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Welcome to the Talkative Writer. This is where I share news about my books and the writing life, my research travels, the books I’m reading – or have read and loved – and likewise the dramas to be found via tv and film.

It’s where I chat books and writing life and stuff with other writers and the readers who love story as much as we do. It’s also where I share various thoughts and experiences about the novel-writing process. Here is where you’ll find photo essays, written essays, podcasts and video entries.

Everyone’s welcome. All I ask is that discussions are kept civil. We can robustly disagree about things without descending into chaos.

So … thanks for stopping by. I hope you have fun.

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.

Thank you, Terry.

Terry Pratchett was a genius. I’m just glad as all get-out that we didn’t wait until today, the day of his death, to figure that out or let him know posthumously. I’m glad that we, the reading public, got to tell him every day for the last few decades. And I hope that of all the things bloody Alzheimers took from him, it never took that. Because he deserved every accolade heaped upon him — especially the ones he wasn’t awarded because he was ‘too popular’ or ‘too commercial’ or too ‘whatever’ for the folk who take it upon themselves to hand out the little gold statues.

I’ve been asked by Booktopia to do a guest post about Terry Pratchett and his work, so I won’t pre-empt myself on that. What I will say is that I was incredibly, unbelievably privileged to experience Terry’s brilliance in a way few others ever enjoyed. That’s partly what I’ll be talking about in the guest post, which I’ll link to in due course. It was pure serendipity that I had that experience and it’s one I’ll treasure forever.

There is nowhere else in fiction remotely like the Discworld. It is a creation of extraordinary intellect and philosophy and humanity. Just as there was only one William Shakespeare, there will only ever be one Terry Pratchett. Now please, please, please, can somebody re-release all his work in hardcover editions with the original Josh Kirby covers? A few of mine are falling apart.

Thanks, Terry. You made my world a better place.

 

 

Honestly, we’re not making this shite up …

Because these days it seems so hard to have any kind of thoughtful debate without the internet piling on and bullying and outright falsifying a person’s position to demonise them for whatever reason, I tend not to do the political stuff. I don’t often do the feminist stuff either because as far as I can see the whole notion of feminism has largely been hijacked by a bunch of women I could never in good conscience ally myself with. (Talk about painting a target on my forehead!) But it’s the truth, so there you go.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have strong opinions about the treatment of women around the world, including at home. And while, God knows, we women of the West are laughingly well off compared to the atrocities visited upon women in countries like India and Pakistan and so much of the Middle East — still, we have issues. And if we’re not careful, if we don’t ferociously safeguard our rights and our freedoms and our safety, then we will wake up one day as screwed as the women of Afghanistan who went to bed with jobs and woke up with the Taliban. The biggest mistake anyone ever makes is in saying ‘Yes, isn’t that awful, what’s happening over there, but of course it could never happen here.’ Because it could. And inevitably it will, if we don’t kill the anti-woman creep in its tracks. Hell, it already is happening here. There was a time when the idea of honour killings and forced child marriage and female genital mutilation in Australia were beyond unthinkable. And now we have all three.

To that end, I give you this article by Shannon Hale, an American woman writer.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but this shite is real and unless more people stand up and speak against it, it will only get more real and more real until one day it will be the only reality we have.

And if that happens … we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

 

Are you a fan of ER? This is a great article!

ER is one of my favourite dramas. I own it all on dvd and rewatch it every other year, or so. True confession — I skip a lot of the back end because by the last couple of seasons I think it was terribly tired and frankly, there were some characters I really couldn’t warm to. But I always watch the ones where Carter is back, because I love that character.

However. There is one episode I won’t rewatch, and that’s Love’s Labor Lost from the first season. Not because it’s terrible. No. Because it’s so good and so harrowing I can’t bear it. I think everyone should watch it once, because it’s some of the best storytelling on tv ever, but I can’t do it twice. Call me pathetic and I won’t argue!

So, for those of you who are ER fans and do remember this episode (and honestly, I can’t imagine anyone ever forgetting it, once seen) here is a fabulous look back on it with much interesting input from the team in front of and behind the camera.

I think this is what those of us who tell stories really hope: that out stories get remembered. Kudos to all the amazing folk who brought us ER.

Life is a pain in the neck

Literally. I am making some progress with the stupid herniated neck discs. Off to the GP today to revisit the drug regimen, which I don’t really like. If I take the drugs, they knock me out. If I don’t take the drugs I’m in pain all the time. I think this is what they mean by a lose, lose scenario. Lots of exercises to do, plus lots of massage which actually helps. Let me sing the praises of expert deep tissue massage. Or maybe that should be scream the praises …

Work is still off the table – but I’m refusing to let myself melt into a shrieking mess over that. Serenity prayer, Serenity prayer. I can do dvd research because I can watch the tv without compromising my stupid neck. Reading is an issue. Lengthy typing sessions are an issue. I can still exercise, which is crazy, but at least I’m not getting fatter – which is what happened when I ruptured/herniated the lumbar discs.

So there you have it. If you’ve dropped me a line and you’re still waiting for a reply, my apologies for the delay. I shall provide one ASAP, I promise!

He lived long, and we prospered: RIP Leonard Nimoy.

The world would not be what it is today without Star Trek. The sometimes confronting, sometimes deeply moving, sometimes tragically cheesy ’60s SF show – that wouldn’t have happened without Lucille Ball – transformed so many lives in so many different ways. And probably it wouldn’t have had that amazing impact without the extraordinary character of Mr Spock – and the man who played him, Leonard Nimoy.

83 is a venerable age. And in his 83 years, Nimoy had an impact upon the world at large, upon the hearts and minds and imaginations of countless thousands of people. He was a unique individual whose contributions will live long after those of us who remember him living are gone.

And somewhere in the universe, Spock and Bones McCoy are happily quarrelling again …

 

Spotlight on … Phillip Reeve

I believe that some of the very best speculative fiction can be found on the shelves of the Young Adult section in bookshops and libraries. A case in point is the marvellous work of British author Phillip Reeve, in his Mortal Engines Quartet. If you were to ask me what speculative fiction books we should be shoving into eager readers’ hands, these books would come first. Rumour has it that Peter Jackson is interested in adapting the books for film, but after The Hobbit trilogy, who knows? Handled by the right people I’d certainly love to see this story on the big screen.

Here’s why …

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Thoughts on writing, from me and Sarah Hoyt

Writing is a tough gig. It’s full of doubt, uncertainty and rejection. It takes courage, persistence and a willingness to be humble when you’re told your work needs work. The biggest barrier to success is when a writer clings to the sad belief that they’re some kind of special snowflake being denied their destiny of greatness by [insert convenient excuse here].

Guess what? Nobody is owed a publishing contract. Not for any reason, be it gender or age or ethnicity or eye colour or any external measure. And more often than not, work is rejected because it isn’t good enough, not because there’s some vast conspiracy to keep the author down because of [insert convenient excuse here].

Yes, sometimes other factors come into play. Various kinds of discrimination.  But that’s life. Some decisions suck. Some people suck. Things aren’t always fair. Problem is, get too cosy with that worldview and you will absolutely end up standing in your own way – especially since discrimination isn’t as pervasive and monolithic as some people believe.

Anyhow, that’s what I think. And here’s what Sarah Hoyt thinks, a writer who works in both traditional and non-traditional publishing modes. I think she talks a lot of sense.

Bottom line? The job of a writer is to tell the very best story in the very best style of which he or she is capable. That involves much self-criticism and the seeking of honest feedback on the work and the willingness to rewrite and rewrite until you’ve done your job. After that, you send the work out into the world and cross your fingers that someone thinks it’s a good fit for their publishing house. Or you publish it yourself, and hope the reading public thinks it’s a good fit for their enjoyment.

Beyond that? Nothing. Readers don’t owe writers a damn thing. And getting angry because readers don’t like the ‘right kind of books’ i.e. ‘the books I am writing’, and scolding them, and sneering at the books and writers that they do enjoy? That’s juvenile and counterproductive. It’s arrogant and elitist and frankly pathetic. Writers write. We don’t get to decide what readers want to read. But if we’re lucky, we find ourselves standing on that patch of ground where what we’re writing is what they want to read.

Spotlight on … Banshee

So, to celebrate the launch of Banshee‘s third season (in the US. With luck it will come to Foxtel. Otherwise I’ll have to wait for the dvd release. Sigh.) this blog post is about the show so far … just in case you’ve missed it, or passed on it. Hopefully after my burblings you’ll give it a go, because even though on the surface it might look like mindless high-violence tits-and-arse action, in fact the show is an interesting meditation on a whole lot of things.

But to be fair there is also sex and violence. Interest piqued? Then do read on …

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A sudden pause …

Sometimes I think the universe hates me. Just as I was crawling out from under a whole pile of crap and back to writing, I managed to herniate 2 discs in my neck. In the New Adventures Karen Has Had, that meant an MRI. Wow. Now I know I could probably survive 20 mins of torture. The noise the machine makes is actually really interesting. It started sounding like a kind of urban percussive classical music piece. But the position I had to maintain revved the ole neck up something severe. Sob. Whimper.

I have Serious Drugs. I have a chair I can sit in without screwing the neck or the back. I have an appointment with a specialist, who please God will tell me he can fix me without surgery. If I can get the pain to settle down, I might even have some writing because not doing that is starting to send me mad.

So, yeah. Not the news I wanted to share.

Spotlight on … Dominion

So by now you shouldn’t be surprised to hear I’ll give any fantasy/supernatural film or drama a go. Of late, the only time I showed reticence was with Guardians of the Galaxy. Didn’t see it at the movies, but have just watched it on a borrowed blu-ray. My instinct after the trailer was pretty spot-on with that one: not entirely my thing. Very well done, but I’m not really the target demographic. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it – I think the work on Groot is astonishing, and on the racoon. (I really really want a pet racoon!) But it’s just a bit too rompish for me. I much prefer the darker, grittier style of Marvel storytelling as shown in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Guardians is just a bit too popcorn for my angst-loving heart. But like I say – entirely entertaining.

Which preamble leads me to nattering today about a SyFy channel offering: Dominion.

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Talking Grimdark …

The term ‘grimdark’ was coined a while ago to label darker, grittier kinds of fantasy fiction. Some of the authors known for this kind of storytelling are Joe Abercrombie, Richard Morgan, George RR Martin, Mark Lawrence — and me, apparently! Well, not the Mage books so much, but I’d agree that the Godspeaker trilogy isn’t what you’d call a carefree romp in a sunlit meadow.

Anyhow, there are some discussions being had about this particular sub-genre and its current state. Mark Lawrence asked me if I’d like to weigh in, and I did, along with a host of thoughtful writers.

You can read the conversation here. My thanks to Mark for asking me to join in!

Secrets of the Castle

Some of you might recall that I visited the amazing Guedelon project while on my research trip to France last year. I posted photos, which you can see if you scroll back through the entries in this blog.

Well, now you can visit it too, vicariously – via a new dvd release called Secrets of the Castle. The series was recently shown on the BBC in the UK, which is why dvds are so wonderful. I’d never have seen it without the release.

It’s rather odd watching this series, for me, because I was there so recently and the memories are amazingly vivid. I mean, those two geese in the opening sequence of episode one? The little buggers chased me! I know it’s them because this program was made last year. The status of the build that you see is pretty much identical to where it was when I was there.

I tell you, French geese are not to be trifled with!

Anyhow, if you have any interest in things medieval or castle-ish, this is a great dvd to get hold of. If you’re not in the UK you’ll need a multi-zone dvd player (Pioneer and Laser come to mind, plus older LG models).

I bought mine from Amazon UK.

Let’s hear it for Glenda Larke!

One of the most creative and innovative writers in the fantasy genre today is Australian author Glenda Larke. For those of you who want to see a story not based on medieval Europe, Glenda is the writer for you. And even if you do love the medieval backdrop (as I do, obviously!) she is still the writer for you. Glenda has led probably the most astonishing and unique life I ever heard of, and all of that amazing experience finds its way into her books.

The Daggers’s Path, the second book in her Forsaken Lands trilogy, is out on sale now. Below is the lovely cover. Here is a link to her blogsite where she talks some more about the story. Stay tuned for a guest blog post, as soon as she’s got a moment to herself!

Daggers Path

 

I count myself privileged to be Glenda’s friend, but that’s not why I’m celebrating the release of her new book. It’s a great story – and great stories should always be celebrated!

 

Spotlight on … Grey’s Anatomy

It’s hard to believe now that Shonda Rhimes, recent recipient of the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at The Hollywood Reporter’s  Women in Entertainment Breakfast*, started off in showbiz as humbly and nerve-wrackingly as anyone else. Her debut drama and breakout smash hit, Grey’s Anatomy, was only given a mid-season introductory episode order of 9. Yup. ABC had so little faith in the project that it only ordered 9 episodes.

Grey’s Anatomy is currently airing its 11th season. And since its debut Rhimes has gone on to create the hits Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, which started this year. However, my heart belongs to Grey’s.

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Yum: Ginger-poached chicken breast and veg

So, I love to cook. I love to feed people. But since this is a blog, I guess I’ll just have to enjoy cooking for you guys vicariously!

In keeping with the current focus on healthy eating and weight loss, I’m going to be posting my favourite ‘good food’ recipes. And to balance the scales I’ll also post my favourite ‘naughty but nice’ recipes, for the planned free meal that’s part of the program.

Interested? Read on …

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Spotlight on … Terry Pratchett

Of all my favourite fantasy series, I’m pretty sure I’ve re-read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series the most times. In fact, I’ve re-read my favourite Discworld novels so many times that some of the books are starting to fall apart. The bugger of that is not all of them are available to repurchase as hardcovers – but I keep my eyes peeled and I grab a backup copy whenever I can. Because one of these days one of his books will fall apart – and I’ll be heartbroken.

Want to know why I hold Terry Pratchett and his work in such high esteem? Then read on …

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A brilliant essay if you’re a Trek fan!

I love Star Trek. Always have, always will. Even when it’s not very good (which is sometimes) I still love it. Trek was my first grown-up experience of science fiction drama and I regularly rewatch my dvd sets. I also love the Abrams reboot, flawed as it is. (I will go to my grave unforgiving of Alice Eve in underwear. Shame, Abrams, shame.)

So I came across this fabulous essay about the future of Trek, and I want to share it with you.

Go read!

Let the Challenge begin!

I started Body for Life today. It’s not the first time I’ve looked at doing the program. The last time I tried it I was working outside the home and organising everything got to be too much hassle. Plus the job didn’t really allow for frequent meal breaks. This time is different, because I’m completely in charge of my own schedule.

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Should we believe everything we read?

So here’s a question for you. How likely is it, do you think, that either Anthony Hopkins or Mads Mikkelson (both of whom have portrayed serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter) actually approve of – or even yearn to – murder someone and eat their liver with some fava beans and a glass of chianti?

If you’re inclined to answer ‘Not terribly’, then we’re on the same page.

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