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Battle of the Bards!

While there are a lot of good things about living in Australia, one that sucks is that everything happens while you’re sleeping. We snore our way through Brexit, sleep peacefully while Trump fires his latest member of staff and wake up just in time to check the world hasn’t ended yet.

This morning I woke to discover I had won Mark Lawrence’s Battle of the Bards flash fiction competition! In my sleep no less!

My story? Between Lanterns and Corpses, about two generals on a battlefield. I’ve had quite a few people ask about the outcome, and the answer is actually in The Grave at Storm’s End, the third book in The Vengeance Trilogy. So without further ado, here it is!

 

 

I watched from the window as Shimai burned. The day I was elevated to Minister of the Left, Kin had invited me to stand here beside him, not an equal, but not a servant, the space in-between the treacherous ground we would tread in the years to come.

But I had knelt at his feet and kissed the hand of a liar.

Beside me now Malice stood with his hands clasped behind his back, reading the scrolls that lined the walls. ‘“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it”,’ he said. ‘That isn’t particularly apt for the situation, yes?’

‘Shut up, Spider,’ Katashi snapped, the tap of his sandals across the floor like a chorus of snapping beetles. ‘This is insane. I am winning, Laroth. I could have taken the bridge by now.’

‘You will take the bridge soon enough,’ I said, not turning my gaze from the window. It was starting to drizzle.

‘What general in history ever called a truce to play a game of Errant with his enemy?’

‘General Mikuzo, in the ninth century. He lost the game but went on to win the battle, I believe.’

He stopped pacing, and reflected in the glass I saw fire flare on his fingers. ‘Just give me Hana and be done with this stupidity. She is mine.’

I turned. ‘Stupidity?’

‘Stupidity!’

‘Your opinion of my skill at Errant is not high, it would seem,’ I said. ‘Tell me, what would hurt Kin more? Losing Hana to you without having the chance to save her, or having the chance to fight for her and failing?’

‘“What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others”,’ Malice said. ‘Now that one seems much more appropriate, yes?’

Ignoring Malice, Katashi said: ‘I don’t care what hurts him more I just want him dead. I want my throne and I want Hana.’

‘You will get her when I say you can have her.’

So there you go! There’s a whole story in there as yet untold, but the outcome is an easily missed detail in another story because that’s how my brain works.

Many thanks again to the judges and to Mark Lawrence for hosting the competition and best of all, I get signed books from two of the judges – Sebastien de Castell and Nicholas Eames  *squeeeeee*

Continuum Con – See You Next Year

Con wrap-up blogs can be vapid diary vomit, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Continuum Con 13 in Melbourne over the long weekend was awesomesauce. I’m always ridiculously nervous even if I’ve been to the con before and on the Friday night I was wondering why the fuck I had even come since I’m no one important and all that malarky. But of course I proved myself wrong. I went out to dinner with complete strangers, made great new friends and all in all had an amazing time. (Although perhaps that was as much to do with not having to deal with my kids for THREE WHOLE DAYS!)

I attended the Ditmar Award Ceremony.

Sold books

And attended the launch of Seanan McGuire’s ‘Down Among the Sticks and Bones’ … WITH BRAIN CAKE AND BLOOD TEA!

I have to say that apart from making new friends, which is always the best part of any event, the highlight of this con was getting to hear Seanan McGuire speak on panels (of which she did many). She was the star and dominant force of every one of them, not seeking attention but gaining it anyway because everything she had to say was worth hearing. Well-read and vastly intelligent, she was confident, interesting and brightly coloured, and I can think of no one else that could make so many people laugh until they cried time and time again. And even more importantly, because, as Tim Minchin says: “I don’t care if youre the most powerful cat in the room, I will judge you on how you treat the least powerful” – she wasn’t above introducing herself to nobodies (like me) and standing chatting to complete strangers (like me) as though they were long time friends.

While it’s not the Natcon next year it is still going to be all sorts of awesome fun and I can’t wait for it to roll around again and bring joy to the chill of an Australian winter.

Bring it on Continuum Con 14!

The Heavy Sadness

I have this sadness. I’m not going to call it depression because I feel that would belittle the experience of those who are diagnosed with depression and suffer under its weight every day. But this sadness of mine is heavy and when it comes it presses me down into the ground like the worm I realise I am. I question everything I have said. Everything I have done. Every moment when I considered, for just a heartbeat, that I was worth paying attention to. Under the weight of the sadness I am invisible, and in seeking reassurance this is not so I look in all the wrong places. I refresh Facebook hoping for some perfectly timed assurance of my existence and my worth. I refresh Goodreads or my email or trawl through twitter, and in the vast sea of humanity I confirm my own invisibility and complete lack of importance.

Perhaps the problem is social media, but social media is part of my job and it is also how I connect with some of the most important people in my life. It allows me to broaden my horizons and meet new people, but it also crushes my self-esteem – not because anyone ever criticises me or is unpleasant, but because I second guess everything I do and say, and I know, with iron-clad assurance, that it is a drag having me around, that I’m an embarrassment, that I am saying the wrong thing and that in this space that ought to be safe for my introvert self, I am a failure who ought to give up.

There is no uplifting message here, just a moment of honesty, of vulnerability, that the author in me needed to set to words. And perhaps there is someone else out there who feels as I do and might find in my honesty, a lessening of their own heavy sadness.

 

But wait, there’s more!

No, not a complete set of steak knives. Although daggers and other blades to feature in abundance they aren’t cutting steak. Not unless steak is a euphemism for a living person who is about to be a dead person. Or a dead metaphor. Moving on! It’s been a little while since I updated with a bit more detail on what I’ve been working on since The Vengeance Trilogy, so here it is. (And for those interested in keeping up with it more regularly, I do update the info on my homepage at least once a week).

1

My new series of chunky, multiple-POV novels is well underway with the first instalment currently off hitting beta readers in the feels. These are set a few centuries after the events of The Vengeance Trilogy, but in the same world with plenty of wonderful little hark backs for long time fans. I will continue working on this and start the second book next year, but unfortunately you’re not likely to see this one until 2019. I want to get deeper into the story before putting any of it out as it’s a big ‘un.

2

Prequel novella to The Vengeance Trilogy – In Shadows We Fall (so called unless I change my mind in the next few weeks). This is a few days from heading to the editor and July should see some lovely art showing up from my wonderful new cover artist. I’m pretty excited about this. The story follows Empress Li in the few days leading up to the outbreak of the civil war that predates the beginning of the Vengeance Trilogy by sixteen years. A place either to begin your journey in my world, or to go back and new characters and old friends.

3

I have finished the planning stages and about to embark on the first draft of a new trilogy that comes about seventeen years after the end of The Vengeance Trilogy, following three new POV characters into an expanded world. You won’t need to have read the previous trilogy, but it’s always good to have the full story and all the nuances. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into this as it is going to be one hell of a ride.

 

At the rate my brain is throwing out story ideas the completed set of books in this world is going to end up looking like this…

In terms of release dates, nothing solid yet, but the novella is looking to be late August/early September. And the first of the new trilogy maybe March-ish next year with its second instalment coming near the end of 2018.

YAY FOR BOOKS!

When impatience gets ugly

Is it all right to be angry that the release date for the new Song of Ice and Fire book has been pushed back? Again.

I get it, I do. People have been reading and following and adoring this series for longer than some young adults have even been ALIVE. Then the TV series came along and it got even more popular and the knowledge that the TV show will end before the book series is like a slap in the face to some long time fans. But does that make it ok to rant and storm about the man being lazy or wasting too much time blogging?

Blogging? Seriously? Even a non-reader can surely appreciate that blogging and writing deep, complex fiction from multiple points of view are two very different things. A lot of authors use their blog like angsty teenagers use their diaries, it’s a relatively safe space in which they can talk about what interests them and just generally let off steam like a REAL PERSON. If you’re not an author you might not appreciate that we spend an awful lot of time ALONE, struggling with the angst of self-doubt (doesn’t matter how popular you are, it doesn’t go away) ALONE, grinding away at our stories like they are sculptures in marble. ALONE. Did I mention we do it alone? Anyone who has met me will attest that I talk A LOT once you get me going and that’s because I don’t get to do it very much. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, chat apps – these are our social outlet. You may as well complain about the words he wastes on his damn shopping list. I bet he writes plenty of emails, perhaps even personal letters, birthday cards, he probably fills in forms too because life isn’t getting lighter on red tape.

Another thing is that you need to stop thinking about writing as a jigsaw puzzle. A series, especially one this long, doesn’t get easier to write as things move toward the eventual climax. It gets harder. MUCH harder. When you’re writing a first book everything is possible, no characters or events are locked into place yet, you don’t even have to have a complete idea of where the story is going or what each of the character’s fate will be. Then the second book is a bit harder because now some things are locked into place, you’ve introduced characters and now have to ensure they remain interesting and make steps toward achieving, or not achieving, their goals, and you have to consider the ramifications of any new direction on the books coming later. In a lot of ways the second last book is the hardest of all because you have to build to a point just below the full climax, holding it all together and be sure, VERY SURE, that everything is laid and in place for the ending to come after else we’re shifting into pulling-it-out-of-your-arse territory.

And as Neil Gaiman said very eloquently over here many years ago, (and John Anealio put brilliantly to music), George RR Martin is not your bitch. Buying the first book of a series is NOT a contract. In paying your money (or paying nothing and borrowing it from the library) you are getting nothing more and nothing less than the joy of reading THAT BOOK. It is natural to expect there will be more books in a series, that it will one day be complete and you will get your closure, but that first book is no guarantee, no contract, just a book.

No matter how much you want to see A Song of Ice and Fire finished, you do not want it finished more than George RR Martin wants it finished. He is not wasting time. He is not being lazy. He is diligently working away at what is surely an excruciatingly difficult project.

 

 

2017 and Beyond!

There was a time I could not see beyond the end of The Grave at Storm’s End, the book that haunted me through the shittiest portion of my life to date (no, 2017, do not take that as a challenge, you have enough crap going on already. Focus.) But that time is no longer now and it is with much SQUEE that I have planned novels for the year ahead.

Two novels will be going through construction in the Madson cave this year.

  1. Soul War #1 (Working Title) – This is the first novel in what could very easily turn out to be quite the epic series. Work on this started about twelve years ago, and while I’ve completely reworked it there are a number of characters and moments that have been with me for a long time. Call it a magnum opus of sorts. The first book is set about 300 years after the end of The Vengeance Trilogy and encompasses not only Kisia but much of the world around it.
  2. The Fate of Kisia #1 (Working Title) – First novel in what I expect to be a trilogy in the same vein as The Vengeance Trilogy, picking up about 15 years later. This is still in the planning stage at this point, but the intention is to return to the 3x first person perspectives that worked so well in the first trilogy, but I’ll wait and see how it writes before committing to that.

 

 

There are also going to be four short stories in production this year, although only one is currently in the planning stage at this point, which is the origin story of Hope, from Vengeance Trilogy. I’m interested in looking at Shin’s backstory sometime too, but I’m not sure if that will be this year yet, or in what format.

Another short story, The Girl Who Carried Silence, which follows on from The Vengeance Trilogy, is all done and dusted and waiting for a decision on what to do with it! So look out for that one when it comes.

To keep up with all this I’ve added a Progress Report bar to the homepage where you can check out how things are coming along and prod me to make sure I’m working so you guys get more awesome stories.

And if you’d like special sneak peaks and updates sent to your inbox monthly, go ahead and subscribe to my newsletter. It’s going to be an awesome year! 😀 

2016 In Review

So 2016 eh? Not exactly the year many people are going to remember fondly. On the world stage there were a lot of shit moments, a lot of anger and hate and fear that led to war and violent attacks and devastation. But sometimes it is easy to let that overwhelm us, to lead us to despair and forget all the times we proved how wonderful humanity can be, how intelligent, adaptable and resourceful. How kind. It is exactly the same in life, I find. It is so easy to dwell upon the negative and forget good happened.

In 2016 I brought out a book. The Grave at Storm’s End, the end of the Vengeance Trilogy I have been working on all these years finally completed. After three years spent struggling with life’s challenges and with bouts of depression that made sitting down at the keyboard the hardest thing I had ever done, and three years waiting for cover art I thought would never come, it was finally there in my hand. Wow. Done. Finished. Over. The last anchor to an old self, an old pain, set adrift.

Phew!

In 2016 I also watched my beautiful baby boy grow into a toddler with all sorts of personality. He said Mama for the first time and just recently has taken his first steps.

I shared The Force Awakens and Back to the Future with my girls and spent many long hours playing Lego Indiana Jones with them which they find absolutely hilarious.

I wrote my first short story.

I broke out of my comfort zone to make the Storywork videos on youtube.

I sat on my first panels at a con and sold books to strangers.

I got to hear my characters come to life as the audiobook production started for Blood of Whisperers.

I even learned how to build a fire (no, I really didn’t know how before. I grew up with ducted heating. Getting warm meant pushing a button.)

These things are all amazing. But once again I have reached the end of a year and feel as though I have failed. I have not achieved what I wished to achieve, nor done what I wished to do. I have not blogged as much as I wished and have completely fallen off much of social media. I have not put myself forward, not trusted myself or my skills, because I am afraid that I have no worth as a writer. That until I am someone I am no one. That I am not even worthy of a voice.

But today while the memorial posts to Carrie Fisher were swirling around (I cried, I really did, she was an amazing woman) I came across one of her quotes that I hadn’t seen before.

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

My mantra for next year.

 

Bye bye 2016.

And done. Finally.

On Saturday night I finally hit send and The Grave at Storm’s End went flying through the internet-ether-satellite-space-dohicky system thing and magically landed in my editor’s inbox (or inbos as we like to call it). FINALLY.

It has been two years. TWO YEARS, since I last sent the manuscript to my editor. She got it back to me in very good time ready for the next pass, but it never returned to her because shit had hit the proverbial fan. Marriage breakup. Moving back to Australia from the other side of the world to start all over again with two young kids. New relationship. Moving house. Baby. Moving house again.

Talk about a mess.

And honestly working on the book became associated with a lot of pain, so whenever I did sit down to hammer it out, I struggled.

In fact I struggled so much that I restarted this pass nine times in those two years. Sometimes I got as far as halfway before everything went downhill. Sometimes it was only one or two chapters. As soon as I hit an issue I couldn’t immediately solve I became a depressed mess. And then the words dried up altogether.

Some people write because they enjoy it. Some people write to make money. I write because I’m yet to find anything else that fulfils my existence. When I don’t work I’m miserable and cranky because quite frankly I’m dying inside without the words to feed my soul. I love that people enjoy my books, but I don’t really write for anyone else and even if no one read them I would still write them. You don’t want to meet me when I’m not working.

The point of all this? Well, it took time, it took the constant loving support of a truly amazing partner, it took visits to a psychologist and a lot of perseverance, but I did it – I just hit send on the email that once again flew The Grave at Storm’s End to my editor’s inbox.

All I can say to my fans who have been waiting forever for this book is that I am very sorry, but life is an unpredictable beast. Thank you very much for bearing with me while I fought it and I hope that when the book finally comes out later this year that the wait will have been worthwhile.

For me the release of The Grave at Storm’s End will be more than the completion of a trilogy, it will signify closure. This is the beginning of a new era.

 

 

 

To Read List #1

I’m one of those people who always has a pile of books to read. It used to sit on my bedside table, but it was hard to sleep with them all there glaring at me for not reading all night. So I’ve moved it to a shelf in the sunroom. But it’s still there… glaring at me when I go past…

So I’ve decided to acknowledge their presence in the hope they might stop glaring at me.

Here they are: Books I’m planning to read in the next few months and if I don’t they’ll be cranky with me and smother might me in my sleep.

 

Currently reading

Eyre Affair This has to be the oddest book I’ve read for ages. It ended up on my reading pile because Chris and I decided to choose a book for each other to read this year, and this is the one he added to my pile.

Alternative history… mystery adventure… rambling plot full of clever literary references… really not sure what to make of it yet, but I’ll get back to you when I finish.

 

Next Book on THE PILE OF DOOM

 

Amber Isle

 

The Amber Isle is a recent fantasy novella by Ashley Capes. I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Fairy Wren last year, and The City of Masks before that, so now I’m working through the rest of his catalogue. Beautiful writing and he releases so much material I am JEALOUS. Definitely worth reading his stuff, though obviously I can’t vouch for this one yet I’m sure it will stand up to the usual standard.

 

 

The Third Book on my pile… I mean shelf… 

DOSAB

 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is something I’m reading because people keep telling me it’s awesome. Usually this is a reason why I don’t read things (no kidding, I’m weird, didn’t read Harry Potter until I was 18 because everyone kept telling me I had to because it was awesome – but that’s a whole other story). So maybe that’s why it’s been out for years and I’m only just getting around to it now. Anyhow, leant to me by my oldest and bestest of friends, so I had better hurry up and get it back to her…

 

Fourth but not least…

Under Heaven

 

I’m really looking forward to this one. Not that I’m not looking forward to all the others, but Guy Gavriel Kay holds a special place in my heart and upon our shelves. A favourite author of both Chris and I. I started River of Stars and was loving it until I realised I’d skipped ahead, and while you don’t have to read them in order, Under Heaven actually came first. Damn. Anyhow, so here I am, catching up properly – in the right order – like a good girl.

 

 

 

There are plenty more books on my shelf waiting to be read, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. I have kids. I write. I cook. I taxi to karate and ballet and hip hop…. I can’t wait until my kids can drive. Or at least don’t want me to watch every moment of their itsy bitsy ballet class.

Audiobooks!

Yes, you read that right – audiobooks! This year The Vengeance Trilogy will be brought to life by the magic of the spoken word.

I have listened to audiobooks for as long as I can remember, beginning with Wind in the Willows and Lego Fabuland before progressing to Terry Pratchett and Georgette Heyer as a teenager when audiobooks became the only way I could get to sleep. I’ve listened to them on long drives, when painting the house, when cleaning, in the shower – you get the picture. I love audiobooks. So to have my books available in the format is one of those dreams that has been kicking around for a long time, but now it is actually happening.

During the week Chris (my awesome partner in crime… and parenthood) and I set up a home sound studio. For the initial test this involved a shotgun mic set up in a pillow fort made out of our couch. Classy, huh? The final set up will be rather more professional, but the quality of the first test was really impressive given how funny it must have looked to passing kangaroos. (No one walks past our house.) From here the test material will go through post production, which looks something like this:

 

Audition pic

 

And then some. There’s a lot of technicality I don’t understand, things like audio compression and breath minimisation and blah blah blah my brain shut down, but for those who are interested Chris might well post more about it at some stage. Until then stay tuned for samples and updates about this exciting development.

I mean…. audiobooks! Squeeeeeeee! *Excited*

 

 

AUDIOBOOKS!!!!!