Should we stay or should we go?

eCOV_Horizon_C2D2Today I’ve the great pleasure of hosting Keith Stevenson on my blog. Though I predominantly write fantasy and urban fantasy, I love to read science fiction and have recently finished Keith’s debut novel, Horizon. It’s a wonderful piece of work I recommend to anybody, a novel of large scope set in an intimate environment with a tightly contained cast of characters.

let’s hear what Keith as to say . . .



The highly enjoyable movie The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s novel, seems to have everyone taking about the possibility of traveling to and colonising another planet. NASA is already leveraging this interest with its Journey to Mars program. It feels like it’s ‘all systems go’. Of course there are a few obstacles in the way…

Firstly there’s the need to ‘science the sh*t’ out of a lot of technical issues. Andy Weir spoke about some of these on a recent, entertaining Geeks Guide to the Galaxy podcast []. Currently it takes us a long time to get anywhere, although our spaceflight tech is slowly improving. Then there’s the radiation we’ll be exposed to over the prolonged period on board the spaceship and to a lesser extent on the planet, which will greatly increase our cancer risk. And, of course, there’s the problem of taking EVERYTHING with us, including the air we breathe. Let’s not kid ourselves, the cost will be huge and the need for mission redundancy will be vital, particularly when the nearest help will be at least a couple of years away. And no matter how well we test our devices for extracting water from the lunar regolith or catalysing oxygen from the Martian tundra, there’s no guarantee they’ll work on-site. Mistakes like that can be deadly.

But there’s also the damage we could wreak on another planet when we start living there. The jury is still out on whether there is life on Mars, at least on the microscopic level. That’s why the Mars rover robots are scrupulously disinfected before launch to make sure we don’t corrupt the pristine Martian environment with Earthly biota. We can’t disinfect people, so there will be inevitable contamination, with potentially devastating effects on indigenous life. That was certainly a concern for the stellarnauts in my SF novel Horizon; sent to research another solar system, most of them were horrified by new orders to scout the worlds they found there for potential colonisation. Beyond purely scientific concerns, there are moral and ethical questions about changing the natural life cycle of another world, which my stellarnauts wrestled with. But something tells me that when it comes down to it, we’ll lament the damage done by our colonisation, but it won’t stop us going.

Of course some planetary biota, particularly those that evolved in other solar systems, may be deadly to us in return. Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel Aurora shows just such a world and in a recent interview with Radio National Books and Arts Daily [], he suggested that perhaps our place is not among the stars and that the life that evolves in other star systems may be so inimical to Earth life, that we’d be better off staying in our own planetary back yard. It’s true that the planets and asteroids of our solar system are there for the taking. As for the stars, I’m not quite ready to give up on them yet. Extra-solar life may be dangerous as Kim Stanley Robinson says, but let’s not discount the possibility that in the future we may engineer ourselves to thrive in those alien environments: an idea already explored in James Blish’s Pantropy Series and books like Frederik Pohl’s Man Plus.

In any event for the simple survival of the species, staying put on Earth is not a viable alternative. We need to diversify to viable colonies on numerous moons and worlds just so one meteorite doesn’t wipe us out. Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves shows to devastating effect just how badly the ‘all-our-eggs-in-one-basket’ scenario can turn out for humanity.

As usual our imagination outpaces our ‘real-life’ ability to do the stuff we want to do. It’s been forty-three years since a human walked on the moon. But as Buzz Aldrin said recently [] we’ve already reaped huge technological rewards from the space program and continue to do so, and once we set up a colony on Mars, the mineral wealth of the asteroid belt will be within our reach. After a long period of robot probes and deep-space satellite missions, we’re finally getting ready to send people out of Earth orbit again. The dangers will be huge. The setbacks may be many. But the rewards will be incalculable.


keith_stevenson_colour_hi_resKeith Stevenson is the author of Horizon an SF Thriller out now in ebook from HarperCollins Voyager Impulse. He blogs about the ideas behind Horizon at and you can find out more about Keith at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Steampunk Adventures

A guest post by Richard Ellis Preston Jr.

Today I’m joined by the talented Richard Ellis Preston Jr. Richard and I have been friends for a couple of years, the first of his Romulus Buckle books and my Garden of Stones being released around the same time. Richard is an experienced author and an all round lovely guy. I hope Steampunk fans enjoy what he has to say, and perhaps a few of you on the fringe decide to take a dip after reading this.


First of all, I’d like to thank you for having me as a guest on your blog, Mark. You and I seem to share similar sensibilities so I think readers who are interested in what you have to say might find some similar perspectives on the world from my camp. We’ll see. The main question you posed to me was Why did you choose steampunk? Good question. Let’s get to it.

Mysteampunk adventure series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin, has currently the first two books, Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders and Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War published, while the third book, Romulus Buckle and the Luminiferous Aether, is coming out soon, in early November, 2015.

Romulus Buckle 1 Final Book Cover AD RBEW_CvrImg ADRomulus Buckle III Final Luminiferous Aether rev1_LeagueOfSphinxFINAL_1000

Beginnings and Misfires: I was having trouble finding an environment for my story when I was first trying to develop Romulus Buckle as a series. I knew I wanted to do a big, sweeping, epic adventure story in the tradition of Indiana Jones and Star Wars and I knew that I wanted it to center on the intimate relationships and trials of the crew of a ship at war. But I also wanted prominent female characters (officers) and a zebra-striped alien (I can only refer to some weird cubby in my subconscious as to where that idea came from).

I couldn’t make a pure sci-fi spaceship scenario work to my satisfaction, nor a contemporary submarine (lack of female sailors) and I found myself coming around again and again to the 17th-19th century seafaring eras, landing somewhere in the swashbuckling neighborhoods of Horatio Hornblower and Richard Aubrey. The only way one can wedge females into command positions in these periods is to make them pirates and a pirate story, while attractive, didn’t provide the opportunities I wanted in a way I could make them work. Things kind of stalled at that point.

Finding Steampunk: One day at work a friend handed me the novel Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. When I started reading the story I realized I had found the sandbox where my ideas could sink in and take hold. Steampunk. Although I was aware of retro-Victorian stories and certain elements of it in costuming and art I hadn’t realized it was a young but well-established subgenre of science fiction with a healthy following and a great bookshelf of literature to its name. Once I knew what steampunk was (and its definition is difficult to pin down, to be discussed below) I recognized it in some mainstream films such as Sucker Punch and TV series like Castle. Now I could mix all of my desired ingredients together in the steampunk stewpot and place them in an environment which felt new and unexplored to me. My story world arrived as a frozen, post-apocalyptic California where only fragments of the human race have survived an alien invasion and are left with nothing but steam power. Resurrected human society, re-engineered by a handful of scientists, has been designed to imitate the Victorian era and its mannerisms. Now I had my war vessel—a zeppelin—and I packed it with a swashbuckling Captain, swashbuckling female officers and a zebra striped alien among the crew.

SteampunkUsersManual-850What the hell is the definition of ‘Steampunk?’:  steampunk is a sprawling playground which encourages personal deviation so it tends to defy specific definition.  I like to call it the “brave, new, dystopian old world.” My own steampunk definition follows as: “a subgenre of science fiction which tends to involve stories set in Victorian England or its empire where steam power and fantastic machines have become the norm.” The Victorian/Edwardian period (1840-1900) anchors the steampunk timeline but is often extended back to encompass the late 18th century and forward to include the span of the Great War. My Romulus Buckle steampunk series is set hundreds of years into the future though its thematic heart is late 18th century-early 19th century Victorian. Steampunk tends to be militaristic and dark (dystopian) but it has such a broad imaginative scope it can head in almost any direction its creator chooses.

A true definition of steampunk?  Looking to the experts, I like Jeff VanderMeer’s fun steampunk ‘equation’ which he includes in The Steampunk Bible:

“STEAMPUNK = Mad Scientist Inventor [(steam x airship or metal man/baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot.”

Wonderbook-coverVanderMeer states that his equation “… does sum up the allure of steampunk,” which is “…simultaneously retro and forward looking in nature … evokes a sense of adventure and discovery …(and) … embraces divergent and extinct technologies as a way of talking about the future.”  Bruce Sterling, co-author of the first-generation steampunk novel The Difference Engine with William Gibson, plumbs a darker vein in his User’s Guide to Steampunk: “Steampunk’s key lessons are not about the past.  They are about the instability and obsolescence of our own times … we are secretly preparing ourselves for the death of our own tech.”

(Just to mention, Jeff VanderMeer is now experiencing huge success with his Southern Reach novel trilogy. He was the story editor on my first two Romulus Buckle novels and helped me publish my Romulus Buckle universe-related short story, An Officer and a Gentleman along with featuring my work in his The Steampunk User’s Manual: An Illustrated Practical and Whimsical Guide to Creating Retro-Futurist Dreams. Jeff is a wonderful guy, a great writer and a tireless supporter of other writers and I wish him all the success in the world. I would also highly recommend his brilliant Wonderbook: the Illustrated Guide to Crafting Imaginative Fiction to any writer in any stage of his/her career and to any creative person in any field of the arts. I’d also like to make a shout out illustrator Jeremy Zerfoss, who provides art for much of Jeff’s manuals and is a blast of a guy as well).

An Officer & A Gentleman PrestonHow Do You Do Steampunk? For me, plunging into the steampunk world meant researching everything I could: hydrogen, zeppelins, aerial navigation, steam engines, locomotives, muzzle-loading cannons and muskets, Victorian clothing and culture, ballroom dances, and so on. I like the sense of being as spot on and as authoritative with the real science as I can so I know exactly when I cross the line—leaving the realm of reality for the realm of fantasy—and I can carry that authority in my voice so the reader feels comfortable suspending their disbelief and coming along.

One of the great things about steampunk is that it carries with the baggage of its history. The Victorian era is now considered highly racist with its flag-bearer Rudyard Kipling and his “white man’s burden” and the brutalities of colonialism and empire. But it was also a time of great energy, a period which saw the beginning of the industrial revolution and the intellectual and nation-state struggles which still afflict the modern world. This era provides the author with a smorgasbord of conflicts and contradictions: exploration vs. colonialism; the traditional hero vs. the fallible everyman; industrialization (the clock tower) vs. subsistence agriculture (the cycles of the sun and moon); idealized romantic love vs. debauchery; female suffrage vs. sexual repression; extreme wealth vs. extreme poverty; Darwin vs. the creationists; man vs. machine, and on and on.

Well Garbed Steampunks with Book SDCC 2013Out of Disaster Comes Hope: Lastly, and this is important to my Romulus Buckle series, the Victorian period is infused with an immense optimism, an optimism fueled by rapid advances in technology, science and medicine. Many Victorians hoped mankind was embarking on a new, utopian age. But that hope was crushed by the First World War and the resulting great disillusionment is still part of who we are today.

Steampunk exults in dystopian adventure, in zeppelin air battles and sentient, steam-powered machines, but it is also driven along by the Victorian torch of hope, expectation and a belief in the ultimate triumph of human potential.  This torch is fallen and battered, near extinguished, but it still flickers in the shadows of our terrible failures along the way.

A Steampunk Journey to Publication: I had been a screenwriter in Los Angeles for about 20 years, working my way through a couple of agents and penning medium-budget action, sci-fi and family movies and TV shows for HBO, USA, TNT, Animal Planet and foreign theatrical release. Television wore me out and I turned to writing novels. The first novel I finished was Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders. I set up my long agent query letter lists but I had a friend on the inside, author Julie Kenner. Julie had quit the law business and became a successful NYT Bestselling writer. She ran the manuscript past some agents for me and Adrienne Lombardo at Trident Media Group in New York read the book and offered me a contract with the agency. I ended up with a two book deal signed with 47North, Amazon’s new sci-fi publishing imprint in March, 2012. 47North did not choose to continue publishing the series, however, and I am self-publishing the third installment, Romulus Buckle and the Luminiferous Aether.

Always onward and forward! I’d like to thank Mark T. Barnes for having me by today. It’s been a blast!


New author photo Jan 2015Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. grew up in the United States and Canada but he prefers to think of himself as British. He attended the University of Waterloo where he earned an Honors B.A. in English with a Minor in Anthropology.  He has lived on Prince Edward Island, met the sheep on Hadrian’s Wall, eaten at the first McDonalds in Moscow, excavated a 400 year old Huron Indian skeleton and attended a sperm whale autopsy. The Purple Scarab is the first book in his new League of the Sphinx YA adventure series which he writes as R.E. Preston. Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders, Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War and Romulus Buckle & the Luminiferous Aether are the first three installments in his steampunk series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin. His short story, “An Officer and a Gentleman,” is a prequel set in the same steampunk universe. He currently resides in California.

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On the Importance of Being Edited (and Editing)

by Angela Slatter

I’ve not posted anything in a while, being focused on other projects. I thought why not get back into things with a post about something vital to every writer who wants their story to be the best it can be. It’s my pleasure to welcome the talented Dr. Angela Slatter to the page.


There’s a particular kind of arrogance that can trip up a new writer (and sometimes even an experienced one) and it goes something like this, “I just wrote The End, so it’s all done.”


The End, to paraphrase The Mummy’s Imhotep, is just the beginning.

Your first draft is just that: a draft. It needs tender loving care as well as brutal pruning to shape it into a piece that’s not only something someone wants to read, but also something that someone (i.e. an editor/publisher) wants to (a) put into print and (b) pay you for.

Editing is a form of auditing and before an experienced editor/publisher will look at your work you need to make sure what you’re sending to them is the best you can produce. You must go over your own work to make sure that you have actually written what you think you’ve written: are spelling and grammar all present and correct? Does the ending match the beginning? Is the story’s internal logic flawless? Do characters act in a manner consistent with their motivation and characterisation? Are those characters believable and engaging or merely cookie-cutter stereotypes that interest no one? Does the pacing work as it should or does the story have a flabby middle that needs tightening? Are your descriptions apposite and sharp, rather than simply a bruised purple mess? My expertise is in short stories, but most of what follows can − and should − be applied to longer works as well. I can’t cover everything here, but I’ll do my best.

The task of self-editing always seems huge, but just like eating an elephant it should be done one bite at a time. I always start with the small stuff because it’s relatively quick and easy and it gives me a sense of achievement that buoys me up to tackle the bigger issues − yes, being a writer is a constant system of sticks and carrots. The basics are always spelling, grammar and punctuation. When you’re reading over a draft, put on your critical thought hat: have you used the right word? Have you written ‘enervated’ when you mean ‘energised’ because they sound a bit alike? I have marked more student pieces with this kind of assured idiocy in them than I care to remember − some crackers I cannot burn from my memory include: “She spent the day begatting a meal for her husband”, “This gave the movement the inertia it needed to move forward”, and my personal favourite, “She danced around on the stage with a feather Boer around her neck.”

Have you used the correct version of words that have different meanings and spellings but sound the same? Your, You’re, Yore? Their, They’re, There? Where, We’re, Wear, Were (as in the Old English version meaning ‘man’)? Flaw, Floor, Flore (Latin for flowers)? A good idea is to keep a list above your desk of words that you know are a problem for you; every time you’re reading a draft, check against the list, make sure you’ve got it right. With any luck, the repeated reminders will help embed the correct meanings in your brain. It’s easy to make a mistake in the first draft − that’s what the first draft is for, making mistakes, throwing the brain-vomit onto the page. What’s not forgivable is to leave those mistakes in there after the second or third draft.

Grammatical mistakes, such as disagreement between your plurals and singulars, most definitely need to be fixed. If you know grammar is not your strong point, then find a writing friend who is good at it and learn from them. Punctuation is also very important: the old saw about “Let’s eat grandma” versus “Let’s eat, Grandma” is a perfect illustration as to why punctuation matters. Also collect − and read! − books such as Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style or Mark Tredinnick’s The Little Green Grammar Book or Lynne Truss’s most excellent Eats, Shoots & Leaves. These reference books should sit beside your dictionary and thesaurus.

And for the love of all that’s holy or otherwise, learn how to use apostrophes. Here’s The Oatmeal to tell you how

Another problem to look out for is that of unintentional repetitions: you’ve described something as ‘dark’ eighteen times in the space of a page, or seven times in two paragraphs, not because you’re going for a considered repetition to build a rhythm or a motif, but because it was the only word you could think of in your rushed first draft. Remember: the thesaurus is your friend. A lot of unintentional repetition occurs in descriptions or actions, so look for them there first. Replace those repeated ‘darks’ with ‘ebony’, ‘cinereal’, ‘shadowy’, ‘murky’, ‘gunmetal’, ‘charcoal’ … carefully consider the subtle sense you want the word to convey. There’s whole range of alternatives that will add texture to your writing − but don’t go overboard and make a simple sentence read like either an anatomical text or a bad romance novel: “Her heart beat strongly” never, ever needs to be “Her blood-pumping organ palpitated indomitably.” Also to note: don’t just do a global replace of the offending word with a new one.

You also need to develop an awareness of your crutch words − those you fall back on automatically and don’t even think about. Are you a repeat offender with ‘seems’, ‘that’, ‘suddenly’, ‘slightly’, ‘appears’, ‘maybe’? Do they pepper your manuscript like buckshot?  Once again, a reminder list above the desk can do wonders to keep these words from cluttering up your work.

Another thing to consider during the self-edit is the length of your sentences, especially if you’re a new writer with less experience in crafting prose. Here’s the thing about long sentences: the more words you jam in there, the more likely your reader will get to the end of the sentence and go “Huh? What was the start of that? I’ve been reading for about fifteen minutes and I forget what the point was.” The more words you put between your reader and the story, the more chance your tale has of failing, of losing the reader. There are some writers who are simply masters of the long sentence: Jeff VanderMeer is one of them, Angela Carter is another. They also know this secret: a long sentence set amongst a bunch of shorter, sharper ones will stand out. It will stand out like a jewel; it will make the reader pause, catch their breath, marvel at the craft displayed. Shorter sentences are great for simply transmitting information and action, as well as keeping the pace cracking along.  Longer sentences can be where you make your reader think more deeply − but you do need to frame them carefully to best advantage.

This brings me to Five Dollar Words. Is your narrative crammed with multisyllabic words as a matter of course? Does your sentence look as though it ate a thesaurus? Is said sentence verging on purple, with the prose so ornate and extravagant that it draws attention in the way a lime green mankini does? For the record, that is Bad Attention. The Five Dollar Word is best deployed, like long sentences, in a garden of Five Cent Words. That way it will have more impact.

The idea of minimising purple prose leads to another important characteristic of the short story: brevity. There is an art to making short fiction short and making it work. Henry David Thoreau said “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” This may seem self-evident and you’re thinking, “Well, d’uh”, but I’ve critiqued and edited a LOT of work in which there were too many words for the amount of story contained therein. You don’t have the same luxury you’ve got with a novel, that of great long wandering descriptions: as with life, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so do it right the first time. Your descriptions must be powerful but precise: if you’re describing a character, give us their outstanding feature/s, the thing/s the reader will remember (or needs to know in order to comprehend the tale). If you’re describing a setting, again, tell us what we need to know in order to understand the story, although brevity doesn’t mean a white room, i.e. no setting given. It means, as my old friend and mentor Jack Dann says, “What does the camera see?” So, if a television camera were to pan through your scene what would/should it pick up?

What must the reader see when they enter that scene? A shotgun on the mantlepiece? Show us − carefully and casually scattered amongst a few other red herring items − what is going to be essential to the story’s resolution. So, if the shotgun is going to be fired by the end of the story, then show it in the first act, remind us about it (subtly) in the second act, then fire that shotgun in the third. My point? When you’re editing/auditing ask yourself “Does my tale do this/work in this way?”

Another important thing to keep in mind is structure. I like a three act structure because it gives you a good guide for where to put which plot points. It’s especially useful for new writers to train them in the rhythms of a short story, so they become second nature. When you’re editing/auditing your work, ask: do all of the parts make up the whole in the way they need to? Is there too much/not enough set up/foreshadowing in Act One? Is there to much exposition/marking time in Act Two? Is Act Three simply too short or too long? Has the climax of the story occurred in a fashion that leaves the reader saying “Huh?” because the writer hasn’t given enough foreshadowing/hints/ breadcrumbs in the previous acts? So, once again, you need to read your draft with a critical gaze: forget that it’s your baby and you love it to distraction; actively look for its faults.

Consistency is also critical, not simply in the spelling of particular words, but in the meaning you give to them and the way you use them. For example, if in your story you’ve allocated a specific meaning of “magical and dangerous” to “weird” and that is a recurring meaning, then keep that word specifically for use in that context. Don’t suddenly use it for “a bit off”. Similarly, make sure a character’s appearance remains consistent − don’t change eye or hair colour unless you’ve also given a very good reason. A one-armed woman should not suddenly be shown using a tool or weapon that requires her to have grown back her other arm, because that says the writer forgot who their character is and the limits within which they must operate. In addition, you must show consistency in a character’s motivation and action − don’t suddenly have your protagonist acting against their grain unless you’ve given them (and shown the reader) why they are doing so.

Finally, when you’ve done all of the above, is it over? Can you send it out into the wide world for publication?


You do another draft, a second, a third, a fourth until you can no longer see any problems.

Then can you send it off for publication?


You give it to your writers group or your trusted beta readers and let them find problems with it.

Why? Because, let’s face it, we’re all certain we know what we’ve written, and the mind will trick us into seeing words that aren’t actually there. You’re likely to see the ghost words because you know the story so well, you’re used to it, it’s like a long-term partner: you’ve stopped looking properly at their face, you’re relying on your memory and you’ve become too lazy to look for something new. Your beta reader, however, as a person who did not write this thing that means so much to you, is not invested in it − they will see omissions and highlight them. This is an essential part of the critique process, for which you must thicken your skin. You must not be so in love with your story that anyone pointing out its faults causes you to burst into tears/flames/defensive protestations about what you really meant/how no one understands your genius. The whole point of editing is to make your story the best it can be. Isn’t it better for a beta reader to find these problems rather than the editor/publisher to whom you’re hoping to sell it?

The other side of the critiquing coin is that being a beta reader for other writers will help you become a better self-editor/auditor. The more you’re exposed to the process, the more you’ll learn, the more able you’ll be to spot issues, and the more all these techniques will become second nature to you. As a matter of courtesy to your beta readers, always do a self-edit before you pass your work on because, quite frankly, if all you’re doing is writing a really rotten first draft then sending it off for someone else to do the hard work then you’re a bad person. No, really, you are.

Now, you’re wondering: is it all over? You’ve self-edited, you’ve let beta readers gnaw on the entrails of your story-child, you’ve patched it up, and you’ve sent this new, beautiful Frankenstein of a thing out into the world. If you’re lucky, someone else will love it too, so surely the editing is over. Surely.



An editor/publisher worth their salt will see what’s wonderful about your tale, but they’ll also see what’s been missed. They might have suggestions that will make it even better (sometimes they will have terrible suggestions, too, but that’s a subject for another post), and you will find your story is being slashed and stitched yet again.

But that is okay, because you’re a professional. You’re tough, your skin is thick, and you’re wearing your Big Person Pants so you can deal with anything. You are okay with the editing because you want your story to be something that takes a reader’s breath away, that stays with them as they go about their day long after they’ve read the last line. You are okay with the editing because it’s all part of the profession. You are okay with the editing because the whole point of editing is to make your story the best it can be.



Dr-Angela-SlatterSpecialising in dark fantasy and horror, Angela Slatter is the author of The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, Sourdough and Other Stories, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and Black-Winged Angels, as well as Midnight and Moonshine and The Female Factory (both with Lisa L. Hannett). She has won five Aurealis Awards, one British Fantasy Award, and been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Norma K. Hemming Award.

Angela’s short stories have appeared in Australian, UK and US Best Of anthologies such The Mammoth Book of New Horror (Stephen Jones, ed.), The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror (Paula Guran, ed.), The Best Horror of the Year (Ellen Datlow, ed.), The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, eds.), and The Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction (Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, eds.).

She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006, and in 2013 she was awarded one of the inaugural Queensland Writers Fellowships.

Her novellas, Of Sorrow and Such (from, and Ripper (in the Stephen Jones’ anthologyHorrorology, from Jo Fletcher Books) will be released in October 2015.

Angela’s urban fantasy novel, Vigil (based on the short story “Brisneyland by Night”), will be released by Jo Fletcher Books in 2016, and the sequel, Corpselight, in 2017. She is represented by Ian Drury of the literary agency Sheil Land.

You can contact Angela at


Echoes of Empire character artwork

As part of the launch of ‘The Pillars of Sand’ at Galaxy Bookshop here in Sydney, I used photocomposition to create character art that was given away in sets to people who attended. I did 80 sets, and all of them were accounted for.

For those who’ve not seen them, I thought I’d post a gallery of the portraits here. They may not be exactly what readers see when they imagine the characters, but this is how I see them. I may do other characters who appear in The Obsidian Heart, and The Pillars of Sand. People who have these cards as a series were interested in seeing The Emissary, as well as some of the supporting cast. We’ll see how I go for time. Until then, please enjoy. If people want to do their own art and sent it through, I’d enjoy seeing how you pictured the characters.

Indris FinalMari FinalCorajidin FinalShar Final 1Ekko FinalHayden FinalOmen Final 1Femensetri FinalBelamandris FinalWolfram FinalYashamin Final

New words, new worlds

As was pointed out by somebody on Goodreads, it’s been some time since I’ve updated my Blog; so here’s an update on where things are in my world of words.

The Echoes of Empire series is doing well, with predominantly great reviews. Of course there are those who’ve not connected with the series, and that’s to be expected; there’s no book that’s all things to all readers, and I did write a book that could be considered challenging, and not typical epic fantasy. However the positive reviews far outweigh the negative, and my readership seems to be growing as does word of mouth. I had the very great honour of being the first Australian (of which I’m aware, happy to be corrected) to be in the final five for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Debut/Newcomer for 2013, with the Garden of Stones also making the long list of the top 20 fantasy novels for the 2013 David Gemmel Legend Award. While I can’t be a contender for the debut again, knowing that there were enough people who rated my debut novel so highly was as flattering, as it was humbling.

More recently all three books in the Echoes of Empire series were part of the Kindle Daily Deal. Another humbling, and intensely gratifying, moment to see all three books in the Top 10  Best Sellers for Fantasy Adventure. It’s a huge genre and my work was in there with some incredible company. Of course George Martin’s new project had to be released in time to stay in the number one spot, but I was happy with the rankings.

Best Sellers in Fantasy Action & Adventure








Most recently I’ve been working on a new urban fantasy project. ‘Autumn Country’ is the first in what has been planned as a quadrilogy, but we’ll see what the appetite of publishers is like to see whether they want none, one, or all four of the books. The series is told from two points of view, and deals with the bizarre and dangerous world kept deliberately hidden from humanity, behind the machinations of the Great Illusion. There’s more strong and innovative world building, though the world of ‘Autumn Country’ is less fantastical in some of it’s elements than was Ia in the EoE. Below is a snippet from an early chapter:

“Through a shattered window Gallow surveyed the Escheresque ghetto of Pandemonium. Buildings were monochrome geometries in a suspension of dirt and light, where they leaned over twisting lanes. Titanic statues rose into the sky, their upper limits partially obscured by low clouds of dust but visible enough to hint at tentacled horrors. The Soul Wind undulated across the sky, sparking like lit iron filings, and it backlit the leather winged, serpentine shadows that circled in the gloom far overhead, and the smaller humanoid silhouettes wheeling much closer to the rooftops. The air vibrated with what sounded like the droning of metallic cicadas, but was not. He inhaled the scents of storms and desiccation.”

Barring incident I’m expecting to have the first draft down by the end of November, as I get into the spirit of NaNoWriMo in an effort to do 50K new words in the month, plus all the edits. I’m editing this book and sending it to proof readers in Acts: Act I, and Act IIa, have been edited and sent to readers. Readers have come back with some wonderful, positive responses and almost no changes at all; certainly nothing structural. I’m almost finished Act IIb, with then Act III to follow. Breaking the editing down into logical segments has helped tackle the story, and to ensure that I don’t need go completely off the rails. It also means that there’s not a long tail at the end of the book, so the finished product is a little closer at hand. Once the book is written and edited, I’ll be sending it to my agent and we’ll then discuss our next steps.

Once ‘Autumn Country’ is sent I’ll get back to writing the remainder of ‘Darkness in the Green’, the first in an epic fantasy trilogy set in Ia that is told concurrently with the EoE. I’ve also a couple of stand alone novels, a steampunk, some sci-fi . . . oh, and the next trilogy in the Echoes of Empire should the publisher and readers have an appetite for it.