in all of Japan. It’s also the favourite of Sensei’s horse Uma. Before I shared my pocket full of pudding with him he used to snap his teeth and throw us off whenever we tried to ride him.

2.  What is your favourite colour?

White because I like to think about the White Crane standing peaceful and still beside the water’s edge. Then I close my eyes and balance perfectly, as if I have two legs.

3.  What do you like most about yourself?

I don’t know the answer to that. I asked my friends for suggestions but they just laughed. “What’s to like?” Taji said. I swung my crutch at him but he ducked. He’s got ears like the Golden Bat. Maybe the thing I like most about myself is my friends. Can I say that?

4.  What do you like least about yourself?

I’m not perfect and I make lots of mistakes. Sometimes I get envious. Like when Kyoko pays too much attention to Chen. He’s two years younger then us and she fusses over him all the time. Sometimes I get angry with Sensei when he won’t let me help him. I know I could if he would only tell me what is making him so sad. But the worst thing I ever did was distrust Yoshi. He’s one of my best friends and just because he wouldn’t tell me where the Shaolin monks were hiding, I wouldn’t speak to him for a whole week.

5.  In five words or less, describe how others see you?

Clever, thoughtful, funny… Oh I’ll have to ask the others again. Guess what Taji said? I can’t see you at all. But Yoshi said I was loyal and get this, Mikko said I was brave.

6.  What is your happiest memory?

Swimming in the river beside the Cockroach Ryu with my friends. Not in winter though. Brrr. There’s ice in the river then but Sensei still makes us practice swimming. He says a samurai has to be able to fight in all weather, not just on sunny days.

7.  What is your scariest memory?

Once I was caught in a mudslide in the middle of a mountain. Luckily my friends were with me and Yoshi carried me out. It was scary when he gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Blech! Kissing Yoshi! Maybe the scariest time ever was when we travelled into Hell Valley and I saw a ghost.

8.  What is the most important quality for a samurai to have?

Sensei teaches there are three most important qualities. Chi, jun, yu. Wisdom benevolence and courage. Be clever, be kind, be brave. My friends think I am wise (except for when I try to convince them that Sensei might be a Tengu), and I know I am kind. But sometimes it is really hard to be brave.

9.  What is the most important quality for a Ninja?

A ninja has to able to deceive. It’s their special skill. I could never be a ninja. Some of my good friends are ninjas but I need to be totally honest. I don’t think it’s right to kill someone while they are asleep. Where is the honour in that?

10.  Who is your best friend? Why?

I have six best friends – Yoshi, Mikko, Taji, Nezume, Kyoko and even Sensei. They are like family to me. Mikko gets on my nerves sometimes – he’s such a tease. And Yoshi snores. But I like them all the same. 

11.  Who is your most feared enemy? Why?

 I don’t trust the Dragon Master. Even though we have overcome many enemies on our journey, I know the Dragon Master is waiting back in Japan. He is plotting revenge on us and our teacher for making him look foolish. 

13.  Where do you see yourself in five year’s time?

I would like to be a teacher like Sensei. In five years time I hope we are back at the Cockroach ryu. It would be really good if Nezume came back for a visit too.

14. If you could tell people one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I don’t like to talk about myself. If Mikko could hear that he would laugh. But it’s true.

15.  Name one thing about you that people would never guess?

I really like poetry. I pretend I don’t but I do and I also suspect it might be something I need to be good at. Samurai have to write their own death poems, in case they don’t return from battle. One day I know I will need to support Sensei in an important battle and I want to have a really good poem ready. Just in case.

Thanks for dropping in to chat to us, Niya. Sandy said she wanted to tell us a bit about herself too.

sandy-catsSo apart from the fact that you obviously love cats, Sandy, what else can you tell us about you. Could you talk us through your road to authordom?

Samurai Kids began life as a stand alone ms. It was my first trade acceptance. May 2006 will always be one of the highlights of my life (just behind the births of my sons and my beach wedding)

Six months later the decision was made to extend Samurai Kids to a series and to illustrate it. Book 1 was retitled White Crane. I began Book 2 Owl Ninja based on an idea from #2 son (his comment after I read White Crane to him: “Where are the ninjas mum? I know, they’re in book 2.” )

Big joke!  But when I was asked if I had an idea for Book 2 – I stopped laughing and started talking about ninjas! White Crane was picked up by Walker UK and Candlewick US. It was a Top 10 bestseller for Walker Australia in 2008, the first Australian list title to make the Top 10

Book 2 Owl Ninja was published in October 2008, Book 3 Shaolin Tiger in April 2009 and Book 4 Monkey Fist in August 2009. Two more series titles will follow in November 2010 and March 2011.

Can you tell us a bit about “Who is Sandy Fussell?”

I am a mum to two wonderful boys and have worked as an analyst/programmer and project manager for 15 years.

Is it true that you dropped out of four universities on the way to becoming an author?

Yes. I studied Psychology (Sydney Uni), Mathematics (Macquarie), History (Armidale) and Industrial Maths and Computing (Charles Sturt).

How does it feel to be a successful author?

Like Cinderella. I’m sure a magic wand has been waved over me. I have been incredibly lucky to somehow have found myself in the right place at the right time with the right ms in my hand. I just hope I don’t turn into a pumpkin any time soon!


Monkey Fist cover 

Monkey Fist is set in mid 17th century China in The Forbidden City (within Beijing). It is historically accurate in every respect – time, events and geography.

The story opens with Yoshi still enroute from the Shaolin Temple. When Kyoko is kidnapped, Sensei and the kids must rush to the Forbidden City to rescue her. Yoshi rejoins the group but he keeps the whereabouts of the Shaolin monks a secret from Niya causing a rift and loss of trust.

Thanks so much Niya and Sandy for visiting us.

If you want to catch up with Sandy and Niya again, they’re on a blog tour and will be visiting the following sites:

1st August https://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com (that’s here)

2nd August http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale 

3rd August http://www.letshavewords.blogspot.com

4th August http://www.bjcullen.blogspot.com

5th August http://belka37.blogspot.com

6th August http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com

7th August http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com

8th August http://www.soupblog.wordpress.com

9th August http://thebookchook.blogspot.com

10th August http://wordsandpictures.blogspot.com






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Monkey Fist cover

Can’t wait for tomorrow, when author Sandy Fussell will be dropping in to talk about her latest Samurai Kid’s book, Monkey Fist.

Niya Moto, the story’s narrator will also be visiting to talk about this long awaited fourth book in the series.

Hope you can join me in welcoming Sandy and Niya to https://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com


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Sandy from website

I’m so excited that my author friend, Sandy Fussell is going to be here a week from today.

What’s even more exciting, is that Sandy is bringing Niya, the star of Monkey Fist,  her long awaited new Samurai Kid’s book.

Hope you can join us on Saturday 1st August to celebrate the release of Sandy’s action packed new book and meet Niya and Sandy.


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Thanks for dropping in today.

Sadly, we’re coming to the end of our hectic but fabulous Letters to Leonardo blog tour. We have been everywhere (well almost).

Tomorrow, we’re off to the USA so it might take a bit longer for the post to appear due to the time difference.

We’re going to be talking about bipolar themes in the story and the affect on teenagers of having a family member with a mental illness. Hope you can join us at http://www.JenniferBrownYA.com

Dee and Matt:-)

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letterstoleonardolrgA lot of what I write is based on something that actually happened. My YA verse novel Street Racer was written after I read an article in the paper about someone involved in a street racing accident. A book I wrote for younger readers, Elephant Trouble, is based on a story in the newspaper about a man who came home from work to find an elephant stuck in his driveway.

 My new YA novel Letters to Leonardo – just released on the 1st July, is based on a story that was told to me by a friend and one of the book’s characters is a person that I actually know.


If you’re writing a biography or an autobiography there is no need to turn fact into fiction – in this instance, it’s best to stick to the facts.

But if you’re writing a novel and making things up about your characters, you need to change the facts because:

  • What you make up could offend or hurt someone if you name a real person.
  • Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction and people wont’ believe it. In high school I had to write a love story so I wrote about how my parents first met. The teacher’s comment was that the story was well written but ‘not credible’. (Even though it was all true).


The easiest ways to change fact into fiction are:

  • Change names of characters and places
  • Add or remove people from the event
  • Change the setting
  • Change the time/era in which the story took place
  • Combine real events from different sources
  • Change the details of the actual event – eg a cat stuck up a tree could become a dog stuck in a drain pipe.

In Letters to Leonardo, some real facts stayed in the story and some were changed. When you read the book, see if you can pick which ones.

Matt and I are sad to say that our blog tour finishes tomorrow. The exciting part is that the last stop is in the USA where we’ll be visiting Jennifer Brown, author of The Hate List which is being released in America in September. Catch us at Jen’s blog  www.JenniferBrownYA.com

Hope to see you there.

And just in case you’ve missed any other parts of the tour, here’s where we’ve been already.

Feel free go back and visit these great sites and find out more about Letters to Leonardo and the writing process.

24th June 2009             http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com        

Dee and Matt talk about promoting Letters to Leonardo online.


25th June 2009             http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com     

Author interview


26th June 2009             http://thebookchook.blogspot.com    

How art has been used in Letters to Leonardo


27th June 2009             http://belka37.blogspot.com

The research process involved in writing Letters to Leonardo           


28th June 2009             http://weloveya.wordpress.com

Guest blogger – talking with Vanessa Barneveld – interactive discussion with bloggers


29th June 2009             http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale            

An author interview covering things like inspiration and perspective


30th June                      http://www.letshavewords.blogspot.com

Mentors in YA fiction, and Leonardo da Vinci’s involvement in the book


1st July                         Cyber launch http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com including cross to Robyn Opie’s blog http://robynopie.blogspot.com – hurdles overcome on the way to publication.


2nd July                        http://persnicketysnark.blogspot.com

How the author’s life paralleled Matt’s – her growing obsession with Leonardo da Vinci


3rd July                         http://bjcullen.blogspot.com

Working with a publisher and the editing process


4th July                         http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com

Interview with the elusive Matt Hudson


5th July                         http://teacherswritinghelper.wordpress.com

Class writing activities based on Letters to Leonardo


6th July                         https://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com

Tips 4 young writers on how Letters to Leonardo was written


7th July                         http://www.JenniferBrownYA.com

An overseas stop before heading home

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j0384807We’ve had an absolute blast today – and we’re so glad you could make it to help us celebrate the release of Letters to Leonardo.

Please feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments about anything to do with today’s Cyber Launch.

Thanks so much Sue Whiting, Margaret Hamilton, Robyn Opie, Hal, Debbie  and SJ – and all my kind writing friends who have left lovely comments, for making this such a wonderful occasion.

This event has been brought to you by the following:




http://teacherswritinghelper.wordpress.com and


Don’t forget to check out our movie book preview at:


Tomorrow, the blog tour continues and it should be a really fun day because we’re off to visit Persnickety Snark. If you’d like to know how my life paralleled Matt’s, drop in and see us at http://persnicketysnark.blogspot.com

It’s been a huge day – thanks so much for coming. Now it’s time to curl up with a hot cuppa and a good book.

Hope to catch you again in Cyber Space.

Dee and Matt:-)




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letterstoleonardolrg1.       How long did it take to write Letters to Leonardo?

More than ten years.

2.       How many words have you put on paper from first draft to published novel?

Over 1 million.

3.       How many hours have you spent writing & rewriting Letters to Leonardo?

Around 1800 – that’s an average of about 180 hours per year.

 4.       How many times has the ending changed?

At least 7

5.       Was the book always called Letters to Leonardo?

It started out as Letters to Leonardo, then during my mentorship, was changed to To the Moon and Back, and eventually Space. When I went back to writing the original story (refer article about The Writing Process on Robyn Opie’s Blog http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com), it became Letters to Leonardo again.


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