Part 4 of: A Conversation with Nicole Murphy, author of the Dream of Asarlai Trilogy.

Nicole Murphy – Photo by Cat Sparks
You edited the anthology The Outcast: An Anthology of Exiles and Strangers. Can you tell us about the experience and if you would jump into an editing role again if the opportunity came up?

I would love to edit again – I’ve got plans, but it just requires time and money. But I will definitely edit again.

Working on The Outcast was fabulous. 

I really do get as much joy from other people’s achievements as I do from my own, and it was fabulous to get the opportunity to work with other people to help them polish their stories.

Some of those stories went through a lot of work – Rowena Cory Daniells and I passed her story back and forth several times in order to nail the ending and it really did work. Others, such as Kaaron Warren’s award nominated ‘Woman Train’ didn’t require any touch-up at all. I will never forget the moment I first read that story – it was EVERYTHING that I wanted for the anthology. I was so pleased that other people loved it as well.

I was really pleased with the anthology. One of the things I loved most was that every time someone posted a review or listed their favourite stories, it was a different list. I loved that I seemed to have found something for everyone. And I loved that it was gender balanced, and that there was a range of cultures represented and that it got to look at lots of different ideas of the term ‘outcast’. It’s not a perfect anthology – I doubt anyone’s first book of ANYTHING is perfect – but I’m still proud to stand up and say it’s mine.

Working on The Outcast coincided with me editing my one and only edition of Andromeda Spaceways as well – Issue 25. The fun with that one was getting the second Red Priest story from Dirk Flinthart – I’d worked on the first story as an assistant editor with Edwina Harvey and was so happy to publish the second. 

The entire experience really did help me in my own writing – learning to break story down and work on it. 

Even if you don’t want to edit, I’d really recommend getting into critiquing other people’s work. It trains your brain to consider things objectively and so you’re then better able to edit your own work.

Part 3 of: A Conversation with Nicole Murphy, author of the Dream of Asarlai Trilogy.

Nicole Murphy – Photo by Cat Sparks

Did you have your own personal ‘darkest hour’ in the process of getting your novels written and published (for example, a moment you thought it would never happen), and how did you get through it to achieve success?

Oh boy, did I 🙂 It started around 2005/2006 – I’d not sold any short stories for a while, the novels were get knockbacks and I had started to get into editing, which I loved. I also moved from part-time to full-time journalism. 
All these things said to me that maybe writing fiction wasn’t what I was meant to do. Journalism was relatively fun and easy. Editing was fun and I loved working with writers and helping them get their best work across. Maybe this was where my energies lay.

But the dream of having my own book wouldn’t go away. I’d first decided I wanted to be a writer when I was 11 years old and despite the years of not really trying, it was a part of me. The move back to writing actually started when Cat Sparks posted a blog on regrets, mulling over it all as she worked her way into a new decade alive. 
It fired me up – I was a year and a half away from turning 40, and I thought I’d hate to reach that milestone and have regrets. So I made a list of things I wanted to do before I turned 40 and started working on it. 
With the idea of no regrets on my mind, I had a sudden realisation that I needed to re-focus on my dream of being a published novellist. I had a vision of myself on my deathbed and I just knew that I’d be devastated if I got to that point and thought ‘Maybe if I’d tried harder…’ 

The rest is described in my answer to the previous question. I look back on that time now and I don’t regret it. I learned a lot from my time editing and being a journalist (and editing is something I hope to get back to) and it made me the writer I am today. 

The important thing is to recognise what you dream is, and then do what you can to make it happen. Recognise that it might not – my aim was just to give it all I had, so that at the end I couldn’t blame myself for not being published. 
So give it all you got, and know that that in itself is an incredible achievement.

Part 2 of: A Conversation with Nicole Murphy, author of the Dream of Asarlai Trilogy.

Nicole Murphy – Photo by Cat Sparks

Breaking in – can you talk about your experience of breaking into the publishing industry and how you sold the Dream of Asarlai trilogy to HarperCollins? 

At the end of 2007, I came to a realisation that if I was ever going to live a happy life, then I needed to give my dream of being published everything I had. 

So I re-arranged my life, went to work part-time at a local supermarket and picked the project I was going to work on. 

I chose my fantasy romance novel because it not only was one I enjoyed working on, but it was also the one I considered most commercially viable out of all my projects.

I started working on it in earnest in February 2008 and by November, it was ready for submission. For reasons that to this day I don’t understand, I decided to submit myself and not get an agent. I targeted three markets – America, Australia and electronic (note – nowadays you’d be fighting an up hill battle to get a major publisher to sign you if you’ve sold erights elsewhere – take note). 

America I submitted to Baen (which you can do without needing and agent, but it takes a long time for them to get back) and then I forgot about it. Electronically, I chose three or four romance-based epublishers (romance has REALLY embraced electronic publishing, more than speculative fiction) and started subbing there.

In Australia, I started with Allen and Unwin, who were running the Friday Pitch. Every Friday, you could submit a completed manuscript and it would be considered. I didn’t think I’d get picked up by them (A&U are known for a more literary style than I write) but I wanted to get my first rejection out of the way quickly. It was a good rejection – not for us but one of the better manuscripts we’ve seen.

That encouraged me to keep going. Next was Orbit – I knew they were chasing Australian authors for the global imprint. The response I got from them was not for us – but they’d passed it to their romance department as well. They too passed on it but still I was encouraged – books don’t get passed around a publisher unless the first editor sees something in it. Orbit’s thought – too much romance for them.

At the same time, I got my second electronic rejection and it said – too much fantasy. I was confused – which was right? In the end, I decided to back my own thoughts and I submitted a query to Stephanie Smith at HarperVoyager.

Stephanie said she’d see the manuscript, so I sent it to her. By now it was May, 2009. I saw Stephanie at the Natcon in Adelaide in June and she told me that she had it, but it would probably take her a while to read it. So I went on with other things and didn’t pay no mind to what was happening with my novel.

A month later, Stephanie emailed me saying she loved the book. That was a Friday. I spent the weekend doing up the trilogy synopsis (I’d only sent her the first book synopsis with the query) and sent that to her. Thursday, she contacted me saying they would take it to acquisitions and checking on possible publication dates. Friday, she called to talk me through the whole process. The following Tuesday, HarperCollins decided to buy the trilogy.

It happened RIDICULOUSLY quickly. Honestly, it doesn’t normally happen this fast. There’s lots of people out there that can tell you they waited months, even years from when the manuscript was submitted until it was purchased. Six weeks doesn’t happen.

The publishing happened fast too. That was all July 2009. Secret Ones (the first book) came out July 2010, Power Unbound in January 2011 and Rogue Gadda hits the shelves July 1. Fast, fast, fast. 

Part 1 of: A Conversation with Nicole Murphy, author of the Dream of Asarlai Trilogy.

Nicole Murphy – Photo by Cat Sparks

You have a new book coming out – Rogue Gadda, the third book in the Dream of Asarlai trilogy. Can you talk about the moment you realised you had a full-blown trilogy on your hands?

Originally, it was written as a series because the focus was on the romance.

In the romance genre, it’s quite common to see series with the same world, and recurring characters but a new couple to focus on in each book. No continuing storyline.

The moment I developed the world, and saw how interesting it was, I knew I wanted to write more than one book.

Then I put the first book (called Love in Control, later to become Secret Ones) through the CSFG novel crit group, and I’m pretty sure it was Gillian Polack who suggested an overarching storyline to bring the three of them together.

The idea really struck me, and so I developed Asarlai and her simple but bold plan to announce the gadda to humanity so they could take their rightful place as rulers of planet earth.

It meant a whole lotta rewriting and adjusting to the storyline, but by the third book it knit together really naturally and ended up making it all mega-fun.

The Dream of Asarlai trilogy: Asarlai believes the secret existence of the gadda is holding them back, and she’s stolen the Forbidden Texts to change that. It’s up to the six guardians of the gadda to stop her.

Book one, Secret Ones: Maggie Shaunessy revels in being a trouble-maker, while Lucas Valeroso is determined to put his bad past behind him. When they meet and sparks fly, both have to reconcile their past in order to move forward in new roles they never dreamed they would have.

Book two, Power Unbound: Ione Gorton’s happy being a rare gadda with no power, while Stephen O’Malley is obsessed with becoming one of the most powerful gadda ever. However, Asarlai’s plans are ramping up and both of them find their lives irrevocably changed thanks to Asarlai’s actions. Can they help each other through it?

Book three, Rogue Gadda: Hampton Rourke is struggling with the responsibilities of being Sabhamir, the protector of the gadda. When he meets Charlotte Haraldson, who hates everything and everyone gadda, he has to find a way to make her his in order to find Asarlai and end her dastardly plans once and for all.

About Nicole:

Nicole Murphy has been a primary school teacher, bookstore owner, journalist and checkout chick.

She grew up reading Tolkien, Lewis and Le Guin; spent her twenties discovering Quick, Lindsey and Deveraux, and lives her love of science fiction and fantasy through her involvement with the Conflux science fiction conventions.

Her urban fantasy trilogy, Dream of Asarlai, is published in Australia/NZ by HarperVoyager. She lives with her husband in Queanbeyan, NSW.

To find more information about Nicole and her books, visit her website or blog.

Ghost Town: Morganville Vampires Book 9

Cover Image: Ghost TownI read Rachel Caine’s Ghost Town: Book Nine in the Morganville Vampires series, shortly after reading book six – I’m still not sure how I missed books seven and eight.

Nothing really happened in between that I couldn’t easily pick up though – or after reading book nine, feel I needed to go back for.

The only thing to note was that Ada, the computer/brain that controlled the town’s portals and made people forget about vampires when they left town, had died or otherwise been ‘put down’.

That, of course, gave rise to the main plot of Ghost Town. With no machine to wipe memories, Morganville’s vampires have an exposure problem – and following an accident, Clare (something of a science prodigy) is forced to build them a new machine.

Ghost Town is a ‘problem of the week’ story and plays on the status quo of the town: vampires in control, humans doing their best not to get eaten or otherwise killed, and Clare and her friends in the middle of the latest crisis to beset the town.

That means the Reset Button is well and truly at play in the world of Morganville.

If you’re unfamiliar with the dreaded reset button – it means that by the end, things pretty much go back to how they were at the start. This shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve read the series up to this point.

After nine books however, it’s starting to feel tired. The premise is that the machine Clare builds to replace Ada gets some wires crossed and begins making people inside the town forget the last three years – some even go crazy.

That creates a big problem for Clare – she wasn’t in town three years ago, so people don’t remember her, particularly the vampires she works for.

That makes it difficult (and dangerous) to convince them the machine’s broken, or that she’s the only one who can fix it.

Soon enough, Clare is neck deep in it and struggling to survive. Considering the number of books in the series, you shouldn’t have to guess how it turns out. Still, Rachel Caine does know how to keep you cheering for the good guys.

While Ghost Town didn’t draw me in as much as the earlier books, it’s still decent, and certainly a cut above many of the other ‘vampire chick lit’ books around.

The first six are highly recommended.

You can see an interview with Rachel Caine here on

Novel Writing Group

The first Tuesday of every month I attend the CSFG Novel Writing Group. We had a good time discussing our current projects and where they were at, and then moved onto the subject of structure.

Following on from that we watched the Tim Minear DVD: Breaking the Story, which is all about how to develop a story based around the characters and the emotional impact you need to generate to keep people interested in your story.

Bitten – Kelley Armstrong

The cover of the book Bitten by Kelley Armstrong A friend knows I like werewolves, and recommended Bitten to me.

Funny thing is, while I like werewolves, I’m not much of a ‘traditional werewolf’ fan – the kind of werewolf that goes nuts on a full moon and usually ends up dead (Wolfman, anyone?).

Thankfully, Bitten doesn’t fall into formula.

This isn’t a Twilight version of a werewolf story either. This is an ‘in your face’, get kicked where it hurts kind of novel.


The story begins with Elena Michaels, the only female werewolf (genetics mean the werewolf gene doesn’t pass to female offspring – instead, she’s one of the rare survivors of a werewolf bite), doing her best to live a normal life with her human boyfriend, away from ‘the Pack’.

Nevermind that her boyfriend doesn’t have a clue about her true nature, or that the Pack are the authority in the werewolf world – she’s looking escape her past.

Her ‘normal life’ means a job and boyfriend, but that gets a whole lot trickier when her pack is threatened and she’s obliged to help out.

Doing her duty, unfortunately, means returning to the Pack and facing her former boyfriend, Clay, the werewolf who bit her. Clay, naturally, wants her back, and he’s the werewolf all other werewolves fear.

It’s not long after she turns up on ‘home turf’ that human bodies begin getting dumped on Pack land and Pack members start turning up dead.

Yep, there’s a power struggle erupting, and Elena’s landed right in the middle of it – and did I mention her ex wants her back?

While the story and characters are engaging and the book hard to put down, the real story is Elena’s struggle with her werewolf nature and her place in the world.

She doesn’t want to be a werewolf, and definately doesn’t want to be drawn back into the Pack and werewolf politics, but if she ever wants a normal life, she’s going to have to deal with both.

And that’s what makes Bitten so good.

The story forces you to care about Elena and what happens to her – and that as much as anything else makes Bitten worth the read.


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