The Falcon Throne in paperback … Book 1 of The Tarnished Crown


To celebrate the paperback release of my latest book, The Falcon Throne, book 1 of The Tarnished Crown, I’m teaming up with my wonderful publisher Orbit for an online writing workshop. This will include an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit, and the chance to have a sample of your work read and assessed by myself and my wonderful editor. Here’s a link to the full press release, with more information. Also, you can email the organisers at Orbit: or

And in the meantime, here’s what some of the critics are saying about The Falcon Throne:

‘Blood, dirt and backstabbing . . . impressively elaborate and detailed . . . this dark world will draw you in’ (SCIFINOW)

 ‘A truly epic read full of intrigue and betrayal anchored in wonderful characters’ (John Gwynne, author of MALICE)

 ‘Complex and engrossing; fans of George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie should particularly take note’ (PUBLISHERS WEEKLY)

 ‘It will entrap you and hold you captive, you will look up from its pages to discover you have lost hours’ (APN NETWORK)

 ‘The sheer scope and genius of this series dazzles… stylistically brilliant’ (SPECULATING ON SPECFIC)

 ‘Excellent writing, amazing characters, intricate woven plotlines, and lots and lots of blood, most of that unfortunately spurting from the wrong people. No elves or dragons, but some of the most in-depth world-building I’ve ever read, and the heroes (and anti-heroes) could shake themselves off the page. This book drew me in with the opening sentence and held me until the end . . . I remain breathless from the read’ (LIBRARY THING)

‘Fans of George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan and other such writers of epic fantasy will find much to like here . . . a compelling read’ (READING LARK)

‘Miller’s numerous fans will definitely stay for the long haul’ (Sunday Canberra Times)

‘A major new epic fantasy begins’ (Queensland Times)

Updating, and a recommendation

Slowly but surely, the words accumulate – and I remember how it feels to be a writer. Big smiles all around!

In other news, last night I finally caught up with one of my dearest friends in the world and got to show her one of my favourite ballet documentaries. Before a horrible injury she was a dancer, and still loves the art.

Born to be Wild is a fabulous doco featuring 4 principle male dancers from the American Ballet Theatre: Jose Manuel Carreno, Angela Corella, Vladimir Malakhov and Ethan Stiefel. 4 very different dancers, with intriguingly different backgrounds, but all equally and mind-blowingly talented.

If you love dance, if you love watching the guys do more than prop up the ballerinas in various poses, this is the ballet documentary for you. It’s available online from Amazon, but if you’re not in the US you’ll need a multi zone dvd player to watch it.

Because I keep showing this dvd to various friends, I’ve seen it multiple times — and I never get tired of it. These guys are super fabulous, super free of tedious ego shite, and a visceral pleasure to watch.


Here’s a really lovely Q&A I did!

The truly tedious thing about being unwell a lot is how fast so many things slip through the cracks. This being one of them! The lovely people at asked me if I’d participate in an author Q&A, and of course I said yes because there’s not much I love more than banging on about books and writing. They were great questions, I answered them as best I could, and I hope if you’re an aspiring writer you might find them helpful.

You can read the interview here.

A different kind of cop show

The other thing that happens when you fall over with a disgusting stomach/gut virus – apart from the obvious – is that you’re left stranded liked a beached whale, unable to do anything meaningful except watch some dvds. You can try reading, but for some reason that doesn’t always work out. Anyhow. A while ago, while ordering something else online, I saw another show highlighted. I’d never heard of it, but it sounded interesting so I ordered a copy. And while I was laid low with the disgusting stomach/gut virus, I watched it.

19-2 is a Canadian cop show. It was originally made in French, and then it got an English makeover. It’s set in Montreal, part of French-speaking Canada, which explains why. For those of us who watch shows filmed in Vancouver (mostly) there are some familiar faces in the cast, and as guest actors. Most notable of these is Adrian Holmes, who was Detective Lance’s partner for a while in Arrow.  The first season is out now on dvd, and the second season is about to be released. It’s been picked up for a third.

This is a fascinating series, because it has a very unAmerican cop show sensibility. Style-wise it’s approached like a documentary. There’s an edge, a rawness, to the camera work that’s really interesting, but it never gets in the way of the storytelling. (I really hated the stupid idea in Southland where the soundtrack bleeped out the cops swearing. Way to interrupt the narrative, guys. Way to be pretentious!) It’s a very personal, often in-your-face kind of narrative. It’s also pretty bleak. The story weaves its way in and out of the cops’ professional and personal lives, but it never feels like soap opera. In that sense, it’s pretty much the diametric opposite of another recent Canadian cop show, Rookie Blue.

I’m thinking that if you’re a fan of darker fare, stuff like The Wire, you might well enjoy 19-2. And even if bleak isn’t really your thing, I’d say give it a go anyway. The writing and acting are top notch – and it’s always an excellent adventure, exploring different takes on a familiar – and some might say – overdone genre. In fact, I think that writers should make a point of watching a bunch of different shows in the same genre, and noting how each narrative handles the demands of that genre. What works, what doesn’t, and how those lessons can be applied to our own work.

I bought 19-2 from Amazon UK. When you buy from overseas you need a multi zone dvd player, remember!

Here are some great books to read

I’m often asked which books and/or authors are my favourites, or have influenced my writing in some way. There is always a standout answer: the late Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles – a 6 book historical series that is pretty much the benchmark of excellence for the genre. Nobody, but nobody, is in Dunnett’s league. If you love great fiction, especially historical fiction, and you haven’t read this series? You’re missing out an amazing experience. The first book in the series is The Game of Kings. I urge you to get a copy and be ensnared in brilliance.

But Dunnett also wrote a mystery series, known as the Dolly series. It was called that because the main character, Johnson, owns a yacht called Dolly, and he travels the world in it painting portraits – for which he’s famous. However, there is more to Johnson than a paintbrush, which is where the mystery element comes in.

What’s remarkable about the Dolly series is that each book is told from a first person narrator perspective, and each time the narrator is a different woman whose life intersects with Johnson’s – with not always happy results. It means that we learn about Johnson second-hand, and each character reveals something new and different about him. Reading the series is like putting together a Johnson jigsaw puzzle, and it’s truly fascinating. It’s also a masterclass in writing. Reading Dunnett is like that – you learn so much about writing from reading her extraordinary novels. Each narrator is a distinctly different person, with a unique voice, which is reflected in every element of the narrative.

If you like the mystery genre, and enjoy strongly character-driven storytelling, I can’t recommend the Dolly books highly enough. You can find them online at reasonable 2nd hand prices. I’ve just replaced a few of my own that were falling apart and it hasn’t broken the bank.

Start with Dolly and the Bird of Paradise. That’s the first book, and it sets the series up really well.

Back on the horse, again.

When the history of this year is written, at least from my point of view,  it will contain an astonishing amount of screaming and obscenities. I’m back on my feet again after 10 days of a truly gross stomach/gut virus that saw me in hospital undergoing many tedious tests. I managed to avoid cameras in unfortunate places, but only just. After 5 days of not being able to eat anything, I was able to eat rice crackers and not much else. It all sucked. This year has done pretty much nothing but be sucky. I’m over it.

But! I am back at the computer again, writing. The words are good. I am catching up, slowly. Please cross your fingers for me that I am now totally done with getting sick or injured, for the foreseeable future!!!!

A quick update

First of all, helloooooo! to the lovely folk who’ve recently signed up to follow this blog. Thank you!

Now, I’m doing my best to keep up with stuff but juggling everything while trying to get my writing groove back is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Keeping up with social media is driving me nuts. I appreciate your patience, and in the meantime I’d say you might also like to hook up with my FB author page, if you haven’t done so already. Right now that’s pretty much the only attention span I have left! Give me a little longer and I’ll be ready to start going into more in-depth blog posts.

What I can say is that the groove is almost properly back, the words are flowing faster and more smoothly, I’m very happy with how it’s going and I’m doing my level best to pick up the pace.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, guys.

Here’s the link to my FB page!

Some musings on the way things are going

As I think most of you know by now, 2015 hasn’t been a great year for me. In a nutshell, after I came home from the UK (this time last year!!!!) I had a few little health hiccups that road-blocked my game plan for the next book. Then, just as I was revving up again, in early December  I had a tumble on my mother’s very steep driveway.

Read on …

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Life imitates art imitates life

Last week I finally got around to doing a big chore, that I’d been putting off — namely, clearing out all the tv shows stacked up on my dvd recorder. Of course, the only reason I got off my arse and did it is because I had almost no space left. But hey. At least I did it. *g*

60 hours of history docos and whatnot later, and this afternoon (after finishing another chapter, woo hoo!) I finished labelling the recordings I couldn’t label at the time. And so I discovered one I recorded about Sir Flinders Petrie: The Man Who Discovered Egypt. Basically, Petrie invented modern archeology. It was his pupil, Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb. Everything we take for granted about modern scientific method in the field is because Petrie set it up that way. He was extraordinary. Also stunningly eccentric. No spoilers, just … wait till you find out what happened when he died!

The reason I recorded this doco isn’t because I’m a huge Egypt buff. Oddly enough, for all my fascination with various ancient civilisations, I’m not. But I did know his name thanks to the wonderful Amelia Peabody books, written by the late, great Elizabeth Peters. (The first book is The Crocodile on the Sandbank. It’s the most wonderful historical mystery series set in Egypt, starting around the late 1800s. It’s history and mystery and romance and humour rolled into one glorious procession of books. I can’t recommend them highly enough.) Anyhow, Petrie figures as a character in many of the Peabody books and today I finally got around to watching this doco about his life.

It’s fabulous. And it’s also extremely amusing, because now I can see where Peters, herself an archeologist, used a lot of stuff about Petrie and his wife as inspiration for the Peabody books.

So there you go. Read the books, and watch the doco about Petrie if you can track it down. Fabulous, fascinating stuff! And the next time I’m in London, I’ll be making a stop at the Petrie Museum! And going back to the British Museum to pay closer attention to the Roman mummies Petrie found. The portraits attached to the outside of the mummy casings – used instead of mummy masks – are breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like them. The best of those are in the Cairo museum, so … yeah. Hopefully they’re being kept safe. But there are some in London. Wheee!

An important request

As you guys know, I really don’t do political stuff. Life is too short for crap on the internet. But this one is not politics. It’s human rights. Please, look at what’s happening in India, and spread the word to everyone you know that this kind of bullshit has to stop. All decent human beings must be appalled in their souls that this could happen. It has to stop. And it’s going to take all decent people screaming at the top of their lungs to stop it.

In short, two sisters in India have been sentenced to rape and public degrading to punish their brother. You can read about it here. And you can sign the Amnesty International petition protesting it here.

We live in a world where ISIS murders gays and rapes children sold into sexual slavery. For some reason our governments can’t find the courage or the will to halt this evil while it’s still relatively contained. We also live in a world where men sentence women to be raped, to punish another man. There are days when I feel like I’m drowning in depravity. Signing a petition, and drawing attention to this evil, helps me to be less helpless. Please spread the word. Good people can’t do nothing for much longer, else we all drown in the worst of human excess.

Random stuff

So this is me, keeping my word to be more present in my own space.

Right now I’m haunting the post office for my copy of Kate Elliott’s new book, Court of Fives. It’s her first YA fantasy, and I have no doubt it’s going to be a brilliant read. Because Kate Elliott is a brilliant writer. For more information and some great interviews, you can go here.

I’ve really got nothing to say about the recent Hugo awards, but one thing. I find it utterly shameful that Toni Weisskopf was denied recognition for her stellar work as an editor because a bunch of folk – many of whom claim to be professional writers – decided that anyone who was nominated by people they don’t like should be punished. I feel sick, and so angry, that the folk who dishonestly accused the Puppy side of misogyny should take out their spite on a woman. I wonder if they’ve even met the word ‘irony’?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I got all super excited about getting back my fitness. And then I fell over in my mother’s driveway last December and 2015 happened. One of these days I might write more about the things I’ve learned since. For right now, I’ll just celebrate the fact that I can walk for an hour on the treadmill, and lift some weights, and my world doesn’t end. Yay!

Must beetle off now. Stay tuned!

Not dead yet …

Well, I have to tell you, cranking my way back up to writing speed is bloody hard work! But I’m finally hitting my groove, at long last, after months and months of utter hell. I now have the all clear on the neck and upper back, after a couple of frustrating relapses. Then, because of course, the lower lumbar spine (scene of a previous disc rupture and several herniations) decided to kick off. But that too is now sorted. I just have to keep monitoring it due to spinal scoliosis and a history of truly spectacular horse-riding injuries. I defeated the double-whammy flu, too, and finally got rid of the lingering spastastic cough. Which actually re-herniated a disc in my neck, I was coughing so hard at the worst.

But like I said. There are words. And now I must write like a crazy woman. There is also exercise, and I’m being consistent and also careful. So, as spring hovers on the horizon, and I look back at the last many months of zero achievement, I start to feel optimistic again.

I might even get my shit together and get more active in this here blog!

Stay tuned …

Karen’s Ask Me Anything on Reddit …

Tomorrow is the Reddit AMA which I’m doing in conjunction with the Orbit fantasy writing workshop. If you’re as unfamiliar with Reddit as I was before now, you can relax. It’s actually pretty easy.

If you’re already a Reddit member, sign in to the Fantasy bulletin board – the BB. If you’re not, you can sign up with a new membership first then go to the Fantasy BB. On the right hand side of the Fantasy BB is a list of upcoming AMAs. Click on my name, and you’ll get into my AMA where you can post a question for me to answer, or just read what other people have to say.

Here is the schedule:

9pm Sydney time (12midday London time/7am New York time/4am California time) – I log on and begin answering questions until midnight Sydney time (3pm London time/10am New York Time/7am California time.)

I sleep until 30th July 7am Sydney time (9pm London time/4pm New York Time/1pm California time) and then to log in to finish answering questions.

Here is the link to the Reddit Fantasy BB.

Guest Post: David B. Coe

David B. Coe is another fantasy author whom I met through the work before meeting him in person. I have the clearest memory of reading and recommending David’s books when I had my bookshop. Imagine my joy (and relief!) when I discovered he is a truly lovely guy as well as an entertaining writer. I have read Spell Blind,  the first book in his new urban fantasy series, and it’s a great addition to the genre, highly recommended. It now gives me great pleasure to share this Q&A David and I did recently, to celebrate the upcoming release of his two new books: His Father’s Eyes (August 4) and Dead Man’s Reach (out now) … DBJacksonPubPhoto800

Tell us about your love affair with speculative fiction: when it started, how it’s progressed over the years, which books, authors and experiences have influenced you throughout your career. I was eleven years old and attending a sleepaway summer camp. My parents thought I would enjoy doing theater and so I tried out for a play with a weird name and got the lead part playing a character who had an even weirder name. The play was a dramatization of The Hobbit, and I, of course, played Bilbo Baggins. I loved the role and the story, and upon returning home started reading the book. By the time I’d finished, I was hooked. I read Lord of the Rings, next and knew then that I wanted to read as much fantasy as possible. A few years later, I read Stephen R. Donaldson’s first Thomas Covenant trilogy, and realized that I wanted to spend my life writing fantasy. The books were so strange and dark; the lead character both repelled and intrigued me. I was fascinated by the possibilities. If Donaldson could do this with his series, what might I do with books of my own? I’ve since fallen in love with the books of Guy Gavriel Kay. I think he is the author who has most influenced my work stylistically. I could go on. I have so many friends who write professionally, and I’ve read so much terrific speculative fiction over the years. But really those are the three who shaped my professional development the most: Tolkien, Donaldson, and Kay. You started out writing otherworldly/epic fantasy. What was the attraction there? In what ways did those stories scratch your storytelling itch? I think in large part it was the influence of those three authors I just mentioned. The works that informed my creative ambitions were also epic, alternate world fantasies, and so that was what I wanted to write. Early on, I never even considered writing anything else. My heroes wrote epic, so I would, too. It helped that before embarking on my writing career, I had earned a doctorate in history. I understood how history worked, how economies, cultures, and societies developed. My degree was in environmental history, and so I even had a sense of how the physical terrain and climate of a nation might shape the human institutions that grew up in that setting. I felt comfortable creating worlds for my stories, and I was eager to see what I might come up with as I blended my historical background with my passion for magic and fantasy. Tell us about the series you’re writing under your pen name D. B. Jackson. How did the spark of that series ignite, what enchants you about it, why do you think readers will enjoy it, and what can we look forward to in the latest installment? deadmansreachAs D.B. Jackson, I write the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in Boston during the 1760s and 1770s, on the eve of the American Revolution. Ethan Kaille, my lead character, is a conjurer and a thieftaker, the 18th century equivalent of a private detective. Each book is a stand-alone mystery blended with some key historical event, with a little bit of magic thrown in — so again, I get to blend my love of history and my love of fantasy. This newest installment, Dead Man’s Reach, coincides with the Boston Massacre in March 1770. The books are tremendous fun to write, in part because of the challenge each represents. My goal is to blend my fictional elements — my characters and magic system, the murder mysteries and narratives — with actual historical happenings, in a way that seems completely natural and seamless. I don’t want my readers to know where the history ends and the fiction begins. The inspiration for the series actually came to me years ago, as my wife and I were preparing to live in Australia for a year. I read Robert Hughes’ fine history of Australia, The Fatal Shore, which traced Australia’s origins as a penal colony. In the early chapters, while discussing the British law enforcement system of the 18th century, he went on at some length about thieftakers and some of the colorful and corrupt personalities who roamed the streets of London “solving” crimes. I knew then that I wanted to write books about thieftakers. It took a few years — I had another series to write — but eventually I came back to that inspiration and wrote Thieftaker, the first book in the series. The rest, as they say, is history. You’ve also got a new series started in your David Coe persona: this time urban fantasy. What prompted the shift to this subgenre? Tell us about the different demands of writing urban fantasy, compared with epic fantasy and alternate history fantasy. What delights you about this series? hisfatherseyesYes, under my own name I am writing a contemporary urban fantasy series called The Case Files of Justis Fearsson. Again, I get to mix magic and mystery in a series of stand-alones, which I really enjoy. The magic system in this one is different from anything I’ve done before. My lead character, Justis Fearsson, is a weremyste. Every month on the full moon, and the nights just before and after, he loses control of his mind and his magic. And slowly, these moon phasings, as they’re called, are driving him permanently insane, just as they did his father, who is also a character in the series. These books are the first novel length works I’ve written in first person, and I just love the voice of the series. Part of that is the fact that they’re set in our world and in our time. For once, I get to write books about people driving cars, using modern technology, speaking in a modern, natural lexicon. It was very freeing, which was the whole point. I started writing these because I wanted to change things up a bit, to try something new. I like jumping around among different subgenres. I think it keeps my writing fresh. It certainly keeps me from ever feeling bored with my work. I’ll go back and write more epic and more historical, but these books have been tremendous fun. The newest volume, His Father’s Eyes, which comes out on August 4, includes a chapter from the perspective of Jay’s delusional father that may well be the best piece of writing I’ve ever done. ***** David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of eighteen fantasy novels. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and, the newest volume, Dead Man’s Reach, was released on July 21. Under his own name, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first volume, Spell Blind, debuted in January 2015. The newest book in the series, His Father’s Eyes, comes out on August 4. He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Supanova, and what came next

So, the last two weekends of June were swallowed alive by the amazing Supanova Expos in Sydney and then Perth. I had the most fabulous time, meeting and chatting with extraordinary people. We all worked pretty hard (though the actors sweated the most!) and I thought I was doing pretty well keeping the winter lurgies at bay. I flew home from Perth on the Sunday night, the red eye, and immediately had a sleep. I hadn’t slept on the plane.

And then I woke up.

It’s now been a week of fighting a seriously crappy attack of bronchitis. I’ve had to upscale the antibiotics from normal to double-dose supercharged and even then I’m not entirely sure it’s working. I’m a bit better but I’m not great. Of course, I could be expecting too much too soon. I can’t tell you how sick I am of being unwell. I’ll reconsider my position towards the end of the week. Hopefully I’ll be functional enough tomorrow to get back to some work. Up until today it’s been a case of coughing myself dizzy and sleeping  in between bouts.

There’s a lot I do want to say about the experience, particularly some of the guest authors who were amazing – as were many of the guest actors.

Cross your fingers for me that the super drugs do a super job so I can crack on with the work. I have an exciting announcement to make in the next day or so, once the final organisational Is are dotted and Ts crossed.

Stay tuned …

Researching people

Boiled down to basics, there are two kinds of research a writer does before and even during a novel. The first is getting the world building right. Even a contemporary thriller requires some research. The late great Dick Francis meticulously researched for his novels, because even though he’d lived all the horse racing stuff his books were set in disparate and fascinating worlds: merchant banking, luxury rail travel, the wine-selling business, the stock market. Writers of private eye or police procedural novels need to know the ins and outs of the law and criminal investigations. And of course those of us who revel in speculative fiction, be it space travel or how to mount a siege on a walled town, spend months up to our eyeballs in history books and documentaries.

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Karen at Sydney Supanova

So, I’m appearing as one of the guests at the upcoming Supanova events in Sydney and Perth. Very exciting, I will probably turn into a squeeing fangirl. *g*

For a full rundown of all the amazing people attending as guests, and all the venue facts, check out this link. Right now I only have firm info for my Sydney schedule, so here you go.

I will be doing a couple of panels: a Star Wars panel at 3.30 on Saturday and a fantasy literature panel on Sunday at 11 am. I’ll also be available in the signing area Friday afternoon and most of the weekend. Probably the best times to catch me there will be from 11 am to 3 pm Saturday and from 1 pm Sunday.

Hope to see you there!


Doubt and the Writer

I was intending to do this as one of the writing podcasts but I’m fighting against another return of the Vile Lurgy, so to spare you my coughs and splutters I’ll do it as a regular blog post.

Recently I received a lovely email from reader Alyssa, who asked me what advice I’d give to aspiring writers about the demon of self-doubt and the need for external validation of the work. It’s a great question, and I wanted to answer it in a more public forum because I’m pretty sure Alyssa’s not the only writer who sometimes struggles with these issues.

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The Falcon Throne in paperback!

I’m thrilled to announce that The Falcon Throne, book 1 in The Tarnished Crown series, has been released in paperback in the US and UK. It’s a big book, a big series, and I’m having the time of my life writing it. If you weren’t able to read it in hardcover, I hope you can in this new paperback edition – and that you enjoy it!

(If you’re an Australian fan, I’m afraid there’s a little more waiting to do. July 1st is the local release date!)

Falcon Throne_B Uk final-1250x822

Yes, there has indeed been a long and deafening silence

Because honestly, the whole ongoing spinal drama has knocked me sideways. Nearly 7 months of constant screaming blowtorch pain, and multiple weekly medical appointments, and handfuls of drugs, and mostly poor sleep, and freaking out over all the work not getting done …

It’s been a challenge. But hooray! I am now released from multiple weekly physio appointments, the drug regimen is winding down, the pain is all but gone, there is still chiro and massage but they are manageable and I have a functioning brain again. Which means I can think straight to write and move well enough to go back to the beginning, again, with the fitness program.

In the meantime, though, as I get myself organised for life as I used to live it, enjoy this great interview with Australian spec fic author Thoraiya Dyer, who’s just made her first novel sale.

Read about it here!

Guest Post: Lucy Hounsom

Starborn cover   It’s now my great pleasure to introduce Lucy Hounsom and her debut fantasy novel, Starborn. This is the first in a new trilogy.

LucyHounsomLucy works for Waterstones Booksellers in London, and has a BA in English & Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing under Andrew Motion in 2010. She lives in Devon.
Here’s Lucy in her own words …
“Both the characters and the central idea that drives Starborn have been around for a long time. I wrote the first chapter over ten years ago as a naïve seventeen year old and then set the story aside when I went to university. But it bubbled away beneath the surface, never leaving me alone, until I knew that I had to write it even if it never got published. That’s the thing about stories – they beg to be told, to be shared and this one is a culmination of everything I’ve ever loved about fantasy. Books by authors like Tolkien, Robin Hobb, Patricia McKillip Ursula Le Guin and countless others made being an awkward teenager bearable, and at the same time convinced me that I wanted to write too. The idea that people could enjoy my stories in the same way is part of why I write. To create a world so immersive that it’s able to sweep you away for a time – that’s my goal. And fantasy is a wonderful cloth to weave; its threads are rich and steeped in history. It’s able to express archetypes in a way quite unlike any other literary genre. To me, writing and fantasy are seamlessly interwoven and in all honesty I’m not sure I could write anything else. So what do I love about this genre? The worldbuilding for starters – I love exploring worlds so like and unlike our own. In those worlds, the impossible becomes the possible, lands are populated with strange peoples and creatures, and there’s an overriding sense of the epic – the struggle that so defines our race. I love the characters we meet in fantasy, the heroes, the antiheroes, the villains, the rogues, the innocents. When we read a story, we automatically become the protagonist; we suffer through their trials, we’re with them when they fall in love, we look out of their eyes at the unfolding of events. When it comes to character, traditionally fantasy has drawn rather distinct lines between ‘good’ and ‘evil’; the hero is often Campbellian, the villain his recognisable opposite. While movements like grimdark have turned that tradition on its head, I set out with a different aim, which was to tell a story that explored heroism as a concept instead of a given trait. I started with the phrase, ‘one man’s heroism is another man’s tyranny’ and thought about the subjectivity that statement embodies. It suggests heroism is defined by context and individual perspective, instead of objective characteristics. The crux of Starborn – as Kyndra, my protagonist, comes to discover – hinges on the actions of one man, whose crowning achievement makes him a saviour in some eyes and a monster in others. It’s up to the reader to decide which he is, or even whether it matters to the histories. This discussion provides the background context for Kyndra herself. I wanted to move away from the established rendering of the Garion[1]-type hero as a hard-working, honest sort, instead drawing Kyndra as she would more likely be, living in a small community: sheltered, idealistic, stubborn. We are shaped by our childhood and our childhood environment and our earliest experiences colour everything we do. Kyndra has an unbelievably long journey ahead of her, which changes her more than she could ever imagine, so I wanted her to retain the roots of her thinking, to see the world – rightly or wrongly – through the eyes of someone who has grown up in an isolated community at peace. The very concept of war is alien to her, as are the attitudes that foster it, and she struggles to understand the divisions responsible for fragmenting a society. When you want to explore a particular subject, I think it’s important to have a recognisable base as reference, so there’s a lot you’ll find familiar about Starborn. It’s a rite of passage novel where the protagonist is living an ordinary life in a small corner of the world, but is inevitably swept up in wider events. Kyndra learns what it means to take control of those events instead of letting them steer her course and she comes face to face with the idea of destiny and what it might require of her. Of course Starborn is also full of magic, mysterious citadels, buried truths and unresolved conflicts – all the elements that make epic fantasy such fun to read and write. I love this genre for its possibilities, its powerful nostalgia for bygone eras. I love its various characters and settings, from dragons to sorcerers to epic battles. Fantasy allows us to ask poignant questions about society while sweeping us off on an epic journey with people in whom we can see ourselves. I’ve just finished the first draft of Book Two, where Kyndra and her companions encounter a host of new challenges. I always envisioned the series as a trilogy, so that the characters I’ve come to love have room to grow and time in which to tell their stories, and I can’t wait to share them with you.” [1] The hero of The (excellent ) Belgariad by David Eddings
Starborn is available now in-store and online. If you enjoy fantasy adventure with a strong female central character, some mystery and some romance, give it a read!

The Falcon Throne paperback: Giveaway!

Well, the paperback edition of The Falcon Throne, book 1 in The Tarnished Crown series, is due to hit bookshelves in the real world and in cyberspace very soon. So I’d like to celebrate by offering 3 copies as giveaway prizes. All you need to do is send me an email via the Contact button on this website, and you’ll go into the draw. Good luck!


The Books for All initiative

The US government is launching a new program called Books for All. Its purpose is to make free ebooks and ebook readers available to kids from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s a great idea and I hope it really takes off.

My parent publisher, Hachette, has included The Innocent Mage in the first round of books being made available. This makes me so pleased, I can’t tell you! If you’re on Twitter (I’m not, I have enough trouble keeping up with a blog!) it would be great if you could pass along the news.

So, that happened.

Went to bed Sunday night feeling fine. Woke up Monday morning feeling not so fine, with a swift and depressing slide into Oh shit, are you kidding me? Yes, my 7th cervical disc had herniated again. This time with a side order of something hinky happening in the cervical/thoracic junction. Yay! So this week has not been spent writing, it has been spent in pretty much non-stop pain from a non-functioning left arm, with physio, chiro and massage therapy, plus many many many drugs. But I can report that today, things are much improved. I even cautiously hope I can get back to proper work tomorrow.

I’m pissed, Roger. Now I’m really pissed.

On the other hand, I am thrilled because I’ve been invited to join the author stream at Supanova in Sydney and Perth. Stay tuned for more details on that!

Now I must get a hot water bottle onto my lumbar spine (because that’s going out on strike in sympathy) and take more drugs!

Music for the soul: Witness

Witness is one of my favourite films. For me, it’s a perfect little gem. It also showcases just how great an actor Harrison Ford is. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role as John Book. So deserved. After that he delivered an even more extraordinary performance in Mosquito Coast. And then, I don’t know what happened. Maybe he decided he’d rather star in the big bucks blockbusters than the performance perfect films that didn’t reach such a wide audience. But if you’ve not seen either of those films, I think you must. He really is terrific.

Probably the most iconic (or second most iconic!) scene in Witness is the barn building sequence. When you watch it (again) pay special attention to Ford. He is a professional carpenter as well as an actor, and you can tell from the way he handles the hammer and stuff. You can’t fake genuine expertise.

The music for Witness was composed by Maurice Jarre, and he used a synthesiser to create the sharply modern soundscape as a contrast to the out of time Amish community. The barn raising sequence music is pretty famous, and with good reason. Following the template of Pachelbel’s Canon, it builds and builds to its crescendo. Wonderful.

What I didn’t realise for a long time, until I stumbled across a movie soundtrack cd of Ford’s movies, is there is an orchestral arrangement of the barn building theme. It is one of my absolute favourite pieces of music, soundtrack or otherwise. So achingly beautiful. Only John William’s music touches me as profoundly.

Have a listen and tell me if you feel the same way.

The David Gemmell fantasy fiction awards

So, it seems The Falcon Throne has been nominated for a David Gemmell award. This award was started in honour of the late and truly wonderful David Gemmell, beloved creator of Druss the Legend. He was possibly the most humble, the most gracious, the most hilarious man I’ve ever met. I had the unforgettable pleasure of hosting him for a convention, back when I had my bookshop, and I’ve never forgotten him. I was dying of bronchitis that weekend, and it didn’t matter. He made me laugh so hard in his speech I nearly died anyway! And watching him with the fans, he was a master class in how to be wonderful.

Anyhow, I have no idea how I got onto the nominees’ list, but I’m beyond chuffed and pretty excited to see such a wonderful parade of great fantasy fiction. It speaks so well of the depth and breadth and health of our great genre. Whether you vote or not, that’s not my business. But I’d urge you to check out the list and grab a few books that you haven’t read …

You’ll find it here.

Winners at Swancon

It’s my utter delight and pleasure to share the news that my friend and fellow fantasy author Glenda Larke has won both the Ditmar and the Tin Duck awards at this year’s national science fiction convention, held in Perth over the Easter weekend. Congrats also to Donna Hanson, whose efforts on behalf of our genre in Australia are tireless; she was awarded the Bertram Chandler award. And finally, a big woot to Trudi Canavan, who was the Ditmar co-winner with Glenda.

Some photos and stuff here, at Glenda’s blog.

Hugo time

Well, it’s that time of the year again: the Hugo short-listed works have been announced.

For those who aren’t familiar with them, the Hugos are awards for fiction, non-fiction and visual storytelling in the spec fic genre,  voted on by members and supporting members of each year’s World Science Fiction convention. Those same members and supporting members are responsible for nominating their favourite work of the year, and it’s from those nominations that the various short-lists are compiled. Because of the supporting membership option, it means the Hugos can be truly representative of what works fandom at large – world-wide – wishes to honour: while comparatively few fans can make the trip to the actual convention, every single fan of science fiction and fantasy can be involved in the Hugo voting process.

Participation in the process is entirely voluntary. All you need to do is pay the supporting member fee and your voice will be heard, your personal preferences taken into account. This means that the Hugos are, potentially, the most egalitarian award on offer in the genre. Bottom line? There is no one ‘right’ way to be a fan, no one ‘right’ kind of book or film or tv show to vote for. This is about individual fans voting for the work that speaks to them most profoundly.

The last couple of years there has been a lot of nastiness swirling around the Hugos. It’s nasty this year too. I find that very disappointing. I am deeply offended by the notion that it’s not the work that matters, but the politics of the author who wrote it. Or their race, or skin colour, or sexuality, or gender. For my money, none of those criteria is relevant to the awards process. Do I want a wide variety of people represented on the nominee ballots? Speaking as a woman, you’d better believe it. But do I want good work ignored – or worse, actively discriminated against – because of various – and sometimes competing – political and social agendas? Absolutely I do not. And I really don’t want to see great writers punished because some people in fandom don’t like the people who support their work. That’s not inclusivity. That’s bullying. That’s a disgrace. As fans we should be better than that.

If you love science fiction and fantasy and you’d like to see the kind of stories you love receive the recognition of a major award like a Hugo, then do get involved in the nominating and voting process. Complaining that you don’t like anything that wins year to year, without getting involved, is pretty silly … and pointless. As someone once said, be the change you want to see in the world!

And in the meantime … my huge congratulations to this year’s nominees. I wish each and every one of you the very best of luck.