All posts in Guest blogs

EMPIRE STATE review and guest blog

It’s a busy week for guest blogs and interviews – there will be more coming in a few days! For today, a couple of links:

  • Over at The Qwillery I talk about what “noir” actually means, and how it can be applied to any genre. In January, I’m part of The Qwillery debut author challenge, in which members of the blog’s reading group will read Empire State together, and then have a discussion and Q&A with me about it. Should be fun!
  • Drying Ink has posted a review of Empire State, in which they say “Empire State is a fast, likeable novel which aims not only to surprise, but frequently to confound – with intrigue, superheroic subversion, and a few robots playing into the mix!”. Thanks guys! I’m also doing an interview with them, which should be going online shortly.

Work-wise I’m absolutely flat out on a couple of projects I can’t talk about… you ain’t seen me, right?

22nd January, 2011

This year seems to be shaping up as a good one for fans of superheroes, but over at EscapePod today I talk about the problem of translating them from comics to live action. Head over there and feel free to add your comments! Coincidentally, just as that blog post went up, NBC have announced they have picked up a live-action Wonder Woman TV series as a pilot. The description of the story – that Diana is “is a vigilante crime fighter in L.A. but also a successful corporate executive and a modern woman trying to balance all of the elements of her extraordinary life” – doesn’t sound much like the Wonder Woman I know. It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses, but I wonder if it will actually get made or broadcast. NBC is also the home of The Cape, a spectacularly bad piece of television with nose-diving ratings – assuming that The Cape is cancelled before the season is out, I wonder if this will change NBC’s position on superhero television. I suspect it will, and I suspect that it will result in Wonder Woman (whether it is good or bad) being dropped during pre-production. Unless NBC see the failure of The Cape as proof that you need to be working with an established property and not an original one, which is why they suddenly picked up Wonder Woman after it had done the rounds of the other networks and been rejected by all.

It’s a shame really. Wonder Woman is one of DC’s “Big Three” characters, and yet had never been managed that well. Her mooted live-action movie has been in development hell for years, and her comic has sufferred from being juggled between a succession of different writers before the issue 600 reboot late last year, which saw the character get a new costume, a new personality, a new origin… a new everything. That generated quite the hoo-haa, and rightly so, although Wonder Woman has undergone similar transformations before and clearly it was a temporary change – the DC Comics app and online store, the DC Universe Online game, and the new Wonder Woman range of make-up (yes, make-up) all use the classic Wonder Woman design. Fortunately, reboot writer J. Michael Straczynski quickly jumped ship from Wonder Woman (and Superman) when he worked out monthly comic work didn’t pay well enough, so fingers-crossed the return of the iconic Princess Diana may come earlier than was originally planned.

The Wasp in the Lotus is nearing the climax, which means I have to write a sword fight. As a fencer, you’d think that might be relatively easy, but I’m not so sure – there is a balance between writing an enjoyable piece of action, and filling it with accurate terminology and description. Too much of the latter and it’s a writer showing off. Too little of it and it’s just another action scene. I’ve never written a sword fight before, so… well, we’ll see what happens.

Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 2,045
Words total: 15,745/20,000 (78%)
Total words for 2011: 40,226

Yesterday I said I was enjoying The Culled by Simon Spurrier. Today I have to revise my opinion. What I thought was good writing is actually overwriting, and after wading through a few more chapters of purple prose, I have my doubts. Also, I’m a bit confused as to the year in which The Afterblight Chronicles are set – the main character mentions that 93% of the world’s population have been wiped out, which comes to 59 billion people. There are only 6 billion people on the Earth at the moment, and the only population predictions I could find online went as far as 9 billion people by 2050. And yet The Culled feels like very near future indeed – aside from a couple of mentions of something called QuickSmog (some kind of air pollution), the book opens in a Boeing 737 and the main character makes an analogy to a sensory experience being like “DVD extra features”.There seems to be an attempt to date it by mentioning that is 400 years since Hiawatha lived, but speculative dates for his existence range from the 12th century right up to the 16th, and taking what seems to be the general consensus of the 16th century, 400 years brings us to the 20th century. Huh. Oh well, I’ll keep reading, if just to find an answer to that. Sure, this is fiction and obviously The Afterblight Chronicles are set in a sort of alternate version of Earth, but at the moment it just looks like the writer got his numbers wrong.

Books: some pages of The Culled by Simon Spurrier.
Comics: On hold until February.

Christmas cheer and a Christmas scare

I love Christmas. Really. And a Christmas in winter (as opposed to in summer back in New Zealand) is still a novelty, and a pretty cool one at that (literally, I guess!). I think I’ve mentioned that before, maybe more than once, so moving on…

A couple o’ cool things. Yesterday I was hiding behind door number 19 of the Angry Robot Advent Calendar, where I talk about my continuing transition – or attempted transition, anyway – towards a digital library. I’ve been following the Advent Calendar daily now and it’s a great pleasure to be included alongside entries by some great authors. And of course, the one day I neglected to check, my entry popped up!

Secondly, tomorrow is the shortest day/longest night in the Northern Hemisphere (or as I prefer to call it, the Blackest Night!). It’s also National Short Story Day in the UK, and it’s just a hair’s breadth from Christmas (and even closer to Festivus, of course).

To mark this accumulation of events I’ve got a Christmassy ghost story coming out tomorrow on this very actual blog for your listening pleasure. It’s just a wee flash, and it’s read by the wonderful Emma Newman. Emma has also read something rather longer for me, which is coming soonish to another site. But more on that when I’m allowed to talk about it. You ain’t seen me, right?

Until tomorrow then!

Guest post: Thirteen years in the Muse’s back pocket

Something special this week!

Fellow Kiwi Philippa Ballantine is a fantasy writer hailing from Wellington, New Zealand. In the coming year she will have three books hitting the real and virtual shelves. The first of which a supernatural fantasy, Geist, from Ace Books, released in late October — just in time for Halloween!

Today, I’ve turned my blog over to Philippa so she can talk about her writing journey.

Thirteen years in the Muse’s back pocket

Actually it has probably been longer… but for arguments sake let’s just say it is thirteen years since the Muse of Writing got her hooks into me.

I think she found me in my Dad’s bookshelves reading, and sneaked up on me. I am sure it was her whispering to me ‘you should try writing something like this yourself’. I never guessed where that would lead me.

So in my teenage years I wrote—nothing seriously but more as a way to express my thoughts, but when I got into my twenties I decided to really give it a go. I had stories and they had to get out. It seemed like a harmless thing to do.

My first novel length piece I actually completed was Weaver’s Web. This is the novel I consider my apprenticeship piece, and I confess I learnt many things from it. The first and most important was of course, that I could finish a book.

It doesn’t sound like much, but there are an awful lot of people out there who set off to write a novel and never get to that finishing point. When I think about all those half finished manuscripts it makes me a little bit sad. So it was an achievement and I did actually have a party to celebrate that (much mulled wine was consumed!).

The other important thing that first novel taught me was editing. As I struggled through a sea of red ink and rewrites I learned very quickly my weak points, the word crutches I liked but had to be removed, and how even a weak scene, with the proper editing could be turned around.

So once I had learned these two most important lessons, there was no stopping me. The Muse was still whispering ideas into my head, and I couldn’t stop writing them down.

Soon enough I was working on Chasing the Bard, and enjoying messing around with Shakespeare. That was an eye-opening revelation—I could use subjects I found interesting as inspiration for my stories! That only doubled my enjoyment.

If I wanted William Shakespeare and faeries I could do that. If I wanted faeries and cyberpunk — no one was stopping me. As my novels started to pile up (just counted and it is eight so far) I gained a little more confidence in myself. I began to feel like a writer.

However the Muse isn’t always kind. It would be remiss of me to suggest otherwise. Every writer has days when she is hard to find, or she can turn on you and whisper ‘you’re awful at this, why don’t you give up?’ Doubt is the mindkiller, and the only way to conqueror it is sheer stubbornness.

Like a marathon run, it is just a matter of putting one foot (or one word) in front of the other and keeping going.

Even so, sometimes, honestly it is hard to remember why I keep doing it. Other days I feel like I have the secret to the life the universe and everything.

Yes, being a writer is a bit of a rollercoaster—but truth be told maybe that is why I do it.

Or maybe it is the other things. The joy of story. The unexpected turns of a character. Making up your own jokes and imagining someone else giggling. Maybe it is just getting the puzzle completed.

Because to me, that is what a novel really is; slotting in characters, working out plot, getting to the end, and putting all the pieces together.

Getting the story finally finished and on its way to publication is so satisfying—a unique feeling of accomplishment and relief.

Then when other people read it and enjoy it, that is just the icing on the cake.

By this stage in my life, I am used to living with the Muse—so much so that I can’t imagine being without her. She has bought wonderful people into my existence, as well as achievements I never imagined I’d get. So for all the ups and downs I’m glad of my place chained to the Muse.

I’m a writer after all. That’s where I belong.


Thanks very much indeed, Philippa! You can find out more about Philippa and Geist at and

Links for Saturday

Ah, Saturday. Being one of those people who work for themselves, it’s easy to lose track of days sometimes. But, like Tony Hancock, I still think there is something particularly special about Saturday. The weekend beckons, so here’s a few links to keep you entertained.* Recently I’ve been out and about on the internet, and it’s about time I put together some kind of mini-index.

Yesterday over at Fantasy Literature I talked about one of my favourite authors, Cherie Priest. Readers of this blog – and followers on Twitter – will already know how much I admire her work, and as part of an ongoing series in which guest writers tell the world the reasons for reading a particular author, I talk a little about why I do. This seems to be becoming something of a habit, as just last month I talked about her 2007 werewolf novella Dreadful Skin over at Dark Fiction Review.

So if you’re on the lookout for a new author to pick up, or if perhaps you’re familiar with Cherie through Boneshaker but haven’t tried her other work, I hope those two posts give you some encouragement to check her/them out. The next novel in her Clockwork Century series, Dreadnought, is currently on sale for $10.11 from, and the novella Clementine is due from Subterranean Press later this month.

Yesterday Angry Robot books launched their new monthly podcast, which features news from the publisher, interviews with their staff and authors, and competitions. And it’s hosted by none other than Mur Lafferty! It’s one of those weird convergences – I’ve followed Mur for years and have been a listener to her I Should Be Writing podcast since almost episode one, so to have her suddenly working with people I know in a completely different setting is very, very cool.

July’s installment took me by surprise a little. Seems I changed Angry Robot publishing director Marc Gascoigne’s mind about genre classification with my guest blog post, The Big Magic Shelf. How do I know? He says so himself, in the podcast! Needless to say, I’m chuffed at the mention, and it’s a fascinating discussion. The Angry Robot podcast promises to be a very interesting ongoing series!

Lastly, digital publishing is something I’m interested in, and have pretty much managed to convert myself to an all-ebook library now I have my iPad. I talked about going digital in my first Angry Robot guest blog, but one thing which has actually surprised me is my experience with trying to write on thing. I talk about writing on the iPad – specifically, why I don’t – over at Harry Markov’s blog, Through a Forest of Ideas.

Take it easy!

* And for goodness’ sake, go an see Inception. It’s an amazing, complex science-fiction film. Go!

Update: Seems FantasyLiterature is offline at the moment, so here’s a cached version of the Cherie Priest piece. I’ve let the site know, hopefully it’ll be back up ASAP.