And Then … stake a claim on these adventure stories!

And-Then-offerAND now for a word from my publisher … who is publishing a massive two-book anthology of ripping adventure yarns. The books are now available for pre-order, and because it’s happening on Indiegogo, there is not just a discount on the RRP, but there are some other fab inclusions as well (the books will come out regardless, but why not grab a bargain?). Says Clan Destine’s Lindy Cameron:

And Then… The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales will feature 31 stories of action-filled page-turning adventures.

    No matter your reading preference – crime, fantasy, horror, sf or cross-genre – there will be stories galore in this fabulous collection just for you.

    By helping us you will get the warm fuzzy feeling of supporting a small independent press and our wonderful authors, but there’s also plenty of things you will get in return.

    First and foremost, of course, are the books themselves. And we do mean books. And Then… will be two volumes of fabulous new fiction, published as ebooks, paperbacks and Limited Edition hardcovers.

    So get on board and pre-order your copies. Follow the link below to see the great deals, discounts and other bounty you can score by partnering with us now.

    And please share this opportunity with other book lovers.

    https://igg.me/at/AndThen

    Thank you for your ongoing support of Clan Destine Press.

The campaign runs till about May 16, so jump on board, me hearties: your future self will thank you!

Aurealis Awards finalists announced

aurealis awards logoThe Aurealis Awards for Australian speculative fiction will be awarded on Good Friday, March 25, in Brisbane as part of the national science fiction convention, Contact. Tickets are now on sale (with, apparently, convention members to get a discount).

It’s a pretty cool event, bringing the community together, and being held as part of the convention should mean extra vibe as well as, one hopes, a packed room. (It’s great to see the awards organisers in WA and the nat con collaborating this way, especially since there is the Swancon convention in Perth also at Easter.)

The finalists were announced yesterday, with several new categories, one of the most exciting being the Sara Douglass Book Series Award. The list of finalists is here (note: my wife is in there!). There’s a bucket of cold water for the horror novel category — I know, sad! the judges’ comments will make interesting reading on that one!* — but elsewhere a pretty darn strong field of contenders.

Just making it to the short list is a big achievement, so congratulations all — let’s party!


*I’m hoping for a tie between Lisa Hannett’s Lament for the Afterlife and Trent Jamieson’s Day Boy because both these rock in their own way. Read them regardless!

In which Lady Helen leads us on a merry dance

Lady Helen and the Dark Days ClubLady Helen and the Dark Days Club (Angus & Robertson, 2016), the first volume in a new series by Alison Goodman, is due for publication next year*, but the author kindly threw a launch party in time for Christmas. For those eager for her next work following the New York Times best-sellers Eon and Eona, it was a fine present indeed.

Having covered science fiction, crime (with a slight SFnal twist) and fantasy with equal aplomb in previous works, Goodman now turns to the paranormal with her Dark Days Club.

There is perhaps slightly more explanatory text here – summaries of events, an almost telepathy to show the meaning behind the body language – than I remember from previous outings, but the story, more than 400 pages of it, speeds by at an easy pace, driven by the spark of quick-witted Lady Heroine and the deepening dilemmas in which she finds herself.

How clever to set it in the Regency, for this story is all about veneer and the monsters behind the facade, duty and passion, control and denial. The painting of this period of English history is sensationally wrought, the minutiae of daily life for the Quality (and their window on the lesser classes) effectively grounding the world without dominating it, referencing historical events, people and places, then braiding in the supernatural story.

Australian women writers challenge 2015Lady Helen, our titular heroine, is 18, her parents lost under despairing circumstances, the ward of her uncle and aunt who are devoted to her social climb, that is, marriage. She has some of her mother’s infamous adventurous streak, however, sneaking into the library to read books, so very unladylike. Of course, she has more than that in common with her mother, and soon her fabulous nature as a potential member of the mysterious Dark Days Club is uncovered.

The tension between her attraction to adventure, both romantic and physical, and the pressure to conform to social propriety is deft, perhaps best mirrored in the two suitors for her attention, if not affection, in a socially respectable duke and a lord of some infamy.

This presents the most obvious theme of the story, that “sometimes there is no good choice”. And Lady Helen has some serious choices to make as a demonic world is revealed to her, that and her special place in the fight to contain it. Dark days indeed!

I’m particularly taken with the humour of sidekick and maid Darby, who had me chuckling with an almost Pink Panther scene in which she tests her mistress’s reflexes with thrown objects.

Another element I especially appreciate is the slow reveal, allowing us to know Helen and her Regency world, the privilege and the constraints, as mysteries are bled into the opening chapters and then revealed in line with her growing understanding of the secret war of the Dark Days Club.

This is a world where every choice, every benefit, comes at a cost, and it is this grim reality that helps makes Lady Helen’s story such an enjoyable read.

* addendum: December 14 in Australia, January 16 UK and January 26 US.

  • This review completes my four-book commitment to the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Others were Cherry Crow Children by Deborah Kalin, The Dagger’s Path by Glenda Larke, and The Dangerous Bride by Lee Kofman.
  • And Then — a brand new adventure

    Figurehead illo by Vicky Pratt from And Then... adventure anthologyClan Destine Press (publishers of my Vampires in the Sunshine State duology) has announced a new adventure — And Then…. The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales, a mammoth two-title set of tales featuring dynamic duos.

    So far, 26 writers have been announced — the preliminary list is below — with stories to 15,000 words: ‘old-fashioned rip-snorting action adventures’.
    My contribution takes place in the same world as Night Blooming, published earlier this year in SQ Magazine. As CDP publisher Lindy Cameron says, ‘ooh what fun’.

    Check out that TOC below: that’s some serious firepower.

    Readers can be part of the adventure, too. The books — more authors are yet to join — are to be crowdfunded through Indiegogo, so you can essentially preorder a copy of these rollicking tales and get other cool stuff besides. Stuff such as other CDP ebooks and paperbacks (lots of ’em), notebooks and pens, and themed critiques on 1500 words (fight scenes, erotica, openings, Ancient Rome and MORE!).

    The figurehead illo, by Vicky Pratt, with this post is from the title page of one of the yarns, ‘Come Now, Traveller’, by Amanda Wrangles. It just gets more interesting, doesn’t it?

    AND THEN… PRELIMINARY CONTRIBUTORS

    Peter M Ball ~ Deadbeats

    Alan Baxter ~ Golden Fortune, Dragon Jade

    Mary Borsellino ~ The Australian Gang

    Lindy Cameron ~ The Medusa Code

    Kat Clay ~ In the Company of Rogues

    Emilie Collyer ~ The Panther’s Paw

    Jack Dann ~ The Talking Sword

    Sarah Evans ~ Plumbing the Depths

    Jason Franks ~ Exli and the Dragon

    James Hopwood ~ The Lost Loot of Lima

    Kelly Gardiner ~ Boots and the Bushranger

    David Greagg & Kerry Greenwood ~ Cruel Sister

    Narrelle M Harris ~ Moran & Cato: Virgin Soil

    Maria Lewis ~ The Bushwalker Butcher

    Sophie Masson ~ The Romanov Opal

    Keith McArdle ~ The Demon’s Cave

    Jason Nahrung ~ The Mermaid Club

    Andrew Nette ~ Save a Last Kiss for Satan

    Amanda Pillar ~ It

    Michael Pryor ~ Cross Purposes

    Dan Rabarts ~ Tipuna Tapu

    Tansy Rayner Roberts ~ Death at the Dragon Circus

    Fin J Ross ~ Genemesis

    Tor Roxburgh ~ The Boudicca Society

    Amanda Wrangles ~ Come Now, Traveller

    Aussie Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror announced

    years best australian fantasy and horror 2014Ticonderoga Publications has announced the line-up of its latest Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror28 stories from 2014, curated again by Talie Helene and Liz Grzyb, to wrap your eyes around and fire your imagination. Or something like that.

    I’m thrilled and giddily surprised to find ‘The Preservation Society’, originally published in the first issue of Dimension6, among the selections. Vampires in Cairns, an exploration into one of the minor characters in my novel Blood and Dust. Hell yes, I’m chuffed.

    There’s some great reading in this volume — I’m particularly pleased to see ‘Shedding Skin‘ by Angie Rega in this line-up, one of those yarns that ticked all my boxes. The collection is due out in late October — OOH, HALLOWEEN! — but can be pre-ordered right now.
     

    Cherry Crow Children: rich pickings

    cherry crow children by deborah kalin
    Cherry Crow Children is the twelfth of the Twelve Planets series published by Twelfth Planet Press, with a thirteenth and final volume to come. This most recent volume, by Deborah Kalin, is well worth the wait.

    Kalin is a fellow Melbourne writer with two fantasy novels and a handful of short fiction to her name; this volume of four stories is a strong addition to her bibliography.

    These stories are of endings, and of secrets, and of quests, each situated in isolated and harsh settings that encourage a certain bloodymindedness and limited vision. To go delving in these locales is to risk much. Discovering can be dangerous, even lethal. Perhaps best not to explore this terrain if one is feeling blue.

    In ‘The Wages of Honey’, a man looks for his cousin in a fractured mountain village; ‘The Briskwater Mare’ has a young woman tied to her fate for the apparent good of a town; ‘The Miseducation of Mara Lys’ tells of clockmakers and the price paid for pursuing their secret workings; and the titular story is one of a forest folk who risk the wilds for a crop of drug flowers.

    Australian women writers challenge 2015The settings are engagingly, succinctly drawn, with customs and seasons and economies adding depth to the worlds as the characters navigate the social currents. One cannot help but rail with Kalin’s protagonists as they are caught in the eddies. The stories draw longer, the worlds deeper and darker; the forest denizens of the eponymous final story are wild and amazing.

    As each story unveils its mysteries, as each protagonist pushes the boundaries and pays the price for their investigation, the assured prose is the measured constant.

    This twelfth of the Twelve is a high point in a consistently high field.

    The Dagger’s Path, by Glenda Larke: the journey continues

    daggers path by glenda larkeThe globe trotting continues in The Dagger’s Path (Orbit, 2015), the second volume of the The Forsaken Lands trilogy by Glenda Larke: a year sails by as our heroes reach the Va-forskaen Lands – a conglomerate of island states, lumped together geopolitically by culturally ignorant colonial powers interested only in the spices and, lately, the magic that they have to offer.

    The witan spy Saker accompanies Sorrel, and the babe in arms for which she cares, Piper, and disgraced Chanderawasi Ardhi on a mission to the spice isles, on board a privateer captained by the dashing Juster. All find themselves under the sway of a magically enforced imperative, embodied in a magical dagger, to return sacred plumes from very special birds.

    But more than their lives are at stake: back in the Va-cherished lands, evil is on the rise, and those righteous few who see its emergence – the pontifact, her lawyer spy and a gifted orphan – will need all the help they can get to prevent it.

    Further muddying the waters are the imperial interests of homicidally pragmatic Mathilda, Ardronese wife of the Lowmian king, the dabbling of the Ardronese heir, Prince Ryce, and the various merchant interests and clandestine forces arraying against the order of things.

    It is, as my sketchy summary suggests, an epic tale, and told through a plethora of viewpoints – a couple rate merely a few scenes here, but where this ploy usually drives me to distraction, they passed relatively smoothly, perhaps because of the recurring nature of the characters in the third person. While the story spans a hemisphere and considerable time, the pace is consistent, thanks to the machinations and discoveries at play, the well-rounded lead characters and, as always with a Larke book, the superb world building.

    The twitcher writer’s avian interests continue to be at the fore as Saker learns more of his power to communicate with and influence birds, while other familiar Larke themes of colonialism, extremism and blind faith continue to anchor the narrative.

    Australian women writers challenge 2015A flash forward at chapter 31, about three quarters of the way through, felt unwarranted given the overall clip of the yarn – there’s a bit of biffo and plenty of intrigue driving this middle book, which ends with cards firmly on the table and relationships overshadowed by the looming battle to keep the corrupt and self-serving Fox out of the big chair.

    Australian Larke has drawn on her life in Malaysia for her depictions of the islands and the descriptions are well spiced.

    Plain sailing, this one, with sails unfurled and gun ports open for the grand finale.

  • The Lascar’s Dagger, the first of the series (reviewed here), recently tied for the best novel Ditmar Award and also won a Tin Duck, and was a finalist for best fantasy novel in the Aurealis Awards.
  • This is my first review as part of the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge.