Category: Blog

September Update

Last month featured Pixie, this is Inari, my daughter’s cat. Of course she lives with me now. She’s upset because I turned off her Youtube video.
September Update
Sincerest sympathies to everyone doing it tough right now.
After a few weeks of spinning with anxiety as I waited to hear from the studio in the US about a TV adaptation of ‘Dark Heavens’, the team over there let me know that the studio passed on it and said no. The team aren’t giving up, they’re going to pitch it to streaming services (like Netflix) now.
They asked me to add additional information – and here’s an example of the cultural barriers that I’m trying to overcome with the series. The studio didn’t understand why the ‘Gods’ of China are on the Earthly plane at all, and wanted an explanation for it. In Chinese culture, this wouldn’t require explanation – the Gods mess around on the Earthly all the time, interfering with human matters – the Shang/Zhou war is an example of this, where the Gods took sides and fought in the armies.
There are numerous tales of saintly, youthful sages who travel from town to town, performing magic and doing good, who self-identify as Immortals. It’s just taken for granted that the Shen will come to Earth and mess around. (I won’t go into detail about how this is one part of the grand Chinese tradition of the ‘roving con man’ and how fake Immortals doing illusions in China and India is the precursor of modern stage magic!)

Ha ha no of course I am not a wandering itinerant camping in this cave, I am totally a Taoist Immortal. I can prove it – I’ll read your mind. Here, pick a card, any card.
(Note: I have literally, myself, seen someone do this – claim to be a Taoist Immortal, and prove it with some very simple stage magic illusions.)
The Gods being part of humanity and visiting Earth is something so intrinsically normal that it didn’t occur to me to explain it in the pitch documentation. It’s added now – without, of course, the roving con man angle.
The novel the Patrons on Patreon have been reading, ‘Minds of Sand and Light’ is now with two New York literary agents and one US publisher. This is very much a ‘here we go again’ feeling, as I did this with Dragon Empire and received rejections from everyone I submitted to. ‘Minds’ is significantly more topical and international, so I have high hopes for it. But here we go again.
While I was spinning waiting to hear from the studio, I started to adapt ‘Minds’ as a TV series screenplay and found that – to absolutely nobody’s surprise who knows me – it was fun and I’m quite good at it. The US team have asked to see the episodes I’ve written so far. There’s absolutely nothing like a decision that pivots your entire life to spur you into creativity!
As part of my association with Queensland Writers Centre, I now have a novel from a promising Brisbane author to assess, and provide advice on. This aspect of being an author is my favourite part – I get to help rising stars, and read their stuff before anyone else!
Stay safe for now everybody, I’ll let you know how the TV things progress.

August Update

Not a beach photo this month – here’s some Beans And Floof from Pixie for all the people in lockdown.

August Update
I seriously considered delaying this newsletter, because I have no news to share, but you all deserve to hear where things are, because of the big announcements I made in the last newsletter.
Television Pitch
I received an email from the Kellers in the US – they’re back at work there because they had an effective vaccine rollout – and the Dark Heavens TV series will be pitched to a major (like, really major) US studio on August 16th. I don’t expect to hear anything from them for a few days afterwards, because these things usually take more time than anyone expects.
‘Dark Heavens’ isn’t the only ‘intellectual property’ that’s being pitched at the meeting, the Kellers have a few TV projects that they’d like to get off the ground. I’ll pass the info on the result on as soon as I hear anything.

‘Minds of Sand and Light’
If the TV pitch wait is stressful, the NY agent wait is even more stressful. I’ve been following up after submitting ‘Minds’ to a really big NY literary agent a few weeks ago – and he emailed back to say that he hasn’t even looked at it yet, and to be patient. There’s no guarantee that he’ll accept the work to shop to publishers, so I have to wait until he makes a decision about it.
I can’t shop it to anyone else because it’s industry standard to shop to one agent at a time. The author has wasted their time if they read a manuscript that’s accepted by someone else.
This sort of long delay is completely normal for the publishing industry – I had one rejection eighteen months after I submitted the work to the publisher.
So what now?
Waiting for the results of the two big decisions above, either of which could be life changing, and are totally out of my control, has me struggling to be creative. Instead I’m teaching myself scriptwriting software, and writing scripts for both ‘Dark Heavens’ and ‘Minds’ so that I can have some creative input. Surprisingly it’s great fun!
I’m continuing to work and add to the Dark Heavens spinoff – and some of the new stuff is excellent! So the patrons are enjoying that. In the meantime, wish me luck, fingers crossed. A ‘Dark Heavens’ TV series would be terrific.

July Update

On clear winter days like this I can literally see into the next state. The high-rises on the peninsula at the far left are in Coolangatta, in New South Wales. If I walk 5km to the far north end of the beach, they disappear under the curve of the Earth (they’re about 20km away).

‘Minds of Sand and Light’
This is the title of the new cyberthriller, and I submitted it to a New York literary agent last week. It usually takes a few weeks for these things to process. This story has many of the same themes as ‘Dark Heavens’ – particularly the ‘powerful non-human man and extremely smart and brave woman’ trope, which in this case is an android and a brilliant hacker. There are many explosions. Watch this space and wish me luck.
Now that the cyberthriller is done, I’m back into Dark Heavens and putting together all the parts that I’ve been sharing on Patreon to start building our Dark Heavens sequel. When I wrote ‘White Tiger’ back in the early 2000’s, I had just moved back from Hong Kong and I hardly knew anyone. Now I have a bundle of friends both inside and outside the literary community who are all either helping or cheering and it feels really good.
This one is tough. I know how much everybody wants to see me (hell, the Patreon is so you can help me to visit you!)  but I’ve had issues with Supanova for years now that I haven’t detailed in public, and now it’s turned into a – there’s no other word for it – massive shitstorm.

Supanova Sydney 2021 – these fashy assholes weren’t there to sell their crappy merchandise, they were there to recruit baby Nazis.
Here’s the Kotaku story about it.
The first Supanova boycott was when the owner brought over Adam Baldwin, the actor who was Jayne on ‘Firefly’ and who started Gamergate. As in, all women in the games industry are <insert misogyny here>. A couple of the staff resigned from Supanova in disgust.
After it became obvious that this wouldn’t blow over, Supanova posted a public apology that basically said: ‘we’ve let you down, we’re really sorry, we promise to do better, please forgive us, we really love you’ – and the community did forgive them and moved on.
The second Supanova boycott was when the owner posted a petition on Facebook to ban the ‘Safe Schools’ program, including a bunch of really ugly trans- and homo-phobia. This caused a furore on social media, and when it became obvious it would blow over… Supanova posted another public apology that basically said: ‘we’ve let you down, we’re really sorry, we promise to do better, please forgive us, we really love you’. And the community forgave them and moved on.
So Sydney Supanova happened on June 19-20, and this time the owner permitted a bunch of actual freaking Nazis who have been banned in the past to set up and stay for a day and a half before he finally folded to his own staff’s demands and had them booted. Not before they had plenty of time to harass anyone at the show who wasn’t ‘White’, though, making everyone extremely uncomfortable.
A lot of the most senior staff resigned (and respect to them for doing it).
After a week, it became obvious that it wouldn’t blow over so: yep, another apology, exactly the same wording, we’ve let you down, promise to do better, blah blah blah.
At this point I’m looking at it going: the community’s in an abusive relationship with Supanova and keeps going back every time they apologise.
Then when that didn’t work as well as the two previous times, the owner has ‘stepped down’ (but he still owns it) and his second-in-charge has ‘taken over’ and they have an ‘ethics committee’.
I don’t think they’ll change and I don’t want to be involved with Supanova any more. People are talking about starting alternative conventions and I would be delighted if there was an alternative; but in the meantime, Supanova, yeah no.
Which leaves Oz Comic-Con. I used to have an excellent relationship with the previous owners but that was two sets of owners ago and the current owners  have made it very clear that they want to focus on comics rather than fiction. They heavily curate their artist’s alley so only one in five applications get an alley table, and never two years in a row.
So: in future, when I have a new release (and I will have them!) I think I’ll just take myself to the capital cities and do signings in bookstores and let you guys know in the newsletter so that you can come and say hello, as well as doing the ‘Inconceivable’ online convention and selling signed books through the website. The Patreon is still immensely useful, I’ll use that fund to get myself around the country to visit all of you, when things reopen again.
I have my second Astra Zeneca vaccination in August, and Sydney needs to get itself together because I want to come and visit everyone!

June Update

Inari’s COLD.
(That’s an old sarong on top of my inkjet printer so it doesn’t fill up with cat hair and become useless. So far it’s worked but I have to turn it off unless I’m using it – because she keeps banging the control panel with her cranky tail and printing test pages.)

June Update
Interview is up
My interview with Bettina Burger from Dusseldorf University is up on Spotify! The staff of the university had to divide it into two parts because, as usual, I talked too much. I went into detail about my plans for the next Dark Heavens (and made some really cheesy pop-culture references), and she was an absolute delight to talk to. You can check the interview out here:
Part One
Part Two
I think the most interesting point to note about this is that these German universities are doing more research and showing more interest in Australian speculative fiction than we are here in Australia!
The cyberthriller that I’ve been working on is complete, and I’m nearly at the stage of sending it out to agents and publishers. Wish me luck! It’s called ‘Minds of Sand and Light’ and it’s a continuation of the short that I submitted to the Home Of The Arts Gold Coast’s ‘Rage Against The Virus’ grant program. I really enjoyed writing this one, and I hope it can find a home. An epilog popped up while I was writing it – and now I need to go to New Zealand to research for book 2.
Of course I’ve been working on a  new Dark Heavens story at the same time, and the working title for this one is ‘Serpent Empress’. Now that the situation in Hong Kong has been clarified (unfortunately, see my Twitter feed for political snark) I have a very good idea where this story needs to go. And it’s some very difficult places.
As I’m Officially Old, I’ve had access to the latest COVID vaccine stage, and I’ve had the first one. It was the Astra-Zaneca version, and it really knocked me flat afterwards! I get the second dose in August, and after that I’ll start exploring travel again. Hopefully as more of the population is vaccinated, we’ll see fewer border closures and I’ll have more access to conventions.
Just a note that Oz Comic-Con at this stage under new ownership are not looking for literary guests, and their artist’s alley is heavily curated – only one in five applications is accepted, and they have expressed a preference for not having the same guest in the alley twice in consecutive years as a matter of policy. I’ll just have to see what I am able to arrange.

May Update

I wasn’t a guest of Supanova, but I went along to help my friend Megs, who has ‘Pirate-Dragon’ handmade jewellery – and hang out with my other creative friends. I’m still talking to the other cons about making appearances, and I need to get that vaccine done for them!

In my newsletter, I asked for suggestions for a new name for a cat in the Zheng story, who I’d called Chonkers. That isn’t really a suitable name as it probably won’t mean anything in fifty years’ time, when the story is set. Thanks to everyone who responded to my callout to Name the Cat. I’m still deciding, and maybe go with Genghis Kat. If you’d like to see the discussion and suggested names for Chonkers in the Zheng story, you can see the post  here.

In other news:
Supanova Gold Coast
I had so much fun hanging out at Gold Coast Nova, and once again Queenie asked me to write another mediaeval martial-arts wuxia thing for her to illustrate! It was fantastic to catch up with my creative friends, and it was wonderful to see the con circuit back in action. Queenie has been talking to Oz Comic-Con on authors’ behalf, but apparently right now they’re focussing on their core theme of comic books rather than authors. I spoke to the staff of Supanova, and I’ll see what I can arrange there. I’m working on it – I want to get my COVID vaccine, then come and visit everyone!
Zheng is Finished
(Although something like this is never finished, really. Look at Dark Heavens.)
The story is complete, and it’s as good as Dark Heavens. I’ve hit a lot of the same story beats as Dark Heavens, and I think you will all really like it. The working title is ‘Minds of Sand and Light’.
If it’s published I’ll probably never be able to return to Hong Kong. I have explicitly described many of the active social engineering policies happening in Not!China: facial recognition, mass surveillance, brain wave monitoring (yes this is an actual thing), social credit (ditto), supervision of emotional state (yes, really, the cameras are checking to see if you are smiling) as well as a few others that are actually even more scary. It’s definitely not set in China, though.
There’s also cool android/human love (I wrote this before Wandavision came out!) and of course the end of the world, but what’s a good story without an apocalypse.
Now for the hard part: I need to find a publisher, and even though I do have a track record, it’s still not a guaranteed sale and the year of effort to write it (at the same time as the new John/Emma) may be wasted. Wish me luck!
Now that Zheng is finished, I will concentrate on the new Serpent Empress novel. I left a lot of threads open at the end of Dark Heavens, and it feels good to be back in that universe, following Emma, John, Simone – and now Frankie – as they navigate the post-war era!