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Archive for March, 2011

RORees appear on the Aurealis Awards Final Lists

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on March 26, 2011

Well, it’s that time of year again and the finalists for the Aurealis Awards have been announced.  (See here for the Press Release with the full list).

But for now I’m going to do the  Happy Dance for my fellow RORees.

In the Young Adult Short Story Section, we have Dirk Flinthart with his story One Story, No Refunds (Shiny#6, Twelfth Planet Press)  . And this is where it gets interesting, because Margo’s story A Thousand Flowers (Zombies Vs Unicorns, Allen and Unwin) is also nominated in the same section. And that’s not all, Tansy Rayner Roberts’ story Nine Times (Co-written with Kaia Landelius, published in Worlds Next Door, Fablecroft Publishing) is also a finalist in the same section. All I can say is what a line up!

In the Horror Short Story Section, Richard Harland’s, The Fear (Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears, Brimstone Press) is a finalist.

The we come to the Horror Novel Section where Trent’s Death Most Definite (Orbit, Hachette) is a finalist. And just to prove how versatile Trent is, his book is also a finalist in the Fantasy Novel Section! Along with Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Power and Majesty (Harper Voyager, Harper Collins).


Then we come to the Science Fiction Short Story Section where Tansy’s Relentless Adaptions (Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press) is a finalist.

And finally we come to Science Fiction Novel Section. Here Marianne de Pierres has two books, Mirror Space and Transformation Space (Orbit, Hachette). These are the last two books of the Sentients of Orion series.

So I’m doing the Happy Dance for Richard, Dirk, Margo, Trent, Tansy and Marianne. It’s an honour for my fellow RORees to be finalists and fingers crossed on the big night in May!

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Awards | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Pod Bright!

Posted by tansyrr on March 22, 2011

Yes, I’ve launched another podcast. One was not enough. Galactic Chat aims to fill the gap in the SF podcast market by interviewing Australian authors – there are plenty of podcasts out there that do this, but most of these are based in the UK or US and so revolve around those countries’ publishing schedules. We totally needed one of our own!

Alisa, Alex and I will be interviewing a bunch of writers over the year, hoping to tie the interviews as close as possible to this year’s releases of books into Aussie bookshops.

It may be of particular interest to you guys that our first interview is with our own lovely Marianne de Pierres! You can go and listen to it on the Podbean site or download it – I will update when it’s available on iTunes!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Tall Ships and Balloon Travel, what are they really like?

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on March 21, 2011

As fantasy writers we’ll often write about sailing ships, but how many of us have actually done this? Louise Curtis tells us the deep down and dirty on sailing ships and ballooning.

Travelling Tales

As speculative writers, we often borrow from other periods of history. We love to imagine riding horses through bushland, wearing steampunk outfits , or cooking peculiar food . I love to research by doing, so here’s some information that may be useful in your stories.



Tall Ships

When I was young enough, I sailed on the Young Endeavour, Australia’s sail training vessel, in order to research pirates. My hair has never been more disgusting. Ships are windy – all the time. I also found chunks of solidified salt in my hair, like giant mutant dandruff. Because someone needs to be on watch at all times, I was so exhausted I often slept in full wet weather gear, shoes, and metal harness (which we were required to wear on deck at all times, in case we needed to climb one of the masts to furl a sail). My legs were purple with dozens of bruises from climbing around everywhere, knocking into things, and bracing myself with my legs while my hands were busy hauling ropes or just holding on. The ship was usually heavily slanted to one side, and in decent weather the waves hit the bowsprit and washed across the deck – physically lifting anyone who was located too far forward.

Square sails only work if the wind is almost directly behind you, but triangular sails work a little like airplane wings, so they’re more useful in a variety of conditions. Either way, you’ll probably need to tack (turn from side to side in long zigzags) to get the best results. That means hauling on lines to turn the spars/yardarms (the beams holding up the sails), furling (tying up) some sails and unfurling others. As a rule, you open the middle sails and then the outer sails. The large triangular jib at the front of the Young Endeavour is extremely heavy, and pulls from one side to the other with a loud bang. “Luffing” is when a sail is flapping, due to being positioned incorrectly.

About 60% of people get seasick, especially women. It usually lasts a few days, but often reappears in harsh weather. I was fairly sick – enough that when I started throwing up it felt fabulous (at least, for a few minutes – until the next bout started building). If you throw up overboard, it’s important to notice which way the wind is going. (The “head” is nautical-speak for toilet because on square-rigged ships the wind MUST come from behind – so crewmen went to the bathroom by the figurehead at the front, thus protecting everyone else.) When I was no longer sick, I climbed up the mast to furl a sail. It was raining, and there were delays with another girl. The mast moves around a fair bit. . .

My stomach rebelled; my skin went hot and then cold; I called out “chunder!” (short for “watch under” – another gift to our language) and. . . I did. The people below me were fairly safe thanks to the wind; I was later able to observe an orange streak across the sail at a 45 degree angle.

While I was sick I barely ate (the worst thing about seasickness is knowing that you’re ON the sea – surrounded), but dry salty biscuits were like manna from heaven. To me, the ship always smelled of wet wood and vomit. I could always hear creaks and moans from the wood, especially below decks. We worked very hard to keep everything shipshape, especially since it rained often (which inevitably got inside and had to be mopped up). The rope rails all around the ship were constantly decorated with clothes we were trying to get dry.

The movement is quite like riding a train – but irregular. In heavier weather, it’s more like a turbulent plane ride, complete with stomach-grabbing lurches and odd sideways twists. If someone falls overboard, it is very difficult to get them back. At night, it is virtually impossible.

After ten days at sea, I was fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been. We always wore gloves while hauling on the ropes, but my hands still toughened up a fair bit. The navy staff showed us a video of a guy (a real person, but by no means a normal one) clamping the outside edge of a square sail between his fingers and sliding down it superfast that way.

Further reading: For a great range of pictures (or to apply to go on board if you’re young enough) visit The Young Endeavour website

An Account of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson is a great book (some of it is very difficult to get through; other parts are as vivid as only an eyewitness account can be – it was first published in 1724).

Hot air balloons

The first hot air balloons were successfully flown in the late 1700s, but hydrogen balloons (although more likely to explode) were quickly found to carry much more weight – sometimes dozens of people. The “envelope” (balloon part) was made of silk or paper with rubber varnish on the inside(today’s envelopes are made of nylon), but the baskets were always wickerwork.

The most surprising thing is the calmness of the ride – even taking off and landing (although apparently it’s quite common for the basket to tip over – more socially awkward than actually hazardous, I think). Many animals have been taken aloft, but it has been found that horses bleed from the nose at altitudes humans find comfortable.

There is absolutely no wind and no sound (except when the burner is on). It was so smooth that I felt confident that I could serve a cup of tea without spilling a drop. My partner described it as being “like a plane ride, but with all the advantages and none of the disadvantages”. It was indeed very like the first or last few moments of a plane flight, when the whole world is spread out beautifully – still close enough to see all the details. It is almost impossible to be frightened at all, because the silence and lightness of the balloon makes flight feel like the simplest and most natural thing in the world.

Balloons can’t be steered. Really. In my own flight, we missed about four different landing sites, all of which we could clearly see. The side vents (operated by ropes) can turn the balloon to face a different direction, but that’s about all. The top vent is useful for a fast descent.

The modern gas-fired burner makes a popping noise, immediately followed by a scchhhhh sound. It isn’t generally on longer than a few seconds, but the radiating heat on the top of my head was uncomfortable during take-off preparations.

The smell is of gas, and of the land beneath (including plant smells). We often drifted along so close to people below that we could comfortably call out to one another. Dogs barked and ran around. Kangaroos ran away.

Modern balloons take about ten people, plus the pilot in a separate compartment (with a few venting ropes, and several gas canisters). The basket and envelope are attached laying flat on the ground (it takes some time to lay out the balloon, but it’s rare for the ropes to be tangled – our pilot walked around inside as it was blown up to check them). A large fan half-fills the envelope, and then the burner is used to heat and expand the air while more is blown in. The envelope stands up more and more, and eventually pulls the basket upright (at which point the passengers climb in over the side – and there is still a rope attached to the truck as a precaution). The filling process took about half an hour.

The pilot radioed for clearance, and then used the burner heavily. Suddenly we drifted away – unable to tell the exact moment we left the ground. Within fifty horizontal metres, we were above the trees.


Further reading: The Aeronauts by Time/Life Books – a very fun read and beautifully (sometimes morbidly) illustrated. I included the funnest sections (and more on my own balloon experience) in today’s Daily Awesomeness blog.


Thanks to Louise Curtis for sharing her insights with us!

Posted in Creativity, Research, World Buildng, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »

How writers can create their own luck

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on March 19, 2011

Professor Richard Wiseman (no I did not make up his name) is a psychologist who writes about luck, deception, the paranormal, humour and the science of self help. I came across the principles behind his book The Luck Factor several years ago.

In this book, he analyses why some people seem to have better luck than others and discovers it comes down to four principles, which I’m going to relate to us as writers.

Authors  often feel a sense of helplessness. We slave over a keyboard, pour our hearts and souls into books only to send them out into the cold cruel world of editor’s desks. And even if our book does appeal to an editor it has to get past marketing at an acquisitions meeting. Then, if it makes it that far, all sorts of things can happen to it. It can get a terrible cover and never make the sales it deserves. So we tend to feel fatalistic about our books.

We can promote our books. We can do guest posts and send off copies to review sites and arrange give-aways. But there is always this element of luck. Luck to sell in the first place, hitting that Right Editor at the Right Time with the Right Book. And then, once the book is out in the shops, it has to be in the Right Place at the Right Time to appeal to the Right People, who will pick it up and champion it.

It helps if your books are lucky enough to get brilliant covers!

The publisher of Twilight did not expect it to be a smash hit, same with the publisher of the first Harry Potter book.  It is easy to look back and say, Oh Twilight appeals to the Tween market offering an adoring male (the leashed beast), or Oh Harry Potter offered the familiarity of boarding school with the fun of fantasy and an updated version of Enid Blyton’s Fantastic Five mysteries.

But we can’t anticipate what the next big thing will be. It is fair to say that publishers really don’t know why one book makes record sales and not another, otherwise they would only be publishing best sellers.

So what can you do to maximise your chance to get published in the first place. There is a point you reach where you have done the hard yards and you can write a good book. Then you have to get it in front of an editor. Let’s look at Wiseman’s four principles.

1. Maximise Opportunities

I’m always telling aspiring writers to enter competitions, go to festivals listen to editors and agents and find out what they are looking for. Your books will not sell on your hard drive. Only recently we’ve seen  self published author Michael J Sullivan get picked up by Orbit and Angry Robot signed Adam Christopher who had developed a following via Twitter. Then there’s Amanda Hocking the Kindle Millionaire who bypassed traditional publishers all together. So do your research, be ready with the book of your heart to place it in front of the public/editor/agent.

2. Listen to Lucky Hunches

At first I didn’t see how this applied directly to aspiring writers. Then I remembered how I sold to Dreaming DownUnder, the anthology which won World Best Fantasy. It was being edited by Jack Dann and Janean Webb and it was submission by invitation only. But I had a hunch that if I approached them and asked to submit a story, they’d say yes. They did and my story was accepted. The worst that could have happened was they might have said no. So follow your hunches.

3. Expect Good Fortune

This one basically means even when things go bad (as they did for me with a lean patch of nearly 10 years between my trilogies) lucky people don’t stop trying. I kept writing, kept polishing my craft, kept my eyes open, ready to take advantage of the first sign of positive feedback. So don’t let knock-backs stop you, after all, you’re not a writer, if you’ve never had a rejection. (See here for 14 Best Selling books that were repeatedly rejected).

4. Turn Bad Luck into Good

Sounds a bit Pollyanna, doesn’t it? Wiseman says: ‘Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way.’ Or if you are a fan of Julie Andrews – when one door closes a window opens. Who knows it could be a window of opportunity. <grin>

So there you have it, advice from Professor Wiseman that applies to writers. And if this is all a bit serious, see here for Wiseman’s LaughLab, where he set out to discover the world’s funniest joke.

(I posted this blog last night and totally forgot to give it a title. Blame my husband. He was hovering over me saying. Is it done yet? I want to put the movie on. LOL).

Posted in Agents, Creativity, Nourish the Writer, Pitching, Promoting your Book, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Sales, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

E-readers and e-books

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on March 12, 2011

Okay, the time has come for me to get an e-reader. So far I’ve peered over people’s shoulders in the train and asked intelligent questions such as: ‘Do you find it good?’ ‘How many books can you fit on it?’

Everyone I’ve spoken to loved their e-readers.

We’ve all heard of Amanda Hocking who has become a e-book millionaire.  Here Nathan Bransford talks about this phenomenon. More mid-list authors are thinking about going the e-book route because their royalties are better on e-books. There are traditionally published authors who make more off their e-books.

Wall Street Journal announces that Random House has switched their pricing policy on e-books. They are the last major publisher to switch to the agency model.

‘Five of the country’s six largest publishers switched to agency pricing last year when Apple introduced its iPad tablet. Publishers believed the iPad would sharply expand sales of e-books and challenge Inc.’s popular Kindle e-reader. Apple is hosting a news conference Wednesday and is expected to unveil a new version of the iPad.’

Here, at Pimp My Novel, Eric explains what this means for us readers. And more from Pimp My Novel Five Things you should Know About the eRevolution.

Which all brings me back to, what do you look for in an e-book?

What do you want from an e-reader?

Posted in e-books, Publishing Industry | Tagged: , , | 12 Comments »

Blitzing the book trailers …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on March 5, 2011

This Sunday we have a ‘call back’. In an interview with AA Bell, author of Diamond Eyes, she tells how the music that inspired her while writing the book led to a collaboration, that has created a killer book trailer. Then we hear from the musician involved in her project,  ‘David Meshow’.

We have a copy of Diamond Eyes to give-away. Watch our for the question at the end.

Blitzing the book trailers for many NY Times bestsellers this month is the non-traditional low-budget trailer for Diamond Eyes, by AA Bell.

Over 106,000 views in only 3 weeks! (Here and Here)


Interview with the Author:


How did music play a role during the initial creative process?

Since the main character is blind, music and poetry plays an increasingly important role in the Diamond Eyes trilogy, adding sensory depth to settings as well as a few main plot twists. During the research stage, I therefore searched high and low for musicians who could inspire me by playing as many instruments as my main character, and play them so well, they could do it anywhere – in a garden or forest, and with a quirky sense of humour too preferably, to suit the off-beat characters and varying paces of the story, from slow and melancholy to fast-paced action. That’s how I found French Canadian, David Meshow, a young musical genius who can play at least 8 different instruments (and up to 4 at once, while singing in English, which isn’t his first language!) He also taught me how to play the most amazing electric guitar melodies around a campfire, so I could use it to increase the ‘magical’ aspects of a specific scene in Hindsight (launching in June.)

And in post production?

It seemed only natural that such unique music should play a large role in post production too. So I wrote to David for permission to use part of the music which had inspired me so much during the creative process, and sent him a copy of the book, but he was so inspired by the story, he told me he was keen to write a brand new piece just to suit it. And wow, what a fabulous example of inspiration breeding inspiration. Over 5000 fans now agree it’s his best yet!

Interview with the Musician:

What inspired you when writing the Official Theme to Diamond Eyes?


From the story, I imagined how I would be if I was blind. Seeing nothing, but seeing something that nobody else can see, because it’s only in my head, gave me a lot of strange feelings. I first tuned my acoustic guitar with an unusual scale. After having found the main “chords” I recorded the guitar on my computer, just a simple test. Then i added some improvised piano. I love the sound of piano because you can get some smooth peaceful high tones and aggressive low notes at the same time. At the final recording step, I thought: What could I play to replace these testing notes? I tried different things but my final answer was; “Hey David, don’t change anything. The first recording test was pure emotion. It sounds deep.’ And finally, I used the soundless preview of the traditional trailer to get many ideas for the main ambiance and for adding different sound FX.

How long did it take?

A few minutes here and there, but if I calculate the full time of the composition, mixing and production to finished product, I’d say it took me a good full week. But i don’t like to calculate my time because it “scraps” my imagination and the mood I have when I’m recording a song. It has to be done with heart. The most difficult is the final mixing step because I have to admit that I’m never 100% satisfied. Sometimes I just need to stop or I’ll never release my work. Hehe!

What has this fabulous response from youtube fans meant to you as an artist?

Ha! I’m surprised! I’m the kind of person who is always anxious until I get the first comments. It’s always like that. I really wasn’t expecting such a good response. I wasn’t sure about making a video for the song either. I was wrong, I guess. A lot of fans have told me it’s my best yet. And if I’m here today, it’s thanks to them! This 50 million views could not have happened without them. I’m really happy about everything that’s happened!

To win a copy of Diamond Eyes, AA Bell asks: What music do you listen to when you write?

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Book Launches, Book Trailers, Creativity, Musicians, Promoting your Book, Sales | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »