Publication News

YesGreat news! I’ve officially signed with Satalyte Publishing for my epic fantasy novel, Transcendence of Power: Genesis.

I sat down with Satalyte’s owner, Stephen C. Ormsby, over last weekend’s Conflux convention and exchanged signed contracts. I’ll let you know as soon as a publication date is set.

Satalyte publish some fantastic authors, including Kevin J Anderson, Jack Dann and many more.


Conflux 11 – Are You Attending?

Conflux 11Conflux this year is set to be amazing – four full days of convention goodness designed for writers of all levels of experience.

Karen, Leife and the Committee have done an amazing job of organising events, panels, workshops, and guests, not to mention wrangling a ridiculous number of people to help out on panels, administrative duties, volunteering, and organising specific areas like the dealer’s room.

If you haven’t been to a Conflux convention before, you’re in for a treat.

For my part, I’m sitting on a bunch of panels on the Saturday and one more on the Monday, as well as running two workshops.

About the workshops:

Creating Compelling Characters

This workshop will run at 1pm on Friday 2 October. Come along for an exciting two-hours that will take you well beyond simple character descriptions and backstories.

Here’s what its about:

Readers have certain expectations that go far beyond genre, beginning with characters they want to spend time with.

Creating Compelling Characters will give you the essential hands-on toolkit to ensure your readers care about what happens to your characters, even the ones they hate.

Through practical exercises and group activities you’ll learn how transform ‘boring’ or even ‘interesting’ characters into ‘absolutely compelling’ individuals.

You’ll gain a clear understanding of how to:

  • apply simple techniques to ensure your characters come across as real, riveting, and engaging people
  • exceed reader expectations through drama and conflict
  • draw readers into an intense emotional experience they’ll be desperate to share with their friends.

The workshop will leave with the keys to making your characters resonate with the people who matter the most – your readers – and to keep them thinking about your story long after they’ve read the last word.

Polishing Your Pitch

My second workshop runs on the Saturday at 2.30pm, and is designed to help you get from nervously wondering what to say to an agent or editor, to a polished pitch designed to intrigue and tempt them into asking for your manuscript.

There are some really simple techniques that will help you do this, the most basic being able to concisely and coherently deliver the essentials of what your novel’s about.

This workshop will help you:

  • create an elegant and informative overview of your story
  • get over any nerves
  • ensure you walk away with the best outcome possible – a request to read your manuscript.

You can find all the details and booking information on the Conflux Website.

Volunteer for Conflux

Register for either of my workshops (or any others)

Attend Conflux (includes all workshops and panels etc)

Are you attending? If so, look me up. I’m always ready for a coffee!

Three Great Lies with Vanessa MacLellan

Head and Shoulders shot of Vanessa MacLellanI met Vanessa on G+ and we immediately hit it off thanks to her fantastic sense of humour. In her own words, Vanessa is a tattooed, vegetarian, outdoorsy woman with one head in the clouds and the other firmly settled in her hiking boots.  She’s an environmental engineer by day, author, runner, reader, gamer, and naturalist by night (and weekends). When she told me she had a book coming out, I asked her over for a Q&A.

Q. When did you start writing, and why?

When I was a wee lass I’d make up stories to tell my mother while she was gardening. I think it started there.

My favorite subject was Baggy Piggy, who had a curly Q tail that never ended (I knew this, because I drew him incessantly with pink crayons).

I remember, before I could even write, ‘writing’ (aka doodling) on paper and then reading them to my great grandmother.

Storytelling is in my blood. I guess that’s enough of a reason why, although the fact that I enjoy it doesn’t hurt.

I have little people in my head (doesn’t every author) that want me to explore their worlds, flesh out their personalities and goals and give them something to do.

I can’t take all the credit, it’s partially their fault.

Q. What do you write and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

I write speculative fiction. Mainly fantasy, though I mix horror and magical realism in there.

I write fantasy because fantasy is what first got me excited about reading.

I remember my older sister, Audrey, handing me the first of the Pierce Anthony Xanth novels, and I was astounded at these magical places, characters with magical talents, all of the magical beasts.

Magic. Magic. Magic. I wanted that. To live there. Be special. Be something more than just human.

And I read as much fantasy after that as I could. Tolkien, Eddings, Pratchet, Weiss and Hickman, Duncan. You know the era and the authors.

That’s what fueled me as a young reader. I hope to fuel other readers too.

The joy comes from creation and imagination. Of speculating: What if? and expanding from that.

I am the master of my own universe, what is not to like?

Q. What is your latest book? Any forthcoming books?

My debut novel, Three Great Lies, releases August 6th. It’s fantasy, with historical and literary trappings. It carries a bit of a Finding My Place in Life theme.

Jeannette Walker, a modern scientist, ends up in ancient, mythological Egypt. Though she constantly casts doubt on the existence of such a world, she has to learn to live in it.

While trying to save her mummy friend’s soul from a wicked tomb robbing ring, she realizes a few important things about life.

What those are, well, you’ll have to read the book!

I have one complete manuscript for a dark fantasy I’m currently shopping out, and am working on a modern super hero series. There’s always something I’m working on.

Q. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of Three Great Lies.

Ancient, mythological Egypt.

It never rains. People’s lives aren’t equal. Prayers constantly dance upon lips. Beer is a meal. Sand is a major filler in the bread. Children of gods walk the street with the heads of animals and prophecy on their lips.

To Jeannette it’s, of course, a total shock.

There are people about in public naked and jackals speak.

A mummy—a desiccated, lumbering thing—chases her through the crowded streets, accusing her of stealing his ba!

It’s not necessarily a friendly place, but people are people, and even Jeannette is able to find friends in ways she never expected.

Q. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

Three Great Lies book Cover featuring a person running from something between unseen in a rocky desert envoirnment.Jeannette Walker is my protagonist. She’s mid-twenties, a scientist with a jilted past.

She still holds the hurt from a past betrayal and has learned to trust nobody and nothing.

I love her voice and her mind-chatter. She’s got a good heart that struggles to show through her armor.

Abayomi is the dead man walking, a reanimated mummy who seeks his lost ba container so he can continue on to the afterlife.

He’s a perfect citizen who knows his place in the world and doesn’t seek to unbalance tradition.

Until his friends are endangered, then his loyalty shines like a beacon. True best friend material!

Sanura is the young daughter of Bast, cast out from her litter.

She’s lost and alone and Jeannette saves her—saves her—and she’ll never forget such gifts.

Sanura, like most young people, is soul-searching, trying to found out exactly why she’s been cast away and what her purpose and place is in life.

Her journey is one everyone can connect with. She’s the spirit of the story.

Q. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about Three Great Lies.

A major aspect of the book (the stray dog theme) sprang to life at an agility dog show.

The midsummer day was baking hot and I had parked myself under a tree for the next show.

A Jack Russell Terrier was looking at me, with that intelligent tongue-lolling smile terriers have.

Honestly, the dog was smiling.

And that was the original start of the novel: “The dog was smiling at her.”

It’s since changed, but that line and scene are still in there, the theme planted throughout the novel.

The story just unfolded from that one dog’s smile.

Q. Any challenges with getting Three Great Lies to where it is today?

Three Great Lies has been on a long journey.

In 2008, I wrote my fifth NaNoWriMo novel.

That was Three Great Lies.

It was simply titled “Egypt” back then.  It was a 50,000 word rough draft. Then I added extra plot threads and themes, and it topped out at 140,000 words.

That’s quite an addition!

Then there were years and years of critiquing and editing.

Egyption ArtifactFinally in 2013, I begin seeking representation for Three Great Lies, and it was picked up by Hadley Rille Books (which was the most perfect place for this book to land).

Now for the rough stuff.

As I was due my edits, my publisher had a stroke.  (Though he insists he was abducted by aliens to an alternate universe.)

It was terrible, we weren’t sure if he would make it. The entire press huddled together in worry and anticipation.

I was wavering between feeling devastated for my publisher’s situation and worrying about the state of my book (and feeling so so guilty for that.)

But he did pull through and has worked tirelessly on my novel, by my side every step of the way.

Now, we’re here, and my novel is published!

I think other authors might have pulled their book to seek other representation, but I knew Hadley Rille and my publisher were perfect for my book.

Q. What’s your writing process?

First and foremost, Three Great Lies was a ‘pantser’ book.

I didn’t have an outline. I wrote forward from the smiling dog on guts and intentions. I had this idea of where I wanted to go, with no map on how to get there.

Now, I am an outliner.

I think the process, for me, would have gone so much faster if I’d had a more solid idea of the substance of the story.

As it was, lots and lots and lots of editing and rewriting were necessary to make this book shine.

When I’m in the thick of writing and editing, I try to work on the novel every single day. It keeps my writing sharp and my mind on the storyline.

It keeps me from losing plot threads and missing finer details.

For me, every day is the way (ooh, that even rhymes.)

And another thing I’ve learned: Do not work heavily on writing in the summer.

I like to play outside too much and I feel guilty if I don’t write.

Now, I just hold up my hands and let it all go.

Summer, for me, is play time. No guilt for taking some time off writing. Because, we’re our worst guilt-trippers.

Thanks for reading!

I hope you come by and check out my site and my novel. It was a joy to write and I hope it brings joy to you as well.

About Vanessa:
Vanessa MacLellan was born and raised in the farmlands of eastern Washington, works as an environmental engineer, and is an avid birder, naturalist, gamer, and runner living in Portland, Oregon. Her website is You can also find her on: Twitter, Facebook and Google+. You can find Three Great Lies on Amazon.

It’s time for a new look

Screenshot of this blogWhile the standard look and feel for this blog’s current theme grabbed me when I first saw it, I’m a little over it now.

Actually, I’m a lot over it.

I’m looking for something a little simpler and cleaner.

If you’ve got any suggestions for a nice, easy-to-setup, WordPress theme that doesn’t annoyingly hyphenate words all the time, I’d love to hear it.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments section, or else can contact me via the social media buttons on this page. There’s also a “contact me” item in the drop down menu under “About Me”.


Creating Compelling Novels – ACT Writers Centre Workshop

The ACT Writers Centre LogoI’m going to be giving a full-day workshop at the ACT Writers Centre!

The workshop, called Creating Compelling Novels, is on from 10am–4pm Saturday 25 July.

Here’s the blurb:

“Readers have certain expectations that go far beyond genre. At the very least they expect to be entertained, but entertainment is subjective, even within genre.

Fortunately, there are story elements common across all forms of fiction, such as conflict, theme, and structure. Creating Compelling Novels will teach you to identify and apply these elements and many more so you can meet or exceed expectations.

Through practical exercises and group activities you’ll learn how transform your ideas, characters, and storylines into a cohesive whole, potentially taking your stories well beyond the borders of genre— and all without selling out.

Discover exactly what each part of a novel must accomplish, why so many stories suffer from ‘middle sag syndrome’, and why so many novels fail to be compelling.

You’ll gain a clear understanding of how to:

  • apply story structure without appearing formulaic
  • meet or exceed readers expectations
  • troubleshoot story problems
  • draw readers into an intense emotional experience they’ll be desperate to share with all their friends.

You’ll leave with the keys to making your novel resonate with the people who matter most – agents, editors, and readers.

If you think that sounds like something you’re interested in, get onto the ACT Writers Centre website.

Cost: $125 members, $90 concessional members, $190 non-members (includes 12 months of membership), $140 concessional non-members (includes 12 months of membership)
Venue: E Block Seminar Room, Gorman Arts Centre (formerly ACT Writers Centre workshop room)
Bookings: You can book by phone on 6262 9191, online or at the office. Payment is required at time of booking.

New post on CMS: Translating the Story in Your Head

Translating the Story in Your HeadHey all, I’ve put up an article on my Creative Manuscript Services website: Translating the Story in Your Head.

It’s about making the story on the page worthy of the one you’ve dreamt up.

“When working as a fiction editor I’m sometimes asked by my braver/more enthusiastic clients: Did you like it?

It’s a big question with a lot of emotional baggage.

Its also the only question that really matters to both a writer and a reader.

Being subjective, there’s only one satisfying answer…”

It’s well worth the look, I promise.


The Long and the Short of It

Angeline Trevena
Angeline Trevena

Today I’ve got Angeline Trevena over to talk about her struggles with writing longer works such as novels. Like myself and about half the writing community, Angeline discovers her stories as she writes them. This can be problematic for a whole bunch of reasons, as she’ll explain:

I have written loads of novels. Hundreds of them. Although, you can’t actually buy any of them. Because, well, I never finished them.

My hard drive is a monument to my career as an unsuccessful novelist.

Ever since I realised I wanted to write, I assumed novels would be the result.

That’s what writers do, isn’t it? It’s the obvious, the default. As we’ve already established, that didn’t exactly pan out.

You see, I don’t plot.

I walk straight into a story with little or no idea where I’m going. Which is fine, and fun, and there are many successful novelists that write this way.

But I have an incredibly poor sense of direction. And my characters are unruly, and far braver than me.

And I have tried.

One year as NaNoWriMo approached I decided I would be a plotter.

I watched videos, read books and blog posts, got first-hand advice. I was fully prepared.

I spent a month on my outline, and as October turned to November, I was ready to go. I had my map.

About 15k words in my characters took over again.

By 30k I was following them around like a puppy on a rope.

I concluded that I simply  wasn’t designed for plotting, and duly shelved the book. Another plaque for my monument.

But I still wanted to write. I couldn’t stop.

So I tried a different kind of writing. A kind that embraced the discovery writer, the spontaneous writer, the no-clue-where-this-is-headed writer.

Guest PostI wrote  short stories.

When my first one was published in 2011 I decided that this, clearly, was the kind of writer I was meant to be, and I’ve been a very happy short story writer ever since.

But those novels still nagged at me.

Cutting the Bloodline is my stepping stone.

Coming in at around 21k, it is the longest piece I’ve seen through to completion.

And this one had an outline.

I’d written it back in 2010 as a stage play, so my outline was a little unconventional, consisting of just dialogue and a few stage directions.

The story has changed notably, but this was an outline I could follow, and stick with, and a method I wouldn’t be against using again in the future. Because we all have to find our own way of doing things.

As writers, we’re bombarded with advice.

I spent years in a state of crippling guilt because I didn’t write for several hours every single day.

Because I wrote when I felt like it.

I was led to believe that I would never, ever make it as a writer, that no one would ever take me seriously.

I felt like a failure because I couldn’t turn in detailed chapter-by-chapter outlines. Because I didn’t spend a year doing research, or create detailed character crib-sheets.

It held me back, and stopped me from doing the one thing I loved.

If only I’d known then that every writer’s path is different.

You can take advice, you can try out different things, but if it doesn’t work for you, it’s not right.

And I don’t care who said it, how many awards they’ve won, or if they’re your favourite author.

Their writing journey is not yours.

The Cover Image for Cutting the BloodlineSo beyond being my first solo project, Cutting the Bloodline has been a huge learning curve.

I’ve learnt to code an ebook, to promote it, to utilise my network.

Most importantly though, I’ve learnt that a short story writer with some kind of aversion to plotting can learn to write a novel.

And I’ve got no doubt that if I can do it, you can find your own path too.

Angeline Trevena was born and bred in a rural corner of Devon, but now lives among the breweries and canals of central England. She is a horror and fantasy writer, poet and journalist. Cutting the Bloodline is her debut novella, and she has several short stories published in various anthologies and magazines.
Amazon buy link for Cutting the Bloodline:
Angeline’s website:

The Easiest-Ever Guide To Story Outlining!

Easiest Ever Guide to Story OutliningI have a guest post up on Cholontic – The Easiest-Ever Guide to Story Outlining.

It’s definitely worth a look if you struggle with outlining.

It’s a simple two-step process, each step broken down into easy-to-do parts.!The-EasiestEver-Guide-to-Story-Outlining/c1q8z/551e2ab90cf215f35a384c8e


Things I wish I knew about Author Promotion when I started writing

Everything I wish I knew about Author Promotion when I started writingIt’s really tough getting word out about your creative endeavours, so it’s good to know what works and when to start doing it.

With this problem in mind I asked a group of writers to throw their best tips at me, and they responded with some fantastic advice.

My own tip: Be the kind of person that other people want to be friends with by helping and supporting them whenever you can. (It doesn’t hurt to put the name of your latest book or your website address in your email signature either.)

Here’s some more great tips:

“My biggest one-day bump came from an article a newspaper reporter/recent acquaintance wrote about books featured locally. The second was from doing a reading at high school that then ordered a classroom set of books. Both involved being open to the opportunity. Neither was based on a sale or a paid advertisement. In 20 months as a published writer have seen no appreciable return from sales or paid advertisements!” Robert L. Slater

“Connect with – and support – other authors by commenting on their blogs, hosting them on your blog for releases, Tweeting about their books, etc. People are more willing to help promote authors that they already know and like.” Quanie Miller

“Every now and then try a new author promotion strategy. Ask yourself – Have I done anything new lately to promote my books?” Aditi Chopra

“Promotion also is all about presentation to the right market who is interested in your writing.  Make sure you are targeting the market for success.”  Debra Hargrove

“Promote soft or hardcover editions via a public book signing and leave a copy or two to be discovered in a public place to create a public awareness of your work.” Douglas Moore

“What I learned was that resistance is futile and you need to embrace this part of the process. Sometimes it is even – gasp! – fun.” Janine Donoho

“Think outside the box. That is where the growth occurs and if you don’t grow, you stifle.” Karin Halford

“Be patient. Maintain personal integrity, and hold on to your moral and ethical beliefs.” Armando Almase

“Create a writer’s platform, starting with a blog you own.” Carly Compass

“Social media is a must for any author who wants to earn a steady income from writing. Update your blog(s) and make use of Twitter and Facebook and Google + with a mix of self promotion and reposting other articles of interest. Self promotion alone will lose you followers on social media platforms.” Douglas Moore

“Write, write, write, join a critique group, critique, critique, critique. Then, rewrite what you wrote! [Start with a great book!]” Cholontic (Jen Christopherson)

“An author platform online should encompass many sites. Twitter, an FB page, website optional but definitely a blog, Google Plus, maybe YouTube trailers, Instagram & Pinterest, WattPad, Goodreads, if on Amazon fill out your bio area. Fill that out everywhere and utilize the free online real estate at your disposal. Update your LinkedIn.” Tosca Johnson

“Author promo is separate from book promo. Author promo begins long before you have a book on a shelf, the attention of an agent, or hit ‘upload’ on your first self-pub’d masterpiece. Author promo means standing up in the world, both visceral and virtual, and saying ‘Hello, I’m _ and I’m a writer.’ Author promo means connecting with peers, networking with the writing community, and making sure potential readers know your name long before you have anything other than yourself to promote.” AmyBeth Inverness

“Do what you love.” Joe Machney

“I wish I had known how to do it. I didn’t really promote my first book very much. I wish I had been friends with writers who could point me towards the better sites for helpful hints.  Have an author page on all the major social media sites and keep it up to date with  anything appropriate. They are a great way for people to get to know you as a person and want to buy your books because of it.” Karin Halford

Check out some of the other posts in the “Things I Wish I Knew About” series: Point Of View, Critiquing, Dealing With Rejection, Editing Your Own Work, Short Stories, Creating Characters, Story Development, Worldbuilding and Writing.

CMS Structural Analysis Report giveaway.If you’re looking for a little help with your own writing, head over to Creative Manuscript Services and enter the free Structural Analysis Report giveaway.

Structural Analysis Report – giveaway!

CMS Structural Analysis Report giveaway.Creative Manuscript Services (my editing business) is giving away a free Structural Analysis Report, which is normally valued at $550.

All you need to do is subscribe to the CMS blog and intrigue me with your best one-liner for your book.

If you win, Creative Manuscript Services will produce a structural analysis report for you based on your outline or synopsis.


So get over there and throw your novel’s one-liner at me! I can’t wait to see it!

If you’re not sure what a Structural Analysis Report is, it’s about audience expectations and meeting all the criteria an audience will expect – whether they know it or not.

Please remember though, you’ve got to follow ALL the guidelines on the CMS website – don’t just drop your one-liner here!

Book reviews: Aurora Darwin, Arrived, Haven – A stranger Magic, The Lethal Oath, Light Touch Paper Stand Clear

It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed any books here, so during my week off I picked up my kindle, determined to finish a book I’d started a while back and then take a crack at a few more I’ve downloaded over the last year.

Aurora: Darwin by Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman has been a guest blogger here on a couple of occasions, and her posts are worth looking up if you’ve got the time.

Aurora: Darwin is a slow burn despite a introductory teaser delivering expectations of a fast-paced action thriller.

The story follows the crew of the Aurora and their investigation of a problem on a research station. A good half of the book was devoted to setting up the characters, situation and story world.

I won’t go into details so as to avoid spoilers, but once the crew arrive at the station the squishy brown stuff hits the proverbial spinning air-circulation device and things start going very badly for the Aurora crew.

The character development was strong, the action and underlying politics believable for the most part, and the resolution was solid while leaving plenty more for the sequels.

Overall, three-and-a-half stars out of five.

Arrived by Keion Alexis

I’m not sure how I came across this – most likely a freebie advertised on social media. Written with a lot of enthusiasm but little skill. Rating: a generous one star.

Haven: A Stranger Magic (short story, novella) by D.C. Ackers

Another social media download freebie, Haven: A stranger Magic is a promotion for D.C. Ackers longer works in the same world.

As a story, it’s mostly just an introduction to the characters and world, with a mini-adventure thrown in without any real resolution. Still, it got me interested enough in the characters that if I stumbled across the next one as a freebie, I’d take a look. Rating: two and a half stars – it would have been three if it had been a complete story in itself.

The Lethal Oath (The Viking Series) by John Snow

This is a short story/novella with a lot of promise and fairly solid characters and conflicts, but the author’s style failed to draw me in. I struggled through about half of it, skipping ahead regularly even then, before giving up.

I think the author was more interested in the story world and events than the characters themselves, but there’s lots of potential there. Rating: two-and-a-half stars.

Light Touch Paper Stand Clear – short story anthology

I’ve only gotten through the first four stories so far, but here’s the round-up.

The Bone Chime Song by Joanne Anderton – pretty darn good. A very well written, solid story with strong characters and a gritty world I’d be happy to revisit. Four stars.

Five Ways to Start a War by Sue Bursztynski – kept me reading to the end, though I’d probably have appreciated it more if I’d been a fan of Homer and ancient Gods of Olympus. Not so much of a story in itself as the exploration of a concept. Three stars.

History: Theory and Practice by Dave Luckett – the manipulation of a developing civilization by an advanced society. Essentially a small event set against a bigger backdrop, it’s well-told and drew me in. Felt a little bit like I’d only gotten half the story though, and the rest was in the works. Three stars.

The D____d by Adam Browne – couldn’t get through this one. The concept was wonderfully visual – the exploration and colonisation of the Circles of Hell – but I kept waiting for the story to kick in and eventually gave up on it. Two stars.

That’s it for now. Overall, it was just nice to have the chance to read.

Time to do some writing of my own.


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