Category Archives: Zeb and the Great Ruckus

Dearest Ministers of Education: please buy 2 million copies of Zeb and the Great Ruckus.

Dear Mr Langbroek (State Minister for Education) and Mrs Collins (Federal Minister for School Education),
I’m sure that your political parties are very busy dismantling essential health services and implementing draconian internet security protocols respectively. I would, however like to borrow a few moments of your valuable time to talk about an important issue, which is the dire lack of fictional texts featuring clockwork birds, obscure musical references, weaponised toffee and bewilderbeasts in the national school curriculum. Currently the new QLD curriculum has Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda as one of the required year 4 texts. Now, I’m sure Emily is a lovely person, and some of my students do genuinely enjoy her work. However, many of them, when faced with the task of reading her work, make a face like this:
Here is an actual quote from an actual student at an actual school:
“It’s boring. And when it’s boring I can’t concentrate and then I can’t do my work. Reading it makes me feel like my brain is made of grey jelly and the grey jelly is tired and grumpy. Also Jill said I smell like a sweaty bear. Can I throw my scissors at her?” Actual students may, to you, resemble strange mythical beasts, given that in your role as two of the most influential people of education in the country you are not at any time required to talk to actual students so much as read reports and analyses written by people who have met them in an academic capacity, which one can only assume is far more efficient.
“Roar! I’m a dragon! Roar! I make no more than a cameo appearance in this book! Roar!”
I’ll admit that Rodda got it right with the bit about dragons. Kids love dragons. I mean, hell, who DOESN’T love dragons? There aren’t nearly enough animals, mythical or otherwise, that can projectile vomit fire. But despite the fact that there is a dragon on the front cover we don’t get to meet the damn thing until the last 20 pages, and even then it only sticks around for a couple of dozen paragraphs before never being seen again. That’s false advertising if you ask me. If you applied the same approach to film advertising then the poster for The Dark Knight Rises would have looked like this:
Now, I understand that politics can be a messy game with few obvious solutions. Sometimes you have difficult decisions to make, like when you have to figure out how to justify extreme cost cutting measures like killing literary awards during the National Year of Reading and essential housing programs for underprivileged members of society whilst still getting away with giving yourselves a pay rise and a multi-million dollar office upgrade.
Luckily, I have an easy solution for you. Simply give the ol Rowan of Rin a rest for a little while and try out this really great new book that I wrote read recently called Zeb and the Great Ruckus. It’s got everything a kid could ever want! Explosions! Guitars! Bewilderbeasts! Action! Magic!  An allegorical warning about the dangers of an overly authoritarian government  valuable life lessons!
As you can see in the chart below, Zeb and the Great Ruckus outscores Rowan of Rin in all five essential learning categories. It also beats War and Peace and Macbeth by a phenomenal margin. Based on these criteria, Zeb’s literary prowess and educational potential is empirically clear. Plus, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and we all know that your parties could certainly stand to improve their efforts in regards to Indigenous education now don’t we? On an unrelated note, I’d never realised what a clearly terrible novel War and Peace is until reading this chart just now. Sheesh.
Data analysis courtesy of the Ministry of Truth
I urge you to make Zeb and the Great Ruckus one of the required texts for the national curriculum. I suggest that you put in an order for say, I don’t know, 2 million copies sometime with the next fiscal quarter, and I look forward to seeing a generation of children making this face:
PS: The official Zeb and the Great Ruckus launch party is on the 21st of September at Black Cat books. It will be loud, messy and amazing. Facebook event here, everyone in the world is invited. 


Dearest internet. It’s been a long time coming, but my children’s fantasy novel, Zeb and the Great Ruckus, has finally arrived! It’s been described as ‘like 1984 for kids, but with more magic, music and explosions’ and will be available for your rapturous enjoyment from the 15th of September!

FACT: Reading this book will give you superpowers!*
* Note: imagination is a superpower. You may disagree with this. You may also disagree with the laws of gravity, and you will be wrong about that too.

“This is a story made from pieces of all the dreams you had when you were asleep, but then forgot when you woke up.”

Hello! You are reading this in order to determine whether or not this book will be of interest to you! Well, congratulations, you obviously have fabulous taste! Zeb and the Great Ruckus is a story about magic, music, fireworks, bewilderbeasts, clockwork birds and weaponised toffee. It has some funny bits, some scary bits, some sad bits, and a rather large bit about a cave-dwelling ruttersnarl which we would tell you about but we don t want to give away the ending. If you like the sounds of any or all of the above, then this is the book for you! If you would rather read a complete history of European haberdashery, please consult your local book emporium.

Harry Potter says it’s the greatest book he’s ever read!*

Technically, it’s categorised as a children’s fantasy novel, but as I often say categories are for marketing departments and people who are too lazy to make up their minds about things. This isn’t just a book for kids. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s strange, it’s a protest novel, it’s a celebration of art and music.

*quote attributed to Harold S. Potter – 32 year old amateur taxidermist currently residing in his mother’s house in Tingalpa.


I’m extremely excited about the illustrations, which were prodived by fellow Brisbanite Kathleen Jennings. She recently won TWO Ditmar awards (the oldest and most respected scifi/fantasy awards in Australia) and has also been nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Kathleen has a beautiful, whimsical style that encapsulates Zeb and his companions perfectly. Plus, she has an obsession with Daleks that I find thoroughly enjoyable.


Preorders are open right now through Odyssey Books and the Amazon store so hurry up and make with the clickety clicks already! (Amusing side-note:  I once had a fan tell me “My mother, who is 82 said ‘it’s amazing that they can operate the world’s largest book store from the middle of a giant south american jungle!'”).

You can also check out the facebook and goodreads pages. If you enjoy the book and would like to write a kindly review or even send me an email/tweet/messenger pigeon, that would be hugely appreciated. I’m one of those nice authors that actually replies to emails (most of the time.) If you hate it, please address your grievance to our dedicated complaint service email: Details of the launch party will be announced soon (followed by the super secret after party at my house). You should come. It’s going to be one hell of a ruckus.

Contrary to popular belief, I have not actually been eaten by a rabid bear.

Why hello there! I know, I know, it’s been a while. I’ve been absent from the internet. But it’s okay, I haven’t actually been eaten by a rabid bear, even though that’s what all the tabloids have been saying. Nor have I been EATING rabid bears, as the even less reputable tabloids are claiming. I’ve just been busy living life 2.0 in HIGH DEFINITION WITH SURROUND SOUND! as well as making up very extremely long lies (aka writing novels).  I’m sure you’ve been kept busy what with all the robots landing on Mars and trampires to keep you entertained.

This is what happens when we spend money on science instead of weapons. We get fucking amazing pictures of the surface of Mars (ironically, named after the god of war.)

In any case, as Jesus once said to Thomas, “I’M BACK BITCH!” What’s more, I have this shiny new website that you are currently consuming with your retinas. I hope that you like it and take on it picnics and dance around with it in some sort of jubilant montage like this:

All the content from my old blog What Rhymes With Chaos? will now appear here, but will also continue to be archived at my old typepad. To celebrate the launch of the new site, I thought I’d give you all a present for FREE because that is my favourite price. It’s a little novelette (or long short story if you prefer, no one can ever seem to agree on the definitions of these things). It’s the kind of story Edgar Allen Poe may have written if he worked in an office, took tea breaks with Kafka and Stoppard and had an unhealthy fascination with amatoxins and Tom Jones. If you like it feel free to let me know. If you don’t then JUST SHUT THE HELL UP WHY DONTCHA! I’m just kidding. I’ll still love you (just a little less).

Death of a bureaucrat

Inaugural Premier’s Obituary Award

My Dearest Queensland, I have just returned from a weekend swimming in your resplendant blue waters at Stradbroke island, followed by two nights in the majestic sunshine coast hinterland, only to return to Brisbane and discover that Campbell 'I hate the arts so much you'd think they strangled my puppy' Newman has scrapped the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards. Bewilderingly, he has deigned to do this during The OFFICIAL YEAR OF READING. Did no one send him a memo? Perhaps they did, and he didn't read it. After all, he has publicly stated that he's 'not into studies and plans.' Not sure how he managed to get an engineering degree, if that's the case…


The money he's 'saving' is a paltry $224 000, an amount that is miniscule in terms of a state budget, but means a great deal to the arts. We are talking about BOOKS here! In the words of George R. R. Martin (via Tyrion Lannister): "The mind need books like a sword needs a whetstone." Newman, it would appear, is all too happy to have some very blunt swords at play.

"If I had to choose between Joffrey and Newman… Hrm. Is there a third option? Stabbing my eyes out with a fork perhaps?"

The loss of the Premier's Literary Award is a devastating blow to the QLD literary community, and if there's one thing I've learnt from a misspent youth reading too many fantasy novels, revenge is a cycle which always ends in joyous victory of good over evil with no sideline ramifications whatsoever. That's why I am, today, right now, announcing the Inaugural Premier's Obituary Award. Whoever can create the most amusing protest (of any kind) against this atrocity, or Mr. Newman in general, will receive:

ReadingMadameBovary_cover  +  Dying +  Cd_ripping

ZEB AND THE GREAT RUCKUS (Um…it doesn't have a cover design yet…)

1 x copy of Reading Madame Bovary The last (ever!?) book to win the Premier's Fiction award

1 x signed copy of my first novel A Beginner's Guide to Dying in India

1 x signed copy of my forthcoming novel Zeb and The Great Ruckus (Due for release later this year).

20 x new release CDs from both major and indie labels. (From my other job as a music reviewer. Selection will depend on what the hell they give me).

All of this will be hand delivered by me. I'll even make you dinner if you like. (Although I am a terrible cook.)

Email your entries (photos/word docs/media files/whatever you’ve got) to jmdonellan(AT)gmail(DOT)com by June 30th. The winner will be decided on August 30th.

You should also sign this petition to have the award reinstated and check out the Queensland Literary awards, recently established by Krissy Keen and Matthew Condon.


Paper girl festival video interview



Writers aren't used to having our faces (or any other parts) on camera. Despite spending most of our lives desperately trying to communicate through the use of various combinations of 26 letters and a small selection of punctuation marks that the modern world is increasingly less interested in correctly utilising, we are a species that is frequently heard but never seen. 

Unless you're J.K. Rowling or Tara Moss, no one knows what the hell you look like. I've read maybe a half a dozen of Irvine Welsh's books and I couldn't even begin to guess at his physical appearance. For all I know he's a morbidly obese man with a prolific beard, terrible body odour, a nipple piercing and a unicorn tattoo prominently displayed on his right forearm.

For this reason it was something of a novelty for me to do this interview with the organisers of the Papergirl festival. It's a really great opportunity for artists and writers to literally shove their work in people's faces. I've submitted a few of my short stories, so if you see someone approach you on a bicycle holding out a rolled up bundle of papers on the 4th of February, take a peek inside…

You can see interviews with other artists participating below. There are still a few days left to submit work! Artists and writers: get amongst it. 



Illustrator acquired!



Ladies and Gentlememes,

I am so excited about this announcement THAT I AM GOING TO USE CAPS UNTIL THE END OF THIS SENTENCE! My publisher, Odyssey Books, and I have found an illustrator/cover artist for Zeb and The Great Ruckus (the novel that will inspire a generation of children to pick up guitars and quills and paintbrushes and initiate an artistic insurrection.) Kathleen Jennings is a brilliant illustrator, writer, lawyer and translator (I can only assume she possesses some kind of superpowers, time machine, or small clone army), and was recommended to me by my friend and contract advisor Alex Adsett. Both Kathleen and Alex are fellow Brisbanianitesistsians. 


As soon as I opened up the link to Kathleen’s page and saw a sketch of a Dalek holding a parasol, I knew she’d be perfect for this project. The work of Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake heavily influenced this book and I wanted to have someone who, like Blake did for Dahl, would do both the cover and the internal line sketches. I’m really excited to see what Kathleen comes up with, you can and should check out her work HERE or follow her on twitter here. Alternatively, you could follow her in real life wearing a trench coat and dark sunglasses but I think the police frown upon that kind of thing and anyway you don't even know what she looks like.

I hope something fabulous has happened to you today as well, and if it hasn't I hope it does soon. FIREWORKS AND GUITAR SOLOS FOR EVERYBODY!