Saturday, 10 September 2016

Granted - Thank you SpecFicNZ!

You may have asked yourself (if you've been following my career and are exceptionally astute), "What happened to that prize winning novel manuscript, Agents of Kalanon?"
For those who aren't aware of it, Agents of Kalanon won first prize in an unpublished novel manuscript competition run by SpecFicNZ a few years back.  It's a murder mystery in a fantasy world recovering from war and where things are not always as they seem.
I'm thrilled to say that the book, now titled "Kalanon's Rising" will be released very soon thanks to a financial grant from SpecFicNZ and will be the first in a series of adventures for these characters.

Want to stay ahead of the Agents of Kalanon news?  Sign up to my newsletter.  The next issue will include a sneak peek at the cover and also a free preview sample.  Don't miss out!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Currents of Change Wins Two Awards
I'm thrilled and grateful to say Currents of Change has won two Koru Awards!  One for Best First Novel, and one for the Best Short and Sweet category.  I'm on cloud 9 and don't plan on coming down any time soon.  Look at the pretty trophies! 
The Korus are given out by RWNZ to recognize excellence in published books from the previous year.  There was some hot competition and a lot of talented authors so I was pretty much just enjoying the awards dinner without any real expectations so to win both categories my book was eligible for just blew my mind.
A huge thank you to RWNZ for running these awards.
If you'd like to check out the other winners and fabulous finalists, you can see a list of results here.
Or, of course, if you'd like to read Currents of Change, you can get a copy from Amazon or ask at your local bookstore.

(As an aside, I know I haven't posted in this blog for a while but there is some exciting news coming.  Sign up to my mailing list to make sure you don't miss out!)

Friday, 8 April 2016

What makes a book magical realism?

Author Tahlia Newland talks about her latest book and answers the question, "what is magical realism?"  
Tahlia Newland has written and published nine books, three of which have won a BRAG Medallion and an Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence. She writes inspirational magical realism and fantasy, and also makes masquerade masks and steampunk hats and accessories. Her wardrobe is full of steampunk clothing which she wears every day because beautiful clothes deserve to be worn.
She works as an editor for AIA Editing and AIA Publishing, a selective, author-funded publishing company. She also co-ordinates Awesome Indies Books’ accreditation service for independently published books. She lives in an Australian rainforest with a lovely husband and two cheeky Burmese kittens. 
 Hi, I’m Tahlia Newland and I’ve just published my ninth book, The Locksmith’s Secret. I call it magical realism, but I could also call it a metaphysical romance or a cosy mystery or a steampunk murder mystery, so why call it magical realism? And what makes a book magical realism?
The answer to the first question is partially that if I choose any of the other options as the one term to describe the book’s genre, none of them quite gives the full feel of the style of the book. You could call it metaphysical because the book has a contemplative nature, and the central character, Prunella, is a Buddhist who struggles to apply her Buddhist principles to her life’s challenges. She also has ‘visions’ of past lives—or perhaps it’s an overactive imagination, she isn’t too sure. You could call it a romance because the mystery involves Prunella’s (Ella for short) boyfriend and the future of their relationship is in jeopardy. You can’t call the whole book steampunk, because the steampunk is only one narrative thread—it’s the book Ella is writing while the contemporary story is taking place.
Because of the mix of genres, I could call it literary fiction, and that would suffice to a degree, but it doesn’t give as good a feel for the book as the term magical realism does.
So what is magical realism exactly? Here’s what Wikapedia says about it.
“Magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction [1] in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the “real” and the “fantastic” in the same stream of thought. It is a film, literary and visual art genre.”
In magical realism the magical elements are there to emphasize something, usually a characters perception or inner experience. They illuminate reality, help us look at our reality in a different way. The magical elements usually have their basis in metaphors which are extended until they become a tangible part of the characters experience.
For example, the main magical element in The Locksmith’s Secret is an ethereal city. Here’s a description of it:
“I’m in outer space, walking down in the middle of a road in an unlit transparent city. The outlines of the buildings glow white against the dark sky, like a line drawing, and I can see through all the walls and floors. Skyscrapers tower over me on both sides of the road, but the city is empty, not a soul in sight. No furniture fills the rooms and no lights shine inside. Deep space surrounds this city which stretches on and on around me, perhaps to infinity. Like an artist’s drawing with perfect perspective, lines converge into vanishing points everywhere I look.”
Ella’s experience of searching for the locksmith who is the only living soul in this ephemeral city illuminates the psychological aspects of her search in reality for the answer to the mystery of what her locksmith boyfriend is hiding. This thread, incorporated as dreams, gives a surreal feel to the overall book, something I want to hint at in my description. That and the fact that the story also includes narrative threads from memories and past lives that parallel and add a deeper dimension to the present events is why I call it magical realism.

Description of The Locksmith’s Secret by Tahlia Newland.
Ella’s locksmith boyfriend Jamie seems to be her perfect match—at least until a death in the family calls him back to England. While he’s gone, Ella discovers he’s hiding something so astounding that it completely changes her perception of him and his place in her world.

While Jamie struggles with family responsibilities, Ella’s steampunk murder mystery is developing a life of its own, raising disturbing memories of her time as a striptease artist and a past life as a sexually abused Italian nun. She also dreams of an ephemeral city, where she seeks to unravel the locksmith’s secret and find the key that opens a door to other realities.

All these, together with a lost brother, a desperate mother, a demanding cat, and a struggle to live up to Buddhist ideals, weave together in a rich tapestry that creates an extraordinary work of magical realism.

Does this sound like the kind of book you might be interested in?

You can find out more about me and my other books—a fantasy series, a book of short stories, two other magical realism books and a book of writing tips—on my website at

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Sir Julius Vogel Award Finalists


The finalists for the 2016 Sir Julius Vogel Awards have been announced!
I'm thrilled to have made the cut in three categories - Best Novel for "Currents of Change", Best Collected Work for "Shifting Worlds", and Best Short Story for "Drag Marks".  I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to all those who nominated my work and to the organisers of the awards - as well as congratulations to the other authors who were nominated.  This is a great opportunity to showcase New Zealand speculative fiction.
Winners are decided in June and more information about the Sir Julius Vogel Awards can be found here.

The finalists are:

Professional Award Nominees

Best Novel

Ardus - Jean Gilbert

Mariah's Dream - Grace Bridges

Vestiges of Flames - Lyn McConchie

Currents of Change - Darian Smith

Shards of Ice - Catherine Mede

Sun Touched - J.C. Hart

Best Youth Novel

The Caretaker of Imagination - Z. R. Southcombe

Dragons Realm (You Say Which Way) - Eileen Mueller

Brave's Journey - Jan Goldie

Lucy's Story: The End of the World - Z. R. Southcombe

Deadline Delivery - Peter Friend

Best Novella / Novelette

Pocket Wife - I. K. Paterson-Harkness

The Way the Sky Curves - J. C. Hart

The Molenstraat Music Festival - Sean Monaghan

The Last - Grant Stone

The Ghost of Matter - Octavia Cade

Burn (Maiden, Mother, Crone, bk 1) - J. C. Hart

Bree's Dinosaur - A. C. Buchanan

Best Short Story

“The Thief's Tale” - Lee Murray

“Pride” - Jean Gilbert

“Floodgate” - Dan Rabarts

“The Shelver” - Piper Mejia

“The Harpsicord Elf” - Sean Monoghan

“Drag Marks” - Darian Smith

Best Collected Work

Shifting Worlds: a collection of short stories - Darian Smith

Shortcuts: Track 1 - Marie Hodgkinson (ed)

The Survivors: Heroic Edition - V. L. Dreyer

Write Off Line 2015: The Earth We Knew - Jean Gilbert

SpecFicNZ Shorts - SpecFicNZ
Beyond the Veil: A collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy
Lauren Haddock/Jessica Harvey (eds)

Best Professional Artwork

Cover of The Earth We Knew: A Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy
Kodi Murray
Cover for Shortcuts – Track 1
K.C. Bailey
Cover for Pisces of Fate
Henry Christian-Sloane
Cover for Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death
Imojen Faith Hancock

Best Professional Production/Publication

“Ahead of her time and lost in time: on feminism, gender, and bisexuality”
AJ Fitzwater
In Letters to Tiptree, Twelfth Planet Press
The Face of Oblivion
A LARP written by Catherine Pegg 
White Cloud Worlds Anthology 3
Paul Tobin (ed), published by Weta Workshop

Fan Award Nominees

Best Fan Production/ Publication

John & Lynelle Howell
Jacqui Smith

Best Fan Writing


John Toon
Available in Phoenixine
June Young
Available in Phoenixine
Jacqui Smith
Available in Phoenixine
Terri Doyle
Available in Novazine

Best Fan Artist

Keith Smith

Special Award Nominees

Best New Talent

(Nominations are numbered to aid clarity — the number has no other significance).
1. Jean Gilbert

2. Octavia Cade

3. Y. K. Willemse

4. Eileen Mueller

Services To Science Fiction, Fantasy And Horror

(Nominations are numbered to aid clarity — the number has no other significance).

1. Marie Hodgkinson

Services To Fandom

(Nominations are numbered to aid clarity — the number has no other significance).
1. Glenn Young

Monday, 14 March 2016

Even Space Invaders Need Love - Interviewing Mary Brock Jones

Award-winning author Mary Brock Jones is a shining example of a writer who manages to straddle who seemingly separate genres.  She writes historical romance and futuristic science fiction and is a very active member of both Romance Writers of NZ and SpecFicNZ.  She also straddles traditional and indie publishing as a hybrid author.  I recently got a chance to talk to her about how she manages to balance these sides of herself and, in particular, how she was able to bring romance and sci-fi together in the exciting Hathe series which tells the story of a couple on opposite sides of an interplanetary conflict.

You write both romance and sci-fi.  What draws you to each genre?

​     I like stories about people, about the things that matter to people, and romance definitely ticks that box. As well as that, I enjoy the world building side of writing - whether it’s science fiction or historical romance.  Archaeology was top of my career list when I was a child, as I’d  fallen in love with ancient civilisations, particularly with their myths and legends. So science fiction and fantasy aren’t too big a leap from there. I think I first started reading science fiction in my teens, and academically I tended towards the biological sciences so the two gelled nicely. I still love museums and old stuff as well though.
Looking back, it was always the stories of the past and of the future that fascinated me, as much as how they built roads or conquered the worlds. How did people live in those different times, and how might people live in the future. Which is probably why my science fiction novels have a strong romantic theme to them, though the stories can be rather edgier and with darker endings. But in all of them, it’s the people that matter.

Do you find your style changes between them?

It changes a bit between historical and science fiction more than between romance and non-romance stories. The historical are slightly more formal in style with fewer contractions. It’s not a straight replication of how people talked in Victorian times, but more has a feel of their style . I’ve read a lot of recollections and social histories of the period of my books (the NZ gold rush) and so you come to have a sense of their way of looking at their world and their use of language.

 And do you find you blend the two?

Not really, unless it’s called for by the culture of a particular SciFi group of characters. In “Torn”, the book I’m writing at the moment, my heroine is from a cultural grouping which places a high value on formal manners in language and speech, so I guess the historical style has seeped in there.

What can you tell us about the recently released Hathe series and what inspired you to write it?

Hathe was my first book, and began as a dream. Very occasionally, I’ll get dreams which are like being in the middle of a film or TV programme. A complete story unfolding before me.
That one gave me the setting (similar to the Desert Rd, cold temperate desert of the New Zealand’s North Island) as well as the two main characters - a heroine who belonged to a secret resistance organisation and the hero who had to break her and find what she knew to save his own people. Mind you, the nature of the characters was nothing like in the final Hathe. They were both much older for a start, and the hero was softer, more easily hurt. I do love Hamon, my hero, but life has made him one tough SOB.
The Hathe series is a colonialism story in space.  Did you draw on your history as a New Zealander to inform this?

Definitely. At the time, I was feeling very bolshy about being from the Southern Hemisphere. As most of the world’s people live in the Northern Hemisphere, our seasons, our stars and our physical world are often marked as ‘different’, while cultural festivals  such as Christmas are said to be at “the wrong time”, which annoyed me immensely. So the Hathians may be human, may have descended from colonisers from Earth, but they have their own ways of doing things and very much belong to Hathe, not Earth.

What messages about colonialism would you like people to take away from the Hathe books?

 If you mean, the rights or wrongs of colonialism, I can’t say I was thinking of that at the time, although as a child of a colonial country you grow up aware of the issues, of the massive rate of cultural change inflicted on indigenous peoples during colonisation. However, I did have a strong sense of belonging to the New World, and of coming from a place and part of the world that was different from the established world.  In Book Two, Marthe asks Hamon why Earth didn’t ask for help to overcome its resources shortfall to provide for a massive population.

“And no one ever thought to look at the rest of the Alliance planets, to see if maybe we had solved the problems you couldn’t?”

“Why should we? Earth’s population still exceeds that of all the newer Alliance planets combined. We had minds enough of our own to come up with solutions that would work for Earth.”

“Yes, but not minds that had been challenged as they were on the other worlds. Don’t you know how the original colonies were settled?” she demanded. “Set up on an ad hoc basis. Earth’s only interest lay in how many people they could be rid of and what could be milked from the new worlds. But we didn’t sink as we should have. We swam, finding the answers to questions you of Earth never even dreamed existed. And now you expect us to understand you? To rescue you, even?”

“Is that so unreasonable?” Hamon threw back defensively. “Do you have no sense of duty, of heritage? Earth is the home of humanity!”

“I have a nostalgic sense of interest, yes, but this is my home. I was born on Hathe, as were my parents, my grandparents, and generations before. This world—it’s who I am! Against that, all you offer is the sop of your own ignorance?”

The phrase “finding the answers to questions you of Earth never even dreamed existed” sums up my approach to the changes in New Zealand over the colonial period. The settlers here had to leave behind the ways of their home countries because they just didn’t work here. It’s one point where my historical and SciFi research has definitely come together.

It’s interesting that it is the humans from Earth are the “baddies” in Hathe in the sense that they’re oppressing the indigenous population and as readers we find ourselves supporting the "alien" underdogs.  What made you decide to write it that way around?

It’s part of the above. The Hathians were like me, a descendant of migrants, and the Terrans those human who had never left their home planet.

As an author, you’d be considered a “hybrid” in the sense that you’ve been traditionally published and indie published.  Do you have  a preference or any advice about that for other authors?

My first books were published by Escape Publishing, the digital branch of Harlequin Australia. I’m very grateful for what I learnt with working with a traditional publisher, and the staff of Harlequin are amazingly supportive of their authors. It’s also the most successful book publishing company on the planet, so is a very good introduction to the business of publishing.
Plus they paid for the editing, cover design and initial promotional pushes such as Netgalley. Indie publishing is very expensive, and don’t imagine you’re going to make much money - if any! Harlequin also has established pathways to announce your releases, so that helps in rising a bit higher in the huge pool of new books coming out all the time.
However, as an author, you also lose much of the control of your book. What I love as an Indie author is having total control of the final book. It says what I want it to say, whether or not that is commercially viable. There is a scene in Hathe that I knew would put off a publisher, as it has an element of sexual assault. I thought hard about whether it needs to be there, but it definitely does. That scene brings into stark reality the ugliness of what Hamon and Marthe are being forced to do to each other. They must spy on each other, with little hope of any kind of a future.  To do otherwise could cost the very survival of each of their peoples.

Speaking of hybrids, should we expect a hybrid baby in Hathe?  I hear there’s another book coming out soon.

I do have another book ready soon, but it’s the first of a different series. I’m also about a quarter way through writing the sequel to Hathe. It’s the story of Jacquel, Marthe’s oldest friend, and covers what happens on Hathe afterwards. At the moment, that one’s going to be Indie published. It’s very definitely a sequel, so I can’t see a publisher taking it on as a stand alone book.

What other projects are you working on?

I’ve finished the first book in my new environmental/political suspense scifi series set on the planet Arcadia and it’s with an editor at the moment. It also has a strong romantic element, with a couple of very different main characters.  I’m still deciding whether to try taking that down the traditional route, or indie publish it, but I do have a cover for it, which I love. It has horses and a spaceship, shades of “Firefly’!

Coming Soon:
“Fee and Caleb must change their world to save it, even if it means their families reject them, the lands they love will never be the same and despite neither quite trusting the other.”

For more from Mary Brock Jones, check out her website at or her Amazon profile here.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Paranormal Love Blog Hop

I've never been in a Blog Hop before so here's my chance.  Time to find some great new paranormal stories to read.  Information on my book, Currents of Change, is below, followed by a link to Paranormal Love Wednesdays, where you can hop to other blogs and find more books!  Have fun.
Currents of Change
A suspenseful novel about magic, secrets, a haunted house, and a touch of romance.
Haunted house. Haunted heart.
When Sara O'Neill goes on the run, she believes the tiny New Zealand town of Kowhiowhio is just the sanctuary she needs. Her family's old colonial house needs repair, but it's safe from the abusive husband she left behind. However, a hostile local holds a grudge and a dangerous presence haunting her new home threatens Sara's chance at peace. How can she create a new life while dealing with ghosts from the old?
For local electrician, Nate Adams, parenting his young daughter alone has not been easy - particularly in a town where he is still seen as an outsider. When he meets his new neighbour, he sees a chance at a new start for them both. Even with his help, can the house - or Sara's heart - be repaired?
Someone doesn't want an O'Neill in Kowhiowhio. Sara's return is awakening secrets hidden for generations.
Why has the house never had electricity? What was the fate of Sara's ancestors?
Can she discover the ghost's story before it's too late?
The truth will

Get your copy from Amazon here.

 And check out what else is available at Paranormal Love Wednesdays Blog Hop.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

SJV Award Nomination Season

It's that time of year again - the nominating period for this year's Sir Julius Vogel awards
Don't forget to put in your nominations before the February 28 deadline!
These awards recognise New Zealand Speculative Fiction and the more nominations a work receives, the better its chances of making it to the final ballot.
If you liked a work released in 2015, please support it with nominations. 
Each nomination needs to be in a separate email to: which should state that you'd like to nominate the work, what category it is eligible for, name, author, etc and your contact details as well.
If one of the works you liked is mine, EVEN BETTER!

Currents of Change and Shifting Worlds are both eligible, as are several of the short stories within the Shifting Worlds collection, such as A Suitor, The Girl in the Window, & Drag Marks

If you're nominating my work, the info you need to include is...

For Currents of Change:
1.  Name / Title of work - Currents of Change
2.  Name of Producer / Author / Creator - Darian Smith
3.  What the work is - Novel
4.  Year of First Release - 2015
5.  What category you think the nomination belongs to i.e. Fan awards, Professional awards - professional awards, Best Novel
6.  GENRE - science fiction, fantasy or horror - Fantasy
7.  Contact details of the person making the nomination e.g. email or/and phone number - YOUR DETAILS GO HERE

For Shifting Worlds:
1.  Name / Title of work - Shifting Worlds
2.  Name of Producer / Author / Creator - Darian Smith
3.  What the work is - Collected work
4.  Year of First Release - 2015
5.  What category you think the nomination belongs to i.e. Fan awards, Professional awards - professional awards, Best Collected Work
6.  GENRE - science fiction, fantasy or horror - Fantasy & Science Fiction
7.  Contact details of the person making the nomination e.g. email or/and phone number - YOUR DETAILS GO HERE

For one of the short stories (adjust the details to match the story):
2.  Name of Producer / Author / Creator - Darian Smith
3.  What the work is – Short story
4.  Year of First Release - 2015
5.  What category you think the nomination belongs to i.e. Fan awards, Professional awards - professional awards, Best Short Story
6.  GENRE - science fiction, fantasy or horror – Fantasy or Science Fiction
7.  Contact details of the person making the nomination e.g. email or/and phone number - YOUR DETAILS GO HERE

Thanks heaps for your support of me and other kiwi writers!!
It is greatly appreciated.