Giant fantasy and sci fi bonanza!

September-promo500

This weekend, the 12th-13th September, sees a great sale for fans of fantasy and science fiction. Aussie author Patty Jansen has organised a whole bunch of indie authors, who are all discounting books this weekend. There are over forty books at the bargain price of 99 cents, including my own Twiceborn, plus several more which are the first in their series at the unbeatable price of free!

There’s a range of books, from epic fantasy to urban fantasy, horror to science fiction, so there’s something for everyone. I have my eye on a few of these, and will be picking up some bargains myself. And if you like epic fantasy, I can highly recommend Pauline Ross’s The Fire Mages, which I’ve read and loved. I’ve read a couple of Patty’s too, though not the ones she has for sale here, and she tells a great story.

Go direct to the page of 99 cent specials here, or click on this link to take you to the main promotional page. From there you can access both the 99 cent page and the free page. (Fellow Aussies please note, some of these books may not be discounted until Saturday afternoon, since it will still be Friday in the US when it’s Saturday morning here.)

Happy reading!

One year ago

At the end of 2013 I bought a beautiful 2014 diary. I put it away somewhere safe and promptly forgot all about it, so I didn’t actually start using it until August 2014. When it came time to buy a diary for this year, I couldn’t find anything I liked, and there was this gorgeous 2014 diary, barely used … so I repurposed the 2014 diary and have been using it all year.

This week I have arrived at the point where I started using the diary last year. It’s like breaking open a time capsule, to see the items on my to-do lists this time last year. Things like “pay the orthodontist”. One year and thousands of dollars later, my daughter now has beautiful, braces-free teeth. Hallelujah! Or “tidy desk”. Sadly that one still needs to be on the to-do list, as my desk is never tidy.

But the most fun is seeing where I was at with my writing one year ago. I was making corrections to Twiceborn, putting the finishing touches on it. I was revising The Twiceborn Queen and trying to plan the third book in the series, then known as Twiceborn 3. Publishing was still a scary thing I was working towards, with things like “start mailing list” and “work on website” making regular appearances on my to-do lists. I remember well the feeling of nervousness: every step of the way there seemed to be some new program to learn, or another process to master.

And now, here we are, one year later. Twiceborn and The Twiceborn Queen have both been published. It’s quite a thrill, even now, to see those real live books lying on my still-untidy desk and know that I wrote them. They are both finding readers, which is lovely, and have been generally well received. I’m hard at work on “Twiceborn 3”, which is now called Twiceborn Endgame, so the end of the series is in sight.

There are other books, too, waiting in the wings. The first book of a new series has gone out for beta reading. It’s based on one of my favourite fairy tales, Toads and Diamonds, and I’m very excited to bring that one out. Can’t wait to show you the cover—it’s absolutely divine!

One year on, I’m finally feeling comfortable with the publishing process. I’m certainly no expert, but it’s good to get past the fear and uncertainty to a place where I know what I’m doing, more or less. I’ve made some wonderful author friends along the way too, who have helped me find my feet, and it’s great to have people to share the journey with. I wish I could go back a year and add an item to those nervous to-do lists: “don’t panic; it will all work out”.

But I probably wouldn’t have listened. Too busy panicking.

“Meet My Character” Blog Hop

The “Meet My Character” Blog Hop is a tour through the blogs of various independent speculative fiction authors as they talk about a character from their latest work. Each week a new author discusses what makes their character tick, and this week it’s my turn!

Thanks to Vincent Caine for hosting the previous stop on the Blog Hop. Vincent writes over-the-top action thrillers, just like Clive Cussler or Matthew Reilly. Visit his website at www.vincentcaine.com to read about his characters Silas and Feather, a father and daughter who’ve been on the run from the US Government for seven years in his new novel The Sword of the Magi.

Now it’s time to meet my character!

What is the name of your character?

Garth. Garth hasn’t shared his last name with me yet. He was only meant to have a walk-on role, but ended up becoming my favourite character in the novel.

When and where is the story set?

The story is set in my own home town of Sydney, Australia. Only of course the real Sydney isn’t hiding a secret shifter world behind its sunny sandstone façade. More’s the pity. Everything is better with dragons!

What should we know about him or her?

Garth is a werewolf with a Star Wars obsession who tends to act first and think later. He’s a great guy to have at your back, but you don’t want to get on his bad side, as my heroine, Kate, does. They meet when he attacks her in her darkened kitchen. Trust me when I say you will never look at pepper grinders the same way.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his or her life?

Garth’s employer has come to a very messy end, and Garth’s out for bloody vengeance. His tendency to go off half-cocked leads him to Kate’s kitchen, and it takes him a long while to accept that Kate’s not guilty. “Stubborn” is his middle name.

Not that his life wasn’t messed up before that. His hot head has had him lurching from one crisis to the next for most of his adult life. But his employer’s death was a move in the war of succession between the daughters of the dragon queen, and it’s a dangerous time to be a werewolf with no pack.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Garth’s goal is simple: blood and lots of it. Someone has to pay for his employer’s death, and Garth is a most enthusiastic debt collector.

What is the title of the book, and where can we find out more?

The book is called Twiceborn. It’s available at Amazon, where you can read the first three chapters in the “Look Inside” feature (but sadly the sample ends just as Garth slams Kate against the wall).

When was the book published?

It was published last Christmas, so it’s one month old now!

Next week’s host is Elle Chambers at www.indiespiritpress.com. Elle has been a lover of horror from the minute she heard the words, “It was a dark and stormy night”, and is now a paranormal investigator in Ohio.

Does life end when you give birth?

Fictionally speaking, you could be forgiven for thinking so, at least in the fantasy genres. Sure, there are older female characters, some even powerful: queens, sorceresses, seers, etc. But how often do you find a fantasy where the main character is a mother?

Off the top of my head, I can think of … umm … none. (And if you know of any, please point me at them in the comments!) You can find strong female leads, particularly in urban fantasy, which is great. I love to see strong, competent women take starring roles. But they’re nearly all single young women. Some of them have partners, but nobody has kids.

It’s as if life somehow stops when women give birth. And, sure, I can see how fitting kids into the life of a busy demon-slayer or white witch could be tricky, and why authors choose to free their characters from such complications. But it makes me feel as if, being a mother, I’m invisible, or that it’s not possible for me to have any adventures any more. Only young women are interesting enough to write about.

And hey, I get it, I really do. Being young and single is more glamorous than being a middle-aged taxi driver for a brood of children. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with stories about kick-ass young single women, or that I don’t enjoy them, because I do. I’m not trying to insist that authors should write stories about middle-aged mothers if they don’t wish to, or suggesting that there’s anything wrong with their choice not to.

But life with children can be complex and beautiful and interesting. It’s not all soccer practice and dirty socks. Love comes in many flavours. Romantic love and the bonds of friendship—even the bonds between siblings—are well represented in fantasy, but the relationships between parents and children aren’t often explored. And yet they are such a big part of many people’s lives. It seems an untapped area just waiting to be explored.

So after I had my big moment of inspiration in the bathroom of the local cinemas, I had some decisions to make about the story that would eventually become Twiceborn. I had a woman changing disguises to evade pursuit. What was she carrying? Who was following her and why?

As the idea developed I decided to throw in memory loss, since I love stories about amnesia so much. Dragons too—I love dragons!

And I also chose to make Kate, my main character, a mother. In the end I chickened out on making her middle-aged. She’s only twenty-nine, so she still qualifies as young and glamorous, but she is most definitely a mother. Love for her son drives a lot of her actions and has a huge influence on the outcome of the story’s main struggle. There is nothing so fierce as a mother’s love for her children, as the dragons of Sydney discover.

There’s a little romance in the book too, as well as the love between friends and siblings, but Kate’s love for Lachie is at the heart of Twiceborn. What will a mother sacrifice for her child? What won’t she?

Twiceborn is available now at Amazon. For all the kick-ass mums out there!

Twiceborn is out!

How long have I been writing? Depends on what you count as writing.

There was that little Easter story I wrote and illustrated for my mother when I was about seven. So cute! Or the three exercise books I filled with the story of the Romney children when I was in fifth class. It was a blatant Enid Blyton Famous Five rip-off, but despite all those words, I never finished it.

My next big writing spurt was in Year 8. I had a fabulous English teacher, who was very encouraging of my writing. (As it happened, his name was Brian Caswell, and he’s now a well-known writer himself.) I actually managed to finish a book that year. By then I’d progressed from Enid Blyton rip-offs to Georgette Heyer ones. I shudder now to think of it, but to his credit he read it with a straight face and urged me to keep writing.

So I did. But, being me, the finishing part was a real problem. Sure, I started lots of novels over the years, always with much enthusiasm. I even remember declaring 1994 to be “the year of the novel”, but that teenage Regency romance was the last one I finished until 2007, when the ducklings were at last old enough for me to be able to string two thoughts together in a coherent manner again.

It was also the year I discovered NaNoWriMo, which has been a huge motivator for me ever since. I completed the first draft of a contemporary romance that year, and was hugely proud of myself.

But of course, “first draft finished” and “publishable quality finished” are two very different beasts. I did NaNoWriMo again every year except one, and produced many more first drafts, but I didn’t revise any to a publishable stage until this year, 2014.

That novel is Twiceborn, and the ebook is available now on Amazon.

Or to put it another way:

OMG I PUBLISHED A BOOK!!!

I’ve been waiting such a long time to say that.

Twiceborn cover reveal

I’m very excited to be able to show you the cover for Twiceborn at last. It was done by Yoly at Cormar Covers several months ago, but I didn’t want to reveal it till I was almost ready to publish.

Guess what? I’m nearly there! Twiceborn is buffed and polished as shiny as I could make it, and it’s now off at the formatters getting a fresh lick of paint. It’s almost a Real Book!

Are you ready?

Here it is in all its glory:

Twiceborn small

Isn’t it gorgeous? I feel like a proud parent showing off baby photos, only this baby doesn’t have forcep marks on its face, or a weird pointy head. Or jaundice. Or any of the other not-so-photogenic features my real babies had. And unlike Baby Duck, the insides of this baby are all present and correct too.

Let me remind you what the story’s about:

 “Still grieving her beloved son, Kate O’Connor’s just going through the motions. She doesn’t care that strangers often shadow her on the unorthodox courier jobs she does for a friend. She doesn’t even care what’s in the packages till the day she returns from a special rush job with no memory of the event. But it must have been pretty wild, because now there’s a werewolf in her kitchen trying to kill her – and he’s just the first in line.

Dragged into a supernatural war of succession between the daughters of the dragon queen, Kate discovers a Sydney she never knew existed, peopled by all kinds of strange half-human creatures. To have any hope of surviving she must uncover the explosive secret hidden in her memory – but first she has to live through the night.”

Can’t wait to share it with you!

3 great writing tips from Baby Duck

Baby Duck and I were chatting about writing on the walk to school this morning. I said I was hoping to get a fair bit done on book 3 of the Twiceborn trilogy today, since yesterday was the first day I’d worked on it since Friday, and I only got about 1100 words done.

“So are you going to start writing as soon as you get home?” he asked.

Low blow! This kid knows me too well.

“You should do that instead of spending all your time reading random websites on the internet, you know.”

Yes, I do know. In fact I tell myself so many times every day. I thought about telling him I was building up my presence on social media, but I knew he wouldn’t accept any such namby-pamby excuse. Writers write!

Except, you know, when they don’t …

“Sometimes it’s not so easy to just sit down and write,” I said. “You have to know whatyou’re going to write first, and I’m not too sure yet where the story is going.”

“Then why didn’t you spend time on the days you didn’t write thinking about the plot?” he asked.

This is why Baby Duck will probably be a better writer than me one day. This kid is organised. I mean, scary organised. He comes home every day and sits straight down and does his homework without being told. He starts his assignments weeks in advance. Weeks! It’s not natural!

I flailed around a bit more, put on the spot by my eleven-year-old son.

“Well, I know what’s going to happen in a general way. But it’s hard to plan, at the really detailed level you need for scene-writing, exactly what’s going to happen. Whenever I start thinking about it I usually get distracted by a million other things.”

“You should start at the end and work backwards,” he said. “Then you’ll know where you have to end up.”

So there you have it, straight from the mouth of my tiny writing guru:

  1.        Resist the temptation to goof off on the internet. When it’s time to write, write.
  2.        In between writing sessions, plan what to write next.
  3.        If you get stuck with plotting forwards, work backwards from the end instead.

I should hire the kid out to writers’ conferences.

What about you? Do you have any good writing tips? Anything that works for you as motivation, or to get you past a blockage? Struggling writer wants to know!

The bathroom: most creative room in the house

I was going to say it was the “most productive” room in the house, but I didn’t want anyone leaping to the wrong conclusion.

Baby Duck came in as I started writing this post.

“Why is it the most creative room in the house? Oh, I guess because you spend so much time sitting there.” Then the most evil grin spread across his face. “Or should I say …”

I quickly cut him off. “Sitting is fine.”

Cheeky kid.

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question writers hear a lot. My number one answer in general is “in the bath”. When I’m drafting a novel I hop into the bath nearly every night. Something about the relaxation of it – or maybe the sheer boredom of sitting there with nothing to do or look at – prompts the ideas to flow. I can almost always rely on a nice long bath to give me a breakthrough when I don’t know where the story is going next.

But that’s in general. Today I want to tell you about the time when a bathroom gave me a very specific idea, which became the genesis of my forthcoming novel Twiceborn.

It was on a visit to a Gold Class cinema. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re a very swish movie-going experience. There are only about forty seats in the whole theatre, and they’re big reclining armchairs grouped in pairs with a table between them. There’s a separate bar area where you can order meals and drinks to be brought to you during the movie. Obviously it’s more expensive than a regular trip to the cinema, but it’s a nice luxury for the occasional treat.

They also have separate toilets, which are a lot more upmarket than the ones for general movie-goers. Spacious and gleaming, they feature beautiful tiles, automatic taps – and the ones at our local Gold Class have the most enormousstalls. The first time I visited one I remember thinking, wow, these are like personal change rooms. You could do anything in here!

Which of course started the wheels in my little writer’s brain turning over. I pictured a pregnant woman entering such a stall, then stripping off her clothes to reveal the pregnancy was only a prosthesis, which she then removed. Then she dressed in a new outfit, complete with wig, and walked out of the bathroom a completely different woman to the one who walked in, deceiving the people who were watching for her.

Who was this woman? Who was following her and why? I knew she was in danger, but not what form the threat took.

I needed a lot more ideas to make a book, but that’s how books grow. You start with one little glimmering of an idea, then you hurl a whole bunch of other ideas at it, till something new and sparkly results from the collision.

That scene in the bathroom became part of the first scene of Twiceborn. A whole 90,000- word novel resulted from one moment of marvelling at the size of the Gold Class bathroom stalls.

Best bathroom visit ever.Where do you do your best thinking? Ever had a great idea in a really odd place?

Even dragons have to cut their toenails

 

This is the very first dragon I ever bought myself, in those long-ago days BC (Before Children), so I guess you could say this little guy kicked off the collection. We were on a romantic weekend away at a very swish hotel in the Blue Mountains. It must have been winter, because it was snowing when we arrived late on Friday night, which is something we Sydney-siders rarely get to see, and a huge log fire burned in the massive fireplace in the foyer.

The Blue Mountains are only about an hour’s drive from where we live, but they feel like another world. They’re much higher and colder than Sydney, so they get the occasional snowfall in winter. They also feel about fifty years behind the rest of the world in terms of architecture and the pace of life there. Little towns are scattered among thousands of hectares of largely untouched bushland. There are no Macdonalds anywhere in the Blue Mountains, a fact of which the residents are very proud.

It was all very atmospheric, but so f-f-freezing outside that we spent nearly the whole weekend in the hotel. Browsing in the gift shop, we found some quirky little dragon statues. There’s a  big artist community in the Blue Mountains, so I’ve always assumed they were made by some talented local, though I don’t know for sure.

I couldn’t resist the absurdity of this one, sitting there cutting his toenails with such a look of concentration on his face. I guess dragons can’t spend all their lives terrorising castles and kidnapping princesses. At the end of the day, someone still has to do all those domestic duties, like cleaning the lair, bathing the baby dragons, and attending to matters of personal grooming.

This one looks so comical he always makes me smile. He also reminds me of a time when romantic weekend getaways for two were still an option.

The Blue Mountains feature in my forthcoming novel, Twiceborn – complete with dragon. Not the cute kind that sits around cutting its toenails, though! The beautiful Mountains take quite a beating – all that bushland plus dragonfire … not a good combination.

But if you think that’s bad, wait till you see what happens to the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

Savage writers and gentle readers

You know how you’re reading along, enjoying a book, and all of a sudden the writer kills off your favourite character. Or something really terrible happens, and horrendous suffering ensues. Or maybe a really cute puppy gets kicked – but something the author does makes you think they must have absolutely no soul.

And when you look at the number of books out there where something gruesome and/or tragic occurs, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s a whole lotta soulless writers running around out there.

I’ve come to the conclusion (admittedly only based on a sample of one, so the data could be off) that we writers do come equipped with both hearts and souls. But writers keep their writer-selves in a separate box to their reader-selves. The kick a writer gets out of writing something horrific is very different to how they might feel confronted with reading that in someone else’s book. When you’re writing you’re thinking about plot and cool twists, how to make your characters suffer (because stories about happy contented people are boring), and all the technicalities of doing that in the most effective way. You’re not experiencing the story and all its emotional highs and lows the way a reader coming to it fresh does.

Case in point: I’ve started revising The Twiceborn Queen, the sequel to Twiceborn. When I wrote the first draft I killed off a major character from the first book. There were good story-related reasons to do so, but honestly? I was just bored with him. I could have worked to make him more interesting, but killing him off was fun.

As a reader I hate it when sad things happen in books. I know if I bought this book expecting a fun fantasy read, only to have a favourite character from the first book die on me, I’d be disappointed and angry. It might turn me off the series.

So now I’m torn. Do I let writer-me win and keep the death? Kill, maim, destroy!Or do I bow to my gentler reader-self, and revise him back into health and happiness? No wonder people think writers are crazy: not only do we spend half our time playing with imaginary people in our heads, but we argue with ourselves too.

What about you? Does it put you off a series when a favourite character dies?