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calendula_witch August 2 2014, 06:15

Achievement Unlocked

Sent out Many Many Many wedding invitations today. Still have a handful for which we are hunting up addresses, but the vast majority are out.

Already have two RSVP’s, from the ones we sent out earlier this week! Yes, what a relief, all my parents are coming. :-)

Now let’s see how many other people are….

Originally published at Shannon Page. You can comment here or there.

katatomic August 2 2014, 02:33


I have my tentative schedule for Dragon*Con--which currently sports 5 panels: two on Friday and three on Sunday. But it is a tentative schedule, no reading or signing stuff is on it yet. I should also have a book table signing and possibly some time at the SFWA table too, so I'll update all that as soon as I have it. Stay tuned!
azhure August 2 2014, 01:01

Snapshot 2014: D.K. Mok

DK Mok is the author of The Other Tree, Hunt for Valamon, and the Aurealis Award shortlisted story ‘Morning Star’ (One Small Step).

DK grew up in libraries, immersed in lost cities and fantastic worlds, populated by quirky bandits and giant squid. She graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interest in both social justice and scientist humour.

She’s fond of cephalopods, androids and rugged horizons, and she wishes someone would build a labyrinthine library garden so she could hang out there. DK lives in Sydney, Australia, and her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale.

Website: www.dkmok.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dkmokauthor

Twitter: @dk_mok

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/dkmok

1. Your most recent work is an urban fantasy novel, The Other Tree, which some reviewers have compared in feel to Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code.  What was the inspiration behind this book, and how was the process of writing it like?

17314951It’s been an exciting year, and the release of my debut novel has been an amazing experience. I’ve always loved fantasy and adventure, and I grew up reading authors like Roald Dahl, Graeme Base, Isaac Asimov and Terry Pratchett. I’m drawn to books that transport me to fantastic realms and take me on exciting adventures, and these are the kinds of stories I most enjoy writing.

The Other Tree draws from a number of influences, and Indiana Jones is certainly one of them. Like many people, I watched the first three movies at a time when I thought giant rolling boulders were the coolest thing ever, riddles were deliciously tricky, and bullwhips were an awesome distance weapon that never ran out of ammo. I loved the blend of fantasy, action and mythology; the flawed but empathetic protagonists; and the tongue-in-cheek humour. Actually, I still love most of those things.

Films like The NeverEnding Story, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal also left a lasting impression on me, with their blend of lush fantasy and subtle menace. I was fascinated by the duality in many of these movies – the tension between the mundane world and the fantastical one, and the sense that the protagonist could never be quite whole, quite fully formed, without striding through the fire in both.

One of the most memorable things for me about the Indiana Jones movies was the fact that the protagonist was ostensibly a professor of archaeology. In many of the stories I’d grown up reading, librarians, professors and alchemists were generally sedentary sorts with delicate constitutions. They mentored the hero, but rarely did much swashbuckling themselves. And yet, many of my real-life heroes – many of the people I saw exploring strange lands and encountering wondrous creatures – were often researchers who divided their time between the desk and the field.

To me, passionate scientists, researchers and academics are a natural fit for fantastic adventures. When I hear Sir David Attenborough talk about his extraordinary and sometimes reckless experiences as a pioneering naturalist and documentary maker, his exuberance when describing everything from gorillas to sea cucumbers is absolutely enthralling.

Likewise, when I listen to oceanographer Sylvia Earle – aka The Sturgeon General – describing her dives from the undersea laboratory Aquarius, or forensic entomologist Amoret Whitaker enthusing about the role of maggots in solving murders, it’s hard not to be drawn in. Seeing their passion, commitment and curiosity, it’s clear why otherwise ordinary people brave gun-runners, death threats or malaria to study shy, pink iguanas or bellicose volcanos.

The eventual impetus for my writing The Other Tree came from my sister, who’s also an author and an avid reader. She mentioned one day that she’d like to read a story about people searching for the lost garden of Eden, and I immediately thought: the protagonist has to be a botanist. The idea kicked around inside my head for quite some time, transforming slowly from a fantastic adventure romp into a story with deeper themes of family, mortality, priorities, and the choices we make.

The protagonist in The Other Tree, Chris Arlin, owes a debt to all the passionate researchers I’ve admired, and she’s infused with the same spirit of discovery. She’s a cryptobotanist whose passion for rare and improbable plants makes her the subject of ridicule at her alma mater, Varria University. However, when Chris learns that her father is suffering from an incurable illness, desperation and determination impel her on a search for Eden and the Biblical Tree of Life.

When it comes to the writing process, I used to be a pantser, but I’m now a dedicated plotter. I had the arc of the story planned before I began writing, because it’s the only way I can keep track of multiple plot threads and characters who insist on running around absolutely everywhere. I wrote for several hours each evening after work, all day on weekends, and I scribbled in my notepad whenever I had a spare moment. It took about six months to reach a decent early draft, and another several months of editing, revising, and addressing feedback from beta readers to arrive at a polished manuscript.

The final book brings together many of the themes and elements I love, and I hope The Other Tree connects with other readers who enjoy fantasy and mythology, botany and archaeology, and geek culture with touches of humour.

2. Your story, Morning Star, appeared in the Fablecroft anthology, One Small Step: An Anthology of Discoveries.  This story garnered you an Aurealis Award nomination (for Best YA Short Fiction) and was noted by many readers as being one of their favourites in the anthology. The call for submissions for the anthology gave a very broad idea of what was being looked for – involving literal or figurative “small steps”, discoveries or beginnings.  How did you go from such a general idea to a story like Morning Star?

OneSmallStepCoverYou might want to settle down with a cup of tea for this answer, because it’s another long one. In the absence of a word limit, or someone playing increasingly loud exit-music over the top of me, I’m going to give the extended-edition response.

‘Morning Star’ is the culmination of my lifelong fascination with androids, consciousness, and the definition of humanity. I grew up watching Astro Boy, a children’s anime about a robot boy and his often poignant adventures. He had red rockets for feet, and pathos beyond his years. A winning combination.

In high school, I was introduced to Star Trek: The Next Generation, with its android crewmember, Lieutenant Commander Data: an artless, cat-loving, mystery solving, socially awkward Chief Operations Officer. Episodes such as ‘The Measure of a Man’, dealing with questions of sentience and liberty, had a profound impact on my growing awareness of human rights and discrimination.

By now, I’d started reading Isaac Asimov’s books, including The Caves of Steel, which featured the cunning and eloquent R. Daneel Olivaw. I had my heart wrenched by stories like ‘The Bicentennial Man’. I idolised Susan Calvin, a female robopsychologist character at a time when women were far less visible in programming and engineering careers than they are today.

And then, I watched Blade Runner.

Sir Ridley Scott’s masterpiece of science fiction noir poetry left an indelible impression on me. The plight of the replicants, the tangled conflict between troubled bounty hunter Rick Deckard and charismatic android Roy Batty, and that unforgettable ‘time to die’ speech, crystallised so many of the nebulous concepts I’d been wrestling with.

I love android stories because they raise questions about identity and humanity, sentience and freedom. They explore ideas about what it means to live, what it means to be human, and all the messy, contentious and important territory that covers. Android stories also often act as an allegory for the marginalised, the oppressed, and the dispossessed, illuminating issues of equality and civil rights.

Fast-forward over a decade to 2012. Around the time I saw FableCroft’s call for submissions, Prometheus was released at the cinemas. This was Scott’s long-awaited return to science fiction, and I relished the spaceships, the cool tech-toys, the gritty holograms, and, of course, the complex and compelling android, David 8.

Another – more sombre – event happened around this time. Neil Armstrong – the astronaut whose words inspired the anthology’s title – passed away. He was greatly admired not only for his iconic role in the Apollo 11 moon landing, but for his quiet, solid work as an aerospace engineer and researcher. I’d grown up with a passion for stories about space exploration and distant worlds, and the passing of such a legendary man was deeply felt.

So, ‘Morning Star’ was a story that had waited patiently to be written, and One Small Step was part of a confluence of events that finally rallied me to write it. I’d encountered many stories revolving around the last human in the universe, and I wanted to write a story about what it would be like to be the last android in the universe. I loved inventing all the futuristic tech, and weaving in the elements of mystery, biology and ethics. However, at its heart, ‘Morning Star’ is a story about self-awareness, mortality, human nature, and the fragile, tender, complicated connections between people.

The Aurealis Award nomination was incredibly unexpected, and it was surreal to see my name on the list alongside authors such as Joanne Anderton, Juliet Marillier and Kim Wilkins. ‘Morning Star’ is a special story for me, and I’m glad to see it touching a chord with others.

3. Are you currently at work on any fiction, or have any projects on the horizon?

My next novel is a standalone epic fantasy titled Hunt for Valamon. It’s coming out in February 2015 via Spence City (an imprint of Spencer Hill Press), and I’m currently busy working on edits and exciting pre-release activities. I’m also in the early stages of writing an epic fantasy trilogy, which is another story I’ve been wanting to tell for some time. It’s exciting to be working on so many projects that I’m passionate about, and I can’t wait to share more news with everyone as things progress.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ve just finished reading A Crucible of Souls, a richly imaginative epic fantasy by Mitchell Hogan, and winner of this year’s Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel. I also recently enjoyed Ink Black Magic, a fun fantasy romp by Tansy Rayner Roberts; and The Cobbler Mage, a bittersweet fable written by Angela Rega and illustrated by Rebekah Pearson.

I adore Shaun Tan’s work – I still consider The Arrival to be an absolute masterpiece – and his latest picture book, Rules of Summer, is another gorgeous, imaginative and poignant story. I also still delight in every new Graeme Base book, and Little Elephants is another sweet and whimsical story with beautiful illustrations.

My to-be-read pile continues to grow happily.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

My objective is to continue writing entertaining, thoughtful, fantastical and meaningful stories. To paraphrase author John Connolly, you should write the story that’s calling to you the loudest. Whether navigating calm seas or tempests, I consider this excellent advice.

Over the last few years, technology has made it easier than ever for people to create, distribute and consume content. We’ve already seen seismic shifts in the music and media industries, and the publishing industry is now undergoing a similar transformation. It’s a turbulent, exciting and uncertain time to be a writer, artist or maker.

We’ve seen the rise of digital-only imprints, crowd-funded projects, and self-published authors. Platforms and communities like Smashwords, Wattpad, Leanpub, comiXology, Etsy and deviantART have made it easier for creators to find an audience. It’s encouraging to see such diversification, especially for communities outside of the mainstream. In the face of these changes, the role of curators remains as valuable as ever, whether it’s passionate bookshop staff, bloggers, librarians, newspaper reviewers, Goodreads ratings, publishers, forums or friends.

As both a creator and a consumer, I hope the unfolding of these changes will be a collaborative and constructive process, rather than a purely competitive one. I believe traditional publishing, indie publishing and self-publishing are complementary options, just as ebooks and print books satisfy different needs, and online stores and bricks-and-mortar bookshops offer very different experiences. I think we’d all be diminished if any of these things vanished.

I haven’t changed the way I work, but I’m much more aware of the diversity in publishing now, and it’s fascinating to gain insight into other people’s experiences.

Five years from now, I hope to be adding to my collection of handmade zines and indie graphic novels; reading ebooks on the go; curling up with a paperback and a cup of tea; discovering new authors on brilliant blogs; raiding my local bookstores and losing myself in new releases and second-hand treasures; supporting other authors – both traditional and self-published; flicking through my digital magazines; and browsing libraries across the city, armed with a deck of library cards and a set of indestructible totes.

I expect to still be writing the stories that are calling to me, and I hope there’ll still be readers happy to welcome them.

SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

seanan_mcguire August 1 2014, 23:01

What I am dealing with.

First, and somewhat amusingly, given my last post, reply amnesty is on for this entry. I will not respond to comments. I may not even read them. I don't know yet. Please do not email me or message me privately about the contents of this entry. I really need some space.

Second, I said yesterday that I was dealing with some shit. Here is the shit.

On the morning of Wednesday, July 23rd, I was with Carrie and Doc in Southern California, having spent the night at Doc's place preparatory to heading for San Diego Comic Con around noon. I was reading comics in the front room when my phone rang. I said something foul about the phone ringing, because I did not want to get up. I got up. It was my mother, who was also my designated cat sitter.

Something was very, very wrong with Lilly.

She was having seizures, foaming at the mouth, hissing, and biting. There was blood. Mom, knowing that none of this could mean anything good, asked for my permission to take her to the vet. "She may not come home" was not said; it didn't need to be. I gave my permission. There was nothing else I could do. I was very far away, and I couldn't possibly get home in time, and Lilly deserved better than to suffer for the amount of time it would have taken for me to catch a plane. I gave my permission. And then I hung up, and sat down on the bathroom floor, and sobbed until I wanted to be sick, because I wasn't there.

My mother contacted me again roughly three hours later to tell me that Lilly had lost all kidney function; that the vet had recommended euthanasia, as the collapse had been so abrupt and so complete; and that she had given permission. A lot of people gave permission that day. I thanked her. How could I do anything else? She was there for my girl when I couldn't be. She made sure that Lilly didn't suffer more than she needed to. So I thanked her, and I sat in the back of Doc's car and cried all the way to San Diego.

I think I got through the convention mostly because it didn't seem real. Lilly couldn't be dead; she had been there when I left, and she would be there when I got home. But when I got home, Lilly wasn't there. Lilly is never going to be here again. She's never going to lick my elbows or share my ice cream or burrow under my blankets. She's not hiding, or sleeping in a sunbeam somewhere. She's gone, and I wasn't home when it happened, and the thought of her dying without me with her makes me want to crawl into bed and never get out again.

Lilly was a great cat. All she wanted was to hang out with me, and be held, and be loved. I loved her so much. I hate me in the past for all the times I didn't hold her when she asked, all the times I was too busy to cuddle with her until she was done. I miss her so bad. I am still reeling.

Alice and Thomas are well, if confused. They help to blunt the pain a little. Not enough, but a little.

I miss my girl.
mabfan August 1 2014, 18:44

My Week in Facebook, July 27-August 1, 2014

So what was I up to this past week?

On Sunday we took the kids to the Boston Children's Museum, to play there with friends of ours who were visiting from Canada with their own twin daughters (and their baby son). Both of our kids said funny things later on that night.

On Monday I noted the 69th anniversary of the B-25 bomber crashing into the Empire State Building.

On Wednesday I linked to a Boston Globe column about a former professor of mine, Paul Horowitz, and his involvement in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). I also waxed enthusiastic about Sharknado 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy:

"Guardians of the Galaxy: You'll believe a raccoon can fly."

"Sharknado 2: I don't think a movie has made me this proud to have been born and raised in New York City since Ghostbusters."

And then today I posted a link to our new The Brookline Parent column, "Let It Go, Let It Be," but my guess is you already knew about that.

I guess it was sort of a quiet week on the home front, even if the news from the rest of the world was chaotic and sometimes bleak.
saraphina_marie August 1 2014, 17:00

My tweets

mabfan August 1 2014, 16:30

The Brookline Parent: Let It Go, Let It Be (DVD Extras)

So, this week's The Brookline Parent column, "Let It Go, Let It Be," might require a little explanation. Or it might not. But I shall explain here anyway. Consider this the DVD extras, as it were.

As anyone with kids is probably aware, and even many of us without kids, one of the biggest songs to hit the preschool and elementary school set is "Let It Go" from the Disney movie Frozen. I know I've heard Muffin and Squeaker singing it a lot, along with their friends, even though they haven't seen the movie enough times to have memorized the lyrics. Apparently, they hear it from their friends a lot, who then hear it from them…it's a cycle.

Anyway, I've been sometimes singing along, or at least the title, and I kept getting it mixed up with the tune for "Let It Be." I'd sing "Let it go" over and over to the tune for "Let It Be." Well, one thing led to another, and...

I committed parody.

So. Go click on The Brookline Parent: Let It Go, Let It Be. Enjoy the ear worm.
marlowe1 August 1 2014, 16:06

Fucked that one up

Here's Shane MacGowan singing a love song to a bottle of Scotch (or rotgut whiskey - it doesn't matter) -

I've been listening to a lot of these drinking songs, reading a lot of articles about addiction (I still like John Cheese's articles about quitting drinking in Cracked) and revisiting the old story about how I tried to impress Joe Hill at a signing by talking about how I knew his friend Brian and how Brian always brought the Scotch to science fiction panels - only to realize later on that addiction plays a HUGE role in his books and it's never a good thing. (also he's the basis for Danny in The Shining - a kid running away from his drunk father).

I hung out with friends last night and I rode the same subway with one friend that I had been wanting to talk to because I missed her - even though I was staying away from her - only she had eaten pot brownies during the movie we all saw and was completely stoned. So I went home, wrote long messages on FB - first about how I was annoyed with her but then about how I feel like she's drowning.

But up until last night, I gave her no reason to trust my objectivity. I try to tell myself that it doesn't matter. When an addict is married to the addiction, there is nothing that you can do to pry them apart. But I gave her enough ammunition to dismiss everything I said entirely. I was obsessively infatuated with her and open about it. I was completely honest about everything. I also stood too close to her and told way too many stories. This doesn't make sense.

Ok, this is another one of those posts written in post-infatuation "oh really" mode. I chase drama. I get all Young Werther on women. I make them the sole arbiters of all happiness and misery. I don't do it as much any more, but when I see it happening, I know myself enough to be worried. And then when it's all over, I am sitting there thinking "HER? What were you thinking?" And I know what I was thinking and it had about 5% to do with this particular woman (Jenny, Dassie, etc.) being awesome (although they always have awesome traits) and 95% my own self-loathing, neediness and desire to be in a relationship even if it mostly existed in my head.

Anyhow, I am getting over these crushes faster these days. Sometimes I just push the point of confrontation up, but in this case, I know that if I had not been obsessed I wouldn't have noticed the drinking. And if I hadn't gone through weeks of telling myself "well it's just because she's in a bad place right now so it should work itself out" I wouldn't have confronted her about it.

But what the hell am I mad about myself for? I have a friend. I acted obsessive but I struggled with it and didn't let it get out of hand. Only because i was open with my issues - many centering on her - when I finally did wake up and realize that I had a friend with a substance abuse problem and I needed to say something, well I had already announced that I'm an emotional wreck and that I can't be taken seriously.

Oh fuck it. She has been drinking long before I met her and there's no part of her personality that says that she's going to stop any time soon. It's a sad fucked up situation but ultimately it's not my problem.
scalzifeed August 1 2014, 15:44

Two Advertisements For Myself: Signed Lock In Copies and Tomorrow’s Appearance in Beavercreek



And they are:

1. Remember, if you are not in the path of my Lock In book tour that begins later this month, you can still get signed copies of the book from Subterranean Press — and if you get your order in by August 8, I’ll even personalize it for you if you like (for you or for someone you specify). Here are all the details.

2. Tomorrow (August 2nd) at 2pm, I will be at the Beavercreek, OH Barnes and Noble for an afternoon of hilarious hijinx! Or at least, a reading, a Q&A, and a signing. If you’re in the Dayton area please come down! I don’t want to be alone. That would be awkward.

cjohnstone August 1 2014, 15:12

Died of Wounds

I don’t know what it feels like to die. To be dying. To know that you are dying. One day, I will know, of course; one day I’ll know too if all the things that the doctors say and believe are true.

They say that when people are terminally ill, their bodies prepare them for death. The doctors will tell you that it’s just the body slowly shutting down, a systemic and systematic ending of its biological processes from least important to most. A person will sleep; stop eating and drinking, urinating and excreting; their blood will become sluggish, their skin mottled; their breathing will become laboured, choked, rattling; they may become confused, agitated, as oxygen flow to the brain reduces. And they'll tell you that all of this is to be expected, none of it is terrible. That as long as pain has been controlled and conquered, all of these things are only distressing to see, to hear. To helplessly witness.

Feelings are called feelings because they start in our bodies. Before we think them; before we understand that they exist. Or why. The person that sits next to a bed for months, weeks, days, hours, minutes does not have a body that is preparing them for death. And all of those differences between us that endure right up until those last few minutes and seconds of life are thrown into stark relief. We sit or pace or cry, and watch systems shutting methodically down, while our own are denying or pleading or screaming or grieving or raging, and always hurting, hurting, hurting.

So perhaps it is true. Perhaps it is less terrible to die than to be a helpless witness to it. Is that a comfort? It should be, in the same way that all the stories you hear in a hospital or hospice (any and every hospital and hospice the world over) should be: the ghosts that come back for their spouses, their siblings, their children; the changes in the air, on the skin at the moment of death; the high shelves lined with obscure objects that people are able to describe on enough occasions that they will never be taken down. But more often than not, it’s probably no comfort at all. Because someone is dying, someone is leaving. And after the terrible of now, someone will be gone.

But when that happens, know that this was done to you too. Only, you were the one that survived. Less than intact now, but you didn’t die of wounds. And that old cliché about carrying someone inside your heart, inside your head? You’ll know it’s true; you’ll know that one day it will be a comfort, but not yet. You’ll know that when people say that they are sorry, it’s only because they don’t know what else to say. That the earnest eye contact, gentle and infuriating handling as if you’ve become a completely different person, the neon thank God it isn’t me that flashes overhead between you won’t last forever. The knowledge that millions, billions have gone through all of this before you, and inevitably will again. You’ll know that all of those things and none of those things matter a shit. You’ll know that your sadness, your anger is okay, but that your fear, your despair should be controlled and conquered. You’ll bore people shitless with every last detail of your lives together, or you’ll just dream them, remember them, write them down. You’ll know that love is always its own reward.

And eventually, you’ll realise that you’re not alone. That you’ll never be alone. And you’ll trust that one day, someone will put themselves through this for you. You’ll sleep and dream, your body’s systems slowly shutting down, and you’ll wish with all of your heart that you could take their pain away, close their wounds, make them see that the doctors were right after all. And then maybe, one day, you’ll be able to come back for them too.
jongibbs August 1 2014, 15:05

Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e August 1st, 2014

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week:

How Can Authors and Publishers Partner Better on Book Marketing?  (Jane Friedman)

Writing on a Full Tank (Mary Keeley)

The Epidemic and Systemic Sabotage via Brainwashing of Aspiring Novelists (Larry Brooks)

The 4 Different Types of Conflict in Dialogue (K. M. Weiland)

The Magic Trick to Landing an Agent at a Conference (Liz Michalski)

Write Emails that Don’t Drive People Crazy (Rachelle Gardner)

A Marketing Pitch from Author Solutions (Victoria Strauss)

Understanding Your Contract (Stina Lindenblatt)

6 Qualities That Make an Agent Say Yes (Janet Kobobel Grant)

Walking the walk (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2013, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.
antonstrout August 1 2014, 12:21

My tweets

  • Thu, 14:32: According to the shipping scale, the postage alone will bankrupt me when I send out these bags of rocks for Build Your Own Gargoyle kits
  • Thu, 14:44: I HATE when I have a geenyusy brainstormy book idea, then realize, "Oh wait, that's Monsters, Inc." or some such thing. #writemanproblems
  • Thu, 18:24: 5 of 5 stars to California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout http://t.co/OOh88nP5wy
  • Fri, 00:07: I think the hardest part about writing the gargoyle-tastic Spellmason Chroncles was CARVING out the time to write it #GETIT?????
angusabranson August 1 2014, 10:25

(Kickstarter) Poetry Update

I woke up to the great news that my Poetry Collection on Kickstarter has passed the £500 mark!!!

That now means that the collection will be available in epub and kindle formats as well as in print and PDF :)

Thanks to everyone who has supported it so far - either by pledging, sharing the Kickstarter link or with moral support :)

angusabranson August 1 2014, 10:23

#RPGaDAY in August: DAY 1 – First RPG Played


Day 1 - First RPG Played
If you discount solitaire gamebooks such as the ‘Fighting Fantasy’ series, which I’d been playing for a year or so before experiencing my first tabletop Role Playing Game, then the first game I played was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

I’d just moved to the States and was living with my aunt and cousins in the countryside of Washington State (think Twin Peaks and Twilight). The first day I was in the States my uncle and cousins took me out shooting in a canyon. Firing off shots at tin cans. The next day two of my cousins (Jason and Matthew) told me about this game they played called ‘Dungeons & Dragons’. It sounded just like the Fighting Fantasy books but without the limitation of having a set of choices to follow – you could do anything, anything at all and influence the story. Plus you could play with friends. I was sold and we played that afternoon. I can’t actually remember my first character – I ‘think’ they were a Fighter or a Thief – probably a Thief as I remember asking to ‘Check For Traps’! Over the next few weeks I submerged myself in the Players Handbook, creating a bunch of characters, and played as often as my cousins were willing to run games. They quickly introduced me to another RPG called ‘Top Secret’ – which, as opposed to crawling through dungeons slaying goblins and giants, was a modern day/near future spy game.

I was 12 at the time and haven’t looked back :)

(To find out more about #RPGaDAY please check out http://autocratik.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/rpgaday-in-august.html)
azhure August 1 2014, 01:43

Snapshot 2014: Juliet Marillier

JM with Harry smallerJuliet Marillier was born in New Zealand and now lives in Western Australia. Her historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults have been translated into many languages and have won a number of awards. Among Juliet’s works are the Sevenwaters novels, the Bridei Chronicles and the Shadowfell series, as well as a short fiction collection, Prickle Moon. Dreamer’s Pool, first book in the Blackthorn & Grim series of uncanny mysteries, will be published in October 2014. Juliet’s lifelong love of folklore, fairy tales and mythology is a major influence on her writing. Find out more at http://www.julietmarillier.com


1. Your most recent work is The Caller, the final book in the Shadowfell trilogy, which is aimed at young adults (though it is not your first foray into YA).  How does writing a YA series differ for you, in comparison to your adult books, such as the Sevenwaters books?

The Caller CVRIt doesn’t differ hugely apart from the obvious: a YA novel is shorter, it features a younger protagonist and generally the plot is more tightly focused on that character’s personal journey – it’s usually a ‘getting of wisdom’ story / journey to maturity. Because my adult novels are mostly set in times and cultures when people lived shorter lives and did things earlier (marrying and giving birth, heading a family, fighting w
ars etc) their central characters are also quite young. That has meant those novels attract readers at the upper end of the YA age range as well as adult readers.

The Shadowfell trilogy is more of a crossover series, suited to the upper end of YA and also satisfying (I’ve been told) for adult readers who like folkloric fantasy. It contains some pretty challenging themes and situations.

2. Your work has frequently woven history and fairytales into the fabric of fantasy, and your books have a wonderful dreamlike, mythic quality to them.  Have you always drawn inspiration from fairytales?  Why do you feel that fairytales have such strong resonance today?

I’ve loved fairytales, folklore and mythology since I was a small child, and I’ve continued to study them all my life. All that lore is hidden away somewhere inside me, and comes out in my writing almost despite me. I believe fairytales have always had a strong resonance. They existed in the oral tradition long before anyone started composing literary versions, and their purpose was not only to entertain the community, but also to provide wise advice for dealing with whatever challenges life might put in one’s path. They also provided healing and solace. Although today’s world is very different from the world of the original tales, the qualities we need to live good lives haven’t changed. Fairytales demonstrate the values of true love, faith, honour, loyalty, comradeship and so on, neatly packaged in the easy-to-understand form of an entertaining story.
3. You have a book coming out later this year – Dreamer’s Pool – which is the beginning of a new series for you.  Would you care to share something about it?
DP Dreamer’s Pool is the first novel in the Blackthorn & Grim series for adult readers. It’s a combination of historical fantasy and mystery, with a fairytale thread woven in. The central characters are significantly older and more damaged than the protagonists of any of my earlier books, and the series has a darker, grittier feel. But there’s also true love and magic. The story starts with the main protagonist, embittered healer Blackthorn, incarcerated in a hellish lockup, awaiting execution. When an unlikely reprieve is offered, it comes with a set of conditions she knows she won’t be able to keep.




4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Lee Battersby’s darkly humorous fantasy novels, The Corpse-Rat King and The Walking Dead (published by Angry Robot.) Short fiction by Angela Slatter, Thoraiya Dyer, Jo Anderton and others. I’m currently reading Kirstyn McDermott’s novel Perfections, which I’m finding both intriguing and unsettling. A big heads-up for Aussie small presses such as Ticonderoga, Fablecroft and Twelfth Planet, for their role in publishing quality anthologies and collections as well as new novels in the various genres covered by the term ‘speculative fiction’.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work?

It’s now 16 years since my first novel was published and during that time I’ve seen lots of changes. Readers expect far more direct engagement with their favourite writers these days, and it is time-consuming to keep up with that demand. But publishers now have reduced resources for publicity and marketing so the onus falls more heavily on the writer not only to engage with readers on social media, but to organise launches, blog tours etc. The more time a writer spends on all of that, the less time she has to write. I find that difficult as I am the slow, careful kind of writer.

A few years ago I would have been very concerned if my backlist was available only in e-book format, not in print. These days, having the backlist available at all is great, and e-book format makes perfect sense. At this point I’m lucky enough to have most of my 18 books still available in print editions as well as e-books here in Australia.

I have very mixed feelings on self-publishing (so-called ‘indie publishing’.) I generally don’t try out new authors unless I read a good review from a reliable source, or get a personal recommendation from someone whose judgement I trust. With the huge flood of self-published books on the market now, my caution has only increased. Some of them are very good, yes, but the quality control is pretty variable. I am more likely to purchase a book by an unknown author if it’s published by someone with a good track record – a mainstream publishing house or well-regarded small independent publisher.

On the other hand, self-publishing, when done with due attention to quality control not only in the actual writing but in every aspect of editing and design, can be a real boon for writers. A number of writers I know who have previously been published in the mainstream and have seen their books go out of print have self-published their backlists in e-book and/or POD, and have achieved good sales and greater visibility in the market.

6. What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
Reading: In five years’ time I’ll be reading new novels and short fiction in a wide range of genres. I’ll continue to re-read my old favourites. I’ll be reading in both e-book and print editions and using new technology.
Writing: I’ll be writing more short fiction/novellas. I’ll write a novel outside the fantasy genre.
Publishing: I hope my current publishers will continue with my books, though I understand the uncertainty of the business and the market. I like to think that I’ll be exploring new horizons and seizing new opportunities. Perhaps working more with small independent publishing houses.

SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.


Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

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