Tag Archives: epic fantasy

Confronting the Demon: An Experiment in Self-Publishing

An Experiment in Self-Publishing

You could be forgiven for being surprised that I’m about to self-publish – you might have the impression that I’m against the indie movement. 

You could be forgiven, but you’d also be wrong.

I have been outspoken in the past about self-publishing, but less against the concept of self-publishing, which I think is a fantastic opportunity for talented writers, and more against the execution of the idea. Which is to say, it is a fantastic opportunity for talented writers, but many (though not all) of those writers take short-cuts. Self-publishing is too often perceived as a reason not to do the hard yards, a way to circumvent the long arduous toil that is the pursuit of publishing, while failing to recognise that we learn from the hard knocks.

Nothing makes me cringe more than the biography of an author announcing this is their first book. Not their first published book. Their first book. There are a handful of exceptions – perhaps they’ve been working on it, rewriting and revising for a number of years, or perhaps they’ve written others, but came back to, and revised and polished, their first, for example. But many of them literally mean their first book, and all too often, the first draft of the first book.

Confronting the Demon will be my debut book, but like many of the self-published authors I respect, it’s not my first book. Previous to it I have written eight novel-length stories, and there are excellent reasons none of those have been published – or ever will be without significant rewriting. I’m also not self-publishing it because I’m pissed off with the traditional model for refusing to publish me – in fact, I will still pursue traditional publishing on other projects.

Many of those authors publishing their first book may be talented, but many are also yet to learn their craft. Like we wouldn’t seek medical advice from a first year medical student, or ask a first year law student to defend us in court, all too often those books fall short of the standard set by true professional writers – and I don’t define professional as ‘traditionally published’ here. A professional writer is someone who has gone about the business of writing with a professional attitude, who has done their study (by whatever route – it doesn’t have to mean university or an MFA), who seeks constant improvement, who doesn’t treat it like a hobby, and doesn’t expect the consumer to pay for a sub-standard product.  

So if I was to self-publish, I was determined to do it right. That meant editors, because a story that hasn’t been edited is like an uncut gemstone; it has value, but with a bit of cutting and polishing, it will really shine. Ideally you need three – a content editor, a line editor and a proof-reader. Many writers use the one editor for all three jobs, or at least to content edit and line edit, but it’s difficult for the one person to do all three jobs, or even two of those three jobs, for the same reason it’s difficult for a writer to edit their own work; eventually the editor becomes close enough to your work that they also can’t see their errors.

It also meant a quality cover artist, because let’s face it, readers do judge a book by its cover. It’s the first thing they see, the writer’s first opportunity to hook the reader, and if you miss that chance, all too often you don’t get a second chance.

More than both of those things, though, I needed the rightproject.

For a number of years now, I’ve only had the one book that I considered might be of a sufficient standard to publish, and I wasn’t prepared to commit my one quality work to self-publishing at a time when I was undecided what direction the publishing industry was taking, least of all a 100,000 word book with six sequels. I had too much hard work in it to casually decide its fate – if I was to ever self-publish it, then it would happen after due consideration, and then probably not until I had written the first two sequels. In short, it wasn’t happening any time soon.

Then I wrote a fantasy short story determined to be something more, and my first novella was born.
A novella, to my mind, was a better candidate for a first foray into self-publishing. It’s shorter, so there’s less time invested. A traditional market exists for novella, but not a very big one, so this story had very limited opportunities to be traditionally published. The story is self-contained, so while hopefully my readers will want more, they won’t specifically be waiting for a conclusion to this story – which suits me, since I work full-time, and have two children under three at home. I can only commit to so much.

And so Confronting the Demon began a rather fast, hectic but ultimately short journey to publication. Interested to know more? Here’s the blurb:

The gates to hell are thrown wide when Alloran is betrayed by his best friend, Ladanyon, and framed for forbidden magic. He is pursued by the guards and the wizards both, tormented by the gruesome murder of his friends and loved ones, and crippled by fear for the living. Now Alloran must face his demons, or lose the woman he loves.

Confronting the Demon is due for release in mid- to late-September.

Epic Fantasy Saga, Shadows of the Realm by Dionne Lister, on Sale Jan 8-22!

Shadows of the Realm

Shadows of the Realm is an epic fantasy for teens and adults. Join Bronwyn and Blayke, two young realmists, and their animal companions, as they are forced to leave the only home they’ve ever known to undertake a dangerous journey towards Vellonia, city of the dragons.

The gormons are invading, slipping through the corridors between realms, and they want blood, lots of Talian blood. Will the young realmists learn enough of the Second Realm magic to prevail, or will everything they love be destroyed?

The first book in The Circle of Taliaseries is on sale from the 8th to the 22nd of January for the bargain price of $1.99 on Smashwords and Amazon. Grab it and escape into an original and enchanting world filled with mystery, danger, dragons and adventure; you won’t be sorry!

Dionne Lister is a Sydneysider (for our overseas readers, Sydney, Australia) and she is currently studying an associate degree in creative writing.  When she’s not writing, she’s trying to keep fit or she’s on Twitter. Dionne co-hosts a hilarious podcast called Tweep Nation, which can be found free on iTunes, and Club Fantasci, a speculative fiction online book club. 

You can download Shadows of the Realm free at Amazon and Smashwords

The Way of Shadows – Review by Ciara Ballintyne

The Way of Shadows

 Club Fantasci met last week for its second G+ Hangout and first successful hangout! You can watch myself and co-hosts Dionne Lister and David Lowry discuss The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks here. If you’ve read the book, join us on our Goodreads page – start your own discussion threads or join the ones already going.  

The song I chose for The Way of Shadows is Standing Outside the Fire by Garth Brooks. The song is a metaphor for how life without love is an empty existence. I chose it because this is exactly how Durzo tries to live, and how he teaches Kylar to live, for their own safety – but ultimately, the fire of love draws them like moths to the flame. Despite themselves, they can’t live in that empty, loveless existence.  


Cenaria is not a place you’d like to grow up – but the backstreets, of the worst district, of the most corrupt city in the world, is the place Azoth does. Ruled by a weak, arbitrary king, and effectively run by the Sa’kage, the underworld criminals, Cenaria is rotten to the core, the very epitome of a dog-eat-dog world, and it leaves its mark on many of the characters.

Azoth, orphaned, surviving on the streets in a gang run by a boy who uses rape and cruelty as a means to control other children, is both moulded by his early experiences, and yet defies them. It is the fear and terror of his childhood, the raping of one friend, the deliberate maiming and scarring of another, that drives him to apprentice to Durzo Blint, the best wetboy in the city. The sheer misery and terror of these children’s existence is enough to make a reader want to cry, and this is important, because it’s this background that makes us forgive Azoth’s future as a trained killer. 

Blint refuses to train Azoth unless he can kill the boy who tormented him; the nasty piece of work, or ‘twist’ as is the slang in the book, deserves everything he gets and more, but it isn’t an easy task for Azoth. When he completes his task, if too late to save his friends Jarl and ‘Doll Girl’ from their own torments, Blint takes Azoth in, gives him the name Kylar, and teaches him the black trade of death and all the lessons that go with it. Assassins have targets; wetboys have deaders. A wetboy cannot love. Life has no value. Despite the lessons Blint teaches him, Kylar cannot move past the basic decency that led him to share his meagre food with his street-friends. Though he learns to kill, surely, he cannot always take the actions Blint would take, or urges him to take.  

Durzo Blint is, at first blush, irredeemable, corrupt, cold-hearted. But the author gives us enough clues to know the man is not as cold and callous as he’d like us to believe, but rather only desperate to ensure everyone doesbelieve he is cold and callous. Bitter experience has taught him love is weakness; if you love someone, they can be used against you, hurt to make you comply. It’s not that Blint doesn’t care; it’s that he dare not let anyone knowhe cares, and most especially not his enemies. 

These two are supported by a host of other characters; Momma K, the retired whore pulling the strings of the city; Count Drake, an example to Kylar that one can turn away from the darkness; Elene, Kylar’s childhood friend ‘Doll Girl’; Logan, the impeccably ethical heir to Duke Gyre; the duke himself; the king, and his family; the prophet, Dorian Ursuul, and his friends, desperate to divert an horrific future; and the God-King Garoth Ursuul, architect of that future. 

Of them, Elene and Logan are two least affected by the corruption in Cenaria, but while I admire and like Logan, Elene annoys me. Logan always tries to do the right thing, but doesn’t necessarily expect others to live by his code. Elene, who knows she has been saved from a life of prostitution, poverty and cruelty only by Kylar’s sacrifices, presumes to judge him for the deeds he has committed in making those sacrifices. Where Logan comes across as a pillar of morality, Elene appears only self-righteous and judgemental, and expecting all to live according to the word of her One God. It is hypocrisy to be simultaneously grateful for the life one has, and judge another for the acts committed to give one that life.  

The events of the book centre around six magical artefacts called ka’kari, made to fix people who would otherwise be brilliant mages, but who are ‘broken’ and have no way to access their power. As a side effect, the ka’kari also grant immortality. The God-King wants one to extend his rule into eternity; Durzo, blackmailed by the God-King who takes his lover, and later his daughter, hunts one to try and save their lives; Kylar inadvertently calls one to himself because he is broken, but would give it to Durzo if he could. Everyone seems to want it, and no one can get their hands on it, and the price is paid in blood by many.

And so, Durzo and Kylar, loving each other like father and son, are driven against each other. Durzo must take the ka’kari to save his daughter, but doing so means the death of Kylar. Kylar would give it to him if he could, but he can’t, and he must stop Durzo’s end-game or watch his best friend, Logan, die.

Which is the better wetboy? Can either bring themselves to kill the other? What are the secrets Durzo hides, about himself, about Kylar? What is the secret of the ka’kari? What is the conflict between Momma K and Durzo? Plots within plots weave about plots, intrigue within intrigue. Keeping up with all the schemes, who is on whose side, who is betrayer or betrayed, will keep you on your toes and turning the pages. 

Though the book is not perfectly written (it is a debut novel), the story is compelling enough, the characters likeable enough, despite all their flaws, and undeniably real enough, to immerse you in the story and have you hanging on to know what happens next. 

The emotional importance of Kylar’s and Blint’s relationship and affection for each other could have been cranked up a notch to add to the conflict, but admittedly that’s difficult to do when both are trained killers who conceal their emotions. Nevertheless, a must-read fantasy book, especially if you like assassins!

Reviews by all my co-hosts are available on the Club Fantasci website – follow the links to read reviews by Dionne and David

October’s Book of the Month is The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. The book is in print, but so old you’ll likely have to order it online as you’ll have trouble finding it on the shelf. The copy I’ve stolen… ahem, borrowed, from my Dad is a hardback, so it’s like to be damn near as old as I am! 

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The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing

I was tagged by author Goran Zidar to do the Next Best Thing Challenge. I don’t often participate in memes, but occasionally, very occasionally, I’ll be interested enough to join in. This, I think, is my first for the year – and it’s already August! When, pray tell, did that happen?
Here’s how it works:
  • Answer the 10 questions below
  • Spread the fun and tag other writers to participate.
1. What is the title of your book / WIP?

Deathhawk’s Betrayal.

It’s about – you guessed it – betrayal. Lots of it. ‘Deathhawk’ comes from the diminutive ‘little hawk’ applied to the protagonist by her enemy. More than that, and I’ll spoil something. 

2. Where did the idea for this book come from?

Oh, boy, complicated! Way back in the 90s I had an idea for a story that evolved into a trilogy. I’d written the first two books when I had it assessed and the feedback was I’d used the wrong POV character! It was suggested I switch from Kain to the woman, Silair. But – but – but! I wailed. It’s not herstory. I couldn’t bear the idea of rewriting from her perspective, though once drawn to my attention I agreed with the problem. I resolved to find another solution, but recognising I was too close to the story, I set it aside and began something else.

That something else wasn’t Deathhawk’s Betrayal.

A few years after that, I wanted to start a new story. I landed on the character, Astarl, from the original story, and whom the editor said was ‘interesting enough in her own right to have her own story’. So I wrote one.

And thatis Deathhawk’s Betrayal.

In the process, I solved my original POV character problem, too!

3. What genre would your book fall under?

Adult High/Epic Fantasy

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Aargh, what? I have no idea. Just hold on a minute while I think about it, OK?

Astarl – Emilia Clarke – she’s got the right kind of deceptive fragility to her appearance.

Aldenon – Dominic Rains – something of the darkly exotic handsomeness I allude to him.

Jeharv – Alan Rickman – totally got the voice for it, and can pull off sinister.

Danek – Jeremy Renner – I can see him pulling off Danek’s unique brand of evil-behind-bland.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

When everyone she loves betrays her, Astarl must decide the cost of her loyalty.

6. Is your book published or represented?

Nope – I’m still finishing final edits, then I’ll start querying. 

7. How long did it take you to write it?

Yikes, how do you define write? Here’s the timeline:
  • Wrote 1stdraft – Feb 2009 – April 2009
  • Second draft – May 2009 – Sept 2009
  • Critique group – Sept 2009 – Feb 2010
  • Hiatus – Feb 2010 – April 2011
  • Further four drafts – April 2011 – Nov 2011
  • Rewrote Chapter 1 – Jan 2012
  • Beta readers – Feb 2012 – July 2012
  • Final revisions – July 2012 – ongoing. 
 8. What other books in your genre would you compare it to?

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. Astarl is a bit like Vi – except damaged in different ways. Neither of them would handle the same situation in the same way. 

9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?

No one inspired me to write this book, specifically, but my inspirations are Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, Terry Pratchett, Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks. 

What inspired me to write this book was what I perceived as a lack of satisfying strong female characters in the genre.

10. Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in your book.

Anything? Hmm… I follow Terry Goodkind’s lead in doing absolutely terrible things to my characters, and then forcing them to rise to the occasion. The Black Moment is pretty terrible. Honestly, I couldn’t really think of a way to make it worse. But don’t worry, things do get better!

Oh, and I had to research how to kill a man with one blow to write this story. 

Although neither of those might pique your interest, depending. 

You’ve been tagged to join in the fun:

If you missed it, check out my guest post on POV Rules and when it’s OK to break them here

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

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And I Thought We Were Getting Along So Well

Recently I discovered someone was blocking me on Twitter. Hardly an uncommon occurrence, one that happens all the time to most of us I expect, and one that rarely bothers me.

In this case, though, it was someone I ‘knew’ reasonably well, and I thought we got along reasonably well.

A few weeks earlier I’d even commented on their blog, and received a rather cryptic reply which included ‘I know we’ve had our differences in the past…’. That had me scratching my head because I wasn’t aware we’d had our differences in the past!

I let it go, but when I found out said person had also blocked me on Twitter, I just had to know why.
I’m not going to name this person because this isn’t a rant against them, and I still like and respect them, irrespective of whatever misunderstanding has occurred – rather, you could call this another rant against miscommunication.

So I asked a mutual friend if she knew the gory details of our ‘falling out’, because I certainly didn’t! As I expected, she did. Apparently, I had maligned flash fiction.

More head scratching.

‘I don’t recall ever saying anything bad about flash fiction,’ I said. And I’m pretty good at remembering the things I malign because, well, it’s usually deliberate. I have strong opinions, and I voice them. It’s not really in my character to forget those opinions. And I certainly don’t even have a strong opinion about flash fiction, beyond the fact I suck at it.

Vague niggle. Unless… ‘The only thing I can think I might have said is that flash fiction isn’t a story, it’s a blurb.’

‘That’s it exactly,’ my friend said.

‘But… that’s a commentary on my own inability to write it, not a derogatory comment about flash fiction.’

Which it is. I write epic and high fantasy, which is nearly always multiple, heavy tomes. In the space of flash fiction, I’m only just beginning to warm up. Sure, brevity is a good thing, but the skill-sets required to write flash fiction and the multiple, subtle plot-lines of epic fantasy are very different. I’ve tried my hand at flash fiction, and the outcome was pretty much – don’t bother. But I have a great deal of admiration for people who can write flash, for the very fact I can’t. I don’t much enjoy reading it, as it doesn’t occupy me long enough, but that does not prevent me from admiring the skill with which it is crafted.

What do you mean that’s not what flash fiction is…?
My friend assured me she’d had a long discussion arguing my defence with this person, raising all those points, to no avail.

Obviously the end outcome was blocking me.

Which all seemed a little silly to me. A simple private discussion with me may well have completely cleared the matter, and it hardly seems a blocking offence.

The funny thing (or not so funny, really) is a friend and I stopped talking for two years because of a similar misunderstanding. We both assumedwe knew what the other meant, didn’t ask, and after 15 years of friendship, nearly lost that friendship.

So I guess there’s a few things to take out of this:
  • I generally leave people in no doubt as to what I think about the things I disapprove of. If I am really going to whale on something, I won’t make one ambiguous comment about it. I do not stint in my disapproval. If I really disapprove of something, it’ll rate on this blog. You’ll notice there’s no flash fiction rant…
  • For heaven’s sake, if you’re not sure what I meant, or you think I was unfair in something I said, ask. I’m not all that unreasonable and I don’t bite. OK, I don’t bite most of the time and then usually only when the recipient deserves it.
Remember, miscommunication is the root of all evil.

If you missed it, check out my discussion of Discovery Writers in the context of A Memory of Light.

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