Guest post – Donna Hanson: Why grim dark?

IMG_0916Today’s post is brought to you by fellow Australian writer Donna Hanson.

Thank you Patty for hosting me on your blog today to talk about my new dark, epic fantasy series, Dragon Wine.

A reviewer I respect called Shatterwing, the first in the Dragon Wine series, grim dark. I knew the Dragon Wine series was dark but I hadn’t actually thought about it as being grim dark. I know that’s a new buzz word. Apparently it originated with Warhammer 40 K and yes, I read some of the fiction from the Black Library and it is pretty grim. The character though can give a lift to such a dismal setting.

Some would say George RR Martins Game of Thrones is grim dark, and it’s pretty gritty and unrelenting so that probably qualifies. There’s Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, which was dark, gritty and well yeah grim. Richard Morgan’s the Steel Remains is dark and gritty but I’m not convinced it’s grim.

Another novel, which I haven’t read yet is The Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence, which is rumoured to be grim dark.

So grim could mean that a story is dark, nasty, gritty and with little optimism or hope. I think my Dragon Wine series certainly skirts the border of grim, but there is always a tiny thread of hope. It’s nasty and gritty for sure, but there are some people fighting for good. There is some hope that humans will recover some of their goodness, provided their world doesn’t cease to exist. Cough!

We’ve seen more and more grit in our fiction, including movies. I use James Bond for an example. The Daniel Craig versions are very dark, gritty and pull no punches. It’s a realism that is imbued in the story that both draws and repels.

Is there room for realism then in fantasy? Certainly, Shatterwing is not for the reader who wants to escape into a lovely world filled with unicorns and elves and nice fairy witches. I make no excuses for the darkness in the story. It’s the story that I wrote that maybe reflects some of the horrible things going on in the world. The things that shock me. That make me despair for the future.

My theme for the series is: How low and humankind go and what is it that is worth saving? Not a bright, shining topic is it? But deep down, I do have hope as much as I despair. I want people to stop killing each other. I have hope we can get to that point where we all live in peace.

Here is the blurb for Shatterwing. I’d love to see what you guys think of the story and whether you think it’s dark or grim dark.

Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

The most precious of these resources is dragon wine a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

You can find Donna on her blog






Guest post – Donna Hanson: Why grim dark? was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Yet again women locked out of SF

Multi-author box sets are a good way to garner readers. But. They’re usually by invitation only. The person who puts them together has the final choice.

Several of my writing friends ended up in this science fiction box set, which is currently doing well.

Seriously, guys, congrats.

See, that word?



Shoot me now. Self-perpetuating stereotypes anyone?

Yet again women locked out of SF was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Why I do not care about pirates. Really.

With all the kerfuffle going on about pirate sites and OMG THEY ARE STEALING MY BOOK!!!!!! I have decided I do not care about pirates. Not one bit.

Not in the Cory Doctorow fashion, that I believe in giving away stuff for free to create an audience. I’m already doing that on legitimate sites. If you follow this link, you get a list of books which are all free on all platforms where it is in my power to make them free. That’s different.

I do not care about pirates, because the aim of pirate sites is not some lofty goal of handing out creative works for free because, you know, art. The goal of the pirates is not even to make money off your free books.

The goal of pirate sites is to put malware on your system, or to trick you into giving out personal information they can sell.

I have Google Alerts set up, and I get a couple of these messages about my books every week. When my click on the link doesn’t make McAfee plaster IF YOU VISIT YOUR SITE, YOU DIE!!!!! popups all over my screen, I’ll usually find that what the site has put up is the free sample that’s available from Smashwords. They then link to Smashwords, presumably to get the affiliate fees.

When they put up whole files, they are always PDFs. I’ve stopped selling PDFs, but PDFs pop up all over the place. What’s in these PDFs? No idea. Not about to try. I really don’t like popups with revolting images. I don’t like my computer freezing up on me. I don’t like McAfee going AAAACCCKKKK!!! I WARNED YOU!!!

These sites are so virus-infested that anyone who visits them will need a month in an isolation ward in the hospital after visiting them.

I’m not touching this stuff with a barge pole. I am certainly not going to send them self-righteous DMCA notices in which my underlying message is: Here, have my email address. It’s valid, because I use it for all my correspondence. Now you can sell it to some scam artist.

Pirates. Good luck to them. Not going there. Not talking to them. And if by off-chance someone gets a free book of mine that’s not free elsewhere, awesome. Having hurdled all the above virus warnings, they probably deserve it for their efforts. People who get stuff at pirate sites would not have paid money anyway. They’re not usually people with a lot of money. Students often. Students have a habit of getting jobs later in life, and not having the time to go virus-busting, so they buy from legitimate sites, because it’s so much easier.

Why I do not care about pirates. Really. was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Thoughts on female protagonists in YA fantasy

The other day, may daughter finally bought an ereader. It’s a bit sad that my kids wanted to read “real” books long after I’d gone digital, but the physical size of a particular book that she wanted to read on public transport finally won her over.

Anyway, having read said book, I was sitting with her in the Berkelouw second hand book cafe on the bridge thingie in Westfield Hornsby today (if you know this place, it’s very nice), and we were talking about books. The book in question was a sequel, and she said about it: but it’s about a different main character who is a relative of the character in book 1, because at the end of book 1, that character gets married.

And I thought: that just about says it all. When a girl gets married, her story is finished and no longer worth telling.

Which fantasy do you know where female protagonists get married early in the series, and continue to play an important role in the story? So much of this fantasy, especially in YA, is driven by the romance, and once this is resolved, there doesn’t seem to be a story left to tell. Or the author doesn’t think it’s worth telling. Skipping to another character for the next book is very common.

Often these are female authors,many of whom would be married and would be mothers. Do they think that mothers of small children lead such sheltered lives that nothing can happen to them (that doesn’t involve the children, but impacts on the entire family?) Married women and mothers are pretty invisible in real life. They’re pretty invisible in speculative fiction.

Thoughts on female protagonists in YA fantasy was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

The Idiot King – snippet

ForQueenAndCountry3The book is almost ready to go to the editor! Here is a random snippet:

Heart thudding, she looked into the old and haughty faces of the two men opposite her. They appeared quite civilised, but especially with nobles, appearances never told the entire story.
“Why don’t you ask the king what he wants.”
Johan Delacoeur scoffed. “He’s not in a state to–”
“He is not dumb if that’s what you were going to say.”
“No, I wasn’t.”
Yes, that was exactly what he was going to say. “Roald?”
He sat bent over his book, but his eyes weren’t moving. He held his hands clamped between his knees, and a muscle in his forearm kept alternately tensing up and relaxing.
“Roald?” She put an arm over his shoulder. Drops of sweat pearled on his forehead. He smelled sweaty, too.
“I was rude to them,” he said.
Fleuris LaFontaine snorted. “He was, too. I don’t know where a prince learns that kind of language.”
“They were rude to my women,” Roald said. “The maid and the witch. No one is rude to my women.”
“I know. It’s all right.” She spoke very softly, hoping that the men couldn’t hear her well enough to understand.
“You’re mine. Nellie is mine. They can’t be rude to you.”
“It’s all right, really. Calm down, please.”
“Your Highness,” said Fleuris LaFontaine.
“Tell them to leave,” Roald said.
“They won’t listen to me. You’re the king. Tell them.”
“I can’t talk to them. They’re rude. Father says I can’t talk to rude people.”
Johan Delacoeur cleared his throat. “Your Highness…”
Johanna turned around. Why couldn’t he see that she was busy? “The king will talk to you if he wants. Right now, he asks me to tell you to leave.”
Johan ignored her. “Please do tell us, Your Highness, if you would prefer to wed a woman of your status–”
Roald got up from the table so suddenly that Johanna had no chance to stop him. He faced the two men.
“They are my women! You can’t take them away from me I forbid you to take them away from me. I’m the king, you have to listen to me and do what I say. I want you to leave. This is my room for me and my women.”
“Roald, it’s all right. Calm down.”
“No, it’s not all right. They are here to take you away. I don’t want you to go. You’re mine. I love you.” His cheeks had gone red.
He turned back to the men, whose eyes were wide. Johan Delacoeur’s mouth hung open.
“You hear that? I love her. Now, you leave. Get out of here. This is my ship. Go, go, go.” He more or less pushed them up the stairs, Johan Delacoeur first and then his colleague.
Fleuris LaFontaine stammered, “Your Highness, I’m sorry to have caused offense. It was not my intention–”
“Go, go, go!” Roald was almost shrieking now.
“Come, my friend,” Johan said from the top of the stairs. “We know we’re not wanted.” He met Johanna’s eyes. “I can only say, young lady, that this is a very bad move–”
“Go, go, go! Stop talking. Stop making noise. Yap, yap, yap, yap. Get out of here.”
Fleuris LaFontaine had reached the top of the stairs, his face red from exertion. Men of his standing did apparently not run up narrow and steep stairs, infinitely more comfortable than the previous ladder they were.
They pushed the cover shut, and Johanna was left alone with Roald.
They looked at each other.
Johanna stifled a snort of laughter.
“You think that’s funny?”
“I think you were brilliant.” There would be consequences, but the sight of those two portly men scrambling up the steps was not one she’d forget quickly.
“You liked it.” He said that in a tone as if he could barely believe it.
“Yes, I did.”
He started laughing, too. “Did you see how scared they were? How I chased them up the stairs?”
Johanna laughed out loud. She put on an arrogant voice. “Your Highness, wouldn’t you prefer to wed a woman of your status?”
Roald giggled and snorted.
“They could hardly be more crass about what they wanted. And you know what the funny thing is? Ha, ha, ha. They don’t even have any daughters.”
Roald squealed with laughter.

The Idiot King – snippet was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

I’m sorry

ForQueenAndCountry3I’m sorry to my readers. The Idiot King is late. I was supposed to have handed it in to the editor by the end of August, but I still haven’t finished the manuscript.

I did finish it, of sorts, but then I decided that I hated it, and I threw out the entire last half of the book. All those chapters needed to be re-written into a story that I’m happy to publish. I’ve got 2-3 chapters to do and then a final read-through.

I guess this is a good thing about self-publishing and soft deadlines: I don’t get to deliver “that will do” type of work because of time pressure. If I don’t think a book works, then I simply move the deadline.

Re-writing was not very fast because I also needed to paint the entire bottom floor of the house, and, having turned over everything in our living area twice, we can’t find anything, and it’s all very frustrating. As it was, re-varnishing the bedrooms (where we had stored everything during the renovation) was more disruptive than the renovation itself. I didn’t really enjoy having to sleep in the office amongst cardboard boxes for a week.

I’m sorry was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

What is your biggest fear?

jumping-spider-300444_640In many books or movies, the main character has an irrational fear of something, and during the story, ends up facing that fear.

I’m always up for finding interesting fears to pester my characters with. I’ve never really understood the fear of spiders and snakes, because if you leave them alone, spiders and snakes will leave you alone, too.

Leeches, on the other hand, won’t. *shudders*

In Ambassador, the Coldi people come from a world where there is a lot of desert, and many are afraid of large bodies of water. There are also few vertebrate animals, so they’d be uncomfortable with them, too. Not so much for worms, snails and slugs, which are a large part of their diet.

This brings up interesting conflicts for when they interact with Earth humans.

Cory is also not too great with heights.

In other books, I’ve done fear of medical procedures and the fear of small spaces.

What fears have you used in books, or what things creep you out?

What is your biggest fear? was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

I am not a feminist (thought of the day)

So, OK, this is going to be one of those times that people say “I am not…” and then proves the person to be exactly what they said they were not.

The other day, I was looking through various categories of books on Amazon, and I happened across a bunch of semi-erotic paranormal stuff with titles like “Claimed by the Alpha” (sorry if this is your actual book title. I’m not talking about any book in particular), written by women, where the female characters appeared to have little interest other than sucking up to some dominant male in the hope of getting smexytimes.

And I couldn’t help thinking: I am not a feminist, but did our mothers and grandmothers fight for women’s rights just so that women could publish submissive [expletive] like this? Handing the man the reins with which he can whip us and keep us at a short leash.

There was lots of it, so obviously someone is lapping this stuff up. I remembered the outrage about the “passiveness” of the main character in Twilight. And then I remembered that I wasn’t in particular bothered by it (yes, I read all four books). Because I also have a little trouble with the “must have strong female character” mantra. Characters should be like people: they come in all types. Monotony is good for nothing and no one.

So then I tried to disambiguate my feminist-flavoured outrage about submissive werewolf smexytimes, and I decided that I was probably missing several points:

I don’t like submissive smexytimes, but who cares what I don’t like? I was confusing my opinion with some sort of moralistic standpoint about what a liberated woman should read or write.

Writers tend to like the sound of their own voice, and as typical writer, I let this sentence ramble for too long. It should have gone like this:

Did our mothers and grandmothers fight for women’s rights just so that women could publish submissive [expletive] like this?

And yes, they certainly did. Because let’s not forget that in the past, and in many countries in the world, women don’t have a voice at all. Whether they should or should not use that voice to write submissive smexytimes is really not up to me, and I have no right to tell other women how to be a feminist, or, for that matter, how or when to be outraged. This goes both ways.

*peace, sisters*

*goes back to hating submissive smexytimes*


I am not a feminist (thought of the day) was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Rant of the day: hover to expand ads


My internet is boobytrapped!

Is yours, too?

(There will be some sweariness in this post.)

Advertisers have discovers a new evil: the “hover to expand” ad.

I have often explained why I am not in favour of adblockers.

(Reason: many sites provide content for free and/or are run by volunteers. Advertising is their way to raise revenue. Unless I am prepared to pay for site access, which often I am  not, the onus is on me to put with advertising.)

I have NO trouble with ads.

That is, ads that hang around in their appropriate places: the side bars and top and bottom of the screen. Ads that are static and that do NOT play a video or music.

Enter the ultimate fucktard of ads: the “hover to expand” ad.

With one of these buggers on the screen, you need to careful where you move your mouse. Because as soon as it hits the fucking ad, a fucking pop-up appears on the screen, playing fucking music that I haven’t asked for.

This is a problem if your internet connection is slow and if a site hasn’t specified image sizes (the screen will often “jump around” until the page has fully loaded), causing you to hover over the fucking ad by mistake.

This is a problem if your mouse has sub-optimal function (in other words, if you need a new mouse but haven’t been arsed to go and buy one yet).

This is a problem if you’re on a tablet or other small screen and parts of the screen are out of view (in fact, on my tablet I find I’m always accidentally moving over these fucking ads)

Seriously, whose stupid idea was this?

Rant of the day: hover to expand ads was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Because you like pretty pictures and random news

I haven’t been out to take photographs for a while, because on the last few Mondays, any of these things, or a combination, applied: 1. the weather was shit, 2. My husband wasn’t going on the 6am bus to Canberra, 3. We had floor sanders turn up early.

Meanwhile, I received this cool review for Ambassador

And I redesigned my author website.

And I experienced a massive fail in trying to get The Idiot King finished, because of the above-mentioned floor sanders (which required us to move all the furniture from where it had been stored during renovations to everywhere it had NOT been stored during renovations), painting the entire house, and also because I finished the manuscript and then didn’t like it. I’m changing a few things around

Also, I had wanted to put out my short stories for a while, but there are not (yet) enough for another anthology, so when Amazon came along with the Kindle Unlimited library, I decided to park them in there for a while. Of course this meant putting together some more covers. Two are below. These are for stories in the process of being uploaded or updated.  See the other stories here.

Party with echoes Where the plains

Because you like pretty pictures and random news was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

By pattyjansen Posted in art, news