I’m thrilled to have The Pale (Chronicles of the Pale #1) reviewed by esteemed author and reviewer Isobel Blackthorn.
Here’s a snippet: a classy read with an important moral message, making the reader question where we are heading and whose side we are on and what it means to be fully human. Add to this an elegant writing style which makes The Pale accessible to teens and adults alike, and I imagine it won’t be too long before this novel catches on big time – Isobel Blackthorn, author of A Perfect Square and many other great books
Prime Day on the big Zon: just a heads-up that there is a whole day left to make the most of Prime and grab some fabulous books at special rates. Here’s a link to some book recommendations from a few of us authors at Odyssey Books. We’re a well-read bunch and if ever you want to know about ‘more books like X’, we are your go-to folk!
Author Paula Boerlives in the Snowy Mountains of eastern Australia. Her lifelong love of horses began when she first rode a pony on a ranch in Canada, aged 7.
Paula’s writing career started at school where she wrote a story from the horse’s perspective for her final English exam. Combining her love of horses with her passion for travel, she has raced the native horses in Mongolia, climbed the heights of Colombia on horseback, and competed in Endurance rides around Australia. She claims the best way to experience a country is from the back of a horse.
Although not always on horseback, Paula has travelled in sixty countries on six continents. Her wonderful five-book Brumbies series was created from her experiences and love of our high country wild horses. The first Brumbies book became an Amazon ‘Best Seller’ in 2012. The final in the series, Brumbies in the Mountains, was published in January 2015. But there are exciting things coming! I’m pleased to interview Paula in this edition of Last Word of the Week.
LWOTW: Welcome, Paula. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Paula: I have been ‘horse mad’ since I was 9 years old and have ridden in many horse disciplines since then. My favourite has been endurance, as it has enabled me to see amazing places in Australia from horseback which I would never have experienced otherwise.
I also love dogs, and lesser liked creatures such as spiders and snakes.
I knew we had a lot in common. What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
In the Brumbies series, my favourite scene is in book 5, Brumbies in the Mountains, where Ben rides his stallion up a mountain and sees an eagle flying high – below where he is riding. All the adventures in my stories are based on my own experiences and seeing an eagle flying below where I rode will always stick with me as a magical moment.
In my upcoming horse fantasy trilogy, The Equinora Chronicles, one of my favourite scenes (and there are many) is in the prologue, where the unicorn goddess creates tiny dragons from sea horses.
That sounds wonderful – I can’t wait. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
Shock! Of course they are real! To me anyway – they follow me around the house all day, chatting to me. When I finish writing a series, I experience grief at their loss, until I bond with the characters in my next work.
Of course they are, my humble apologies. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
Easy! Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series. Not only did she inspire my writing, but I believe that subconsciously that is why I moved to Australia. As a 10 year old, I dreamed of being a flying vet in Australia (like the flying doctors but for animals). My family and friends told me that was unrealistic as no such thing was needed, but I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting the first female flying vet, Dr Jan Hills, when my husband and I looked after her Northern Territory property.
What a wonderful backstory! Now take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Ten years ago I had just signed my first book contract (for The Okapi Promise, my debut novel which is based on my experiences in Africa where I spent five months travelling in an old Bedford truck). I would tell ‘that me’ to find a niche for my writing that spoke of who I was. I thought at the time it was travel to wilderness areas, but I now know that my brand is based on animals, predominantly horses.
Animals. I do so love them. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
The first of The Equinora Chronicles, The Bloodwolf War, will be launched at Conflux in Canberra, Australia, early October 2019. The other two books in the trilogy, which are written, will follow a year apart. Meanwhile, I am working on a sequel trilogy in the same world, with new and exciting characters such as a goat god and griffins.
So exciting! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
Interesting question. I guess I AM whichever character whose point of view I am writing at the time. To pick someone else’s character, I’d love to be Nighteyes, the wolf in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy.
Dear Nighteyes! Such a wise and resilient creature. He’s helped me through many a dark place.
Thank you so much Paula for sharing with me today.
Phyllis M. Newman is my guest on today’s Last Word of the Week. Born in New Orleans, Phyllis spent her formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and on a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a long career in finance and human resources at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. She published a noir mystery, “Kat’s Eye” in 2015, and “The Vanished Bride of Northfield House” in 2018. Today she lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghostwatchers all.
Phyllis M Newman author
LWOTW: Lovely to meet you, Phyllis. Tell me, when did you write your first story?
Phyllis: I was thirteen and attending junior high school. It was a murder mystery entitled M is for Murder. (At the time I was living in Dade County Florida, murder capital of the world.) I still have a copy of it somewhere (and since then I think someone stole my title.) Maybe I could brush it up and finish it? At the time, I didn’t have the maturity and discipline to complete it with a well thought out plot and exciting characters. I do remember that the main character was named after my best friend Rhudell.
Ahem, murder capital of the world…*shivers*…You totally should revisit that book! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
Only if you dream can you write. Only if you have an imagination can you create fiction. Planning, not so much. I prefer to start out with a strong character who has a set of problems and just write as if I am that person. I develop in my mind only a vague idea of where she will go and what she will do and about my major themes. Those details come to me as I flesh out the story.
Case in point, when I started The Vanished Bride of Northfield House, all I knew about Anne, my main character, was that she was orphaned, she secured training as a typewriter, she could see spirits, and it was set in England, 1922. You can see that any writer could develop volumes out of such a situation. It’s quite exciting to write in this way. It’s an adventure.
I love your method! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
When a traditional publisher accepted my manuscript for publication. And I got a cash advance. And a very professional editor worked closely with me for months to polish and improve the writing. After a year, I was holding a book in my hand with my name on it. Talk about dreams!
That’s a completely magical feeling. What are you most busy with at the moment?
I am polishing a finished manuscript, a novel in the same genre as The Vanished Bride of Northfield House. It is another gothic mystery with elements of the supernatural and a suspenseful romance. And, of course, trying to market and publicize my two other publications.
If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Just write. Stop dreaming and put your fingers to the keyboard (or pen to paper. Whatever floats your boat!) The more you write, the better you are at it. And read. Learn what makes a good story. And don’t forget the craft of writing. Good story telling is an art, but good writing is a craft that anyone can learn. But you can only learn by doing. That’s more than one thing, but all of the above is important.
Excellent advice there, thank you. And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
I wear yellow, the color of sunshine, at every opportunity
How lovely! Thank you so much, Phyllis, for being my guest on today’s last Word of the Week.
Eugen M. Bacon describes herself as a computer graduate mentally re-engineered into creative writing. Eugen’s entrancing, highly-regarded work is widely published in literary and speculative journals, magazines & anthologies worldwide. She is also a professional editor … check her out at Writerly Editing Services
Welcome, Eugen! Wonderful to have you on Something to Say! What project are you talking about today?
Eugen: My literary speculative novel Claiming T-Mo is out with Meerkat Press in August 2019. It is a lush interplanetary tale where an immortal Sayneth priest flouts the conventions of a matriarchal society by naming his child. This initiates chaos, unleashing a Jekyll-and-Hyde child—T-Mo/Odysseus. The story unfolds through the eyes of three distinctive women: his mother, his wife, his daughter, and the unbearable choices they must make.
Is there one aspect of Claiming T-Mo that you relate to most – a favourite character, scene, effect? Can you tell us more about that?
Myra—pronounced My (as in ‘my name is…) Rah(as in ‘ra-ra-rasputin’)—is one of my favourite characters. She is half human, half alien, impulsive, and doesn’t really ‘belong’. But I also really like the complexity of T-Mo/Odysseus, his double persona that fools all but his mother, Silhouette. She is the omniscient narrator who haunts across the novel.
They all sound marvellous! What do you think drives you to pursue your creativity?
Dominique Hecq, a wonderful friend and mentor (she was my doctorate supervisor), articulates it best. She says that she writes to answer incipient questions troubling her mind, or to relieve some form of anxiety where cause may not yet be symbolised. She states, ‘I write because I must do so, exhilarating, detestable or painful though this might be.’
Like Hecq, I write to … find.
Very well explained! Many writers have described their processes using analogies – the famous Hemingway one, for example, in which he says that writing is simply a matter of sitting in front of the typewriter and staring at a blank page until you start to sweat blood. Others speak of stitching scenes together, following characters on a journey, immersing themselves in a storyline. What can you say about your process?
My approach to the compositional space is with excitement, with a sense of urgency, with a knowing that writing is an active speaking. Writing is a search, a journey, a coming through. Text shapes my silence. It shouts my chaos. I often start with a skeleton, a general idea, and then the writing shapes itself.
Finally, what five words would you use to describe yourself as a writer?
Experimental. Inventful. Bold. Otherness. Poetic.
And entirely engaging! Thank you so much for having Something to Say, Eugen, and more power to your pen. Um, keyboard. Whatever 🙂
Lyn also writes articles, short stories, blog posts and, on occasion, songs and academic articles.
The Wacky Man cover
When she’s not at work or writing, Lyn is reading, singing, watching world cinema, or attempting to improve her Tibetan language skills (currently dreadful).
Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Lyn! Tibetan language skills? Interesting! Tell me, when did you write your first story?
I can’t remember writing stories when I was young, but I was always imagining stories. My sister used to tell us bedtime stories, that she made up as she went along. I copied that style in my own imagined stories, that I told to myself, especially when life at home got really difficult. My first written stories didn’t come about until English class at secondary school. I was allowed to go to school just for that one class as I was a chronic truant by the age of 12. I remember writing stories at this point in life as completely absorbing.
Stories often help, don’t they? What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
I’ll answer the planning aspect first as it’s something I really struggle with. With my first novel I just dived in and kept writing, making mistakes and rewriting. It took me ten years so with the second one I’ve really tried to plan more. It hasn’t gone quite as I intended, I’ve had to create a second Scrivener document so that I can redraft my outline and copy across all the notes and scribbles into the right bit of the structure (this is partly because I dived into Scrivener without knowing how it worked!).
I never want to get afraid to just write as things come to me because I don’t have somewhere ‘tidy’ to put it immediately. On the other hand, my ‘jigsaw’ method of writing different pieces and spending hours finding where they fit isn’t the most organised one. I’m looking for that happy medium between planning and inspiration because I think you have to work within your own limits and writing style.
Imagination grows the more you use it. I write down thoughts and ideas as they come to me, no matter how stupid they seem. Some of these ideas may never develop further, but capturing your brain’s imaginings is a great way to get over that harsh self-critic you carry around as well as being a good warm up for writing. And a few of my musings have later been used to give a character more depth or provide the backdrop for a scene. Imagination is never wasted.
I really enjoy dreaming, especially right now as I’m using nicotine patches to give up smoking. They have a known side effect of vivid, crazy dreams. My last remembered dream was watching a jet ski competition – where all the competitors were dogs. At this point in time I have absolutely no use for that but some of the best stories in the world make unexpected links between seemingly disparate events or things and/or are complete flights of fancy. Jet skiing dogs might just be the next bestseller. Love your dreams!
Great advice there: love your dreams! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Winning a prize for my debut novel was definitely the highlight. I was told my first book was too ‘brutal’ to be easily marketed, because my main character is a battered child. I think it’s the fact that the child is not a silent entity, as so often happens in violent crime genre, but is ‘in your face’, that made some agents uncomfortable. Being awarded the prize gave me confidence that difficult subjects can be written about, can make beautiful writing. It’s also given me the motivation to keep writing.
That sounds very affirming. Good on you for persisting. What are you most busy with at the moment?
My day job keeps me very busy, especially as it’s marking season right now. I’m also reading a lot, mostly research for the second book, though I have to remind myself to take notes as both main strands of research are so fascinating.
Ooh, fascinating. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Keep writing. The more we write, the better we get – and I don’t mean in terms of winning prizes. I mean in terms of writing what we want to write, with a precision and skill that satisfies us.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Mine too! Thanks so much for talking with me today, Lyn! I’ll be on the lookout for your next novel.
Michael Pryoris a Melbourne author who writes in many veins: from literary fiction to genre sci-fi to slapstick humour, depending on his mood, and very successfully too. Over fifty of Michael’s short stories have been published in Australia and overseas, and he has been shortlisted nine times for the Aurealis Award for Speculative Fiction. His short stories have twice been featured in Gardner Dozois’ ‘Highly Recommended’ lists in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and The Year’s Best Fantasy. Eight of his books have been awarded CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Notable Books status, and he’s been longlisted for a Golden Inky (YA book award) and shortlisted for the WAYRBA Award (Western Australia’s Young Readers Book Award).
He has also twice won the Best and Fairest Award at West Brunswick Amateur Football Club (Australian Rules), so I know he’s a fully rounded person!
Hi, Michael, great to talk with you. What project are you talking about today?
Oh, that’s so cool! Is there one aspect of The Graveyard Shift that you relate to most – a favourite character, scene, effect? Can you tell us more about that?
The book is set in Melbourne, my home town, and it’s a bit of a love song to a city I love. After years of writing stories set in imaginary locations, it was fun to write in a setting that I knew well. Instead of trying to work out how far it was from Imaginary Castle A to Imaginary Desert B, I could just use my local knowledge.
What do you think drives you to pursue your creativity?
I’m driven by the fact that anything else I could be doing would be a whole lot less fun and wouldn’t suit me nearly as well. Besides, I want to be part of the ranks of storytellers that stretch back to the dawn of language, because storyteller is such a human activity, part of who we are.
So true! Many writers have described their processes using analogies – the famous Hemingway one, for example, in which he says that writing is simply a matter of sitting in front of the typewriter and staring at a blank page until you start to sweat blood. Others speak of stitching scenes together, following characters on a journey, immersing themselves in a storyline. What can you say about your process?
I liken it to using stepping stones to cross a swiftly flowing river. The stepping stones are well thought out ahead of time and are in place, nice and solid. Between, though, it’s fluid and changeable, able to take you anywhere.
That’s perfect. A plan with flexibility, I like that. Finally, what five words would you use to describe yourself as a writer?
The wonderfully talented Dr Eugen M. Bacon (MA, MSc, PhD) studied at Maritime Campus, less than two minutes’ walk from The Royal Observatory of the Greenwich Meridian.
Today’s guest on Last Word of the Week, Eugen is a computer graduate who has mentally re-engineered herself into creative writing. Eugen has published over 100 short stories and articles and multiple anthologies worldwide.
She is also a professional editor, of the very highest quality (yes, she edits some of my work! Much to my delight.) Today Eugen has agreed to tell us a bit about herself and her writing.
Eugen Bacon Author
LWOTW: Welcome, Eugen! Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.
Eugen: I knew as a child that writing took me to a mystical place. There was flair in my letters when I wrote them—remember real letters, pen on paper, before email? Always vivid in my imagination, English composition was my favourite subject in primary and secondary school.
I express myself best in writing. I look at my text, and it’s exactly what I mean to say. Sometimes I feel but lack words to clarify the feeling until I put it to text.
A natural-born writer, then. That’s impressive! Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
I love dreams, especially when my departed beloveds come to visit. I dream in colours and smells and sounds. Never music, I don’t think… But I hear conversations and the timbre of voice, for example my mother’s. And I imagine. I always imagine.
Planning is a discipline that came as part of doctorate studies. It was excruciating but necessary to chart my non-fiction. But shorter fiction is spontaneous. Planning would ruin it!
Sounds like a great balance you have there. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Please don’t make me choose! Every text has led me to where I am. Even those stupid earlier pieces Amazon has refused to take down! I was young and impulsive, and I really wanted to get published.
My very first achievement came in winning a writing competition and the Writers Bureau in the UK published ‘Morning Dew’, my very first publication. I later republished the short story as ‘The Writer’—it is a cathartic piece that is also autoethnographic, fictionalised. It was also my first earnings as a writer. Fifty pounds.
Frankly, the doctorate opened the literary world. Suddenly I networked and had access to publishers who were open to give my work a go.
Meerkat Press is a highlight, one of the best publishers to work with. The US book tour for Claiming T-Mo is just magic.
So many highlights, of course you can’t choose. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
I love my work as an editor, especially when I read a piece of text that stirs me.
I would love to write professionally, but all formal reports on writers’ earnings paint a dismal picture. Only a rare few authors can truly live on writing alone without subsidiary income.
I am excited about current writing projects—a cultural novella set in Australia; a graphic collection of speculative flash fiction; a prose poetry collaboration… I also have a collection of speculative fiction out with Meerkat Press in 2020.
Sounds like you have plenty to be getting on with. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Edit, edit, edit. Make sure you professionally edit your work. Stay away from boutique publishers who will snatch all your publishing rights and continue to make the work available long after you’d rather they didn’t.
And, most importantly, don’t keep a shrine of rejection slips. Work at quality, read the authors who most inspire you, and keep submitting until your work finds the right home.
Great advice there. And finally:
Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Professor Moriarty. A tantalising mastermind. S/he’d be a person of colour.
Aha! That makes a kind of sense, I must say.
Thank you so much Eugen for having this week’s Last Word.
Today I’m so pleased to introduce you to Chris McMaster, who has wonderful news for all of us speculative fiction folk: writers, readers, book lovers that we are.
Here is news of a brand spanking new publishing house, that is not only seeking submissions, but also looking for staff to be involved with a new and more equitable business model.
Now you just HAVE to read on, don’t you?
Welcome to my blog! What project are you talking about today, Chris?
I’m launching a new publishing company—and a new type of publishing.
Southern Skies Publications is a traditional small press indie publisher, established to bring Australian and New Zealand speculative fiction to print, and to work with other writers to bring their novels to life. I wanted to specialise in speculative fiction from down under: especially science fiction in all its many forms (Hard, Soft, Opera, Military, Dystopia, Apocalyptic, Alternate History, Time Travel), fantasy (Dark, Epic, Heroic, High, Low), and more.
I want Southern Skies to be able to help authors get their books to market. Self-publishing can be daunting. Traditional publishers can be closed doors. Southern Skies can offer the label, as well as the freedom to play a significant role in the production and marketing of the product.
We’re now team building, looking for folks who want to apply as well as develop their skills through participating in this exciting opportunity.
Can you tell us more about why you’ve started up?
I was excited to be offered a contract for my first novel, American Dreamer. It plays with time travel, alternate realities, interference by ‘gods’, and fighting back. I am still waiting, after one year, to be assigned an editor. In the meantime, I’ve written the third book in that series (now with beta readers), wrote a science fiction book (I’m almost done with first draft!) AND learned a lot about the publishing business.
I studied the model of my American publisher and saw where it could be improved. I think I’ve done that with Southern Skies, and am seriously contemplating asking to have that first contract torn up. I think we can do a better job.
Oh, that’s quite a story! Many writers have described their processes using analogies – the famous Hemingway one, for example, in which he says that writing is simply a matter of sitting in front of the typewriter and staring at a blank page until you start to sweat blood. Others speak of stitching scenes together, following characters on a journey, immersing themselves in a storyline. What can you say about your process?
I love analogies, and have applied this one to Southern Skies: The whaling venture. It took me a very long time to finally read Moby Dick. I tried every few years, and eventually succeeded. As well as being a cracker of a yarn, it has an intriguing business model. Everybody on board a whaling ship has a percentage of profits. On those ships, it was whale oil. With a book, it is royalties.
Think back in time to when we didn’t know any better and whale oil was a valued and lucrative commodity. Ships were sent out to hunt whales, and it was only when they returned with the oil that any profit was turned. Somebody fronted the money for the ship (in most cases with Southern Skies that is me, but not always). They got a share of the profit. The captain of the ship got a share—our writers. And everybody who worked on the venture got a percentage. The harpooners, the deckhands, the first mate.
The marketeers are our harpooners, and they always get a fair share. Where writers also market, and develop their platform, their share increases. Editors are indispensable, and they get a fair percentage. Cover design is vital, which is why our graphic artist gets a percentage. Of course, all this is negotiable. We can be more flexible than a Nantucket whaler when it comes to individual arrangements.
I like the analogy of the ship, as each book will have its own crew, ensuring the success of that venture. I have heard the, “I’m way too busy for that!” reaction, but we’re only as busy as we choose to be. We’re in charge of that. You might want to play a part in one book, or two, or even three. You can be as busy as you want to be.
Oh, maybe another analogy: think microbrewery. There are the huge brands, that mostly taste the same. Try to talk to the folks there and see how far you get. Then there are local brews produced by people who care. You go to the counter and order your pint, and you talk to the brewmeister about it. You can meet the team. You could probably even join the team. The beer is special because of that, as well as the individual flavour it offers, and the pride the team put into their product.
Southern Skies is like that.
It’s great to hear how passionate you are about this venture, Chris. Where can we find out more?