Superhero novel

I didn’t actually mention it in the last post, but I’m kinda obsessed with doing a superhero novel.

I’m not sure if it was early this year or late last year, but I read a book called Prepare to Die! which was a superhero novel. It sparked an obsession in me. I immediately went out and bought another superhero novel, titled Ex Heroes, about superheroes in a zombie apocalypse in LA. They shot a lot of zombie celebrities. Then there was Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, which has one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read. Epics are super-powered, but the catch is… they’re the bad guys. Steelheart is what’s known as a High Epic, and apart from a sort of Midas’ Touch that turns things to steel, he’s invincible. And he’s not on humanity’s side. The opening line? “I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.”

As for my own superhero novel, I’m working out the basis, but what I did after reading Prepare to Die! was to create a list of superheroes – or villains (the two are just a matter of perspective) – and their powers, then I left it for a while. Just yesterday I dug into that file, pulled out the ones that stuck out to me, and I’m currently figuring out personalities and day jobs and things. Starting with the powers and working backwards. I don’t know if that’ll be effective or not. But I do know that superheroes mustn’t be JUST their powers – superheroes 101, and one of the first things I learnt about writing them (Tesla Squad are technically superheroes).
One of my favourites so far has been Zero, a super who can control a target’s speed, nullify powers, and control/generate snow and ice. I’m guessing the novel will be called Zero, naturally. So, how’s this for an opening sentence? It’s a bit on the long side, but my hope is that it’s evocative enough that people don’t mind.


Chapter 0


Cold wind bit sharply against the skin of the man who would become known as Zero as he struggled to place one foot in front of the other through the raging arctic blizzard.



20 questions: me edition

1. What books have influenced your life most?

Terry Brooks wrote 5 post-apocalyptic urban fantasy books set before his epic fantasy series… and after his urban fantasy one, thus connecting the two together. THIS is where I got “post-apocalyptic urban fantasy” from. If it weren’t for Armageddon’s Children, I might not have come up with Children of Fire (which is approaching completion, I swear!)

2. What does your writing process look like?

Not a good one. One thing I loved about the library at Uni, apart from the slicker, less-concrete-tomb-like aesthetic, was that the fourth and fifth levels gave me a view out the window from which to write on my laptop. If I could get a seat, that is. I enjoyed that. I would love an apartment with a view, it really helps, but alas I am broke and in no condition to buy one. (When I’m rolling in dough, sure…) So at the moment I’m writing on my main computer, with my foot up on the desk, listening to music. I’ve found that music doesn’t help me write very much. Sometimes, yes, but for the most part I shouldn’t have it on.

Listening to string quartet versions of video game and anime music I’ve found to be a great help for editing my work, though.

A cup or can of Coke Zero is usually nearby or not too far off – that shit’s to me what coffee is to serious writers. I sometimes write drunk, too. I think it was Hemmingway who said to write drunk and edit sober. Being the alcoholic that I am, I’m totally on board with the first half of that. The second half… not so much. But I see the point. I think it was a metaphorical drunkenness, a drunk you should be able to achieve alcohol-free from the act of writing. That’s what I figure he was on about.

3. What book are you reading now?

The latest Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I seriously love how good it’s gotten. I have read a few here and there through the years, but not really been in love with them. Until Ghost Story. Then I went back to Changes, then to Cold Days, and now I’m on Skin Game, and it’s just gotten good. I will have to go back and read them all in order some time.

4. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Jay Posey, I guess. He’s just released what I’m led to believe is his second book, Morningside Fall, and I’ve got to say, Three – his first – was actually quite good. It had rough patches, but most debuts do. The magic doesn’t often work with first books. Three was good, not perfect, but its real magic is that its stuck in my mind and I kinda wish I’d written it.

Paul Tobin, hands down. Holy crap can this guy do superheroes! The bit in Prepare to Die with the teenagers getting drunk and high and talking to sheep was beyond hilarious. I just lost it.

Shane Kuhn, author of Kill Your Boss (a sort of memoir of an assassin) I managed to finish in 24 hours. That NEVER happens to me. So hats off to him.

5. What are your current projects?

Children of Fire fourth draft. This one has a whole B-plot involving goblins, culminating in a confrontation that ties into the A-plot. I’m secretly proud of this.

I’m working on its sequels in bits and bobs. There’ll be four of them, though two might be novellas and packaged together as a duology. COF has some sequel hooks, and I’ve got ideas for book 2, if I don’t use them.

I’m also in the planning stages of…

Silver Shard, an epic fantasy with ‘heroes’ who don’t fit in with their cliché racial expectations. So elves who don’t want to be wizards or druids, dwarves that don’t want to be fighters or clerics, that sort of thing. D&D stuff, but against the clichés.

Ghost Titan, a mecha-vs-kaiju series.

And thinking of doing a sentai series.

Do you see writing as a career?

Writing for yourself won’t pay the bills. Writing for a market means you can. It’s your choice, really. But I think of writing seriously, and getting monetary recompense for my work, is something I’d really, really like. In fact, I kinda Need It. I don’t think it’s in a desperate sense, but there’s something to be said for benefiting of the fruits of your labours.

Plus I’m in love with the rockstar writer image. Only one way to get that way, though: by treating writing as a business, in some respects. But I don’t think you should sacrifice the artistic merits either.

7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I have Asperger’s Syndrome. As such, when my mother was trying to get me into regular school, she fought tooth and nail to get me in. The principal of the state school that I went to (my best Uni friend and fellow writer either went there too, or at least lived in the suburb, as a kid) let me in, four years before it became mandatory. Otherwise I would have gone to special needs school somewhere, which is just a babysitting place. For twelve years. I would never have gotten into University, and I would have had to teach myself writing. My mum got me into proper school (or at least public school) and then tutored me in reading and writing when she learnt that I was having difficulty. And I liked it. And when a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome likes something, they become pretty obsessed with it. I’m obsessed with writing, thanks to my mum.

I’m still Mathlexic though. Nothing will ever cure that for me.

8. Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Patrick Rothfuss, hands down. Partly because the ladies love his work. Mostly just the quality of the writing though. (Even if the Felurian bit in book 2 went on waaaaaaaay too long). That blurb and that prologue deserve an award. And the storytelling within is so good.

9. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Motivation, discipline, you know, normal stumbling blocks for most writers. Except those lucky, wonderful, magical creatures who can pump out a million words a day. I hate those people with a jealousy bordering on madness.

10. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learnt that it takes several drafts over several years to get a first book done. I’m not finished, but it’s creeping closer to NaNoWriMo and I’m confident that this year will be the one. Perseverance will get you through, although it’s a struggle.

Desperately scrabbling to the finish line of the first draft while writing after midnight under the effects of sleeping pills but not actually being able to sleep and trying in vain to make it work out the way you planned it but not being able is a deeply unsettling place to be in, mentally. Having a deadline for a submission helped. But I wasn’t able to leave the project alone, and withdrew it to rework it. I’m glad I did, though. It needed a whole lot more work than the editor interested in it was saying. We were both young and full of wonderment, I guess.

11. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Remember that you won’t just pump out magnum opus after magnum opus the first time, or really ever. But you will get better. And don’t settle for crap.

12. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I’m glad you all think post-apocalyptic urban fantasy sounds like a “pretty bitchin”. Thanks. I can’t wait to get it to you.

13. What book do you wish you had written?

As I stated earlier, Three by Jay Posey. But also The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’d get approximately all the ladies.

14. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Plotter, for the most part, but if inspiration hits, I go with it. I don’t think it happens in a vacuum, either. It’s your subconscious going over what you’ve got and coming up with creative solutions to things that you just know aren’t going right. You’re mowing the grass and realise that dragons will solve everything. Or destroy it in hellfire. Maybe that’s what you want though.

15. If you could cast your characters in the film, theatre or video game adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

There’s this girl in Falling Skies (her character died) who’d make the perfect Sarah. I don’t know the actress’ name. I’d definitely look at that show for some actors. Not really sure who might play whom, male or female, but if I could get Jennifer Lawrence or Emma Watson on board, I’d make approximately all the money, and that would be nice for me.

The guys, I have no idea. But if I ever need a midget, Peter Dinklage will be the first person I call.

I go for the actors in geeky shows first, because they’ll be more enthusiastic about the role and I can get away with paying them less than A-listers. Probably less problematic to deal with, too. But everyone’s different, and I’d certainly allow nobodies to audition. Maybe there’s a legendary Jarred out there who’ll reach the appropriate age just in time.

What I don’t want is 20-somethings playing the teenagers in Ghost Titan. Although, Power Rangers did that, and look at Power Rangers’ lasting cultural impact…

16. What is your least favourite part of the publishing / writing process?

Having to work through the pain and the hell and the not-being-motivated bits. I hate those times – way more than I’m happy with – with a fiery passion, but I can’t seem to pull myself away from Facebook. People with AS are easily seduced by computer screens. There’s needing a break, then there’s wasting all day online.

The waiting is another kind of hell. We all share that experience, so I won’t elaborate on that.

17. What literary character is most like you?

Obviously I’m Harry Dresden, the wise-cracking, badass gentlemanly wizard PI.

18. What do you like drinking the most?

Coke. I’m a junkie. But I’ve switched from regular to Zero, at least. Lost a couple kilos too. The beer ain’t helping my waistline much, though.

I don’t drink coffee. *the record screeches to a halt*

19. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way they sound, or the meaning? And do you have any name choosing resources you’d recommend?

Pretty important. I need there to be at least some pronounce-ability to fantasy names. COF has the benefit of having regular names, though all the characters are straight white Australians with traditional-ish names like David, Adam, Sarah, Rachel, Jessica and Nick, Jarred was probably the most exotic for a while, until Modok. Man, Modok changed everything!

Fantasy names you can make them up (there’s even some decent generators out there that make pronounceable ones, like which is exceptional) and their meanings can be whatever you like. You’re free to do what you wish, but don’t make them twee or stupid or lame.

20. Finally, what is something you want to accomplish before you die?

Get Children of Fire published, obviously. I started it in 2008. It’s about time I finished.

The Truth About Being An Author

Originally posted on WordServe Water Cooler:

cookies-28423_640I know I took the secret oath to never reveal the truth about what it’s really like to be a published author, but I’ve decided I can’t, in good conscience, keep quiet any longer. If you’d rather keep your dreams of authordom intact and unsullied, stop reading NOW.

If you can handle the truth, though, here it is:

  1. You are going to eat a lot of cookies. There is a cosmic law that requires bookstores and libraries to offer this sustenance to authors and their readers. The more people who attend these events, the less you (the author) will have to consume, so be sure to invite every cookie eater you know to your book events. Otherwise, you will have to eat all the cookies yourself so your host won’t feel bad, and then your clothes won’t fit, and you’ll have to buy a new wardrobe (see #6…

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BWF 2014

10696224_10205037203758101_2651631900850047192_nThis weekend I went to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival and, despite the fact that it seems like the festival is steering away from writers and toward more of a cultural/arts festival (there’s women’s solidarity type sessions, cyber safety, video games – although they are classified as art now – and annoyed white, middle-class, middle-aged men declaring no-hashtag zones, for instance (though they were all writers, I think) this year’s festival was a bit different for me. 

Yesterday was my writing group’s panel. What we did was critique each others’ work to an audience. It was a small audience, and an even smaller stage, but most of the people present stayed to the end. Most. A few headed out early. We like to remain positive and figure that they had other engagements within the festival to go to. Instead of, say, being bored. 

There was a bit of a misunderstanding involving numbers. There were about 10 or eleven people doing critiques – all regulars – and four being critiqued. So the festival put out chairs for 4. The rest of the participating group sat in the front row, but that was okay, because they got to come up to the mic and give their critiques (all four of them) and then go back to their seats. It worked out fine, considering the circumstances were not what we expected. But it was a small stage (they typically cap it at four or five guests and a host, I’ve noticed). But it went well. A lot of people stayed till the end.

I appointed myself Official Card Giver-Outer At The Door. The main reason being that I am not a great critiquer by any means and mine wouldn’t really say anything that hadn’t been said. I didn’t want to go up to the mic stand and say “Everything I had to say has already been said, so here I guess”. Six years and I’m still learning how to critique. I suppose it’s true though what they say, about writing and about critiquing – every story is a learning experience all over again. But I need to strengthen my critiquing. One day I should be pretty good at it though. Everything I learnt in Uni has finally begun to settle into my brain properly so that it’s becoming like an extension of myself. Basically, everything I learnt at Uni, I haven’t been able to really apply till now. 

We got to spend an hour in a room called the Green Room. That’s the writers’ VIP room, for those who’ve never heard of it. (We should have brought champagne. One guy had a coffee though, so that’s writerly at least. People pointed out Tara Moss, who I guess is a big deal among women writers of Australia. We had a few non-participating members, like a lady I know from another group and NaNoWriMo, who’s also in Vision, partners, and invitees. Backstage access, yo. It was great. And we got a view of a father-and-son duo wearing Hulk suits Hulk-walking up the stairs across from the building. That was great. This was from the Green Room balcony, so that was nice and thematically-appropriate. We then went out to dinner at the Ship Inn, which I suggested but I’m SURE I said it was a massive walk (all the way on the other side of South Bank) and people agreed anyway. But it was pretty damn nice so that’s alright. And we got to see cosplayers from Comic Con walk by. That was cool. 

Then today I attended a panel on magic in fantasy, and it was magical (natch). It was just what you’d want from four fantasy authors talking about magic. Of course I’ve already seen a podcast of some of the greatest names in today’s fantasy world-wide in a panel on the same topic, but at this one, I got to ask a question. I asked, if magic systems are so scientific and mathematic, how do you keep the ‘magic’ in the magic? (The answer was along the lines of ‘don’t bog the reader down with infodumps’ and ‘less is more’). 

Then I got nervous. See, Good Game’s Hex and Bajo were also here in Brisbane doing a panel on the state of the gaming industry today. I figured that was a cheap way to see them and get their signatures on my copy of Skyrim, but I was also interested in their views on this topic. Jim Sterling of the Escapist is pretty intense (but that’s his shtick) so I wanted a more pleasant person’s views. We got quite some interesting discussion, a lot of which was from the guy from… I think it was Activision, I’m not sure (I missed the first ten minutes because of POOR service at the cafe I bought some chips and a milkshake from, seriously, 20 minutes to get me a fricken milkshake is ridiculous! ONE star!) *Ahem*. He was an artistic guy, and he had some inside experience making games for a AAA company (I finally know what that stands for – or rather, it doesn’t, like I thought it did. It just means basically the same as A++) and well, the industry is pretty rigid right now, as far as AAA titles go. I knew that. It’s a bit of a crisis of identity at the moment, that’s why I’m not really buying games. Plus, it’s fricken expensive in Australia! 

Anyway, while the panel was interesting, the real highlight was that I got to meet Hex and Bajo and got them to sign my Skyrim. I think I made them feel like rockstars (they’re welcome). But then they probably sign a lot of things at EB festivals so yeah. It was cool to meet with them, have a bit of a chat and get the signing done. (I might have been a bit nervous. A combination of shyness, the meeting-celebrities effect (I don’t know if they think themselves celebs, I mean they’re not being photographed in That’s Life magazine, but since I see their faces on my screen every week, I’d call that celebrity) and with Asperger’s Syndrome I get nerves when I meet anyone… and Hex *kinda* being my ‘celebrity’ crush, WELL!) 

So that was a great weekend for me. 

What did you do?

PS: Here’s photographic proof of my game-signing. It’s like book-signing except not. Except kinda. 


Some places where you can get 18 for free

This is a very simple, kinda short post. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Our anthology is now free, and it should be soon on Amazon (if you spam them with all these links in the ‘tell us about a lower price’ (under ‘product details’ in the American site) then it’ll happen even cheaper. The idea is that we give it away for free as a showcase of our talent, for reasons. Simply copy the links and enter them to the form, post ‘0’ as the price (it seems to work as just that, so hopefully you don’t need to write ‘0.00’) and viola. Do that for all of them. Or, if you have a Kobo, a Nook, or any of the others, you can just download it to the device for free. The more people do this, the sooner Amazon will offer it free as price-matching. 


Amazon Reviews also bump us up in the search results, I believe. So please do that when you’re done. 





Nook (Barnes & Noble)



Bellflower – Wasteland? More like wasted potential

Bellflower is a movie about a character who wants to rule the wasteland he hopes will occur when the nukes level the world and gangs rule the resulting wastes. The major problem with this movie, I feel, is that A) it’s boring as shit for over an hour, and B) there’s no actual apocalypse in a movie that’s kinda about one. Except no, it isn’t. It’s a road trip movie. Which is fine, except that part’s not really fun or interesting. Both of these things detract from what I paid to see. (granted, that was only $2 at the video store on Two-Dollar Tuesday, and it was a student film, but still!) The concept is good, but the movie’s shoestring budget shows in the lack of plot movement for the first hour.

I like to think I can do better; I think what it needs to be is a found footage movie, a mockumentary, or just plain faster-paced than it is. I’d write a different movie, of course. Mine would have a plot where an apocalypse happens, for one. Or some kind of local disaster. There’s an altercation or two, and some cheating, and that’s about it. I had to go to the wikipedia page to find that out because dammit, this movie was boring and I expected more of a thriller, what with the opening scene being a guy with a flamethrower and blood on his shirt followed by a close-up of a box of “Milly’s shit”. Big promises, but I couldn’t get to that because I was venting patience and interest by the minute and by the first sex scene I was bored to death. (Though not as bored as The Green Zone. Holy crapballs was that movie BORING. I don’t often have to tape my eyes open so I don’t fall asleep, but Green Zone did make me get up and go do literally anything else because I was bored to the point where I was yawning. This one was almost as boring, but with promises of so much more.)

When I read the words “Apocalyptic wasteland” on a movie’s blurb, I kinda expect an apocalyptic movie, you know? It’s like, they had an idea for a road trip movie, and an idea for a character, but they didn’t know how to milk the drama out of the admittedly good concept. Ah well, shoestring movies. You do the best with what you’ve got, and the audience gets what they pay for.

I just hate how this movie is still in my mind and won’t go away, about a fortnight later. Good job there, at least. 

20 Questions – Anthony Owens

Tony is our resident quiet achiever who has been published in Antipodean SF since I don’t know how long, a while I definitely. Antipodean is Australian. Last I checked that was still a good thing for us Australians. And I guess for the sake of variety and voice and other such Important Matters. 

Without any further ado, here are his 20 questions. 


So, first question: what books have influenced your life the most?


Animal Farm by George Orwell. As a teenager I sat down and read it from cover to cover in one afternoon. It affected my beliefs about fairness and how unjust the world could be, even before I learnt it was a political allegory. That, and it has a killer ending, which I’ve always been a sucker for. Also when I was in high school I read Ray Bradbury’s collection of short stories ‘The Illustrated Man’. I went on a binge then and read everything of his I could find. I liked the combination of romanticism and darkness in his work.


And what book are you reading now?


Sideshow by Lindsay Tanner. It’s about how changes in the media have degraded politics and the democratic process here and overseas. It’s pretty depressing. I think I might go for a nice juicy horror novel next, just to cheer me up.


Are there new authors who have grabbed your interest?


I guess he’s not new now, but David Moody is an English writer who has an interesting take on apocalyptic fiction. I just finished his ‘Hater’ trilogy which is enjoyably nasty.


Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? 


I always come back to Kurt Vonnegut. He’s funny in a bleakly savage way but it’s not totally nihilistic. You get the feeling that deep down he loves humanity, though it’s tempered by despair at how brutal and unthinking we can be. The older I get the more sense he makes. Slaughterhouse Five is a book that I’m forever foisting on young relatives and children of friends when they’re old enough to be impressionable


What published book do you wish you had written?


The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien. It’s a surrealistic nightmare that is also grimly funny. The whole premise is utterly absurd (a man commits a murder and finds himself in a two dimensional police station just down the road from eternity – or something like that). I love that the writer had the courage of his warped convictions and just went for it, but when you get to the end it makes some sort of twisted sense and has its own internal logic. It never found a publisher in the author’s lifetime and he told his friends that he’d thrown the manuscript away, but it sat on his mantelpiece for all to see up until his death.


What literary character is most like you?


Does Daffy Duck count as a literary character?


No. Well….


Do you have anything specific you’d like to say to your readers?


Can you lend me ten dollars til payday?


No. Well…


Do you have any advice for other writers?


Just sit down and do it. Don’t worry about what other people will think of it. And when you’re ready, show it to other people. Then you worry about what other people think.


Do you see writing as a career?

It’d be nice, but I’m not about to give up my day job anytime soon. It’s something I have to do whether it pays or not.


What does your writing process look like?


I always sit down at the same time every night and plug away at whatever takes my fancy. I do 50 minutes writing, then take a 10 minute break. And repeat  until I fall asleep or start talking to the porcelain cats on my desk.


Are you a plotter or a discoverer/pantser?


With short stuff I usually have an idea of the beginning or the ending and just write away until it takes some sort of shape. With books, it’s a combination of the two. I can’t say it’s a very elegant process –  a bit like a pelican on roller-skates.


That image, dude.  

What are your current projects?

I’m working on a piece for Antipodean SF for their 200th issue. Usually they take flash fiction from me and now I’m trying to write a longer story with my usual cast of characters from Hernandez’s Circus of Terror. It’s a challenge because those stories are usually just a hook for a crappy joke or a lunatic idea that would never sustain a longer piece. On the book front I’m hacking away at novel called Febriphobia – sort of Scooby Doo meets General Hospital.


Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I had very encouraging teachers in primary school and I always looked forward to creative writing in class. I used to write little stories in my red notebook and illustrate them. At high school I wrote comic books that I’d circulate amongst my nerdier friends. I think they were pretty derivative of Mad magazine.


What did you learn from writing your first book?


The need to plot effectively so I don’t write myself into a narrative cul-de-sac.

A good thing to know. Unless you’re a discovery writer. Then it’s a bit tricky. 


What was the hardest part of writing that book?


Plotting effectively so I didn’t write myself into a narrative cul-de-sac.



What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?

Editing. For an English teacher, my first drafts are pretty sloppy when it comes to punctuation and spelling. Rejection doesn’t worry me that much anymore. Most of my rejections are pretty civil, although I got one recently that said ‘Neither scary nor funny enough for serious consideration.’ That hurt a bit.



What is your favourite type of alcohol?

A big earthy Barossa shiraz. Failing that, a pint of Guinness.

Huh, thought I had ‘favourite drink’ written down, and therefore it explains why I’ve been getting so many non-alcoholic drinks. That, or everyone’s been changing it on me. That or it was just you who changed it. Bloody ninjas. 


If you could cast whoever you like as your lead character, who would play the part?


Steve Buscemi. In anything. Even the female characters.


I just googled him. Then pictured him in a dress. That’s okay, I didn’t need to sleep tonight anyway. 


How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way they sound, or the meaning? And do you have any name choosing resources you’d recommend?

I usually go to my CD collection and pick names at random, mix them up. I hate thinking of names. One character’s name I pinched from a Marx Brothers’ movie, but usually they’re not that important to me. If I could just give them numbers, that would be ideal.


I use random name generators. I can recommend you a few if you like. 


Finally, what is something you want to accomplish before you die?


Serious answer – to add to the sum total of human happiness.

Flippant answer – to find a cure for death.


Well there we go. Thank you Tony.