School interview, Erskine Park High, NSW - Part I

A class of grade 9 students over at Erskine Park High have been reading The Runes of Odin and sent me a whole slew of great questions about the book, my writing process and tips for being a writer. Below are the first ten questions and my answers, with the first name(s) of the student(s) who asked each question. It is a great pleasure to hear from them and I'd like to thank their teacher, Natali, for setting this all up.

Click to read more ...



Branding is something every writer deals with in some form. From the style of writing, to the typical settings or types of stories a particular writer might use more often than others, and then on to the look of a series of novels, the illustrations, cover design and even the publisher’s imprint. These are all important ways for readers to identify a writer, to find more of his/her works, and to feel comfortable with a genre choice.

Click to read more ...


Project updates

This isn't a quick process as I've made the decision to complete the first draft of the newest novel, The Decay Chain, before finalising the edits and uploading The Bhel Sea. I think this is important for a few reasons, not the least that I keep the momentum I have with the new manuscript, then tuck it away to ferment for a month before shining some redrafting light onto it. I also want to complete the Bhel Sea and then spend some time outlining the sequels, which given the scale of the story and settings, will take a while. It also allows time for Kentaro Kanamoto, the illustrator, to complete the internal illustrations (B&W inserts). Ideally, it'll all be finished before Xmas, but I am not going to rush just for that deadline.

So, soon enough, but not soon enough. Here is an example of what the final e-book cover may look like.



Bhel Sea teaser

Jhared’s knuckles turned white on his sword hilt. His gaze was locked on Tarnok’s, but still he was aware of the whispered approach of robes and accusing eyes. Bare feet coming closer. Muted chanted. Sibilant whispers. Swords before and behind him held too tightly, too ready.

Drought. Long starvation. War. Now this.

‘And? What do the Saldina say? Are you here to do a cripple’s bidding?’ Jhared asked, then spat. The world had changed for the Elaan, but the Sept was still the Sept. Damnation came a late second.


Bhel Sea - cover design

Cover illustration is finished! Having input on the end product, and having commissioned it personally, just makes having the final product that much more enjoyable.



As mentioned in a previous post, the illustration is by the talented Kentaro Kanamoto who is next working on B&W inserts for the novel, most likely five illustrations covering various scenes, landscapes and characters of the book.

For this design, I asked for the central motif of a wreck, cliffs and black-pebbled beach overlooked by a keep. I gave him relevant sections of the manuscript to draw ideas from, but left it as much as possible in his hands. I wanted something evocative of the vision in my head, but not ruled by it (assuming it were even possible to brain-dump my ill-formed mental images).

The image you see will be the full spread of the print novel. The ebook will be the wreck and keep half of the painting only. Titles and blurb of course to come.



Tunes to write to

Currently finishing the first draft of The Decay Chain and with the help of a friend from Germany, have found a number of music albums that are really providing the perfect paradoxical mix of angst, chill, atmosphere, energy and darkness for the book.

Click to read more ...


The Bhel Sea - update

Example of Kentaro Kanamoto's work (not my cover)Inching closer to my next publication, still tentatively titled "The Bhel Sea". After feedback from my editor which echoed my own concerns, I may change the title, or amend it, to something that doesn't conjure such a link with a naval / pirate / swash-buckling adventure... which this book isn't. There are three main (actually four, for those books with reviewer quotes featuring on the cover) hooks for grabbing a browsing reader's attention and interest, those being the cover, the title and the blurb (and to me, in that order of importance).

I have commissioned the fantastic services of an illustrator, Kentaro Kanamoto, an example of whose work you see in this post. He is almost finished with the design, that of a wrecked ship on a dark, storm-wracked beach beneath a looming keep. This is a pivotal early scene in the novel and one which I have always had in my head when I thought of a potential cover. The cover itself I will reveal hopefully very soon upon its completion, but I have been blown away by Kentaro's skill to now.

The blurb is yet to be written, and here I have licence to grab the essence of the book, and steer the reader hopefully away from the rocky misdirection of a book about ships and piracy.

And finally the title. This is a tricky one, as the book is mainly about the Bhel Sea, a dangerous, contested expanse of water where anything goes. And while there are the equivalent of pirates, or more specifically an organised mob of raiders known as the Korsar, more than half of the novel does not take place there, but rather inland, well away from any significant river, lake or sea. I am considering splitting the hefty tome into two parts for e-book publication, and a single volume for print, and perhaps using different sub-titles under a Bhel Sea Saga brand.

Watch this space.



Trent Jamieson Roils the Business of Death

Trent Jamieson is having a big month in September. He is releasing two novels thereby proving his literary ambidexterity.  

The Business of Death is the third and final instalment of his Death Works novels (which began with Death Most Definite, continued with Managing Death). I interviewed Trent about his debut trilogy last year and he has gone from strength to strength since I first met him as a Clarion South tutor in 2009.

His second book, Roil, is a new story and as good as all his book covers are, this one is particularly attractive. Here is the blurb for it: 

Shale is in trouble. A vast, chaotic, monster-bearing storm known only as the Roil is expanding, consuming the land.

Where once there were twelve great cities, now only four remain, and their borders are being threatened by the growing cloud of darkness. The last humans are fighting back with ever more bizarre new machines. But one by one the defences are failing. And the Roil continues to grow.

With the land in turmoil, it’s up to a decadent wastrel, a four thousand year-old man, and a young woman intent on revenge to try to save their city – and the world.

It is being published by Angry Robot and they have a nifty little in-page app that lets you read a sample chapter: http://issuu.com/angryrobot/docs/roil-samplechapter


I asked Trent for his take on the changes occurring across the publishing world at the moment and he was kind enough to share these thoughts:

1. Regarding self-publishing and e-publishing, what is your impression of the changing advice given, or information available, to emerging writers?

There's a flood of it at the moment, and a lot of it looks less like advice than anecdotal material, which is fine, except, like in every business, every writer is going to have a different experience and different outcomes. There are so many different tools and pathways open to a writer now, and what's right for one may not be right for another. Which is really me just saying, I don't know. And I tend to be a bit suspicious of people that say they do.

2. Would you advocate traditional approaches to publishing over self-publishing? Why? Why not?

Honestly, you don't want my advice on that! But I have loved working with the editorial team at Orbit, and am enjoying working with Angry Robot. I thrive on editorial input, and I worry when I don't get it. But not everyone is like that, and some people write extremely clean prose. Me I like a good editorial kicking. And there's all sorts of things that publishers do in getting your work out there, that is much, much harder when you do it alone.  Still some people like a challenge.

Either way, what it comes down to is finding a way to say, 'Hey, here's my stories.' and, hopefully, finding an audience, that's the hardest part, and it's only going to get harder. You don't engage people then you don't make a living, but, still, the first person you have to engage is yourself, or you're waisting your time (and any potential audience's time) and even then your audience is more likely than not going to be small.

It's still important to separate the writing from the business of writing, and it's still important to write regardless of the approach you use.


3. Fast forward five years. Using your speculative fiction mega-skills, what do you think the publishing / writing industry will look like?

Firstly we'll all drive flying cars, and all editing will be done by creatures that look like those harvesting robots in the Matrix.

I'm sure there'll still be publishers, and bookstores, and writers. I actually think publishers are adapting better than people give them credit for - there's an awful lot of resentment to publishers that blinds people to just what they're capable of. I think books will be cheaper and margins tighter, but the potential audience may actually be about to hit a growth spurt - that's my gut feeling anyway. And, if the next few years don't kill them, Indie bookstores are going to become real hubs of the community, and we may even see a few more of them spring up.

Print books will become increasingly sidelined, without ever going away completely, and e-books will grow (a lot of them read by those Matrix robot things) as will enhanced e-books (books with all manner of multi-media trappings). So you'll see print stories that run the spectrum from purely print to something that is a hybrid (so things that are more and less bookish), though I think those hybrids are going to be relatively rare until people can make video that doesn't just look like second-rate amateur film.
Authors will still be chasing the dream and there will be plenty more of them. Standing out in the crowd is going to be even harder than it is right now, but some people will. I think the real money makers in the industry will be those who've set themselves up as e-publishing consultants, or book cover designers.

Hell, I really don't know what I'm talking about, and I'm rambling. But, ultimately in five years time I'm sure there's still going to be a publishing and a writing industry, I'm less sure that anyone really knows what it'll be like.


Trent's own website is here.



Self-publishing income breakdown

Derek Canyon has been providing monthly stats of his sales for the past months. He openly breaks down the numbers of each of his four titles and provides an average income.

It's an interesting read, as Derek is a "new" writer, self-published, having sourced his own editing and book cover designs and is projecting around $14k per year from his current titles, based on to-date data.

That sort of money is not shabby at all when you consider the likely advance for a traditionally published novel for a new writer. Let's say $5k, $10k or even $20k as an advance against royalties. This is a one-off payment, and by most accounts, novels generally do not sell enough copies to provide the author with royalties beyond this payment. Compare four titles at $10k per, or $40k total, and Derek will have made this amount in 3 years and still have all the rights and control of his books forever.

Intoxicating stuff. Of course, I doubt most new writers who are self-publishing are making anything like his sales of 30 - 40 per day, but it is definitely an achievable target.


The Bhel Sea - coming soon!

My next novel is very close to being released, with edits almost in and an artist commissioned to produce the book covers.

This is a novel that is a good four years in the making, from conception at the end of 2006 and the first chapters written soon after the birth of my first daughter, then sporadic progress through the following three years until it was finally finished, feeling like something of a Frankenstein monster given the total project occurred both before and after becoming a father (twice), and before and after attending Clarion South 2009 (a particularly intense 6 weeks writers’ workshop).

I’m very much looking forward to holding the print version in my hands. That is the final moment when the fruits of all that dispersed labour is realised and the project feels ‘finished’.

More updates to follow, including blurbs and preliminary designs for the maps and cover.

Here is an excerpt of the book, the prologue (still subject to change):


The Bhel Sea once smelled of ruin, of wealth and of places I’ll never go. It’s different now but it’s hard to hold onto memories of distant events as anything more than stories. They don’t seem to hold much truth compared to the every day. Memories fade too quickly and details are forgotten. I don’t want to forget. It seems impossible that I could, but in ten years time, this will all seem as distant. 

I live on Ash’s Reef, on a little island in the Bhel Sea, where the wind is always blowing in the sails of passing ships. I was born here, and have some memories of a time before the Korsar, but not many because I was only a boy when they arrived, ten years ago. They came with hands and arms tattooed black. Like any thief, murderer or freebooter, they took what they wanted, but they didn’t leave. I remember the flames coming out of windows, and the smell of burning flesh, but not much more.  

From Ash Island, the Korsar brought the sword to the Bhel Sea,  to the ports, to the villages and towns on the coasts. When the killing stopped, the plundering began. Everyone paid the black tax they demanded. My father paid it. Every trader and every ship’s captain paid it. The Korsar strung up anyone who didn’t; dangled them from hawsers flung over a yard-arm to moan in tandem with the creaking of the rope that cut into their necks. Any boat or ship they had would burn to the waterline before them as they choked.  

The Korsar ran the Bhel Sea  and left wrecked ships and skeletons in their passing to calcify and join the coral. None of it was enough to stop the demand for trade. I know all this because of the stories from sea-hands and merchants, stories about spices and timber and ambhel powders. Stories about towns and ports hungry for commerce: Skarpa, Newport, Kells, Rigon, and the Free Towns. Everyone  learning to bend to the Korsar, a violent change that rippled beyond the Bhel Sea, down the Straits and into the city-states of the warm South. 

All of it coming from here, from the Bhel Sea, a sea of many names: the white sea, the sea of bones, the sea of storms, the sea of old times, the sea of ambhel, the sea of last gasps. The sea of change seems closest to the truth. And the Korsar were a stone dropped in the waters of the world, bring disorder to places and people who had never seen deep water. 

I knew none of this at first. How could I know that the Korsar would touch the life of a noble’s daughter in the southern city-state of Tir? She a girl when her parents were murdered, and condemned to a cold heart, following the orders of their killer. 

And I knew nothing of the change the Korsar brought to the East, beyond the Spine Ranges to the warriors of the Elaan Sept and their leader, Jhared Elaan.            

But I learned of it all soon enough, because the change came to me, too, in the Bhel Sea where I worked as a scriv, and later a symbolist. 

This is their story. And mine. This is my written memory.