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NEW FEBRUARY 2023!
#1: The Knowledge Keeper

If it hadn’t been for the man in white body paint appearing out of the darkness, my Bus would now be a broken steel carcass in a smoking hole.

 

Someone set a landmine in ambush for the Library vehicle, a mobile repository of information saved from before the War. A beacon of knowledge in the ashes of civilisation, and my sole responsibility. Someone tried to take it from me. To stop the flow of free information. To steal from the people scratching out a living on the dusty frontier, just one cloudship delivery away from desiccation.

 

Now, other Keepers are missing. And not just Keepers. People have been disappearing from camps and settlements scattered across the outback. Why didn’t we know about it? The Library is supposed to know everything. That’s its whole purpose, to save and share knowledge. Isn’t it?

 

I have to warn New Pearth. After all, this is what I was trained for. Though the Library could never have predicted a plot this savage, or this well-organised.But first, with only a psychotic ex-slave and a digital ghost to help, I have to survive the trip…

The Knowledge Keeper is perfect for fans of speculative fiction who are looking for a fresh, more optimistic and less dystopian take on a post World War Three and climate change action thriller. Featuring a diverse cast of characters, from cranky airship pilots, snarky AIs, and badass teenage warrior librarians to a snakeskin-tattooed soldier called Gladys, it's been described as "Mad Max meets The Magic School Bus" -- you've never read anything like this before!

 

Contains medium violence, mild language and drug references. Suitable for ages 13 and older.

ARID EARTH: The Back Story

Jess writes...

The Knowledge Keeper has had a very long journey to the published page since the moment I first got the idea for their world whilst watching, of all things, a Cirque du Soleil movie in 2013! The specific fight scene that inspired the first draft is no longer in this book, but an adapted version may appear in a future Arid Earth story. However, in 2013 it was enough to inspire a full novel outline.

 

In mid-2014, I was sitting in the audience watching my friend Suzanne Main accept the Tom Fitzgibbon Award (and the publishing contract prize) for her hilarious kids’ book How I Alienated my Grandma. Then, I sat up (literally!) in my seat when the conveners unexpectedly announced that the award for a YA manuscript would be opened the following year to all authors, not just unpublished. I knew instantly what I was going to do, and scrawled the title The Knowledge Keeper on my arm.

 

In 2015, alongside my Master of Arts study and finishing the original editions of Generation Icarus, I managed to complete the first full draft of Keeper. In October, I submitted it to the Tessa Duder Award, and in 2016, it was shortlisted. So close, yet so far! In the meantime, however, I’d found some success on Wattpad with Icarus books reaching #2 and #3 in Science Fiction, and the reads were clocking up fast, so I put Keeper up on Wattpad as well. Fun fact: This original version was set in Eurasia, not Australia, and the main character was called Jordan! 

Then, out of the blue, in 2016 I was contacted by Eunoia Publishing about Generation Icarus. During conversations with them, Keeper also came up, and their Steam Press imprint offered a contract for both. Over 2016 and 2017, I worked hard on rewriting Icarus for the publisher. Along the way, Keeper was also sent to big overseas publishers such as Tor, but Icarus was the priority.

 

Then came COVID…

 

My publishers scaled back their plans, and we agreed that I would take back the rights for Keeper. I took Keeper off Wattpad and spent 2021 working on-and-off to improve the story with all I had learned about writing and editing and publishing. Significantly, I changed the setting to Australia, and this also meant changing the main character’s ancestry and name. “Jordan” had been named after the river, as she was the water of life and knowledge in the desert. Accordingly, when she moved to the Southern Hemisphere, she became Vaiana, which in the Polynesian family of languages means water, or rock water (like a sea cave).

 

However, it was perhaps the choice of an Australian setting that meant the 2022 Tessa Duder Award, a New Zealand contest, did not even shortlist the book the second time I submitted it. Ouch. 

 

It was an incredibly tough year, with massive highs (like winning a scholarship for my PhD) and terrible lows (funerals, the trials of teaching through COVID, and extended family drama), and I reached Christmas 2022 absolutely worn out. I needed something positive to immerse myself in, something that was fun, and exciting.

 

The Knowledge Keeper was waiting for me.

 

So, after re-reading the manuscript for the first time in a year, and getting plenty of reassurances from trusted family and friends that they really did love the book, they weren’t just being nice, I decided to restart my own Nineteenth House Publishing label. Thus, I have returned to the one career I have always wanted since I was very young.

 

My thanks to all designers who entered my January 2023 cover contest on www.99designs.com, especially to @roppix, @sabirshah, and @Data Portraits who were runners-up in the final round. It was so hard to choose between their excellent designs, so my thanks also to those who voted in the poll. I’m sure everyone will agree that @Graphicsoul was a worthy winner.

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