Reviews roll in for Defy the Grey Kings

Now, if there’s anything an author likes, it’s reviews. We hunt them down like bloodhounds, scoffing down each morsel as we howl “they love me, they really love me!”


So some reviews are rolling in for my latest epistle “Defy the Grey Kings” (now available over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies). Bust out the crayolas and colour me tickled pink! When I read this first review, I actually lost my mind and cracked up laughing. Best reviewer ever!

TUSK ART 2 Daniel Watts 2012_NEW_NEW

(artwork by Daniel Watts, from the lamented Terra mag)

Any review called “If Babar Were a Bloodthirsty Death Machine” is bang on the money. This reviewer actually goes through and offers a detailed comparison of the Babar books with my own story, in which blood-thirsty elephants have enslaved humanity.

“Babar enjoys quiet strolls through the woods with friends, or relaxing in a hammock after a busy day. Ascaro, a respected and feared bull of an elephant, enjoys getting drunk on melon wine and murdering his human slaves by stomping on them until their bones are ground to dust or they’ve choked to death in the mud.”

“Neither Babar nor Fischer’s ‘Grey Kings’ aspire toward Nabakovian levels of character complexity, but what they offer instead are rich, imaginative worlds in which a conflict (e.g., Which bow-tie will Babar wear to the picnic? or: How will the half-crippled slave-warrior Ghost manage to stab a spear directly into his drunken master’s brainstem? etc.) is addressed by an invested, active character.”

OMFG.  Seriously, I love you FictionFeed. Keep on being rockstars. Rest of the best review ever can be found here -

Next up is a review from Tangent Online in which reviewer Joshua Berlow says:

“We’re not overwhelmed with the details of the elephant kingdom’s politics, history, religion, and whatever else. Instead, we’re given pertinent, interesting details regarding the life of these slaves and we get into gladiatorial action quickly. Ghost is selected to be Rothai, human slaves that fight atop their master elephant in battle. The elephants amuse themselves and determine hierarchy in these deadly tusk-to-tusk battles on Blood Meadow.”
“This story has cinematic potential as well, if somehow intelligent elephants and their battles could be portrayed effectively on film. Altogether a rousing and engaging story that redeems Beneath Ceaseless Skies#180.”
Full review here:

Next up is a review from Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews, who offers a well-considered review of my story. He says:

“This is a much darker story, though one that deals with the harsh realities of slavery and torture and death. In some ways it is a difficult story to read, because it follows Ghost, a slave to elephants, as he suffers and kills for his master’s benefit and slowly sees everything around him rot and die. Raised to be of no value, he witnesses the cruelty of the elephants, how they treat their slaves, and dreams of the day when he can be free. His plan of action, though, does not go well. Not well at all. Again, it’s a rather difficult story to read at times, because it is very, very dark. Bleak. And I’m not entirely sure what to think of that. The world building is fine and interesting, the elephants quite terrifying antagonists with their size and cruelty. But then, the elephants become devils because they are seen as only evil, as cruel without anything really redeeming about them.”

“Again, I like many aspects of the story, and it is gritty and dark and brutal. And it does show how the cycle of violence continues, how slavery poisons people, makes them see the world in terms of master and slave without a way out, without thinking to take the system itself down. I like the message that slavery must be fought, and I hesitate to say that such fighting has to be nice or non-violent, but I do believe that it should be a struggle to eradicate slavery and not just changing who is on top and who on bottom. Still, a story worth grappling with, and I’m sure there are many who will have more fun with it than me.”

The full review can be read at this link:

Seriously, head over and read what the reviewers have to say about my story and others. Reviewing is a hard road to hoe, and when done well you can get a great feel for what an anthology or magazine is like before you put your dollars down. Whether the reviews are positive or critical, someone put down some serious time to read the piece and offer detailed commentary, and that makes them a legend in my book. I seriously love reviewers!


An update fit for an elephant!

Today, my fantasy story “Defy the Grey Kings” went live over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. This is a new short story in the same setting as my infamous serialised novel Tusk, the world where iron-age elephants have enslaved humanity…


(Picture courtesy of Rhys James, from the late lamented Terra magazine)

“There are many ways to kill an elephant. When that mountain bears down on you, shaking the earth and screaming for your blood, show no fear.

Only without fear will you see the truth. They are quick, even draped in chain and iron, but you are quicker by a whisker. They fight like devils, but it only takes three people who know what they are doing to bring an elephant down.

They are afraid of you.

All elephants can die.”

To read the full story, visit the most excellent Beneath Ceaseless Skies via this link:


Do Androids Dream of Electric Tamsyn?

So, Google came up with a weird algorithm that allegedly mimics what an AI would dream about, or some such. You might have seen a bunch of pictures doing the rounds, where the original image has been rendered psychedelic by the new Deep Dream code.

It took a few days, but I fed the cover-art for Quiver through Deep Dream. Dreams play a very important role in this book, and it was interesting to see this end result:


Instead of zombies, it looks like a dog headed Tamsyn (with a creature living in her belly) is facing down some foes from a Hieronymous Bosch painting.  The clouds look like sinister business men, the beach looks like a cthulhian oil-slick, and her shoe looks like the curl of a millipede, or maybe a snake.

TRIPPY AS HELL. I recommend everyone use this thing for the lolz. Here is the original artwork, for your reference. Once again, huge thanks and all credit for this artwork go to Jason Paulos, artiste extraordinaire.

341649 (1)


I Finished My Damn Novel

Well, I just put the finishing touches to THIS EMPTY EARTH, a science fiction thriller.

So I started this in November 2013, while being distracted by life, earning the very tricksy certification to do clinical coding, and every now and then sneaking off to work on a short story or novella. I suppose 18 months isn’t too bad a stretch for cranking out a novel, fitting a writing career around every other damn thing :-)

With the caveat that this is of course the first draft (draft 1.5 I suppose, as I edit while I go) I am now in the market for some wonderful beta readers who will pull no punches. I shall thank any volunteers with an acknowledgement should the book find a home, my eternal thanks, and the offer of a quid pro quo beta read should you also be a writer.

Peter Ball, please inform your parents that I have finished my damn novel :-)

The End

The Long Slog

Writing can be such a long slog, but like all things worthwhile it doesn’t always come easy. Fellow ink-scribe Steve Savile once described it to me thus: “A writing career should not be a sprint, but a marathon,” or words to that effect.

I would paraphrase this even further, if I may. A writing career is like a series of swift kicks to the gut, interrupted by the occasional lollipop. It’s great having written, but everything up to that point is godawful solitude, a lonely pouring of your brain juices onto the page. Worse, it might not even work as a piece of creative expression, and you’re left with festering brain juice and nothing decent to show for it.

However, I cannot imagine doing anything else but this :-) here’s to all the ink-scribes and creatives, just keep at it! Here’s some Acker Dacker to spur you on.

WINNER – “Name that Cat” Contest

Had some great entries for the “Name That Cat” contest for my novel-in-progress “This Empty Earth”. Some real imaginative efforts here, as well as many people taking the piss. I salute you all!

There can be only one winner, so the cat in my novel will hereby be known as Pushkin. Congratulations, Thoraiya Dyer, you are the winner of a copy of my novel “Quiver”, and in the happy event that the book gets published, I shall list you in the acknowledgements :-)

Now, onward with the writing! Pushkin awaits.

COMPETITION – Name That Cat!

Okay folks, it’s competition time. I’m about 3/4 of the way through the first draft of “This Empty Earth”, a thriller novel where every living creature on the surface of the Earth mysteriously vanishes. The only ones to be spared from this event are those up in planes, skydiving, hot-air balloons, you name it.

Naturally enough, I have a cast of plucky heroes/heroines, and plenty of dastardly villains. I also have a cat survivor, who for various reasons is important to the plot of the story. Cats were also wiped from the face of the earth, except for a lucky few felines who were up in air, snoozing in their animal carriers.

This cat has the placeholder name of Miffsy, which is less than ideal. So I’m looking for name suggestions. They could be your real life cat, a person’s name, or something so ridiculous that I have no choice but to go with it :-) the winner of this impromptu contest as judged by me will win a hard-copy of my zombie novel Quiver (posted in Australia only – international people, I shall find something equally awesome for you should you win).

So either leave your entry as a comment here, as a comment on my Facebook page under this entry, or email your suggestions to “mail AT”

I’ll leave this contest open till I receive the perfect name. Go to it, cat callers!

Worlds Within You – Worldbuilding Workshop with Jason Fischer, 16th April

Worlds Within You jpg

I’m running a world-building workshop during National Youth Week for any budding creatives. The workshop is at the Woodcroft Library on 16th April, from 6:30-8pm. I’m told there will be pizza, and we’re going to go berserk with the butcher’s paper, lego and plasticine. I’ll be passing on my knowledge of how to make up a fantasy world for stories and comics, and you better believe there’s going to be some amateur cartography :-)

Workshop is suitable for 10-15 year olds, let anyone know south of Adelaide who may be keen.

2014 Aurealis Awards Finalists Announced

Last night, the conveners released their shortlist for the 2014 Aurealis Awards. Seems it’s time to crack open the Tia Maria and put on some footy franks, because one of my stories is up for a gong! Up for Best Science Fiction Short Story is my pulpy SF piece “The Glorious Aerybeth”, which appeared in Canada’s OnSpec Magazine last year.


I find myself sharing this shortlist with many wonderful friends and colleagues, and am always tickled pink when I sneak onto one of these things. It’s a little surreal to get some recognition for my science fiction, as I’m typically a fantasy or horror writer. Added bonus, I’m sharing a shortlist with Garth Nix, whose writing I have idolised for years! He is one of the writers who first inspired me to pick up the pen, which makes this a very cool moment.

“Winners of the 2014 Aurealis Awards and the Convenors’ Award for Excellence will be announced at the Aurealis Awards ceremony, on the evening of Saturday 11 April at the University House, Canberra. Details of the evening and a link to the online booking website are available at

Complete Aurealis shortlist is as follows:


Fireborn, Keri Arthur (Hachette Australia)

This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

The Lascar’s Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette Australia)

Dreamer’s Pool, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)

Daughters of the Storm, Kim Wilkins (Harlequin Enterprises Australia)


“The Oud”, Thoraiya Dyer (Long Hidden, Crossed Genres Publications)

“Teratogen”, Deborah Kalin (Cemetery Dance, #71, May 2014)

“The Ghost of Hephaestus”, Charlotte Nash (Phantazein, FableCroft Publications)

“St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls”, Angela Slatter (The Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3)

“The Badger Bride”, Angela Slatter (Strange Tales IV, Tartarus Press)


Aurora: Meridian, Amanda Bridgeman (Momentum)

Nil By Mouth, LynC (Satalyte)

The White List, Nina D’Aleo (Momentum)

Peacemaker, Marianne de Pierres (Angry Robot)

This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

Foresight, Graham Storrs (Momentum)


“The Executioner Goes Home”, Deborah Biancotti (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 11 Issue 6)

“Wine, Women and Stars”, Thoraiya Dyer (Analog Vol CXXXIV nos 1&2 Jan/Feb)

“The Glorious Aerybeth”, Jason Fischer (OnSpec, 11 Sep 2014)

“Dellinger”, Charlotte Nash (Use Only As Directed, Peggy Bright Books)

“Happy Go Lucky”, Garth Nix (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)


Book of the Dead, Greig Beck (Momentum)

Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier (Allen & Unwin)

Obsidian, Alan Baxter (HarperVoyager)


“The Executioner Goes Home”, Deborah Biancotti (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 11 Issue 6)

“Skinsuit”, James Bradley (Island Magazine 137)

“By the Moon’s Good Grace”, Kirstyn McDermott (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 12, Issue 3)

“Shay Corsham Worsted”, Garth Nix (Fearful Symmetries, Chizine)

“Home and Hearth”, Angela Slatter (Spectral Press)


The Astrologer’s Daughter, Rebecca Lim (Text Publishing)

Afterworld, Lynnette Lounsbury (Allen & Unwin)

The Cracks in the Kingdom, Jaclyn Moriarty (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Clariel, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

The Haunting of Lily Frost, Nova Weetman (UQP)

Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)


“In Hades”, Goldie Alexander (Celapene Press)

“Falling Leaves”, Liz Argall (Apex Magazine)

“The Fuller and the Bogle”, David Cornish (Tales from the Half-Continent, Omnibus Books)

“Vanilla”, Dirk Flinthart (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Signature”, Faith Mudge (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)


Slaves of Socorro: Brotherband #4, John Flanagan (Random House Australia)

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, Karen Foxlee (Hot Key Books)

The Last Viking Returns, Norman Jorgensen and James Foley (ILL.) (Fremantle Press)

Withering-by-Sea, Judith Rossell (ABC Books)

Sunker’s Deep: The Hidden #2, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Shadow Sister: Dragon Keeper #5, Carole Wilkinson (Black Dog Books)


The Female Factory, Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter (Twelfth Planet Press)

Secret Lives, Rosaleen Love (Twelfth Planet Press)

Angel Dust, Ian McHugh (Ticonderoga Publications)

Difficult Second Album: more stories of Xenobiology, Space Elevators, and Bats Out Of Hell, Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Angela Slatter (Tartarus Press)

Black-Winged Angels, Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications)


Kisses by Clockwork, Liz Grzyb (Ed) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Eds), (Twelfth Planet Press)

Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction, Dominica Malcolm (Ed) (Solarwyrm Press)

Reach for Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Solaris Books)

Fearsome Magics, Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Solaris Books)

Phantazein, Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)


Left Hand Path #1, Jason Franks & Paul Abstruse (Winter City Productions)

Awkwood, Jase Harper (Milk Shadow Books)

“A Small Wild Magic”, Kathleen Jennings (Monstrous Affections, Candlewick Press)

Mr Unpronounceable and the Sect of the Bleeding Eye, Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)

The Game, Shane W Smith (Deeper Meanings Publishing)

(original post here –