On the Air, Live and Alive

It’s been an adventurous weekend, beginning with my first-ever live radio appearance. Now, I’ve done a couple of radio interviews before, but they were always pre-recorded, with all the assurances that any obscenities or demented faux pas would be edited out. At least, in theory. However, this was live, which meant that, as far I knew, there would be no safety nets. If I was suddenly possessed by a demon, and began spewing forth threats against everyone who walked under the sun, well, there would be no escape.

The interview was to be on my local ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) station, 666 ABC, at the uncivilised hour of 7:10AM on Saturday. Which meant that I would, inevitably, not be at my most alert. I have many sterling qualities, but being a morning person is not one of them.  And I can recognise this about myself, which is why the previous evening I spent some time thinking up possible lines to use, and also grimly contemplating the likelihood that I would forget all of my planned lines, and produce naught but several minutes of dead radio air, broken only by the incredulous chortling of the radio personality. This was my nightmare.

However, when I woke up, at the ungodly hour of 6 in the morning, none of those concerns was in my mind. I shambled from bed to shower to car, and only really assumed full consciousness when I was halfway to the radio station. When I arrived at the ABC building, the shadows were still lying long, and there were barely any cars on the roads. There were no lights illuminated in the windows, and I began to worry that I had drastically misunderstood the situation. Or possibly come to the wrong building.

I leaned on the ‘after hours’ telecom button, and eventually a member of the staff emerged from the corridors, and cheerfully ushered me in, guiding me through the darkened bowels of the building to the broadcasting room, and delivering me into the merciful hands of my host, Greg Bayliss, a man whose voice I recognised immediately. We howdied, and shook, and then he and the producer bolted off to make some toast and stretch their limbs, leaving me alone with the control room. I briefly – briefly – gave thought to cutting into the newsfeed and reading some pages from The Rook, but sanity prevailed, and I wandered around cautiously, peering at the control boards, and keeping my hands behind my back.

Eventually they returned, and failed to congratulate me for not declaring the creation of Pirate Radio Dan. Instead, they supplied me with a cup of coffee, and I sat down in front of a microphone. Although they told me I didn’t have to wear the headphones, there was no way that I wasn’t putting them on. After a few minutes’ chat, we were thrust onto the air, and I manfully resisted the urge to holler ‘Good morrrrrrning, Canberra!’

Instead, we talked about the book, and last week’s literary festival in Jindabyne, and why on earth I had an American accent when I was born and raised in Canberra. I almost completely forgot that I was on the radio (apart from preventing myself from dropping any swear words into the dialogue), and had a blast. This very blog got mentioned, and I talked a bit about writing, and what I’m working on at the moment, and it went just fine.

Since the interview, a few friends have told me they heard it, and assured me that I sounded okay. (Although one work colleague let me know that I use the word ‘absolutely’ too much. So I set him on fire.)

In other news, there’s a few reviews and articles and interviews for your reviewing pleasure.

I chat with Marshal Zeringue at ‘Writers Read’ about the various outstanding books that I am currently devouring. You can read it at:

Also, The Rook is subjected to the rigors of The Pg. 69 Test, wherein the sixty-ninth page of a book is dissected, and reviewed according to the extent that it represents the book, and whether it might draw a reader in. It’s actually quite merciful, because they let the author do the testing. The diagnosis is at

Julika reviews The Rook at BookVenturer’s Musings at

And although yesterday’s radio interview is not yet available, you can hear a podcast of me talking to 4ZZZ’s Bookclub on the 29th of March. I have reviewed it, and I don’t think I say ‘absolutely’ that much. There’s quite a few ‘uh’s’ though. You can hear my gravelly tones at

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Interviews, Reviews, British News, and Teddy Bears from Hell


The weather in this part of the world has been a trifle more damp than is usual. Which is to say, that there have been torrential rains, and much flooding, and the dams are all overflowing, and the rivers have all burst their banks, and the roads are all slick. None of which was sufficient deterrent to prevent me from embarking on a road trip down to the coast, to stay with friends in the beach town of Ulladulla. The drive from Canberra to the coast is one I have made many, many times.  There is a selection of important landmarks:

–       You always warily eye that gigantic doll outside the antique shop in Bungendore (the thing is like two storeys tall, and has wheels coming out of its dress. It is the stuff of nightmares).

–       You always stop in Braidwood for something from the bakery.

–       You always pray that your brakes don’t fail on the switchbacking road down the mountainside.

My favorite, however, is the long stretch of highway that is characterized by a multitude of teddy bears that have been nailed to trees along the side of the road. There are many rumours about why they are there (they show the route to a teddy bears’ picnic, people nail up a bear when they get married, it’s set up as something to entertain children on long car rides), but the fact remains that those bears have been out there, in the elements, for several years. They’re beginning to look increasingly weathered. And fungal. And ominous. One gets the feeling that they have been placed there as a warning, but for whom?

In any case, we counted fifty of them on the way to the beach.

Fifty evil, rotting teddy bears.

Down in Ulladulla, my hosts and I had various adventures, but the best thing was that we went to the Milton Show (for my non-Australian readers, a show is like a county fair.) And it was excellent. We checked out the livestock (I was tempted to buy a goat, but didn’t) and poultry (there were two roosters that gave me the evil eye. They were ready to bust out of those cages and shred me like a toilet roll.) We admired the handicrafts, and plotted how to break into the glass cabinets and steal the cakes.

On the book front, various pieces of extremely exciting news. Firstly, I get to announce (because it’s already on the internet) that The Rook is going to be published in the United Kingdom. The publishing company Head of Zeus has taken me under their wing, and the British Isles will be receiving its own edition of The Rook. For more details (although not many more,) take a look at .

Also, I was on the bus the other day, and I saw a complete stranger reading a copy of The Rook! At first I wasn’t sure if it was actually my book, so I spend a good ten minutes subtly craning my neck to try and see if it was. Then, finally, the guy stood up, and I saw that familiar black cover and red spine. It was an important moment. This was a person I don’t know. He wasn’t obliged out of good manners to buy the book. I resisted the urge to introduce myself, and snatch the book out of his hands to sign it, but it was pretty hard.

And I got invited to chat with a book group, in my old college town of East Lansing, Michigan. It took us a little time to work out schedules (the 14-hour difference always makes things confusing), and then Skype and the Google-phone-thing failed to work, so I ended up chatting with them on Facebook chat, which made for some confusing moments when conversations diverged, and then typing mistakes got made, but it was very cool, nonetheless. I was especially interested in hearing about the theories that everyone had had. Their ideas about Gestalt, Ingrid, and Wolfgang really took me aback.

Since the last blog update, there have been quite a few new Rook-related things released upon the web:

At ,  you can read an interview with me by Stellar Four.

Austin Grossman asks some probing questions about secret organizations and which games make for the best motif at  .

Wired magazine’s GeekDad interrogated me at

And the newspaper at Michigan State University (which both of my parents and I attended) interviewed me, although really, they were much more interested in interviewing my Mom.


Also, there have been some nice reviews put out in the world, and my Mom has put them up on the fridge. But since you can’t see the fridge, I shall make them available here.

The Dallas Morning News:

Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing:

The National Post:

Fantasy Book Critic:

A Wall Street Journal Review (The Wall Street Journal!):

The San Antonio Express News:

My Awful Reviews:

Also, I was featured in the Public Service News. (This review got more commentary from people I work with than the and the Canberra Times articles combined.)

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Launching, and being a Guerrilla Marketeer

It’s a lazy summer Sunday, perfect for lounging around dreamily. And I have been lounging around, but I don’t get to do it dreamily because I am working away feverishly on a multitude of projects. And it’s been an extremely busy week, with lots of Rook-related occurrences occurring.

To begin with, on Wednesday the wonderful owners and staff of the Dymocks bookstore ( in Civic (which is the city centre area of Canberra) were kind enough to host the Australian launch of The Rook.

Now, I had been quite anticipatory about this, because ever since I shyly announced to the world that I had a book which was going to be published, the immediate response of many of my friends and acquaintances was to say brightly, “Invite me to the launch!’ And I didn’t know anything about launches. I’d never attended one. I suspect that they hadn’t either, but they seemed to have quite set ideas about what such things involved. And I didn’t quite dare ask, for fear of looking ignorant.

Thankfully, the Dymocks staff are well acquainted with book launches, and they were able to take me firmly in hand, and make sure that the event involved everything it needed to. They supplied the food, and the drink, and the multitudinous copies of The Rook. All I had to do was show up, say a few things, and sign whatever was thrust in front of me.

I was petrified.

The nerves started building up a couple of hours before the launch. It was becoming increasingly clear that this was going to be an Occasion. My parents would be there. Various friends were going to be there. Members of the public were going to be there. My glorious editor from HarperCollins Australia was going to be flying up from Sydney to attend. And I had to speak.

Now, I’m not a shy person, as anyone who has met me will attest. But this was going to be different. This was a life event, like a christening, or a wedding, or a birth (although I don’t know how many speeches get made at those.) And I was fully prepared to believe that some malignant muse would possess me, and I’d spew forth a selection of epithets and obscenities before collapsing in a seizure onto the cheese platter. Such a development couldn’t possibly good for sales.

But, in the minutes beforehand, I found myself feeling a lot better. People I knew kept flowing in, and I got to chat with them, and embrace them, and blush a little when they pointed out the book that had been shelved in various different locations around the store. My glorious editor, Anna Valdinger, stood up, and with her delicious English accent made a really nice speech, and then I got up, and saw all these faces, and it was all people I knew, and loved. And a couple of complete strangers who’d wandered in, but they were smiling at me as well. And I gave my little speech of thanks, and answered a few questions, and torches and pitchforks weren’t produced.

And then I commenced the signing. Lots of signing. The whole thing is a blur of little tailored messages for people, and the alarming evolution of my signature (over the course of the evening I developed an entirely new way of writing the letter ‘M’ that I am very pleased with.) Now, since I am left-handed, of course my hand was smeared liberally with ink, and I agonized a little that various people’s precious keepsakes would be smeared, but I consoled myself with the fact that they would at least be authentically smeared by the author, and that would probably add some value to it.

Afterwards I went out for dinner with Anna the Glorious Editor, and Jodi who is my earthly representative from HarperCollins Australia, and it was great. I fell into bed that evening, replete with very good Indian food, and satisfaction.

And then the next evening I got to do it all again at Impact Comics ( , which is the comic-book shop that I patronize, and to which I have been coming since I was twelve and it was Impact Records and was contained in a different location. So, when I wandered in, and saw that they were handing out laminated Checquy security passes (which can later be used a magnets!) I almost had a nervous breakdown of joy. I was interviewed by Ryan K Lindsay, Renaissance Man (, and then did yet more signing. Great evening.

Meanwhile, other cool things have been happening. Most recently, if you skitter on over to the fine website of Suvudu (located in the classy neighbourhood of ), you will find an interview with me, in which I talk about various things, including the gestation of a sequel to The Rook.

Also, there have been some very nice reviews released upon the world. Parade Magazine (which, for the non-Americans among you, is a Sunday magazine that is distributed in more than 500 newspapers, and is the most widely read magazine in the USA) put forward The Rook as one of its Parade Picks!

Laura de Leon’s blog I’m Booking It gave her top ten reasons for liking The Rook at .

At , The Book Smuggler says (among other things) that ‘if you’re looking for the antidote to the same old, lackluster, run-of-the-mill UF, look no further. The Rook is awesome. I can only hope for more Myfanwy in the future.’

And also my hometown newspaper, the Canberra Times, featured a review of The Rook by Colin Steele, a man of letters who, for decades now, has figured prominently in my personal pantheon of heroes. And he finished his review by saying “The Rook is certainly cool.’

And life was good.

But the adventures don’t stop there. Yesterday, I engaged in a bit of guerrilla marketing, thought up by the aforementioned Glorious Editor. For those of you who haven’t read The Rook, it’s characterized by a series of letters that explain the world of the book. Anna’s idea was to print out a copy of the first letter from the book, on official-looking letterhead, and then leave them in places where people would find them. They’re already opened, and addressed ‘To You’, and it was thought that finding such a letter might pique people’s interest, and lead them to the book.

Anna had given me a couple of them while she was down in Canberra to make her speech at the launch, and I cautiously took a couple along to CanCon, which is the local annual gaming convention. I thought I’d place the envelopes cunningly, with all the suave insouciance of a Checquy agent. I hoped that someone would pick it up and look around, bewildered. Maybe they’d catch a fleeting glimpse of me in a crowd, my eyebrow raised, and that, when they chased me down, like that, I’d be gone.

Of course, it turned out less immediately cool than that.

To begin with, the place was crawling with people. And there were remarkably few places that one could just leave an envelope. I didn’t at all like the idea of sandwiching it between some of the stacked boardgames at the stalls. These were other people’s places of business, after all, and I don’t want to interfere with their livelihoods.

Then there were many, many tables, but all of those were taken up by people playing board games, or else they were covered in those vast, compelling replica landscapes that people build for their miniature soldiers to do combat on. I’ve always found those things fascinating, but I walk even more carefully around them than I do around museum exhibits. My hands will not bring themselves out of their pockets if there is a reproduction battlefield nearby, for fear that I will knock over a fortification, or inadvertently smear a tiny Napolean, or impale myself on a spire. So that was out.

The laser tag arena didn’t strike me as the sort of place where people would stop what they were doing to pick up an envelope. And if they did, I thought it might get handed in to the guy running it.

In the end, I casually sat down on a handy bench, smiled casually at the young lady who was sitting at the other end with her child, and then casually pretended to read my book while casually sliding the envelope onto the bench, and then casually sauntering away.

I was totally braced for a helpful call of ‘excuse me! You’ve casually left your envelope behind!’ In which case, I was either going to return shamefacedly, or pretend innocence and confusion (“that envelope? Why, it’s not mine. What does it have inside?”), or else bolt away, which I like to think would have added a touch of mystery to the whole thing, but might also have resulted in security getting called in.

But, no helpful calls came, and the convention was not evacuated because of a mysterious open envelope. I wandered around for half an hour, buzzing a little from my awesome deployment of guerilla marketing techniques, and then I casually wandered by the bench, only to see that the envelope was still there, untouched. Rather deflated, my friends and I left, but I do hope that someone picked it up eventually, and that is wasn’t just a member of the cleaning staff who threw it automatically into the garbage.

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