Wednesday, January 20, 2016

IN MY GARDEN TODAY: A DRAGON!!

 A first for my garden: a Western Bearded Dragon Pogona minor
This one was about 10" long (25cm) -- most of which was tail!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

SHATTERWING: FREE BOOK TO BE WON and an INTERVIEW with DONNA MAREE HANSON


Dragon Wine Book 1: Shatterwing  
by Donna Maree Hanson  
is free in e-book for a short time. 

As part of spreading the word about Shatterwing, Donna is doing a blog tour and offering a give-away of a hard copy of Shatterwing
Winners will be drawn from people who comment during the blog tour. So leave a comment here to have a chance at winning.
 

ABOUT SHATTERWING
 Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.
 
Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.
The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous, undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

There are only two people standing in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

Dragon Wine Book 2 : Skywatcher, the follow on book, is also available in ebook and print.


 AN INTERVIEW WITH DONNA:

GLENDA: You had it tough when you were younger, yet you managed to build a successful career in the civil service. Now, though, you are concentrating on your writing. What prompted such a drastic career change?
 

DONNA: You are right. If I go back to my formative years I would never imagined being where I am now or even my journey. I had no ambition. No concept of the future except that I should be happy, that things should go right for me because I had a pretty crappy beginning. Somewhere along the line I realised it wasn’t going to come to me -- this happiness that I desired -- so I had to make it for myself. I was probably about seventeen years old, when I was unhappy about being considered stupid. I’d left school at 15, before finishing year 10. But I was very soon trying to get my school certificate by correspondence. I did end up doing that, and then going on from there. I did a degree in Economics at Sydney University while I was a single parent with three children.

I was an auditor in the Commonwealth Government, for many years. I also had a stint in the private sector. I got to about age 40 and was heading back to do more internal audit work and I thought to myself: “Is this what I want to do?” 

The answer came pretty quickly that I wanted to write, so I did. It has been a big learning curve for me. I threw myself in and I wanted to conquer this writing thing. I’m making hats now and I realise that this is my modus operandi. I’m making hats like crazy because I want to learn and explore and that’s what I did with writing. I’ve done a Masters in Creative Writing and in 2016 I am doing a PhD at the Uni of Canberra.

GLENDA: You have written books across multiple genres -- including non-fiction! Who is your target audience for Shatterwing?

DONNA: Shatterwing is for lovers of fantasy, dark fantasy. Shatterwing is for people who like grit under their nails. Also, Shatterwing as a strong SF setting too, so it's for people who envision other worlds, alien worlds and their impossibilities. The story is also about survival, what it takes to survive and, ultimately, what is it about humans that makes us worth saving. It’s not always as pretty story, but it is one that I’m keen to explore. And then there are the dragons!



GLENDA: Shatterwing has a fascinating world with a fabulous take on dragons -- yours are unique, which is quite an achievement considering how many fantasy writers have portrayed them over the years. Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey and Naomi Novak to mention a few. Where did the inspiration come from that makes your dragons so different and memorable?

DONNA: Thank you Glenda. Well if you must know I didn’t read any of those. I did read Tolkien, but not The Hobbit (am currently reading it) so I approached portraying them in my own way. I wanted them to be different, from their origins to how they exist in the world. I can’t say that I have never been exposed to dragon stories because I watch film, such as Reign of Terror (not such a great movie), but it was dragon filled, and there are others. I virtually grew up on Godzilla movies! I did research a little about dragons and I guess what struck me was how enmeshed these creatures were across a number of cultures that you could almost consider they existed in the past, in human memory.

Shatterwing is set on Margra, so not Earth, but there are humans living there. There were these creatures I called dragons. I did consider changing the name of them to something else, but in every way they were dragons so it seemed stupid to call them something else, so I left well enough alone.



GLENDA: You are also writing in the romance genre. What is the biggest challenge about romantic fiction, compared to fantasy?

DONNA: Ah there are definitely challenges! For me it is the emotional story of the main characters. In romance the evolution of emotions, from hate or indifference to love, for example, is the plot. The circumstances that cause the characters to attract, repel and attract again are just the means to get the emotional changes in the character. It’s central, if you know what I mean. It is something I struggle with in writing romance. 

I come from the SF and Fantasy side where it’s the plot that drives the story and the characters. There may be romance in these stories but it’s not the central component. The central story in a fantasy or an SF story could be saving the planet and then winning the man. For example, Martha Mayhem must win the war against the rebels and save the planet. She meets Captain Pacificus and they join forces and win the day. Martha also wins the captain. I’m not saying that characters and the character’s evolution is less important in fantasy and SF. It is just that less time is spent focussing on the inner story of the characters and their love lives in comparison to the overall story. Well that’s what I believe. 

GLENDA: You have done so much for the science fiction and fantasy scene in Australia. In fact, you were the person who took the trouble to make sure I became part of it, even though we'd only met online at the time -- and a wonderful ride it has been. (Thanks so much!) What would you say to readers (not just those in Australia) who know nothing about the fan scene out there? How did you get involved and has it been worthwhile?

DONNA: Thanks again Glenda. Yes, the fan scene has been a remarkable experience for me. Coming from the outside as a reader I didn’t even know fandom existed. It wasn’t until I became a writer, joined a writer’s group (Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild) that I became exposed to conventions! 

My first big national SF convention was in Melbourne and it blew my mind away. I got to meet authors! Big name guests coming from the US etc. I was hooked ever since and, as you know, I went on to run two national SF conventions in Canberra. 

So listen up. Google up. SF conventions are awesome places to meet writers, listen to writers talk about their works, buy books, get books signed, buy more books and find out about new writers and writers you never ever heard of -- oh and buy books. Did I mention that? 

In March, over Easter, Australia is having a national science fiction convention in Brisbane. It’s called Contact and if you like writers and writing you should come along and check it out. There are awesome guests coming too and lots of writers on panels that don’t appear on the big name guest list.



GLENDA: What are your working on now?
 
DONNA: November was NaNoWriMo (Write a novel in a month) and I participated. The aim is to write 50,000 words in November. I was aiming for 60,000 but got sick in the last week of November so only did the 50,000. It’s not the whole novel, but it’s a damn good start and I had lots and lots of ideas. 

I’m working on an SF romance called Cold Soldier. I was aiming for SF romance, but the story has evolved into something more than that. I won’t know until I finish the drafting and revise it. It definitely has romance but it’s the balance thing I was discussing earlier. Sometimes I have too much plot (things happening) and that rushes the emotional journey, but it’s early days.

I am also writing a Regency romance. This is a dream project. I love Regency romances as a reader, so I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it. Given who I am, I’m not sure I could make it light and fluffy and it covers some serious themes like sexual abuse and the aftermath. It may never get published so it may end up on Wattpad or my blog in future.


GLENDA: Many thanks for giving us these insights, Donna! 
I've been thinking ... Over the years, we have met up in Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, London, York, Glasgow and Denver ... where next??

DONNA: You left out Malaysia, Orkney and most of Scotland! Now Glenda were you thinking of going to the world con in Finland in 2017? Because I am. I am hoping to meet you beforehand. I think you would really like Sardinia and Pompeii. 

Photo: Donna in the centre, flanked by me on her right and a friend Paul, my daughter on her left with fellow author Trudi Canavan, in the Orkneys, Scotland.
http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/6515/2239/1600/the%20orkney%20group.0.jpgDONNA: But you know I’ll meet you anywhere because you are one of my favourite people, who has been a good friend, an inspiration and an educator to me. Also, one day I’d love to do one of your trips seeing the country, camping…you get to keep the leeches, spiders, bugs, mice or other critters!

GLENDA: Thank you, Donna!


 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Looking for some reading matter over Xmas/NY?

Before I get on to some suggestions of non-Australian fantasy writers below, here's the cover of my next book, which will be published mid-April, worldwide. 
This is the final book in The Forsaken Lands trilogy.

While you are waiting for it  ...
Here are some writers with new books to try 
(I will talk about some Australian writers in another post):

Ian Tregellis:
 

War looms over New France and the Brasswork Throne in THE RISING, Ian's newest novel, which is book 2 in the Alchemy Wars trilogy. 
See more here: http://iantregillis.com/

Kate Elliott: 

Kate has a new book out. Yay! She is one of my favourite authors.
BLACK WOLVES is the first book in a new epic fantasy series. 
Find more here: http://www.kateelliott.com/

Carol Berg:

The second and final of her Sanctuary novels is out. ASH AND SILVER -- War Magic: A secret military Order that can erase memory. What could go wrong? See more here: http://www.sff.net/people/carolberg/
 
Alex Dellamonica:

A DAUGHTER OF NO NATION, second novel in the Stormwrack fantasy series is out.

Steven Harper:

BLOOD STORM, a new fantasy novel from Roc. The power of the shape returns, but will it bring peace or war? 
See more here: http://stevenpizikscom.netfirms.com/?page_id=16

Juliet E. McKenna:


Juliet has been putting her backlist up on Wizard's Tower Press. Take a look!
Juliet's webpage:  http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=1827
Wizard Tower: http://wizardstowerpress.com/
 


Thursday, November 12, 2015

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN

 AT THE NEW YORK SCREENING

REMEMBER:
 USA release is over the Thanksgiving Weekend. 
In Australia, alas, mid-March.
 
This is more a buddy movie than a horror one; 
it is also very funny, and of course, 
as the director is Paul McGuigan, 
it is also cinematographically beautiful!

It stars Daniel Radcliffe
and
James McAvoy 












My two beautiful daughters at the red-carpet preview viewing.


         Above: Director Paul McGuigan the two main actors...
Above: McGuigan and Daniel Radcliffe

Sunday, November 01, 2015

On reading one's own reviews...

I really don't get this whole thing about not reading reviews of one's own books. To me, that's like writing into a vacuum. 

Most of us novel authors write because we love to create a story* -- few would do it, then never ever let anyone read those stories.

Yes, we sometimes get scathing reviews. You can't please everyone. But you also might get called "This decade's best fantasy writer" as one recent Amazon reviewer said about me. I don't actually believe that, mind you, but boy, does that boost the ego, and inspire me to write!

*Few do it  for the money -- most of us don't make sufficient income from books to live on!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

NEWS...

TWO THINGS:

The Fall of the Dagger, the third and last book of The Forsaken Lands trilogy, now has a set publication date: 19th April 2016 (USA) and 21st April 2016 (UK). 

And the MIRAGE MAKERS trilogy is now available in ebook form in the USA, all three books. Start with the first: THE HEART OF THE MIRAGE.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What I said that made Tunisian students crack up...

Last January, our Prime Minister, with an astonishing lack of understanding of what it means to be an Australian today, gave Prince Philip a knighthood. 

Today, our treasurer indicated that he will work towards making our country a republic (something that really should have occurred at the time of federation in 1901). 

Both of these news items take me back to a time in the 1990s, when I was teaching several English language classes to engineering students at a university in Tunis, Tunisia, where we were living at the time. (Most of them were already fluent in French and Arabic).

It was a sharp learning curve for both them and me. On my first day, each time I walked into a new class and introduced myself, the students burst out laughing when I said I was Australian. I finally asked the last class of the day  what was so funny about Australia...? 

One student, braver than the rest, told me that in Tunisia that had a saying, "When my ship sails for Australia..." -- meaning the day that their wildest dream comes true. Australia was their Eldorado, their idea of Utopia, and the idea of going to Australia to live was akin to winning the lottery. They laughed because the idea that an Australian would want to come to Tunisia was both funny and utterly incomprehensible.

[This story is the prelude to the present influx of migrants across the Mediterranean. The despair of young people in North Africa is not something that started yesterday. The history of that is long; the world just chose to ignore it.]

But what was the thing that made these students really crack up? That happened later. During lessons, I tried to encourage them to talk in English as much as possible, and they were always eager to learn about Australia. They knew little, except that it was a land of wealth, where everyone could live a good life. They wanted to know details -- for example: What government did we have?
"And who is your Head of State?" one asked.
So I explained about the Governor-General and our relationship to the Queen. Of -- incomprehensibly -- Britain. 
They looked at me in total astonishment.
"Are you not independent, like us?" another asked. "Why would you have a Queen of another country as your monarch? C'est incroyable!" Unbelievable indeed and, to me at the time, highly embarrassing to have to admit.

And that was when they really cracked up. Yep, part of the rest of the world thinks our relationship to the Queen is high comedy.

Bring on the republic, please!


Monday, August 10, 2015

THE FORSAKEN LANDS


I have handed in the final book of THE FORSAKEN LANDS, called The Fall of the Dagger. The only steps that remain to be done are the copyedit and the proofs. It is now slated to come out in April next year.

In the meantime: Book 1,  THE LASCAR'S DAGGER is available today for $A1.99 as the Amazon daily deal. 

Spread the word!

Friday, June 05, 2015

WINTERY VIEWS FROM MY ISLAND

We live on a narrow strip of land between the Indian Ocean and the Peel Estuary. It's called (tongue in cheek) The Island, or Mandurah Island, because to get here by land is only possible if you cross a substantial bridge. There are three bridges, the third of which, to the south, spans an artificial cut made between the sea and the estuary, allowing more flow through the area. The estuary is fed by no less than three rivers -- the Murray, the Serpentine, the Harvey, plus a  number of seasonal streams.
The above photo is taken from "The Island" looking at an island in the estuary, the day before yesterday. A quiet, pleasant afternoon...
There were birds about -- it is a Ramsar Wetlands Area and an IBA (important bird area). We saw cormorants, duck, terns, gulls, pelicans, egrets, herons, darters, Black Swans, a Whistling Kite (which you can see against the white of the puffy cloud over the trees...)
And then all of a sudden, came a change. Cormorants and gulls and terns began streaming past...

More and more of them arriving by the minute, all heading in the same direction...
To this area above, where pelicans and cormorants were diving like maniacs and other birds gathered to glean the remains of a fish feast.


Until, below, the pelicans and other birds were so thick on the surface, we couldn't see the water.
Interestingly, the cormorants were behaving in a remarkable way when they were on the surface, thrashing the surface with their wings, ploughing and churning up the water. The only reason we could think of was that they were actually trying to herd the fish or confuse them in a way that benefited other birds.  
The schooling fish vanished, the birds disappeared, and the rainbow arced into the sky...
I love my island.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MURDER & MASS GRAVES IN PERLIS, MALAYSIA

 Perlis is the north-westernmost state of Peninsular Malaysia. It's tiny, poor and very beautiful, known for its rice fields and limestone outcrops. 
Rice fields
I love Perlis. Or I used to. I even climbed a good way up Gunung Perlis (Mt Perlis). I've trekked part of the way along the border ridge between Perlis and Thailand (on a trail through mountainous rainforest). I knew the village of Wang Kelian well back in the 80s, 90s and 00's. And the town of Kaki Bukit. And the border crossing between Wang Kelian in Malaysia and Wang Prachan of Satun Province in Thailand. 


 You can see a couple of my blog posts on the area here and here and here.  

So when I woke up one morning this week to this: Mass Graves in Perlis, Malaysia  
and this from CNN: 
Malaysian authorities have uncovered 139 graves of victims caught up in the human trafficking trade in forests close to the Thai border... ...police found 28 illegal camps, the largest of which may have held as many as 300 migrants. The fact that the camp was fenced and guarded by sentries shows that the trafficked people were captives... 

It was a bit of a shock. There was evidence of torture and unbelievable horror. Many graves contained more than one body. That's right. This was mass murder, and death probably came slowly by starvation and diseases of malnutrition, as well as torture. 

 Here's what the Guardian has to say: 

“There were stories about these camps that went back nearly 10 years,” Matthew Friedman, the former chief of the UN inter-agency project on human trafficking, told the Guardian. He now heads the Mekong Club, which campaigns against slavery in Asia. “We passed the information on to the local authorities, but there was no follow-up.”  

How could that happen? One thing I am certain about -- nothing happens along that border -- NOTHING -- that local people don't know about. Families in the area spill across the border, which is just a line drawn on a map to locals.

When we trekked this area, there were soldiers patrolling. We had to apply for permission to enter  areas in the thickly forested slopes of the national park along the Thai border.  

I remember once when we were birding one weekday along the road that led to the border crossing. In those days, perhaps 12 or 15 years ago, the road was quiet -- no more than three or four vehicles an hour making the crossing, except at the weekends when there was a cross-border market. On one side of the road was a wet marshy area of forest, on the other, a damp earth ditch and a wire fence, separating us from the no man's land of the border.  

A flat-bed truck (a ute if you're an Australian) passed us and stopped maybe 50m from the Malaysian immigration/custom post. In full view of us and the immigration post, several men hopped out of the car. Each shouldered a large full jerrycan that had been wrapped in thick sacking. They then crossed the road and jumped into the ditch. They walked along it until it ran under the fence into Thailand, where they scrambled under the wire.   

They were quite blatantly smuggling petrol from Malaysia (where it was subsidised and cheap) into Thailand, where it was much more expensive. This smuggling was so brazen we were left gobsmacked. They made no attempt to hide, and made only the most inadequate of attempts to be unobtrusive in order to provide the customs officers on both sides of the border with a chance to look the other way.  

Did we report this? To whom was it possible to report, may I ask? Every policeman and government servant in the area already knew. In fact, they knew far more than us -- the names of all those involved, for example. 

  And here, I believe, we have the perfect example of what can happen when corruption gets a hold. A little cross-border smuggling is the beginning, a little harmless look-the-other-way and pocket a few dollars in pay-off (probably from your cousin or your cousin's pal).   

In the end, you are looking the other way while the poorest of the poor are tortured and murdered in your backyard.

  Perlis, the Pearl of the North.  Oh, Malaysia...
 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

MORE THROMBOLITES ... and birds

Remember the thrombolites and stromatolites, those ancient organisms that put the oxygen into the atmosphere? The other day we were at yet another lake around here that has some...
Lake Richmond, Safety Bay.
Australian Black Ducks standing on thrombolites
Lake Richmond, W.A.'s deepest freshwater lake (15m+)
The stream that flows into the lake

Pelicans, Sea-eagle, Red-necked Stints, Great Crested Grebes et al...
White-bellied Sea-eagle and a Whistling Kite
This was a trip organised by Birdlife Australia. I am gradually getting into birding here, although the final book of the Forsaken Lands still dominates life at the moment.
Notice those blue skies. And we are coming into winter. I love the Australian sky...at dusk, the sunsets are gorgeous, and at this time of the lunar month I look out my kitchen window to see the sliver of a new moon and the bright twinkle of Venus.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

A DAY WELL SPENT

 Flying through the sea...
 Where we were today... Dawes Cut.
Above: a fire in the distance: possibly a controlled burn.
 Husband was fishing, see below. I was polishing book 3 of the THE FORSAKEN LANDS.

And we were visited by a very large stingray -- over a metre wide. A huge thing. I know that Australia has the biggest ray, and it may have well been that one, the Smooth Stingray, which has a very short tail. 

I actually suspect though that this fellow may have had his sting and part of his tail chopped off by an ignorant human being who thought wild animals should not have anything that might be threat to him.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

HANGOVER BAY BIRD-DROPPING SPIDER?

 When travelling back from Jurien Bay, we stopped to have lunch at Hangover Bay (above) and came across these odd looking leathery egg sacs hanging on coastal vegetation. We actually didn't have the faintest idea of what they were.  A centimetre in diameter, they were suspended by strong springy spun threads in two groups of four. The 4 on the left of the photo were whitish, the other 4 much darker and more distinctly marked. The whiter ones had tiny holes and appeared to be empty.
You can see one of the tiny holes as a black dot.
Being one of the nosy naturalists that we are, I detached one of the empty ones and tried to break it open. No go. It was as tough as boot leather, and resisted being torn. We left the others as they were and I did some checking when we arrived home.

As far as I can see after a Google search, they are probably the egg sacs of the Bird-dropping Spider -- so called, not because it drops birds, but because it is a squashy, messy-looking fellow that resembles a bird dropping. We didn't see the lady guarding her eggs, so maybe her disguise was really good...

Bird-dropping Spider (Celaenia excavata)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

Over the past two weeks I have been asked by three different people:
                                  Where do you get your ideas from?"
If you are not a novelist, you probably have no idea how common that question is!

Answers vary from the tongue in the cheek ("At this quaint little curiosity shop in the lane behind the markets..."), to the more mundane ("From inside my head"). Only one of those is near true.

Even more truthfully, I can illustrate the answer to the question by the photo above, taken this week while with a group of naturalists from the West Australian Naturalists Club exploring the Mount Lesuer National Park near Jurien Bay, some 270 km north of Perth. If you look very carefully, you will get an idea of scale -- there is someone actually standing at the middle of the foot of that dark...thing.

Most people, coming across something like that, would look at it -- and after dismissing the possibility of an elephant rampaging around in the West Australia woodlands -- would decide that it is actually some kind of dead plant. In fact, a closer look would reveal a dead tree covered with a tangle of dodder, a kind of creeper (Cuscuda sp).


 But to  a writer?
Our brains work differently. We look at something ordinary, and think something extraordinary. In effect, we ask ourselves, "What if...?"

In this case:
"What if that was really an alien life form?" (A science fiction writer)
"What if there was a skeleton hidden in there?" (A crime writer)
"What if that dodder was a magic twine keeping an evil sorcerer imprisoned in its coils?" (A fantasy writer)
"What if that plant was about to take over the earth?" (A horror writer)
"What if it was the disguised entrance to an underground laboratory?" (A thriller writer.)

So the truth is that writers see exactly landscape as non-writers, but our brains use the mundane as the spring board for our imaginations. And that is where we get our ideas.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

When a writer hands in a manuscript....

They need a break.
Really, they do.
The book is far from finished. There are still revisions and edits, polish and condensing, expanding and inserting cutting to be done. But for a moment, there is a need to do something else.

Birding, for instance. 
So this is what I've been up to,
 around my area:
At Black Lake (above) and Creery Wetlands (below)
Above:  Four species, one photograph -- Great Egret, Australasian Ibis, Yellow-billed Spoonbill and Grey Teal.
Lake Goegrup at dusk
Pelicans on Lake Goegrup
Little Pied Cormorant
A Magpie goes birding
Osprey and Silver Gull
Must try this
Quenda (Bandicoot) at dusk

A Wecome Swallow from above










                  And a Welcome Swallow looks up:
Dusk at Erskine Lake
Osprey