Novels are a Long Road (Well, Day Boy was, Anyway) Part Two (Yeah, I go on a bit).

In a period of about three years after never selling a novel – I had five books simultaneously published here and in the UK, and the US by two of my favorite publishers. Things were a bit busy. And it wasn’t like I wasn’t working at the same time – usually two jobs. I don’t think I really stopped from 2009 to 2012. I worked, wrote, worked and made books, but not a lot of money. I was living the dream, but as dreams often go, I never really had time to appreciate it.

I love those books (if you’re not familiar with them and fancy buying one – or all 😉 – there’s links to the left) and some of them had existed in partial form for years before this (just as I have around seven novels in various states of development now) but those years were me putting the pedal to the metal. Sadly none of them did particularly well – despite generally positive reviews, and a few stinkers – and me doing my best to promote them.

To say I fell into a bit of funk is putting it mildly. The books’ relative failure (and I don’t really see them as failures, every one of them fed my creativity, every one of them gave me at least some pleasure, and taught me something) and me working so hard at everything, hurt badly. It was no-one’s fault. I still think they’re great.

Part of it was the slump in publishing at the time (Borders collapsing didn’t help, but people were still selling ok). Part of it was me so focused on getting the next book written I perhaps didn’t work hard enough to selling the ones I had out (but there are only so many hours in the day). And part of it was, despite all the working, I never really had any money to go to cons or travel and push the books. Honestly, maybe none of these things contributed much. It’s a lottery. Books find an audience, or they don’t. And I feel honored that these books have found an audience at all.

As much as we’re encouraged as artists to make mistakes, and to fail. Few like to admit failure, not really. And I felt like a big old failure. I’d had my shot. And there are often few chances to have another. And there’s nothing like writing books that you’re contracted to write and seeing them fail despite your best efforts and the best effort of those around you, while you’re still writing them.

Throughout my short story writing career I had never felt a failure (sure, I’d occasionally feel a bit jealous of those fancy novelists) but every sale to any market, no matter how big or small felt like a win, like I was connecting with a readership. Novel writing was different. For the first time I felt that I’d stuffed up that the mere act of producing something wasn’t enough, unless it found a big enough audience. And I’d failed at that, and in doing so I’d let a lot of people down.

I don’t feel that way now. I am happy with those books and worlds created. Maybe it took a bloody nose or two to make me grow up. You do your best, and you move on.

But it took me a while to get there. And while I was thrashing around (see those seven partial manuscripts all waiting there turn) I really had no idea what to write next. But one of those manuscripts was biting into me more than the others.

I showed Day Boy to my then agent Sophie Hamley along with a bunch of other partials, and it was Day Boy that Sophie responded most to. Actually she responded this way.


I love Day Boy! Can’t wait to read the rest.

That is all.


And she did read the rest. I think sometimes you just need someone to tell you it’s ok to write, and that you’re onto a good thing.

Sophie pulled that novel from me. I sent it to her chapter by chapter. And I can’t tell you what a privilege it was to have someone there (who wasn’t family, whose relationship was mainly a work one) enthusiastically demanding the next bit of the book.

I was back on the writing horse. Putting word after word, scene after scene. I didn’t feel like such a failure.

And then I turned forty. A week or so later*, I started to get a terrible ear ache, oh such horrible, hideous pain – all while Diana and I were on holidays. Then, one morning, I woke up and half my faced was paralyzed.


*Obviously it was entirely unrelated**

**Obviously. Right, Universe?

It’s not all gloom and doom, and look at what’s arrived!


Novels are a Long Road (Well, Day Boy was, Anyway) Part One (Yeah, I go on a bit).

Jamieson_DayBoy2We live in a culture that shapes lives into narratives, and those narratives become an inevitability. As though there could only be one way forward, our lives as precise and obvious as Newtonian Physics. We live in a culture built on the idea of hard work, of endless trackable progress, of failure just being a pit stop to success, but that success or fulfillment is also an unreachable horizon, tracking away from us as fast as we move towards it. We don’t let ourselves pause because there is always onwards and upwards, even as our bodies tell us otherwise (and they always do late or early in our lives, but they always do).

We tell ourselves these stories even if we don’t quite believe them. We exist inside our aphorisms because they possess a certainty that life doesn’t. We know, deep down, that life is much more nebulous, uncertain, painful, and given to fits and starts and all the unreasoning assaults of the world.

But we do it to stay sane, I guess, to quiet the world. Or maybe we don’t; maybe it’s just me.

Every book I write is written in that uncertainty.

Looking back there seems a certain inevitability to Day Boy’s publication, but, really, there was nothing of the sort. My hard-drive, the many, many notebooks I have lying around, attest to the brevity of my literary enthusiasms (though I do tend to finish things, that finishing can take a long, long time – I reckon seven years for most books, though that’s spread amongst many projects so it never seems that long)


In 2006 I quit my job to write full time. To be honest, I was in part talked into it by Diana – because she is ridiculously supportive (and was probably tired of my whining). I’d published a lot of short stories, written a couple of novels, won an Aurealis award, edited a magazine and a novel (both of which won awards, well, the magazine’s stories did and that novel was a sublime thing that I really think was beyond my abilities to do anything but limit the amount of harm I did to it) but felt like I wasn’t making any progress. I’d decided after about ten years of short story writing that what I really wanted to write were novels, and not just write them but convince someone to publish them.

I thought I was pretty good at it (that writing thing), but I’d let my career aspirations slide. If you’re going to be a novelist, you should really try and make a decent fist of it. (Now, this is me looking back seven years: memory really is a dodgy recorder of motives, it loves to rewrite everything. Maybe I just liked the idea of napping in the afternoons).

In that first flush of free-time I finished yet another draft of Roil, a bit of what was to become Death Most Definite, but was then called Walking Talking (what a horrible name, but I could never get the title quite right on that one) and (predictably enough a bunch of short stories one of which was Day Boy). So that is roughly nine years ago.

Day Boy began as that short story, part of which is a bit of a scene in one of the later chapters of the book. I was also working on a short story called Cracks. Both Day Boy and Cracks were me playing with a particular sort of voice, and both (believe it or not) are set in the same world. Day Boy had hints of a father son relationship (but it wasn’t all that developed) and Cracks was about mothers and daughters. Both were about very dysfunctional relationships of course (functional holds less narrative promise). And both were published in 2008. Cracks in that wonderful and early to the party YA E-magazine Shiny – and it won an Aurealis Award. And Day Boy in the magazine Murky Depths – and it was shortlisted for an AA as well, though it didn’t win.

Both shorts felt pretty self-contained and like they could be built into novels. Day Boy was the least developed of the two, which is part of the reason I felt so attracted to it as a novel – I’d left myself room to immediately move (Ha! Look at the above date, NOTHING immediate about it).

I wrote a first chapter for Day Boy (which is now about the third or fourth chapter) and started dreaming about the world which made me think I was onto a good thing – not that I needed to think it, I knew it in my gut, in that strong and extremely fragile way writers know things about their books, but which none-the-less sustains them for the weeks, months, and years it takes to finish a book.

But then I sold Death Most Definite to Orbit, and I sold it as three books. Which meant I had to work on rewrites of DMD, and produce the other two. About a year later I sold Roil and Night’s Engines to Angry Robot and I was writing and planning and so on three books at the same time set in different worlds, I was also working at Avid Reader Bookstore (more about that wonderful place later) and teaching at QUT. We moved house as well at this time. And then my wonderful, supportive wife got very ill – that’s another story altogether, and one central to this as well – but lets stick to keeping a relatively simple through line. What it came down to was this – it was crazy.

But you do what you can to pay the bills – or as many as you can pay.

What it meant was I’d achieved a major dream, but Day Boy was put on the back burner.

Day Boy’s Launch is Looming and it will be at Night at Avid

Day Boy is going to be launched on June 25 by the wonderful, amazing Isobelle Carmody. If you’d like to help me celebrate feel free (and it will be a free event) to book and come along to Avid Reader. (If that link doesn’t work let me know)

I’m thrilled to have Isobelle launch the book, not least because she is so busy at work getting Red Queen out into the world – this is the final in the Obernewtyn series! – so thrilled/guilty to be honest.

It’s all starting to feel a bit real.

If you’d like to see the real thing, book for the launch, and watch me get all emotional* on the night.


*emotional in this sense does not mean drunk – not until after the launch anyway.

Not Long Now – and some vague bookish rambling.

Day Boy is heading to printers in a little over a week, and it’ll hit the stores late June. Finally finding time to breathe. Between this book and work I’ve barely had time for anything else, but it’s almost done. And I can think about it (and soon I might actually get started on the roughly novel-length next Death Works MS that’s sitting next to me on a table and giving me dirty looks).

This is my quietest book. It’s not about saving the world, and there are no grand quests or races against the clock.

It’s about a boy raised by a monster, and the feuds of old men, and the monstrosity of boys, and the hope that there might be more. And it’s about small country towns and the rhythms of a year that will see an end to childhood. I grew up in a small country town in North Western NSW called Gunnedah – it wasn’t tiny, but it you could walk its edges – and my childhood was a good one, so all that is there, but towns, like hearts, have a darkness too, and that is there as well.

It’s also my most beautiful book the seasons swing through it, the trees turn, and my little Day Boy grows older and maybe wiser.

I hope you like it.



I think for me, as a writer, what I’m really wanting is to haunt the reader. Sure, I want to entertain them at the very least. I want to capture and entrance, to chart the heart and the mind’s triumphs and failings. I want all of those things, or part there of.

But above all, I want to haunt.

I want to have a reader inhabit a book of mine and then find that it has somehow inhabited a part of them.

A good book never leaves you, even as its specificity fades. A good book looks at you from behind your eyes. A good book haunts you.

And that’s what I want my books to do*.

*(Doesn’t mean that I actually do that, but a fella’s gotta have an aim.)


How did it get to March already? Edits for Day Boy are soon to drop, there’s a release date – July.  I’ve seen the cover, and it’s glorious – six books in and that still hasn’t gotten old. (You’ll all see it soon enough.)

And I decided to tidy up this overly busy webpage.

If you see anything missing (except commas) let me know.


Clowns and Vampires and Carnivals and Trains

Christmas is upon us, and Death Moots, and Birthdays – I’m crashing through my forties at an insane rate (still a lot of them to go though).

Next year is going to be all about clowns and vampires and carnivals and trains. I’m just finishing up drafts of the next Death Works stuff, and I’ve a rough outline (as in something kind of clear in my head about the final Death Works story – which will be called the Triumph of Death, and which I should finish next year, and which should be a truly satisfying way to see out a series that has been in my head for over a decade).

This has been an odd year for me. Working on Day Boy, trying to get the next Death Works story done (Carnival of Death), and fitting it around longer hours at Avid – a boy needs to pay his bills. In some ways it’s felt like a step forwards and a step or two back.

But, I’m very happy with what I’m writing, and I work in one of the best bookstores in Australia, in the most wonderful city, with some of the lovelietst booksellers you could ever hope to work with. So, to be honest, I am feeling kind of blessed.

After a few fallow years, a few missteps, and a bit of a breakdown, things feel like they’re heading on the up again.

So, may 2015 be a wonderful year for us all.

Here’s the rough unedited beginning to the prequel story to the Carnival of Death – I’ve always wanted to do one of those X-files like openings. It’s called ICE. Just a teensy bit of a weird intro to an even weirder Death Works story, got some full on cosmic horror/comedy (hopefully) coming.



Ray checked the clip of his pistol. Full round, special munitions, ready to go. He wasn’t feeling lucky today. He suspected he might have to use it.

“I don’t like guns up here,” the pilot said.

“I don’t like pilots with opinions.”

The pilot laughed.

They’d been in the air for hours. Ray had forgotten the pilot’s name. He didn’t really care.

“Putting the gun away,” he said.

“See if you can find your sense of humour when you do,” he said.

“I’ll look for yours while I’m at it.”

“Right now your life is in my hands,” the pilot said.

“You don’t think I know how to fly a plane?” Ray lied.

The pilot shrugged. “You Special Interest Guys, who the fuck knows what you know.”

Ray smiled.”Which is exactly how it should be.”

The pilot smiled right back; both of them smiling like loons. “We’ll be hitting approach in about three minutes.” He gestured at the gear. “So, unless you want to have the honour, I suggest you shut the fuck up.”



Krissy Kneen – Opening Credits

9781922079381I’m posting a few things from other people up here, while I sink into the insane retail busyness that is Christmas.

Basically, I’ve asked some friends to shoot me a small slice of something that they’re passionate about and that will be coming out in 2015 (because, well, 2014 is getting old, and I’m all about the shiny, and I have a book I’m VERY excited about coming out in 2015).

First up is Krissy Kneen, who is a workmate at Avid, a wonderful award winning writer and poet. She is also one of the hardest working writers I know, not just in the writing that she does, but in her tireless promotion and support of other writers. She’s bloody awesome.

She has two books out next year – one through Text  and the other through UQP –   and I can’t wait to read them.


Oh, and this poem by Krissy is rather brilliant.


Opening Credits
I cry in the cinema
Or not cry
So hard that my head aches with the holding back
Not in the film
When those beside me weep
Manipulated by the stranglehold of  act three turning point catharsis
Or at the mid point
When the protagonist learns
That he has been pursuing a false solution and must change his quest
Not at the deaths or at the terminally ill
Not I
Instead I cry
Before the opening credits
In the add for a telephone company
Or an airline
Or a tablet
When the child calls his father
Or runs into his arms
Family the copywriter throws at us
And I, resentfully shed tears
Reverting to my fatherless self
A child
Who never seemed to mind
This celluloid manipulation
Ambushes me with canned sentiment
And a small child
Held up to a low angle close up
Of manufactured paternal love
Before the opening credits.

Keith Stevenson, Guest Blogging – Character Building: Meet the Crew

I’ve known Keith Stevenson for a long time, he’s a great editor (I’m biased, he’s published some of my best stories), and a fabulous writer.

Check out the cover of his novel below. It’s a damn fine thing. Now, over to Keith –



I’d like to thank Trent for giving over some space on his blog for the Horizon Blog Tour.


Horizon is my debut science fiction novel published by HarperVoyager Impulse. It’s an SF thriller centred on a deep space exploration mission that goes very wrong, with repercussions for the future of all life on Earth.


A lot of the action in Horizon takes place inside the cramped confines of the Magellan explorer ship, so the interactions between the characters are intense. As part of the development process, I did a lot of thinking about what I wanted Horizon to be about. This was my first attempt at writing a science fiction novel, and I knew from the start that I wanted to explore a number of scientific concepts relating to space travel, planetary exploration and alien environments. But I also wanted to make sure my characters were as ‘real’ as possible. Here’s an extract from my original proposal:


While the plot will be the main driver, the characterisation will also play a major part in developing the themes of the story. The characters will not follow the stereotypic ‘space hero’ mould. As much as possible they will be real people with hopes, fears, strengths and weaknesses placed in an extraordinary situation. Specifically, their characterisation will be used to explore:

  • the reasons individuals may have for abandoning a life on Earth for an extremely dangerous mission from which they may never return
  • the feelings of loss etc. that they experience when they are faced with the reality of being fifty-five years out of step with the rest of humanity and the culture clash that this involves
  • the paranoia, mistrust and power struggles that can emerge very quickly even among the most well-balanced individuals, and
  • how the characters face the ethical dilemma of being asked to help a humanity that some of them no longer feel any connection with, and what they must do in order to live with their decision.


So let’s meet the crew.


Flight Commander Cait Dyson — Mission Leader / Astro Sciences (Pax Americana)

‘Earth, the Pax and the Compact are light years away now. There’s only us, and we need to depend on one another, because at any instant our lives can turn on what each individual does.’


When we first meet Cait, she’s choking to death and her ship is out of control. Yet she manages to deal with the immediate dangers and rouse the rest of the crew. She’s more than competent in a crisis, but she’s increasingly isolated as the mission unfolds and she doesn’t always trust her own judgement. Several times she wishes she could just give up, but she knows none of the other crew are up to the task: either because they lack the perspective a commander needs or because they just can’t be trusted. Before the flight began, some at Mission Control thought she was too indecisive, but Cait has her own way of dealing with problems. She prefers not to act until absolutely necessary, waiting and watching as issues play out so she can identify the most effective intervention at the right time. Despite what she might think of her own abilities, she is a great leader, willing to put her own personal interests and fears aside and look at problems from all possible perspectives. She believes in ‘win-win’ but others among the crew, and on Earth, don’t necessarily support her efforts to achieve it.


Mission Specialist Nadira Coomlah — Planetary Physics / Climatology (Compact of Asian Peoples)

‘It sickens me that people with so much can want so much more, while we had so little and shared what little we had.’


Nadira was a late addition to the Magellan crew, and not a popular one. History between the United Pacific States and the Compact has been complicated in the decades leading up to Magellan’s launch [see my post Futureshock: Charting the History of Tomorrow on Lee Battersby’s blog on 6 November], and during the initial outward leg of the trip before the crew went into deepsleep, the thin veneer of civility between the UPS crewmembers and Nadira rapidly broke down. The fact that Nadira is rightly proud of the Compact’s achievements and how it has raised the living standards of the poorest nations in the world, despite what she sees as UPS antagonism, does not endear her further to the crew. Cait alone does her best to build a common understanding with Nadira, particularly when the news they receive from Earth on waking brings a whole new, and potentially destructive, political dynamic to shipboard life. Despite the hostility directed at her, particularly from Mission Specialist Tom Harris, but also from Lex Daziel, Nadira is an effective member of the crew and works diligently on her mission goals, and it’s Nadira who first alerts the crew to the hypercane raging across the face of the planet Horizon, and the dangers that it poses to the viability of the world’s biosphere.


Mission Specialist Lex Dalziel — Life Sciences / Ship’s Medical Officer (European Union)

‘I didn’t travel all this way to put up with this sort of bullshit. I say we ignore the whole bloody broadcast. Earth’s too far away to bother about now.’


Although from an unspecified part of the European Union, in my mind, by name, and certainly by disposition, Lex is Scottish. A brilliant scientist, he could do a lot better in the social skills department, and he delights in setting up conflict among the crew just to see how it unfolds. But Lex also has some deeply held core principles which shape his actions. First and foremost he believes in the importance of the science he performs and the absolute necessity of ensuring the environment of Horizon is not contaminated as a result of the presence of Magellan. He also feels that — since Earth is a one hundred and ten year round trip away — the needs of Earth and whatever orders they may issue to the crew are a distant second to what he believes is right. When Earth re-establishes contact, and things don’t go the way he thinks they should, he challenges himself to show the courage of his convictions and for that he needs an ally. Cait and Lex were close on the initial outward journey until she understood his predilection for troublemaking. Now their relationship is difficult, and so he tries his best to enlist Mission Specialist Bren Thurgood, the bio-jack, to help him.


Mission Specialist Bren Thurgood — Computer Control / Remote Sensing (Pax Americana)

‘And now everyone needs me again. You, Cait, Earth . . . Where were all of you when I needed someone?’


Bren is a bio-jack, which means she has a chip in her head that lets her interact with and remotely control a range of ship’s systems. The transhumans of Earth’s future are often viewed with distrust and fear. Tom Harris is certainly no lover of bio-jacks and worries about Bren’s ability to ‘meddle’ with the systems he controls by more conventional methods. Bren was an unlikely addition to the crew, but Cait lobbied hard to have her included, firstly because she likes the younger woman, but also because they both had difficult upbringings in the desolate former USA. Bren feels like an orphan. Cut off from humanity because of the chip she carries, and cut off from other transhumans because of how far she’s travelled from Earth, she can only rely on herself.


Mission Specialist Tom Harris — Ship’s Drive / Life Support Systems (Pax Americana)

‘And as for the others . . . well, you know what I think about them, but I’ll keep my opinions to myself for the sake of shipboard harmony. As long as they do the same.’


Harris is a talented engineer. He understands technical systems a hell of a lot better than he understands people and he doesn’t have much time for the niceties of social interactions. He’s also an old-fashioned patriot and resents Nadira’s presence on board and Lex’s apparent disregard for the orders coming out of launch control. But for all his faults he’s a straight shooter and what you see is what you get. He recognises Cait is trying to do her best to follow mission requirements, and he respects the lengths she has to go to in order to bring the rest of the crew with her. He knows he couldn’t do what she does and so he does his best to support her, even though it’s hard to keep a lid on his own temper sometimes.


Phillips — Computer Interface Personality for Magellan

‘You have something that belongs to me, Thurgood. For everyone’s sake, I suggest you give it up.’


Modelled on Launch Director Dan Phillips of the Pax Air and Space Administration, Phillips is essential to Magellan’s operation, maintaining integrated control of all ship’s systems as well as balancing the drive and performing the billions of calculations required to create and control the pico-pulse thrust cascades that allow Magellan to travel at 0.6 lightspeed while ensuring the safety of the fragile humans on board. He’s also — when the crew wake from deepsleep — acting very strangely indeed.


And there you have it: five souls and one artificial intelligence as far away from the rest of humanity as you can imagine, with the fate of two planets hanging in the balance.


Follow the Horizon Blog Tour


3 November — Extract of Horizon — Voyager blog

4 November — Character Building: Meet the Crew — Trent Jamieson’s blog

5 November — Welcome to Magellan: Inside the Ship — Darkmatter

6 November — Futureshock: Charting the History of Tomorrow — Lee Battersby’s blog

7 November — Engage: Tinkering With a Quantum Drive — Joanne Anderton’s blog

10 November — Stormy Weather: Facing Down Climate Change — Ben Peek’s blog

11 November — Time Travel: Relatively Speaking — Rjurik Davidson’s blog

12 November — Consciousness Explorers: Inside a Transhuman — Alan Baxter’s blog

13 November — From the Ground Up: Building a Planet — Sean Wright’s blog

14 November — Life Persists: Finding the Extremophile — Greig Beck’s Facebook page

17 November — Interview — Marianne De Pierres’ blog


Keith Stevenson is a science fiction author, editor, publisher and reviewer. His debut novel Horizon is available as an ebook via


His blog is at

The Business of Death

The Business of Death is finally available in its own e-volume – ie not as part of the omnibus. While the omnibus still works out as better value, it is a rather pretty thing. Here’s the cover. I love the colour and the comet.Business of DeathSo, only three and bit years after it was released you can now buy it as an e-book. I’d have loved to have seen this on the shelves, but then again, I was so lucky to see the omnibus edition – and a truly different take on the cover (which I adore).

And the next Death Works book is coming along nicely, it’s much bigger than 4, definitely a novel (though a short one), and it’ll swing us around to the end of the third sequence – which may also be rather novely too. Oh, and I’ll be writing a sort of prologuish story for this one, too, IN THIRD PERSON AND PAST TENSE NO LESS!

I can’t wait for you all to read this new one, I think it’s a lot cheerier than the last two, and it’s filled with added new characters – who I very much have enjoyed hanging with. This world has been a part of my life for over half a decade now, and I get the feeling it will be for a while yet.

The thing about Death and Mortmax, and Steve and Lissa and Wal and Tim and Mr D and James and Anthony and Bernice (yes, see, new characters) is that they give me a hell* of a lot of room to explore pretty much whatever I want to (wait until I finally get to the knotworkers). And I get to write about my home town. Makes writing a damn fun thing indeed.

Oh and you can buy this old/new edition here for kobo

and here for and

If you’ve already bought the omnibus edition that is plenty. If you’ve bought any edition and liked it, please put up a review on the retailer’s site of your choosing. Writer’s love reviews, they help sell books.


*no pun intended – OK, sort of intended.