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.