Chop Wood

There’s a Zen proverb that has sort of rattled around in my head ever since I first heard it:

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

It’s something I think about a lot, not because I’m actively seeking enlightenment (and certainly not because I’ve achieved it), but because it seems like a versatile piece of wisdom.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that whatever you’re working on is so important that you need to put life on hold. Whether it’s a piece of art you’re creating, or a different sort of life goal you’re striving toward, you still need to live. You still need to get out of bed in the morning. You still need to shower. You still need to eat, and maintain relationships, and earn enough money to live. You still need to do The Work. You still need to chop wood and carry water.

All I’ve wanted for the longest time was to be a published author. I’m sure in the back of most people’s minds there is a little voice saying “Once I have/do x, then I’ll finally be happy/complete.” But my depression didn’t magically disappear when I was published, and if anything I’ve now got more things to be anxious about than I had before (these tend to fall into the category of ‘Good Problems to Have’, but that doesn’t make the anxiety any less palpable).

I still need to work on my mental health. I still need to work my day job. I still need to make time for my friends. I still need to make time for myself. I still need to chop wood and carry water. And that’s a good thing. You and your art are never so grand that you are above the work of simply living. Thinking otherwise is hubris.

The Sound of Killing Gravity

I’ve spoken before about how I originally envisioned Killing Gravity – as a space post-hardcore EP, as opposed to a space opera – but I haven’t spoken in detail about my thinking behind it, or the music I was specifically referring to when I coined that (admittedly clunky) term.

See, operas are big, dramatic, “epic” performances; not only that but it’s also an old artform, carrying with it the musty scent of tradition. I didn’t want to write something big or unnecessarily complicated, “epic” for the sake of genre conventions. I wanted to pare everything back, cut right to the core, and tell a personal story that hints at larger conspiracies and larger battles but remains focussed on a small group of outsiders. So, if I wanted to write a space opera without the opera part, what would I use instead as inspiration? That’s where the idea of the post-hardcore EP came in.

An EP is short. A post-hardcore EP is short, short, dirty, with jagged sound that reaches out of your speakers and grabs you, forces you to listen close. There are moments of chaotic screaming noise offset by downbeat stretches of experimentation. There’s a poetic and broken quality to the lyrics, nonsense and beauty screamed in the same hoarse tone. There are weird syncopated rhythms and abstract time signatures.

And that’s everything I wanted to do with Killing Gravity, to put everything I love about These Arms Are Snakes (and to a lesser extent Genghis Tron, Refused, At the Drive-In, and Dillinger Escape Plan*) into words. I don’t know if I succeeded, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

If all that sounded like nonsense without the music to back it up, then you’ll be glad to find the links below.

These Arms Are Snakes Discography | TAAS/Harkonen Split EP | Genghis Tron – Board Up the House

Listen to everything at those above links non-stop for a month, and you’ll know what writing KG felt like.



*I’m deliberately leaving out Young Widows because I didn’t discover them until later, but they were basically the sole soundtrack to the writing of the third VoidWitch book.

Pre-order Void Black Shadow

Void Black Shadow CoverCorey J. White’s space opera Voidwitch Series continues: Mars Xi returns in Void Black Shadow, sequel to Killing Gravity.

Mars Xi is a living weapon, a genetically-manipulated psychic supersoldier with a body count in the thousands, and all she wanted was to be left alone. People who get involved with her get hurt, whether by MEPHISTO, by her psychic backlash, or by her acid tongue. It’s not smart to get involved with Mars, but that doesn’t stop some people from trying.

The last time MEPHISTO came for Mars they took one of her friends with them. That was a mistake. A force hasn’t been invented that can stop a voidwitch on a rampage, and Mars won’t rest until she’s settled her debts.


Void Black Shadow is sort of the Empire Strikes Back to Killing Gravity‘s Star Wars. Here, everything that can go wrong does go wrong, people are hurt, and people are changed. It’s dark, and it’s more political than KG (though, still subtle I hope). Did I mention it’s dark? There’s a reason why I settled on that title. I never wanted to do more of the same with the follow-up, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Some people will love it, some will hate it, but I wrote the book I had to write at the time.

After it’s out, I’ll probably write about some of the people, places, and things that influenced the story, and maybe some of the influences I had to leave out.

It will be released in ebook and paperback formats in March, 2018. You can preorder it now from all the usual suspects.

B&N NOOK | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

Amazon US | Amazon UK | BookDepository

Brisbanites, hit up Pulp Fiction in the CBD. They’ve been big supporters of Killing Gravity, and I am sure they’ll be supporting Void Black Shadow just as much. Sydney-siders, Galaxy Bookshop might be your best bet, as they’re the sci-fi and fantasy specialists in town.

Also, QBD did a great job supporting me and the other authors at Supanova in 2017.  Otherwise, you can simply ask for your local bookstore to order it in for you. Just quote the title, and the ISBN (Void Black Shadow, ISBN: 9780765396938) and the staff will no doubt be happy to help you out.

Supanova, Brisbane

This past weekend I was a guest author at Supanova in Brisbane, which was as amazing and hectic as you might imagine. I still feel a little run-down so the best my brain can do is a listicle.

[Arbitrary number of] Things That Happened at Supanova, and 2 Things That Didn’t

  1. I got to spend the weekend with some fantastic authors in our little book grotto built and maintained by the fantastic staff from QBD and the tireless Supanova volunteers (special shout-out to Paige and Kylie, our expert author-wranglers).
    List of Said Authors (List within a List. Listception. Yo, I heard you liked Lists so I put a List inside your List. Et cetera)

    1. Kass Morgan is the writer of The 100, and was (still is, I’m sure) a lovely person. She had a tonne of insight from both writing a series adapted into a TV show and from her day job editing YA fiction.
    2. Keri Arthur is a veteran of Australian fantasy. She was super friendly and relaxed… she’s done the convention thing all before and nothing can faze her now.
    3. Marc and James Lindsay are two brothers going all-in on the self-publishing game and doing it right. Seriously, if everyone who self-pubbed put as much effort and thought into the process as these two do, it wouldn’t be looked down upon. They’re also a pair of gregarious lads. They’re writing mythology-inspired action and adventure, so if that’s your sort of thing, check them out.
    4. Dr Karl is just as effortlessly entertaining in person as he is on the radio. And from the number of books he signed over the weekend, I think a lot of Aussies are learning more about science from him than they ever did in school.
    5. Ian Irvine – I hardly had a chance to talk with Ian because we were sitting apart and not on any panels together, but after sitting in on the ‘Pushing the Boundaries of YA’ panel and hearing what he had to say, I had a lot of respect for him. He was writing epic fantasy with deep female characters back in the day when many authors were happy with burly men and damsels in distress.
    6. And of course, last but not least, Marlee Jane Ward, my partner and one of the most original up-and-coming voices in Australian spec-fiction.
  2. I got to sit on some great panels with the other authors, with intelligent questions from the crowd, and the excellent Rihanna Patrick MCing. She’s an absolute natural, guiding the conversation and asking great questions as though she were born with a wireless mic in her hand.
  3. I got questioned on two separate occasions at the signing table. First was a group of Masters students looking for some advice on their sci-fi manuscripts. I really wish I’d been on the ball enough to ask them where they studied, because as both Marlee and I have mentioned in the past, our experiences with university were very unfriendly toward genre writing. Later, I was grilled by Eden, the 9-year-old future-journalist. She was the daughter of someone from a nearby stall, and on her own volition she came by to ask each of us authors about our books and our writing, and what our 16-year-old selves would think of the books we had written.
  4. I got to meet readers and sign for them – including people who had only just picked up the book, others who had read it on ebook and wanted a hardcopy, and others still who just wanted to stop by and tell me how much they enjoyed Killing Gravity. When you’re only 6 months into your career, any number of readers seeking you out is a great thing, so I really appreciate everyone who took time out of their busy convention schedule to say hello.
  5. I saw a guy dressed as a Stonecutter from the Simpsons, and another guy dressed as Raphael in his gumshoe disguise from the first TMNT film. I mean, there were so many fantastic cosplay costumes, but those 2 were my personal favourites.
  6. Got to chat briefly with Tom Taylor, an award-winning and bestselling writer of plays, comics, and TV, and a really nice guy. I mean, he even managed not to roll his eyes when I told him I want to do some comics writing in the next couple of years (something comics writers must hear ALL THE TIME), so you just know he has the patience of a saint.
  7. Drank an unhealthy amount of coffee.
  8. Ate some great vegan baked goods in the green room.
  9. Managed not to buy anything (my luggage was already over and I was flying one of those airlines, so I couldn’t allow myself a little retail therapy anyway).
  10. Had a very brief chat at the airport with a fellow Melbournian Supanova-visitor, who complimented me on my tattoo. Maybe one day I’ll write about that tattoo. I have no idea if she knew Marlee and I had been at Supanova, but I (almost) always like talking tattoos anyway.
  11. Probably more things I’m forgetting.
  12. Oh, but I didn’t see Stan Lee at all. Pretty sure he doesn’t exist. He’s a mass hallucination. Or maybe a character created by Jack Kirby.
  13. And I didn’t have time to get across the river and visit Pulp Fiction. Did I mention how hectic my weekend was? I wanted to pop in and thank them for all the support they’ve given to Killing Gravity. They’re an amazing, genre-focussed bookshop right near Central Station in the CBD, well worth a visit for any Brisbanites.

Void Black Shadow

Over at the Barnes & Noble sci-fi blog, they’ve revealed the cover for VOID BLACK SHADOW, the sequel to Killing Gravity.

Void Black Shadow cover image

Void Black Shadow (March 27, 2018)

Corey J. White’s space opera Voidwitch Series continues: Mars Xi returns in Void Black Shadow, sequel to Killing Gravity.

Mars Xi is a living weapon, a genetically-manipulated psychic supersoldier with a body count in the thousands, and all she wanted was to be left alone. People who get involved with her get hurt, whether by MEPHISTO, by her psychic backlash, or by her acid tongue. It’s not smart to get involved with Mars, but that doesn’t stop some people from trying.

The last time MEPHISTO came for Mars they took one of her friends with them. That was a mistake. A force hasn’t been invented that can stop a voidwitch on a rampage, and Mars won’t rest until she’s settled her debts.

I loved the cover art for Killing Gravity and received plenty of comments on it, so I was sure it was going to be hard to beat, but Tommy Arnold absolutely knocked it out of the park with the art for Void Black Shadow.

This book a different beast to Killing Gravity, so I’m excited and a little scared to see it get out there. I’m sure some people won’t like it as much because it goes to some darker places, but it’s the book I had to write. Hopefully it ends up being well-received, because I would love to go into detail about where the book goes and why, but time will tell. We’ll both have to wait a few more months to see…

Supanova, November 2017

Announcement time – I’m going to be at Supanova in both Brisbane and Adelaide this November!

Obviously they made a mistake, seeing as I’m ABOVE Stan Lee and most everyone else.

Supanova is billed as a pop-culture convention, and features guests from film, TV, anime, and comics, so it’s great that they’ve also been supporting authors of science fiction and fantasy – both local and international. Also with me at the author desk will be my partner Marlee Jane Ward, author of the brilliant Welcome to Orphancorp and Psynode – so come along and say hi to Australia’s Science Fiction Novella Power Couple (TM).


If I’ve been a little quiet lately, that’s because I’ve been focused on completing a novel. I set myself a goal of finishing it in 3 months, and then beat myself up when I lost most of July to various things like illness and a convention (and convention-related anxiety). Still, I know I should cut myself some slack – I completed a 90k word novel in under 4 months, and that’s pretty fucking berserker.

Project Targets

(As I said on twitter, the book is entirely stand-alone, but I had to make that Bojack Horseman joke.)

There’s no rest for the wicked though, oh no. I’ve got a couple of weeks of time to edit the manuscript and get it to my three usual (trusted, brilliant, intelligent, and dangerously-attractive) beta readers, maybe a little time to relax, and then it’s on to Killing Gravity 3: Kill Gravity with a Vengeance. Oh, did I forget to tell you? Well, guess what? Publishing have commissioned a third and final book in the VoidWitch Saga!

This is incredibly exciting – not just because of the support this first-time author is receiving from his publisher, and not just because I have an awesome agent who went to bat for me on this, but because I always kind of envisioned Killing Gravity as the first novella in a trilogy. The original Star Wars trilogy is always going to loom large in my mind because it got in there at such a young age, and now I have the chance to do my own space opera trilogy and get it out there in the wild.

Oh shit, I just thought of a title for KG3 – Return of the VoidWitch. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Also, at that link above you’ll see they sneakily announced the title of KG2 – Void Black Shadow. The book gets as dark as that title may suggest… But I’ll be able to share more about that soon.


I mentioned Ecopunk! previously, but it’s an anthology of stories that look at our climate change affected future (and present), but with an eye toward optimism and innovation, rather than the dystopian visions that seem to clutter popular culture. Right now, Ticonderoga Press are running a Kickstarter for Ecopunk!, which is a perfect chance for you to pre-order an ebook, paperback, or a limited hardcover edition of the anthology.

Ecopunk! is edited by Liz Grzyb and Cat Sparks, and features a selection of amazing authors (and me). Liz is the award-winning editor of multiple anthologies, and Cat is one of the central figures of Australia’s spec-fic scene, so you know you’re in good hands here.

Check out the kickstarter campaign here.

Killing the Blank Page

As if proving what I said in my last post, Warren Ellis offered this piece of writing advice in his latest newsletter:

The only screenwriting “trick” I have is a tip picked up from John Rogers, who you probably know best from having co-devised and produced the show LEVERAGE. He builds every stage of the story from the one before.  Rewrites the beat outline into the treatment.  Rewrites the treatment into the screenplay.  Just pastes it in and starts working with it. This particular job is the next stage of a treatment I wrote earlier in the year.  It’s 5000 words long, twelve pages.  The pleasure of this approach is that, after the roughest of outlines, you’re never working with a blank page.  Just expanding and adapting (and fixing!) what you’ve already done.

I make notes at the top of every story document.  Usually just two things.  What’s it about, and what does each character want?  It’s simple and simplistic, and doesn’t contain the entirety of the work in any way, but in a rigorously structured thing, it can help me keep on track.


From the latest Orbital Operations.

He’s talking specifically about screenwriting here, but it’ll work for prose too. If you’re the kind of writer who plans, split that outline up into (possible) chapters, and either space them out in your Word doc, or paste them into a separate Scrivener page (?) and build from there.

Another trick I use, is to put points I want to reach, or currently-disconnected thoughts in [square brackets], and write to them, deleting the bracketed thought once it’s been implemented into the manuscript. I prefer square brackets because they’re not generally used in prose (whereas regular brackets can be used for asides), which makes them stand out more as you’re scrolling through a document, and makes it easy for you to Search for these thought/idea seeds.

Personally the blank page isn’t much of a block for me, but I know it can stall a lot of writers when they’re starting a new project, so these couple of tricks can help to dirty that page up and give you an excuse to just start, get that first draft down, and worry about improving it later.