Friday, February 27, 2009

Oh Poop

So I've managed to crit two out of the three stories for friends. Than my wife phones me to remind me about my nephews birthday party tonight.

Alzheimer's is definitely setting in.

I'd forgotten about the party, even though she'd phoned earlier to ask me to confirm our expected time of arrival.

So I've spent the day reading and commenting on other people's work and now my evening will be spent out. So my writing week has come to a premature end with a grand total of 2847 words.


In three weeks I've managed 14135 words, instead of the 18750 I should have done. I'm guessing I have no show at doing NaNoWriMo come November. I'm only trying to manage half that total in a month and can't even pull that piddly amount off!

The only good news I've had today, is the government stimulus package we are expecting, looks like it'll be enough to buy myself a shiny new laptop. you watch something go wrong with the car or something now...

Have a great weekend.


Today I've managed to read another four stories. To let the cat out of the bag: I'm slushing for Aurealis (the link is to the guidelines page for a reason).

People, please read the guidelines for any publication you are intending on submitting to. Also have others check over your work before submission and check your grammar and spelling for typos and wrongly placed words.

I had one today where "favourite colours" was in a sentence, except favourite was spelled without a 'u' and colours was spelt with one. I don't know of any country where that is acceptable.

Biggest problem found today - way too much exposition. Show don't tell, people.

A little later today, I'll be commenting on stories for two other writers and sending them back. I'm hoping to find some time tonight to write a little more on Newland. I'll be woefully short of my goal this week, but that's due to a sudden increase in actual work at my day job. Nothing I can do about that.

I finished reading the latest issue of Aurealis so my reading credits this month stand at one novel and one publication. Not great. I have three PDF's sitting in my inbox for reading as well and new books for review due soon.

Then there's assignments to get done.

busy, busy, busy

Speak soon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What Can you Say

I want to be this kind of amateur.

Funny (nod to Ed's Ass for the link) - wait - that didn't come out right...

A Bit of fun from our own Felicity Dowker - can we send this out to all Kindle users...

Cool stuff we, as writers, should all know.

Helen has been dropping by and leaving the odd comment so I thought I'd return the favour and post a link to her interview.

Module 1, Assignment 1 Resubmitted

It seems the beginning of every semester, I need to resub at least the first one or two assignments due to me misunderstanding something or because I simply got something wrong.

It's a fact of life I'm reluctantly getting used to. This time around, I'm wrestling with the formatting of a screenplay. 5.4cm here, 3.4cm here and there, space here but not there, don't this and you can do that, but only if you do it this way. I've spent the last two years training myself to use 12pnt font and double space with wide page margins, and now I have to learn something else. Ain't life wonderful?

The good part is I resubmitted this assignment electronically. No more stamps. Ultra cool. Here's hoping the responses are just as quick.

Still haven't heard back about assignment 1 for module 2 - the one about my novel (Newland).

I'll admit to being a little nervous. I'm halfway through chapter 16. Imagine if my lecturer comes back and says something like - I don't feel your idea has merit. That would be somewhat crushing.

Writing time is becoming tight again and I didn't help things by not writing tonight. I took time out to help my wife with her jigsaw puzzle. We used to do a bit every few days, but it has been sadly neglected for the last week or two. On top of that, I rejigged my assignment for resubmission. Work has been busy with actual work so I haven't been able to write there either (how rude!). And now slush reading and book reviews are starting to roll in meaning I need to up my reading time again.

Cricket season is nearly over which will allow me some extra time to catchup and I've booked some time off on either side of the Easter long weekend. I can see the next couple of weeks being busy and therefore my writing goals falling behind. It's going to take a huge effort on my part over my holidays to get it all back under control.

We shall see.

Thanks to Jamie for the Mythbusters clip - very gruesome and ultra cool. Check the comments on the previous post if you'd like to go see.

Before I go, just a heads up: Alex has posted a new writing tip titled Character Introductions with her usual great examples and tips. I'll add the link to the rest of Alex's stuff when I get a chance. Go check it out.

Happy reading, writing, and submitting.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chapter 16 Coming Together & A Contest

I read somewhere (I know I should have this link, trust me, I'm looking for it), if your story is dragging a little, then kill something.

Death has a big part in my book as I strip away my MC's support structure leaving them (that would be the singular use of 'them') to stand and find their own way in a harsh new world. In 15 and a half chapters I've managed to to remove a beloved sister, my MC's innocence, a would be partner, four natives, the lesser antagonist, and now the father.

To come is the death of two brothers, the crippling of a third, the death of a doctor, the demise of the mentor, and a few other characters both major and minor.

And yet this book has a happy ending. Of sorts.

Lots of interesting ways have been used to remove people. Spears, tree branches, a plough, a gunshot, strangulation, drowning, stabbing, poison, and few more surprising things I've thought up.

My doubts over chapter 16 have vanished.

Tonight I've managed to add 1098 words. After rereading chapter 15 and removing 9 words I could live without, I have a grand total of 1089 new words added.

So lets hear it: How many gruesome ways have you managed to kill off characters in your tales of twisted delight...

I'd love to have a prize for the most ingenious, but living in Australia would make the postage more expensive than any token of my esteem. So, along with your best, you can also name the most ingenious way you'd kill or seriously maim a character if you had a story set in the 1830's. This means no technology allowed. No SAW recreations unless you could pull it off in the Australian Outback.

Difficult - yep. Your prize: I'll use the winner's suggested method to remove a major character within the book I'm writing, and give you credit for it if the thing ever gets published.

What do you think?

Have at it...

Last Night

Last night - I did nothing!

I went home and acted very much like a potato and sat on the couch, and just ogled the box.

I didn't turn on the computer. I didn't check my email. I didn't read.

It was okay, but God I was bored.

I needed a day of boredom just to clean out the attic; clear some head space. I need to find a new ending for Dreaming, and I need to find a new chapter 16 for Newland.

Today I plan to redo my first assignment. It finally came back. It was a pass but 50% of the mark was based on the formatting and I got it more wrong than right, so it wasn't a great pass.

I also need to start work on the second assignment for Module 2.

Unfortunately I also have some real work to do in my day job. Things are busy.

Speak soon.


Monday, February 23, 2009


Today I decided to lay off Newland and clear the other projects I'm working on. Result:

Swirls In Obsidian has been submitted to PARSEC Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story Contest 2009.

Digging Up The Past has been submitted to The Devil's Food Anthology.

Dreaming is being furiously worked on with the intent of submitting it ASAP to The Blackness Within Anthology. (Update - subs don't open till March so I'm just trying to finish it now. It can sit quietly in the back ground until the end of the week.)

I really like the first, I'm happy, but have doubts about the second, and I'm just not sure I can pull the last one together.

With these out of the way, I can concentrate solely on my assignments and Newland.

I currently have 8 pieces out in the wild for consideration. All are paying markets so competition will be high.

Out of the 8, I need to send queries to four of the publications. They are all approaching six months overdue the expected query response date. Two I've queried before and received a 'still under consideration' reply, but it's getting a little long in the tooth now.

Time to shake things up.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Breaking News

It's official - Black magazine will no longer be seen in its previously beautiful print format. Follow the link to find out all about what's going on.

For those of you who don't know, I wrote book reviews for the publication. At this point in time, I'm not sure how things in that area are going to change, if at all. I'm still holding onto my reviews of The Harrowing. As soon as I know where they'll be posted, I'll let you know.

What else...

I am aching from playing in the top grade of cricket yesterday. I retired at the end of last year, and then offered to help out in the lower grades part way through this season. Toward the end of the season, they became desperate for one or two players to move up. Stupid me said, "Okay, no worries, play me wherever.' Very stupid comment. My head still thinks I can do all sorts of things I used to be able to do 20 years ago.

So my aches and pains has resulted in difficulty with sitting and typing. This has led to only 1758 words being added to Newland today, but some good stuff (I think/hope).

I've come across an issue with chapter 16. I'm not happy with my outline. I need to go over the whole thing and figure out how to bridge chapter 17 with chapter 15 a different way. I've got a couple of ideas so we'll see how they play out. I looked at my previous outline for 16 and just shook my head. "As if" was the clean version of the words which immediately came to mind. Lets turn a mentor for my MC into the exact opposite of what they've been teaching. Bloody idiot. So it's been scraped and left a hole four chapters before my MidPoint is begins. Things were becoming to smooth. Now I'm glad chaos has reasserted itself and caused a stop in the work as I figure out which way is up.


I'll quickly take this opportunity to thank everyone for their suggestions for different things with Newland on previous posts. All very helpful and if not used (although at least one of them was), they definitely led to other answers.

That's it from me for now.

Speak soon


Alex's Writing Lessons

Each time Alex posts a new lesson or discussion, I'll repost the whole series I'm keeping track of.

Many of the writers who pass by here are looking at commencing a novel this year for the very first time, or looking at revamping a manuscript which has been sitting around for a while. The advice contained here after should be very beneficial for all concerned. Over at The Dark Salon, Alexandra Sokolff's blog, she has been doing a huge series on writing tips. Enjoy.

  • Sage Agent Advice
    Why Do I Need An Agent - This is in reverse order than shown on Alex's blog but then I think this needs to be answered first. Once convinced - and you will be - then you can find out how to get an agent.
  • How Do I Get A Literary Agent - A frank discussion on getting an agent and some tools to help you in your search.
Writing Tips

  • Screenwriting Part 2: Craft - This is just for the screenwriters out there and for me as I know I have a screenwriting module within my diploma and I'll need this resource later. The link for Part 1 is at the bottom of this post if you want to start from the beginning. There's a Part 3 as well.

  • Whats Your Premise - Excellent advise on the creation of the single sentence premise you'll need to sell your story to others. When someone asks you what your book is about, this will give you the structure you need to provide a killer answer.
  • Story Structure 101: The Index Card Method - Alex teaches screenwriting workshops but the formula discussed fits into writing a book. If you're like me and prefer a structured, methodical format to outline your writing - this could be for you. I'm definitely going to give this one a go.
    Personal note: When I outline, I do it in a word document but it is similar to the index cards - just on smaller scale. It works. Alex now gives me the vital information of what I need to put into those scenes.
  • Fairy Tale Structure & Your List (08-01-09) Late on adding this one. Alex originally posted it back in Nov 08. I remember reading it but just never linked it to this series of posts. I'm putting this up front because creating your list is important. Thinking about the types of movies, settings, scares, love scenes, etc which you have found appealing in movies is central to writing the type of story you - and other movie lovers - would want to read. It also helps you break down what's important and when to place those important pieces. Learn this list - it helps.
  • The First Act - (Get the Hero Up A Tree) After learning about the index card method, now you can learn what to put on the cards in greater detail. There are great examples to help clarify things. And there are a lot of things you need to squeeze in here. While reading the second act, you see that some of these things can drift over, but there are still a lot of things to get done.

  • Elements of Act One - Breaking Down the Harry Potter story (Added 04-03-09) As if in a classroom environment, Alex now goes into detail on how to recognise different elements within each section. This first example breaks down the famous first film in the Harry Potter series. Alex intends to provide more examples from different genres in the near future (which I'll link to from here). A very detailed post full of great examples of what the tyoes of things you need to put into your manuscript.
  • The Second Act - (Throw Rocks At The Tree Bound Hero) The big theme here according to Alex: "[The] continual opposition of the protagonist’s and antagonist’s plans is the main underlying structure of the second act." Alex also discusses 'Plants & Payoff'. I've recently started to invest more revision time in this and include comments about it in my critiques, pointing out when things first need to be mentioned (planted) so they come into play later (the payoff). This is also referred to as shadowing , but I differentiate between the two. Shadowing is all about the premise from my POV where as plant's and payoffs are more about making the story move along seamlessly. Shadowing has a bigger importance in my book, the little clues which foretell things to come. Same thing but different.
  • Creating Suspense - Good suggestions on recognising the type of suspense you want to create and how to go about deconstructing it into a formula you can then use to build it into your own writing. This post also looks at "the STAKES" within a story and how telling the reader straight out what the big stakes are, will help create suspense. So in Act One, tell the reader what the stakes are while introducing the scene, characters and premise, and then begin to create a scenario where those stakes are at risk. Hopefully you've also allowed your reader to begin caring about your main character. In Act Two you put all the obstacles in the way of your character and ramp up the threats to the major stakes. This can also include the introduction of the ticking clock. This post also makes the point between suspense at the overall level and at a scene level - two very different things which need to be succeeded at.
  • Creating Suspense Part 2 (Added 06-01-09) this post lit a light bulb for me on more than just suspense creation (although it's great information on that as well). Writing your WIP in layers, specific layers. You write out the story in the first draft, get it out of your system. You know all the bits you want to include, the emotions you want to provoke, but don't worry about that on the first pass. You can come back and ensure you get what you want on subsequent dedicated passes. Need more suspense? Do a dedicated pass over your story with suspense in mind. Need more warmth from your main character's second sister? Do a dedicated pass through your WIP concentrating on her and her interactions with others. Need more information provided to the reader on the setting? Do a... you get the picture. For people like me who are very methodical after the first draft, I found this idea to be brilliant.
  • The Second Act: Part Two - The Midpoint! Part two, of part two, goes into great detail about this very important event with great examples. With all the hints dropped to this point about the different posts still to come, and all the books and movies given as examples so far, I could be reading or watching TV for a long time to come.
  • Visual Storytelling - I've seen writers (okay, one writer) develop this technique as they evolved from unpublished to aspiring professional. It makes a huge difference in story telling. Alex again goes into great detail and provides good examples to help make this clearer. Using the visual aspect to mirror the theme, or the characters state of mind within a scene makes good story telling sense.
  • Visual Storytelling Part 2 (added 13-11-08) Alex continues her discussion on writing imagery. This post is a little different from the rest of the series being more a discussion of where you can see thematic imagery used rather than how to build it into a story. If you've read the other posts then it'll become self apparent. Still worth the time to peruse.
  • What Makes A Great Climax (added 18-11-08) Alex skips to the creation of the end, but it's something we need to think about way before we get there. The details may evolve a little differently as we write and revise our story, but how we come to the climax and what that climax is, will be the last thing your reader/audience remembers. And if it's a let down, you may flush away your chances of landing that agent/editor/future longtime reader.
  • Elements Of Act Three - Part 1 (added 2-12-08) The first installment on crafting a great third act, particularly the parts which go into making a memorable, impact full final quarter of your story.
  • Elements Of Act Three - Continued or Part 2 (added 15-12-08) And the good advice keeps on coming in Alex's continuing series of brilliant writing tips. Much of this post is confirming things we have already read; things Alex has already touched on but with new examples to drive home the previous lessons. Oh, and if you haven't already made your list of the ten best films, 10 best midpoints, 10 best endings, etc - then you had better get stuck into your homework otherwise you won't gain full benefit from this series.
  • What Makes A Great Villain? (AKA Villains part 1) (added 20-01-09) This lesson is the opening gambit on creating a believable counterpart to your story's hero/ine. Rather than specifically telling you how to do it, Alex uses the make your own list method to get to the bottom of what you enjoy in a good villain and how to use that in making a great villain for your own story. It also leads into a great article by Allison Brennan with some gems of advice on the topic.
  • Forces of antagonism (AKA Villains part 2) (added 20-01-09) Carrying on from the first villain lesson, this post continues a good grounding on how to create the antagonist including some great examples.
  • Plants & Payoffs (added 04-02-09) extremely important tool all writers need to become adept at when writing and revising. Alex gives great and in depth examples. You'll also find a long comment from yours truly which provides additional examples.
  • What is "High Concept" (added 04-02-09) This is an important topic. If you can't define this about a piece you're trying to sell, whether in the long of short version of writing, then chances are your readers aren't going to get the gist of your story either.
  • Meta-structure (22-02-09) It had to happen eventually. Alex touches on a technique which completely baffled me in the beginning. I had to go away and have a look at many of the suggestions and examples she puts forward to get a grasp on it. I thing I understand what she is trying to convey now, but I don't agree with it. Little old barely published me, not agreeing with a published author who's books I really like. Well, on this occasion I simply have a different opinion on what she is trying to define. However, I think if a story can be fitted into the definition Alex proposes, then I believe the chances of the story being exceptional are high. If the story resonates with a large percentage of people as being - 'Hey, I think that's the only way that type of story, and that story in particular, should be, or could have been told', then I think you are definitely on the way to a comfortable life as a writer. Personally, i think if you write a great story which resonates, then you haven't set out to fit into this category, but you could be slotted into it. Which comes first: The chicken or the egg? Go have a read and decide for yourself.

Other Useful Stuff

  • Internet Resources For Writers - Lots of information about lots of different things - includes a lot of stuff I've already told you to go look at, but if you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe Alex.

If you haven't bookmarked this lady's blog yet, do yourself a favour.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Weekly Goal Reached!

I'm pretty chuffed with myself.

This week I managed to add 6396 brand new words to Newland. I find myself on that ragged edge, only a quarter of the way into chapter 15, so two and a bit first draft chapters have been completed in the last six days.

On top of that, I read "The Haunting of Hill House" (review to come), edited and resubmitted "Idolatry" which gained me an acceptance (woohoo), received my much anticipated copy of "Tainted" from Aaron (another big woohoo), completed the first draft of my next assignment (444 words in its own right), read hundreds of blog posts (remember I read all of Stuart Neville's), made numerous comments, read two stories from a friend (I am still yet to record my comments - but they are coming), critiqued a requested rewrite for another friend, did a line edit critique on a 5000 word story for yet another friend (it sounds like I have a lot of friends all of a sudden doesn't it?), and finally read at least four online stories, and one online chapter of a story (which I've been following for sometime).

I am now exhausted. So much for cutting back on things!

I need to read. I need to continue writing Newland. I love to help my writing friends and don't expect them to stop sending me stuff just because it sounds like I've got a bit on. It may have to be the blog reading and comments I think. As much as I enjoy my time online, it must be reduced. I will begin to become very selective in which feed updates I'll respond to.

Aaron, Jamie, Cate, Danielle, Nat, Alex and one or two others I can't think of off the top of my head (apologises), can't get rid of me that easily, but some of the agents and other industry blogs will have to live without me for a few weeks. If you listen closely you can hear a collective sigh all around the world...

I leave you with an update from Mr Bean Counter and a prayer Nat gets #9 accepted first.


Been doing my normal weekending browse around the place and found a whole bunch of good stuff on Rachelle Gardener's Blog. Follow the link to read all of it but this was my favourite:

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell. She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now.

"A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes."Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."


Okay, I'll Play

Over at Jim Hines LJ he's posted a five year interval thing I'm going to take a step further. Jim called his "Looking Back", mine I shall call "Pathways: Past, Present, & Future" - it goes like this:



  • 1 Year Ago - I decided to gain formal education qualifications for my writing and so started at the Adelaide Centre for the Arts in the Advanced Diploma for Arts (Professional Writing). I gained a position writing book reviews for HorrorScope and Black. I gained a staff position writing articles for SA50s+.
  • 5 Years Ago - My youngest had started kindergarten. Writing was the furthest thing from my mind. I was pretty happy just being a dad and a partner. I was engaged to be married, but we hadn't gotten around to actually making any plans. It was around now my littlest one started making noises about us becoming a "real" family - that required the parents to be married. I guess it was the final push that we needed to do the deed two years later.
  • 10 Years Ago - I was looking for a new direction in life. I was recovering from a recurrence of a pretty bad back injury, Dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer, the family business was sold. I was a health risk with no training and no certified skills, a pregnant partner and two other kids at home. Life was looking a bit bleak with an extremely hard road ahead. Then I commenced Certificate IV in Information Technology, which led to me gaining employment at the private school my kids would attend in the future. This in turn led me to where I am today. My Dad's illness is easily the biggest turning point in my entire life. My wife and kids are my happiest, but some things happen for a reason, whether that be fate, destiny, chaos, or some grand plan - it doesn't matter, without that turning point, my life, and that of my wife and kids, would have been a great deal different.
  • 20 Years Ago - I was a brash 21 year old kid, recently out of the army, more interested in sowing my wild oats than anything else. I played Dungeons & Dragons, played cricket, and chased girls - 24/7. Work fitted in around that. Hey, it was the 80's. No one had heard of AIDS, HIV, Osama Bin Laden, Ecstasy or mobile phones. Stephen King was God.
  • 30 Years Ago - I had an identity crisis. I am an adopted child. I was told of this when I was 7, but it meant nothing to me until I was 11. One day it just hit me: I didn't know who I was or where I came from. It was pretty intense. At this stage I was also reading everything I could lay my hands on. Meatloaf had just become big in Australia and Stephen King was just on the horizon. Life seemed full of possibilities and then I had no idea who I was. It felt like the bottom had dropped out of my world.
  • 40 Years Ago - A babe in swaddling my mother was telling all and sundry she'd picked up for $1AU. The following year the whole family was packed up and moved back to England for a while. It is still the only time I've been outside of my country of birth. It will not be the last.


  • To date I've had 3 pieces of fiction published. I've had 5 other pieces accepted and still waiting to be actually published.
  • I've completed one manuscript - Tigers Eye. I am currently writing a second full length novel - Newland. Hopefully the second will be a great deal better than the first.
  • I am participating in my second year of my Advanced Diploma of Arts for Professional Writing.
  • I work with three other authors in trying to improve all our ability within using the craft of story-telling and writing in general.
  • I still write book reviews, but SA50s+ has changed editors and format, and I no longer write articles for them. Freelance article writing may have to be placed on the back burner.
  • I work full time in the technology industry. I am extremely experienced in administering Citrix products. It pays the bills, but I don't really want to be here.
  • My eldest daughter is expecting a baby. I am to be a grandfather at 41. At least I'll be able to play with the tike when it's growing up.


  • 2010 - I will shop my completed and polished manuscript around to agents all over the world. I will successfully complete my third year in my Diploma. I will regularly sell fiction to semi-pro markets. I will have caught up on my reading of what has come before, and be able to concentrate more on what is being published now. I will continue to write book reviews. I will find my great character and write my series around them.
  • 2015 - I will be a published author, with an agent and a publishing house willing to publish my books. I will be writing full time and earning enough from it that neither my wife or I have a need for any other type of supplementary employment. Only my youngest child will still be at home and she will be excelling in school. My family will be happy and healthy.
  • 2020 - I will be elected King of the world and...did I say that out loud? Sorry...

Moving on.

So now you should all have a glimpse at where I came from, what I'm doing, and where I want to be.

What about you?

Idolatry And An Acceptance

So it seems this year may have finally got started for me.

I've come to the conclusion much of my earlier work contains either cliched characters or a cliched plot, or worse - both.

In particular:

Too Late the Rain - has cliche characters
Dark Rose - Plot and characters
System Failure - characters
Wamphyri - tropes
Mobile - Not so much
Idolatry - characters

My more recent work (Swirls in Obsidian, Dreaming, Digging Up the Past, Newland) not so much.

Now cliched characters aren't such a big deal, I think, if they're placed in a unique situation - a different way of using them, and it seems that may be the case because:

NVF Magazine has accepted Idolatry for the April Issue!

I sent it out last night and then went to bed. I woke up this morning with an acceptance email in my inbox - very cool.

Idolatry started out as an assignment during my first semester in the Advanced Diploma of Arts for Professional Writing. My lecturer at the time said he found the piece interesting, but not sure if I could make it work. I took up the challenge and turned it into a one act play for a later assignment. He again thought it interesting, but didn't think I carried it off enough to be a salable piece. So I worked on it some more and turned it back into a story.

It didn't place in the Salisbury Writing Competition for 2008. It has been rejected four other times from pro and semi-pro markets. I was just about ready to send it to TLODS when I figured I'd give it a once over and then send to a non-paying market as a last resort. I now have another credit for the bio. Perseverance pays off once more.

Today, life is good once more.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chapter 14 Finished

I've managed to get home from cricket training and get some time on the computer. Instead of browsing through websites and blogs, and answering emails, I sat down and opened chapter 14 of Newland, and my plot outline, and just continued writing.

I added a further 852 words bringing this weeks total to 5526 words - with one day of writing still to go!

In other news:

My copy of "Tainted: Tales of Terror and the Supernatural" arrived today. Thanks heaps, Aaron, although I was a little disappointed you hadn't signed it. Still, it has now joined the ranks of many others on my "to-read" shelf.

I'd post a picture of my shelf, but my digital camera seems to be broken. Got to love living with kids who have no interest in caring for something they have no vested interest in :c(

For some idea of what's floating around, have a look way down on my sidebar and you'll find three widgets: one for my "To B Reviewed" shelf; one for my "Currently reading" shelf (where the same book has been lounging for the last 4 months - it's been a tough slog to get through); and one for my "Reviewed" books. They're nice widgets - go have a look.

Still haven't had any feedback on my assignments. It could be due to everything changing over to e-learning, but you'd think they would send back what I'd sent in at the very least. I haven't sent in module 1, assignment 2 for this reason, as well as the issue with script formatting confusion between double space and single space.

I'm going to let Newland sit for the rest of tonight and see if I can find a market for Idolatry. This was written a little while ago now so it is a bit cliche - at least the characters are. I'll have a look over it. If it's salvageable, I'll send it to a non-paying market as a last ditched effort. If it doesn't hit, then maybe I'll send it over to Aaron for posting up on TLODS.

More on Newland

I thought I'd finished chapter 13 the other day but found a bit more I wanted to put into, so I've extended it by nearly 700 words.

I then began chapter 14. I'm now 1363 words into it. The scene I've just finished writing is the most violent thing I've ever written - and nobody died.

I'm sitting in an air conditioned office and I have sweat on the palms of my hands.

The chapter is only half over though, but I'm not sure if I want more of the same or allow the reader a breath before the saviours arrive. I'll have to think about that.

So according to Mr Bean Counter I have added 4674 words this week leaving me with 1576 (or there-abouts) left to squeeze in between now and midnight Saturday - and as we all know I don't write on Saturday, that means I have 1576 words to write tomorrow night - as a minimum.

Still, 33% done. I've only got to do what I've done already, two more times.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm Missing Something

I've just finished Shirley Jackson's "The haunting of Hill House" and I'm now wondering if I know anything about writing or what makes a good story.

Frankly, I didn't think the book was that good. I'll be writing up a full review soon, but I found Jackson to be the master of the never-ending sentence and the semi colon. It just went on and on.

And it wasn't that scary. The characters were fairly depicted, Nell was easy to empathise with, and the rest seemed a little like caricatures. The late introduction of the wife and Arthur was a mystery.

The house was rendered immaculately, but because there was so much of it, the details were lost in the deluge.

The prose itself was lyrical and carried me along like a beautiful piece of classical music with highs and lows, but it never actually took me anywhere. The continuing long sentences and huge paragraphs, even as the pace was supposed to be picking up, lulled me into a hypnotic trance of "Oh dear, more of the same."

This is supposed to be a classic! What did I miss?

Have you read it? How long ago did you read it? And what did you think?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Strange Day

Last night I got the draft of my assignment out of the way early and got off the 'puter. I went into the lounge room to spend time with my wife, who promptly went and got on the computer.

After checking for tell-tale signs of bad BO (thankfully absent), I watched the second episode of season two of Underbelly, and then went and read the first chapter of Jackson's Haunting of Hill House - no what I expected but I shall reserve comment until I'm finished.

Today I began reading a number of things. I started with reading Stuart Neville's blog from start to finish. Yep, I read every single post from 2006 all the way through to Feb 5th 09. A little over 100 posts in total so it's not as bad as it sounds. It's an interesting read, especially in the beginning as he sets out on the journey. It becomes a little less educational as he gains an agent and moves toward being published, but still an interesting read.

It also put me onto a few other writers blogs which I have added to my feeds and will see how they pan out before I deem them worthy of placing in the sidebar.

And then I read this article over at "Dispatch From The Razor's Edge" by Michael Fuchs.

With reading Neville's success story, other novelist's and aspiring novelist's blogs, and then the Fuchs article, I've struck upon a quandary.

Why am I writing?

It's got nothing to do with a career crisis or questioning whether I'll ever think I'm good enough. It's not even to do with the old saying "If you're not driven to write, then you're in the wrong field" - it's just a simple evaluation of what I'm currently doing in my life and the way I'm going about it.

Let's see if I can clear that very murky statement up a bit.

With all the words written by writers and authors I've read today, very few seem to be by people who are currently studying writing. Bugger all of them are trying to combine a full time job with study and writing. Some have done their study in the past, have moved on to a job, and then took up writing on the side. A few have had writing move from a sideline to their main income.

Almost every writer I looked into, has difficulty with finding time to write. They need to give up something to find the time to write. Many give up social activities, most give up sleep. None have given up social life, family and sleep because they have to squeeze in study as well.

Am I holding back my ability to advance in the craft because I don't have the time to allocate to just writing? One night a week, usually two, I am working on assignment related stuff. This is compounded at the moment due to summer sporting commitments, but exercise is not a luxury - it's a necessity to stay sane. Another two nights a week, plus one day on the weekend, is allocated to sport.

So five days out of seven, I'm already booked. I need to keep reading which takes another day.

When I say day, I mean the few remaining spare hours I have at the end of any given day. After sporting commitments, I try to do some writing, but I usually find it difficult to focus. Occasionally after working on an assignment, I can get some of my own writing done, but the norm is one night - one focus.

Normally that only leaves Sunday. Sunday morning is lost. Because I've sacrificed sleep during the week to try and keep up with things - so I sleep in. Sunday is also my day of chores. I try to get things done around the house. More often than not this is a good thing as it gives me a chance to escape the keyboard, but if I'm behind on things, it becomes a struggle to stay at the keyboard long enough to get into a good flow.

So do I need to adjust what I'm trying to achieve?

I've made a commitment to gaining these writing credentials. Perhaps I should shelve working on short stories or entering competitions for the time being. Perhaps I should say no to any new writing gig which comes up, especially non-paying gigs.

Once summer sport commitments are over, I'll have a little more time, but do I want to add things like writing sporting articles into that space, or should I just use it to write the fiction I want to write?

All the blogs I read confirm to me that writers write. We all sacrifice time to work on our craft. Writing is like a calling.

But when do we say enough is enough? When are we sacrificing too much? Something has to give - but what?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Module 1, Assignment 2 Done

Well, it's kind of done.

Every assignment last year was required to be submitted in 12 pnt font, double spaced, and with correct margins. The catch cry of the lecturers was, you need to submit assignments as if you are submitting to market, this is a professional writing course after all, so be professional.

They then went on to ruin that theory by demanding I staple all my submission papers together - yeah like I staple the work I send to market...

Anyhoo, this module is about writing screenplays, (Alex, anytime you wish to offer any help, I'd be more than happy to listen), and the example script they've given me looks to be in single space. The instructions for formatting margins for other specific areas is a nightmare.

Dialogue must be 3.4cm in from the left and right so as to form a column down the middle of the page. The dialogue must be headed by the characters name, written wholly in capitals, and spaced 5.4cm from the left edge. You must do this and you must not do that...yada yada yada.

The result is a three page double spaced story I wrote last year, only fits into a three page screenplay if you single space it, even though you cut down or out, a lot of the narrative description. The story version is 411 words. The cut down script adaption comes out to 441 words - somehow. Amazing.

My problem is, I sent in the first assignment single spaced, primarily for the same reason (I think my scene description at the beginning of the script may need to be cut down). I can't send in the second assignment until I find out if that one is marked okay. I made sure to ask if single space was okay as it isn't actually mentioned in the guideline presented in the course book.


For four years I'll be doing double spaced and it's directly quoted in each course book to do so. The only module it doesn't look like I'm supposed to double space and I can't find any mention of it.


Anyway, that's what I had on the agenda for tonight so I can free up the rest of the week. I could begin writing or I could spend some quality time with my wife.

No contest.


Straight To The Classroom

While doing my feed reading this morning, I stumbled across a new blog. I can't give credit to the blog I found it on as I opened the link in a new window and then forgot to check it until sometime later. I've since closed all my feeds so I'm not sure where I found the link and I couldn't be bothered, while I'm at work, looking for it. So thank you to whoever sent me over there. Feel free to jump up and down in the comments section and make yourself known.

So while I wanted to share this great resource with everyone, I figured I may as well throw up a couple of other links aspiring writers and unpublished authors should know about. So go have a read of all of these:

Alan Rinzler's Blog is full of information, advice and wonderful stories about the industry. Everything you need to know as a writer about what happens behind the scenes, tips on catching the eye of the editors and publishers, even advice on how to improve your advance offer. I linked to the home page because you should go and read all of the posts.

Stuart Neville's Blog tracks his journey in getting published. Like many of us, Neville began this blog as an unpublished writer in 2006 and posts regularly on how he's gotten to where he is today. His path may be a little different, maybe a little faster, but he's where we all want to be, so read this blog from the beginning and work your way to the here and now.

Alexandra Sokoloff's Blog: for regular visitors here, you all know how much I think of Alex's advice. I would go so far as to say I've learned more from this one blog than I have from any other, although I will now be an avid reader of Alan Rinzler's blog as well. If all new writers followed these two blogs to start with, there would be a lot less people ripped off in this industry and they would all be better writers to boot.

Do yourself a favour, set some time aside and catchup on these three blogs - outstanding!

A Flurry of Reading & Responses

I checked my email first thing this morning had one from a friend who has been requested to do a rewrite, and two from another friend who had read a couple of my unpublished stories for the first time and was kind enough to supply some feedback.

The first email also contained the editors letter so I went through the story and pointed out some possible changes to meet the editors requirements. I detailed half a dozen or so things which I believe would improve the story and smooth things over with the publication.

The feedback on my own stories was pretty good and on the mark from what I believed the case to be. All of my efforts up until this year and my work on Newland, have been somewhat cliche. And that's okay. The stories in the last year or so have been steadily getting better in technique and now this year I think I've begun to move away from what's been done before.

I would still like to find a home for these older stories, and I'm sure I will one day.

All of these emails confirmed in me the love I have of working with other writers. I love the collaborative process of brainstorming with another person, of kicking around ideas, of suggestions and improvements. I love working with someone on a piece and seeing it develop into a good story.

I currently have three people who are not related to me, actually they're not even in the same country, who are willing to give my work the once over, and who I am more than happy to do the same for in return.

Two of these people I have been working with for at least a year or so. I'd like to think we each bring something a little different to the table, but we all hold a love of the craft and an ability to be honest without being totally brutal. I'd like to think we trust each other - I know I trust them them. We don't always agree on things, but we don't labour the point either. If one of my suggestions has been ignored on a subsequent draft, I'll usually overlook it and move on in my efforts to help improve the piece (unless I think it is a big flaw and then I may mention it once or twice more).

Writing can be an isolated vocation. I love people who comment on my blog. I cherish those who read my work and whose work I read in return. I enjoy surfing around the place and finding new sites and new writers to read and to leave comments for.

I've built a list of blogs and sites I regularly visit. I know it needs updating as I visit more than what is currently listed, but who do you think writers should know about? What are your support mechanisms to keep the isolation at bay? We all have supportive family and friends (I hope), but what about outside that?

And let me know what additional links I should add to the side bar.

Speak soon


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Week 7

If you don't count the first half week of 2009 today marks the beginning of week 7 of this year. I have to start working this way to figure out how I'm getting along with my word goals.

Today I knocked off chapter 13 in Newland. things have flowed nicely and my main character has now been kidnapped on time. terrible things are about to happen in chapter 14 and being the twisted individual I am, I'm looking forward to writing about them.

So last week I was 1358 words short. Today I've written 2617 words, leaving me 3633 words required for the rest of the week as a minimum. If I can get another two chapters done, that should see me back in front and on track.

I also took time out to critique a friends 5000 word story today. It's been busy.

Also this week I have another assignment to do and I need to start reading again. As there are only two weeks left in February, I need to read the latest issue of the magazine I slush for so I'm ready for another round of gem fossicking come March, so "The Haunting of Hill House" and the magazine will be all I get through this month.

And now for the latest installment of Mr Bean Counter:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Newland Chapter 12


I seem to forever be writing myself into more research. I'm 1958 words into Chapter 12. I now need to research what type of hats English doctors would have worn in the 1830's, the name of hymns sung at the time, and possible sermons of puritanical preachers of the era.

The sermon I've had a go at. I'm reserving judgement until the passage of time allows me to look at it objectively.

Does anybody know of an old hymn, which would be known to anyone who attends Catholic church services regularly. A fairly simple one, if such a one exists, would be appreciated. Yes, I'm a heathen.

Historical period costume. If anyone has particularly good resources in this area, I'd be ever so grateful.

Before I write myself into anymore corners tonight, I'll leave it at that.

So my goal of 6250 words for the week has fallen dismally short. My week is judged as being Sunday through to Friday night. During summer, writing on a Saturday is pretty much out of the question. Tomorrow it's out of the question anyway as it Valentine's day.

So - back to my total - I've managed 4892 words this week. 1358 words short. Not bad, but I need to make it up somewhere to reach my goal. I'll let the shorts sit this week. I have one assignment to do, and I want to read something. I read two books in January and haven't managed anything other than course reading this month. Need to fix that.

A quick squiz at the "to read" shelf and the winner is..."The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson. It's a classic, and it's short. "The Omen" by David Seltzer will probably follow for similar reasons.

On a different note, I need to find another market for Idolatry which was knocked back from Three Lobed Burning Eye today.

So much to do, so little time.

Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow. I hope all the ladies get flowers and all the guys...well, you guys know what I mean.

Nearly forgot the bean man. Up to 28% - Whoo Hoo!

Quick Update

As I've said before, I reread everything I worked on in the last chapter to remind myself of where the story is before moving onto the next.

As I read through the climax to Act One, aka Chapter 11, I started altering a few things here and there. The result was a few more words added to the final chapter tally, and it now looks more like what I think the finished product will be than any other chapter - yep, I went a little over board and revised it as I went.

I blame the classical music I'm listening to as I went through it - inspiring.

The other nice thing was a slight increase in words, around an extra 300 or so, allowed me to update the bean counter and it actually added another percentage point. Any forward movement is nice to see.

Time to move into chapter 12...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Thoughts

I've been holding back on posting anything about the bushfire's in Victoria for a couple of reasons.

This blog is supposed to be about my life as a writer, writing in general, writing dark fiction in particular, and everything that goes on in my life which effects my writing. I also haven't written about the fires because when the US election was on, I got sick to death of writing sites carrying on about the election and saying little or nothing about writing - I didn't want anybody saying similar things here.

So this will be my one and only post about the fires.

On the way home today, I heard on the radio that the fires had consumed over 400,000 hectares, 170+homes, countless businesses, livestock, and wildlife, and is expected to claim over 300 human lives.

It is the worst unnatural natural disaster in this countries history.

Australia is in a recession just like everywhere else and yet the population has banded together to give in times of need. Over 45 million dollars has been raised and more will continue to be raised in support of those who have lost everything.

I'm lucky enough not to know anybody directly affected, or to be directly touched by the tragedy - and yet the whole country feels a sense of loss and outrage.

Some of the fires which have been so destructive were deliberately lit. Being an arsonist is a disease and to my way of thinking deserves as much social compassion as a paedophile - that is, none what-so-ever.

I am not religious or a right-to-lifer. I'm not politically aligned with the left, right, or in between. By nature I'm an apathetic bastard who is happy to look after me and mine and expect everyone else to do the same. I can be self-centred and an insensitive arsehole.

Fuckers who light fires should have their soft bits burnt in public displays before being beheaded with a blunt axe. Paedophiles should be treated likewise. Men who abuse women deserve no better. Fathers who can't be stuffed paying for a few seconds of fun which ended up in a child may keep their heads but lose their bits and any control over their future finances. Stupid teenage drivers should lose a leg or an arm (they can have a choice), - I'm going off track a bit here.

I am so over the minority crapping on about how the weak need to be cared for and how we should all be treated fairly. I work under the same system as everyone else and have struggled for years to get to where I am. If I had to do it, why shouldn't everyone else.

People in Victoria need your help. The other day my wife was watching a program where a family who wasn't particularly well off, offered to donate their used baby furniture to the fire victims. They were told to sell it elsewhere and just send in the money. I'd have thought any donation would be useful to those who have lost everything. If the charities end up with extra stuff, they can sell it and use the money. I understand that the money is preferable due to the requirement to meet basic and immediate needs, but when people are doing it tough to begin with, surely any offer of help shouldn't be ignored. I'd hate to think how bad this family felt when they were told thanks, but no thanks.

If you can help in anyway, please do.

I've heard of people working a day for charity. They've worked their normal job and have donated what they earned to the fund. Afternoon tea at workplaces everywhere have raised heaps. Cake drives, sausage sizzles, car washes. Every little bit helps. Have a sickie if you want and donate the money you got paid for doing nothing to the fund - think of the writing you could get done and still feel good about helping out.

If there are any left Aaron Polson is selling a few extra copies of Tainted: Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. I've just placed my order. Get in quick before they're all gone.

You can go straight to The Australian Red Cross Services and click on the donate button. Every little bit helps.

Write about it on your website/blog/live journal/MySpace/Facebook/whatever...spread the word your fellow man needs a helping hand through no fault of his own.

Okay, that's it from me. This rant is over.

I thank you for your time and Victorians thank you for your generosity.


It is now 13:44 - that would be 1:44 in the afternoon to those of you unable to work on a twenty four hour clock.

5 hours since I said I'd begin work on Newland.

It didn't start well. Just after 9:00 I was talked into a side trip to the work cafeteria. After discussions and morning drinks, I returned to begin at nearly 9:30. Nice way to start the day but terrible time wasting when you're trying to write.

From 9:30 to 12:00 I worked solidly with only two quick breaks to stretch my legs and have a quick nicotine injection. Yes, I smoke.

For the last two hours I've gone over what I've managed and finished off chapter 11 and the first Act climax. It's not the final version by a long shot. I have half an idea that I'd like the main character to get injured in this scene so it brings two other characters into conflict, but then I should be able to manage raising that conflict without it - we'll see.

So the end result: Today I've managed to write 2611 words in about 4 hours. That works out to be a dismal typing speed of around 10 or so words/minute. Last time I did any form of actual typing speed test, I was around the 30/minute mark - and that was some time ago. I'm sure I'm faster than that now.

Having to stop and consider how characters react to a situation slows things down, but I never thought it would be by that much.

Have you ever worked out your typing speed when simply typing and how it differs when you're working?

Anyway, so Act One is now in the can - or at least the first draft of it is, and I can move on to the meat and veg part of the story also known as Act Two.

Sex, blood, vengeance, jealousy, murder, rape, religion, determination, self-worth, racism, trials, superstition, and the supernatural come to play. And this has nothing to do with Salem, vampires, or the TV series Roots!

Now I know you're all hanging out to buy it. All in good time, grasshopper.

Good luck with whatever piece you're working on.

It's been a while since I've said this so I'll throw it out there just as a friendly reminder:

You can't get published if you don't submit your work to market. The worst an editor can say is no, and usually that's a no thank you. You have nothing to lose by putting your work out there to a reputable publication, and yet you have a great deal to gain in the way of feedback, growth in the craft, and publication. You may even get paid for it.

So go and submit your work somewhere today - after you've read the guidelines and correctly formatted your baby accordingly.

Good luck.

And just for the hell of it - I'll now add this little picture whenever I post a Newland update.

You can get your own here.

Not A Good Boy

Yesterday I worked on Digging Up The Past and dug up a new ending for it. Still not sure I'm happy with it so I'll let it sit for a while before going over it again. I also had a look at Dreaming. This story is starting to feel like wrestling semi-naked twenty-something-year-old women in Taffy--exciting but extremely difficult to move about it.

I have an idea for the story but I'm finding it difficult to shape it, to mold it into what I see in my head. The words don't seem to want to line up right. It is very frustrating. It has a lot to do with the time lapse between the inspiration and first writing of it, and now. Especially with all the confusion over versions. Well, today I have figuratively shaved down and I'm prepared to climb back into the giant Taffy bowl which is my imagination. If I'm not out in a few days, either send in a rescue team or simply lower your head for a minutes silence.

Last night I was ready to sit down and work on the Act One Climax of Newland. And then my wife called me in for the World Cup qualifier of Australia playing Japan. So no writing was managed. Tonight is training and selection down at the cricket club. This always turns into a late one so there'll be no writing tonight either.

I need to write 6250 words a week to reach my goal. I've written 230 this week. Maybe Dreaming will have to wait. Now that I'm all silky smooth and ready to swim, I think I'll hit Newland where it hurts.

It is nearly 9:00 here as I write this. Lets see how much on Newland I can get done before I have to leave to pick up my daughter at 3 this afternoon. That's 6 hours. I'm at work, but there's not a lot on so I should be able to get a bit done.

Time me!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Slam Dunk for Jessica

Over the past couple of months I've been reading on a number of agent's blogs about query letters. In a nutshell:

  • There is enough information on the web for every writer to be able to craft the perfect query - take the time to research it.
  • Agents have been knocking the idea back and forth of whether is would be okay for someone else to write your query for you. This includes work shopping the query.
  • It's about a 50-50 split as to those who don't mind a perfect query and those who are over it.

What I've gleamed from all the hoopla:

  • Write your own query letter after researching all you can about on the net. Same goes with the synopsis. You can ask others for help, but only on the over all content and general feeling. Nobody else is allowed to actually write it for you. This is because agents really want to hear your voice, so write the damn thing as you see fit.

A while back I was one who considered gaining feedback from others on all aspects of writing to be the most important thing short of actually writing. This changed my mind. I don't think anybody else has gotten the point across so well - well done Jessica Faust over at BookEnds.

In other news:

I reviewed a short story in the anthology Gratia Placenti sometime back by Mary Robinette Kowal. It went something like this:

"Concluding the anthology is Mary Robinette Kowal's futuristic "Tomorrow and Tomorrow", a tale of the desperate things people do for the sake of others, dare I say “for the sake of pleasing” others. Entrapped by her desires and wants as well as her responsibilities for her family, we watch as one mother falls deeper into the side of darkness for all the right reasons."

You can read the whole review here.

On browsing around the place, I find this exciting news. This proves two things to me. Deals for new authors are still being made, and the publication of short stories in anthologies helps build a readership. I know the second part is true as I'm definitely looking forward to reading her books as a direct result from reading "Tomorrow and tomorrow'.

It must be sign a new author day. S.W.Vaughn over at Murder by 4 has landed a deal as well, and the story about the journey is priceless and hauntingly familiar.

And then when you get that deal, Tess Gerritsen lets us in on how your life will change and what is expected of a published author in 2009 and beyond.

So now I'm all inspired to build my readership through gaining publication in anthologies, and to land my first book deal as soon as possible so...

Today, I'm going to work on Digging Up the Past. First I need to get all the versions sorted, then and extract the best story from all of them into a 'latest' version. Then polish that before final perusal by readers and submission.

Due to being under the weather, I didn't write anything last night, so tonight I'll be looking at writing the climax for Act One of Newland. We'll see how much of a good boy I can be.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Slow Day

Something I ate hasn't agreed with me leaving me with headaches and a somewhat unstable stomach - not nice.

So not much writing done today.

From the feed list I've found a few things of interest:

Thoughts on writing a synopsis from the BookEnd Literary Agency. You'd think an agent type of person should know what agents want so this may be worth a look. I've also added this link to "The Global Classroom" links in the sidebar.

If you have a piece just returned or just ready to go out, this anthology from Comet Press may be worth a look. Strangely it has been listed on Duotrope as a new market and yet has a submission closed date of the end of February. Not long. I haven't checked it out - because I'm sick and couldn't really be bothered at the moment, so make sure you do before sending anything.

Sick of hearing about the New Kindle 2.0? While on my death bed I watched a segment on "Attack of the Show" which did a big trial on it. They recommend to wait till Xmas before purchasing for a couple of reasons. It'll be cheaper, and there may be other things on the market which combine multiple tasks and still has a good e-reader built in. This screams to me that the Kindle, and e-readers in general, still have a long way to go. (Although this post by Nathan Bransford makes a good case for Kindles competitor over at Sony)

If you haven't been keeping up with things, you can read all the posted stories in the 52 Stitches Anthology here. These are very short, and very cool snipits. Felicity's story is up this week. It's a must read for men so you know the cat is out of the bag, and a must read for women so you know the pain and anguish men go through from time to time.

I've been talking about editing recently so I thought this was timely - and funny.

If you haven't had a chance yet, head on over to The Blood-Red Pencil, and check out the posts. Not everything that goes up there is great, or detailed enough, but sometimes there are some good reminders - like the current series being posted by Helen Ginger. Subscribe to the feed as there is no such thing as too much information.

And just so you know miracles still happen to writers in this economic downturn, read this entry over at Rob Hood's Undead Backbrain.

So there you go - a long post with little or no input from me, and yet full of interesting and educational information.

I'm going back to bed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Little Goes A Long Way

For all of us who thought writing a couple of hundred words was a pretty poor effort for a days writing - I have been shown the error of my ways.

I've been struggling to write chapter 10 of Newland for the past two months. I knew it was close but i needed to find a way to wrap the chapter up, convey what I needed to and set the scene for an actioned packed chapter eleven which is also my Act One climax.

Tonight I revised what I'd already written in chapter 10 so I regained familiarity with where I was at. I changed a couple of the sentences I'd left off at last time and wrote a new 200 or so words. Chapter 10 done.

What a relief.

I can already see how chapter eleven will unfold in my minds eye. I can hear it. I know the background noises my characters will notice, the smells, the heat of the sun, the ever-present insects, the shrill cry of painted natives as they rush from the surrounding bush...whoops, forget I said that.

The 'battle' scene should take between 2500-3000 words to depict. Short sharp and intensely focused - like the rest of the current draft. The chapters will be a bit bigger once revised but I'm doing this in layers. For now, I'm just getting the story out. As necessary, I'll come back and add texture.

I'm excited to be moving forward again. Act two is full of pain, anguish, sex, and masses of character growth. Part way through Act Two comes the introduction of the supernatural threads of the plot, which a lot of foreshadowing has already been laid for in Act One.

Sounds great doesn't it? Lets hope it reads that way when I'm done.

A New Australian drama series begins tonight which I don't want to miss. The last one of this kind was pretty good, so I'm hoping for a good Australian production again this time round. I didn't know this was starting tonight so my writing time has been cut drastically. I want to write the Act One climax in one sitting so I'm leaving it for now.

Time to go plant myself in front of the idiot box.

Confusing Myself

Last night I came to the conclusion I needed to really get stuck into writing Newland over the next few months. I'll be working on that when I get home, but I thought I'd use the next day or two, whenever I find time at work, to revise Digging Up The Past and Dreaming.

I don't remember doing any work on them at home so I got to work expecting to find the latest versions here. Opening one of them, I recognised the ending needed to be changed. I then remembered having discussed that with one of my beta readers. So that means the latest version must be at home.

So I've done some work on one of them and then sent both of them home. I'll take a few minutes to track down the latest versions and organise where I'm at. Then I'll start work on Newland.

We all talk about having multiple copies of our work around the place. We back up our work to USB drive, work computers, email, webmail, online docs, and numerous other options.

How do you keep track of it all? Do you only work in one spot and back up to off-site means? Do you print off copies of each draft? Do you save each file with different numbers? How do you keep track?

I'm normally pretty good at knowing where each latest version is, but I've somehow slipped up. Anyone got some fool proof method of keeping work safe, and being able to work on it from anywhere, while keeping the different versions in order?

All suggestions appreciated.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Good Day and Some Math

Module 2, Assignment 1 - done.

The internal students are due to begin this module on Wednesday and have the first assignment returned by the following week. That would be Feb 18. I'll be sending it in tomorrow so it should arrive the same day the internal students meet the teacher. Cool. I love being ahead of things.

I received good feedback from my rewrite of Swirls in Obsidian. I'm checking it with one more reader and then (depending on comments), submitting it to PARSEC. Fingers crossed.

Being ahead on my assignments will allow me to concentrate on some reading this week. Any 'spare time' I find at work will be used to revise my other two current short stories in progress.

Tonight I need to find a new market for Too Late the Rain, which has sat around for the last week, which is not like me at all.

I'm aiming to be far enough ahead come the 20th, that I can concentrate on Newland. I'm pretty sure the current scene I'm writing is not required or is slowing things down. I think it's because of this that I've procrastinated in getting back to it. That's got to change. (by the end of this post, this time frame has changed - you'll see)

Having read through the assignments for module 2, it will be all about my current novel in progress so it needs to get done. The last assignment involves gaining critical assessment of some parts of my novel, so I want the writing done before the assignment is due. My current deadline for the novel's first draft is the end of April. The last assignment is due in the end of June (I think). If I can keep to my current goal then I should be able to send off the bits which require critical assessment and get them back, in plenty of time. Yeah right. (and now the math)

I wrote nothing in Newland for January. I have yet to add a single word for February. I have approximately 75,000 words still to write. There's 102 days till June (not long is it), so doing the math: I need to write around 735 words each day to make it. BUT - there is only 81 days until the end of April, which is when I want to finish it by. In that case, I need to write around 926 words a day.

Okay, I've started now. I write between 2-4000 words at a sitting on average. Lets call it 3000 to make things easy. That means I need to find 25 writing sessions between now and the end of April. As we already know, there are 81 days till the end of April so if I have a writing session devoted to Newland every 3 or 4 days, I should make it.

To simplify things, there are 12 weeks till the end of April. That means I need to write 6250 words each week to make it.

In layman's terms, I need two sessions a week devoted to Newland to make my goal.

Guess what I'm doing tomorrow night...

Now which regulars thought I was joking when I said I rambled?

Outta here...

Saturday, February 7, 2009


If you are not yet aware, The 2009 PARSEC Short Story Contest is on again. Entries need to be submitted by April 15th with winners announced somewhere between the end of May and the 15th of June.

First prize is $200US and publication in the Confluence 2009 program book and in the annual Triangulation anthology. Second prize is $100US and third is $50US. Second and third may also be published in the anthology or another PARSEC INK publication. With the way the Aussie dollar is when stacked up against the US dollar, it's well worth your while to enter. Hell the way the economy is anywhere, it's well worth your while to enter. Oh - did I mention there is NO entry fee!

To be perfectly blunt, you're a little silly if you don't enter. (personal opinion only, no offence meant)

Other bonuses: last year, my friend Amy Treadwell entered two pieces, and won first and second prize - so it is possible for a virtual unknown to win this contest. All you need is a great story. (or two) In fact, the contest is only open to individuals who currently don't qualify by SFWA standards to be labelled as professional writers.

You will gain excellent feedback. Last year I entered "The Winged Shepherd Of Innocence". From the feedback I received I rewrote it and ended up selling it elsewhere.

You should be writing these stories now so you can workshop them and polish them meticulously prior to submitting them before the deadline. For those of us outside the US, you can contact the lovely Ann Cecil (email details on the website) and gain permission to email in your submission. I have already gained permission to do so.

They do everything they can to get the best entries around. You have nothing to lose.

Last week inspiration struck and I penned a piece I had no title for, but was aimed at PARSEC. I sent it off to a couple of my beta readers. Here is where I name drop that one of those is last years winner :cp

Within hours of each other, they returned emails with thoughtful, specific, and some similar comments. Today I've spent around six hours solidly rewriting it.

My 3500 word piece ended up at nearly 4000 words. I then spent a few hours rewording, rephrasing and generally playing with my jigsaw pieces of a story, until I got it back down to 3500 words. Word Tetris anyone?

I think I've addressed the major flaw pointed out by my readers - the slow beginning, and added some other bits to add depth to both character and theme.

I'll be sending it out again in the next day or two after I've allowed it to sit and I've reread it, just to be sure it's as polished as I think it is. And to let the cat out of the bag, the new title is "Swirls in Obsidian" - cool.

I've also received Issue #40 of Aurealis to read, cast a critical eye over another writers work, finally posted off the first assignment, and now intend to read the first assignment of the second module for the year. In my inbox arrived a market report from Ralan I need to check, and four newsletters I need to go through.

Time to chill - it's not like I haven't got plenty to do...

Did I mention I brought a few new books yesterday to bring my current to-read shelf up to 29 titles.

Maybe it's time to chill while reading something...

And tomorrow I have a bathroom to do some renovations to...

Out of here.

Good luck with the contest.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Funny, Unless Your Name Starts With An M & Ends In Eyers

The Who's News Blog

SK doesn't just dump on Stephanie, he dumps on quite a few successful writers.

It seems to be a more common comment I'm coming across, how many in the industry are constantly disappointed at some of the dreck (a word used quite often to describe this stuff) currently being published.

Put that together with the constant comment that it's a difficult thing to get published. Hundreds of queries land in the inbox (virtual and real) of agents, editors, and publishers every week. Slushers by the hundreds work at weeding out the first level of dreck. Editors weed out another level, and have writers revise what's left.

Publishers then work on getting more revisions done.

Everyone has an opinion on writers like Dan Brown, Stephanie Myers, JK, and others (what was that guy's name who wrote Eragon?), but the bottom line is they've written something that reaches a particular audience.

They have been professional enough to make their way through the dreck detectors and worked hard to produce something which reached the masses.

So next time you read something you feel should never had made it to print, think about all the work gone in behind it. Think about all the readers out there who have brought or read it, and think differently to you. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

So when one editor sends you a rejection letter, unless you really think the comments make sense and can improve the piece you love so much, then just send it on to another editor. If the writing is good, and a number of non-related individuals has given you feedback to confirm your suspicions that the work is good, then someone, somewhere, WILL eventually publish it. (If a family member is willing to give you honest feedback, then you're lucky, but you still need to get feedback from others without a vested interest in keeping you moderately happy - and just for the record, my primary reader is my wife, and she gives me very honest feedback.)

If, like in Jamie's situation, an editor is willing to maybe publish it if you do certain revisons, then it becomes a personal choice. How much do you want to retain the integrity of the original work? Are you happy enough just to get a sale, or are you trying to convey a certain style or comment that the changes would alter?

Personally, as I told Jamie, I'd write a new version specifically as the editor has requested, and send that in. If the editor still isn't happy and rejects it, then I'd return to the original version and recommence the submission process with a new market. It can't be that far from the mark if one editor liked it enough to ask for a resub.

And then we add the final two comments all such posts require. Regardless of anything else, keep writing and keep submitting. Persistance and determination is the only way to grow in the craft, and therefore the only path to success. (Another outstanding quote I just made up ;c))

Just my two cents for today.

Good luck with your submissions.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More Writing Lessons

For those of you who have not yet gotten onto the gravy train, Alexandra Sokoloff has posted more writing tips/lessons to help you improve in the use of the craft.

Plants & Payoffs - extremely important tool all writers need to become adept at when writing and revising. Alex gives great and in depth examples. You'll also find a long comment from yours truly which provides additional examples.

What is "High Concept" - not sure if I supplied this link last week when Alex posted it so I'll do it again now. If I've posted it twice, so be it. This is an important topic. If you can't define this about a piece you're trying to sell, whether in the long of short version of writing, then chances are your readers aren't going to get the gist of your story either.

Here's an interesting DVD release - and a place to get it cheaper. Dark Dreamers - interviews with some of writings great modern authors. (Thanks to Hellnotes)

Just because: Its a catastrophe for the apostrophe in Britain - oh dear... (thanks to Janet Reid)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Big Day

Something must have broke inside me and things have begun to bubble to the surface.

It started with Dreaming, then came Digging Up The Past, and today I wrote a 3500 word entry for PARSEC - in addition to knocking off my first assignment for the day.


Time to do the snoopy dance...

Asssignment 1 For 2009 Done

I've written an introduction of myself to my new lecturer focusing on my development as a writer, and tuned Wake-up Call into a two minute play.

Total word count = 444

For anyone interested, I've also posted my latest non-winning effort from the Cafe Doom Flash Challenge onto my examples page. Go here to have a read.

Last night I continued to read the course book for module 1. It's 244 pages long and full of examples. It's like watching grass grow. For a change up, I also began reading the course book for module 2 - my elective titled "Writing Fiction 2 - The Novel". This book is only 117 pages long. Much better.

Today I'll be doing some research into my idea for the PARSEC competition to see if it pans out. PARSEC prefer stories which have an uplifting theme and/or ending. Not exactly what I'm used to, but we'll see what I can come up with.

Lunch time.

Mental Health Day

Apparently today is World Mental Health Day where we are all supposed to take a moment to look after the gray matter.

A considerate workmate sent me an email to remind me of this fact so I thought I'd share:

The love story of Ralph and Edna...

Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have.

Ralph and Edna were both patients in a mental hospital. One day while they were walking past the hospital swimming pool. Ralph suddenly jumped into the deep end.

He sank to the bottom of the pool and stayed there.

Edna promptly jumped in to save him. She swam to the bottom and pulled him out. When the Head Nurse Director became aware of Edna's heroic act she immediately ordered her to be discharged from the hospital, as she now considered her to be mentally stable.

When she went to tell Edna the news she said, 'Edna, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you're being discharged, since you were able to rationally respond to a crisis by jumping in and saving the life of the person you love. I have concluded that your act displays sound mindedness.

The bad news is, Ralph hung himself in the bathroom with his bathrobe belt right after you saved him. I am so sorry, but he's dead.'

Edna replied, 'He didn't hang himself, I put him there to dry. How soon can I go home?'

Happy Mental Health Day!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Off The Bat

Ever thought about the birth of an agents agency. We've all read blogs from seasoned agents and gained plenty of insight into the business. But how did they start? What happens when someone is just starting out as an agent. What are they looking for and how do they learn?

Here's your chance to follow the blog of a UK agent from the get go.

Slush Pile Mountaineering is the blog of new UK agent Kate Nash. The agency began at the start 0f 2009 so a quick read through will allow you to see everything she's currently posted concerning the start of her business and what she's planning to do. She is also on the look out for clients so maybe it could be an opportunity for the right writer.

If nothing else, it should make for interesting reading.

Another interesting thing doing the rounds: Cate, Aaron, Nat & Jamie have posted a January review. After reading through how industrious they have been, I feel somewhat ashamed.

My January has been a great deal more lax.

I have written two new short stories. They will be revised and polished during February. The target markets open in March & April. (A goal for 2009 was to write at least three new short stories, so having nearly achieved that already, I don't think I'll push things for February in this department. I'd still like to come up with something for the AHWA contest and for PARSEC, but I'm not holding my breath. There are one or two other comps a touch later in the year as well so writing three new shorts for 2009 may have been a little understating of reality.)

I have not written anything new in Newland - smack my wrist! This is the really disappointing bit. I will try to rectify this in February. With course work and polishing the two new shorts - I'm not sure how yet.

I wrote one new flash piece for Cafe Doom's challenge. Unless there is a sudden influx in voting, I'll not win this week either :c( Maybe I should just start voting for my own work if I think it's better than whatever else is posted, but it just doesn't feel like the right thing to do.

I gained 0 acceptances and 2 rejections. I retired 3 stories from the submission process (Considering just throwing these up on the website as bad early examples of my work). I sent back out three stories for a total of six now floating in the market place. Kind of pales when compared with anybody else.

I read two full length novels and written reviews for both. I read Eclecticism #7 (congratulations David Such - an excellent story published in this issue), and read 6 out of 8 assignments in module 1 for my advanced diploma. I have read countless blogs, stories, and articles online. I even managed to get around to reading AntipodeanSF this month.

And...that's all. My writing efforts would be lucky to total over 15,000 words. And yet I feel like I've learned a lot, and moved forward in my understanding of what makes a good story.

February has started on a better note with writing efforts. Last night I commenced assignment one. First task was to write an introduction to my new lecturer, focusing on how my writing has developed, and if I wanted to specifically write for the film and TV (this module is based on writing scripts for film and TV). It wasn't allowed to be longer than a standard page of 12pnt font in double spaced paragraphs. So around 300 words. Not easy to get all that in. I wrote a couple of versions and will revisit tonight. Then I need to write a short two page script - that will be an interesting exercise. This all needs to be completed and submitted by the end of next week so I'm a little ahead of the game.

Module 2 is all about writing a novel. I am seriously looking forward to diving into this one. Hopefully I'll have read that course book by the end of this week in preparation for doing the first assignment next week.

Not sure when I'll get an opportunity to work on Newland at this point, but it will happen - maybe during a quiet time at work... ;c)

Enough from me.

Good luck with whatever you hope to achieve over this incredibly short month. And if you don't happen to get everything done, don't beat yourself up over it. Time is a relative concept...

AHWA News Digest

AHWA NEWS DIGEST [16.01.09-31.01.09]

The following digest of recent horror news is compiled from pieces published to HorrorScope and the Australian Horror Writers' Association website.

AHWA Mentor Program 2009
The 2009 Australian Horror Writers' Mentor Program will be open to applications from the 1st to the 28th of February, 2009. The program aims to further develop the depth and quality of Australian horror and dark fantasy.

AHWA Critiquing Groups

From February 25th the Australian Horror Writers' Association will be accepting expressions of interest from AHWA members wishing to take part in facilitating critiquing groups.

Eclecticism #7
After a relaxing festive season, the Eclecticism E-zine is back in full-swing, with the 7th issue now available.

Aurora Script Workshop
The NSW Film and Television Office (FTO) has re-focused Aurora, its intensive professional script development program, and is calling for applications for the 2009 intake.

The Myer Foundation Small Grants Program
The Small Grants Program in the Arts and Humanities is now accepting applications for funding. The closing date for applications is Wednesday the 4th of February, 2009.

Build Your Audience: People in the Arts TAFE Accredited Disability Awareness & Access Training
Accessible Arts is offering their first of two workshops for 2009. The half-day TAFE accredited module, is designed for individuals working in the arts and arts organisations.
The Australian Script Centre in collaboration with PlayWriting Australia, Currency Press and Playlab Press, have launched a new website - a one-stop shop for theatre professionals, community groups, researchers, educators, students and others with an interest in fine writing for performance.

CASP grants open for 2009
Is your community planning an arts project for 2009? The Country Arts Support Program (CASP) is now taking applications for projects in 2009. CASP delivers small grants for community and cultural development, for amounts between $300 and $3,000.

The Hub of Horror Convention
The Hub of Horror convention will feature guests of honour Robert Englund, Brad Dourif, Tony Todd, Jeffrey Combs, and Suicide Girls performers. It will be held in Melbourne over the black Friday weekend of 13th-15th March, 2009.

Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2009
The Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2009 sub-committee of SFFANZ has issued a call for nominations for science fiction and fantasy works first published or released in the 2008 calendar year. Nominations close on the 28th of February, 2009.

Down Under Fan Fund

The Down Under Fan Fund is seeking Australasian nominees to head to North America in 2009. Nominations close on the 29th of March, 2009.

Horror Story and Other Horror Stories

ChiZine Publications has released its second title, the short story collection Horror Story and Other Horror Stories by Toronto writer Robert Boyczuk, in trade paperback. They are also making the book available as a free PDF download, and the story Falling available as an MP3, both under Creative Commons Licenses.

The Bullsheet #83
The Australian Science Fiction Bullsheet #83, February 2009 edition is now available. This issue details various publishing news, and an overview of upcoming writing, speculative fiction and fan events.

Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror
Permuted Press is proud to announce the publication of Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror. Edited by Ryan C. Thomas, the anthology features tales by Steve Alten, Guy N. Smith, and many others - including the short story Six-Legged Shadows from AHWA Member David Conyers, co-authored with Brian M. Sammons.

Writers' Digest Self-Published Awards
Writers Digest have issued a call for entries to the 2009 Writers' Digest Self-Published Awards. The awards are open to international authors, with a recent self-published book. The deadline is the 1st of May, 2009.

AntipodeanSF #128
AntipodeanSF Issue #128 is online for your reading pleasure; once again presenting an excellent selection of spec-fic flash stories from both new and favourite authors.

Preliminary Ballot for The Bram Stoker Awards
The Horror Writers' Association (HWA) have released the preliminary ballot for The Bram Stoker Awards.

Write in Your Face
Express Media is proud to present Write in Your Face, a program supporting emerging forms of writing practice by young writers, or organisations working with young writers. Proposals are invited from people who are using language in innovative ways.

2009 Aurealis Award Winners
The Aurealis Awards, which honour works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, have announced the award winners for 2008!

Submitting News

If you have news about Australian and New Zealand Horror publishing and film, or news of professional development opportunities in the field, feel free to submit news to Talie Helene, AHWA News Editor. Just visit HorrorScope, and click on the convenient email link. (International news is not unwelcome, although relevance to Antipodean literary arts practitioners is strongly preferred.)

For information on the Australian Horror Writers' Association, visit

This AHWA NEWS DIGEST has been compiled, written, and republished in select Australian horror haunts by Talie Helene. Currently archived at the
AHWA MySpace page, Southern Horror, and Darklands, and hosted by AHWA members Felicity Dowker, Jeff Ritchie, Brenton Tomlinson, and Scott Wilson.

If you would like to support the AHWA News effort by hosting a copy of the AHWA News Digest on your blog or website,
contact Talie to receive a fully formatted HTML edition of the digest by email.