Category Archives: Writing Groups

Dynamic Duo run National SF Con (Conflux 9)and have new books out…

I have been featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) but this has morphed into interesting people in the speculative fiction world. Today I’ve invited the Dynamic Duo, Donna Hanson and Nicole Murphy who are co-chairs of the Australian National SF Convention, Conflux 9 and who both happen to have a book coming out this year. They are proof that you can be creative and successful, and give back to your community.

 

Donna and Nicole

Donna and Nicole

Q: Both of you have work and families, you are part of a writing group (the Canberra SF Guild and part of Fantasy Writers on Retreat), you’re published and you both have books coming out this year (more later), on top of all this, you put your hands up to be co-chairs of Conflux 9. Tell me honestly, when you came home from that meeting and told your significant others that you’d volunteered to run the Nat Con, what did they say? (From the photo it looks like you might have had one glass to many).

Donna

Well that photo on the website was my birthday shot ( a High Tea)  so I’m not sure we’d dived into the champers at that time. We think we’re insane and I think our partners know it. Matthew (Farrer) my partner has this wide-eyed stare every time we talk Conflux 9. The worried frown sort of says-‘she’s going to rope me in?’ And just last weekend I did too, do a couple of panels. It’s the power of the inevitable. However, this is definitely my last con.

 

Nicole

I dreaded telling my husband, Tim, cause he really didn’t like the time it took from me when I chaired Conflux 4. But the fact that a) it was with Donna, so the workload wouldn’t be as bad and b) I love doing this meant he was fine with it. However, we’re both swearing that this will be the last time we organise a con and hoping our partners will keep us to that. Not that that means it’s the last thing we’ll do for the community. We have ideas. One that keeps popping up in particular (you know what I mean, Donna).

 

Donna

Nicole do not go there. Do not pass go and do not collect $200. Think of the work involved. You’re insane.

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Q: Not only are you doing all of the above, but Nicole, you’re teaching Year of the Novel with the QLD Writing Centre and the ACT Writers Centre, and Donna you are doing a Masters in Creative Writing, and a course in Millinery (hat making). Is there a point where you think, I can’t take on one more thing? Or is your philosophy, the more I take on the stimulating life is and it’s just as well I’m really good at juggling?

 

Donna

I have my limits. Like if I sold a trilogy I’d probably have massive brain melt. But that’s not going to happen in the next 3 months. I’d like it but you know gee a girl can only do so much. Ironically, I do find the more I have on the more productive I get. RSI stymies me a little. I guess it’s a matter of stacking. Conflux is over at the end of April. Things are hotting up now with Conflux so I ease off on the writing. The Masters starts soon, but I’m taking all of April off to get the Conflux thing done and uni if needs me. Millinery if the course goes ahead (they need a minimum number) will be my time out. I have arthritis in the neck and one day I’m not going to be a happy camper so I do have this philosophy of doing as much as I can now rather than waiting until I retire or something. And to ease the pressure in my writing gears and cogs, I wrote two novels in the last half of 2012 and I just have to polish them and send them out this year. The pressure to write has eased a bit.

 

Nicole

There is no doubt in my mind that I am quite, quite mad. However, there’s nothing that annoys me more than being bored, and this year there’s little chance of that happening! The two Year of the Novel courses were important to me because I love teaching and helping people – I get as much satisfaction from seeing friends and those I’m mentored and taught succeed as I do from my own success. More, even, cause I don’t have to deal with the worry and fretting and constant fear of bad sales figures J And as Donna said Conflux is over is just over three months (eep, eep, eep!) and I’m going easy on myself on the writing front in order to keep things under control. That said – I’ve got two books coming out between now and then, one of which I’m editing and publishing, so… Back to the comment about being mad.

Marc Gascoigne

Marc Gascoigne

Q: You’ve been involved in running other Confluxes and other events like the World SF Con 2010. How did you get involved in running events? Was it overwhelming the first time? I know Conflux 9 is running a pitching opportunity with Marc Gascoigne from Angry Robot. Nalo Hopkins is the International writer GOH, Karen Miller is the Australian GOH writer and Kaaron Warren is the Special Guest writer, (see here for details), so you get to meet cool writers and editors. Are there other benefits to running a Con and is it something you’d recommend to people wanting to become writers? (For information on the pitching opportunity see here).

 

Nalo Hopkins (Photo David Findlay, 2007)

Nalo Hopkins (Photo David Findlay, 2007)

Donna

Nicole will tell you I roped her in. I’ll blame Maxine McArthur because I’d never heard of SF cons (well I had been to a Star Trek convention and knew about those but not fan run lit cons). I ended up being the Chair of Conflux (number 1) but I was just helping out on the committee (cough because Maxine gave me strong hints that I should) and then I ended up being the chair. I did the next one and then scaled down my activities to focus on writing.

I did make a lot of contacts and made many friends as a result. In those early days I was very enthusiastic and networked a lot and I guess brought in other writers to the fan scene. The rest is history. For that first con though I had 10 months off work and I didn’t write much either. I think I did other things like edit anthologies.

I do recommend getting involved with organising these conventions and helping out. It’s a good experience and you make great contacts. However, I do recommend a little balancing between your activities. I got invited to help out with worldcon because I got noticed doing the Conflux convention running. It can be addictive. Worldcons are great fun (going to them and being involved).

 

Karen Miller (Photo Mary CT Webber)

Karen Miller (Photo Mary CT Webber)

Kaaron Warren

Kaaron Warren

 

 

 

Nicole

Yes, it’s all Donna’s fault. She asked me to run the short story competition at the first Conflux. I wasn’t totally happy with my work on that, so I decided to work on the next convention to prove I could do it. And then the next convention. And then I chaired one. And then. And then…

And now, thanks to Conflux, I work full-time as a professional conference organiser. So yeah, I love them.

I’m not sure I’d recommend it to other writers, because it is very time consuming. That said, if you’re not good at networking (like me, I’m atrocious at it, unlike Donna who is an absolute marvel at it), then getting involved in convention organising is a great idea because you have to meet and interact with these people. I’ve not doubt that my work with Conflux helped me get my foot in the door with Harper Collins. Didn’t get me published – it was the fact the company loved the books that did that, but it helped.

So balance it up – the time it takes versus the fact it can be very beneficial. And fun. And you get to meet the coolest people, and often they’ll stay friends for a long time after.

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Q: Donna your book Rayessa the Space Pirate is available from Escape Publishing. You edited the Australian Speculative Fiction: Genre Overview, which was published in 2005. You’ve had a lot of short stories published which range from fantasy, through erotic horror, to SF (is this right?), yet Rayessa the Space Pirate is a rollicking Space Opera, which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Was it a relief to let your hair down and write for the fun of it?

AustralianSpeculativeFiction

Donna

I had fun writing Rayessa and the Space Pirates. I wrote it a long time ago, when I was a fairly new writer. Even though it’s been revised, I stayed true to the character during those rewrites. She’s fun, the story is fun. But when you take in my other work, it is surely different and not what you’d expect from me. I’m very proud of it because of its lightness, its vibrancy and like you said rollicking space opera.

Many of my short stories are me flexing my writing muscles. I evolved from just writing a story to experimenting with styles and content. I do tend to go a bit dark at times. ‘Heat’ was a bit like that with the split narrative (it’s in my free fiction section on my blog-warning adult content) and in the last couple of years I’d been writing short paranormal too, just to see if I could. I’m a bit astounded that I really like writing happy ever afters just as much as the soul sucking endings. I write what is in my head, pursue ideas and go with it. Who knows what I’m going to do next.

3 books.axd

Q: Nicole you’ve had numerous short stories published, and an Urban Fantasy trilogy set in Australia called The Gadda (Harper Collins). The tag-line on your blog is: Where Fantasy and Romance Collide. So your next book’s genre is a step sideway, but not that far. Arranged to Love is written under your pseudonym, Elizabeth Dunk. (For a taste of Elizabeth Dunk’s writing style see here, Claudine’s New Adventure). What was the genesis of Nicole the fantasy writer evolving  to include Elizabeth the romance writer?

claudine-clrsml

Nicole

It all started way back when I was originally writing the first lot of Gadda books. I’d been thinking I was a straight fantasy/SF writer, but I had one of those blinding moments of inspiration where I realised I kept putting romance in as a sub-plot and I’d probably be better off pulling it to the forefront. That was the genesis of writing the Gadda books and when they were done, I kept having ideas for contemporary romances as well.

In 2011 I was at home, writing full-time, and I needed to do something apart from the Gadda books to challenge myself. So yes, I took a step sideways – a small one, but definitely still a step. My aim was to write a Mills and Boon category style romance. The only way Arranged to Love matches that is in length – otherwise it fails. But it’s a great story and it had a checkered road to publication but I’m so happy it’s there.

I’d always intended to use a pseudonym, but to be open about it because some people read only genre, some people read an author. So there will be people who will read anything I publish and there will be romance readers who won’t touch the Gadda books with a barge pole and vice versa. Here’s hoping it works.

 

donna-corset

Q: I understand there is a Steampunk High Tea is planned for Conflux 9 on the Thursday afternoon at 3pm.  (For the full program, see here). I’m guessing this mean we all get to dress up in really cool steampunk gear, sip tea and nibble cucumber sandwiches. Do you have any fashion advice for the event?

 

Donna

I think people should go with that they feel comfortable with. I’m dressing up because: hey I made a dress so I must wear it. But people can come with a bow tie, or goggles or a gun or just in day clothes. I bought Matthew a Nerf Gun. I expect him to paint it and make it look all steampunky. My son gave me a steampunk necklace for Christmas. I’m almost kitted up.

It’s a bit of fun. People can do traditional Victorian or make it up with whatever they like. I’ve seen men and women in corsets, kilts, junk, jodhpurs and google, top hats, parasols. Any and all. Just come for the fun and the high tea. I believe we get lovely sparkling wine too. Try googling steampunk clothing and you’ll be amazed at what is out there. Mind bogglingly awesome. There are some very talented and creative people out there. Just remember you have to book and pay for the high tea as it is an extra event.

 

Nicole

Can I just add – cucumber sandwiches are awesome! Honestly, you read about them and think, how old fashioned, how silly, making sandwiches with cucumber only, what a strange thing to do. But they’re great. I prefer them with a yoghurt dressing, rather than cream cheese. Take note, Rydges!

JAFA2013-small

Q: You are also staging a Regency Banquet. Does this involved getting dressed up like Elizabeth and Mr Darcy? What can people expect at a Regency banquet?

 

Donna

Yes, if you want. We ran a Regency Banquet a few years ago and we had a great turn out. A lot of people love the period and went all out. Some had period costumes, some people adapted modern wear to make it look period, some of those were very effective.

The menu for the banquet is taken from the Conflux cookbook, Five Historical Feasts, by Gillian Polack. We are re-running that. The menu was researched and put together by Gillian, who is our very own historian (she’s a Dr), with the help of a bunch of us who tested and tasted the recipes. The food was really good to eat. Not good for my waistline.

This year to spice things up we have entertainment from Earthly Delights. They are the group that run the Jane Austen Festival in Canberra the week before Conflux. (they always get TV coverage of the event). John Gardiner, his wife Aylwen Gardiner-Garden will be organising the impromptu dancing and also music. John has agreed to do a 3 hour workshop on Regency Dance and Manners on the Friday. I’m so going to that. ($45 for members) and Aylwen is bringing items of costume to do a hands on workshop on costume design ($10 for members), so we are getting into the Regency thing. I hope we get takers because the dance workshop needs 16 people to work.

 

Lewis Morely and Marilyn Pride Conflux 5 (Photo Cat Sparks)

Lewis Morely and Marilyn Pride Conflux 5 (Photo Cat Sparks)

Nicole

The original Regency banquet was run during my conference, Conflux 4 and I may be biased, but I think it was the best of the lot. Everyone really went all out with the costuming and the whole place looked wonderful. The food was overwhelming – there was very little desert eaten because it was so rich we were already full. A fabulous night.

Note that while we’ve cut a lot of allergens out of the menu (eg there’s no fish/shellfish, no nuts), there’s one thing we can’t avoid – dairy. The Regency folks were nuts for it. And butter, so forget your diet! But if you’re lactose intolerant, there’s so little food available for you that you’ve got to seriously consider if it’s worth your while.

 

Donna Hanson, Cat Sparks, Alisa Krasnostein  Conflux 4 (Photo by Cat Sparks)

Donna Hanson, Cat Sparks, Alisa Krasnostein, Conflux 5 (Photo by Cat Sparks)

 

Q: Do you have any tips for first time convention goers who are planning to come to Conflux 9? (For membership information see here)

Donna

Be prepared to meet people, have fun, be entertained, learn things, network (drink). Be prepared to be thoroughly knackered. Come to our Meet the newbie session in the bar after the steampunk high tea. You’ll get to meet seasoned con goers to find out how to make the best of your convention.

 

Adam Browne and Keith Stevenson (Photo Claire McKenna)

Adam Browne and Keith Stevenson (Photo Claire McKenna)

Nicole

Don’t be afraid to approach your favourite writer. One of the great things about our industry is that we’ve all been in the same boat – having to greet our hero for the first time. A lot of the time, we made complete and utter fools of ourselves but we’ve always survived. Australia’s SF industry is wonderfully supportive, encouraging and fabulous and generally we only bite if asked to.

If you’re coming as a writer, intending to network with editors, agents and publishers – be cool about it. For professionals, conventions are part work, part fun and hanging with friends. So be aware of the circumstances and if you are going to approach them for a chat about your work, be polite and understand if they ask you to come back another time.

And whatever you do – don’t do what some shmuck did to poor Stephen King at a convention and chase a writer/editor/agent/publisher into the toilet with your manuscript and fling it under the door to them!

That said, a lot of us are very bribable. I drink red wine :-)

 

 

Rowena thanks for the interview. You’ve done heaps of research. It is much appreciated.

 

Donna Hanson

Donna Hanson

Catch up with Donna on GoodReads

Donna’s blog

Follow Donna on Twitter  @DonnaMHanson

 

 

 

 

Nicole Murphy

Nicole Murphy

Catch up with Nicole on GoodReads

Nicole’s Blog

Catch up with Nicole on Facebook

Follow Nicole on Twitter  @nicole_r_murphy  

 

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Filed under Australian Artists, Australian Writers, Conferences and Conventions, Conventions, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fandom, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Indy Press, Pitching your book, Promoting your Book, Publishing Industry, SF Books, Specialist Bookshops, Steampunk, The Writing Fraternity, Tips for Developing Artists, Tips for Developing Writers, Workshop/s, Writing craft, Writing Groups

This one’s for Nat…

For much of Supanova it was really busy and the crowds were so thick you couldn’t hear what people were saying. But there were a couple of quiet patches where I managed to chat to people and several were aspiring writers. I promised Nat I would do a post about writing groups and resources for writers, so here it is.

If you’re based in Queensland, it is well worthwhile joining the Queensland Writers Centre. They offer a broad range of workshops including Year of the Novel (where you write a book in a year under the guidance of a published author who mentors you) and Year of the Edit (where you edit the book you wrote the previous year, again with the guidance of a published author).

QWC have paired with Hachette for the QWC/Hachette manuscript Development Program (closed for this year, but it is good to have a goal for next year).  ‘Now in its fifth year, The QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program aims to uncover and develop new emerging Australian writers. This is a fantastic opportunity for emerging fiction and non-fiction writers to work with editors from Hachette Australia and develop high-quality manuscripts. Up to ten emerging writers will work with editors from Hachette Australia, and other industry professionals, to develop their manuscript and learn about the industry over the course of four intensive days.’

If you are writing Spec Fic, I’d recommend joining a writing group who love the genre as much as you do. There is the Vision Writers Group, which meets in Brisbane on the first of the month at the State Library. They also have an on-line discussion list.

There is my own writing group, ROR, where I post about opportunities for aspiring writers like this one: Pitching your book at Conflux (the national Sf convention).

There are also non-genre specific opportunities like the Text Fiction Prize. This is for writers of Children’s books and Young Adult books.

And there is a whole list of useful posts on the craft of writing and the writing industry here.

If you persevere long enough, you’ll learn the craft and write some wonderful stories. Writing is one of those rare past times, which are their own reward.

 

 

 

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Back from Brisbane Supanova

Well, I’m back from Supanova and I’ve almost had a chance to catch my breath after working all day.

So many wonderful costumes, so many enthusiastic genre fans. Here we are in Artist’s Alley: Joe Abercrombie, Alison Goodman who had just launched her new book with ClanDestine Press, and Lindy Cameron her publisher and me.

Kudos to the hardworking team at Supanova. It is amazing how busy it gets, how long the queues are, how much noise there is and yet no one has a meltdown. In fact you see grown-ups jumping up and down in excitement.

I caught up with so many readers. A special Hi goes out to Meghan, who started a book club and got all her friends to read my King Rolen’s Kin trilogy. Thank you!

 

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ROR … Recovering

Here I am, back from the 2012 ROR (See here for more info on the ROR writers group). This year we went to Steeles Island. Lovely spot, great premises.

Here's the view up the estury

The view up the estuary

This was an intense week. We read 5 manuscripts beforehand and wrote reports then spent a morning, or an afternoon, on each ms. It reminded me why I love writing – sitting around, getting excited with my fellow writers about plotting, foreshadowing, characterisation, blending back story and of course … talking about the industry.

The room where it all happened.

I had a bit of a problem with the room. The ceiling was at an angle, the chimney fireplace ran at two different angles and then there were the horizontals and the verticals… the angle of one of the chimney sides was at war with all the other angles in the room. It got so I couldn’t look in that direction. The others thought this was hilarious, but it really bothered me. Confession … writers can be a little neurotic. (I can’t find a photo of the wall in question that shows the ceiling and the chimney. You will have to take my word for it).

You can see the energy level from this pic of Tansy and Richard

The guys did a brilliant job of critiquing all the manuscripts. I’m not allowed to say much about the books because we don’t want to jinx them.

Margo being insightful

(Marianne and Trent couldn’t make this ROR due to work commitments and where they were up to in their current manuscripts).

Maxine attended virtually by skype and this worked surprisingly well. Her book is on its second draft and it was really interesting to see how she had incorporated the feedback from the last ROR. (Come on Maxine – get that book finished. I’m dying to read the ending!). Richard put in his usual quirky polished manuscript.

Dirk provided us with amazing cooking while giving excellent insights into our books. Somehow he managed to pull enough of a manuscript together despite life getting in the way, for us to get swept away by his project. Tansy has a follow up to her highly successful novella bubbling in the writing pot. Margo brought a new project along that was in a raw state deliberately to sound us out. This was really interesting and we had a terrific time brain storming.  The guys were great with my book. They helped me realise the difference between book one of a new trilogy and book four of a series. Obvious once you say it, but really hard to see when you are neck deep in manuscript.

That's me enjoying the brilliant banter of the RORees

On the Thursday evening we drove into Hobart for the launch of Tansy’s Reign of Beasts and Margo’s Sea Hearts. (More on the launch). This was held at the Hobart Bookshop in Salamanca Square. Waves to Chris and Janet!  (Here’s Margo being interviewed about Sea Hearts. The original novella won a World Best Fantasy Award). Book one of Tansy’s Creature Court trilogy won the Aurealis Award for fantasy.

There was a terrific turn out for the launch. I want to thank some of the ROR blog followers and the Twitter Team for turning up to wave the flag.

This is me kissing my DH at the launch

And while all this was going on I spent every spare moment chained to my lap top madly working on the rewrites for Solaris. Serious Brain Overload!!!

So, to help me and everyone else calm down, here are some photos from Steeles Island.

The steps down to the beach in the early morning light

Tansy's partner and their youngest on the tidal sands

Sunshine on sea a Wild Tassie Beach

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For the Goth Girl I met on the Train

Saw you reading Robin Hobb and we both looked quizzical at something the train driver said. So I said, Hi.

So glad I did.Turns out you’re doing Creative Writing at UQ.

I mentioned the Vision Writers Group. Here’s the link. And there’s a list of useful writing craft posts here.

Best of luck with your writing!

 

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Friends doing well!

Over on the ROR blog I’ve done a post about the Aurealis Awards. These are the Australian equivalent to the Nebulas or the Hugos (I forget which one is judged by a panel of peers).  Several members of my writing group are on the short list in different sections.

This is us at the Maleny ROR. Dirk, Richard, Maxine, Me, Tansy, Trent (Marianne was sick and Margo had deadlines).

Why join a writing group? Here’s why Marianne and I started ROR. I can honestly say, the RORees have been like an extended family. Publishing is a tough business. We authors write because we love it, but there are times when you just need to talk to someone else who knows where you’re coming from.

We meet every year or so to critique our works-in-progress (WIPs). Having a group of people all look over your manuscript is great. If four out of five people say X needs changing, then you can be sure it does. Our crits are never destructive, always constructive because we want our friends’ books to be the best they can possibly be. And the ROR team have had some success. (See here).

If you’ve like to start your own critique group like ROR I’ve done a couple of posts on the topic. ROR 101 and Critiquing 101.

So there we are. Kuds to to my fellow RORees for making it into the final lists of the Aurealis Awards and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for them on Saturday night!

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Squee for writing friend

Trent Jamieson, one of the last romantics and all-round-nice-guy has the cover for his new trilogy. It’s real, it’s up on Amazon!

This book is a particularly thrilling for me because Trent has been part of my writing group for ages and I’ve seen this book develop over various rewrites. In fact, I remember dropping him at the ferry after one of our critique meetings and telling him, this premise is so inventive and interesting, I just know it is going to sell.

So, YAY for Trent!

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Filed under Australian Writers, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Promoting Friend's Books, Steampunk, The Writing Fraternity, Writing Groups

The Gender Divide

I belong to a writing group called ROR. (For background on the group, see here). Every year or so we get together to review out manuscripts and give feedback. There are 8 of us, but numbers vary depending on our families, work, deadlines etc.

There are five females and three males in ROR, it just happened that way, but this year there’ll be even numbers at the ROR retreat.

Although I don’t think of it as a ‘reatreat’ I think of it as a writing craft feast. Spending time with other people who are just as obssessed about the craft of writing as me, is heaven. I love dissecting story.

There is no point denying it, mens and women’s brains work differently. (Architect’s and trucker driver’s brains also work differently).  I have four sons, I know their brains are wired differently from mine. As a writer I don’t write for a male or female reader specifically. But I like to know that I can appeal to both genders and this is where having feedback from both genders helps. So I’m looking forward to the ROR feedback this year. (Not that I don’t always look forward to ROR).

As a writer I don’t limit myself to writing from a female View Point, I have male View Point characters, too.  One of the things I like to do is run a chunk of male VP text through the Gender Genie, to see if the genie can pick the gender of the character.

They say boys won’t read a book if the narrator is a female character. I can’t say that this bothered my sons. And I must admit that I don’t mind if the View Point character is male or female, as long as they are interesting.

I’ve deliberately written short stories where I don’t specify the gender and let the reader make up their mind.

What do you think? Does the gender of the View Point character influence how you relate to the character?

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Dark Urban Fantasy of Another Flavour

Just when you thought you’d seen all the permutations you possible could in the Dark Urban Fantasy genre along comes something fresh.

Power and Majesty by Tansy Rayner Roberts.

Of course I am biased. I read Tansy’s book in draft form before it was published as part of a ROR writers retreat. And I’ve been hanging out for the next instalment ever since.

She takes the decadence and frivolity of Ancient Rome, combines it with the Roaring Twenties, Sky Battles and Seriously Sexy Shape-shifters. Impossible you say?

See here for a taste.

But don’t listen to me. See here and here for what the reviewers are saying.

And if that doesn’t convince you, go here for a podcast reading.

And the best thing is that we RORees are on a countdown for another ROR right before World Con in September,  so I get to read book two of the Creature Court!

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Lovers of Dark Urban Fantasy …

For those of you who like Dark Urban Fantasy, here is a review of Trent Jamieson’s book. Death Most Definite. They say:

‘The fascinating central premise of Death as a corporate interest is handled in a serious and frighteningly credible manner, allowing for some engrossing and inventive world-building on the author’s part; the twist-laden plot belts along at breathtaking pace from page one (‘unputdownable’ is a fair description)’

Naturally, I’m delighted with this. I got to read Trent’s book in the final draft at ROR in March 2009 when we stayed in Maleny. Lots of delicious cooking, thanks to Dirk Flinthart, lots of wine and lots of talk about the craft of writing, while analysing my friends’ wonderful books. What could be better?

And here is the bookplate I designed for Trent. Look out for book one of his Death Works trilogy in the bookstores in August.

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