Southern Skies Publications up and away

Southern Skies publications

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.

Chris McMaster

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?

You can learn more about Southern Skiesat: Just click on the contact tab to get in touch—we’d love to hear from you.

My author site is: Take a look and join my mailing list—stay up to date with my books!

Thank you so much for having Something to Say today, Chris!

Good luck to Southern Skies!


Last Word of the Week: Michelle Emerson

Join writer, editor and indie-author Michelle Emerson and me in today’s chat-fest. I love multi-tasking too! Michelle is the first non-fiction author I have interviewed on LWOTW, and as I have published some non-fiction books myself, it’s lovely to touch base again with that place of writing.

Michelle runs self-publishing services for indie authors, as well as writing her own very successful (and useful) help books for writers of all stripes. She lives in the north east of the UK and has a Shih Tzu called Buddy.

LWOTW: Hi Michelle, thanks for taking the time to chat with us here on Last Word of the Week. Tell us, when did you write your first story?

Michelle: Primary school, I think. As 7/8 year olds we were tasked with writing a ghost story (it must have been around Halloween time) and although I can’t remember much about the story (apart from a dapple grey rocking horse rocking in a bay window on its own) I can remember my teacher (lovely Mr Lenaghan) showing my story to another teacher and how happy it made me feel.

LWOTW: That’s a great memory. As a writer, what do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

As a writer I think it’s always good to write when inspiration strikes. That way the writing process is much easier, the content comes from a place of passion, and often flows much better. Having said that, I’m a non-fiction author so I’m also a big advocate for planning. To me, the concept of writing a whole book is overwhelming. However, if I break it down into chunks, writing targets and using bullet points and mindmaps to brainstorm, I’m much more likely to finish writing my books in a shorter space of time.

LWOTW: That’s really interesting. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

Publishing my first book. I’m a non-fiction / business book writer and have ghostwritten other books for clients. So to have my own name on the front cover was a big milestone for me. I no longer had the safety of hiding behind my authors’ names, and while it was scary to begin with, it has given me confidence to further publish another three books.


LWOTW: I suspect that there has always been an author hiding inside! What are you most busy with at the moment?

I’m writing a book about blogging at the moment. All the chapters are scoped out, I have set myself a target of writing 7k words a week, and hope to have it finished within the next month – just in time for Christmas.

LWOTW: Gotta love a target before the holidays! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

You can do this!


I love that! And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?




Michelle’s links:

Last Word of the Week: Julian Barr

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Julian Barr, whose debut novel The Way Home has just been released by the awesome Odyssey Books.

At one stage, I taught the subject Backgrounds to English Literature at the University of Melbourne, so both the Iliad and the Odyssey loom large in my internal world. I’m excited to see them take on a new lease of life in Julian’s YA The Ashes of Olympus series!


LWOTW: Salve, Julian! Tell us, when did you write your first story?

I have the vaguest memory of writing a piece of Thomas the Tank Engine fanfic when I was really little, but I wrote my first original story when I was about seven. It was a thrilling tale of a boy who woke up to find himself transformed into a koala. In retrospect, it was a little bit Franz Kafka, only less surreal and creepifying.

LWOTW: And with not so much buzz, perhaps. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

For most writers, the first two come easy. The last part is harder. Planning is an acquired skill which ideally gets better with time and practice. We’re very lucky to live in an age when there are so many resources out there to assist.

LWOTW: I’ll have to find out what those are! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

When the email arrived from Odyssey Books with an offer of a contract for my debut novel. I was shaking as I read it, but so thrilled. The title is The Way Home, the first book of the Ashes of Olympus Trilogy. It’s a YA historical fantasy based on Greek mythology, in which a band of exiles must brave the wrath of the gods to find a place to call home. That said, seeing the talented Aussie artist (and old mate) Matt Wolf bring the illustrations to life was a definite highlight. See the header for an example of his extraordinary work.


LWOTW: I can’t wait to get my hands on it. What are you most busy with at the moment?

Edits on the second Ashes of Olympus book. I’m also working with the amazing archaeologist Dr Amelia Brown on an academic book. We are translating the early medieval sources regarding St. Nicholas. Yep, as in Santa. That started when I was researching an historical novel about St. Nick, but I was shocked to learn the sources hadn’t been translated into English. I was lucky enough to study Greek at uni, but I am a big believer in making research as accessible as possible. Since we started, a couple of collaborative translations have cropped up online, which is awesome, but this will be the first peer-reviewed translation with commentary. I also have a couple of other fiction projects in early stages, but they are a bit hush-hush at the moment.

LWOTW: How intriguing! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Remember the value of kindness. Take every learning opportunity. Be in it for the long haul. And you don’t have to be afraid.

And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

Blue! No doubt due to the continuing influence of Thomas, haha.


Julian’s links:


Twitter: @jbarrauthor

Where to buy: The Way Home is available through all the major online booksellers by the time this interview is released. Or, even better, see if your local indie bookstore or library can get it for you!

Something to Say: Pernille Hughes

Something to Say is pleased to welcome Pernille Hughes, whose debut novel has just been released. So exciting. Brand spanking new book!

pernille writer pic 2 (1)Photo by I. Hughes

STS: Welcome, Pernille. This must be a thrilling time for you! Tell us something about your project.

My debut novel Sweatpants At Tiffanie’s was published on August 3rd. It’s a Romcom, a second-chance love story, a HEA story, and ‘getting up again when life punches you in the face’ story.

STS: That’s HEA as in Happily Ever After, yes?

It certainly is! Tiffanie Trent gets dumped by boyfriend Gavin on their 10th anniversary. Heartbroken and homeless, Tiff, a bookkeeper at an old-school boxing gym, figures that at least she has her job. But then the owner drops dead, leaving her floundering. When she then inherits the gym, Tiff, not sporty at all, needs to decide if she can take it on, defy the naysayers who say she can’t do it, and bring the club and her life into a better state of play.

STS: And Sweatpants At Tiffanie’s was just released last week on August 3rd. That’s awesome. Is there one aspect of the story that you relate to most – a favourite character, scene, effect? Can you tell us more about that?

As well as sharing Tiff’s reluctance to take part in physical exercise, I relate to her coming to see that she needn’t let others tell her what she is capable of. A teacher once said I couldn’t be a writer and I believed her, abandoning writing for about ten years. When I had my kids I turned back to the words to keep my brain clocking over and saw that actually I get to decide whether I am a writer or not. Tiff gets to examine her life too and understand that she determines what she can do, not others.

Pernille pic 3Photo by C. Knappe

STS: I’d like to meet that teacher now! What is it that drives you to pursue your creativity, despite that lack of encouragement?

Without wanting to come across as scary, the voices just rattle around in my head and need to come out onto the page. I’ve been making up dialogue since I was little, verbally playing out scenes either in my room, or say, if we were walking on holiday. Additionally I’m conflict shy and so always end up coming away from issues and spending the rest of the day making up what I should have said and wished I’d said. Writing stories is great for getting it out, although it doesn’t make me better at wading into conflicts.

What pushes me to get my writing out there is partially a desire to make others laugh with my words and also to get validation for them (so, I’m ‘giving’ and ‘needy’ at the same time…). Also, as a stay-at-home mum, words and my stories are my marketable commodity.

STS: Many writers have described their processes using analogies – stitching scenes together, following characters on a journey, immersing themselves in a storyline. What can you say about your process?

I visualise my process as sculpting. First I’ll write what I call a Vomit draft, just splurging words onto the page, only writing forwards and chronologically, not going back to correct anything, even if it means writing ‘something about XX, here’. That feels like choosing the material, like clay or stone.

The next draft will be looking at the ugly lump of words and deciding what the form of it is, what the essence of the piece will be and beginning to shape it. Each draft is then shaping the clay/stone until the sculpture is defined and the final draft will be the polishing. I like to have everything rounded off in my stories, ideally no loose ends, so when I’m asked to make edits, I find it really hard. In this analogy it’s like having to add an arm or something to a contained piece and then having firstly to make it look like it was always supposed to be there in the balanced piece and secondly smoothing the edges so no one can see the joins.

My stories start from an idea and then conversations around that idea come into my head. Until now my Vomit drafts have been extremely loosely plotted, after which I’ve found that when starting the first proper draft, I work best if I have a fully plotted plan and know the arcs of my key characters so that the choices they make from the start are true to their needs.

STS: That’s amazing. I love the name Vomit draft! Thank you for that – I’ll feel better throwing out great chunks of draft one now. Finally, what five words would you use to describe yourself as a writer?

Contemporary, Funny (hopefully), Plotter, Un-ambiguous (I’m not a fan of an ambiguous ending), Distraction-prone (ach, Twitter, you are my downfall…)

STS: Wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your news with us today, Pernille, and I look for to a HEA future for your writing!

You can Find Pernille at the following links:

Twitter @pernillehughes




Pernille’s teeny tiny blog


Here’s where to buy Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s:




Google Play


Coming soon: the Last Word of the Week

Good news, readers and writers!

From the first Friday in July, we are starting a new project called the Last Word of the Week (LWOTW). Every Friday, a different writer will join me for a Q&A about the craft and business of writing.

I’m very much looking forward to getting started with all these clever, generous folk.


Image Credit: The Garden of Chenenceau, by Clare Rhoden



Ginger Spoodle barked, as in, BARKED!!!! way too early on a weekend morning. Someone coming! Someone on our patch!

It was our favourite tradies. The builders had returned on Saturday morning to finish our bathroom and kitchen renovation. Their final task was to caulk every crevice and gap in the wall tiles, splashbacks, and on the floor. Within two hours, we were all systems go.

Time for our work to begin. Every box, drawer, shelf and cupboard in the place has to be unpacked, every item has to be cleaned and put in its new-or-old place.

Problem is that I have found too many things that I haven’t even missed during the weeks of renovation. Why do I have all these cups and spoons? That tray? This jug? The other thingy?

File:2503 - Athens - Temple of Athena Nike being restored - Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, Nov 11 2009.jpg

Time for a strict household EDIT (yep, it’s an anagram of diet!). Sure, it’s going to take a few days, but the end result will be worthwhile. The house will work better without the excess, unnecessary items.

And so will my writing. A lot of what I’ve written is scaffolding around the core story, scaffolding which has performed its task and can now be taken away. A few days’ housework may help me identify the flabby words when I get back to the manuscript.

Maybe I’ve been renovating my brain as well as my house.

Image by Giovanni Dall’Orto, via wikimedia commons at,_Nov_11_2009.jpg