About Me

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I am a writer, editor and reviewer based in Perth, Western Australia.

My books

My first novel, The Dagger of Dresnia (Book 1 of The Talismans) is published by Satalyte - it's available from their website as well as from Amazon.com and other online outlets. Book 2, The Cloak of Challiver, is in preparation. I also have a short story, La Belle Dame, in print - see Mythic Resonance below.

The Dagger of Dresnia

Buy The Dagger of Dresnia

The Dagger of Dresnia, Book 1 of The Talismans Trilogy, is available in paperback and e-book from Amazon.com and from the publisher, Satalyte Publications - click on the cover to visit their online shop. The paperback can also be found in selected bookstores in Australia.

Mythic Resonance

Buy Mythic Resonance

Mythic Resonance is an excellent anthology that includes my short story 'La Belle Dame', together with great stories from Alan Baxter, Donna Maree Hanson, Sue Burstynski, Nike Sulway and nine more fantastic authors! Just $US3.99 from Amazon. Got a Kindle? Check out Mythic Resonance.

Prefer hard copy?

There are still a few paperback copies of Mythic Resonance available, too. Contact me (there's a contact form on my website) if you'd like a copy - $20 including postage within Australia.

Your books and theses!

As both writer and editor, I specialise in historical and high or epic fantasy. If you have a fantasy manuscript in preparation, don't waste money on editing too early. Instead, let me help with a mini-assessment of your work, based on careful reading of your synopsis and first 20 pages. Then, when you've worked on the manuscript in line with our discussions, I will be happy to do a full edit before you send it off into the big wide world. I am also an experienced academic editor, and am available to edit theses, journal submissions and other academic papers. For more about my editing work, CLICK HERE

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Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong,  Australia

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've Lived - Sydney

Places I've Lived - Sydney
Sydney Conservatorium - my old school

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier
Blue Lake

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day
From Kings Park

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night
From Kings Park

Inner Peace Blog

Inner Peace Blog
Awarded by Joanna Fay. Click on the image to visit her lovely website!

Versatile Blogger Award

Versatile Blogger Award
Awarded by Kim Falconer. Click on the pic to check out her Quantum Astrology blog!

Fabulous Blog Award

Fabulous Blog Award
Awarded by Kathryn Warner. Click on the pic to check out her Edward II blog!

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Sunday, 27 July 2014

An anonymous interview!

Well, not really quite anonymous, but Kevin, a Facebook friend, might prefer that I don't use his last name. He sent me some questions out of personal interest, and never one for hiding my light under a bushel, I thought I'd put the Qs and As here on the blog for all the world to see!

So, without further ado -

Q. What was the inspiration behind the various series of books you've made?
       A. I only have one series so far – The Talismans trilogy. It was inspired by three things: a/ My love of medieval history b/My long-time interest in genealogy and c/Inspiration from a writing exercise set by Lee Battersby at a convention – see link in next question for the full story!

Q. What was the driving force behind becoming an author?
A. After years of writing non-fiction (reviews, interviews, feature articles) and poetry, finally a story came to live with me and demanded to be written! That was my first novel, which, like most first novels, isn't very good. You can read how I came to write the present series here.

Q. Do you have any plans to expand the fictional universes that you've created beyond just the books you've made?
A. I’m still writing the trilogy so can’t be sure yet! Besides, I am an old lady now so it depends on how long I stay a/ Alive b/In reasonable health and c/Compos mentis.

Q. What have been some of your favorite books to read?
A. I’ve always loved fantasy, ever since I was a child. I also love history, myths and legends. I like biographies and travel books, too.

Q. What was the first book that you can remember reading and enjoying?
A. There was a series of books about a bear called Rupert that my mother and older sisters used to read to me when I was three. I taught myself to read on the Rupert books. My eldest sister had a boyfriend who was half-French, half-German, and he translated one of the books into both French and German so I could read the story in three languages!

Q. Who has been your favorite author and why?
A. William Shakespeare. He knew and understood human nature better than any other writer I’ve read, and could turn his characters into poetry.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Effective reviewing

In response to my last post, fellow author Sue Bursztynski said, in part: 'I'm afraid that as your reviews build up, you will get some bad ones, some one and two star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Everyone has a different taste .... But I have a thick skin and so do you, I'm sure. A professional has to have one or never write again.'

I started to write a response to Sue's well-informed comment, but it was getting so long that I decided it was worth a post of its own.

A writer who has been brave enough to share his or her work with a critiquing group does develop a thick skin, and I think this is a highly underpublicized benefit of such activities. I joined critiquing groups quite early in my writing apprenticeship. Because I was already an experienced theatre reviewer, I always tried to make my critiques gentle, finding something good to say before suggesting possible improvements. I'm sure most of my crit-buddies did, too.

But when you have six or seven short stories or novel chapters to crit, the reviews tend to become more cursory and a lot less tactful, and I soon realised that I was as susceptible to unmasked criticism as anyone else. I found myself hurt, angry and otherwise distressed whenever someone responded negatively to my writing. A few years later, when I started to submit to publishers, I was again disappointed and hurt at every rejection letter. How could anyone not love my stories, my characters, my wonderful world-building?

Well, get real, Satima! It's a buyer's market out there. Less than one per cent of submitted material gets published, and it's not always because it's not good enough. Publishers, at any given time, tend to be looking for something in particular. If they know, for instance, that another publisher has just taken on a fantasy novel set in Siberia, the opposition will very likely be looking for a similar book, perhaps also set in a cold, inhospitable place. So you can submit the best vampires-in-space novel ever, and it will get the standard rejection slip before the reader has finished page two. Furthermore, even at this early stage, reader taste comes into play. If the slush readers (there is often more than one) don't like the book, you're fried to a cinder.

If it's any consolation, at some point you will start getting the odd personalised letter that says, in effect, 'Gee, I really liked this, but we are looking for inter-galactic murder mysteries right now'. This means you're getting better at your craft, and all you have to do it get your book on the desk of an editor who's been instructed to look for vampires-in-space or whatever it is you've spent so much time writing. A tall order, but it happens.

Give yourself a time limit - a long one. For example, 'If my vampires-in-space novel hasn't been accepted two years from now, I'll self-publish'. Of course, you can just cut straight to the chase without submitting to any publishing houses, but self-publishing, done well, costs money. You'll need to allow several thousand dollars for artwork and editing, and you will have to spend an enormous amount of time on publicity.

But I digress ...

Essentially, we fiction writers are producing a marketable commodity - books. Books are entertainment, first and foremost, and as with any form of entertainment some customers will prefer a particular genre, character type or writing style over all others. I've been lucky so far - the worst criticism has been that The Dagger of Dresnia lacks a map! Yes, when I get my first one or two star review, I'll be disappointed. However, I won't turn into a nervous wreck, because I'll know that the reader was actually hoping for another kind of book; one I hadn't written.

It sounds strange, but it's said that books receiving lots of reviews, even bad ones, sell better than books that get few or no reviews. So if you want to do your published friends a favour, review their books! If you're not sure how to write a review, check out my page called 'Write a review worth reading'. It gives you the quick Cook's Tour.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Reviews of The Dagger of Dresnia

The blog seems to be all about reviews lately - reviews I've written, reviews I've read, reviews others have written ...

And there have been some lovely reviews of my novel, The Dagger of Dresnia. There are six so far on Amazon, and you can read them at http://www.amazon.com/The-Dagger-Dresnia-Satima-Flavell/product-reviews/0992460166/ref=cm_cr_dp_see_all_btm?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

And there are three on Goodreads as well: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21898335-the-dagger-of-dresnia

I'm happy to report that they all carry four or five stars!

I've also had a couple in the local press, both of which were very commendatory. And of course, there are the lovely back cover blurbs by two of my favourite authors:

I guess it's only a matter of time before I get a bad review - it happens to everyone sooner or later - but there have been so many good ones that the odd bad one won't matter. Besides, any publicity is good publicity! Apparently even bad reviews are better than no reviews at all.
Thursday, 17 July 2014

Book review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter GreensBitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An utterly lovely story, beautifully told. In fact, it is two stories in one: a re-imagined story of the convent days of French author Charlotte-Rose de la Force, and the fictional story of a nun who told her the tale of Rapunzel. How de la Force, a French noblewoman, learnt the Italian tale has long been subject to speculation, and this as convincing an explanation as we are ever likely to have.

In Bitter Greens, Forsyth has woven a tapestry as rich as any owned by the Sun King himself. It is, without a doubt, one of the best retellings of a fairy tale in a long time.

View all my Goodreads reviews
Monday, 14 July 2014

Book Review: The Lascar's Dagger by Glenda Larke

The Lascar's Dagger (The Forsaken Lands, #1)The Lascar's Dagger by Glenda Larke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lascar's Dagger is excellent start to a new trilogy! Two very likeable characters - Saker the Witan (priest) and Sorrel, handmaiden to a spoilt princess - each on a quest, cross paths again and again. We quickly realise that they would make a great partnership, but their commitments lie along separate tracks, each fraught with different dangers. Each time they meet, however, one manages to help the other in some way.

This is a wonderfully varied book, both in the contrast between the two main characters and the diverse places they visit. The secondary characters are also varied and well-drawn. Themes of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice underlie what is undoubtedly an exciting and orginal tale.

Glenda Larke has a fabulous imagination, and as in all her books, she has devised a credible but highly original system of magic. The Forbidden Lands just might be Larke's best trilogy yet. I can't wait for book two!

View all my Goodreads reviews
Wednesday, 9 July 2014

STOP PRESS - Write a review and win a book!

Review a Satalyte book and Win! 

Go to http://satalyte.com.au/2014/07/review-win/ for details!

Would you like a free ebook – just for reading a reviewing a book? Yes? Who wouldn’t!  Here’s your chance.

Review any Satalyte book on the Amazon, Goodreads and our website, tell us about it via Facebook with a link to your review and win yourself a free copy of any other Satalyte eBook. You can buy your books from the Satalyte bookstore, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com.au, Smashwords, iBooks and many other locations. If you already have a Satalyte book, and I know there are a LOT of you out there, then you don’t even need to buy a book.

If you have been interested in a couple of our titles, then here’s what you do.  Buy the first one, read and review it, then come back and claim the second one.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Another little snippet from The Dagger of Dresnia - the start of the big battle scene!

Here's another little snippet from The Dagger of Dresnia. It's the start of the big battle scene just before the end.

Beverak leaned into the charge, sword drawn, wind rushing in his ears. The earth reverberated with thousands of hooves, the air thickened with yells and screams. Arrows rained down around him. One caught him in the shoulder, knocking him back in the saddle, but it failed to penetrate. He brushed it off his mail and it fell harmlessly to the ground.

Closer, ever closer they rode, toward the bristling line of archers. The archers broke and ran, firing a final volley over their shoulders. Their departure revealed a wall of shields, sheltering behind a line of pikes stuck into the earth like a row of old men’s rotten teeth. A horse bolted past Beverak, making for a gap between the pikes. It missed and impaled itself, went down screaming. The rider flew into the wall of shields. It opened briefly, swallowed him whole. Another horse stumbled into a pitfall, and rolled on its rider. Both were trampled by the oncoming charge.

Around him, horses reared, baulking at the bristling pikes. He whispered into his own mount’s ear, and it hurtled forward, unfazed by the wall of shields and pikes. The wall broke. Men scattered and ran. Shields reformed in clusters around banners. Riders on the charge’s flanks fanned outward to attack from the sides.

Beverak pressed forward with the centre, slowing to meet sword with sword among the huddles of fighting men. He hacked and slashed at man after man, some mounted, some on foot. A sword chopped at his horse’s neck. Beverak’s sword took off the hand that held it. He wheeled to meet a mounted opponent, but the man’s horse bucked and pitched the rider beneath the hooves of Beverak’s rearing mount. Mud and grass and blood sprayed up, and Beverak pressed on.

The day reduced to cut, thrust, kill, turn, over and over again. Ullavir’s voice of years before rang in his ears. Grip with your knees and try not to die.

Then Ullavir was beside him in truth, the standard bearer at his side. ‘Back off, sire,’ he hissed. ‘We want a live king, not a dead hero.’
Monday, 30 June 2014

Book Review: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood, #1) 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This review first appeared on the now-defunct website, The Specusphere, in 2007. Seven years on and it is still one of my top favourite books!

Since the release of her first book, the award-winning Daughter of the Forest in 2000, Juliet Marillier has established herself among the best historical fantasists of today. She has a world-wide fan base of readers aged from as young as eleven: Daughter of the Forest was especially loved by younger readers.

It is not surprising, therefore, that with Wildwood Dancing Marillier has crafted a work eminently suited for the Young Adult reader. Indeed it is marketed as such, being published under the Pan label rather than Tor, Pan Macmillan's adult speculative fiction brand, which has sponsored all seven of Marillier's earlier works. Nevertheless, Wildwood Dancing is more than acceptable as a book for adult fantasy lovers, too. Set in Romania, it gives us a new twist on vampires or 'Night People' as Marillier calls them, together with affectionate bows in the direction of several well-loved fairy tales.

Marillier's knowledge of folklore is second to none and her research for this book, as always, is meticulous. Her Transylvanian world is built up, layer upon layer, by references to its history, social customs, food and drink. Some might not see such attention to authentic detail as important, but others might argue that in a work targeting young adults it can be an added bonus if the reader is being educated as well as entertained.

And entertained she will be. I say 'she' because this is essentially a feminine book. Its protagonist is Jena, second of five daughters of a wealthy merchant who has done well enough with his importing business to buy his family a real castle to live in. There Jena and her sisters discover a portal leading to the Otherworld.

Wildwood Dancing is, at heart, a romance. Yet it goes deeper than the happily-ever-after fairy tale, for it touches on questions of sibling rivalry, friendship, trust, betrayal and loyalty. Marillier's approach to these issues is solidly grounded in the plot of what is, essentially, a ripping good read.

Only in one scene does this cohesiveness falter slightly: Jena deserts her best-loved friend, who has, admittedly, undergone an astonishing transformation. Up until this point, Jena has come across as an upright, loyal girl and despite the terrifying situation, it is hard to accept her sudden abandonment of one who, only minutes earlier, she had being calling her 'truest friend in all the world'. However, any failure in the reader's suspension of disbelief is quickly forgotten, as remorse and love enable Jena to discover within herself the necessary bravery and truthfulness to put things to rights, with the best of all possible outcomes.

Wildwood Dancing's cover art is by Kinuko Y. Craft, whose work has graced jackets of books by Brian Aldiss, Isaac Asimov, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen King, Ursula LeGuin, Patricia McKillip and Andre Norton. It is utterly stunning. Any young lady between the ages of nine and ninety-five would love this book for the cover alone. What's more, it's obvious that Craft has actually read the manuscript, as it really does reflect the book's contents. (This and other examples of Craft's work can be viewed at www.kycraft.com)

More on the work of this justifiably popular author can be found at www.julietmarillier.com 

View all my Goodreads reviews
Sunday, 15 June 2014

Interview swap: Sue Bursztynski

Sue Bursztynski, who has produced what in my opinion is one of the best YA novels in years with Wolfborn, has kindly agreed to swap blog interviews. We asked each other four questions:  

What are you working on?
How does your work differ from others in your genre?
Why do you write what you write?
How does your writing process work?  

What are you working on?
Right now, a short story, straight historical fiction, about Dr 'James Barry', a woman who lived as a man for most of her life in order to be able to have a career as a doctor, something not usually possible for women in the nineteenth century. I first heard of her when I was researching for my book Potions To Pulsars: Women doing science. She was passionate about her work, kept her hospitals clean, performed the first caesarean operation in which both mother and child survived and fought duels at the drop of a hat. A truly cranky lady of history! If I don't sell it first go, I may have to add fantastical elements to sell it to a spec-fic market. Fingers crossed!

How does your work differ from others in your genre?
I've had some good reviews for my first novel and some awful ones, but none so far has said, 'This is just like all the others.' Not one. I did get some that said,'Well, that was different!'

I suspect I annoyed those who thought they were getting an urban fantasy in which the heroine would have two suitors, a smouldering Byronic vampire/Faerie Prince/Selkie Prince and a gorgeous werewolf, and readers could say they were 'Team Fred' and 'Team Joe' ... and it turned out to be a mediaeval fantasy seen from the boy's viewpoint, in which he and the girl had to put off their romance till the danger to those they cared about was over.

Actually, some liked that. ;-)

Why do you write what you write?
Mostly, I write speculative fiction, with the occasional piece of historical fiction. I write it because I love telling stories and because what I have to say needs more scope than mainstream fiction affords. I write for children and teens because children's and YA fiction is one of the last refuges of story, as opposed to ‘beautiful writing’ that isn't actually about anything in particular, and because you can't bullshit kids.

How does your writing process work?
It depends on what it is. If I'm writing to a deadline, I write late at night. I have to be up at six to get to my day job, so I don't sleep much at those times. I sometimes go to a local cafe, to get away from the distractions at home. I start with the germ of an idea and research the background, sometimes first, sometimes as I write the first draft. For my stories set in the 1960s I went to the State Library to read the newspapers of the time, not just the subject I was looking for - the Beatles in Melbourne, the day of the first moon landing - but letters to the editor, advertising, the TV guide, articles about what else was happening that week or that year. For my mediaeval stories, I have read whole books about the role of women, the church, life in the cities, life on the manor, knightly training. I also looked up stuff about real wolves as opposed to the 'were' variety for my novel. I read books of folklore about faeries (I was pleased to see in Melissa Marr's bibliography that she'd used many of the same sources for Wicked Lovely). Anything that helps in my world building! I play mediaeval music to get me in the mood (though I often stop writing to get up and dance!)

Carry on dancing, Sue Bursztynski!
If you'd like to read Sue's interview with me, go to 

Friday, 13 June 2014

A scene from The Dagger of Dresnia, in which Tammi shows her metal - and gets a fright!

Not quite right - Tammi would almost certainly have plaited her hair!
Tammi cleaned off her knife and held it up to the light. Sunlight glittered on along its edge.
     ‘For an eating knife, it must be very sharp,’ commented Zavardi.
     ‘It is very sharp,’ replied Tammi. ‘My mother gave it to me when I left home, and she had leather pockets sewn into all my boots and shoes so I could always carry it.’
     ‘Ladies carry no weapons in my country,’ said Edeanna. Her voice sounded disapproving. ‘We carry our eating knives only, hanging from our belts.’
     Tammi stowed the knife safely back in her boot and smiled nicely at Edeanna. ‘My father is a great believer in women being able to defend themselves. I trained at arms with my brothers, and I can still beat the younger ones.’
     ‘Is that so, Tammi?’ Beverak was looking at her as if she’d suddenly sprouted another pair of limbs.
     ‘It is so, my lord.’ Tammi grinned at her husband.
     Beverak scrambled to his feet and made for the horses. ‘Wait a minute,’ he called back over his shoulder. ‘I’m going to put you to the test.’
     He was soon back, bearing a small bow and a quiver of arrows. ‘Borrowed it from one of the older pages,’ he explained. ‘It should be just right for your size and weight. Do you reckon you can hit that sapling on the other side of the stream?’
     Tammi stood up and took the proffered weapon. ‘Of course I can. In fact, my lord, I’ll lay you a wager. My little knife against the silver pin on your cloak that I can hit not that sapling, but the bigger one atop the far bank.’
     ‘But that one must be thirty yards away,’ said Melrad. ‘Surely a girl can’t shoot that far.’
     His voice carried an undertone of ‘a girl can’t shoot at all,’ and Tammi was determined to prove him wrong. ‘I can shoot much farther than that, and hit the target. This is only a little bow, brother, or I would show you.’ She found an arm brace tucked into the quiver and deftly strapped it onto her left arm single-handed. She chose an arrow, examined it, discarded it as being unbalanced, and selected another. She nocked it, took her stance, raised the bow...
     The arrow flew in a glorious arc like a bird flying to its roost, but with a satisfying thwunk that no bird would have made. Tammi lowered the bow and held out her hand to Beverak.
     Shaking his head in disbelief, Beverak reached for his cloak and removed the pin.
     ‘Well shot, sister,’ said Volran. ‘If we ever have cause to go to war, we’ll add you to our archers!’
     Tammi smiled her thanks and stuck the pin into the fabric of her gown. Beverak kissed her on the cheek and whispered,  ‘I’ll put you to a different test tonight,’ and Tammi had to stifle a giggle.
     Melrad picked up the bow Tammi had discarded and examined it closely. ‘How on earth did you manage that with this paltry toy?’
     Volran and Beverak peered over his shoulder as he tried to replicate Tammi’s feat, and soon they were in competition and Beverak had gone to find more arrows while his brothers stood arguing about trajectories and angles.
     Edeanna looked quite put out by Tammi’s success, but she simply changed the subject. ‘I wonder if the stream is very cold?’
     ‘Let’s find out!’ Zavardi took off her shoes and hose and dabbled her toes in the water. ‘Ooh, yes, it’s cold!’ she shrieked.
     Edeanna dipped her hand and frowned. ‘No, not cold! In my country, the streams are frozen already! But swim I would not.’
     Tamirayne laughed. Like Zavardi, she had removed her footwear. ‘You are both cowards. Look at me!’ And she was in the water and away, hitching her skirts ever higher as she waded upstream, carrying her boots and hose in the other hand.
     ‘Defeated by Aristand I will not be!’ Edeanna exclaimed. Tammi turned to see that she had also got rid of her shoes and hose and had taken to the water.
     Zavardi must have felt she had to uphold the honour of Kyrisia, for she was following Tammi and Edeanna in the time it took to blink. Only a few yards upstream, however, she stopped to admire a berry-laden shrub and called to Edeanna, who waded back to join her.
     Tammi went on alone. The water was certainly cold, but she wasn’t going to let Edeanna see that it troubled her. Once she was out of sight of the party, she scrambled back onto the bank and sat down, rubbing her feet to warm them before replacing her hose and boots. She stood up, shaking her skirts. Despite her care, the hems were sodden. Perhaps it hadn’t been such a good idea to go paddling after all.
     As she was wringing the hems, a swishing noise overhead caught her attention. A shadow made her think it was a huge bird, but no bird of that size would be flying within the forest. As she turned on the spot, a hand shading her eyes in an effort to see the strange creature, the swishing sound came again, and this time she caught a glimpse of its source.
     A huge bat ... but was it? No bat was ever that big. And its legs — they looked human! Tammi stifled a scream, cramming both fists to her mouth.
     The creature vanished over the trees, and Tammi took a deep breath. She must have been mistaken about the legs. She must ask Beverak about the bats here. Maybe they were bigger than the ones at home.
     But the creature returned, and its next pass, lower than the last, cured her of any idea that this was any kind of bat. It had a human — or almost human — face. Its whiteless eyes glistened unrelieved green. Matching slime dripped from vicious incisors. It was close enough for her to catch a whiff of its stench, reminiscent of pond slime laced with manure.
     Tammi screamed. And ran.
Picture courtesy of http://www.123rf.com/
Monday, 12 May 2014

Book Review: Black Ships (Numinous World, #1) by Jo Graham

Black Ships (Numinous World, #1)Black Ships by Jo Graham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review was originally published in August 2008 on the now defunct webzine, The Specusphere,

Jo Graham’s debut novel arose out of a long-time interest in Ancient History. She also loves the old stories, including The Aeneid. Her knowledge of history made her realise that Aeneas could not possibly have founded Carthage because that city did not exist at the time of the Trojan Wars, when The Aeneid is set. So she re-wrote the classic tale, focussing on characters fleshed out from mere mentions in the original and giving the story an Egyptian twist. Black Ships is the result.

Graham has given us, as first person point-of-view character, a girl named Gull, born in slavery in Pylos where her mother had been sold as a prize of war. She grows up to become Pythia, seer and priestess of Persephone, and when Prince Aeneas arrives with his nine warships and three fishing boats to rescue the captives, the course of her life is irrevocably altered. She must decide between her sacred calling and a perilous adventure – fleeing from slavery to be guide to her people and especially to Aeneas.

The Aeneid has a story worth telling again and again, and if you do not mind reading a version that departs from the original tale and tells it with a new voice, you will love this book. Graham takes us right inside the culture and society that spawned Gull and her fellow captives, giving us along the way credible glimpses of life in the palace of the Pharaohs. She also shows us what it was like to sail the Mediterranean in ships that were barely seaworthy and to be shipwrecked on land that was barely habitable. And always, the ground bass of The Aeneid plays in the background with Graham’s tale playing a melodious counterpoint.

The Aeneid is, of course, an epic tale, and enjoyable and well written as Graham’s spin-off is, the reader sometimes feels rushed. Whole decades are glossed over as the author fights to squeeze the story into less than 400 pages and one cannot help but feel that a more leisurely pace, perhaps spreading Gull’s story over two books, might have been preferable. Even so, this is a fine debut novel, suitable for all age groups. It will be treasured by anyone who, like the author, loves history and mythology.

View all my Goodreads reviews
Monday, 5 May 2014

Book review: Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley

Winterbirth (The Godless World, #1)Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review originally appeared on the now defunct webzine, The Specusphere, in January 2008. I wrote it in conjunction with my friend Joan Malpass.

Ruckley's debut novel tells of war and violence set in a land torn apart by the breaking of a truce. If Ruckley is to be believed, the greatest tales are written in blood. In this first book of a trilogy, he sets out to demonstrate that through lavishly described hard and heavy action set in a godless world of ice and blood. The adventure begins when the Gods have made the world and created the five races. Now the gods are absent as the third age arrives, bringing chaos. The struggle lies between those who each believe their way is right: the way in which all wars begin.

The weapons are age old, the skills even older. Swift and violent battles rage and always the blood runs. Those few who seek peace are lost in the chaos as they strive for a different future. Action drives the tale as the battles of the Thanes of the True Bloods are played out. Their cruelty, passion and blood lust are paralleled by the quest of one man seeking to ‘activate in full the terrible power he senses in himself’. And all will tremble if he should succeed.

Winterbirth might appeal to a wider audience if one or more of the female characters had been developed. Such inclusion as there is of the softer side of life is little more than token. There are three potentially interesting female characters - Anyara, Yvane and Ess'yr. (As an aside, why on earth do so many fantasy writers think apostrophes essential to exotic names?) If one of them had been used to provide more of a foil for the blood and thunder, it might have been easier to cope with the continual marching-fighting-marching-fighting. As it stands, Winterbirth comes across as a rather confusing story about a great many macho men dumped in a wild setting and left to fight it out. This is a book with huge cast of characters, but sadly, none is sufficiently clearly drawn to make us interested in his or her personal journey. Fantasy's greatest strength, perhaps, lies in its capacity to depict an outer journey as a cipher for the inner one, and Winterbirth didn't do that, at least, not for these reviewers.

But there's no denying that Winterbirth has the capacity to haunt in shades of red. For those who like their heroic battles well steeped in blood and action this could well be the start of a satisfying journey.

Bloodheir, The Godless World Part Two and Fall of Thanes, The Godless World Part Three are also available on Amazon. For more about Brian Ruckley and his work, check out http://www.brianruckley.com 

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Monday, 28 April 2014

Book Review: HBO's Game of Thrones

Inside HBO's Game of ThronesInside HBO's Game of Thrones by Bryan Cogman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gollancz September 2012: ISBN 978 0 575 09314 0
Author Bryan Cogman’s offering to fans of George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series of books (seven so far, and counting…) and the spin off TV series Game of Thrones is beautifully luxurious without going over the top. At $45 RRP it’s not cheap, but it hit the market nicely timed for the Christmas rush. If you have a nearest and dearest who is a fan of the series in either of its manifestations, look no further – any enthusiast would be delighted to receive this gorgeous tome.

Caressing the soft vinyl cover, reminiscent of the soft leather bindings of a century or more ago, we are immediately carried back in time. Not as far back, perhaps, as the pseudo-medieval world of the series, but far enough back to feel that here is something special, a message from the past. Skimming the enticing Table of Contents, we find that there are entire sections devoted to each of the families engaged in the eponymous struggle – the Game of Thrones. Histories of the houses and of individual characters invite us to dip into their world and get to know them better. Anyone coming into the HBO series without having read the books is likely to need this guide, for this is a complex tale with literally thousands of characters. Fear not – there are family trees and maps included to help you find your way around. The book also features Will Simpson's concept art and work from Gemma Jackson's design team. It also boasts previously-unpublished set photos, production and costume designs, storyboards and props.

Each section is enhanced not only by a multitude of black and white, sepia and colour pictures, but also by interviews with and comments from the actors, production staff and the Grand Old Man himself. As well as popping up regularly within the pages, GRRM also wrote the preface, explaining how the series came to be made. The production’s story is a fascinating one, involving multiple international venues and a huge cast of principals and extras, to say nothing of the vast army of production personnel and support staff.

The book, of course, only covers series one and two, and it’s likely that there will be many more, with a projected ten episodes required to cover each book in the series. Series one and two – twenty eps – are already available. If this book does well perhaps the author will be moved to cover more ‘makings-of’ in further volumes. With a steady turnover of principals (the story has a huge body count) there will be plenty of call for more fan fodder in the coming years.

American author Bryan Cogman is known for writing two episodes of the series: What Is Dead May Never Die, the third episode of the show's second season, and Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things, the fourth episode of the first season. He has written at least one episode for series #3 as well. He has also edited ten episodes. Cogman is familiar with the cast, crew and writing team of Game of Thrones, and his insider knowledge is what makes this book shine.

As a fan of the books and the HBO series, I give this one five stars!

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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Dagger of Dresnia is launched!

The big event of the recent Swancon (Western Australia's annual state SF convention) was for me the launch of my first novel, The Dagger of Dresnia. It's the first book of The Talismans Trilogy, which is about three kings and three talismans.

The main character, Ellyria, is an elvish princess married to an ordinary mortal king and the mother of identical triplets. On the death of the king, the kingdom, which consists of three islands, is to be split in three according to his will. But splitting the kingdom is likely to cause havoc in more ways than one - and Ellyria decides to use magic to keep things on track. As you can imagine, the main theme of the story is 'What kind of things might happen if we do the wrong thing to get a right outcome?'

The answer is Chaos. Big Time. Especially when there's a Dark Spirit involved.

Many fantasy readers are of mature years (like me!) and they will probably enjoy seeing a middle-aged woman centre stage, but The Dagger of Dresnia has plenty of romance, battle scenes, family arguments and youthful misdemeanours to keep it rocking along, so it will appeal to younger readers, too.

You can buy it in either hard copy or as an ebook from Satalyte Publishing or as an ebook from  http://www.amazon.com.au/
All my stock sold at the launch, but I should have more soon, so if you live in Perth you can get the book from me to save postage.

See Carol Ryles's amazing cake in the above photo by Lee Battersby? Carol's father was a pastry cook, and she has obviously inherited his talent. Did you ever see anything as gorgeous as that cake? The little cakes, inspired by the poppies on the book's cover, were gluten-free and tasted really yummy, as did the totally indulgent Big Cake! And that lovely Dagger was the finishing touch to a beautiful display.

Three of my beloved mentors, Michèle Drouart, Glenda Larke and Juliet Marillier, kindly agreed to cut the cake. The proceedings were expedited by MC extraordinaire Lee Battersby, who kept things rocking along. Lee was the one who started me off on this trilogy. Read all about it here if you don't know the story. The pic at right shows Juliet, Glenda and Michèle debating cake-attack tactics, watched by cake maker Carol Ryles in the background. (Photo by Lee Battersby)

That's Lee and his lovely wife Lyn on the left. The picture on the right shows me and my keep-fit teacher, Renate, sharing a joke. Renate is also a pretty mean belly dancer. Both pics by courtesy of Cat Sparks.


Below left, Rivka Berger and belly dancing editor-publisher Liz Grzyb. (Pic by Cat Sparks)


On your right, me showing off my handiwork. (Pic by Keira McKenzie)



More friends: on the right, Kylie Ding and Martin Livings, and below left, Stephen Dedman and Alex Isles, and  And below right, an astonished Keira McKenzie takes a pic of the cake! All these pics are by Cat Sparks.

A huge thank you to all the lovely friends who came along to the launch, and apologies for not joining you afterwards - I was busy signing books for quite a while!

Swancon 2014

Well, another Swancon has come and gone. As always, there were excellent speakers and interesting panel topics. 

I was on four panels. The first was the most exciting for me as I was up there on the podium with a trio of well-known authors: Anne Bishop (The Black Jewels Trilogy) Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files series) and Dave Luckett (The Tenebran Trilogy - and writing as LS Lawrence, several YA historicals, including The Eagle of the East and Escape by Sea). We discussed worldbuilding and what pitfalls and problems can trip up the unwary writer. We had an excellent moderator in Doug Burbridge.

Swancon 2014's guests-of-honour: Isobelle Carmody, Sally Beasley, Jim Butcher and Anne Bishop. They are all excellent speakers and Jim Butcher is a very funny guy. He had the audience in stitches most of the time! (Photo: Sandra Chung)

On Saturday, I sat with Stephen Dedman, Sarah McFarlane, Ian Nichols and moderator Andy Hahn on a panel about remakes of Shakespeare. Seeing as there have been over 400 films and TV shows created from Shakespeare's life and works, I concentrated on ballets and operas. There was lively discussion from the floor and we all came away knowing a bit more about the greatest writer in English - and maybe in any other language, too.

Sunday's effort was 'How to Piss off a Publisher' with Andrew Harvey, Dave Luckett and Cat Sparks. As one who supplements her pension by mentoring and critiquing new writers, I had a lot to contribute to this one. The biggie, of course is 'READ THE F-ING GUIDELINES  FOR HEAVEN"S SAKE! and the second biggest is 'DON'T JUST READ THE GUIDELINES - DO AS THEY COMMAND!'

It's amazing how many beginning writers not only don't follow the publisher's guidelines but haven't haven't even bothered to learn basic English grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax. These are the tools of the writer's trade, and without them you'll do about as well as a plumber trying to clear a blocked toilet with a screwdiver. There were some very long faces in the audience by the time we'd explained that it's a buyer's market and less than 1% of submissions to traditional publishers ever see the light of day.

Because of being on that panel I missed Glenda Larke's launch of her new trilogy, The Forsaken Lands. Book one, The Lascar's Dagger, is a great read. I haven't finished it yet but I'm deeply impressed by Glenda's poetic descriptions that subtly set the scene and her pacy narrative that is nonetheless full of juicy prose. How about 'He pushed himself up, blinded, utterly vulnerable, dripping blood and sneezing, blowing out clouds of gold-coloured powder'. I feel really sorry for Saker, while nonetheless laughing my head off as I imagine the scene.

On Monday, my fellow-panellists were Susanne Akerman, Stephen Dedman and Gina Goddard. We discussed what libraries meant to us: how they both informed and catered to our tastes in books and fulfilled our yearning for knowledge. Once again, there were animated contributions from the audience, all of whom, understandably, appeared to be well-read bibliophiles!

But the most exciting part of Swancon for me was the launch of my first novel, The Dagger of Dresnia, book one of The Talismans Trilogy. It was such a giddy-making event that I'm going to be really self-indulgent and give it its own post!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Interview with Jan Butterworth

A quick note - Kiwi blogger Jan Butterworth has just uploaded a nice interview with me to http://akiwisbookreviews.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/dagger-of-dresnia-the-talisman-trilogy-1-satima-flavell-interview/
Saturday, 12 April 2014

Book Review: Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Flame of Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters, #6)Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pan Macmillan Australia, November 2012: ISBN 9781742611624
This is the sixth Sevenwaters book from the pen of prolific author Juliet Marillier. This author has produced fifteen books in all, and every one of them is eminently enjoyable.

For Maeve, daughter of Sean and Aisling of Sevenwaters, going home is a hard journey. Brought up by her aunt and uncle in England, she has not wanted to return to Sevenwaters, the place where, at the age of ten, she lost her beloved dog in a fire and lost the use of her hands in trying to save him.

Now twenty, Maeve has spent her formative years in quiet pursuits. She cannot even feed herself, let alone help with the household tasks. All that keeps her sane, we suspect, is her love of animals and her remarkable ability to calm them.

She is surprised when her Uncle Bran suggests that she might travel to Ireland with a valuable yearling horse that he is sending to her father’s stables. The animal will be a gift for a local chieftain, for Sevenwaters is beset by strife and local leaders need placating. With some trepidation, Maeve agrees, only to find her fears are realised – she cannot settle at Sevenwaters because of the tragic memories it holds for her. What’s more, she finds the reason for the strife – Mac Dara, ruler of the Otherworld, is causing men from surrounding estates to disappear. Most of them have turned up dead, and their families and employers are restive, blaming Maeve’s family for the troubles.

Maeve achieves a measure of equanimity, however, when she finds that her parents have planted a beautiful garden on the site of the fire, a garden containing all her favourite flowers and other plants that are meaningful to her, What’s more, she has a new young brother, Finbar, who at only seven years old already displays signs of being a seer, like his older sister Sibeal. Finbar’s tutor, the druid Luachan, also befriends Maeve. Further, she earns the respect of the household because of her way with animals. When she finds two stray dogs she quickly adopts and trains them, and this act is the start of a great adventure: one in which Maeve and her companions must face Mac Dara himself.

This book is, perhaps, a tad darker than the last one in the series, Seer of Sevenwaters. Marillier has a great gift for building tension, and we are on tenterhooks when confronted by what is surely the most duplicitous villain Marillier has created – worse, even, than Mac Dara himself. We also meet old friends – Ciaran the druid leader is one – and make new ones. Fans of the series will no doubt want little Finbar to have his own story eventually and who knows? Maybe that will come to pass, for even after six books, fans still cry out for more Sevenwaters. The stories have a charm that is usually lacking in long series, the characters draw us back again and again, and the forests and rivers of Sevenwaters continue to beckon us long after the book is closed. And in Flame of Sevenwaters we once again have a lovely cover based on a painting by Waterhouse, this time his delightful work The Soul of the Rose.

Check out www.julietmarillier.com for more on this popular author and her work. Be sure to check out the artwork, too!

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Friday, 4 April 2014

A gorgeous cover for my book

Over at the Egoboo blog, my friend and colleague Helen Venn has written a post listing links to websites that list ideas for prompting creativity in writers.

I know a lot of writers find prompt-based exercises useful triggers to spark their creativity, but by and large they don't work for me. I just finish up writing the beginning of something that could be a novel but I haven't the faintest idea where it's going, so it just fizzles out when the buzzer goes.

However, the one time a prompting exercise did work, I started the Talismans Trilogy, the first book of which, The Dagger of Dresnia, has just been released by Satalyte Publishing. It's is a classic ‘traditional’ fantasy with a medieval setting, complete with elves, battles, love scenes and the odd dragon! Isn't the cover gorgeous? It was created by the very talented Marieke Ormsby. By the way, you can read the full story of how I came to start The Dagger of Dresnia here. (It's all Lee Battersby's fault!)

Now I am planning a proper launch for my 'baby'. It will be officially launched at Swancon, Western Australia’s annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, on Easter Sunday - 20 April - at the Ibis Styles Hotel, 15 Robinson Avenue, Northbridge. It’s not necessary to be at the convention to go to the launch – you can just turn up in the hotel’s foyer at 1.30 PM. Fittingly, Lee Battersby will be MC, and many other writers from WA and interstate will be there to help me celebrate. There will be cake, and three lovely lady writers to cut it.

For more on The Dagger of Dresnia, click here. And if you want to be among the first to own a copy, you should then go to http://satalyte.com.au/book-store/page/2/

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A thousand thanks to my myriad writing friends

The cover will be unveiled soon!

It's only a month now until my first novel, The Dagger of Dresnia, is released. It's been an exciting frustrating, overwhelming, journey from the day in 2003 when the first idea came to me, and I couldn't have done it without a lot of help. 

More experienced writers helped me in various ways critiquing my work, going the extra mile when teaching classes or workshops, even just making encouraging remarks in person or on my blog. If you have been one of the people who did these things or otherwise helped and encouraged me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The speculative fiction writing world is sustained by one of the most open, friendly and kindly communities I've ever been involved in. 

My publisher recently asked me to send him copy for the Acknowledgments page, and below you will see what I wrote. Many people are included as members of this group or that — to mention them all by name would have produced a book fatter than an encyclopedia volume!

For many years, I thought I knew how to write. I’d had many features and reviews published in national journals; I’d won the odd poetry competition — and of course, I could write a book if only I had a story…

Such vain imaginings! When a story finally came to live with me, I quickly found that getting that story down on paper needed quite different skills from the ones I already had. What was all this stuff about point-of-view, three-act structure, character and story arcs and many other terms I’d never heard before? I had never realised how divergent fiction writing would be from journalism and versification.

I am a slow learner and needed many teachers, and I was lucky that the ones who helped me were among the best. Here, in more-or-less chronological order, are some of the many mentors and colleagues who patiently gave me more assistance than I probably deserved: Julie Banfield, Michèle Drouart, Juliet Marillier, Dave Luckett, Glenda Larke, Karen Miller, Phillip Berrie, Patty Jansen, Ian Nicholls, Stephen Dedman, Fiona Leonard, Tom Edwards, Joanna Fay, Sarah Lee Parker, Carol Ryles, Helen Venn, Robert Denethon and all the lovely members of the Stromatolights writing group, the Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre’s SF group, the Online Writers Workshop and the various other groups I've belonged to over the years. A special wave to Lee Battersby, Lynn Flewelling and Fiona McIntosh, who saw the potential in that little scene I wrote at Lee’s instigation while at Swancon 2003. You will get to read it in book two. Who knew that from less than a thousand words, a trilogy would grow?

And not forgetting, of course, my lovely publishers, Stephen and Marieke Ormsby at Satalyte Publishing, who have been generous, diligent and patient in making The Dagger of Dresnia into a real, live book!

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