Supanova Gold Coast, 2018

Salvete, readers!

A couple of weeks ago I attended Supanova Comic Con and Gaming on the Gold Coast. This is one of the biggest pop culture events in Australia. My publisher, Odyssey Books, very kindly provided me with a ticket so that I could promote my upcoming novel The Way Home, the first instalment of the Ashes of Olympus trilogy. The novel will be available at all good online retailers on 31 July, 2018. Supanova GC was actually my very first convention, and I’ve been reflecting on it as a learning experience.

 

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At the Odyssey table

I have never really felt the urge to attend these events up until this point, for a few reasons. Besides the fact I have never really had that much in the way of disposable income, crowds aren’t really my thing. And yet it was more than that. Though I’ve always adored pretty much any story which featured spaceships or dragons or robots or magic swords, I’ve always shied away from the social aspects of pop culture. I was always happy to enjoy the genre stuff in the comfort of my armchair, perhaps quietly geeking out with a handful of friends online. Doing it face-to-face always felt weird. Besides the fact I tend to be an introvert, I always worried I was doing it wrong.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been surrounded by nerds berating me for not liking the right things, or liking the wrong things, or still being into the thing they’ve now decided was uncool. Or I quite like something but am a complete novice and therefore unworthy. So I guess I approached this event with a certain amount of trepidation—what if I was doing it wrong, not just with the stories I like, but with a story I had created?

Well, I had to get over it fast, because the doors were opening and literally thousands of people were pouring into the convention centre. The cosplay was amazing and colourful. I’m astounded and impressed by the effort people put into celebrating the things they love, but I must admit I felt a little surge of adrenaline as a legion of superheroes, anime characters, zombies, and Vikings came rushing in…

Well, the good news is that nobody told me I’m doing it wrong. In retrospect, I don’t think I needed to worry.

Lots of people stopped by the table for a chat. I swallowed my nervousness, pressed my promotional postcards into their hands and gave them my elevator pitch. To my amazement, most people seemed genuinely interested in the story and impressed by the artwork on the postcards. A lot of people said they’ll look out for the book when it’s available. Some wanted advice on how to start writing or get published, and I was more than happy to share my experiences. I got to share my enthusiasm about some of the books on the Odyssey table and managed to sell a few books by my friends—I love having the opportunity to help fellow authors out. I also went wandering and met some local indie authors, bought a few books, and had a merry chat about the industry and where it’s going. I even had the chance to meet Terry Brooks, creator of The Shannara Chronicles, and he gave me some awesome advice—but that story is probably worthy of its own blog post!

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Here’s a promotional postcard!

By the end of the day, I had found my tribe—the folks I met that day are genuine, friendly people who adore stories just as much as I do, and aren’t afraid to show it. Turns out I do have a place in this world, after all.

Of course, that was only the trial run. The real test will be at Supanova in Brisbane later in the year, when I’m promoting my actual book.

I hope I see you there!

Until next time,

Valete

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Some very good news!

Salvete, readers!

As you may have seen on Facebook and Twitter, I have just signed a publishing contract for my debut novel with Odyssey Books. The Ashes of Olympus trilogy kicks off in 2018, both digitally and in print. It’s a YA historical fantasy based on Greek mythology, in which a band of refugees must face the wrath of the gods to find a way home.

I want to convey how thrilled I am to share this news, but words just won’t cut it. Instead, I’ll let my good friend Snoopy do the talking.

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This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to publication, but still, it’s my debut novel. Academic publishing and commercial fiction are universes apart, and you can bet I’m going to make the most of the experience. Publishing fiction has been a dream of mine since the first grade, when I wrote a story about a boy who was transformed into a koala.

I look forward to sharing the adventure with you over the coming months. As we get closer to publication day, I’ll share the cover with you and tell you more about the story and what went into it.

I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

Until next time,

Valete

Book Review: Heart of Brass by Felicity Banks

Salvete, readers!

Welcome to my review of Heart of Brass, the first of the Antipodean Queen trilogy by Felicity Banks.

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Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction in which I’ve only occasionally dipped my toes. It’s so extensive, I have never been quite sure where to start. Heck, it’s more than a subgenre, it’s a subculture. Quick introduction for the uninitiated: in the world of story-telling, steampunk occupies a unique space, somewhere between historical and science fiction, sometimes with elements of the supernatural. The writer of steampunk creates a world based upon the late nineteenth-century fascination with technological progress. Taking their cue from authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, whom I loved as a kid, steampunk authors pepper their worlds with futuristic ‘what if’ ideas. What if we never abandoned steam power in favour of internal combustion, but pushed the technology to its limits?

Unlike Verne and Wells, however, a steampunk author isn’t so much elaborating on the present as they are drawing upon notions of the past. Therefore I’d argue that effective steampunk needs to carry a sense of historicity as well as the fantastic. It’s all very well to create a world where folk whizz about on steam-powered motorcycles and wear goggles as a fashion statement, but effective steampunk also needs to capture social mores and attitudes of the Victorian era. And this can be the triumph or the downfall of the genre. Some readers find the subgenre Eurocentric, homophobic or misogynistic, a celebration of archaic attitudes which belong to an imperialist age. How refreshing to find Heart of Brass has none of these negative qualities!

Banks’s novel bowls along at a terrific pace and is filled with fantastic detail, yet the real brilliance of Heart of Brass is its subversion of the unsavoury aspects of the genre. Through deep and sympathetic understanding of the period setting, Banks has crafted a more vibrant tale. By setting the novel in late convict-era Australia, Banks tells the story from the viewpoint not just of the coloniser but also of the colonised. Our protagonist, Emmeline Muchamore is a proper young Englishwoman who carries a dark secret— or rather, a bright shiny one. Her steam-powered brass heart is a source of scandal in London high society. When it goes kaput, Emmeline steals the silver the needs to make repairs. Convicted of petty theft, Emmeline is transported to the distant colony of Australia—or Hades, as she initially calls it. Caught in the fever of the gold rush, Emmeline is swept into an adventure with a pair of ballooning bushrangers and marauding prospectors astride tin horses. In the bloodbath of the Eureka Rebellion, Emmeline’s love of all things imperial is challenged for the first time.

Full disclosure: as an Aussie who is more than a bit partial to adventure stories, I’m really happy the phrase ‘ballooning bushranger’ now exists.

The novel aptly demonstrates that inclusivity enriches a story. Without giving away too many spoilers, Banks includes marginalised characters from the viewpoint of a Christian protagonist. Historically, it makes sense for Emmeline to be part of the Church of England. Yet the Christian viewpoint never drowns out the voices of Aboriginal and queer characters. Banks put in the hard work to ensure that her work is culturally sensitive, consulting Dr Anita Heiss in the preparation of her manuscript. Inclusivity works best when marginalised characters are integral to the narrative, not added in a display of tokenism. The heroes of Emmeline’s world are the dispossessed and the outcast, and she doesn’t shy away from showing Emmeline’s internal conflict when she is confronted by her own privilege. The result is a more complex and dynamic story.

It’s not really a criticism to say that the story left me with a few questions which I would love to see answered in the sequels: for example, it’s never made entirely clear why Emmeline’s father replaced her organic heart with a biological one, or how artificial intelligence works in mechanical beasts the heroes encounter. I know that Heart of Brass exists in a world with its own internal logic, but it’s a world I’d like to explore in greater depth.

All in all, this is a cracking read, and I can’t wait to read the recent sequel, Silver and Stone. Fingers crossed for Ned Kelly-style power armour at some point in the series!

Until next time,

Valete