My Next Big Thing

June 2013 Note: Since writing this post, HEART FIRE has undergone yet another rewrite, this time narrowing the focus. I’m happy with the result, and although the novel keeps its original premise, much of the plot has completely changed. What better way to learn to write a novel, than to completely rewrite it five times? Now I’m moving on to a new work. But I also have plans for a sequel for this one…

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Thank you to CSFGer Ross C Hamilton for tagging me in the Next Big Thing. The game here is that writers answer a string of questions about their work, describing what will be their Next Big Thing and then tag five other writers. Those writers answer the same questions and tag other writers. So here goes:

1: What is the working title of your next book?

Heart Fire is my first completed novel. It’s self-contained and also Part One of a trilogy. Draft 1 of Book 2 is in progress, but has no title as yet. Usually I don’t get titles until the work is finished. However, I’m yet to think up a name for the trilogy.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

This book is more like an amalgamation of ideas. Some I dreamed, some I made up out of songs on my iPod during my daily walk. Some were inspired by the works of Dickens and Zola along with every fantasy, science fiction and steampunk novel I’ve read to date.

3: What genre does the book fall under?

First and foremost, Heart Fire is fantasy. But it’s also steampunk with a touch of horror and romance. Some of the themes are science fictional, made strange in a fantasy setting but I’m not calling it science fantasy because it’s set in an imaginary world, loosely based on Victorian London. Back then, both science and the occult were considered to be valid disciplines, so Heart Fire asks, “What if magic were real, and how would it affect technological progress?”

4: What actors would you choose to play the parts of your characters in a movie rendition?

Now this is a fun excuse to fantasize about my favourite actors, but most of them would have to be younger versions of who they are today.

For Ju, the rebellious commoner and novel’s female protagonist, I’d have Uma Thurman; while Solly Flood, the sensible yet enigmatic resistance agent, would have to be Jenna-Louise Coleman aka Clara Oswin Oswald, except without the corset and bustle because Solly definitely does not have time for those.

Johnny Depp is going to be in every book I write, so for Heart Fire, he’d be the novel’s male protagonist, Ruk, an outcast shapeshifter. For Arvin, the morally ambiguous dandy, I’m thinking Hugh Grant.

For the really really bad guys, Factory owner Sir Mathias Grindle would be Alan Rickman, and although I didn’t give Grindle such an awesome voice as Alan’s, he could still use it if he agreed to take the part. The ambitious and plotting Christina Grindle could be Sigourney Weaver, because Sigourney conveys such a strong presence and Christina would not settle for less.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Answering this question and getting it right is harder than writing the entire novel. But for my 999th try: Heart Fire is a foray in steampunk’s darker side, where a woman and a shapeshifter must put aside their prejudices and fight for the lives and souls of an entire city.

6: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Ooooh, I have my fingers and toes crossed that it’ll be represented by an agency. The novel is in the marketplace now, but I have backup plans B, C, D and all the way to Z if needed.

7: How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft was written in about four months, but it was awful, so I ditched it and started again from scratch.

The second draft had the same characters and same story told in different words but a completely different beginning and middle. It felt like writing a new first draft all over, but was only marginally better, and probably more of an exercise in playing with point of view and learning how to plot. That took about nine months. In the end I had one chapter that was very cool, so I kept that and ditched the rest.

Draft three grew out of that single saved chapter, and felt like a new first draft yet again. But this time I knew my world and its characters inside out. Nine months later, I had a very good usable draft that needed only minor polishing to bring up to standard.

I don’t plan on writing all my novels that way. Heart Fire was basically my first long distance writer’s journey. I discovered a lot about what not to do with the art of plotting.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m hoping no other steampunk books are like mine 🙂

It’s told from the point of view of the oppressed, and in some cases upper class people are as badly exploited as the underclass. Although the male-female character ratio is even, bustles are for the pampered, only the enemy wears corsets and airships are not what they seem.

Heart Fire was the creative component of my PhD. My thesis explored writing steampunk from the point of view of a fantasy writer. I used three steampunk novels as examples of texts that inspired me and these were: James P Blaylock’s Homunculus, China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, and Ekaterina Sedia’s The Alchemy of Stone. I adore all three of these books and learned a lot about writing steampunk and fantasy from pulling them apart. But Heart Fire isn’t at all like any of them because I realized that if I wanted to publish this novel, I couldn’t allow it to be derivative. Therefore, I took old steampunk tropes and combined them with a few unusual fantasy tropes with the aim of creating a unique contrast.

9:  Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My mum the bikerI’ve always wanted to write a novel from the point of view of oppressed people and outcasts. Steampunk is a great way of doing that.

Heart Fire was written for my mother, who is a real cockney Londoner. She was taken out of school at fourteen to work in factories. A few years later, World War II came along and she joined the Land Army to face different battles.

This picture of my mum was taken before she had me. And look! She’s wearing goggles!

10: What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Heart Fire is a weird and subversive adventure. I aimed for complex characters with well-defined goals and motives, plus internal consistency in the world building. My supervisor, who recently finished reading the final draft, said he couldn’t predict what would happen at several key points, but each time I surprised him, the surprise seemed logical and plausible. Similarly, he thought the SFX were good – very cinematic!

Plus there’s romance and a sprinkling of anti-romance.

Basically I had a hell of a lot of fun writing it.

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Now to tag. Your turn: Joanna Fay, Anthony Panegyres, Venetia Green, JB Thomas. If anyone else wants to be tagged, just write in the comments and I’ll tag you. There’s room for one more.

And thank you again, Ross C Hamilton for tagging me.

The 2012 KSP Speculative Fiction Writers Group Minicon

Panellists include :
Local Writers: Lee Battersby, Amelia Beamer, Hal Colebatch, Cathy Cupitt, Stephen Dedman, Joanna Fay, Satima Flavell, Sonia Helbig, Elaine Kemp, Pete Kempshall, David Kitson, Martin Livings, Dave Luckett, Juliet Marillier, Ian Nichols, Anthony Panegyres, Carol Ryles, Guy Salvidge, JB Thomas.

When: Sunday, 9 September, 2012  9.30am-4.30pm

Where: Katherine’s Place, 11 Old York Road, Greenmount (Turn into the first driveway after you turn in from the highway and park at the back)

Cost: $15, or $10 if you book in advance. Leave a comment at the minicon website if you want to do this.

Lunch: A decent meal and tea and coffee will be available for a gold coin donation or you can BYO – there are no eateries in the vicinity.

Discussion Panels: Meeting Room

10:00 Breaking the Rules
“Look, that’s why there’s rules, understand? So that you think before you break ’em.” – Terry Pratchett
Sometimes the ‘rules of writing’ need to be broken. But what are they and how and when do you get away with breaking them? And what do you need to be aware of before you do? All the best writers are renowned for breaking rules and new writers are crucified for it, yet there are times when we all need to cross that line.

Lee Battersby
Sonia Helbig
Martin Livings
Anthony Panegyres
Guy Salvidge

1100: Is the Internet the New Slush Pile
Google the question: “is the internet the new slush pile?” and the wisdom of the masses will tell you that since mid 2011, there has been a grass-roots change in the world of publishing. The inference given in hundreds of articles unearthed by such a search is that you should no longer submit to slush piles while trying to get noticed. There’s a new wave of authors who publish their material directly to the Internet in the hope that their book will attract the attention of publishers and agents. But what does this method of gaining attention achieve and will it replace the tradition of slush pile Mondays? For that matter, with so many new writers self-publishing, is there a need to be picked up at all? Or is it a path to self-destruction of the writer’s rights?

Stephen Dedman
David Kitson
Dave Luckett
Ian Nichols

12:00 Lunch

Book Launch, The Corpse Rat King by award winning author Lee Battersby (Angry Robot Books)

“Lee Battersby is the author of the novels The Corpse-Rat King (Angry Robot, 2012) and Marching Dead (Angry Robot, 2013) as well as over 70 stories in Australia, the US and Europe, with appearances in markets as Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Year’s Best Australian SF & F, and Writers of the Future. A collection of his work, entitled Through Soft Air has been published by Prime Books. He’s taught at Clarion South and developed and delivered a six-week Writing the SF Short Story course for the Australian Writers Marketplace. His work has been praised for its consistent attention to voice and narrative muscle, and has resulted in a number of awards including the Aurealis, Australian Shadows and Australia SF ‘Ditmar’ gongs.

He lives in Western Australia, with his wife, writer Lyn Battersby and an increasingly weird mob of kids. He is sadly obsessed with Lego, Nottingham Forest football club, dinosaurs, the Goon Show and Daleks. He’s been a stand-up comic, tennis coach, cartoonist, poet, and tax officer in previous times, and he currently works as the Arts Co-ordinator for a local council, where he gets to play with artists all day. All in all, life is pretty good.”

For more about Lee see his interview at the Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2012

1:00 Critting and Crowd-Sourced Editing
Should writers have their manuscripts criticised by a broad audience of their fellow writers? What value does it add to your work? Can you lose your ideas by letting others see your manuscript before the editor does? How about crowd-sourcing of editing? Is it possible to let others perform the work for you while reading early revisions of your manuscript? And how do you even take advantage of such services? Should they be avoided completely?

Amelia Beamer
Satima Flavell
Pete Kempshall
Juliet Marillier

2:00 Building Characters without Cardboard
In online reviews, a common complaint against many recent authors, especially those who choose to self-publish, is that their characters seem two-dimensional or otherwise lack depth. So what does the aspiring author need to consider in their writing so that their characters seem more real to the reader? And how do they achieve it? Are characters planned or imagined? And what are the pitfalls that many new writer, and even experienced ones, fall into? And how do you write convincing characters from the other gender?

Lee Battersby
Martin Livings
Juliet Marillier
Carol Ryles
JB Thomas

3:00 Has Erotica Become Just another Mainstream Sub-Genre
With Fifty Shades of Grey now the fastest selling book ever, it’s difficult to ignore the part that erotica has played in this series’ success. Writers thinking of including sexually explicit content in their novels are often confused by the terms ‘erotica’ and ‘pornography’. How should a modern writer approach this situation? How to avoid mistakes? Should erotica feature in a serious novel at all?

Amelia Beamer
Cathy Cupitt
Stephen Dedman
Elaine Kemp

Kaffeeklatsch Schedule (Library)

1PM – 1:30PM Joanna Fay: Publishing with a small press overseas
Joanna’s Daughter of Hope, the first novel in her epic fantasy sequence The Siaris Quartet, has recently been published as an e-book by Musa Publishing, a relatively new e-press in the USA. From the comfort of her lounge room in the Perth hills, Joanna has taken an intensive ‘high learning curve’ this year on the road to publication, while coming to grips with both the potential and pitfalls of online promotion.

2PM – 2:30PM David Kitson: Self Publishing – A complete end to end guide for anyone planning on doing it themselves
David’s self-published novel, Turing Evolved, broke into the top 20 Science Fiction book list on Amazon.com and is now rated at four-and-a-half stars with one hundred and fifty customer reviews. Learn about David’s experiences with editing, uploading, customer feedback and eventual contact and representation by a literary agent.

3PM – 3:30PM Juliet Marillier: History and World Building
Juliet is a New Zealand-born writer who now lives in WA. Her historical fantasy novels for adult and young adult readers include the popular Sevenwaters series and the Bridei Chronicles. Juliet’s books have won many awards including the American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Prix Imaginales and the Aurealis Award. Her lifelong love of folklore, fairy tales and mythology is a major influence on her writing. Juliet has two books out this year: Shadowfell, first instalment in a fantasy series for young adults (available now) and adult fantasy Flame of Sevenwaters, to be published in November.

And don’t forget that there will be books by our panellists and other guests for sale all day. Take advantage of their presence and get your purchases signed!

Jack Gorman Got Cut by a Girl with Sarah Lee Parker

Congratulations to my dear friend and Egoboo writing buddy Sarah Lee Parker whose short story, “Jack Gorman is Dead” in the anthology, Jack Gorman Got Cut By a Girl, is now available for purchase as an ebook from Musa Publishing, an Anthology of Stories by: Goldeen Ogawa, Sarah Lee Parker, Heidi Berthiaume, Keyan Bowes, Nancy DiMauro, Brandie Tarvin.

“Karma is a bitch, and Jack Gorman is about to find out how much.

Jack Gorman would rather spend his time swilling brewskies, scoring with the babes, and watching football. Instead, he’s been cursed by sword-bearing girl he harassed while on a bender….From small California towns to a steampunk past, a magical future, and a space odyssey of narcissistic proportions, Jack flirts and drinks his way across reality only to discover that girls with blades are everywhere…”

Friends Getting Published

I should have posted this last week, but I didn’t have this blog then…

My friends are getting published all over the place:

My dear friend and Egoboo WA crit buddy Joanna Fay has just released her first novel, Daughter of Hope, the fabulous Book One of a an epic fantasy quartet about gorgeous winged Gods, love, betrayal and redemption set in an amazing world of beauty and magic. You can buy it as an ebook from this link at Musa Publishing.

It was an honour to see this book evolve from first draft to finished novel. And what a stunning cover!

On the short story front, my Clarion buddy Chris Reynaga has an excellent Indian story, Trickser’s Song over at Expanded Horizons, while An Owomoyela has a story about facing truth in If the Mountain Comes, over at Clarkesworld Magazine. Congratulations to you all.

Website News

I’ve been tinkering with the website on the weekend. I like the layout and the background. I’m planning on finding a steampunky picture for my header, and when I do, I’ll probably adjust the text to match. But that may take a few weeks, so in the meantime I’m using this awesome sunrise photo taken by my lovely niece Bethany Ryles during a photography marathon called the Endless Sunrise at Byron Bay where “every year on the 15th January an army of photographers embark on a thirty day journey to capture the perfect shot of the sunrise from Australia’s most easterly point…to raise integral funds for Positive Change For Marine Life and The Jonno Howell Photographic Scholarship Fund.”

Thank you Bethany!

Book Launch Swancon Sunday 24th April

Ticonderoga Publications are launching their two anthologies, More Scary Kisses and Dead Red Heart: Australian Vampire Tales at Swancon 36 at Hyatt Hotel, Perth, Sunday 24th April, 2011 at 5pm.

I have work in both these Anthologies:

“Snake Charmer” in More Scary Kisses.

“Talent shines in this beguiling collection of 17 paranormal romance stories from Down Under, many of which are more haunting and humorous than scary.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

“The Tide” in Dead Red Heart, a collaborative story with Martin Livings at the helm with myself,  Lezli Robyn, Kaaron Warren, Patty Jansen, Alan Baxter, Devin Jeythurai, Felicity Dowker, Andrew J McKiernan, Gillian Pollack and Chuck McKenzie contributing.

“The Tide,” a multiauthored story that charts vampires’ rise from second-class citizen to the nation’s ruling elite, mix horror with humour.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

Review in The West Australian

My story, ‘Deeper than Flesh and Closer’, has been mentioned again, this time in a review for the anthology, Belong in The West Australian (25/1/11) in the monthly column ‘writingWA Recommends’:

“The stories are challenging and fascinating, interesting and compelling, alien and familiar. My favourite was Carol Ryles’ ‘Deeper than Flesh and Closer’; I hope to see the story expanded into a series about the Glyr who live in such close communion with the Rhizome”

I was particularly pleased with these comments as ‘Deeper than Flesh and Closer’ was originally planned as part of a short story collection about the Glyr. I’m still working on it, and now have added incentive.

Belong can be purchased at Indie Books Online, Amazon.com and The Book Depository.

Sale to More Scary Kisses

Sold my paranormal romance story, “Snake Charmer”, to More Scary Kisses, to be launched April 2011. Here’s the Table of Contents and a blurb from the Ticonderoga Publications website:

Heather Albano – “The Dark Season”
Annette Backshall – “Hunting Rabbits”
Liz Coley – “Marriage of Convenience”
Dayle A. Dermatis – “Matchmaker”
Roxanne Dent – “Miss Luella’s Magic Shop”
Felicity Dowker – “Berries & Incense”
Donna Maree Hanson – “Phantom Love”
Martin Livings & Talie Helene – “The Last Gig of Jimmy Rucker”
Kirstyn McDermott – “Frostbitten”
Nicole R. Murphy – “The Protector’s Last Mission”
Jason Nahrung – “Resurrection in Red”
Amanda Pillar – “Philomena and the Blond God”
Carol Ryles – “Snake Charmer”
Fraser Sherman – “Sword of Darcy”
Eric Steele – “3am”
Frank Summers – “Dances with Werewolves”
DC White – “The Dark Night of Anton Weiss”

More Scary Kisses promises vampires, aliens, fairytale princesses, parallel universes, voodoo, werewolves, wizards, phantoms, dryads and cherubim.

Reviews for Deeper Than Flesh and Closer

The stories [Belong, ed. Russell B Farr] are challenging and fascinating, interesting and compelling, alien and familiar. My favourite was Carol Ryles’ ‘Deeper than Flesh and Closer’; I hope to see the story expanded into a series about the Glyr who live in such close communion with the Rhizome…( writingWA Recommends, The West Australian, 25/1/11.)

…a fine pure SF story about conflict between people living in a heavily bio-tech oriented village and others living in cities who fear the “nants” that support the bio-tech. (Rich Horton, Fantasy Magazine)

…is a story about coming back to where you came from. Sometimes the changes go more than skin deep and sometimes they don’t appear to be changes at all… This is an evocative and haunting story about the changes that take place to a place and people that we think we know through history and story, but haven’t experienced. (Ian Banks, Specusphere)