Pre-World Fantasy Convention 2013

This trip seemed so long in the planning, but here I am at last in Brighton UK, waiting for World Fantasy Convention 2013 to begin. I’ve registered, picked up my load of books and pamphlets, met a few people and looking out at the wet, windy weather, wishing I could bring it back with me during the Perth summer.

Getting to the con has been a month long effort. Phil and I decided to take a holiday in France and Italy, starting out in Paris:

Paris Fromagerie

Before heading down to the fabulous village of Loches, where the sights, history and food kept us busy for a full five days:

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imageThen down to the Luberon:

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Then sur Le pont d’Avignon

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And on to Cinque Terre (Italy)

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And finally Firenze:

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After WFC, we’re touring south England for a few days, before heading to London until mid November.

More photos of our grand 2013 Europe tour with details can be found at Phil’s blog.

Why I Love Steampunk

nanna2This picture isn’t a dress-up. It’s my great-grandfather with my grandmother (his 13th daughter) taken sometime in the late 1890s. I adore their outfits and especially Nanna’s boots, though I wonder how much she enjoyed wearing them at the time.

For me, steampunk isn’t just about dressing up, even though I’m currently finishing off my own costume to wear at the next opportunity. For me, steampunk is also a different way of writing about the now, drawing on the past, present and future with the benefit of hindsight, foresight and a good deal of playfulness. As Eric Rabkin states in The Fantastic in Literature,

“If we know the world to which a reader escapes, we know the world from which he comes” (Princeton University Press, 1977: p.83).

In the theoretical component of my recently completed PhD, Steampunk: Imagined Histories and Technologies of Science and Fantasy, I argued that literary steampunk is not limited simply to texts representing steam-driven machinery, but also includes fantastical texts that rely on pseudo-Victorianism often set in imaginary worlds characterized by anachronism, pseudoscience, technofantasy, magic, hybridity and imagined events inspired by science fictional history as well as real history.

In my PhD’s creative component — my novel Heart Fire — I drew on common steampunk tropes such as automatons, mad science and air ships. At the same time I remained aware that, in the past decade, steampunk has gained increasing popularity as both a literary genre and an aesthetic. As a result I sought to subvert clichés by combining them with fantasy elements that are unusual to steampunk, using them to compare and contrast science with the occult, taking the stance that in Victorian times both were considered to be valid disciplines. In this respect, I do not see my work as crossing genres, but instead as imitating the Victorian worldview.

With this in mind, I combined science and fantasy in Heart Fire, posing the questions: what if the occult were real and how would a world function if magic could either enhance or destroy science-based technology? My aim was to use old clichés in unexpected ways, showing repercussions from the misuse of technology from the perspectives of both the upper and lower classes. This allowed me to follow the steampunk tradition and at the same time aim for originality through tropes that are generally seen to fall outside of what is expected within the genre.

In other words, steampunk allowed my imagination to step outside the laws of physics that dictate purely science fictional texts. In Heart Fire, I created my own laws, part real, part myth and part dream. To make them believable, I explored their repercussions from many perspectives, reinforcing them with realism, detail and the fantasy technique of internal consistency within the text.

This not only added up to a whole lot of fun, but also enabled me to create an imaginary world in which to set new books as well as a handful of short stories.

The Clarion West 2013 Write-a-thon Needs You

Are you looking for something to encourage you to get back into a regular pattern of writing over the next six weeks? Or are you thinking about pushing yourself further?

If so, then the Clarion West Write-a-thon needs you! Here, you can not only take part in the fun of setting yourself new goals, but you can also help to raise funds for one of the world’s best workshops for writers of speculative fiction. Anyone can join by simply heading over to the Write-a-thon sign-up page before June 22nd and fill in details about yourself, your writing and your goals.

Shadow the workshop from June 23 through August 2 and write, write, write! Write 15 minutes or 4 hours a day, 250 words a day, or maybe 8,000 words a week (we call that a “Swanwick”); revise a story or a chapter of your novel every week; complete a story, novella, or trilogy; submit three short stories to professional markets; or do something else completely different.
Remember to keep asking for support and donations for Clarion West from friends and family — send them online to the Write-a-thon web page you’ll create, with the personal PayPal link we’ll add for you. 

For 2013, Clarion West are hoping to sign up 300 participants—workshop alumni and instructors, and authors who’ve never attended—all sorts of people. You.

This year, my goals for the Write-a-thon are 500 words a day of new fiction. It might be on my new novel, or it might be on the novelette I’m working on. Depends on where my muse takes me. If you go to my Write-a-thon page, you’ll also find an excerpt from my novel, Heart Fire.

For me, the Clarion West Workshop not only crammed ten years worth of writing experience into a mere six weeks, but also introduced me to a bunch of people who I now consider to be life-long friends. Together, we knuckled down to the seemingly impossible task of turning out a new short story every week, as well as critiquing up to 30,000 words per night. Each morning, we’d sit down to a three-hour critiquing session, which was honest, informative, at times confronting, but ultimately worth every minute. These sessions were led by professional writers, experts in their field.

In 2008 we had Paul Park, Connie Willis, Mary Rosenblum, Cory Doctorow, Sheree M Thomas and Chuck Palahniuk.

This year it will be Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Margo Lanagan, Samuel R Delaney and Ellen Datlow.

If not for fundraising schemes like the Write-a-thon, this amazing writing experience would not be possible.

During the last Write-a-thon I took part in, my goal was 5000 new words per week. I ended up doing 7000 per week, ie, 49,000 words in six weeks – almost half the total rewrite of the novel draft I was working on at the time. It broke the back of a seemingly impossible task and showed me that when my mind was made up, I could do it.

Clarion West Write-a- thon

Sign up before June 22nd

You’ll find an excerpt of some of the words I wrote during the 2011 Write-a-thon at my Write-a-thon page. Here you will also be able to sponsor me by PayPal. Every dollar – no matter how small – counts.

Short Story Competition Win

My short story, “The Silence of Clockwork”, picked up third prize in the Conflux 9 short story competition. I’m especially pleased about this as the story works as a prequel to my unfinished novel, Heart Fire, by showing some of the history of its male protagonist, Ruk, a bold, daring shapeshifting spirit who plots to escape the human word, but his shifterness prevents him.

Conflux 9 was held in Canberra in late April. It’s theme was steampunk (angels, junk and steam), an added bonus.

I wrote and edited the “Silence of Clockwork” at the same time as I was madly finishing my PhD, squeezing it in before bed over 5 days — the quickest 3000 word story, I’ve completed ever! It was subsequently published in the Conflux 9 Convention Programme book (page 37).

Many thanks to the Conflux 9 judges, Joanne Anderton, Jenny Blackford, Dirk Flinthart,  to Elizabeth Fitzgerald for her fine editing, and also to the convention organizers for putting on such a great convention.

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.

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)