Why Halloween is never going to be big in Australia

Hallloween sceneWhy Halloween is never going to be big in Australia. A post in pictures.

So why don’t we do Halloween? Apart from the fact that there is no cultural history, isn’t Halloween supposed to be held on a dark and stormy night, when winter is just around the corner? Well, look at Australia at this time of the year.

It’s late spring.

Cockatoos July 2014-3

It’s hot.

Palm Beach Jan2014-3

Daylight saving means it’s light until 8pm.

gladesville bridge-1

Everyone is talking about going to the beach.

Maroubra April 2014-22

The streets are lined with flowering Jacarandas! I can seriously not think of anything less spooky.


Why Halloween is never going to be big in Australia was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

New covers for the Icefire Trilogy

I have been talking about this for a while. Yes, the trilogy needed new covers. And yes, I also like the old ones. They’re effective and quite distinct. But when you have them on full screen (and it’s even worse when you print an image), you can see that the images are lowres. And some of the artwork is really rough.

I had been trying to update the crummy typography, but couldn’t get it to work. What I needed was a crash & burn.

Here they are!

(Whoa! WordPress is playing silly buggers with the media library again. I intended the covers to show up small, but that doesn’t look like working unless I manually re-size them. Bleh. You can see all the detail now)

New covers for the Icefire Trilogy was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

My Earnings From Self-publishing 1 Oct 2013 – 30 Sept 2014

Another year has gone by. I did one of these posts last year, and thought it would be fun to update it.


Several reasons:

  • Not all self-publishers are Hugh Howey or Bella Andre or any of the other names that you’ll find in the top of various genres. In fact, most of them aren’t.
  • There is still a real and not insubstantial amount of money to be made from self-publishing, even if you’re a complete nobody like me. The truth for writers like me is that this money is more than I’d be able to get from selling my book to a publisher. Traditional advances in Australia are $3000. I wouldn’t see myself sell more than two books a year to a publisher year after year.
  • Few people talk real money and real numbers. I like being real, so I put my numbers on the table, warts and all.

Several things happened in the past year:

  • Most importantly, Kobogate. Remember that last year most of my income was from Kobo? No more. I think it went like this: In October, Kobo changed their website. The company they hired were clowns and they goofed up the categories as they were listed on the sales pages. Despite many complaints (my Icefire Trilogy was listed as Religious fiction FFS), they couldn’t fix it. (My theory: the IT company had signed off on the project and they had trouble getting them back). Then Erotica books were inadvertently passed onto resellers as Children’s books. The proverbial hit the fan. It affected all sales at Kobo, including mine. In my best month, I sold almost 200 books there. I’ve not sold more than 100 per month since.
  • A new player entered the market: Google Play. Sales there are increasing.
  • I never sold anything on Amazon UK, but that has changed. Don’t ask me why.
  • I moved most of my listings at B&N from Smashwords to D2D. This increased my sales there a lot.

I also published “some” new books since last September:

That’s SEVEN books. It looks a little more impressive than it is, because some of those books were already written. I’ve been committed to writing and completing series. The Aghyrians series is now done. I may or may not write a prequel. It is also mostly written, but would need a fair bit of salvage. At the moment my priorities are the Ambassador series and For Queen And Country. The latter is a slightly different beast from what I’ve written before: it’s a big story, the books are fairly short, 45-60K, and they’re episodes rather than complete stories. There should be at least two more volumes in the coming year.

Some observations on selling and marketing for self-publishers:

  • If you want to have decent sales, you absolutely have to write series or at least related books
  • You make the first book free and advertise it (by the way, Ambassador 1 won’t be free in the forseeable future, so you don’t need to wait for that)
  • Books that are not part of series sell poorly. Yes, when I get some time I’ll write the sequel to Shifting Reality. I love that book to bits, and the only way to get it selling better is to write a sequel. I realise how ass-backward this will sound to any regular publisher. Self publishers often report that a series doesn’t sell much at all until there are a number of books available.
  • Unless you hit the jackpot, there is no magic bullet. Each release increases your sales a little bit. Having a number of series and publishing them on all platforms is important. You see people buy all of your books one after the other.

So, the numbers:

In the past year, I sold 3876 books. Total income: about $11,000 (a bit fuzzy due to currency issues).


  • Amazon – 1823
  • Kobo – 872
  • B & N – 640
  • Apple – 381
  • Smashwords (retail site) – 55
  • Google Play (listed there in December) – 51


Bestselling titles with copies sold:

  • Dust & Rain 873
  • Blood & Tears 749
  • Trader’s Honour 483
  • Soldier’s Duty 363
  • Watcher’s Web (before I made it free) 328
  • Icefire Trilogy 207
  • Innocence Lost (before I made it free) 193
  • Ambassador 1: Seeing Red 157
  • The Far Horizon 78
  • Willow Witch 69

Now this may not sound very impressive, but consider this:

Total income of series from publication to date:

  • Icefire Trilogy (complete, last book published May 2013): $13,000
  • Aghyrians series (complete, last book published July 2014): $5000
  • Ambassador series (not complete, 2 books out, ebooks only): $700
  • For Queen And Country (not complete, 3 books out): $300

Income shoots up when a series is complete, and books keep selling every year, adding to the total income vs. investment for each book. It’s not a once-off payment. Therefore, the bigger your stable of books, the better your overall sales will be. Investment in series takes a while to get going, but keeps on delivering as long as you get downloads on that first free book.

So that’s it for this year. Meanwhile, if you’re asking how I know all this, I’d like to plug the program Trackerbox, which eats all these damn spreadsheets and spits out numbers with the click of a button.

My Earnings From Self-publishing 1 Oct 2013 – 30 Sept 2014 was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Ambassador 3: changing fate – snippet

Ambassador 3 will take place in Barresh and one other, secret, location. In it, we meet a number of regular characters, but also some new ones, and we’ll see that the expansion of Cory’s household according to his new status is not without trouble. From the first chapter:

She pushed herself from the couch with a groan and walked around the young man, eying him from top to bottom. If I hadn’t known that she had a good month to go still, I might have thought she’d be in danger of dropping the baby, but that was only the result of the fact that she liked wearing clothes at least two sizes too small.
“Hmm,” she said, and looked first at Thayu, who leaned against the doorframe with her arms crossed over her chest, and then at me. “He’s a nice specimen. Apart from that horrible hair, he’s got nice shoulders, a good strong face, healthy legs and a butt to kill for, but tell me, why are you going for someone from outside?”
Thayu gave her the dead fish stare. Her gold-flecked eyes were the only thing moving in her otherwise impassive face.
“Because,” she said in her cold dead fish voice. “Because there are far too many Inner and First Circle people trying to get a foot in our household already.” She gave Xinanu a pointed look.
I waited for the return snipe, but Xinanu must have run out of pointed proverbs in this morning’s snipe-fest with Eirani. Maybe her pregnancy had finally slowed her down. Heavens be praised.

Ambassador 3: changing fate – snippet was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Photography: Dolls Point, Botany Bay

Much earlier than usual, these images were taken between 3.30am and 6am. I wanted to see if I could take pictures of the Milky Way. Because it was cloudy, it ended up being only part of the Milky Way, and the light pollution was really not very good, but the Southern Cross is awesome.

Dolls Point October 2014-1

Dolls Point October 2014-2

Dolls Point October 2014-3

Dolls Point October 2014-5

Dolls Point October 2014-6

Dolls Point October 2014-4

Dolls Point October 2014-7

Photography: Dolls Point, Botany Bay was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Photography: Lunar eclipse

So, you thought that I didn’t take any pictures of the lunar eclipse? I did, but I couldn’t find the cable that attaches the camera to the computer.Now I’ve found it (yay!) so here they are, uncropped. I have a pretty big lens, but I would have needed an even bigger lens to get the moon closer. Although I think the clouds and the stars add to the picture. And yes, it was cloudy for a fair bit of the evening.

Solar eclipse October 2014-1

Solar eclipse October 2014-2

Solar eclipse October 2014-3

Solar eclipse October 2014-5

Solar eclipse October 2014-6

Photography: Lunar eclipse was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

The Idiot King is out!


 The Idiot King is out!

(click on hideously big text to be taken to the official page)

Go forth and buy lots of copies! And review them! And recommend them to others!


A few other specials and new releases:


The Idiot King is out! was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

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