Eight Weeks of Bells

Eight weeks in and recovery is remarkably slow – but I was told to expect this. I reckon I have another couple of months at least until I’m recovered enough that it doesn’t annoy me.  But my eye no longer hurts, and my tear duct has started working again, and there’s nothing more delightful than an eye that isn’t sore, and being able to walk around in the daylight even when you forget your sunglasses!

Still, in that time I’ve finished a draft of a book – more on that in the next few months, I guess – and am nearly finished a new Death Works story (more on that when it finds a home).

Other books are starting to take shape and vie for attention so I think this is going to be a productive year. One can hope anyway.

This is my favourite time of the year. The light’s changing, the morning’s are gorgeous, and I always seem to get so much more done. Winter’s coming which means camping and coats, more writing, and time curled up beneath blankets reading. Things don’t get much better than that.


Two Weeks In

Two weeks of Bell’s Palsy has been a curious thing. I can almost forget I have it until I need to speak, or eat, or drink – there’s been a few spills. Fortunately writing is a relatively solitary activity, so I’ve not had to push it too hard other than at Avid, and people can still understand what I’m saying (except, when I try and say Bell’s Palsy, hah!).

As far as medical conditions go it has been very mild. Other than not being able to close my eye (but drops and gel seem to be keeping discomfort and dryness at bay). Though that said, I’d still rather not have it.

On the writing front, the new book is coming along rather nicely. This draft looks like it should be finished in the next month, which pleases me greatly. I’m very happy with this, and the next book I’m working on*, and writing, consistently writing always makes me a happier person – even if what I’m writing is dark or even depressing.

I don’t think there is a better way to play for me. And I’m lucky that I’ve had it almost all my life as comfort, challenge, and therapy.

Have decided to revisit the Death Works and Night Bound Land books here, too. Partly because I think there’s still plenty of stories left in those worlds (seriously, one way or another there’s another six books worth of Death Works and the NBL has some stories fore and aft of the novels that I’d really like to play with) and partly to build a little scaffolding around them. And hey, I reckon they’re actually good little books. So if there’s anything you’d like me to expand upon let me know. I’ll work it out as we go along.

Finally, here’s a little sketch of our house guest of the last month – and who has just headed home.





*yeah, I’m always looking ahead.

Bell’s Palsy – What I Got up to on My Holidays

So, what did you all do on your holidays?

Me, I’ve gone and gotten Bell’s Palsy, which is a very difficult word to say when you have Bell’s Palsy (those hard B and P sounds are too hard for my half paralyzed face to produce).  It’s one of those weird conditions where no-one is quite sure of the cause and it’s very benign (unless it’s not, but we won’t think about that, yet!). You tend to wake up in the morning (sometimes after an ear ache, sometimes not) with half your face not doing what it’s supposed to be doing (moving).

Me, not being a doctor, and having never heard of Bell’s Palsy assumed I’d had a stroke. Except, of course, it was only my face that was affected – in fact Diana had to talk me out of doing push-ups to “prove” that it wasn’t, though how that was going to prove anything, I don’t know.

The moment the doctor saw me he said: you’ve got Bell’s Palsy, Kid. (He may not have said kid, kid is there simply for dramatic effect, or something).

The nerve (the 7th cranial nerve, don’t you know) that controls the right side of my face is no longer talking to my brain (maybe they had a bit of fight, it tends to happen, my brain and body rarely agree on anything). Which means I can’t smile, well, I can but it’s very lopsided, I can’t raise my eyebrow (and we all know how MUCH I like to do that), and I can’t say the words Bell’s Palsy.

I’m on a short course of steroids – apparently hitting it early with steroids is quite effective – and the paralysis should clear up in the next few weeks (or months, but fingers crossed it’s only weeks). But when you work in retail it’s rather inescapable. For a man who’s just turned forty and who is used to a certain level of eloquence, and possessed of a certain level of vanity (who isn’t) it’s been quite an eye opener (literally in the case of my right eye which can’t quite close). People aren’t sure what to say about the lopsided face, and actually explaining about Bell’s Palsy means I have to say  “Bell’s Palsy” so we all end up looking confused.

Hopefully this will be all gone in a few weeks, but I can’t help but wonder how this must be for people who have to put up with similar conditions for their whole life (actually, I don’t need to wonder, I’ve had a pretty good glimpse). So, to anyone that I’ve ever looked at oddly, or seemed awkward around (hopefully never deliberately) please accept my apologies. I can do better, and I will.

And thanks to everyone (particularly Diana, my family, and workmates at Avid – my second family) that has helped make me feel a lot less sorry for myself over the past few days. Friends, laughter, and people willing to listen to me moan have been invaluable.

So that’s been my interesting little holiday. I guess, if you’re going to get a relatively benign condition, and you’re a Fantasy writer, something as odd as Bell’s Palsy isn’t too bad. I’m putting it down as research (though I don’t think I can get away with claiming it on my tax return) and appreciating that it’s paralysis of the face, not fingers, because my holiday’s over, I have lots of writing to do.


Seven Writerly Sorts of Questions for Ian Irvine


I first met Ian Irvine at Supanova a couple of years back, he was an absolute delight, a great author to hang around with, and very funny as well. But I was familiar with his work long before that – my uncorrected proof of A Shadow on the Glass is a treasure. Ian has had a great career as fantasy writer, for both adults and younger readers. If you go to the fantasy section of any bookstore you’ll see a stack of his books: the latest of which is Rebellion book two in the Tainted Realm Trilogy. Epic fantasy is rarely more epic than in Ian’s books. (I’ve also just found a short novella published in the Tainted Realm world – you can check it out here and I’ve embedded it below the interview so you can get a taste)

He also has a very rich webpage filled with sage writerly advice.

So, when I had a chance to hit him with a few writerly questions I couldn’t resist.

1) Vengeance and Rebellion are part of The Tainted Realm Trilogy. The third book, Justice, is out in twelve months.  What is the Tainted Realm, and why is it tainted?


The Tainted Realm is the remote island nation once called Cythe, which was brutally colonised long ago by the invading Hightspallers. Cythe’s naïve young king, Lyf, was betrayed and murdered. Its history, art and culture were erased and its clever native people were reduced to despicable degradoes, on the verge of extinction when, without warning, they vanished.


Two thousand years later, when the story begins, Hightspall is crippled by an unending succession of natural disasters, and even the magic that bought their initial victory is failing. It feels as though the very land is rising up to cast them out – as though the realm itself has been tainted by the means Hightspall used to take Cythe.


Then the Cythians reappear from underground, armed with terrifying alchymical weaponry Hightspall has no idea how to fight. Worst of all, the Cythian armies are directed by King Lyf’s immortal wrythen, an embodied spirit bent on a terrible vengeance for all the wrongs his beloved land and people have suffered.


2) There are definite (but heightened) parallels with Australia’s history (and the history of a lot of colonial countries); was this deliberate?


I did have the global history of colonisation in mind when I was creating The Tainted Realm, though the world I’ve created wasn’t based on or even inspired by the colonial history of Australia or any other country.


Rather, my initial inspiration lay in modern politics – in particular, the way that the authority and even the legitimacy of some political leaders can be undermined by the things they do to gain or maintain power.


I was thinking of Richard Nixon and Watergate, for instance; and Malcolm Fraser’s toppling of Gough Whitlam in Australia in the 1970s; and, more recently, Julia Gillard’s takeover from Kevin Rudd.


The leadership of each of these people was tainted by their actions; in the case of Richard Nixon, it created national rifts and scars which still affect American politics to this day. It was these kinds of scars that I wanted to explore and use as the background to The Tainted Realm.


3) These are big books, truly epic fantasy. How do you keep control of the narrative? I guess what I’m trying to say is, are you a planner or a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants)?


I must be a natural plotter, I suppose, since my editors rarely have a problem with the structure of my books. I used to be a pantser – I would do only a sketchy outline, and a small amount of world-building, then make the story  up as I went along. This is how I operated for my first five or six or seven books. I often wouldn’t know what was going to happen on the next page, much less the next chapter. And it worked – some of my most successful and well-liked books, such as The View from the Mirror Quartet, and Geomancer, were written that way.


However these days I’m very much a planner, for a very good reason. Having written so much (28 books, mostly big ones, and nearly 4 million published words) I’ve used up an enormous number of characters, settings and plot ideas. It’s increasingly difficult to be original ‘on the fly’; the writer’s mind tends to follow well-worn grooves. By planning a book in detail before I write, I can identify repetitive characters and ideas, and either change them or give them a twist to make them fresh.


My outline for Book 3, Justice, which I’m drafting now, is 25 pages, 55 scenes or super-scenes, and it has about 1,000 1-line dot points. There’s a picture of it on my News Blog, http://ianirvine.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/book-3-justice-the-story-so-far/


4) Your world-building is always top notch. Do you go into these books with a detailed bible, or is the world “revealed” to you as you write? (I know two questions about planning, but I am an appalling planner!).


I wouldn’t exactly call it a bible, though I do a lot of world-building before I begin writing, including maps, fairly detailed histories of the key races or peoples, the design of unique cultures and a fair bit of work on technologies, how magic or the uncanny works, and all the other aspects of the story.


But the world is also revealed to me as I write – I often find that aspects of the world-building I did beforehand don’t fit the story. It’s common for me to ditch such aspects for things that just pop into my head, or to be tweaking parts of the world right at the end.


For instance, in Vengeance, the business of the Herovians coming to Cythe, following instructions laid down in their Immortal Text, only occurred to me while I was doing the edits of the final draft (the 10th), a couple of weeks before the book went to typesetting. The consequences of their obsessive quest become a major plot driver in Rebellion and Justice, and changes everything.


5) What’s a typical writing day like for you?


I have two kinds of typical writing days: the first draft kind, and the rest.


When I’m writing the first draft, which these days I do following a detailed outline, I start around 5 am and write furiously all day, and sometimes well into the evening, if I can. I like to write first drafts as fast as possible, seven days a week, because by working this way I’m always in ‘the zone’, i.e. fully in the story. I find the story works better, and requires less editing, than when I grind out a draft over a period of months. For instance, last January I did the first draft of Rebellion, 164 k words, in 22 days and this is fairly typical.


But of course I do many drafts – a minimum of 6 per book, though more typically 8 or even 10. When re-drafting, I generally start around 7 am, write until the early afternoon, go for a walk in the garden, have a brief nap, then work through until dinner time. Evenings are family time; only when I’m up against a tight deadline do I work after dinner.


6) What was your favourite scene in Rebellion? (No Spoilers).


I can’t restrict myself to one scene, but whenever I think about the following scenes they move me greatly, one way or another:


  • Early in Rebellion, the painting Rix does on the wall of the crypt, showing himself and Tali about to kill their dearest friend. Afterwards he is consumed with horror and guilt. Why would he paint such a terrible scene? And is it prophetic, or not?
  • The entrance of Axil Grandys, one of the most outrageous villains I’ve ever created.
  • Tali’s fateful choice after she’s incited the slaves’ rebellion in the underground city of Cython – whether to use her great gift of magic for healing, or destruction.
  • The ending – the most poignant I’ve ever written.


7) Your villains are outstanding. Hero or villain, which is the most fun to write?


Villains, definitely. I had such fun writing Axil Grandys – he’s a towering figure in every respect. He says and does things no one else could get away with, through the sheer force of his personality. In some respects, he’s the villain we’d all like to be, if only we had the courage and the drive – and great dollops of innate evil, ha, ha!


Ian’s Website: http://www.ian-irvine.com/

Ian’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ianirvine.author

Ian’s Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/153703.Ian_Irvine

Ian Irvine is a marine scientist who has developed some of Australia’s national guidelines for protection of the marine environment, has also written 28 novels. These include the bestselling Three Worlds fantasy sequence (The View from the Mirror, The Well of Echoes and Song of the Tears), which has sold over a million copies, a trilogy of eco-thrillers, and 12 books for younger readers. Ian is currently working on Book 3, Justice.



A book by Booki.sh

Career Advice for Young Writers

I’m still putting up my old posts, but this one is a favourite, and since I’ve had a few questions on this topic lately, it never hurts to post it again.

Career Advice for Young Writers

Here’s my career advice.

Forget about a career.

Write as well as you can, about the stuff that matters to you.

Read and read and read.

Read stuff that you like, and stuff that you don’t like.

Read as widely as you can.

Write as much as you can. Write novels, write short stories, write poems, or whatever it is that interests you.  And keep writing.

Ask lots of questions. Think about lots of answers too, but ask lots of questions. Questions are where stories come from – stories are answers.

Don’t be frightened to make mistakes. Mistakes are interesting, embarrassing, maybe, but INTERESTING is always, well, interesting.

Learn as much about writing as you can.

Don’t let grammar scare you. It’s not scary. It’s just language about language. Learn what a noun is learn what a verb is. You can get by if you know what they are. They’re the important things. Nouns and verbs.





Get an index book and write down all the interesting words that you find – and their meanings (or you could make up their meanings, which would be interesting).

Only write what you want to write. Because it’s the writing that you want to write that you fight for.

No one fights for things that they think are stupid or boring, or they don’t care about.

Watch people.

Look at what people do.


Be still, and listen to people.

People are seriously stupid, and wise, and funny (and funny can come from wisdom and stupidity).

And read.

Write down your favourite book.

Read it again, and you’ll discover that every time you read a book it’s different, because YOU are different.

And when you read, each time you read you’re helping write that book again, in your head.

Write down the worst book you ever read.

Why was it the worst book. Read the first page. Read the last page. Was it really that horrible or was it better than you remember it?

And write down the ten things that you love most in the world, or the five things, or the hundred things.

Write down the ten things that you fear the most.

Slam one thing from each list together and see if you have a story.

Oh, and read some more.

Don’t expect much.  Expectations are poison.  Learn how to save money, then lend it to me (at low interest).

Dream high. Like really high. Dream the best stories. Dream that you can write the best stories and that, even when people tell you you can’t, you do, because you dreamt them.

Work hard at getting better.
You can always get better.


Read biographies.

Biographies are great.

They show you how vain we all are, and how clever and dumb, and that we all end up in the same spot no matter how hard we work, and that it’s better to do something that fulfils you rather than something that you hate, because you’re going to get to the same endpoint anyway.

And you’ll learn that life is sad and fun and stupid and tragic.

All of these are good things to learn and books will teach you that, so will life, but books do it differently, and they show you that it’s different and the same for everyone.

And, send stuff out.

Send your stories to competitions, send them to magazines, magazines which you have read and magazines which you haven’t. And don’t be frightened if you get rejections.

No hurts, but it doesn’t hurt long.

Read submission guidelines – there’s magic in submission guidelines, and editors will appreciate it when you read them. And you’ll learn things.

Don’t take it too seriously, but take it deathly seriously.

Write as though the devil’s on your shoulder.

Write so that you jump when there is a knock at the door, or see a crow.

Write so you laugh at shadows.

Write brave characters, write scared characters, write big characters and small characters, write about yourself and what you aren’t. Jump in people’s skins, feel what it is to be people that aren’t you.

Think about what you are like. Write that down.

Don’t just write what you know.

Write what you don’t know.  Make it something that you do. Don’t worry about being silly. Have fun.

Write hard. Because writing is hard.


Devour the world.

And never trust anyone that tells you, this is how it is!

Because there’s never just one “How it is” there are many.

Heaps of them – because that’s how it is!

Night’s Engines – It took a While to get Here

It’s a week until Night’s Engines’ launch, in fact, this time next week I expect to be ruddy cheeked and jolly. But this book was something that for a long time I never expected to see the light of day.

The Nightbound Land was a long time coming. All of my stuff is, though some stories takes longer than others, and this story took an awful long time.

When I initially conceived of the Nightbound Land it was called the Festival of Float, and was more of a children’s story – though a really, really dark children’s story.

The initial structure was pretty much as this page suggests below (it’s in a notebook dated 2002). Cadell wasn’t Cadell, but a man called Bartlett Bleaktongue, and he was more of a wizardly sort, and the story started off mentioning toasted cheese sandwiches, and leading into a sort of caper with young David, it was all rather Dickensian light, and there was a talking cat named Jim. Oh, and David worked in a bookstore that he should have inherited but had, somehow, lost. (Hmm, a cat-owning boy who works in a bookstore…). You can see that the structure for Roil is still there, that in its essentials it’s still the same story, but really, it was also very different.

If I had to point at an influence it would have been the book Harm’s Way by Colin Greenland, some of the more whimsical James Blaylock fantasies. But then I wrote the next chapter, Margaret’s chapter, with its Roil drowned city, its great cannons and wire ways, and for the next seven years (while I worked on this and lots of short stories) the book fought between David and Margaret, and Margaret won. Just like the Roil, the darkness swept through everything (or you could say I’m just a gloomy bugger at heart). Though it was always there. Before the caper story, before Margaret and David.

And here’s an early sketch of the boys of Roil – I’ll let you guess who they are. None of them are really like this in the book for one, they’re all rather a bit pale – though that was something that changed, too. I’d like to think that the writing improved as well.

It was also unashamedly Steampunk – the airships (but no aerokin, they came later) and trains and all those steampunkish appurtenances were there – though oddly enough about a year before all this I’d been considering writing a much more traditional epic fantasy along these lines. I’m glad I didn’t, I like the steam and the grit in this story.





Yes, this has been a long time coming, and it may be a while yet before it becomes a lived in page, with all the creaky lived in things, and a while yet before the new paint smell fades.

So who am I?

Well, there’s another blog, which I’ll still return to on occasion here. Feel free to trawl through it. It smells a little of old socks and spearmint, but it’s been around for a while. But this is the new, easier to find blog.

I’m a writer, and my first trilogy is coming out through Orbit books over the next twelve months and bit. It’s called the Death Works Trilogy, and it’s about how Death works (well, obviously), and the rise of one Steven de Selby in the ranks of Mortmax Industries. The first book is fast-paced, funny, and set in my hometown of Brisbane. There’s a nice blurb and a sort of official cover here, but I’m holding off putting that up until I get the actual cover, which should be fairly soon.

The first book Death Most Definite is due out in August and it has already been referred to in the Courier Mail as “Jim Butcher meets Holly Black: bleak funny and mysterious with a pulsing vein of tragic romance.”

Hey, that makes even me want to read it.

So, this is going to be my home.

I warn you now that I am a sporadic blogger. I blog in bursts, and then there are long, looong silences followed by about ten entries at once (you can see it on my old blog). I’m a bit manic in the blogging department, and sometimes I just need that quiet space in my skull to write, or think about writing. But I never let my blogs die.

As this is my new webpage I better mention where I’m at with THE BOOKS.

I new to this writing novels thing, well, not so much the writing, but the having them published. Feel free to come with me on a journey of discovery, you know the sort, where the hero (usually some sort of well meaning klutz) discovers their limitations and somehow manages to bumble along to the end, having all sorts of adventures, and maybe spending too long sitting out in the rain waiting for stuff to happen.

So where I’m at.

My first book Death Most Definite is due out in August. It has been written, re-written, structurally edited, copy-edited, and page-proofed, and while there’s probably something else that needs doing, we can say that it’s been put to bed. And I’m very happy with it.

Book Two Managing Death has been submitted, and read, and there’s a lot of work to be done on it, because I’m determined that it be a better book than the first one, and right now it isn’t. But I am something of  bullish rewriter, and, while I wait for comments back from Orbit, I’m already thinking about what needs to be done (though I promised my publisher I wouldn’t, I can’t help it, and we’re all about the honesty here, right). Expect it to be better than Book One, I’m sure you’ll let me know if it isn’t.

Book Three The Business of Death is a bunch of scribbled notes, a few scenes and a couple of chapters that I’ll probably be throwing out, but currently exist to give the book a bit of ballast. It better be much more than that come August (insert hollow laugh).

And that’s that.

At the moment. Despite all the hard work on Death Most Definite and Managing Death, it still all feels very abstract. And it probably will until the book is out. I’m excited, and I can’t wait/dread to discover what people will think of it, but that’s all very much in the future – there’s still time, say, for a comet to slam into the earth, or for some sort of book-eating plague to spread across the world, or even just a regular plague (ho hum).

But short of catastrophe these books will be out.

And you will all get a chance to read them (you know you wanna). Until then, it’s just me, and this blog, slouching towards Brisbane to be born and all that.