Not the Worst of Sins podcast at Tales to Terrify

My Ditmar Award-nominated story, Not the Worst of Sins, from Beneath Ceaseless Skies Magazine, is up at one of my favourite podcasts, Tales To Terrify. I’m so pleased to have a story there.

Lawrence Santoro, the original host of Tales To Terrify, read the story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and wrote to me asking if he could have it narrated for his podcast. Of course, I said yes!

It’s so very sad that Larry died so unexpectedly. It makes this appearance of my story a bittersweet thing. But Stephen Kilpatrick has done a great narration for it, which makes me happy. It starts at 57.30, after the Lights Out documentary piece. Go listen! And subscribe to Tales to Terrify while you’re there. It really is one of the best fiction podcasts on the web.

Here it is:


I’m signing BOUND in Melbourne this Friday.

I’m just quickly reposting this for the times and places. Love to see you there.

It’s a bit of a shame that we couldn’t organise an actual launch event in Melbourne for Bound, but I will be in town soon and it would be great to see anyone who can make it. I’ll be signing books in Dymocks, Melbourne from 11.30am on Friday September 26th and then I’ll be heading around to Robinson’s at Melbourne Emporium to sign from 12.30pm onwards. After that, it would be nice to grab a late lunch somewhere and I’ll be in town all afternoon if anyone is keen to catch up.

So come along if you can make it. If you already have Bound, bring it to be signed. If you don’t have it, come and get one. And whether you have your own copy or not, come along and get a few signed copies as Christmas presents. Can you imagine being that far ahead on your Xmas shopping with such a cool gift? It’s okay, I’m an ideas guy – you can thank me later.

Look forward to seeing people there. And please spread the word for anyone around the Melbourne CBD on Fridays.


Conflux in less than 2 weeks, 3rd to 6th October, includes Canberra BOUND launch

Conflux, the annual Canberra SFF convention, is happening again in less than two weeks. It’s over the weekend of Friday 3rd to Monday 6th October. It’s always a great con and I haven’t missed one in years. I’ll only be able to make the Saturday and Sunday this year, sadly, but it’s going to be great, and it includes the official Canberra/ACT launch of Bound, once again MCd by the wonderful Margo Lanagan. You can come to the launch even if you’re not a member of Conflux or attending anything else over the weekend, so if you’re in Canberra on Saturday, October 4th at 5.30pm, please come along!

Here’s my schedule:

2pm Saturday: Our panel discusses good plotting for good gaming! Forest Room 3.  Panellists: Alan Baxter, Matthew Farrer, Aidan Doyle, and Rik Lagarto.

5.30pm Saturday: Conflux Registration area. MCd by Margo Lanagan. If you already have Bound, feel free to bring it along to be signed. You can come to the launch even if you’re not a member of Conflux or attending anything else, so if you’re in Canberra on Saturday, October 4th, please come along!

3.30pm Sunday: Promotion has become increasingly important in today’s publishing industry. Authors in a variety of genres face unique challenges in promoting product especially with the digital landscape of today. Our panel reviews different approaches: working with publicists vs. doing it yourself and methods of promotion (conferences, book launches, book clubs, social media, awards, blogs, events, and other avenues). Forest Room 2. Panellists: Alan Baxter, Phill Berrie (Moderator), Kat Clay and Ingrid Jonach.

5.30pm Sunday:
This century has seen new ways of “doing” book business, from the major publishing house to small and indie press, from print to ebooks. Small press and independent titles are attracting both award and review attention. Panellists have experience with a range of publishing strategies and share their insights. Forest Room 2.  Panellists:  Alan Baxter, Jack Dann, Alisa Krasnostein and Aimee Lindorff.

I’ll be shooting out in between panels to visit a few bookshops and do some ninja signings, but otherwise, of course, you’ll find me in the bar.

Hope to see you there! All the details about attending are here.


So you’re going to pitch your book – a guide.

It seems that lately there have been more opportunities than ever before for writers to pitch their as-yet-unpublished manuscript to industry professionals. At writers conventions, festivals and so on, more agents, editors and publishers are making themselves available to hear about your magnum opus. It really is a superb opportunity and these things usually get booked out. But man, I’ve heard some horror stories! It’s a hell of a thing, trying to sell yourself and your work with nerves making your guts into an ice storm. So I thought I’d ask a few key people in the industry for some tips to help you formulate your pitch should you get the chance.

Firstly, I’ll throw a tip or two of my own at you, then we’re going to hear from a small press publisher, a literary agent and a big press editor.

My tips are simple: Know what your book is about so you can formulate a killer elevator pitch. This is so named because it’s based on the premise that you meet a publisher in an elevator and have a few seconds before they reach their floor to sell them on the idea of your book. Here’s the elevator pitch for BOUND, as an example:

Underground cage fighter, Alex Caine, is drawn into a world he didn’t know existed – a world he wishes he’d never found. The harder he tries to get out, the deeper he’s dragged in. It’s magic, monsters, mayhem and martial arts in a fast-paced dark urban fantasy thriller.

After that, my suggestions are to have good ideas for explaining further what your book is about, what it’s like and who might enjoy it. Know your target market. Then have confidence in your work and yourself without acting like a dick. Remember, these folks taking pitches are just regular human people like yourself and they want to find good books. They’re not looking for an excuse to shut you down.

So, let’s hear from some of them directly.

Tehani Wesley is owner/editor at small press outfit Fablecroft Publishing. But don’t let small press fool you, I’m sure this publisher is going places. She’s going to be taking pitches for the first time at Conflux in Canberra in October. Here’s what she had to say:

What do you look for in a pitch?
A confident presentation with a tight synopsis that doesn’t tease me with the story – if I’m going to publish the book, I need to know where it goes, spoilers aren’t an issue! And don’t underestimate the value of a polished manuscript. I also need to see that the author has an understanding that the manuscript is not the end product – and neither is publication. There is a lot more to a successful book than great writing (much as we might wish it otherwise), and I need to work with someone who is willing and able to help drive the book beyond publication.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
I want to see authors passionate about their work – both the manuscript they are discussing, and their passion for writing in general. It’s really hard to work with writers who are negative about their own skill, their work, the life of being a writer, or publishing in general.


Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services is an agent of exemplary power and skill (and I don’t only say that because she’s my agent!) Alex really knows this business, so listen hard.

What do you look for in a pitch?
I’m looking for full length genre fiction only for YA and adults, so SF/F, horror, crime & mystery and romance. Within that though, I’m pretty open to all comers. I’m also looking for a polished manuscript – so it is good to hear that an author has gone through multiple drafts and not only just typed “the end”. I also want to hear that the author has more manuscripts on the go and that they see this as an ongoing career for them and do not just have the one manuscript.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
Don’t panic! The person you are pitching to is there to hear your story and, maybe, see if you have a spark of connection. We do not mind if you read your pitch or just chat to us, it really all comes down to your story, and we don’t read that until later anyway.

Saying that, be prepared. Have an idea of what your book is about and how to articulate that within 3 minutes. To be safe, you should try to have three versions of a synopsis – one sentence, one paragraph and one page, so no matter how much or little time you have with your pitch person, you have something ready to go.

Do your research on the person you are pitching to. For example, there’s no point pitching me your memoir when I’m only after genre fiction. One of the best pitches was when the author rocked up with a coffee for me. I was a big fan of that author. At the same time, the most important thing is that I love the manuscript.

What’s the most common mistake pitchers make?
Panicking! So many authors are incredibly nervous about pitching their manuscripts. This isn’t a mistake, but is unnecessary.

Be careful pitching a manuscript that isn’t ready yet. On the one hand, we probably won’t mind and you might like the practice and building your contacts, but some publishers might feel you’re wasting their time to pitch if it isn’t finished and polished.

Was there ever one particular pitch that just blew your mind? (Not personal details, just generalities.)
Pitches that have a really tight premise that ticks my boxes and make me sit up and take notice. One of the best pitches I ever had was from author J.T Clay. She pitched her zom-rom-com – zombie comedy romance, and it was smart, funny and I just loved the premise. The manuscript absolutely matched the quality of her pitch, and I was desperate to sign her up as one of my authors. That novel is now published with Momentum as The Single Girl’s Guide To the Zombie Apocalypse, and it’s like an Australian Shaun of the Dead with lots of zombie in jokes.


Rochelle Fernandez is the Associate Publisher of Voyager, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of HarperCollins, and Impulse, the digital imprint. She has been an editor for ten years, across fiction and non-fiction and tweets at @roch_town. You can often find her in a bookstore or at a Rabbitohs game. Here’s what she says about pitching:

What do you look for?
In a submission, I look for good writing first and foremost. An original concept is great, and so is an unoriginal concept told in an original way or written in a compelling way. I look for strong, interesting characters – characters people can empathise with, characters that are not caricatures — a too-good hero is just as boring as an all-bad hero.

In a pitcher, I look for someone who knows the benefits of their story. I look for someone who is confident that they have written the best story possible and can articulate what is so great about it. I look for someone who knows who their book is for, who has thought about the type of person who would like to read their story (often writers write for themselves, and that’s fine, but if you want to be published, then someone else must want to read it too!)

I look for whether it fits with what Voyager publishes. I look for whether this sort of story is popular.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
Don’t be nervous! Or if you are nervous, try to hide it. You believe in your story, now make me believe in it too!

Don’t get bogged down by trying to tell the whole plot to me – a few lines about the general gist will suffice.

Think carefully about comparisons – tell me who your work resembles but tell me why it resembles that. Pick accurate comparisons, not just ones you knew sold well or were made into a movie.

Hone your elevator pitch! A snappy line that will stick in my head is a great way to get me hooked into your story.

Don’t expect an immediate answer – it usually takes me about 2 months (sometimes longer!) to get to read a submission.

Tell me if you’ve self-published or submitted to another publisher or been published before.

Tell me what spurred you on to write the book.

Tell me a little bit about yourself too – where you work, what your writing influences are etc.

Describe to me the person who you imagine will buy your story – your target market. Tell me where they shop, what they eat for breakfast, what else they read. The more detail the better!

What’s the most common mistake pitchers make?
Use up all their time telling me the intricacies of the plot instead of condensing it into a few sentences to get me hooked.

Being too nervous and shy and self deprecating. If you don’t believe in your book, why should anyone else?

Was there ever one particular pitch that just blew your mind? (Not personal details, just generalities.)
One was a completely original concept that was such a great storyline I was just blown away. However … I am still waiting for the manuscript! Perhaps that should be a tip – make sure you are ready to supply the manuscript if I like your pitch.

One was really solid – a good concept, well thought out and nicely delivered. There was nothing really stand out about it, but I knew the book was going to be good by the amount of thought the pitcher had put into it.


So there you have it. That’s some seriously good advice from some stellar industry professionals. I hope you find it useful and it helps you to hone your pitch should you get that sweet opportunity. Good luck!


Why do there have to be dragons? – Guest post from Donna Maree Hanson

Canberra writer, Donna Maree Hanson, has a new book out. It’s called Shatterwing (which is a sweet title, if you ask me) and is the first in her Dragon Wine series. As you can probably tell, it’s fantasy and has dragons in it. It’s actually a dark fantasy, and here I have Donna talking about just why there are dragons in it. Take it away, Donna.

IMG_0916I’ve recently had the first book in my series, Dragon Wine, published. The first book is Shatterwing (Sept 14) and the second book Skywatcher (Oct 14) out with Momentum books. As you can tell from the series name, there are dragons in the story and it’s a dark, epic fantasy set on a secondary world called Margra.

I’ve not been particularly fond of dragons in the past. I’ve not read a lot of fiction with dragons. So I ask myself why does there have to be dragons in the Dragon Wine series.

I go back to the beginning. I was working on my small vineyard, checking the grapes, spraying them with sulphur (as you do) and slowly the opening scenes came about. The scene where there are grapes and dung and the odour of sulphur and dragons riding the thermals overhead. Salinda was tending the vines as I was, but in her case it was a prison and the wine had magical properties and the vines were growing in dragon dung, an excellent fertiliser.

Dragons were naturally a part of the world of Margra that I didn’t think twice about it. However, just last night I was talking about the dragons and I really couldn’t answer the question: ‘why dragons?’ ? I didn’t put the dragons in there on purpose, they were just there. I throw up my hands. You get it don’t you?

I know some readers love them and others hate them. I can’t win there. To me they are just part of the landscape, the world and the situation that I didn’t give them a second thought.

This probably gives you a hint about the world building. I didn’t sit down and plan it all out. It evolved with the writing process and with time. That’s what I love about this series, the rich history, the post-apocalyptic trauma to the landscape, the people and even the heavens. The dragons came there when the world split and answering the mystery of why, where and how will be something to be explored during the course of the series.

That is the fun part of writing for me. Getting in there and exploring the world, imagining new histories and backstories and puzzling out the future.

Also, the dragons are physically large and threatening and have a power of their own. I imagine that they think of us humans as transient things, a sort of food, a mild annoyance and not very interesting. I believe they have a very strong connection to the planet, but who knows.

Lastly, who doesn’t like big monsters??? Come on.

dragon_wine_1Dragon Wine Book 1 : Shatterwing is available from all major ebook retailers or direct from the publisher.

Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

The most precious of these resources is dragon wine a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

More info here: