Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Still Detest The Synopsis

But the penny is slowly dropping.

The best bit of advice I've read, which was repeated at a number of sites, was to study the back jacket of already published books. It clearly shows the voice, tense and styles synopsises can be written in. Apparently lots of these 'blurbs' come from, or are inspired by, author written synopsises.

I now have my own method of writing one:

Take my chapter outline - the thing I wrote many months ago as a rough map of where I wanted the story to go - from that I wrote a running summary. My outline is 4 pages long and contains notes on the major turning points, conflicts and any theme type stuff I touch on. My running summary turned that dot point document into 7 pages of flowing story which said the same stuff, only in a more reader-friendly manner.

I then take this summary and take out the major points. As the major characters are always involved in the major points, then they come with it. I then shape that into a readable blurb and add stronger theme and conflict description.

Then polish to the required length. (which is what I'm doing now).

Currently I've gone from a four page outline of 1084 words, to a seven page summary of 2100 words, and I'm now working on a synopsis of 1324 words (which needs to be edited down to 1238 words).

Things I've learned when tackling the dreaded synopsis:

Get over not liking them. Agents/editors want them so you have to do them.

Break down your story slowly. If you haven't written it yet, and haven't got a vague outline, then leave it for now. Once your story is out, then break it down into a chapter summary, and then a single summary, and then the synopsis.

When you're happy with the size, then you can worry about the words and your voice - play until your hearts content and the thing sings.

Don't get rid of any attempts at any of these previously mentioned documents - everything comes in useful.

The synopsis is written in present tense and third person POV - regardless of the choices you have used in the manuscript. A first person, past tense murder mystery, still has a present tense, third person POV synopsis.

Make sure the tone is appropriate to the book you've written. No point writing a biting satirical synopsis if you've written a dark historical romance - for instance.

Don't leave loose ends and don't go into too much detail.

And don't leave the ending in doubt.

See - easy!

Good luck...

A Nicer Inbox

Not wanting to jinx things, I won't name publications or stories in this post.

I received notification that one story has been long listed, and another has been accepted, but I also have an issue.

With the story that's been accepted, it has over a year before it can be published due to a backlog. Do I accept the wait and be happy it's found a home or withdraw it from consideration and see if I can find it a home elsewhere?

I've never been faced with a decision like this before.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Things I Hate

Query letters: although I'm getting the hang of these the more I work at it. In time I think these will just be something else I need to do.

Synopsis: if I write until I'm 103, I will never get the hang of this. I've read all sorts of advice; I'm still trolling through websites looking for a better way.

I need to produce a synopsis of AKL of 3-5 pages in length. Currently my synopsis stands at 7 pages! It doesn't yet include all the Aboriginal flavour I want, it doesn't have all the passion and romance I want, and it doesn't have the plants for the paranormal in the first half of it because I haven't done that yet.

This assignment, and this synopsis in particular - sucks!

And I still have a sample chapter to polish and send with them yet...

I hate, I hate, I hate...

Friday, May 29, 2009


I still make the grade even when I'm being bad...

And that is very sad.

A little while ago, I joined an online writer's group to give me additional impetus to do some work on 'A Kookaburra's Laugh' (AKL). I was a little lost on how things were to operate, but I think I've figured things out. I'm never said I was the sharpest tool in the shed, or should that be sharpest pencil in the case?

Still, the rules state I need to write a minimum 1000 words a month on a declared project. My project is AKL (obviously), and this is my word count. I've only been tracking wordage since December 2008 where I wrote nearly 16,000 words, but I've been keeping a written tally since Feb 09.

Feb - 14135
Mar - 7848
Apr - 6147

And so far in May 09 - 1900. Notice a trend...anyone....?

How sad is that? Two days left in May to add to that miserable target, but at least I still got my minimum done. Yay for small victories. (a very small yay)

In other news:

Some links I couldn't resist sharing with you.

Every writer's friend, Mr JA Konrath, has listed some excellent advice to published writers, but I think getting these things right at any level, published or unpublished, should be a priority.

The irrepressible Janet Reid has a lovely post about the courage of some writers. To be perfectly honest, I couldn't do it.

And lastly, here's a post from Alan Rinzler about POV and a bit on the whole publishing process which I thought was a worthwhile read.

So this weekend, in among shopping for a new secondhand car, I need to seriously complete my second-to-last assignment for this semester, and aim for a couple of chapters drafted in AKL. Oh, and I need to read quite a lot as I'm falling behind (I should probably stop playing with my daughter's DS - it gets quite addictive battling with Pokemon).

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Wamphyri has gone out to Night to Dawn. Worth the Wait has also gone to Festive Fear.

Fingers crossed.

I've also submitted my current draft query to the Query Ninja over at Carrie Harris' blog of awesomeness. Hopefully it's not a total flop and she can use it to instruct others in the ancient art of query balck magic - and I can get it into shape.


On Monday I went into town. While there I had a follow up appointment with the back specialist - I need to seriously start an exercise regime - organise a student ID card - so I can get into Conjecture next month on the cheap - and visit a book shop for some research.

I was very proud of myself for not buying anything, even though I visited three book shops!

I needed to locate where my book, AKL, would sit on the shelf so I could pinpoint the type of book I'm writing in regards to genre, and to help me better describe it when talking about it with other interested parties - you know, agents, publishers, and the like ;c)

It was a bit of an eye-opener.

Is my book historical fiction? Yes. It takes place in colonial Australia back in 1839 with fictional characters in a real time and place, and with real events of the period happening around them.

Is it paranormal? Yes. It involves European superstitions of the time, Aboriginal Dreamtime legends, and a malevolent ghost.

Is it romance? Yes, but not so much. My protagonist falls for one man, who betrays her and later she falls for the right man, but this isn't the main focus of the plot or theme. There is a fair bit of underlying (and mildly graphic) sex and passion which breaches the surface on a regular basis to firmly place it in the adult reading sphere.

Is it literary? Yes. The plot centres around a young woman's struggle to survive in an inhospitable climate and against a male dominated society. So the quintessential coming of age/finding one's place type of story.

So I have a paranormal historical romance novel??? What???!!!

While at the book store, I took note of other historical novels. 'The Potato Factory' by Bryce Courtenay; 'A Kingdom for the Brave' by Tamara McKinley; 'Nindra' by Dianne Holding - just to name a few.

AKL is a little like all of these, but with more. In many instances, that more is the paranormal element. Currently, my story wouldn't have a final Act without the paranormal bits. The first two Acts were written pretty much without any paranormal input (I'm waiting to write the last bit so I can go back and do plants (layering). The first half works without it, but a story isn't a story without an ending (as Aaron has so neatly pointed out here). In other bits, my use of sex is more prominent (re: graphic) than many other historical novels.

So how to define my book succinctly? Carrie Harris, as part of the Query Ninja Project (if you haven't checked this out yet you definitely should), puts some great advice on the table to help with this. Unfortunately, my assignment, which started this round of thinking about query letters, asks me to name the genre my book fits into. Personally I like the idea of painting a picture of the book with enough detail that the genre is fairly obvious to any agent/publisher who reads it, but I can't side-step this assignment requirement.

In my real-world query, I'll paint the picture and let those in the industry, who should be better at it than I am, decide for themselves.

So that leaves me with the assignment. How do I nominate a genre for this book? A hard question as I haven't fully finished writing the first draft, and none of you have read any of it, but any suggestions on how I can narrow this down, at least for the assignment, would be appreciated.

Does anyone else have this difficulty?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Interesting Times

Assignment 6 for the novel writing module went out the door this morning. Last night I commenced work on assignment 7.

This will be interesting and highly beneficial.

I need to create a submissions package to a fictional (at least I think it's fictional), publishing house. Strangely, my course seems to highlight the course of submitting directly to Houses rather than to agents inside Australia. Through my research, this seems bunk advice but then nobody is twisting my arm to follow it so as long as I pass, I don't care. If any other writer taking this course is silly enough not to do their own follow up research then they don't deserve to get on the publishing track anyway. Harsh - yes, but true.

So, last night I began drafting my query letter for AKL. It still needs work and yes I'll be paying a visit to the Ninja Query, but a few things have already hit home. I've managed to get the first paragraph pretty much done as per the guidelines in the assignment. I'm then to move into the spiel about the book, which I've done - and I sat back and thought, gee, it sounds like a pretty interesting book - why doesn't the one I'm writing have all that in it?

In part, this is because I'm still writing it, because it's a first draft, and because I know there are bits I have to go back and add/edit/expand/kill. But overall, it's a little depressing to find I haven't penned the story I imagined so long ago.

Still, I must remember that it is still only the first draft.

After the query is done, I need to write the synopsis. Anyone know where I can find a Synopsis Ninja? And then do a quick polish on the first chapter and submit the lot. Some time this week or early next - joy.

In other news, Wamphyri was rejected again overnight. I need to reread it and closely consider my next move with this one. Anyone think of a paying market for a vampire story (which isn't a YA romance) off the top of their head?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Assignments Everywhere

Well, this weekend didn't go to plan, but then, they very rarely do.

I didn't get to the tiling in the bathroom - again.
I didn't get to do much more than read a single chapter of AKL. No new words - again.
No reading - again.
No acceptances or rejections - again.

I got back marks on two assignments for my script writing and was kind of perplexed. Using the lecturers feedback, I edited a previous assignment and got strange comments back about not liking it - I guess she forgot what she said the first time round. Anyway, I got two C's, completely breaking the run of B's, but it doesn't matter. I couldn't get a distinction and unless I completely fail the final assignment (which would require me to resubmit anyway), any grade will get me a credit. Anything from a pass up will make me happy. So the two returns get a shoulder shrug from me.

I've also finished assignment 6 for the novel writing module. As predicted, I've used the rape scene to show mood and to make life easy for me to explain what emotions I'm trying to elicit from the reader or show through the characters. The good part of this selection is it is the end of Act one, so it shows the lowest of lows for one character and the end of a character arc for another. So I'll print this out sometime tomorrow and send it off.

No work tomorrow. I need to go into to town and get a whole heap of things done. Doctor's follow up, book store visit (I'm going to try and not buy anything), and I'm applying for a student ID card. Now that's funny, a 41 year old bloke with a student ID card, it feels like I'm a 16 year old with a fake ID - nobody will buy it.

Now, it's time for some sleep. I did a heap of overtime at work today, so I'm pretty pooped at looking at computer screens all day.

Speak soon.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Quiet Day

It's been quiet on the writing front yet again today, mainly due to being extremely busy at work. My major project is starting to gain a head of steam and really biting in what free time I once had.

So this evening I've managed only a few things.

I've progressed halfway through reading Issue 5 of NT.
I've critiqued one story for a friend.
Done some edits on Worth the Wait after feedback from others.

This weekend I must:

Finish reading the back catalogue for NT.
Do at least one, preferably two assignments
Send off Worth the Wait

Sunday I'm doing some overtime at work. That could drastically cut into my writing time this weekend - we'll see.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

So Far Behind

In among all my writing and reading, I still scour the web for writing information which sparks a light in me and allows me to move further forward in my journey in mastering the craft. As is my way, I like to share these little bits of priceless information with you, my readers, so you, in turn don't have to search everywhere I've already been.

To this end, I usually post up a link salad, but I haven't been keeping up with the great stuff I read and my posting of those links to you, so this may turn into more of a salad farm.

Lately my stories have been getting edgier. Sex has never been something I've been afraid to write about, but it always had to be a natural progression of the plot rather than gratuitous. There are two posts over at 'The Mystery Man On Film' blog which covers all you'll ever need to know about writing about sex. It is superb advice.

More great advice is still finding it's way to the 'Net via Alex Sokoloff's blog 'The Dark Salon'. She is also about to do some reorganisation to make all this information easier to access. Stay tuned for a book version as well.

As I'm so far behind, how I end up at some of these new places with great, or in some cases, funny, information is lost to the ages. If you follow the blogs on my sidebar, you'll have seen some of this already. If you are responsible for throwing up the links to begin with, then feel free to claim credit for it in the comments section and I'll update it as required.

101 Reasons To Stop Writing is a funny sight and has some great tongue in cheek stuff to brighten your day.

Query Tracker has some great little contests for you to participate in. There's another blog I read at home which has some great info on it which is connected with Query Tracker somehow (I think), but I don't have the link here. I'll update when I get home...

The wonderfully talented Natalie L Sin has been singing the praises of The Funky Werepig blog radio show for sometime, and I finally got around to checking it out. And now, so should you. Very funny and very educational. You'll even hear about others who haunt this area of the blog-o-sphere so you'll feel somewhat intimate as well.

Marty Young, Mr AHWA President himself, has thrown up this post about the upcoming anthology by Tasmaniac Publications titled Festive Fear. Every Australian writer of dark fiction should know about this one by now and should either have submitted, or be just about to (that would be me for the second time), a piece for consideration.

Timely information from super agent Kristen Nelson (yes I plan to send her my manuscript AKL when it's done).

Over at Sex Scenes At Starbucks there is an interesting list of reasons people should be writing short stories you could be interested in. I, I mean, I am! Go read.

This post over at Alan Baxter's blog is just funny and a great example of how you write one thing, but a reader sees something else. It is also a good example that your blog is not just a place to reel off any old thing in any old manner, you are a writer who is presenting their talents every time you use the written word to convey something. A blog is just practise for you - so use it wisely. Personally, I think Alan handles the situation quite well.

With a nod to TestWhimsy (Rebecca) for the link, this is a great article. But it strangely doesn't offer the advice which immediately sprang to my mind on the foot steps of going back to the source (ask Flick - that was my advice to her as well recently). Why wasn't this guy advised to query his manuscripts to other agents? It's obviously not working overly well with his current agent who also seems to have a bleak outlook on his future fortunes. That cannot be a healthy working relationship. I'd be sowing those oats a little wider if I was this chap, or at the very least, having a long chat with his current agent on where they see this current working relationship going.

Well that's enough from me.

Hope some of this is useful.

Another Assignment Done

So far, so good. Most of my prep work for my project is fitting in around me instead of the other way round.

Today, while three servers were being built, I managed to knock off assignment 7 for my script module and assignment 8 was done last week (I'm waiting on the lecturer to catchup again now). So this module is done. Cool! And it looks like another credit in the bag. Double cool!

That leaves me three assignments to do on the novel writing module and about six weeks to do them in, I think.

The 100 worder has been done and tucked away. Necrotic Tissue is closed to subs until July :c(

I figure I'll be able to wrap up this semester, get a good chunk done on AKL, and then worry about a submission for NT when reading opens (or perhaps get cracking on one just before it opens).

So while I wait on these servers. I think some more reading is in order. NT issue 5 anyone?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Joy To The World

Yep - I'm back and just about in the pink. Sleeping Monday and Tuesday away must have done me the world of good - for one thing, I've stopped dripping - that's a good thing, isn't it?

And I've also got a couple of new goals to aim for.

First up, I'm still going to get my assignments done and get this diploma within the minimum four year timeline. Apparently not many do, so I want that.

While doing that, I will finish and submit AKL.

I've also got to finish editing Worth the Wait and submit that (hopefully this week).

And of course I'll continue to write book reviews, which also means I'll continue to read.

But wait, there's more: my two new goals!

I have selected two markets to study, figure out and get published by so I can add their prestigious names to my bio.

What markets, I hear you cry - well, I'm glad you asked.

Jodi Lee, I warned you I was going to take a closer look at New Bedlam, and the other you're already aware of, I'm now targeting Necrotic Tissue.

So to this end, I have a huge amount of reading on plate.

I am already reading through the back issues of Necrotic Tissue. I will be reading the New Bedlam Magazine. I will be reading and reviewing Atrum Tempestas and seven other titles soon to be delivered to my door (I love my job as a reviewer - most of the time).

And that's it.

That's enough, I hear you cry again. Not really. The assignment stuff is one a week, maybe two. I only have 5 left to submit, of which 1 is already done, and the rest should be easy enough (famous last words anyone?).

I've read 4/6 issues of NT - so only two left there. New Bedlam is only one issue so far so that should be quick enough (although it will need a little savouring to get right). Two of my reviews are anthologies, and short stories are always an easy read. Two more are based on Dexter the TV series (I think) so that should have a novelty factor and also be a quick read. And three books with no real deadline although they'll probably be done by the end of July.

Worth the Wait will go out this week, leaving only AKL (again). Sunday evening must be AKL day. I keep getting sidetracked and I need to move forward on this project. It's not that I'm stuck, the outline has been done. It's just waiting for me to fill it in so no more procrastinating.

So, there you go. Out of the depths of despair and illness and into the work load once more.

Now I need to polish up a 100 word story that wouldn't let me sleep last night, but didn't fully form until I woke up this morning.

So what are your short term goals for the next month or two?

AHWA NEWS DIGEST [01.05.09-15.05.09]

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

Sydney Writers' Festival

The 12th Sydney Writers' Festival will be held from Monday 18 to Sunday 24 May, at venues throughout Sydney, Australia. Click through for a quick taste of program strands that may appeal to horror writers and connoisseurs.

DUFF voting to close May 17

Voting for the Down Under Fan Fund will close on May 17 at midnight. You can download a PDF voting form at Jean Weber's DUFF site. The 2009 DUFF Fellowship finalists are Emma Hawkes, Chris Nelson-Lee, Alison Barton, David Cake and Grant Watson.

Emerging Writers' Festival
The Emerging Writers' Festival (EWF) exists to promote the interests of emerging writers - to improve their opportunities for professional development and their engagement with the broader public. The 2009 Emerging Writers Festival will be held in various venues around Melbourne, from May 22 to May 31.

Robert McKee’s Story Seminar
Learn why many writers and filmmakers around the world revere Robert McKee as the greatest story and screenwriting teacher of our time. Story Seminar is being held in Melbourne at The Kino Cinema on Collins Street from June 19 to 21 and in Sydney at The Chauvel Cinema, Paddington from June 26 to 28. The seminar runs for three days from 9am – 8.30pm.

Justina Robson at Parrish's Patch in May
Justina Robson is special guest at the Parrish's Patch forum on the 29th, 30th, 31st of May.

NIDA performance writing short courses
NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Arts) are offering a couple of performance writing short courses as part of their Open Program - Dramatic Writing Short Course and Writing Short Film Scripts Short Course.

Terra Incognita podcast featuring Bill Congreve
TISFPodcast #007 is now available, with Bill Congreve reading his story Souls Along The Meridian, and Keith Stevenson's review of Maria Quinn's The Gene Thieves.

PNAN Youth Arts Festival
The PNAN Youth Arts Festival is dedicated to showcasing the hottest young and emerging talent (aged 16-25 in NSW). PNAN accepts works in three categories: short film, graphic design and creative writing, with the main creative stipulation being that all works feature some reference to drug and alcohol issues.

Continuum Trivia Night

Continuum is proud to present an evening of knowledge both trivial and diverting, on Saturday 30th of May at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow. Prizes will be awarded for correct answers, entering the premises in a lucky fashion, and at the judges' discretion. Please RSVP via the Facebook page, or by email.

Dorchester Publishing opens to email submissions

Dorchester Publishing, publisher of US mass market horror imprint Leisure Books, is now accepting general novel submissions via email. Full submission guidelines are available at the Dorchester Publishing website.

2009 Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction Competition final call
Entries close on 29 May 2009, and writers of all ages are invited to apply. Stories must be between 1500 and 3500 words, with all forms of speculative fiction welcomed. Further information can be found on the Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation website.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth movie deal

Carrie Ryan's YA horror novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth (published by Gollancz UK), is soon to be adapted for the big screen. Alan Nevins of Renaissance Literary & Talent, who brokered the deal on behalf of Jim McCarthy at Dystel Literary, sold the film rights to the book to Seven Star Pictures (K-11, forthcoming).

The Challenge - Name The 'Nameless'
The official announcement of the opening of one of the biggest, most prestigious genre competitions in Australia will soon appear on the AHWA/HorrorScope sites. This story is destined to become a piece of Australian speculative fiction history. If you are game, you will soon have a chance to not only bring this story to a climax, but also to name it.

Midnight Echo seeking graphic art submissions
David Schembri, Art Director for Midnight Echo: The Magazine of the Australian Horror Writers Association, is issuing a call for graphic art submissions. For full details on all submission formats for Midnight Echo, visit

2009 Ditmar Award finalists
The Ditmar sub-committee has released the Australian SF ("Ditmar") Awards finalists for 2009. This ballot honours the best works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror published by Australians in 2008 as nominated by members of Australian fandom. Click through to view finalists in all categories. Voting is open now to members of the 2008 Australian Natcon (Swancon), and 2009 Natcon (Conjecture). Further information on the Ditmar Award can be found here or at the Conjecture website.

Richard Harland's Writing Tips
Award-winning Australian author Richard Harland, best known for his cult novels The Vicar of Morbing Vyle, The Black Crusade, and his latest release, Worldshaker, has compiled an exhaustive list of writing tips for aspiring authors. Harland's labour of love is a 145-page website of tips for fantasy, speculative fiction and genre writers - and its free. Harland says he took four months off from his own fiction writing—“it started out as a small service to the writing community and just kept growing and growing!” The tips are online at

2008 Shirley Jackson Award ballot
The 2008 Shirley Jackson Awards ballot, honouring works of outstanding dark fiction from around the world, was recently announced. Two Australians have been shortlisted this year: Margo Lanagan for her novel Tender Morsels and Julia Leigh for her novella Disquiet. Click through to view finalists in all categories. The Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on Sunday, July 12th 2009, at Readercon 20 in Burlington, Massachusetts, USA. Elizabeth Hand, Readercon Guest of Honour, and author of Generation Loss, which won the 2007 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, will act as host.

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, Brenton Tomlinson, Scott Wilson, and Jeff Ritchie (Scary Minds).

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.

Null & Void

Today may as well not have happened.

I slept for most of it. I managed zero words either read or written. This post is pretty much to just say I'm still alive, barely, and frustrated as hell that I've not been able to get anything done.

And now it's 1 in the morning and I can't sleep, but I can't concentrate on anything long enough to do anything useful either - very frustrating.

Thank you to everyone for the well wishes.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Stepping down from my soapbox...

With thanks to JT and Cate for spreading the virus around to all bloggers. I've spent the last two days battling with disgusting things trying to escape from my body - and I think the major battles are still to come - joy.

Okay, so maybe my daughter had some influence with me becoming sick, but it sounds better to have been transmitted through cyberspace...don't you think?

I did manage to drag my sorry ass to the computer a couple of times and get some work done. Another assignment went out the door last night, and in an effort to find my 750 word piece for another assignment, I started reading the first draft of AKL. Some of this stuff I haven't read for over six months.

Result: I've written some bits quite passively, other bits are a little slow, but I quite like a lot of it. I know I still have to go back and add in the supernatural clues in the early bits, but that will happen once I finish the first draft. I'll then go back and do the layering.

I was able to do some additions as I read through today, but mainly I started a must remember to do list, like researching a type of wildlife, like renaming ships and characters, like finding loose plot points which need tying up that I'd forgotten about, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

I managed to get through the first 11 chapters. Only 12 more to go. I've earmarked a couple of passages which may be useful for the assignment, but I still haven't gotten to the big action scenes I wrote earlier this year. If worse comes to worse and I start running out of time, I can revert to analysing another authors work - I've read some great stuff recently so this would be the easy option. Still, I'd like to be able to use my own.

Even if I wasn't sick, I'd be working from home tomorrow. I have a huge amount of project reading to do and initial plans to draw up for my real job. So some time of an evening is all I'm left to work with on my writing. I am not a morning person. If only I could win lotto - but lets not open up the writing full time argument again...


Regardless of when, how much, or what you write - I wish you all the very best in your writing endeavours.

I Hate Answering Comments

Don't get me wrong, I love it when you comment on things here, but then I go to return that comment and end up writing another huge essay - so I end up deleting the comment and writing a new post instead.

As I was replying to the comments on the last post, this is how far I got before moving everything into this post...

"That's interesting. I may have to do a post on the lack of time required to write a book... (which would be this post)

I'm sorry, but we struggle to find the time to write while we work full time and some of you are saying you'd struggle to be able to write if you didn't work full time? Did I miss something?

Or is this from past experience; some time in the past before you made the current commitment you have to your writing?"

Okay - let me expand (now I have the room). Do you prefer to squeeze your writing time into an already busy schedule? In the past, has copious amounts of time led to thoughts of, I can do that tomorrow?

If you answer yes to questions like that, then you're not kidding yourself, so much as not doing yourself or your writing justice.

If you get the chance to write full time and pass that up because you think you wouldn't be disciplined enough, then writing is a hobby and may never become more than that. Harsh? You know me... (lets just call a spade a spade and move on).

Writing is a job just like any other. If you're a self employed tradeperson, are you saying you wouldn't be any good because you couldn't get up in the morning, and go out to do the jobs you have scheduled for that day? Of course not. If you must go out the door to work, whether it's for yourself or "The Man", then you do, because bills have to be paid, and your chosen way of life needs to be maintained.

Why do you think writing would be any different?

If you earn enough to write full time, and choose to procrastinate the time away doing other stuff, then writing is a hobby. If you procrastinated while you worked in an office, how long do you think it would be before you'd get into trouble? If you procrastinated while you worked for yourself as a tradeperson, how long before you stopped getting jobs?

Writing is the same thing. It takes discipline and a schedule. You are given a deadline and you must work within it. You must know your own limitations so you plan to meet that deadline taking those limitations into account. And then just put bum in chair (or other favourite writing place) and get to work.

While you have a full time job, you have the perfect excuse for dragging a writing project out, especially if you are writing on spec - i.e. you don't have an agent or a contract in place. Hell, no one is paying you to do this, so get to it when you can - understandable.

But now is the time to put in place the discipline you need for when you are a full time writer.

Everyone who writes, finds some time of the day works better for them. Night owls, early birds, or those who need to write in the middle of the day. Different strokes for different folks - all good. So if that works for you when you're working full time, why would you change it when you write full time? Answer - you wouldn't.

But now you have more time to devote to your writing. So spend the normal time you write, doing that. Spend a few extra hours, improving your writing, paying forward, or researching. Do something related to your writing.

If you have the wonderful opportunity to write full time, now that you have decided writing is what you want to do as a vocation rather than as a hobby, then don't take it for granted.

For the rest of us still struggling to get there, now is the time to learn the discipline we will need once we finally arrive.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Slowing Down Of Book Deals

Everyone's heard about how bad things are getting in the publishing industry and how clouded the future is due to the growth of electronic publishing.

I get the free version of the Publishers Lunch. If I get to a point where I'm selling to good markets regularly and/or have a book deal on the table, I'll subscribe to the full version in a snap. But the the free version does give you some interesting information.

The amount of deals being reported does not seem to be going down. Almost daily there are 30 or more deals done in the industry. Of course these are over the entire industry so include, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, etc, etc, but 30 new book deals a day adds up. What it means in a nutshell is that publishing houses are still buying books.

The free version also lists a legend in regards to the type of deals:

nice deal" $1 - $49,000"
very nice deal" $50,000 - $99,000"
good deal" $100,000 - $250,000"
significant deal" $251,000 - $499,000"
major deal" $500,000 and up "

Hands up everyone who wants a major deal? Hands up anyone who wants any kind of deal? Okay, everyone, put both hands down. Cate, Carrie, and KC, get off the table. Getting your hands higher into the air won't help. Nat, I said hands, not feet.

Now, go have a look over at Janet Reid's recent deals that she has posted on her blog. Take careful note of the wording. Many state "in a nice deal" which tells us most deals are in the first category. You can stop dreaming about those in the "significant deal" section (for now).

I'm guessing for most people, getting a deal in the upper reaches of a "nice deal" would be equivalent to a year's wage (remember it's listed in US dollars). If this happened to you, would you be able to give up the current day job for 12 months, do the promotional stuff for the first book, and write the second book? Remember you only have a few months to write the second book this time, not the years you've had so far to pen the first book. After a few months it has to go to the editor, come back for revisions, and back , and more revisions, etc, etc, and then to the publishers, find a cover image, etc, etc, and then comes all the promo stuff for the second book while you're still trying to earn out the advance on the first one. Rinse and repeat for every year to come.

Oh the joy of the publishing industry - who wouldn't want to be a writer? No hands? Good.

So, if you are fully aware of what lies ahead, all the hard work yet to come, which will make the work you've put into your current manuscript look more like a picnic, then be assured that agents and publishers will still buy an excellent book.

Put in the time, put in the effort. Produce the very best work you possibly can. Polish it till it shines. Use feedback and crit groups and any and every other tool at your disposal. And maybe, just maybe, you'll get there.

Worry about the things you can control.

And good luck!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stop Everything

Go and read this.

I couldn't have put it better myself although I will add two little bits of information:

I am an Arial reader through and through. I just prefer the bigger font and cleaner letters.

When you submit your manuscript, unless otherwise instructed, use Times New Roman - you can fit more onto a page and many agents ask for the first 50 pages - and you really do want to get as much in front of them as possible to begin with.

Now if you haven't already, go read the linked post.

Aurealis Submissions

The Aurealis guideline page for submissions is here.

I direct everyone who is intending to submit to this market to read the following sections very closely:

Please use standard Australian punctuation and spelling for your submissions.

Please include at the front of your story a cover page with the author's name, email address, postal address, phone and fax numbers, the title of the story and the word length. All manuscripts should be double-spaced with broad margins and numbered pages, and printed in 12 pt font.

See, we even say 'please' - twice!

Now, I understand that changing format is very simple. I do it all the time, but you are trying to be a professional writer and present a professional submission. How do you think an editor, or even a slush reader, is going to feel when the first thing they notice is your inability to follow the simplest of instructions?

I'll tell you how I feel - I feel you already have a black mark against your submission, and therefore, I am beginning to read with a negative frame of mind. Your story had better be brilliant to overcome that or better luck next time.

Honestly, people - is it that hard to conform to a set of guidelines?

Good Boy

Today was a good day, and very indicative of why I'd love to be a full time writer.

To begin with, my little girl is on the mend. A day of rest seems to have done her the world of good.

I promised to get some assignment work done today, so after we returned from the doctor's office, I got my little one some lunch, set her up in front of the fire and the TV with her quilt in place, and got stuck in.

The results:

Script Writing Module
Assignment 6 - draft 90% complete. Just need to reduce a four page treatment to a three page treatment. Not sure what a treatment is? Think synopsis with more focus on characters emotions and motivations - and just as hard to write. I've manged to write a one page synopsis and a one line synopsis.
Assignment 7 - draft 50% done. I needed to take my painstakingly written six page script (remember that one), transfer it from the script writing software to a MS Word document in preparation for editing. Of course it lost all the formatting so I had to fluff around with that. It is now ready to be redone, this time with no length limitations so it can be done properly. I also need to take into account the lecturers comments on the six page script and incorporate them (brownie points).
Assignment 8 - final 100% complete. I found I could not write the synopsis and treatment without writing the actual script - so I did. Of course I can't write a script without first having the story written out in prose form, but I was lucky there. This is all based on a story I already had. Cool.

Novel Writing Module

Assignment 6, 7, 8
I've read all the assignment requirements and I'm now gathering them together.

For assignment 6 I need to present a 750 word extract from AKL which will provoke a strong emotional response from readers - the rape scene should do that. I then have to provide an excerpt from someone elses novel which has a specific mood and discuss that in less than 250 words. That should be simple. I've been using Alexandra Sokoloff's 'The Harrowing' for this purpose to this point. I already know which section I'll be providing.

For assignment 7 I need to produce a submission package for a fictitious publishing house. This I haven't looked into yet, but it could be a challenge.

For assignment 8 I need to produce critical feedback from three people on at least a sample chapter of AKL. It also states it should include feedback on any other sections I've already written as well, but as I'm over halfway, I wouldn't expect someone to go to that length over a week or ten days that they'll have to critique it. I also need to provide self analysis and what my future intentions with the WIP is to be - the last two bits won't be difficult.

So that's where I got to with today's work. I imagine I should have all my assignment work completed by June or very soon there after. Now i just need to do some work on a couple of sample chapters to bring AKL up to scratch.

Tonight I'm doing some overdue slush reading.

Here's hoping you had a productive day with your writing endeavours as well.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Promise

Tonight I finished editing Worth The Wait and critiqued two pieces for other people on two different continents.

I didn't get to any assignment work. little one has come down with another cold. So tomorrow I will be home again to care for her. Apart from a trip to the doctors to gain nothing more than a confirmation that he can't do anything for her except recommend rest, and gain a certificate to cover me for a day off work to care for her, I shall get some assignment work done then - promise!

Now it's time for bed.

Still no news on the submission's front, but I did finally get paid for those acceptances in that British anthology - you know, 'the naughty one' - very lucrative (the exchange rate between the UK and Australia is very nice). Tomorrow I just might have to do some shopping at Amazon as a reward. More books to read - cool. :c)

Night Off

Last night was one of those strange beasties who only come along once in a very long while. I didn't get on the home computer. Yep, I did nothing related to writing at all - not even reading.

I spread out on the bed and watched a couple of episodes of Top Gear, and a double episode of The Tudors. I then watched Fragile with my wife - so I guess you could say I did a little research by watching a horror flick - and pulling it apart as we went. (Not a bad flick, but the best part was the acting of the young girl who plays Maggie. Her facial expressions are amazing to watch and totally believable, which is amazing in itself for one so young)

This morning I found a response from my six page script. After all that struggling, guess what grade it got? Yep, another B. I've submitted 10 assignments this semester. The latest is still out. Of the nine returned, I've received one A and eight Bs. Consistent...

Today, I started work on editing 'Worth The Wait' - and quite like where this is going. Only a few tweaks here and there and she'll be ready for others to see. Strangely while working on this, I suddenly realised I had a plot hole in Spoilt Rotten that nobody else has picked up on yet. I don't have my USB key with me so I'll fix it when I get home.

I have parent/teacher interviews with the lad's teachers tonight - that will be an interesting exercise.

After that, I need to start on another assignment and get that out before the end of the week.

Saturday, I'm hoping to fit in some work on AKL - around the tiling which needs to be finished this weekend. At l;east I don't have any new short stories kicking the inside of my head at the moment.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Hear that - that was me falling off the wagon. Yep, already.

Today started off badly at work with me arguing with the boss. It put me in a bad mood straight off the bat. I got a bit of normal work done, but not a lot.

So I started writing. I had nothing in mind, just a scene really. I started writing and a character showed up, and then another, and then my ghost (well, sort of a ghost - maybe a ghost with a twist).

2380 words later, and many minor revisions, and careful pondering over sentence structure and word usage (yep, I'm getting to this point earlier and earlier in my drafts - very cool), I've sent it off to my guru for grammar correction and overall comments. And guess what it's called? Go on, guess - no idea?

Worth The Wait.

How apt is that! The struggling for it to come out had nothing to do with the title. In fact it went through all the revisions before I gave it a name. I sat and thought about what its central question was and BINGO - it fits.

I'm glad that's finally out of my head. Now maybe I can get on with my assignment work.

52 Stitches

Okay, most would think a recommendation from a fellow inclusion in any anthology may be a little on the biased side. This is not one of those times.

All of the stories I've read so far in 52 Stitches have been worth the read. Some have been downright disturbing. But if this week's story is any indication of what's to come, then I wait in growing anticipation.

Mother's Love by L. R. Bonehill is outstanding. I could go on, but there is no need. I have provided you with a link, go read it for yourself.

And do yourself a favour and read those that came before it. If dark is your preference, then you're sure to find something to your liking. Make sure to bookmark the site and visit every week for a top up.


I really don't like my job, and if it didn't pay so well I'd be out of here in a shot.

But this made me smile. For those of you who don't want to click the link, this is the picture I'm talking about:

How true it is...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Another Assignment Done

Assignment 5 for my module concerning my AKL manuscript has been done and will go into the mail tomorrow morning.

This week I also intend on doing one or two more assignments so I can get back in front on that side of things. Two months ago, I was so far ahead it was scary, so I allowed myself some time to just veg and let other students catch up. It's taken me another two weeks to get back on track and into the flow.

I have six assignments in total left for this semester. That's both modules combined. I think I have about seven weeks left to submit them in. I hate running things close to deadline so it's time to put in a burst.

I still haven't done anything about a new short story - although it's not for the lack of trying on my brain's behalf. I still have this nagging thought about the Festive of Fear anthology. I've been given a lead and now my brain keeps throwing up possible ideas. So far, they've all been so much crap. Little more than offal to mulch the garden with. But I've been in this situation before. When I was trying to think of something for The Blackness Within Anthology. I was also in this situation with this year's AHWA flash and short story competitions, and again with this year's PARSEC competition. I struggled for weeks with half baked ideas while I churned out some 20,000 words on AKL. I'd posted that I wasn't going to enter as nothing was coming to mind.

And then bang, bang, bang! I wrote three short stories in a week or two. And then a few weeks later, the idea for God's Piscatorial Church jumped up as I watched my computer power up at work.

I'm half hoping nothing comes up in the next two months for Festive Fear, but you just know something will.

What is your best non-writing related exercise which will almost guarantee you a new idea for a short story? Walking, hiking, fishing, driving, yoga, sex - inquiring minds want to know...


Well knock me over with a feather:

HorrorScope has published the finalist in the Ditmar nominations for this year and among all the regular Australian genre icons, there are two names you should all recognise.

Me, and Ms Felicity Dowker.

I'm stoked just to make the nominations - hell, I was stoked just be put forward originally.

I'd like to particularly congratulate all the nominees who are, or have been, involved with HorrorScope and Black. I expect Chuck to run away with the section I've been nominated for, but I have my fingers crossed for Flick. She is an amazing new talent. I also have my toes crossed for all the other nominees I know and work with. Not everyone can win one of these, but the honour is in being nominated for the final ballot - congratulations to everyone.

For more information on the awards and how they are voted for, check out the Conjecture 2009 website. I hope they release the program of events soon so I can organise my schedule. It's in Adelaide this year so I'm keen to attend my first genre specific convention - cool.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Sad Day

Tonight I opened up my folder of current work and found it needed some organisation. So I created a new folder titled 'Submitted Stories' and moved everything that is currently out in the market place into it.

That didn't leave a lot in my WIP folder. In fact it left a manuscript currently titled Voodoo of which I've only written the first two chapters, and may or may not ever return to. It left the AKL folder. My paranormal YA romance outline. Two old stories I was always intending on revising. One story I wrote as an assignment but thought it might be able to find a home. And Spoilt Rotten sitting in the corner acting, well, spoilt!

I opened up one of the old stories and got down to editing. I managed to get to the end of the third page before I threw my hands in the air in disgrace. Did I really write this rubbish? And did I really make so many mistakes? I mean, who finishes a dialogue sentence with a comma - and no tag after it? Did I really think there was something wrong with full stops when used inside quote marks?

I really did know absolutely nothing.

So I retired those two stories (EULA & Confused Love) to the archives. On top of them I placed my rose-coloured glasses. I always thought I'd find a market for EULA, but now I realise the story wasn't any good, the idea is, but the story isn't, so one day I still may sell the concept in another story.

I returned to my current work folder - Spoilt Rotten wasn't even looking at me anymore. AKL. Voodoo. YA outline. And Mr Gregory's Goods & Groceries (MGGG), the assignment story. MGGG is only a smidgen under 1200 words so I did a quick edit. I added a bit of narration, tidied up a couple of things and surfed over to Duotrope (I love having my net connection back). I found a mainstream exposure market which was accepting things of this nature, and sent it out.

Back to the current work folder. Only AKL, YA outline, Voodoo, and the brat left.

A quick switch over to my market list at AHWA for a dark market. Spoilt Rotten has been released once more - after a quick edit where I changed a minor point highlighted by Steve down at Tasmaniac Publications (thanks Steve).

Now I'm left with only Voodoo, YA outline, and AKL!

I don't have a single short story in the works. I have a couple of good ideas, but I've jotted those down in my ideas file and left them there. There has been no first drafts or outlines or anything else done on the shorts front. And I still don't have a new idea for the Festive Fear antho :c(

I've already said Voodoo is probably living on borrowed time.

That leaves AKL, the YA outline, and my diploma work.

How's that for clearing the decks?

A little sad about retiring works, and also sad that my WIP folder is just about empty, but I refuse to dwell on things. I shall take this as an opportunity to push ahead and complete this semester's assignments and get a huge amount of work done on AKL. The YA thing has to wait.

Let's see how long the ideas folder stays shut...Time starts now!


Sorry Aaron.

I've got bunch of unrelated things to talk about and didn't have any other all-encompassing title at hand.

Firstly, I had an email from a writer requesting some help, but it was sent to my GMail account. I'm guessing they found this email account on my website. If you send me an email, particularly to the GMail account, please leave a note in the comments somewhere on this blog just to alert me to its presence. I don't check it as often as I do other email accounts and so sometimes they go without answer for a long period of time. This makes me feel really bad and terribly guilty - two feelings I really don't like. I promise if I answer your GMail directed enquiry, I'll do it from my personal email account which I check much more often and then you'll have a direct line to me. I've set things up to rectify the time between checking this account, but Murphy states things will intercede and I will still miss the occasional missive. By all means send the email, but please leave a comment telling me about it.

Second, the group is going ahead. It's called Emerging Writers. It is exclusive and by invitation only so the membership will not be published. Please do not ask to be involved as membership will be decided on by the members. If you feel aggrieved about not receiving an invitation, then please keep it to yourself - see above comments on me feeling bad and guilty. These groups do not work if they are too large or try to encompass to wide a field. I'm sure you are a wonderful writer in the making. Maybe you are currently under discussion as a possible member...

If you receive an invitation, then consider yourself a highly sought after individual and take pride in your inclusion. This is an evolving entity, still in its formative phases so hiccups will occur. People will come and go. The best way to get yourself noticed by the current members is to interact on the blogs I haunt (see the sidebar) (and comment here of course), and continue to work on your writing. You will need to gather writing credits to be considered, and those credits need to be available to the members to read so they can be overwhelmed with your greatness and compelled to put your name forward for invitation. As I indicated, additional members are currently being discussed.

Third, my home Internet connection died late last night, and it was still inoperative this morning. Work does not allow me to access web-based email. Work has also decided to cut off my access to the Emerging Writers Google group just this minute (while I was in the process of doing admin type stuff!). Once I leave work, I'm effectively cut off from everyone I interact with through cyberspace. Not happy, but if you haven't heard from me over the next couple of days, this is why.

So that's it.

This weekend is Mother's Day here in Oz, so I'll take this opportunity to wish all the mothers out there a very happy day. To my own mother, I send you all my love and thank you for everything you've ever done for me.

To my wife, I love you with all my heart and soul. To put up with me and the kids for as long as you have, and still provide the love and security to our family that you do, is a precious thing that the kids and I value immensely, and don't acknowledge anywhere nearly enough.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

AKL Update

I think I've posted enough today so this is just a quick one. I managed to do some work on AKL. Some of it is okay, some of it I can already see will need work, but that's fine. The bits requiring work are only narrative to move the story forward - all the really important other bits are there.
The result is another 1900 words added and another chapter completed. This is a bit of a cheat as I'd begun chapter 23 when I was last on my role with this project. Still, a finished chapter is a finished chapter. What's more, this chapter marks the end of my midpoint crisis. Things will just continue to escalate from here, and the supernatural influence will stop being subtle and start to seriously take over. Cool.

Highs & Lows

Today I received an assignment back from Kirsty Brooks, my lecturer for the module concerning my AKL manuscript. So far this year, every assignment (in both modules) has gathered a B grade. Today, my assignment reached an A.

It contained excerpts from AKL which got very positive feedback, so I was over the moon.

Time to get to work and knock off the remaining assignments for this semester.

In other news, I received a rejection back for Spoilt Rotten - but a nice rejection. Apparently the editor has had few in a similar vein. He did remark that it was well written, but I'm guessing it wasn't the best of a large bunch (my assumption, not his). With two months to go before deadline, I do have a lead on another story, but I'm guessing I won't be the only one with that lead either...and I don't want to write a new short right now.

I've finished plumbing the new vanity unit and the silicon has firmly attached the top to the carcass. Only some tiling and painting left to go in the bathroom - two jobs I don't particularly enjoy. Still, renovations are moving forward which is a good thing.

My day job has started to seriously ramp up. Two projects I've been after for years have been approved within a day of each other. Today I had the pleasure of spending tens of thousands of someone else's money. Next week begins probably a solid three months of work.

The bad point here is the influx of projects will completely kill my writing time at work. This will, in turn, increase my need for writing time at home, meaning less time for anything else. That won't fly, and I don't blame my wife or kids for not allowing it. I can be obsessive with my writing to the point of spending six hours a night, every night, at the keyboard.

So, there will be less writing done over the coming months as life gets in the way. That's okay. I know what's coming so I'm prepared for it.

I have no new stories currently under way. I do have a couple outlined and sitting on the sidelines waving at me, and there's the lead to replace Spoilt Rotten, but I refuse to commence work on them (currently). The Salisbury Writers Festival and associated competition is fast approaching as well, but it looks like I'll be missing it this year - the contest that is, not sure about the festival - have to wait and see what the program has in it.

I need to concentrate on assignments and AKL. My initial deadline for AKL was the end of next month - 7 weeks away. I'm approximately 48,000 words short of finishing it. It's NaNoWriMo over two months instead of one, but I know I won't make it - but I will get close.

Starting now...

A Google Group

In the past month or so many of the writers I know have been on the hunt for beta readers. Many of them read for me or I read for them.

I'm thinking of creating a private Google Group to make this exchange of work an easier thing. But it will need rules and limits on what can happen there and who can join.

To begin with (and for the foreseeable future), it will be by invitation only. If you read this blog but do not receive an invite, please don't be offended. Being another person's beta reader requires an amount of trust to have been built up between the two people involved. An occasional comment, a small similarity in likes and dislikes, does not great trust build. Work with the writers who haunt this blog, comment on their blogs (and this one), prove yourself to be a competent writer by getting pieces published - build yourself up, do some networking.

This group will be exclusive. It will begin with five members and move forward from there.

It will be informal. I suggest members will be able to throw up a file for others to view and comment on with a week or two deadline attached. Obviously larger works will require negotiation. Participation will be loosely monitored. If one member is taking advantage of the others by having his/her work commented on, but not reciprocating, they will be politely cut off at the knees - but I don't expect this to be an issue because I'll only be inviting those I trust to do the right thing. And we won't be throwing 5 pieces up to begin with and expecting everyone to comment within a week - and then do it all again the following week. Informal would mean relaxed and conducive to creativity and freedom. This is to be a tool to help the process, not become a burden.

I'll be looking for a core group of 5 members. Preferably a mix of males and females who will act as the central committee. Once selected, they will be responsible for suggesting and voting on further invitations being sent out to new members. This will not be a democracy however. In the end, I'll have final veto so if you're not happy - blame me.

I'm hoping it will have an email list attached so we can easily contact each other. God knows what else. I'll be learning this as I go.

So without jumping up and down with your hand raised asking if you can join, what do you think? No point in asking for membership as I'll be sending out emails to those who I want on the first core group this evening (I don't have the email addresses with me at work).

The group will be called "EmergingWriters"


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

Dymocks Southland Bestselling Horror Titles for April ‘09
Dymocks Southland is a general bookshop in Cheltenham, Victoria, boasting an extensive range of genre stock. Click through for the top 10 bestselling horror titles for April 2009. Dymocks Southland also publishes Dymensions, a monthly SF, fantasy and horror newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Voiceworks magazine call for submissions
The new editor of Voiceworks magazine has issued the following call for submissions: "We're looking for fiction, poetry, nonfiction and visual art by the 17th of May." Visit HorrorScope for EdComm's musings on the POSTSCRIPT theme, or go to the How to Submit page on the Express Media website for guidelines.

The Bullsheet #86
The Australian Science Fiction Bullsheet #86, May 2009 edition is now available. This issue details various publishing news, and an overview of upcoming writing, speculative fiction and fan events.

Leigh Blackmore reading at Live Poets

Leigh Blackmore, highly respected Australian author of horror, weird and occult writing, will be appearing as special guest at the Live Poetry night at Don Bank in Sydney on Wednesday, May 27, 2009. Leigh will be reading poems from his recent collection Spores from Sharnoth and Other Madnesses, and will be featured in a panel discussion with publisher Danny Lovecraft (P'rea Press) and convenor Danny Gardner. The night also features an open mic session, which will include fantasy novelist Margi Curtis. Click through for venue and admission details.

Eclecticism #8

Issue 8 of the quarterly e-zine Eclecticism is OUT NOW. With a theme of 'Conspiracy' - plus an open section - the zine may be downloaded for FREE from the website! Snap up five works of short fiction, three works of poetry, and three art works from the following talented creatives: Dianne Dean, Jacqui Dent, Stefan Fergueca, Emma Furness, Alice Godwin, Clyde Grauke, Nicholas Messenger, Melissa Mercado, Keith Nunes, Peter Tonkin - and the Featured Artist, Demitasse-Lover.

Scary Kisses anthology
Do your kisses have bite? What mischief are the vampires, werewolves, and mummies getting up to now? Romance may be dead, but it’s still walking… Western Australian publisher Ticonderoga Publications has announced the reading period is now open for their new paranormal romance anthology, Scary Kisses, edited by Liz Grzyb (with Russell B. Farr). Seeking your best stories in the paranormal romance vein; submissions with romantic and paranormal or speculative elements. Click through for Submission Guidelines.

SpecFic Course at Olvar Wood Writers' Retreat

Olvar Wood Writers' Retreat is running a speculative fiction course starting 6 July 2009. Taught by award-wining author Nike Bourke, the course is designed for those wanting to develop novel-length speculative fiction work. The course runs 6 July – 14 August. For more information, visit the course website.

A Night Of Horror 2009 Festival Award Winners
A Night Of Horror International Film Festival have announced the winners of the 2009 Festival Awards. For Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay... check out the best of the fest!

'Stephen King: The Non-Fiction'
Australian Horror Writers' Association member Rocky Wood is pleased to announce his new book, Stephen King: The Non-Fiction, is now shipping from Cemetery Dance. The book is co-authored with Justin Brooks. Covering all King's published and known unpublished works from 1959 to mid-2006, Stephen King: The Non-Fiction reveals for the first time dozens of pieces of non-fiction and their appearances that were previously unknown to King researchers. If you've ever wanted to know more about King's amazing and often controversial non-fiction, this is the reference work you must have.

Kim Westwood reading on Terra Incognita podcast
Author Kim Westwood is currently featured on the Terra Incognita Australian Speculative Fiction podcast, reading her story ‘Nightship’. The podcast is presented by Keith Stevenson, and brought to you by Coeur de Lion books.

Call for articles for Aussiecon 4 blog
The following call for non-fiction submissions has been issued by the Aussiecon 4 team: We here at Aussiecon 4 want to make the blog an interesting, fun and informative place for people to come to. To that end, we're looking for articles to post on the blog. What we're looking for are articles that speak to Worldcons, Aussiecons in particular, our Guests of Honour (Kim Stanley Robinson, Shaun Tan and Robin Johnson) and Australian science fiction. For possible topics and submission details, read on...

Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Vol3 on sale
This anthology is the third installment in the annual dark fiction anthology edited by Angela Challis and published by Brimstone Press. Featuring stories by David Conyers, Sean Williams, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Miranda Siemienowicz, Jason Nahrung, Joanne Anderton, Stephanie Campisi, Martin Livings, Gary Kemble, Richard Harland, Marty Young, and Matthew Chrulew - plus a Ditmar Award winning story from Rick Kennett, and Aurealis Award winning writing from Anna Tambour and Deborah Biancotti! ADFH3 also contains a comprehensive summary of dark fiction in Australia and appendices on dark fiction resources and the major genre fiction awards in Australia. Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Volume 3 can be purchased from (or ordered through) Dymocks stores and most independents, Indie Books Online, or directly from the Brimstone Press website.

Anomalous Appetites anthology

New Zealand publisher Preshrunk Press has released its horror and science fiction poetry anthology Anomalous Appetites. Of the anthology, editor John Irvine says: "For those readers who like their horror and sci-fi sautéed slowly with garlic and served up on fine china, then this anthology is for you. Do not expect axe hacking, explosions, bug eyed monsters or crudeness. Do expect fine and subtle poetry augmented by exquisite art … This is a collector’s anthology, created for those who are a little more discerning in their speculative tastes. We offer two hundred and nine pages of the best speculative poetry and art you will ever see from poets and artists from all corners of this creative planet." Anomalous Appetites can be ordered from Lulu.

Studies in Australian Weird Fiction Issue #3

With the third installment of Studies in Australian Weird Fiction (SiAWF), the critical journal of Australian horror and weird fiction, the journal continues to deliver in-depth essays, articles, and symposium debates, and is an invaluable reference on Australian writers of the dark and weird. Articles in issue #3 range from studies on the works of William Sylvester Walker, L. Furze-Morrish and J. Filmore Sherry to John Brosnan, poet Hugh McCrae, and musician Nick Cave. SiAWF also has interviews with Kim Wilkins, Margo Lanagan, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Cat Sparks, Neil Cladingboel, Lyn Battersby, Graeme Flanagan, and outgoing editor Benjamin Szumskyj, as well as an insightful study of Australian horror films by Robert Hood. Copies can be ordered from Equilibrium Books.

Semaphore Magazine
Semaphore Magazine is a speculative fiction publication from New Zealand founded in December 2007 that is open to submissions of dark fiction from writers Down Under. Editor-in-Chief Marie Hodgkinson says: "We do not publish works with explicit violent or sexual content - instead, we want suspense, atmosphere, brilliant storytelling, and the sort of writing that lets those breakable young minds imagine their own fascinating terrors without having it spelled out for them." Further information on the magazine is available at the Semaphore website.

2009 Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction Awards

Entries are now being accepted for the 2009 Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction Awards, an annual writing contest hosted by Perth's KSP Writers Centre. Entries close on 29 May 2009 and writers of all ages are invited to submit their work. Stories must be between 1500 and 3500 words, and all forms of speculative fiction are welcome. Further information is available from the KSP website.

Kaaron Warren joins Angry Robot
Fiji-based Australian dark fiction author Kaaron Warren is among the first authors to be published by HarperCollins UK's edgy new SF/F/Horror imprint Angry Robot. Kaaron's award-winning short fiction has appeared in Year’s Best Horror & Fantasy, the Poe and Haunted Legends anthologies, Fantasy magazine, Paper Cities, and many other venues in the US, Europe and Australia. Her short story “A Positive” has been made into a short film called Patience, and her first ever published short story “White Bed” was dramatised for the stage in Australia. Her novel Slights (the first of three novels to be published by Angry Robot) is to be published on June 26 (UK) and September 1 (Australia, USA, Canada, and elsewhere).

2009 Bram Stoker Award finalists
The finalists for the 2009 Bram Stoker Awards, issued by the international Horror Writers Association to celebrate superior achievement in horror fiction, have been announced. Click through for the gory details.

2008 Australian Shadows Award winner

Lee Battersby's novelette "The Claws of Native Ghosts" (The Beast Within, ed. Matt Hults) has won the 2008 Australian Shadows Award. The Australian Shadows Award is the pinnacle award for horror fiction in Australia. The award was established in 2005 by Altair Australia on behalf of the Australian Horror Writers Association. The judges reports are here and an interview with Battersby has been posted on ABC's Articulate.

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, Brenton Tomlinson, Scott Wilson, and Jeff Ritchie (Scary Minds).

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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Short Story Submission Paths

It all depends on knowing where you're at.

In mid 2007, I was working with another writer in trying to improve what I was doing. When it came to submitting my work, I created a submission pathway for each story. I'd browse the market lists my friend and I had cobbled together (I didn't know about Duotrope or Ralan at this point), and carefully select where I thought the story would fit. I would then arrange them in order of highest paying to exposure, and send the story out from top to bottom.

Many people do it this way. Personally, I think it is wrong for most people.

New writers, or those with little or no credits will be more likely to win lotto than to gain a high paying acceptance. Now there are exceptions to every rule, but the majority of us will be extremely lucky to gain a semi pro acceptance straight off the bat. Most will play in the exposure markets to begin with - which makes sense. New writers need to make themselves known, i.e. they need to gain exposure; get their work out there - hence the need for exposure markets.

Rejections hurt. Rejections to a new writer can hurt deeply. It takes time to toughen up the skin to accept that this world of writing is difficult. Why start by sending work to markets which will almost guarantee the start of your rejection slip pile?

Baby steps are required.

You still need to do your homework on suitable markets. You still need to read a few editions to see if:

a) they are the right type of market for your type of story and
b) they aren't just publishing any old rot which would decrease the value of your shiny new writing credit.

But let's go back to my original sentence: It all depends on knowing where you're at.

If you're like me and have been submitting for a while, then you may have been lucky enough to have gathered a few credits. The rejections you do attract are becoming more personal, editors are suggesting ways to tweak stories to get a better result rather than just sending back a form rejection. You're starting to make shortlists. When you read an issue of a market you've been accepted into, you're left a little disappointed at the quality of other acceptances and wonder if yours is as under polished as the others. Or have they accepted your piece because you could have sold it to a higher paying market and inclusion in an exposure market makes them look better?

You become like this because you're becoming a better writer. Your attention to detail and constant striving to improve and learn in the craft is paying off. You have a few, or lots, or one, exposure level writing credit, feel comfortable with your current writing voice, and are now ready for a new challenge. If you can say yes to every single point mentioned above (personalised rejections, shortlists, critical reading of conquered markets, writing credits, etc), then it's time to move up.

Do some more market research, but this time you're looking at paying and semi-pro markets. Personally, at this point, I think you should look at single payment markets. These pay a set amount on acceptance: $5, $10, $25 - that type of thing. You can also include markets which pay 1-2c per word.

Do the same as you did with the exposure markets. Read your targets, get a feel for them. Do not start sending work which has been doing the rounds at the exposure level to this new level. We're not trying to gather additional rejections as if they are a badge of honour. They aren't. They are part of the process but not what you want to make a habit out of. The idea here is to improve.

Also in this new range is most anthology markets. A few of these listed in the writing credits look good, but you must target worthwhile anthologies. Lots of people throw together collections based on a theme, but it's who you share the table of contents (TOC) with, and what the reputation of the editor/publisher is.

And so you start submitting to this new level. If stories come back and you've exhausted the current batch of paying markets, sub the piece to the better exposure markets or an anthology. Always keep work circulating to new and exciting places. Only revise if editorial comments return with which you agree will make the piece stronger. It is now I would start seriously considering high profile competitions as a viable place to target.

As you gather better writing credits, you will begin to move up in the pay scale. This can happen quite quickly for some, but remember that each writers journey is different, but once you begin to get acceptances in paying markets, as often as you once did in exposure markets, you will be able to move up again. Rinse and repeat at each level of the market. You will continue to improve and acceptances will come quicker.

Professional level markets, those paying 5c/word or higher, are a tough and competitive place to play. I know writers who make a full time living from writing who still gather rejections from professional markets regularly. Writing short stories is never going to pay the mortgage. It is a side income, some play money, and place to practise your story telling ability.

Good luck!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thank You

With everyone offering suggestions, getting work published so I had new and cool stuff to read, and putting up inspiring posts or interesting stuff on their blog - it was only a matter of time before I hit the right combination of inspiration and perspiration - and found my six page script.

Yep - it's done!

It shall be sent off tonight.

And it's only Monday. So much for that week long goal ;c)

What's next...


This post over at Aaron's blog got me thinking.

On my sporadically updated website I list my goals and occasionally go over and update them. These don't vary during the year so I can try and keep some sort of coherent direction in what I'm attempting to do.

I do this because I once-upon-a-time changed my goals on a whim more often than a streetwalker would change underwear.

But I think Aaron has hit the nail on the head with the patience call. In this day and age, we are all used to things zipping by at break neck speed. Instant gratification. Short term gains. I sit down and write something; in hours (sometimes days) it's winging its way across the world to my beta readers. Soon after that it's hitting the markets. And then nothing for weeks - sometimes months.

It's taken me two and a half years to get to the point where I can send and forget. It's taken me this long to be able to NOT stress about writing if I don't get a chance to do as much as I'd like, but I'm still trying to pack in as much activity related to writing as humanly possible each and every day.

Example: This week I have one major goal. I need to create a six page script. I should be able to put everything else aside and just concentrate on this one thing. Shouldn't be too difficult.

I would also like to read an issue or two of Necrotic Tissue's back catalogue. I would also like to write a chapter or two in AKL. I'd like to do some background work on my YA series idea. I'd like to expand on one or two short story ideas I have. I need to update the market lists on AHWA. I should probably look at the next assignment for the other module in my diploma.

Apart from the writing, I also have to finish off a bathroom renovation. Get a project off the ground in my normal full time day job. Take my boy for a driving lesson (or two). Spend some quality time with my wife and daughter. Get some Mother's Day shopping done.

All of this will be bang, bang, bang - one thing after the other in a controlled type of chaos. Normal. And the pay off will be instant.

On finishing the six page script, I'll submit it to the lecturer and she'll return a mark within a day or two. When an issue of NT has been read - well, it's been read, digested, and hopefully I've gained something from it. Any additions to AKL moves me toward completing the first draft. Any work on the YA series will help that come to fruition. AHWA market updates are done as soon as they are done - until next month.

Once the bathroom is completed - I won't have to worry about it again. Shopping results in presents. The boy will become a better driver, my wife and daughter will be happier if I spend some time with them. See - everything has an instant pay off.

But with sending a finished piece of written work off into the ether, it's not instant. It's not even fairly quick. It's like this huge pause in the process.

I currently have a couple of pieces which have been out for months. One which has been out for over a year. I dare not open the work and have a look at it because I know I'll want to make changes. A story is never finished. A writer will always see areas where it can be improved, but why should I? If it sells, then it was right for that market at that time. If it gets rejected, then I'll worry about it. But in between, there's nothing, while all the time, we continue to try and move forward to the over all goal of getting a book contract.

We need patience to move forward slowly, honing the craft, practising, learning, finding our voice, toughening our skin, waiting for acceptances and rejections - while rushing to improve enough every day, by cramming in as much writing related activity as possible, to finally get to that ideal of working as a published author. The two states are opposed to each other.

The ideal is for a writer to produce a manuscript, have it represented by an agent, sold to a publisher and asked to provide more on a consistent basis for an agreed sum of money which will allow the writer to live in a comfortable manner and have time to produce the additional manuscripts. Yes there are different ways of getting to the published goal, but I’m a traditionalist. I want to see my work in print before everything goes electronic.

Once the contract is in place, then everything changes and becomes more focused.

Without the contract, everything is on spec, and life as a writer is up in the air. You have no professional support, no focus. Only a calling to drive you forward.

It's with little wonder then, that writers’ lose patience, wonder why agents and editors take forever responding, beat their fists against published work which seems less than well written, shake their head in wonder at huge book deals given to celebrities, and sigh in frustration at the continual state of flux the market place seems to be in.

I think there is only one solution to this issue.

Patience needs to be taken out of the equation as soon as possible in our learning to become a writer.

We need to become completely detached in our writing process once the work has been submitted.

And then we need to develop amnesia to each piece we send out the door.

Until we gain that holy grail of a publishing contract, we also need to give ourselves a break. Many people say we need to write 2000 words a day, every day, ad infinitum… Many make it feel like a writer must be a starving and emotionally drained individual to be able to draw from a deep well and produce amazing work.

None of this is true.

Most writers pen many manuscripts, short stories and countless unfinished tales before they gain regular publication in any form. Most do this over many years. A writer is not a vocation, it’s a way of life.

So how do we fix the patience issue?

My first piece of advice would be to ignore the stories of how other writers got their deal. Everyone’s journey is different.

Take the time to write when you can, when you feel comfortable, when real life isn’t clambering for your attention. But this still requires discipline. If you don’t write regularly, you will not improve.

Experience the world because that is where your inspiration will come from.

Read a lot – and widely. Don’t stick wholly to your genre but you do need to know the area you’re writing in and what has come before.

Submit stories you have finished. Start small and aim higher as you go. Read the markets you target. Get feedback. Listen, revise, polish and resubmit.

When you submit, mark it on your tracking sheet. Set a reminder on when to query.

Once submitted, forget about that story. Honestly – you can’t do anything about it anyway, so why think about it. Worry about what you can control.

If you get a rejection, note any editorial comments, discuss with other writers, gain feedback, revise, polish, and resubmit. Never get angry. Venting is acceptable, but don’t get angry and ensure you get over it sooner rather than later. Rejections are not personal (even though sometimes they come across as such).

If you get an acceptance, celebrate. Enjoy it.

Enjoy the writing process, because if you don’t, there are easier ways to make a living and your family would prefer to spend time with you than watch you bang away at a keyboard.

So this week, I'll be working on getting this six page script to my liking. I'm not planning on doing anything else writing related. I probably will, but I'm not planning on it. And I won't be worrying about anything which is currently out in submission land or anything else I may be working on. If I get to other things, cool. If not, that's cool as well.