Monday, December 21, 2009

Still Here

I'm on holidays. No work till the 4th of January 2010!

At some point I intend to sit down and get a huge amount of writing and reading done - but not now, and possibly not before the fat guy in the red suit shows up. I'm going all handyman on and around my house. Cleaning, fixing, sorting, throwing, painting, tiling, and dismantling a plenty will be occurring at the Tomlinson household - with brief excursions to the shops to finish my Christmas shopping (yes, I'm really that bad at shopping that it won't be completed before Xmas Eve - it never is.)

And then after Xmas, we have a tradition in Australia called the Boxing Day Test, where we sit, drink, eat and watch our National cricket team run around on the MCG. Of course, that goes on for four or five days and then it's New Year, a night of partying, a day of recovery, and then a new test match starts in Sydney and I'm back to work a few days later.

Therefore it's entirely possible I could lose my grip on anything writing and just drop off the planet for the next two or three weeks into a mundane 'normal' life - 'normal' meaning not writing.

So, in case this does occur, and to give me an out, I shall take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and safe festive season and may all your wants and needs be met, both in and out of the bedroom. If not before, I shall speak to you in 2010.

p.s. If you've tried to email me at work since last Friday - resend it to my home address - I didn't get it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Small Press Reading

Thanks to prompts by Aaron, Cate and Jamie, I figured it was time I assessed my efforts at supporting small press in 2009.

The list of what I've read this year (I was going to be good and do all the links but it got a bit big):

Novels and anthologies I've brought and read.

  • Jack of All Trades by K. C. Shaw (One of the best buys I made all year)
  • Shadows by Joan de La Hoya (A gift - thanks Joan)
  • Atrum Tempestas Anthology (Danielle's story in this antho was very good. Pity the editing side let everyone down.
  • Grants Pass Anthology (Read for review on HorrorScope - most of it is very good)
  • Tainted Anthology (Purchased - another excellent choice)
  • RealmShift (Read for review on HorrorScope - a good read)
  • MageSign (Read for review on HorrorScope and subsequently became good friends with the author - an even better read than its predecessor.)
  • Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror V2 (Purchased - My way of supporting Australian small press & it contains excellent stories)
  • Book of Shadows (Purchased - what can I say, I've not had a dud from Brimstone Press yet!)
Novels and anthologies I've brought and have not yet read.
  • Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror V3 (Another Brimstone Press purchase)
  • Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror V4 (Pre-ordered and expect early in 2010)
  • Shards (Yet another purchase from Brimstone but this is a collection of stories by Shane Jiraiya Cummings - I'll admit to being a big fan of his work)
  • Festive Fear Anthology from Tasmaniac Press (Saving this to read over my Christmas break)
Magazines & Ezines.
  • Apex (because I want to be in it)
  • Yellow Mama (because lots of people I know are in it regularly)
  • The New Bedlam Project (not only because I was in it)
  • Eye of Fire (I write reviews for them but they have great articles and stories as well)
  • Aurealis (subscribed - and I slush for Stuart but I still fork out my hard earned. This is a very good publication)
  • Eclecticism (somewhere I will send some work)
  • Ruthless People (Because they publish very cool stories by some very cool people)
  • Demonic Tome (Because I was in it)
  • Midnight Echo (I'm subscribed as part of my AHWA membership but they publish kick-arse stories as well)
  • Strange Weird & Wonderful (Because they also publish very cool stories by some very cool people)
  • Necrotic Tissue (subscribed - one day I'll get in here)
  • Fear & Trembling (My first horror sale in a US market - and because they publish some interesting stories)
Chap Books and Novellas (aka Longer works that aren't quite full novels)
  • The Sour Aftertaste of Olive Lemon by Cate Gardner (Purchased - brilliant)
  • Phantasy Moste Grotesk by Felicity Dowker (Received the PDF to review and still went ahead and purchased one of the rare printed copies.)
  • Phoenix and the Darkness of Wolves by Shane Jiraiya Cummings (Given to review - it's beside my bed as we speak as the next thing to be read. Seriously looking forward to it.)
Lastly, I've also supported small press this year by donning my never before used editor's cap and taking up the vaunted post for the soon to be released (sometime during 2010) anthology Dark Pages Volume One, to be published by Blade Red Press (this would be those 267 stories I've read over the last couple of months).

On top of the dozen or so major publishing house novels I've also read, I don't think I've done too bad. There are probably more on my shelf, but I'm not at home so this is all I can remember/gleam from my lists on my blog.

But it did become painfully obvious that so much reading was liable to cause burnout and cut into my writing time in a big way. So next year I need to support small press but I need to be very selective about it.

So in 2010 I intend to target a select group of small press publishers.

Brimstone Press - I'm a big fan of their work and will continue to purchase from them.
Aurealis - A market I would one day like to crack so research is essential.
Necrotic Tissue - same reason as above.
APEX - I'm going to start buying their anthologies because I'd like to be in more of them.
Midnight Echo - it's part of my AHWA membership but I'd buy it anyway.

On the free side of things, I'll only be reading a very select few:
Eclecticism - Craig has grown this zine from scratch and it has become an excellent read.
The New Bedlam Project - Jodi has a wonderfully twisted world evolving here and I wouldn't be adverse to being included in it's pages again.
APEX - The more I read the types of stories they accept, the more chance I'll have of getting in.

I'm a sucker for supporting my fellow writers so I'll be seriously looking at anything that has people I know listed in the ToC.
I'll also continue with my review work so no doubt others will crop up that I haven't thought about.

So that's my list of what has been and what is to come. It is unashamedly bent towards supporting the Australian industry, but that's okay - I live here. Have you made any pledges to support small press in your neck of the woods?

You may also notice a big lacking of professional markets. Yes, I want to be published in the big markets but I don't think I'm ready yet. I'm also not sending printed short story manuscripts through snail mail across vast oceans. When more professional pay-scale markets begin accepting electronic submissions, then I'll start thinking about subscribing to them - there, that's my bit for world environment conservation. Besides, if I make money with my writing, it will be with novels - my shorts are for the entertainment of myself and any of the masses who choose to read them. They are my sandbox, my playground, my place to learn and grow - why bother with struggling via snail mail to compete with the thousands of others who are trying to get into the select few spots. I'll stop there. I don't want to open up that argument over FTL and low paying markets again.

Once more this post has turned into a ramble and over extended. If you're still reading - thank you for your perseverance. Go have a virtual drink on me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I've Written Some Words

Proof that my brain isn't totally broken took me by surprise yesterday when an idea for the Pill Hill Press Love Kills anthology took root in the dark recesses of my mind. I took a few minutes to jot down some points and read up on a few things. This ended up providing me with a rough outline.

Today I wrote the first 1233 words. Once more I've tended too much into the realm of dialogue, but that's okay, it seems to be the way I work. Speech first, descriptive narrative second - then lots of polishing...

With a little bit of teasing, I think the first bit will play out at about 1500 words, and then the whole thing takes a big left turn into darkness and shadows - and there's nothing paranormal going on at all! And it's YA - a little on the risqué side of YA, but still YA.

I'm even considering weaving these character's into the world of Nathan Steele and Inner Voice. It has the working title of Pagan's Way.

And here's the opening scene with a group of mid-teens standing around discussing...what boys discuss:

“It’s when you first enter her.” Mark smiled as he took a deep breath, expanding his chest like a wild bird during mating season. “It’s gotta be the same for men and women.”

David shook his head slowly from side to side with his lips pressed together tightly, the smirk obvious. “Can’t be the same, Markus. A woman loses her virginity when a bloke first enters her because he breaks the hymen. A man doesn’t have a hymen so it can’t be the same.”

William licked his lips and scratched the thin film of sweat forming on his forehead. “So when does a man lose it?”

All the boys looked to David. He was the oldest at seventeen and, if they believed what he said, the most experienced when it came to women.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


So, as I sit here in somewhat of a dazed funk, I stare at inanimate objects around me and wonder what to do next. For the last two months or so, every spare moment of 'writing' time has been allocated to reading submissions for Dark Pages Volume One. Removal of that due to coming to the end of the slush pile has left me feeling a little numb. It's akin to holding a really heavy bag in each hand by your sides for a really long time. When you finally put them down, your arms want to raise into the air because nothing is weighing them down anymore. The loss of the slush pile has left me with an inbuilt twitch. With nothing planned, I look for my slush pile to read something - only it's no longer there. I wonder if this is similar to amputees and phantom digit/limb pain...

I suppose now is a good time to start writing my posts about the Dark Pages Volume One journey so far, what I've learned, and how I can help you in your submission attempts at future markets. I jotted down some bullet points as I went along that you might find useful. I'll post more detail on the journey itself as each phase completes.

I give you Post 1 - aka Rules to submit by - aka How to not look like an amateur!

Do not send in your submission with a title like ‘brilliantStoryV3’. Nearly every story I saw like this had formatting issues, typos and extraneous words finishing sentences in strange places. In short, many just weren't ready for submission. The stories weren't matured in presentation or execution. Before you click on the paper clip, open the intended file and make sure it is formatted as per the guidelines of the intended market and then save it in the document format requested (.doc, .rtf, .txt) with the story title as the document name ‘Brilliant Story.rtf’. Do not send your revisions – it is unprofessional.

All the time we hear markets ask ‘send us your best’, and often the market is offering nix or copy or a token payment. If you think your best is worth more, then send it to higher paying markets, but if you continue to accumulate rejections, then lower your sights. Gaining publication credits in good low, or non-paying markets is a start. Do not just cycle your previously rejected stories through the next available anthology. As writers, we grow in our ability to use the craft and so your stories should be getting better each time you pen one. Send us your best means send us something you’ve recently written. If you gain a rejection for a piece you wrote specifically for an anthology, then be very judicious in where you send it afterwards. If it failed at a token payment antho, look for an FTL market or self publish it. If it failed at a targeted semi-pro antho, look for a one off payment ezine or lower. Anthology editors know what other anthologies are out there or have recently closed. A sudden influx of carnival based stories or black glass-based stories (insert any recent anthology theme here) gets old very quickly.

I’ve heard many editors say that on opening a submission and finding something not formatted as per the guidelines, or with inconsistent formatting throughout, 99 times out of 100 the story isn’t up to par either. The theory goes that if the writer isn’t experienced and professional enough to take the time to format submissions correctly, then they are probably also incapable of putting together a good enough story. Many editors will cut these submissions from the slush pile without reading word one. Sadly, I will now back these editors to the hilt when this discussion next comes up on a forum. Writers will bemoan the fact that an editor could miss the story of the century because they don't take the time to see past the piddling little issues of formatting. I've read over a million words in about eight weeks - I've looked past many of the piddling little issues--I wish I hadn't. I would have saved a great deal of time. I won't be reading anything that isn't formatted as per the guidelines ever again - be warned. To read a great post on the guidelines issue, see Alan Baxter's post about our experience.

Bookisms – you really don’t need to use anything other than said when letting the reader know who is talking. Even better to use tags describing an action attributed to a character to alert the reader to who is speaking. Purple prose also fits in here. Don't use it. Flowing and emotive narrative description is one thing, corset ripping, syrupy-sweet crap is totally another. Write for the specific market. Let's face it, dark stories are best told when they follow the guidelines of mainstream literature but evoke a disturbing emotion within the reader. Unless you're specifically writing bizzaro or some other rule-breaking genre, going over top, or using bookisms casts the writer in a bad light.

Basic grammar and punctuation is a must. This is an art I’m still learning, just like everyone else, but the very basics must be mastered (or at the very least gotten a really good grip on) if you’re submitting to paying markets. When an editor takes note of a lot of incorrectly structured sentences, out of place sentences, or misused commas, the negative response needle heads north. Everyone falls prey to the odd typo in a manuscript. Do your best to remove these through revision and through feedback from others, but the odd one will not send an editor over the edge – everything else could (and occasionally does).

Starting a story with the full name of a character is not a necessity. If the character’s last name has no bearing on the story – I don’t really want to know it. Telling me 'Karl Slobosky scratched his arse as he rolled out of bed' and then only calling him Karl for the rest of the story with no links in the tale relating to either his heritage, country of birth, his parent's country of birth, Eastern Block politics, an impending name change, etc, etc is silly. If he was nicknamed the Slobmeister, and I need to know it's not just because he has stains on his singlet, farts in public and lives with aggressive rats who have staked a claim to his kitchen, then that's different. If you want me to get the picture that he's from the Steppes of Russia, then I should be able to pick that up from his behaviour, his surroundings and other, more artfully woven clues. Telling me his last name as part of the character intro and expecting that to be enough is not being a good writer. Don't do it.

Do not begin with background information. Hit the editor (and reader) hard with the action. Give me a first paragraph that makes me want to know more. Give me something that creates questions, or tension, or a feeling of ‘fuck me, what the hell is going on here?’ When you finish your first draft, go through and mark all the little (or big) info dumps and background story sections you have in there. Take them out, reword them, cut them down to minuscule size and weave them more artfully into the story, long after the opening action/conflict/suspense sequence(s).

Learn how to format a document into *.rtf. Simply naming a document ‘GreatestStoryEver.rtf’ does not create an rtf document if you don’t change the ‘save as type’ to rtf. If left at the default, you will end up submitting ‘GreatestStoryEver.rtf.doc(x)’ – and that just screams unprofessional.

If the submissions guidelines don’t state that critiques or extensive feedback will be supplied, don’t ask for it. Don’t request detailed feedback if you receive a rejection. Don’t offer to pay for detailed feedback. If a publication offers to provide detailed feedback for a price, then it is possibly/probably a type of vanity publishing outfit and you should be seriously considering avoiding it. If you receive a rejection and you’d like feedback as to why, submit it to your critique group – they may be able to help you.

I think that's enough for now. Most of this is fairly simple stuff but it all points to your professionalism as a writer. Get it wrong and you'll drown in rejections, your self-esteem will shrivel, and the world may lose a unique voice in the art of storytelling that may have become one of the masters if given enough time to mature, because you will give up. Passion will be dampened and eventually extinguished if not nurtured. Writing is a fairly solitary business with few beacons of goodness directed at you in the form of acceptances and, even more rarely, paychecks. You don't need to make life harder for yourself. Get the simple things right and give yourself a chance to shine. People want to read your work. Editors want to publish it and pay you for the privilege in either exposure, copies or cash.

The basics are non-negotiable.

You don't think that's fair?

Don't be a writer.

Friday, December 11, 2009

AHWA NEWS DIGEST [01.11.09-10.12.09]

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

Aurealis Awards finalists
The finalists for the 2009 Aurealis Awards have been announced! The Aurealis Awards celebrate the best of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror publications. Winners will be announced at the Aurealis Awards ceremony at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane on Saturday 23 January 2010. Click through to view the finalists!

'100 Lightnings' anthology seeks submissions
100 Lightnings is a new anthology edited by Stephen Studach, to be published by iconic cult publishers Paroxysm Press; this will be a one hundred work anthology, featuring some of the best new flash fiction from Australia and around the world. Please see the publisher website for MS format guidelines.

Your Big Break film competition
Screenwriters take note! Tourism New Zealand is offering aspiring filmmakers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get their work in front of director, producer, and screenwriter Peter Jackson. The short film competition 100% Pure New Zealand Presents Your Big Break will give the top five entrants time working with the Academy Award-winning team responsible for the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Click through for details.

Dymocks Southland Bestselling Horror Titles for November ‘09
Dymocks Southland is general bookshop in Cheltenham, Victoria, boasting a great range of speculative fiction. Click through for the Top 10 bestselling horror titles for November 2009.

Brimstone Press horror film special offer
Brimstone Press is running an amazing deal for lovers of horror. The next 15 Australian customers who order a Brimstone Press book through the publisher's website will receive FREE double passes to see two of the hottest horror films of the year: Paranormal Activity and Zombieland (value $64).

Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Volume 4 available for pre-order
Angela Challis, editor of the Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror series of 'year's best' anthologies, has announced the line-up for Volume 4. Featured writers include Peter M. Ball, Lee Battersby, John Birmingham, Stephen Dedman, Paul Haines, Richard Harland, Robert Hood, Pete Kempshall, Kirstyn McDermott, Jason Nahrung, and Miranda Siemienowicz. Click through to preview the fabulous contents! ADFH Vol 4 will go on sale nationally in March 2010, but can be pre-ordered immediately from the Brimstone Press website.

Australian Shadows Award entry deadline reminder
The deadline for entering work into the Australian Shadows Award is drawing near (December 31). The Australian Shadows Award is coordinated by the Australian Horror Writers Association and is the peak award for horror fiction in Australia. Full details on the award can be found here.

Midnight Echo #3
Assembled by guest editor Stephen Studach and his talented crew, in these hallowed pages you will find a slew of stories, a devil's clawful of poetry, a clutch of dark and macabre art, and an exclusive interview by Lucy Sussex with Barbara Baynton - her first since her death in 1929! Obtain your copy at the Midnight Echo website. AHWA members receive a PDF version of the magazine free!

World Fantasy Award Winners 2009
The 2009 World Fantasy Awards were presented at the World Fantasy Convention held in San Jose, California in November. Two Australians were honoured with awards; Margo Lanagan in the category Best Novel (tied result), and Shaun Tan in the category of Best Artist.

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, and Southern Horror; hosted at the social networking sites Darklands and A Writer Goes On A Journey; and hosted by AHWA members Felicity Dowker, Brenton Tomlinson, Scott Wilson, and Jeff Ritchie (Scary Minds: Horror's Last Colonial Outpost).

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.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Phase One In Final Throes

I've made my decisions. The publisher has been notified. Emails are soon to be sent. This could be the end of phase one but I'm considering the end to be when we're down to only the selected ToC winners - and that's a little way off yet.

I have narrowed down 267 stories to 30. This will be further whittled down over the next few weeks (possibly 4 or 5 weeks) to the final ToC. This is liable to be around 5% of overall submissions or somewhere between 12-16 stories (plus or minus a couple - we have no definitive number in mind but it would cost the earth to publish an antho with over 150,000 words in it so we need to cut it down at least a bit).

To everyone who has made it this far - congratulations. To everyone who submitted but didn't make it this far, I'm sorry. I know I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again (many times), but I'm amazed at not only the response, but the quality of work I've had the privilege to read over the last couple of months.

Those 30 stories will soon be winging their way to my trusty foot soldiers to read and make decisions on so more than one set of eyes will have input on whether they stay or go. Final decision will stay with me, but I trust these people and their opinions so it will have a heavy bearing on the final outcome. So if you must send bribes, please send in triplicate - I'll need to spread around the good cheer ;c)

Good luck!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I have read every submission. Over 1,000,000 words, equating to 267 stories have passed under my gaze over the last couple of months.

I have sent my decision on nearly all of them to the publisher...yeah, nearly all of them. There are a select few of you who have given me reason to pause - and then pause some more before making a final decision. And this is only on putting together a short list. God help us when it comes to putting together the ToC!

So to those 20 or so authors who are still waiting on a decision from me at this time, I apologise for the delay. You have all written wonderful stories and I'm loathed to let them go, but some will have to be released back into the wild with nothing but my best wishes and deepest condolences. They will, like many of those I've already said no to, find a home in the not-too-distant-future - they are too good not to.

Honestly, the quality of what I've had to say no to is mind boggling.

Nearly at phase two - patience, grasshopper.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Update

I've finally started moving again after a harder than normal day's play in the cricket and a pretty good night at the club. Before I sit down and start reading the last of the submissions for Dark Pages Volume One, I thought I'd just throw up a couple of photo's taken by one of our friends of the costumes we wore last night.

We haven't gotten around to downloading anything from our own camera yet - I'll leave that to my better half.

Without further ado:

We went as a couple of high society ghosts. We have a panda eye each as the face make up really stung as it got into our eyes so with a swipe of out hand, we kind of ruined the effect (slightly).

And here is the gruesome couple taking a breather between John Daly (left)
and Robin Hood (right).

As for the game - we lost by 10 runs due to various instances of unsavoury sportsmanship. I'll be requesting an official umpire from the association for the next time we play this team, but the good thing about playing a weekend sport - there's always next week. I should have known the day wouldn't go our way when I arrived at the ground, sans one match ball, and then lost the toss and had to bowl, knowing one of my batsmen would have to leave early, and then two of my players, one of which was the opening bowler, turned up five overs into the game. Things just didn't start out right and never quite got back on track.
Right! Time to get stuck into some reading...

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Quick Update Before The Weekend

Another tough weekend of cricket ahead as we take on yet another top team (yes, they managed to leap frog us and the team we beat last game).

This will be tempered with a night of frivolity on Saturday night as the ATCO Cricket Club hosts the annual fancy dress night. If I remember, or if someone else posts some, I'll try to have photos so you can check out the spectacle I make of myself.

And lastly, I've whittle down my unread submissions list to the last 23 stories. Not far to go now. I'm still hoping to knock them all off come Sunday evening but I'll have to see how I pull up after Saturday (and Saturday night). I'm happy to say my work over the last couple of days has not been wasted as almost every story made me stop and think. Unfortunately not all of them have made it onto my current short list...but some of them have :c)

Have a great weekend and remember to keep your fingers crossed for all the ATCO teams over the weekend. Okay, not for the whole weekend. If you could possibly send best wishes or remember us in a thought (or two), it would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lesson One

As very recently remarked upon in my last post, Alan Baxter and I are looking to put together a whole bunch of blog posts about what's been learnt during this whole process.

Well Alan is a much more organised man than I am and has published a very insightful and educational post on Submitting - read it, live it - bookmark it and refer to it before you submit anywhere!

On a personal note: I haven't kept a running tally on how many stories I've read or on the word count, and now I know why - God help me. See the link for the numbers!

I'm also going to take this opportunity to thank Alan. Firstly for the opportunity to do this, secondly for being the Gatekeeper and being so fair and helpful to all the writers who submitted, and lastly for being so encouraging in how I've shaped the selection process and how I've decided to work through all this. Honestly, if you get the opportunity to work with Alan, I'm sure you'll find it as enjoyable as I have (so far...) - thanks, buddy.

Submissions Are Closed

If you haven't sent me your submission for the brilliant anthology that will be Dark Pages Volume One - then you are too late.

Blade Red Press sent me the last batch of International-based submissions (where the clock still showed it as November 31) late yesterday. The entire world has ticked over into December now so submissions are well and truly closed.

Tomorrow I'm having a day off from the normal job. I intend on getting up at my usual time, dropping the little one off at school, and then spending the vast majority of the next 5 or so hours reading. I have 41 stories who remain unread at this point in time (there will be less than this by tomorrow as I intend to read some over lunch today). I'll spend an hour reading, take 20 minutes time out doing something else, and then return to reading for another hour, rinse and repeat, until I become jaded, get a headache, my brain explodes, or I finish reading all the stories - which ever happens first. My goal is to get at least halfway through whatever remains. Everything will be read by Sunday the 6th, with all remaining notifications going out sometime next week - that's the plan, but we all know what Steinbeck said about plans.

Now that the subs window has closed, you can expect a series of posts, both here and over at Alan Baxter's blog, about the process we've just been through. For those of you that want to know the how, why, and wherefores, it could make for some interesting reading. For many really new to the industry and the whole sub process, it will be essential reading. Watch this space             Okay, don't watch the space, but subscribe to this blog (and Alan's) so you don't miss out.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Its Been A Week

This is the longest I've gone without posting something on my blog for a long, long time.

I've been reading. Today is the last day to get your submissions in for Blade Red Press' Dark Pages Volume One Anthology. I've been reading, and weighing up stories like a mad man. Except for the past few days...

I figured I should take a few days break every now and then to refresh the brain, like sipping from a glass of water to refresh the palette during a meal to reinvigorate the taste buds in readiness to truly appreciate the next course, so I wanted a reinvigorated the lump of grey matter to savour what you took the time to submit to us.

I currently have 23 stories in my 'to-be-read' submissions pile. I've been told we've had over 250 submissions for this anthology of which I've read just about all of them over the last two months. I expect a sudden rush of last minute arrivals today, and then I'll have a final push to finalise my choices for the second round of reading. I really want all authors who've submitted to know where they sit in regards to their story being on hold or if they are free to submit to other markets before mid-December. According to Duotrope, I have a 17.5 day average time for responding, with a 40 day max. I think this is pretty good seeing how we have stated 6-8 weeks.

In other news (for those interested) - we maintained our unbeaten run in cricket on Saturday, knocking off the top team. With terrible weather making the ground close to unplayable, the team rallied together and moved a mountain of soil with bare hands, milk crates and a single broom to ensure we had the opportunity to gain a result. Well done to everyone involved! Depending on other results, we are either top or still sit second. If the later, then we have an opportunity to knock off the new top team this coming weekend. Keep your fingers crossed we can keep our run going.

Yesterday, my wife and I took our grandson out for a few hours. It was a good time. I really must post some new photos of the little man so you can all see how big he's grown.

That's enough waffle from me. Congratulations to everyone who took part in NaNo this year. Your efforts have been inspiring and awesome to those of us who have sat on the sidelines with our pom-poms. Remember, it doesn't matter if you got to 50K or not, it was the commitment to writing that was the winner. Now you can either finish that manuscript or polish it to within an inch of its life over the next few months. I am more than sure there will be a few gems out there.

Time for me to get back to reading...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sporadic At Best

It seems my posting here is becoming fewer and further between efforts. I'm sorry about that.

I've also not written anything in quite sometime, but my mind is still ticking over with how I'm going to improve the first draft of Inner Voice - I'm excited by that.

So with one week left to go before the submission deadline for Dark Pages Volume 1, I'm still reading madly. I think I'm averaging around 20-30 short stories a week which is pretty good for me on top of normal life. I'm guessing around 11th of December everyone who submitted will have an answer of some sort on how their masterpiece has faired in regards to it being held over for further consideration or the dreaded rejection.

Myself and the staff at Blade Red Press have been blown away with the response and the quality of the work writers from all over the world have sent to us for consideration. It has been truly staggering. With the number of anthologies I've seen this year having to extend their submission deadlines due to a lack of response or a lack of quality work, I consider myself extremely lucky to have been inundated with exceptional stories from so many brilliant authors, both known and emerging.

It was only the other day I commented to Blade Red that we could easily publish Dark Pages volumes 1, 2 & 3 from the stories I've read. An embarrassment of riches is an understatement.

If you've not received a hold request yet, or if you don't receive one, please don't feel slighted. Decisions are becoming extremely tough for me now. I'm reading good stories that I have to weigh up against all the good stories I've already found a hold place for. This is the best reason to always submit early when targeting an anthology.

Allow me to give a hypothetical example that may well have been the case at some stage last year, but has, thankfully, not been my specific experience (yet): imagine I receive a real kick-arse story about vampires. It has well rounded characters, lots of conflict, on both a personal level and in the supernatural action arena, and has a unique hook. I've received this story a week after submissions opened and instantly put it in my possibles list. Three weeks before submissions close, I get another very good vampire story. This author has obviously taken the extra time to have the story critiqued and polished. It is good but it doesn't disturb quite as much as the first one. With reluctance, I place it in my probably not folder which doesn't mean it's dead by a long shot. The following day, I receive two more vampire stories of which one is better than vampire tale number two and the other is not bad either (if I hadn't received the other three, it would have been a contender).

At this point (because I'm mindful of author's hating to wait for responses) I need to make a decision on what to keep. I go back and read the very first story I decided to hold and because it's been a while since I first put it away, I regain the wonder I felt when I first read it, and yet it retains that feeling of an old friend, something I've read and appreciated before. I know it's going to be hard to top. With reluctance I send out rejections to all the other vampire stories. (you can change vampire for any common theme/trope: circus, dolls, ghosts, evil child, werewolf, etc, etc)

Don't get me wrong, if another vampire story arrives that is mindblowingly original (it could happen), then the first story could still be dislodged. I've not sent an acceptance letter to anyone. My possibles list is very fluid and will remain so until at least a week after submissions close, but I'm not reading as an editor at the moment (at least not first and foremost). I'm sliding over typos or awkward sentence structure and mentally replacing it with something that sounds a little better and moving on. I work through submissions purely with my readers hat on. The good point about that is I'm allowing myself to fall into the world you are creating. I'm doing my best to allow myself to be swept away with your words. I'm giving you the reigns - if you don't take hold and drive me to somewhere believable and disturbing, then the piece doesn't make the hold list. If you do, then the editorial hat comes into play and you're judged against whatever else I have already set aside. Then you still may not make the hold list - many good stories fall into this category already :c(

So I say again, the big lesson here, is to submit early and submit your very best the first time. Unfortunately, everything is subjective from there.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


My work stops us from being able to watch videos on YOUTUBE which is a pain in the proverbial as most people embed videos from there into their blog posts when/if they wish to embed anything at all.

The block also stops me from being able to embed YOUTUBE content into anything I post.

Enter Google Videos which work hasn't gotten around to blocking yet.

Over at Katey's blog today, she has a must read post which left me smiling and shaking my head while agreeing totally with her. It reminded me of this which I just had to remind everyone about:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


As I've mentioned before, during all this reading I'm currently doing for Dark Pages Volume 1, the first anthology from Blade Red Press (how's that for a plug), my mind continually drifts back to Inner Voice.

I guess I'm somewhat in the same quandary as KC Shaw and her Bell-Men project. While Kate is powering through her NaNo project and having reoccurring thoughts of Bell-Men, I'm working through submissions and yet Inner Voices remains a constant mental companion.

The latest thought process, which is cropping up more often, is the editing process I have ahead of me, and then naturally my mind carries forward and I begin to think about the submission process and the contract signing and the money rolling in...I'm normal, right? Right? Doesn't everyone do this? Anyone?

The editing thoughts came to the fore again while doing the rounds through my Google Reader. Ms A. Victoria Mixon has published a letter to primarily showcase her ability as an editor, but does so much more for the discerning writer. Many of you will be absorbed in the current series of posts Aaron Polson is running during NaNo, reminding writers about different things they should be including/thinking about during their mad dash to 50000 words. Ms Mixon's letter on developmental editing is a grand edition to those lessons.

As an aside, I remember someone (maybe Mercedes) posting something about another editor providing an editing, critique-type service. Whoever it was, can you refresh my memory please. I'm seriously considering using one of these services once I've finished working through it with my own team of critiquers/beta readers.

And as is my want, this leads into a thought I had about all you NaNo participants who can't help editing as you go (Alan, Bec, and others). NaNo is supposedly about the act of writing; getting words on the page. It's okay to contradict yourself during November. Fixing the inconsistencies is for December and beyond. Making sure things flow is not for now. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, not National Novel Editing Month which would be presented as NaNoEdMo - which sounds way too much like Mork signing off.

But, and this is a pretty big but, if your normal writing regime is to go back and edit the previous chapter with a light dusting of changes before you move onto the next part of the story, then you shouldn't be using NaNo as the time to retrain your brain into just churning out words. NaNo is, IMHO, all about committing time to write. It's about getting words onto the paper but it's more about a commitment to your craft, and that's easier to do as part of a huge group than doing it on your own.

So if you edit as you go, go for it. Just add that time into your calculations so you don't have to worry over it taking away from your NaNo word goals for the day. Accept it as part of the writer you are, and will probably always be, so you no longer need to stress over it and you can plan to include it in your regime. Once the stress of that is gone, the words will flow easier once more, and hitting 50K won't seem such a long way away.

Okay, enough preaching about stuff everyone is probably rolling their eyes over and wishing I'd stop sounding like some sort of self-appointed guru. Not how I intend to come across. Just an opinion you are more than free to disagree with.

Well done to everyone participating in NaNo - regardless of where you're at in the word count race, you deserve special consideration and congratulations for committing time to your craft and getting words on the paper. That is no small feat.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some Good News Today

Not for me - for some of you.

A bunch of 'May we please hold' emails are, or have, been sent to my short listed stories for the anthology. I hope you squeal with glee if you get one as I think you've done exceptionally well to get this far.

But all is not lost for those of you not among the lucky people. You still have a couple of weeks left to submit me something wonderful and get yourself on the shortlist.

I currently still have 41 unread stories waiting for my attention so don't despair if you've not gained any sort of notification from us yet. I think I only have three stories unread that I received at the end of October so my response time is still (or should be) within acceptable limits.

Space is now becoming one of the premium parameters. For me to hold a story above 5-6000 words, it needs to be better than two of the stories which has already made the hold list, or completely different and still able to kick the arse of one I've already held over, so keep this in mind when submitting. The story itself is still the deciding factor, but you first need to blow my mind and then it needs to fit in with the other stories around it and then it needs to fit in with the space limitations I have. Yes, folks, it's getting harder, but then, that's why those in the know submit as early as possible to any anthology they target.

Next tip: I want a dark story which is beautifully told and disturbs me - I don't find journal entries disturbing. It may be just me, but to have a journal, and to be able to read the next entry, the person needs to have survived. I've seen some in the past where the author has used a journal style to build tension and conflict, but it is a rare skill. Please, unless the piece has scared the pants off your crit group, or disturbed at least one of them into going to therapy, don't send me a journal-style submission.

Next tip: I'd like to include at least one or two more dark fantasy pieces.

Next tip: I've held over some sci-fi pieces but I've seen very little with actual aliens, or in space.

Last tip: Read the guidelines before submitting.

Good Luck!

And congratulations to the lucky few.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Moving Right Along

I'm at work so I'm unable to get onto Utube but imagine Kermit and Fozzy driving along singing the song...

As reported last week, Blade Red Press has received over 200 submissions for Dark Pages Volume 1 to date. In the very beginning, Blade Red was kind enough to be my first level filter and removed anything that wasn't quite up to my extremely high standards, but then my dictator side kicked in and I needed to see everything to make my own decisions. Since I opened my mouth and requested everything, I've read nigh on 120 stories over the last four weeks. I've got less than 30 stories in my possible hold file and had to say no to a lot of friends - so don't anybody dare say I'm playing favourites!

I could have included some big names, including some major competition winners, but I've stuck to my guns and judged the story first. Yes, I've missed out on some great current writers and the possible marketing pull they may bring, but the stories that remain will be exceptional (in my humble opinion). With two weeks or so to go, the hard part of whittling down my current possibles list is going to be one of the most difficult tasks I've ever undertaken - and yet I'm looking forward to reading those stories again. I also expect some more to arrive over the next 14/15 days that push their way into consideration to make my life just that little bit more difficult. Fun times ahead.

On the personal writing front, I've had rejections roll in and the stories rolled back out. Most of these pieces are now just looking for the right market. I've also been thinking a lot about Inner Voice and I'm looking forward to wrapping up the anthology so I can get stuck into edits. I miss writing.

Finally, a big shout out to all those I know doing NaNo. I am in awe of the word totals I see around the place. I've heard of one person who has already finished! Jealous - me - bloody oath! Still, others should not be discouraged. Remember we may all be on the same journey but each writer has a different road map on how to get to that final destination. The same goes with NaNo. Work at your pace--push yourself for sure, that's what NaNo is all about after all, but don't fret over other writers wordage. Remember you are writing, and that makes you a winner already in my book. Good luck for the last two weeks!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just So

This is the link to the general feedback about Jason's new funding model. I provide it here just for the sake of completeness in the debate and because the question of figures was raised and here it is answered.

I've made my choice and subscribed/donated and picked up the free Descended From Darkness: Apex Magazine Vol I - which I thought was a cool deal.

My last thoughts on the matter: With the amount of reading I've been doing lately (subs for Dark Pages V1), I've come to the conclusion that I can only read, and therefore support, a couple of magazine subscriptions each year on top of my AHWA membership. I've chosen to support Necrotic Tissue, Apex, and Midnight Echo (through my AHWA membership). I occasionally give a donation to two or three other places but that is dependant on what bills I have coming in, and it's never very much anyway (not really, not in the bigger scheme of things). I also buy the occasional anthology, and even rarer, the occasional novel. I'm not a rich fellow and that's probably more than I should be doing, but until I find a local chapter of Bibliophile Anonymous, I'll have to manage...

I must say I'm looking forward to next year. I'll be able to spread out my reading a bit and get some writing done. Before then, I'm looking forward to the end of next week when my lad finishes his work experience and I no longer need to get out of bed before sparrow's fart! Tired eyes make for difficult reading...

Hope things are going well in your part of the world, and, because I haven't said it in a long time - good luck with your submissions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good News On PIR

Reports have begun popping up all over. Last night there was a decision made to not remove PIRs. If you're not sure what I'm talking about (what rock have you been living under) a quick refresher can be found here. This is a huge win for the Australian Book Industry and everyone involved in it.

The article in Bookseller+Publisher can be read here.

Well done to everyone who had a voice in determining this outcome and a special well done to AHWA members, led in grand fashion by Shane Jiraiya Cummings in his role as AHWA 2IC. Woot!

Snoopy Dance

Apex Magazine

As posted about yesterday, Jason over at Apex is floating a subscription/donation model to sustain Apex Magazine. Details are here.

I know some people have an issue with this, and that's fine (that's their prerogative), but this is my blog and it is my prerogative to post and support whatever I like. I think Apex Magazine is one of those markets we should support in keeping around - my choice. If you are like-minded then click on the link, if not - don't.

If you wish to continue the discussion on whether people should or should not, then feel free to do so in the comments section of the original post.

In other news: I was informed by Blade Red Press yesterday, that we have hit the 200 submissions mark so far for Dark Pages Volume 1. No wonder I have tired eyes, but it is generally a happy but resigned type of tiredness. I've read many good stories, but, and I know I've said this before, with so many to choose from, I can only hold onto the absolute cream. I may not be an Ellen Datlow, but I promise you I will do my absolute subjective best in putting together an outstanding inaugural edition, and I believe it would be a feather in anyone's cap to be included in the ToC. I have some well known, highly awarded authors submitting here and I've even not rejected some of them!

I don't care who you are or what you've done in the past, all stories will be judged, first and foremost, on the tale itself. Many well known writers have experience in putting together an excellent story, but many emerging writers and some first timers have that talent as well, and I will include them if the story stands up and speaks to me.

Yes, we've had a huge response so far. Yes, I'm expecting a late minute rush of submissions very close to the deadline. Tip: get your submission in now, before the rush. You don't want to be rejected because the editor has already read three stories similar to yours, or because he is grumpy from reading a dozen stories before yours and has reached the breaking point on seeing too many typos in a manuscript, or another person who hasn't followed the guidelines to the letter.

Hint: I am including multiple links to the guidelines page for a reason - read them, use them, live by them. If you're not sure how to format, go have a look at the formatting guide on Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine - it's a pretty good example of the minimum a writer should be sending to any market. Please - double space your paragraphs.

Final Tip: Your name and the title of your story should be in the header of your document. If you don't know how to do this, or are unable due to the software you are using, then, at the very least, have all the details about your story and you on the first page, i.e. place a cover page in your manuscript with the title and word count of the story, your name and contact details, and then start your story on page two.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm In

What about you?

What am I talking about?

Okay - I'll start from the begining, although it's sometimes an interesting twist to start at the end, but I digress...

Jason Sizemore over at Apex magazine has something you should all go read, and then email him your intentions. Not sure what I mean? Go read his latest efforts at making a worthwhile enterprise out of an independant publishing's magazine.

Like I said - I'm in.

I Get It

Lately I've been blogging less and when I do get around to it, writing is only a small topic because, well, I'm not doing any at the moment.

I get that most (if not all) of you are not interested in my sporting prowess. Understandable.

I get that most of you couldn't give a toss that I've been reading. I understand that. All you really want to know is whether or not your story has been short listed for Dark Pages Volume 1. I get that. I do.

We have begun our first heat wave of the season here (bear with me, there is relevance). Yesterday was well over 35C and today is forecast 38C. Wednesday through Friday is forecast to be 39C with a cool change blowing in for Saturday with a freezing cold 34C. A heatwave around here is anything forecast at 35C and up. Normally we don't see these extended periods of super hot temperatures until January/February.

Thing is, I've been struggling with pain in my joints, particularly my knees, during the colder months. Now it's hot, I don't get as much pain. That is - not as much it's still there and sometimes it's just as bad, but most of the time it's better. Unfortunately, during all this reduced pain, my family is suffering in the intense heat. A grumpy family can make for less comfort than painful knees (still with me...nearly there).

So what is better? Pain in the joints and a happy family, or less pain for me but more discomfort for everyone else?

Depends on the point of view you're looking at it from and what your priorities are (see where I'm going yet?).

You send out a story you've worked long and hard on to a very cool new anthology market being edited by this seriously talented first time editor (or you send it to me) - and then you hear nothing back for ages, or, worse, you get back a rejection in almost record time. In either case, you drop to your knees and plead to the pantheon of creatures both divine and sublime, and wish for a response to your submission/for an editor to take longer and saviour the brilliance that is your work.

You surf over to the editor's blog and see requests for shorter stories or dark urban fantasy or witty black comedy set in the future, and you think, 'But that's what I sent you' - which loops back to you dropping to your knees and decrying the unfairness of those fantastical creatures sitting high on their pearl thrones because you haven't yet had a response/already received your rejection letter.

The point of all this is simple - be careful what you wish for (yes, it was going home via the cape but hey, what did you expect?).

If you want editors to be quicker in responding, you may not like what you get back. If you want editors to take more time in considering your work, then be prepared to wait.

However, there is a sure fire way to circumvent all of this! Yes, my friends, I have for you a wonderful cure-all that shall take away your ills and add strength to any failing faith you have in this craft or this industry in which we are so deeply ensconced. And it's free - well, it doesn't have to cost money - but it will cost time and effort on your part.

The solution to all you woes: write a kick arse story that addresses the criteria set out in the guidelines or direct requests as stated on the editor's blog! Do this and you will receive a very fast email stating that it is to be held over for further consideration.

Tomorrow I am in meetings all day, so I intend to get some reading done today that I didn't get to yesterday. My to-read submission pile is dwindling and all my dreams for this project has not yet been met - send more stories - blow my mind!

And finally - onto more important news:

Happy 40th Birthday, Sesame Street!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Weekend Update

Knocked off a bit of reading on Friday, but then life stepped in and I didn't do anything else writing related all weekend.

Played cricket again on Saturday. We have once more won on first innings at stumps (the end of play) for day one. We will again be pushing for an outright win next week. On a personal note - it was nice to make some runs for the second week in a row - woot for me...on a more important note, it was brilliant to see the team working as a single unit, backing each other up with excellent fielding and bowling performances. Lastly, a big congratulations to Brett Dantonio for his herculean effort at batting for 2 hours without giving a chance. Some of us show ponies may have come in and taken the glory but it was all down to his anchoring the innings.

As usual, for those of you that care to follow along and become official ATCO Cricket Club groupies, feel free to visit the site (skip the ad). I'm captaining the B Grade team this year. Ignore the tables as they've not been updated from last year.

On the agenda for today - more reading as soon as I get a moment or two!

You can also get some reading done with Mercede's wonderful piece at 52 Stitches, JT's piece at The Nautilus Engine, Aaron's piece at Everyday Fiction, an excellent Q&A at Alan Davidson's blog with Kelly Armstrong, or Alan Baxter's 'The Book'.  If that's not enough for you, you can always buy the latest antho from Pill Hill Press which includes Nat Sin's story 'Donor'! (Warning, naked men in spa shown in advertisement - that should get some people there for you Nat).

Is it any wonder I don't get through submissions quicker with everybody publishing such cool stuff. Well done everyone!

Oh, for those of you wondering what happened to my background, my Photobucket account apparently died because I hadn't logged in for 3 months. Now I'm struggling to remember the password or what email address it was under so I'll go without until I find a replacement or remember how to access it. You may see the odd flash of something different while I play. Don't be alarmed - no animals or small children will be harmed in the making of this blog site...

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Quick Update

Firstly - for brownie points, when you submit to Dark Pages Volume 1, can you please use 12pnt font, preferably Arial and double space. I also like an extra return between paragraphs - white space is a readers friend.

I currently have 42 stories still to read. This is bolstered by over a dozen new stories every week and I expect this to be doubled, if not tripled as we approach the end of  November.

The vast majority of stories are very well told with unique settings, plots and premises. Many also have excellent characters. If I chose all the stories I liked, we'd be releasing Dark Pages volumes 1 through 5 early next year! Unfortunately my mandate is to only edit for volume 1 and I've been given parameters with which to work within to achieve that.

As I work through your submissions, I pass on the story names to Blade Red Press who kindly send out the bad news for me about once a week. I try and keep on top of the reading so the notices go out in fairly big batches to give everyone a chance to submit something else if they so chose (and quite a few of you have). I don't keep track of who has sent anything in so I don't pre-judge anything if you've had one unfortunate email so far.

I am currently sitting on a quite a number of stories I want to look at again before making any final choices for a second round of reading. I'm hoping to let everyone know how they have fared, and/or if I'd like to hang onto the piece for a while longer as soon as possible after the close of submissions.

Trust me, I'm a writer, I know how frustrating it can be waiting on a response. I promise not to keep you in suspense for too long.

Keep the subs coming.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Swept Away

A few weeks ago, I was notified about a writing prompt to be used in the weekly CafeDoom flash fiction competition. I wrote something for it but never submitted.

Then the submission period opened for 52 Stitches 2010, but I was in the middle of the Dark Pages Volume 1 anthology submission period with no real time to work on something new and yet with an almost physical need to submit something to Stitches. The online publication Aaron Polson put together over 2009 has been quite brilliant and I figured it would be a nice credit to have on my bio to have another piece in 2010.

The only thing I had was the CafeDoom inspired piece. With a little bit of revision during a quiet period one afternoon, I figured it was as good as I was going to get - I sent it in a couple of days after the submission call opened. It's called 'Swept Away' (I seem to have a bias towards a water-based setting with Stitches - 2009 had my story take place on a game fishing boat, this one is on a yacht).

Today I received an acceptance email - woot!

One piece per author to be released each week over 2010. And I'm going to be included in the ToC. Again!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Still Reading

Not a lot to report here. I'm still madly reading submissions although I'm giving that a break for a day or two to recharge the batteries - my respect and admiration for editors of big annual anthologies has gone through the roof. Can you imagine how many subs the judges for something like the Writers of the Future contest must go through! My eyes hurt just thinking about it (and it makes me realise just how big an achievement Jason Fischer accomplished).

Still, I'm working through your submissions. Can I take this opportunity to once more thank everyone for considering us a worthy place to host your work. Because I've had so many, I'm in the enviable but hard situation where I can accept only the cream of the crop. There's only a few weeks left to get your submission in so if you want to get into what I believe will be an exceptional ToC and the inaugural edition of this anthology, you'd better get your skates on.

In other news, I got my hair cut today, which isn't the news, but while I was wandering past the bookshop, I noticed the last book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series has finally made the shelves - naturally, it is now sitting on my shelf as well. It is huge! Now I need discipline to not start reading it before I've got this antho whipped into shape and then read and review the three books I still need to finish for HorrorScope. Oh - and then done the first round of edits on Inner Voice...why did I buy it again?

At this rate I might not write at all next year, I'll be too busy reading!

Lastly, I'm putting together a "Rules to submit by" as I go through the process of putting Dark Pages together. Without pointing any fingers I'll put together all the do's and don'ts, what worked and what didn't, how I came to decisions, etc, etc.

I intend to let you all into the process I went through so you all can hopefully gain some insight into the way one editor went about things.

For not a lot to report, this post has gone on way too long already.

For all those out there going through NaNo this year, I wave my pom-poms at you and wish you continued inspiration and lots of wordage.

Type cheerleaders into Google and see how hard it is to find an appropriate picture!
p.s. This guy is no relation to me...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Come & Gone But Life Goes On

It was Halloween over the weekend. My daughter dressed up as Morticia and the club had a good party during the evening.

I sat in a chair and tried to suffer in silence.

My knees are shot and my back is killing me. I seriously need to think about giving all this sport malarkey away. Yes, some people are playing who are older than me - good for them, but when my knees scream blue murder all week because of a few hours of standing in the sun, then somethings not quite how it should be.

I can see a visit to a knee specialist in the not too distant future...twice!

As a result, I've not been on the Net all weekend, apart from the sending of one email Saturday night, which meant I opened my email program of choice - which also allowed a couple of rejections to find their way home :c(

These also happen to be my two favourite short stories - very disappointing. One has already gone back out, but the second has now been knocked back six times, the last three with very encouraging remarks--but still not a yes. I'm half tempted to just publish it here because I want it out there, but before I do something rash I'll let it sit for now.

NaNo has begun for many of you and I wish you nothing but great success and clacking keys for the next 30 days (actually, 28 days now).

I'm still reading submissions for Dark Pages Volume 1. My current goal is to get my unread list below 50 and keep it there. Currently it sits at 49 but I get new subs every couple of days which sends it over again. A concerted effort later today should get me closer to something I can manage. I have been amazed at the different plots, settings, and scenarios people have come up with and the manner in which they have presented them.

I'm sure I'll regret saying this, but I'd love to see some very tight and very well presented shorter stories. I've had a lot so far but there has always been something missing. I want to see something with a beginning, middle and end, and the sharpest of hooks. Mix it with imagery I can see when I close my eyes, and tastes and sounds that are both tantalising and disturbing to the palette. Aim for 2K or less, the closer to flash (1K) you can get the better - but make it sing!

I'm doing my best to work through the reading so you still have time to submit something new before the deadline (30th Nov), but don't just cycle through the stories that have been rejected elsewhere. The first thing you sent me should have been your best, but if we've said no to that, then is there a point in sending me something you don't consider as good as the first thing you sent in? You have just under four weeks. Write me something new and exciting, get some feedback, polish it, and send it to me. Make my eyes weep!

I look forward to reading your submissions soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Hard Part

As Laura revealed in her comments on the last post, I knocked back her submission into the Dark Pages Anthology. I don't expect this to put her off though - there's still a month until subs close.

I began on this antho as a slush reader only, but took on more and more reading and eventually was asked to take over and do all the reading and choosing so as to provide the anthology with some independence from the owner(s) of Blade Red Press. Don't get me wrong, Blade Red Press are more than happy to do a first sift through the submissions for me, but I'd like to see it all so I now read everything.

On taking over this role, I have been amazed and, at first, delighted, to see so many familiar names submitting.

Then I read two stories by known names in the industry which set the standard for me. I don't think we've yet sent out any acceptance emails, but I doubt I'm going to find a dozen stories better than these so they'll probably be included. The point is, that these two are the only two I've got in my probably yes file. I have a growing number in my possibles file. I keep just a few in a third level file for backups (just in case).

Thank you but no thank you notes will go out as quick as I can get them sent - please feel free to submit another piece.

But the hard bit is because I've come to know so many of those who have submitted. I don't play favourites. When I read, I skip over the name and where it's from and just read the story. I like to think I have the ability to firmly wear a simple readers hat while doing this. I overlook grammar errors and mentally substitute letters and words for the occasional typo. I've even continued to read when the formatting has been completely botched and changed halfway through the manuscript. If the story doesn't have anything to draw me in, and it doesn't need to be a lot, then I stop reading (this has happened only once so far). If I get to the end and I'm not pulling a face of wonderment or puzzlement, or smiling as if I and the author know a secret but no one else does, then the story would be very lucky to make the third level folder.

So when I read something I'm not instantly happy to place in my possible file, and then see that it's by someone I know and consider a friend, I have a twinge of regret pass through me. It is a regret that I can't place the piece in this anthology and it is a regret that I know they'll be getting a rejection email.

I'm coming to terms with this - not that I really had a choice. With the number of subs from people I know, I needed to grow an extra thick skin pretty quickly. That's one thing I've learned in this process - editors who have writer friends, need a thicker skin just being a writer alone.

The saving grace in all this is the knowledge that those writers out there I call my friends are professional in their attitude and behaviour. They are knowledgeable in how the industry works and know that there are never enough slots in an anthology for the editor to publish everything he or she would like. With all this knowledge and with every set back, every writer I know strives that little bit harder to improve their craft in order to gain an acceptance the next time out.

I know those of you who have submitted to the antho and haven't been successful, or to those of you who are intending to submit and may not gain entrance - I know you are aware that the decisions made here are nothing personal and we, the team putting this product together, all wish you the best of luck, and the speediest of time frames, in finding a home for your work.

Now, having said all that - get back to work and send me your very best work. I'm looking forward to reading it, with a smile on my face...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Announcement

And so the time has come...

As guessed by some and alluded to by others, I'm editing an anthology, but not just any anthology.

Here is the official announcement over at Blade Red Press

Yes - Dark Pages Volume 1 is to be edited by me with help from the resources of Blade Red Press and more technical input from my guru of all things, Pharo.

This is why I've had no time to write, read other people's work, read books for review, or anything else lately - I've been reading submissions--lots and lots of submissions.

The process has been quite interesting, and very eye-opening, with a little head shaking in the mix, and a lot of pleasant surprises thrown in.

Now I have a challenge for you all - submissions for the anthology close at the end of November. I know many of you are doing NaNo, but I'm looking to blow away all the other dark anthologies out there by presenting some of the very best short fiction ever to come out of an independent small press. I want the Blade Red Press Dark Pages Volumes to be on everyone's 'to buy' list every year because the first one was killer. I want future invited editors of the anthology (if I don't get invited back), to have an extremely difficult job to top Volume 1! I want it all - insert maniacal laugh here ;c)

But I can't do that without you.

What do I want, and what have I learned so far?

As announced at Blade Red Press, there has been over 150 submissions already. The vast majority have made my life difficult in choosing whether to keep them for a second reading or pass on them. I want my life made more difficult in this regard. I want more excellent submissions.

Dark Pages is about dark fiction but this is not a horror-only anthology. I'm not interested in torture porn or blood and guts for blood and guts sake. I'm not interested in traditional tropes, but feel free to send me vampires, werewolves or voodoo if you and your entire critique group believe it to be the best thing ever written. In short - read the guidelines and stick to them as if the life of your piece depended on it - because it does. Depending on the length of the final stories chosen, Dark Pages could contain between 9-15 stories. That's less than 10% of the submissions I've received so far! With a month still to go, I'm expecting the final mark to be less than 5% of overall submissions - make yours brilliant! Stray from the guidelines and you'll be cut very quickly with no further correspondence to be entered into other than a standard rejection. I know this is harsh. As a writer, I know you all deserve more. I know you all deserve at least some comment as to why I didn't accept it or at least hold onto it for a second reading. The short answer is time and resources - we have bugger all of either. Many that don't make the cut are good enough to be published, but don't make it here because there are so many here that are outstanding - send me only your very best.

Okay - enough of the tough talk. Blade Red is paying well for the honour of using your work in this first anthology. Go check out the market pages like Duotrope or Ralan - not many antho's come out offering $25 and a copy as payment. Competition will be tough and will only get tougher as the deadline approaches. I have set my sights high on this, and expect to create a quality anthology with exceptional content as the end product.


To this point (he says with over 50 unread subs waiting for him), I have not seen enough dark fantasy or sci-fi submissions. Dark urban, western, war, yellow school buses or other not so obvious settings. Shorter is better. I will take two excellent short pieces over one excellent long piece (probably). Female authors - I don't have enough subs from the women of disturbia - in the end, gender will not decide if you get in, only the quality of the work will, but I'd like the opportunity to be able to include a wide selection of authors so please submit.

Finally - this is not an Australian anthology. There is not a set number of spots for any nationality. If I end up accepting stories from a dozen different countries and Australia isn't part of that, I'll be disappointed, but so be it.

Now - get writing, edit it to within an inch of its life, gain external feedback, check the guidelines, polish and submit! (not to me - send them here)

I'm counting on you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's Coming

The announcement that is...very soon. Within a day or two...or three...well, hopefully sometime this week.

That is all


Monday, October 26, 2009


I've been a little 'in dispose' over the last day and a bit. While it's true I don't normally blog on the weekend, this past weekend has made it almost impossible.

I played cricket on Saturday and batted for an extended length of time. My body is now paying the price for what my head thought it could do. A sharp reminder that I'm on the wrong side of forty to be attempting such things.

Still, it's been a while since I've made some decent runs so, although painful, it has been enjoyable.

For anyone interested: I play for ATCO CC and you can follow our exploits over at (skip past the ad to find the site). To see where the teams are in the greater scheme of things, you can check out the association website.

On the writing side of things - an announcement is imminent...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Yellow Mama

If you haven't read it yet - do so now.

Among all the gooey goodness, you will find stories from a few people you know:

Natalie L. Sin
Scott Wilson
Cindy Rosmus (of course)
L. R. Bonehill
& Me!

Out of 16 stories I know over 25% of the accepted submitters! Is it a small world or do writers of similar ilk, and at a similar mile-marker on that journey of discovery through the craft (how purple is that!), just seem to drift into each others company?

But apart from you knowing a quarter of the ToC, you should read this issue (and every issue) because it's just chock full of stories which will make you think. They may also make you keep the light on at night but whatever floats your boat! ;c)

In other news - I found an hour or so to myself yesterday and had an idea for a new story. The beginning is outlined and some research has already been done so that the logic works - it's a ghost story but I still like it to be as believable as possible. I'm sitting on the middle at the moment, letting some things ferment before deciding in which direction to go - and I have no ending at the moment. I need some sort of direction so I can shape the middle. Hopefully it comes but if not, the half baked idea has been entered into my ideas file along with the outline, the research and some websites of interest.

Some slush reading for Aurealis has arrived so I've got more of that to do as well.

Lastly, I'd like to write some flash fiction. Everything I think about and work on at the moment is long. I've written two pieces in the last six months or so that are 1000 words or less. I'd like to do a little more so I may just start turning my hand to the CafeDoom weekly challenge and see if I can hit on something I like. It's not like I have anything else on....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Feeling Alone

In my writing that is - I haven't busted with my lovely wife or anything so don't worry about that.

Over the past couple of years, I've been honoured and privileged to gather around me a fairly large group of writers who are now steadfast cyber-friends. When I've hit the writer's block wall - you have been there. You have celebrated my successes and offered consolation at my defeats. Always there has been encouraging words.

Now I'm working on a secret project and haven't been able to to discuss the process with any of you, and I don't feel right about it.

From the very beginning I've written honestly about the writing journey I've been on, more in the hope of dispelling the mysteries and uncovering the pitfalls for those who come after, but with the added benefit of finding like-minded individuals who have empathy for what I'm going through. The whole process has left me feeling warm and fuzzy because of your input into my writing life.

Now some of those friends have presented work for critiquing and comment which I've been unable to provide. Keeping the AHWA market database up to date has been an ever increasingly difficult task as my free time dwindles to almost nothing - I've had to withdraw from this now summer has come and my writing time is seriously squeezed. My reading for HorrorScope has come to a screaming halt. My reading for pleasure is non-existent. My providing interesting writing tips, facts and other things to help new and emerging writers has dried up.

If I could share what I'm doing, allow you all in on the process and, hopefully, allow you to learn what I'm now learning, I wouldn't mind (quite so much) how everything else has ground to a halt (I knew all this would happen when going into this project so I'm fine with it and I know it's only short term). But I'm worried about alienating some of you I have been blessed to call my friend. When the announcement does finally come, as it inevitably must, then this, and other concerns won't disappear, so I'm considering just releasing the proverbial cat from the bag on early parole. Kind of like ripping off the band-aid and allowing any pain to dissipate early - well, that's the theory...

This blog has become very much my writing journal as well as a way to disseminate writing knowledge, tips and other authorial goodness from one who is learning as they go. This post is no different. It is me, thinking while I type, or rather, typing what I'm thinking; allowing it to settle straight in my head before I shoot off at the mouth.

I've put the question to a significant other involved in this secret project and wait to hear what they think before announcing anything further - if anything at all at this time.

There are also very selfish reasons behind me wanting to spill the beans, most of which I can't divulge here without giving too much away. Besides, I'm not very good at keeping secrets like this. I'm the type of guy who thinks that it will all be announced at some point so why not just do it now?

So please bear with me a little longer.