Monday, December 13, 2010

As We Wind Down.

And so the year winds down. But I find myself with lots to do and little time in which to do it. I have some reviews to finish writing, a short story to rewrite (yet again) and several more (currently clawing their way through my brain trying to escape) that need to be written.

My parents-in-law are visiting from overseas at the moment, and so I'm spending a lot of time with them. We certainly don't get to see them often enough. It's great to have them here, and they are doing great things in my garden. We spent a weekend down at Rye (where I found a couple of great books in the local op-shop) and visited Camberwell Market the week before (where I bought a saw) and spent a day driving all over the countryside (just like the Leyland Brothers).

As for school, my senior students received their VCE results today, and I was pleased with the scores they achieved. Not everyone did well, but the ones who worked attained good marks, and those that didn't got better marks than I expected. I'd like to think that's the sign of good teaching. None of them should be surprised, anyway.

And I got to see The Angels live again!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

They're Here...

During morning tea on Friday, my copies of Festive Fear: Global Edition arrived. Of course my colleagues had a look and a few even asked about where to buy a copy. It is sold out, and so I had to advise them to look at a few overseas sellers who still have limited copies in stock.

I must say the book looks beautiful - fabulous artwork and layouts. Steve Clark at Tasmaniac has done a wonderful job. Congratulations on maintaining the already high standard and reputation Tasmaniac Publications holds.

It was a real thrill to open it and find my story inside. I now look forward to reading it, within the context of the stories surrounding it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Getting Warmer.

So I came home exhausted after spending the week at a school camp with 35 or so teenagers. The kids weren't the exhausting part - they were great - it was all those wonderful activities.  I abseiled, white water rafted, rode horses, clambered around high ropes courses, rogained - and a whole lot more.

And then I got home o spend the weekend working in the garden and around the house. At least I had fabulous weather for it all.

So here's five albums (in no particular order) to play on a very warm, pre-summer day.

1. English Settlement - XTC
2. Abbey Road - The Beatles
3. Larry Norman (Starstorm) - Larry Norman
4. Making God Smile (Beach Boys Tribute) - Various Artists
5. Gold - Ryan Adams

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm Gonna Be Round My Vegetables...

So here we are at the pointy end of the year. Classes are disappearing faster than food in the canteen, the weather is getting warmer and there's more and more work to do in the next month.

Work is still busy, despite the diminishing classes, and with my in-laws arriving from overseas in a few weeks, there's a lot of work that needs to be done at home also. I've been busy (between writing, of course) building and preparing garden beds. My wife is currently out planting vegies and with any luck we'll be munching on them in a month or so. Two years ago we did very well over the summer. Last year, apart from the chilis, the vegetables didn't do all that well. It's a good thing I make a mean chili sauce.

But this year has had quite a bit of rain along with the warmth, and so I'm expecting tomatoes the size of bowling balls. And juicy as can be.

All I have to do now is find a story in there. (But different to Tim Powers' tomato story)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another Class Gone.

And so my senior students have finished the English course for the year. I taught the course, they attended the classes, and some of them even may have learned something.

They sat their exam last week, and from all accounts they seemed pleased with the questions. My colleagues and I were happy - we taught the course well, and covered all that the exam required.

So that's a load off my shoulders and my mind.

Now it's back to the writing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Follow Your Heart, Not Your Head.

The rewrites are going well, and I should have them done in the next few days. On top of that I have new ideas for a couple of markets coming up soon, and further development on a couple of older ideas.

One piece of advice I received recently from an editor (with an invitation to rewrite and re-submit - Yay!) was not to force a rewrite.  Take my time with it and allow it to happen organically, just as the original piece happened.

I've tried writing pieces in ways I think they should be written (Including more similes and inner dialogue - just because I think I should be writing more) and then, without fail, my readers/critiquers always seem to pick those parts as not working.

One thing I've learned is to trust your own instincts. And go with them.

I suppose that applies to a lot more than writing too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mud, Bikes And Ideas.

This one is a day late. But that's because I spent the weekend at the Moto GP down on Phillip Island.

Not that I'm into bikes, or even motor sports, but a friend of mine is and invited me along. I figured I'm right here in Melbourne, with a world class event right on my doorstep, and the perfect opportunity to go along to something I would never usually buy a ticket for.

I'll never be 'into' motorsports or motorbikes (although I have a motorbike licence) but I must say I had a fabulous couple of days.

The practice runs on Friday were a complete washout. We trudged through mud, and lots of it. And the bikes didn't come out until several hours after they were meant to. So they did their runs on a wet track while I stood ankle deep in mud and watched.

Saturday was better, with clearer skies and little rain. The time trials went smoothly, and Casey Stoner took pole position. And, of course, the actual races were fantastic to watch.

But most importantly, I got a couple of ideas for stories. Now all I need is the time to get them written between rewrites.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Renovating And Reconstructing.

Spring has finally arrived in all its glory. What a beautiful weekend. Which means that for the first time in many months, I had no excuse not to finally tackle those jobs around the house that I've been able to postpone for so long.

A couple of mates came over and we built gates so my dogs can no longer escape. Not that they ever do, but now there's added assurance. I removed an old heating system and replaced the flooring where it once sat. (The room is now so much bigger!) And there were a number of smaller jobs in the garden and on the roof that were finally crossed off the list.

Chateau Cameron is looking good. The only problem is that I really should have been dong story re-writes for my mentor, Paul Haines. He sent me back two stories last week. One is getting closer to being complete, but still lacks something. The other is a ways off yet, and needs a major rewrite. Paul pointed out all the stuff that needs work, and (damn him) he was right every time. It was so obvious once he showed me.

But I have ideas there that should solve a lot of those issues. Until Paul adds more to the list.  Which is fine, I asked him to be strict and he's doing that.

A couple of the bits he picked up on, I'd actually questioned myself. Which means I should pay more attention to my instincts and not include stuff just because I think I should.

Oh well, maybe I'll get a few lines written this week - in between hanging gates and rebuilding skirting boards.

Unless Paul wants to come over and swing a hammer with me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

If Only I'd Hung A Mirror In The Corner Of The Story.

It's back to school tomorrow, but in the meantime I've had a fantastic vacation.

The writing continued well from last week, with another rewrite, and another story pouring out of me. This is another one that's been developing in my brain for a while, but it just seemed to coalesce into existence without too much effort from me. I even drafted it a good three or four times, and then decided it was the one I would send off to Writers of the Future for this quarter.

Of course, with the new online submission process they now have (Yay!) I was able to keep it until almost the last minute, and even received confirmation it was received in time.

Now K.D. just has to recognise it for the piece of brilliance it is. (hehehe)

Above and beyond that, I subbed another story elsewhere.  Things are all go here at the plush Cameron writing studios.

One thing I've been intrigued by recently is what I refer to as the 'Feng Shui' of writing. Like if you hang a mirror in the corner of your room you'll suddenly become rich because the money won't pour out - or something like that. As you can probably gather, I'm not really into it. But writers do something similar after a rejection. "If only I'd added another character in the last scene, or written another couple of metaphors in the opening, or if I'd called him Mike instead of John." That sort of thing, as if a single change would push the story from a reject to an acceptance, or, in the case of WOTF, up to a finalist.

From all accounts, WOTF receives over 2,000 submissions each quarter, with approximately 8 of those becoming finalists, another 8 or so being semi finalists, and forty of those being honourable mentions.  Receiving any of those awards means you're doing pretty well.  I'm not convinced that there is a simple 'fix' in most cases. The story I received an HM for needed a major rewrite, not just a change of name. And even now I'm not convinced the new version would have fared a whole lot better.  I don't know where my HM sat in the imagined HM rankings. Near the top? Near the bottom? If one of the finalists was withdrawn, would mine have been the next in line and pushed up to Semi finalist?

Still, I was pleased that story did as well as it did there. And now it's out on submission and will hopefully be bought at some point. But there were potentially somewhere between 16 and 40 stories better than it. And each quarter I try to write the best story I can. And, hopefully, improve as a writer. One of these days I'll make finalist.

But that will only be the beginning.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Words, Words, Words.

What a fantastic week it's been.

I completed two rewrites, submitted two stories, and completed another that I started a while ago but wasn't sure where to head with it. This week it all came together and the words just poured out. Not only is it the longest story I've ever written, but it's the most complex. And I'm really happy with it.

I've really enjoyed spending most of the week writing. I enjoyed the proofreading and editing, the search for just the right word, the challenge to describe situations and places, and the time spent reading my own work and seeing how it flowed. Of course I'll put this work aside for a few days and have another read with fresh eyes.

When I originally re-read the bits of the story I started writing six months ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the words I'd written. They were better than I'd imagined, and I found at one point I even recognised the influence of one of my favourite authors poking its way through my own style.

Cool. Especially since it was unmistakably my own style.

But I was thrilled how it all came together so quickly - all the ideas I'd had, thrown around, mashed up just poured out onto the paper. (or technically the screen, I suppose)

And hopefully, one day soon, you'll be able to read these words too.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Time For Writing.

Parent teacher interviews have once again come and gone, as has all the hard marking at the end of Term 3. And now I'm on holidays for two weeks.

I've got lots of writing to get on with since I've been neglecting it a little recently. I did a major rewrite last week for Paul Haines, my mentor, and had another read of it this morning before submitting it. Amazing how many times you can read and re-read something and still discover errors at the last minute.

One of my favourite tricks, and one I've been advising my students to do, is to read it out loud. That's when you really notice mistakes, lack of flow or even places where the rhythm doesn't work.

I have two rewrites to do this week, a story to complete, and about three to start.  My head is swimming with ideas at the moment (and yes, I've been writing them down) - and I'm especially keen to try and sell another story. By the end of the week I should have another three stories out on submission.

I'm really looking forward to this week.  Gotta love them words.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Turn Me On, Dead Man...

I love conspiracy theories.  Not that I actually believe them, but I find them a lot of fun. And my favourite one would have to be the whole 'Paul is Dead' one.  You know, Paul McCartney supposedly died in a car crash on 9th November, 1966 and was replaced by Williams Campbell (Billy Shear - Billy's Here - geddit?) so that thousands of fans worldwide wouldn't kill themselves.  Of course, the remaining three (as well as all those others who would have to know about it) kept quiet about it forever, and even went so far as filling their albums and songs with clues for us.

It makes no sense at all, but it sure is fun.

I watched a DVD yesterday, in which a tape purporting to be George Harrison (but actually sounded like a talentless American actor doing an impression of what he thought a Liverpudlian should sound like) confesses to his involvement in the cover-up. It even went so far as to claim the only witness to the accident was a woman named Rita who was bought off.  Later, she survived an assassination attempt by MI5, but lost her leg. She blackmailed McCartney into marrying her or she was going to reveal the whole story.  Somehow the producers didn't figure out that Heather Mills wasn't even born in 1966 when the accident supposedly took place.

Oh yeah, ignore that one at all costs - but do check out the books and webpages surrounding the story. And if you're interested, check out The Beatle zombie retelling, Paul is Undead.

Festive Fear 2 will soon be released by Tasmaniac Publications, and I have my story, Ghost of the Heart, included.  What you don't know is that my story includes a good dose of the whole Paul is Dead theory. And boy, was that fun to write.  Keep an eye out for it, and find a copy if you can.  I believe it's already sold out.

Just finished rewriting another story of mine. My mentor, Paul Haines, (under the Australian Horror Writers Association) made a number of recommendations which I spent a few weeks considering. A few ideas finally fermented and ended up on paper.  I've just sent the rewrite back, so I'll have to wait and see what Guru Paul thinks of it.

And apart from that? Life goes on and work is busy.  My friend and colleague even announced my forthcoming publication at work last week. I plan to kill him for that at some point.

Maybe I'll replace him with a double named William Campbell.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And Now It's All Over.

So Worldcon/Aussiecon has come to an end. And some questions remain.

Who was Dave, and why did he have his own ribbon?

What did I have to do to get more ribbons? (I only had one)

Who is the mysterious financier behind the London bid that allows them to have parties with so many free drinks?

How could I spend 5 days in the building, and yet only bump into an old friend as I was literally walking out the door?

How did some people ever get onto a panel?

When is the next Worldcon to be held in Australia? (Roughly every 10-12 years, it seems)

Anyway, it was fabulous and now I'm tired and back at work.It was great to catch up with heaps of people I knew and great to finally meet people I'd only had been in contact with by email. I got to meet Shaun Tan and Robert Silverberg (two of my favourites) as well as a bunch of people I'd never heard of but impressed me greatly. I guess I could compile a list of names, but I'm afraid it would look like namedropping.

Thanks to the organisers, volunteers, and all those who made it work.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We're Off To Worldcon.

Worldcon looms.  And I can't wait.

Hotels are booked, plans are made, schedules are checked, sessions are highlighted, supplies are bought and bags are packed.

There are people I'm looking forward to meeting, people I'm looking forward to catching up with, and even one or two I'm planning to keep my distance from.

Yes, conventions bring out all sorts. And, fortunately for us, that makes the 'speculative world' richer for it.  Hopefully I'll get next week's blog uploaded, but who knows - especially since my laptop accidentally died yesterday.  Hopefully the techs will get it up and running tomorrow, but it depends on the damage that was done.

Otherwise, I'll hopefully see you at the con.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Who Will It Be Now?

We wake up this morning in a world of uncertainty.  We don't know whether we'll be 'moving forward' with Julia Gillard, or whether we will get 'real action' with Tony Abbott. When I arrived at the polling office yesterday, (office? OK, school hall) I asked the official there who I should vote for.  He laughed, and told me he had no idea as they were both stinkers.  This really has been the 'who really cares who gets in' election.

There are more pressing matters.

It's another morning where I still don't know who will coach Essendon next year. We've had enough of the whole 'Matthew Knights has a contract and has the support of the board' rhetoric - which in football, as in politics, often indicates he's not long for the job. And then the whole James Hird announcing his interest, only to completely backflip two days later.  Did someone at the club tell him to keep quiet because plans are afoot? James on board as assistant for three years with a seasoned coach before he gets the main gig?

And on top of that Essendon fans, and myself personally, have been accused of a number of things this week.  We've been told that:
  1. We're so used to winning we just can't handle losing.
  2. We're not getting Sheedy back, so get over it.
  3. We had it in for who-ever replaced Sheeds, so grow up
  4. We need to give Knights time.
OK, I'm game - I'll respond to those.

1: In many ways, the 27 years under Sheedy was very frustrating. OK, we won four premierships  - which fans at other clubs would consider successful, but with the teams, money and talent we had, we should have won at least two more. And we don't think losing is the end of the world. After all, we had ten years of being stuck two-thirds of the way down the ladder. We fought to remain there. Maybe we should have tanked, and had a better playing list than we have now.

2: We weren't happy with the way that Sheedy was dumped, but many of us felt that he should have left five years or more before he did. I was rather pleased he went. And no, most of us don't want him back.

3: I've been told they interviewed Hardwick, Harvey - even Bomber Thompson was spoken to - but for whatever reason they decided to rush and give the job to Knights. (I am quite glad they didn't get Voss.) Someone who had been underwhelmingly unsuccessful as an Assistant at AFL level, and as a coach at VFL level. No, we were mystified by the decision, but the results (or lack of) have spoken for themselves.

4: Knights has had three years.  His win ratio has fallen, he still alienates the fans (and, I believe a number of players too), and still seems to have no real strategies or game plans. He hasn't proven himself, hasn't shown any leadership, hasn't shown the least bit of hope, and seems to be in complete denial about his lack of vision. "Score enough goals and we won't have to defend" is not a game plan.

Who will be in charge next year?  Mark Williams doesn't excite me, James Hird (prove yourself as an assistant first) is unknown, and great players don't necessarily make great coaches),  I don't know much about Laidley and I'm not really sure who else is available.

But it's time for Knights to go. And for us to get an experienced coach with leadership.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

You're Feeling Sleepy, Sleepy...

On the right hand side of this page, I have a column of recent 'doings'. Recent Youtubing, Recent Reading, Recent Listening ... and so on.

And I update the pictures and links every Sunday.

This morning, as I was starting to put this all together, I selected the picture for a book I've just finished this week entitled "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", and prepared the image for encoding. But then something struck me.

While I've always planned for that column to not be a recommendation list, but rather a snapshot into the things that have influenced me that week, I have, however, always consciously avoided posting images of things I didn't at least partially like. And I really didn't like The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

The dialogue is boring and unnatural. I didn't care for the characters at all. The story is dull, as is the storytelling. And fairly pointless.  It reminded me, in fact, of the old Monty Python skit where nothing happened, entitled "A Minute Passed."
  • A minute passed. Then another. Then, another minute. Then ... another minute passed. Then another minute passed. And another. A further minute passed quickly, followed by another minute, when suddenly, a different minute passed, followed by another different minute. And another. And yet another further different minute. A minute passed.
And still nothing happened.

Unfortunately, as an English teacher, I'm required to read books I wouldn't ever choose to read.  On occasion, of course, this has worked positively for me, and I've discovered something great. But when I start one of my own books I don't like, I don't finish it. A school book, however, must be read to the conclusion. When I have a stack of thirty or more promising books waiting to be read, I almost resent having to waste time finishing soporific texts like this.

This book is one of the most boring I've ever encountered, so even though I finished it, I finally decided not to post the cover. Not everything that goes up here is a recommendation, but it's usually something from which I feel I have gained something.

And yet I am still talking about the book here. And I guess the unusual way in which it's written will influence my writing - (in that I'll never try it because it didn't work for me)

Each their own, I suppose. I noticed Philip Pullman loved it, and stated, "this is more exciting than any thriller I've read for a long time..."

Maybe he hasn't read much else recently.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Free Market?

I had a conversation with another writer this week about the process of submitting and getting published. Standing with us was a non-writer, who seemed genuinely surprised at the long delays, non-allowance of multiple submissions and general difficulty we have in selling stories.

There is one particular story I have that has only been submitted four times in two years.  On its first submission it was gone for four months before rejection, then seven months before rejection, then nine months before rejection. At least its final rejection came after only three weeks.

The delays were extremely frustrating. And I suppose I could have pulled it earlier each time, but I was given hope and encouragement on each occasion that made me think it was worth leaving there.  What I found most frustrating, however, was the lack of reply to my enquiries each time. I finally sent four enquiries (two to each of the longer submissions), each a month apart, and each extremely polite.

And I never received a reply to any of them.

Now I understand the editing process is a long process, but a simple response after that amount of time would have meant a lot to me. My non-writing friend was amazed, and suggested we should just ignore those guidelines and submit to as many places as we liked. If the editors want my story, then they should claim it quickly or lose it. (Of course this presumes my writing is such that editors want it.)

At first I could see the thought behind this, but after I considered it for a while I realised this would work against beginning writers, as publishers' in-boxes and in-trays all over the world would be stuffed with submissions. My sub, with my unknown name, would be sat at the bottom of a very big pile every time, with known writers getting snapped up before others could get them.

It's easier just to vote with your stamps. The above mentioned mags don't receive my subs anymore. If they can't be bothered even replying to my polite enquiries, then I don't wish to deal with them. Anyway, the best way to get your stories snapped up is by writing quality stories. That's the direction I hope I'm heading in.

And of course I have this fantasy running in my head where one day, as a famous guest-of-honour at a con, an editor asks me why I never submit to them.  I smile, and explain I did...

Ah well, it's a nice image.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It Just Doesn't Seem to Make Sense.

Last week I read an internet article written by someone involved in publishing.  This person was writing about small press publishers and how important they were to not only emerging writers, but to the publishing industry in general. The writer commented on how these small publishers filled niches and satisfied readers of genre that the larger publishers wouldn't touch due to economics.

So far, so good.

Then this writer selected a couple of small publishers (by name) and proceeded to praise one (publisher A) while viciously attacking the other (publisher B). Publisher A could do no wrong, while Publisher B was doing nothing but harm to writing in general. The reasons given? Publisher B had poor editors, terrible layouts (with examples given) and was heavily criticised as being nothing more than fans turned publishers.

Fair enough.

Except for one thing.  It so happens I have several anthologies from both these publishers. And what I've noticed is this.  The perceived faults with the layouts described for publisher B are exactly the same as those found in publisher A's work. I found as many 'missing words' in sentences in both, while in Publisher A's work, I found more mistaken homophones - really obvious ones too. As for the quality of the selected writings? Well, I found both had excellent inclusions, both had a couple of average ones, while Publisher A even had one or two that were just poorly written with several examples of confusing and amateurishly constructed sentences and paragraphs that were embarrassing to read.

I enjoyed the work from both publishers - I just wonder what the writer of the article had against Publisher B, and whether the writer had any sort of interest in Publisher A. And, of course, it's a shame there were grammatical and editing mistakes in both of these publisher's works.

It does make you remember one thing, though. Keep an open mind on reviews, unless you see the same comments pop up over and over again.

(Unfortunately I didn't bookmark the article at the time, and can't seem to find it now.  I'm sure it must still be out there under layers of other webpages.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Time For A History Lesson.

There is currently some fantastic Spec Fic coming out of Australia. And some wonderful small publishers grooming the next crop of writers. But it only just occurred to me that I have very little idea of the tradition of SF writing in this country.

Sure, I know of Damien Broderick writing in the 70s, and the publishing work of people like Bruce Gillespie and Paul Collins, and I've even heard of a guy called George Turner from the 60s.

It's always cool when you receive an email from, or meet an author you've been reading for a while. That's happened to me with all the above (except Turner) and several others. It turns out that I originally met Paul Collins around 25 years ago. An old friend of mine, Steve Dash ( A talented artist indeed. You still around Steve? Still painting?), did the artwork for The Tempting of the Witch King (Russell Blackford) and Ring of Truth (David Lake) and introduced me to Paul when he ran a shop down in St. Kilda. And it's very cool seeing Paul still around and still publishing. Then there was the new breed of writer that came to the fore over the past 25 years. (Lucy Sussex, Sean Williams, Greg Egan, Terry Dowling) I've been lucky enough to meet some of them too - and even to be on first name terms with them. And I've met several of the up and comers.

We've certainly had a long history of fandom here. Melbourne Science Fiction Club is the second longest running SF club in the world.

But what about writers of Australian SF before the 70s. There's only one that I really know of. I went to school with a kid who was the niece, or granddaughter, or something, of Ivan Southall who wrote the Simon Black series. Unfortunately, I only ever read his adventure books. But surely there had to be SF written before that.

It looks like Aurealis Publishing is about to rectify the gaps in my knowledge.  Just in time for Worldcon 68, they are reprinting 'lost' Australian classics, dating from between 1880 and 1930.  A set of six to start with, and then I believe there will be more on the way. This is a series I'm looking forward to reading.

Support your small independent publishers who are helping to keep Spec Fic alive.  Order a set today.

And don't forget to vote for the Ditmars.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy Apocalypse, Everyone.

It's been an interesting kind of week here at Chateau Cameron.

First of all my slipped disc (or bulging disc or pinched nerve or whatever it is) re-slipped.  It's been playing up for close to a year now, but this is the worst it's been. My back, legs and feet were in all kinds of pain which made walking very difficult. And, on top of that, I had that stupid chest bug that everyone seems to have at the moment. And so I was off work for a couple of days, hobbling around like a little old man and coughing like a seasoned smoker.  Thank goodness my doctor referred me to a physiotherapist who seems confident it'll all be sorted soon.

Of course something else just had to occur to make things worse. And so my hot water system decided to blow up. The Blu-Ray player I'd been planning to buy last week is now back on hold. Apparently, according to my wife, showers are important. And while I can see that, I think it's a very fine line as to which is more important - hot showers or a Blue-Ray player.

To cheer myself up, I grabbed the opportunity to read a couple of books. The Road and Things We Didn't See Coming. Both these books are post-apocalyptic, (and for those out there who didn't realise, they're both Science Fiction!) with various degrees of bleakness. Yay, happy time!

I've been wanting to see The Road on film for a long time, but I wanted to read the book first. And now that I'd finally gotten round to that, I was able to jam the DVD in the machine, press play and curl up on the couch to watch it.

I loved the film - although not as much as the book. The film is suitably grey and (dare I use the word again?) bleak. The book allows for less use of dialogue - it's much more sparse and restrained which I thought was wonderful. Being a Hollywood film, I was concerned they'd change the end to have them arrive at a commune where they are welcomed, blah, blah, blah.  Much like they did with I Am Legend.

Things We Didn't See Coming isn't as grey - it's a series of short stories that travels across many years showing life under many forms of government and authority - or even non-government and anarchy. It works well, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as well.

And on the subject of bleak, that's exactly the forecast I have for the new movie that's coming out in August, Titanic 2.

And I'm not joking.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Five Weeks To Go.

Only five weeks or so until Worldcon 68/Aussicon 4, and I must say I'm really excited.

Just over two years ago I was reading online about Continuum 5, and at that stage I'd never been to a convention. The information online was rather sparse - it seemed to be all about steampunk, which I didn't know much about. In fact I wasn't really sure what went on at Continuum.  For all I knew I might have been joining a cult (some may suggest I actually was) But in the end I decided just to go anyway.  And I was really glad I did.  I had the most wonderful time and met some fantastic people.

And so I convinced a friend to come along with me to Continuum 6. And he had a great time too. So much so that he not only signed up for Continuum 7, but Worldcon as well.

As a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association, I've now signed up for the Nightmare Ball. Sounds like it should be a lot of fun. I'm planning to meet up with fellow writer GNBraun for the first time there, as well as a few other people I've met over the years. And, of course, at the actual convention I'll not only see a lot of faces I know, but meet up with lots of new people too.

So if you haven't signed up for Aussiecon yet, what's stopping you?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's The Same Old Story... Or Is It?.

A while ago I wrote a story that I really liked. A few other people really liked it too.  I sent it out, and it received great comments, but no one picked it up. I was told it was well written, but basically lacked action. The protagonist is passive.

Which is true - he is. And that was how I wanted the story to be. Paul Haines, under the mentorship program sponsored by the Australian Horror Writer Association, has been workshopping it with me.  He's given me some fantastic feedback on the story and has caused my thoughts and ideas to head off in areas I hadn't considered.

And so now I'm rewriting parts of the story, introducing a new character, and just trying to tighten the thing right up.

But all this is flowing over into the story I'm currently writing. I've started applying these thoughts over there as well, and it's making for a much better story.

I've never been overly fond of critique groups - my minimal experience with them hasn't been great - but I definitely see the value in having readers who know what they are talking about. And I've been fortunate enough to build up a couple of them.  I just need them to get a little harsher with me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tell Us About Yourself...

How do you write about yourself without sounding like an idiot?

This week I had to write my bio for my upcoming publication, and I suddenly realised I didn't know what to write. Obviously 3rd person works best in these cases, but apart from that? I had no idea. So the first thing I did was grabbed some anthologies and read what others had written. My next step was to do a quick internet search to see if there were any recommendations.  I did find one site that had some good information.

Some writers try to use humour, making self deprecating jokes or trying to show themselves as zany. I can see this works for some people, but I quickly realised it wouldn't work for me.  Which was a bit of a shame, as I had thought about paraphrasing Polly from Fawlty Towers. "With the sale of this story, Steve is now earning enough as a writer to keep him in teaching."

Hmmm, no.

Some writers also include their pets - especially if they are cats. Since cats and I are mortal enemies, that was never going to happen.  I thought about mentioning my dogs, but figured they'd never read it anyway.  No, mentioning pets just wasn't going to work for me either.

It's easier too if you have some publications behind you. Unfortunately I don't.  I considered making up a few. "Steve's work can be found in such titles as Queasy Stomach Vol.4, Uneasy, Dry Retch and I'm Making This One Up." That was just going to make me look sad if anyone ever decided to actually hunt for these things.

Same with awards.  I haven't been nominated or won anything yet. No Ditmars, Aurealises (Aurealii?), Chronoses (Chronii), or anything else.  I could have added, "Steve has a Bronze Swimming Medallion and holds Level 2 in First Aid. He has recently been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize."


Same with the ubiquitous, "Steve is working on his novel."   I'm not.

In the end I decided to be honest, straight to the point and serious.  It's what works for me. Of course once I discussed this with my friends, they all volunteered to write one for me.

Now that would have been embarrassing.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wow, What's That Splinter In Your Eye?

For many years I've told people that I don't particularly like horror. I don't read it and don't watch horror films. A couple of years ago someone lent me a Stephen King book and told me I had to read it, and although I enjoyed it (and he does write great dialogue), it didn't thrill me. So I find it rather ironic that my first publication will be in a horror anthology.

I didn't mean for it to happen like that. It happened by accident. You see, I tend to write SF - although I've written a couple of stories that were slightly supernatural based. In fact one of them, a ghost story, I didn't consider to be horror at all - but it did seem to fit into the Festive Fear format. And so before I submitted it to Tasmaniac, I e-mailed and queried to ensure I wasn't wasting the publisher's time. What I've slowly come to realise over the past six months is that my definition of horror was all wrong.  All the time I was telling people I didn't like horror, I was actually reading a lot of it.

One day I suddenly realised half the Twilight Zone and X-Files shows I've seen are horror and, of course, Buffy spends all her time battling demons and vampires. As for all those Jonathan Carroll books I've been reading and loving for 25 years? Turns out they're horror. (I just figured they were weird fantasy with a dark edge.)

I've just finished reading a few anthologies of horror stories - and most of them turned out to be not what I expected. What I realised I meant is I don't like the blood and gore horror - slasher stuff. And although I'm still not huge on the evil supernatural horror, one of my best friends has been working on me, making me watch old Hammer Horror films with him. Yeah, I know - they're pretty lame by modern standards, but it's a start.

So here I was accusing people of pigeonholing genre, saying they don't like SF while praising Avatar and so on - only to find I was doing it myself.

I promise to be more open to different genres from now on, OK? (Mills & Boon is still out, though!)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When You See The Robot, Drink.

Back at work this week after a couple of weeks break. Currently teaching Year of Wonders to my senior students. Putting lots of energy into fighting their mid-year apathy. It's a book I actually enjoyed a lot more than I'd anticipated. If only I could get my students to finish reading it.

My younger class, all boys, seem to be enjoying studying Futurama as much as I enjoy teaching it. I'm always amazed at how well this particular episode (Love and Rocket)  is written. It's thematically densely packed, and has an incredible assortment of historical and pop cultural references. All I need to do is keep alert for the occasional parents that believe it's not a real text 'cos it's from TV.

Still not in love with Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.  It is reasonably easy to teach though. Not a book I'll ever choose to read again.  Of course I'll have to re-read it every time I have to teach it.

Still, we're getting some Spec Fic into the curriculum, even if others around us don't recognise it for what it is. Now to get them studying Blade Runner, or A Scanner Darkly.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

One Week Down...

It's the end of my first week under the mentorship of Paul Haines and it's already paying dividends. As you may know Paul is mentoring me under the auspices of the Australian Horror Writer's Association. I've submitted some of my work and we've commenced a dialogue.

I feel like I've learned a fair bit in the first week alone. His constructive criticism, comments and advice (and encouraging words) have reinforced some things I was already aware of, and opened my eyes to others that I was not. I'm on the way, but my writing needs practice and a chance to develop. I feel like I can improve and with Paul's guidance I know I will.

I guess how far is ultimately up to me.  Thanks for a great start, Paul.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Was Dancing Around The House.

Literally.  My dogs didn't seem to mind, though. They ran with me.

My wife was at work when I received the email informing me that I'd made my first sale. Of course I rang her straight away, and left a message as she was in a meeting. Then I rang my best friend, my second best friend, my third best friend, my Mum and Dad, some guy I met down the pub once, my third grade teacher that I haven't seen in 35 years...

You get the idea.

Anyway, Tasmaniac Publications bought a story of mine for inclusion in Festive Fear 2, due out later this year.  Last year's Festive Fear was fantastic, but this year's has gone global.

I'm really excited by this - and, as Marty Young, pointed out to me, it's been an incredible week for me.  First I score Paul Haines as a mentor, and now this.  I did a quick web-search and found G.N. Braun's writing  has also been accepted for this anthology. Congratulations.

And now, for the very first time in my life, I find myself signing a publishing contract. (Boy, that was fun!)

Support your local small press (and aspiring writers) and pre-order a copy as soon as you can.  They tend to sell out rather quickly.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Using The Right Bait.

I've just spent a week holidaying at Merimbula. A splendid time indeed, and I didn't really have internet access. There was a signal, but it took 5 minutes or more to load each page - if it loaded at all.  In the end I decided to ignore the outside world and get on with my relaxation.

I know I've previously used the fishing metaphor in regards to writing, but it really hit home a couple of times this week as I stood in the surf creating storylines and hoping to catch some dinner. Over the week I tried a couple of styles of fishing this week. Once I was with some other people, lines straight down into the water.  A few nibbles but little success. Except for one guy, who seemed to have no technique, no skill or experience, was using the same rods and bait as me but was just reeling them in. Sigh.

I've had those nibbles from editors while I've seen a couple of others sell their first story.

I tried surf fishing too. Lots of casts, with the occasional strike.  I was able to reel in a couple, only to lose them in the surf right in front of me. Reminds me of the seven months one of my stories was on hold before the editor slipped off the hook at the last minute.

Another day I tried the same thing and actually caught a couple. Same technique, same place, just a different day.  I have no idea why they were biting that morning and not the previous day.

But it all comes down to persistence. Changing things around, switching baits, hooks, seeking advice from those that know the waters and keep throwing those lines back in the water.

And yes, I had a feast of freshly caught tailor one night.  Delicious it was.

Just watch out for the sharks.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mentor As Anything.

A month or so ago I decided to apply for the Mentor Program run by the Australian Horror Writers' Association. Last night I received word I'd been accepted - making me a Mentee, or is it Mentoree.  Either way, I'm completely over the moon.

I was required to submit an application form, a statement of why I wished to be included, and 1000 word sample. I also was asked to name the three Mentors I'd like to have as my guru.  A tough choice indeed, looking at the names that were offered up.  In the end I listed Paul Haines - because I'd met him at Continuum 6 and really enjoyed his writing, Jason Nahrung - because I'd met him at a minicon and had bought his book (Haven't read it, yet) and Stephen Dedman, because I'd bought all the issues of Borderlands.

I'd have been thrilled with any of these guys, or any of the others up for offer.  I wasn't even sure I'd be selected, and so you can only imagine my thrill when I received the email telling me Paul Haines was taking me on.

Yay!  Thanks AHWA, Marty Young and Paul Haines.  I look forward to learning so much over the next three months.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

As I Muse On Where's Fit To Print.

It's no secret I love my books.  I have a couple of rooms where floor to ceiling shelves house them, and I just love looking at them. I love the feel of them, to hold them in my hands and look at their design. Some, obviously more than others. And being into Spec Fic, the cover artwork is of prime importance. Maybe you can't always judge a book by its cover but I've certainly bought books based on their cover art. Design, layout and typography are just as important for me. I've paid more for a British edition over a budget US edition based on the printing inside - even though the text was identical, word for word.

I subscribe to a couple of mags, just for the pleasure of regularly receiving new writings and artwork. Aurealis, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, even the e-zine Intergalactic Medicine Show - and I look forward to their arrival in my mailbox- real or virtual. For me, however, reading physical texts is a joy - something to savour, an experience that utilises more than one sense. Even the smell of certain old books adds to the experience. I certainly don't enjoy reading text on a screen anywhere near as much.

Which is one of the reasons why I submit my work to print mags rather than e-mags.

I'm an old-school reading kind of guy. And while I logically understand some of the e-mags are as reputable and have standards just as high as print mags, there seems to be something more real about having been published on paper. I know that I won't truly consider myself on the way until I can hold a magazine or book in my hands and see my name on the Table of Contents. Maybe that's old fashioned thinking - but I still have the notion that any fool can stick a story online whereas there are generally checks and balances before you hit the presses. And it seems to impress the relations, friends and rubes more when they can hold it.

Sure, Intergalactic Medicine Show may receive my subs in the future, but in the meantime I'll keep sending my stuff off to the print zines.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Read As Much As You Can.

I know I've briefly mentioned Paul Haines before, but I've now read both of his books and I cannot recommend them enough. I picked up Slice of Life late last year but it took me while to get around to it - not for any reason except I have a lot of books I need to get around to. Which reminds me. The next two books I read will have to be texts I teach, not books of my own choosing - Year of Wonders and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. After that, of course, I'll be back into the stack next to my bed.

Slice of Life was wonderful. I loved almost everything about it. There was only one story in there that didn't 'click' with me, and funnily enough a friend of mine picked the same story as the only flat spot. But overall it was an absolute joy to read through so I hunted out Paul's earlier book, Doorways for the Dispossessed.

A few stories appeared in both books, but I could live with that - they tended to be the better stories so I happy to re-read them anyway. The selection of stories didn't feel as unified and their ordering didn't seem to flow as well. (I presume he had a smaller body of work from which to choose) There were a number of typos throughout the book - but fortunately that didn't distract too much. It's also obvious his writing isn't as developed as in the later stories, but it was still a great read. Both are recommended!

Another book I picked up was another collection by a local author. I'd read good things about this book, it had some great endorsements on the back by a couple of authors I know personally and a couple of others I've read, and it's on a local imprint that I respect. Unfortunately, it seemed like the book contained every single word he'd ever written. I enjoyed a number of the stories, but too many of them relied on poor puns and jokes that were nowhere near as funny as the writer thought they were. The book should have been around half its size, and then we'd have had a book I'd be recommending.

Why don't I mention it by name?  Because the guy is a good writer and I liked enough of it that I don't want to put people off. I know writing styles often come down to a matter of taste and preference, and I recognise that this book is one that has merit and while I was disappointed in aspects of it, others might love the parts I didn't.

And because I'm only starting out in this field and I don't want to 'dis' local writers, editors and publishers.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Marking, Marking, Marking...

Ah, the joys of being a teacher.

In the past two weeks I have marked 105 senior essays, 60 short stories, 50 posters, and 45 character studies.  I've also written around 145 reports and proofread around 400.  If I never see a student's progress report as long as I live I would be very happy.

Of course it doesn't end there.  I have another 45 essays to mark in the coming week. But then after that I get the semester break. And during that time I have my own writing to complete.

I'm not trying to elicit sympathy - just explain why this is a day late. And to explain to some friends why I haven't seen them much recently.

Oh well, back to marking. See you on the other side.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's My Birthday And I'll Dance If I Want To...

I went to La Mama in Carlton on the weekend.  What a fabulous venue it is.  I used to go there a whole lot more often, back when I was studying literature, drama and theatre at university. But time steals by and years pass without making the effort to visit this icon of Melbourne theatre.

It was my birthday on the weekend and my wife and I spent the time in the city. We started in Brunswick Street where we browsed and I bought a few books and CDs before checking into our hotel. A bit of time spent around the shops in the CBD before heading out to Lygon Street. A few more bookshops, a couple more purchases and into a Spanish Restaurant where the food was average, the lights were dark, but the beer was great. And then to La Mama, where my wife had booked us tickets. Something Natural but Very Childish combined my love of the theatre with my love of Katherine Mansfield. Reading the program, it seems the director, Gary Abrahams, and I seem to have a great deal in common - except he's a very talented and creative director and I'm not. The cast was stunning, the set was minimal, and the atmosphere was - well, La Mama. The show is strongly recommended.

On Sunday we slept in, had a look around the State Library and the fantastic exhibitions there before a late lunch at a restaurant on Southbank. Off to Nova for a foreign film (The Secret in their Eyes - recommended) before I met up with a friend at a pub in the city. My wife decided to pull the pin at this point. Late night noodles and a pint or two (lager, lager, lager) and my friend and I hit the Rod Laver Arena to see Underworld live. And what a great show! (Check out the new track, Scribble - it's fantastic)

My friend 'rave' danced, I sort of self-consciously moved around a bit, and we both sang along and clapped a lot.

All in all a wonderful weekend and a great birthday.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Trudging Through Slush?

I recently had a couple of people suggest I take up slushreading for a magazine. They told me how much it would help my writing by not only seeing the mistakes that other people make but by seeing how well other people write. They also told me how much it had helped their writing.

I understand what they're saying, but I don't have time to take on slushreading.

As for seeing how well other people write, I do that anyway. I read a phenomenal number of books and subscribe to three or four magazines. And as for the mistakes side of it, well hey - I teach English in high school.

I love my writing, but I'm a little concerned I can't devote enough time to it now - never mind taking on the responsibilities of slushreading. I have the greatest respect for people who are prepared to take on this task - and this is despite the completely inane, childish and unsophisticated comments I've received on stories from a couple of them. (And I must point out it was only a couple of them.)

Also bear in mind that as a writer I'm frustrated by the amount of time some of these markets take to reject a story. I've got one story now at its third market - the first two submissions took eight months each to respond. And as I currently don't have enough time to take slushreading on properly, I'd feel guilty about contributing to delays for some other writer.

Over this current two week period I have around 105 essay to marks, 50 short stories, 50 posters and two novels to read, study and be ready to teach next week. And that's on top of the normal preparation I need to do for my classes. And somewhere in between all that I'm also trying to have a life, write a couple of my own stories, edit a couple more that need it, and research markets and submit.

I think I read enough examples of both good and poor work to more than make up for it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Four Down, Thirteen To Go?

Writers of the Future has finally announced the winners from Q1, and I must say I was pleased to see Brennan Harvey's name in first place. I wrote a little about him back in April. good to see he just kept submitting. Congratulations, Brennan - and well done to the others.  I, of course, missed out again - but we already knew that.

I've been reading Iterations, by Robert J. Sawyer. I enjoyed it, but I must say I much prefer his long fiction to his short stories. There was, however, one part of the book that I think is essential reading for every budding writer.

In his introduction to the story Lost in the Mail, he mentioned the history of the piece. Not only did it come second place in the Aurora Awards, it also got rave reviews and was selected for reprinting in a number of Anthologies. But it was only originally published after he received 17 rejection slips. Seventeen!  At that stage of his career I'm fairly certain he'd have been submitting only to pro-markets, and yet 17 editors saw fit not to publish a piece that went on to do so well.

So there is hope yet for some of the pieces that I and others hold in high regard. The scary thing is that with the apparent current trend of editors taking 7 or 8 months to respond (even after polite email enquiries) seventeen rejections means it might take 14 years to get this particular story published.

But that's OK - I have to accept that's the system. It'll be worth it in the end, and I still have plenty others simmering along nicely.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What's Really Real Anyway?

I'm currently teaching my senior English students a philosophical-based unit as part of their state-assessed course. Unfortunately the texts that we have to choose from are not particularly good, not especially interesting or current, and not suited to the theme of "Whose Reality?". (Yes, the question mark is theirs. Some committee's idea of appearing more academic than it actually is.)

A Streetcar Names Desire (while still a classic) is dated. And, culturally, not really relevant to Australian teens. The Shark Net, a boring book at best, is extremely limited in its application to the reality context.

So why aren't we reading Science Fiction? Isn't this the genre that actually explores concepts like this in amazing and thought provoking ways?

How about Philip K. Dick's versions of reality as a text? Or a seminal work by just about any other SF writer from the past 40 or 50 years?

But there is still that weird prejudice against genre fiction. And yet these are the same people that paid money to see Avatar, Alien, ET, Lord of the Rings, The Road, and hundreds of other SF or Fantasy films. I even know a couple of teachers who have told me they hate SF, and yet raved about a film they'd seen.  When I pointed out it was SF, they denied it - cos it didn't have spaceships and robots in it.

But even if they don't wish to include SF on the booklist, there are still better books than this.

Oh well, We can but only educate these people one at a time.  Join the revolution...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Think Global, Go Local.

One of the things I'm really enjoying at the moment is reading local authors.

I've been paying attention to some of the small publishers here in Australia, and I'm discovering that not only is their production standard extremely high (layout, editing, artwork and so on) but they often publish writers that are either emerging (meaning I'll have a collector's item on my hands once they make it), or the offbeat and interesting stuff that major publishers don't have time for.

I love reading a local book and recognising places or situations, or some of those little in-jokes that only a native would understand.

My first real experience with this was when I bought a second-hand copy Striped Holes by Damien Broderick back in the early 90s while living in Tokyo. I'd never heard of him before, but it had a cool cover and was cheap in a land where imported books were very expensive.  Imagine my surprise when halfway through the book he mentioned Bourke Street, Melbourne, and some of the shops situated there. In fact, I seem to recall I was rather excited by it.

Do yourself a favour and check out Tasmaniac, MirrorDanse, Agog!, 12th Planet, CSFG, Ticonderoga, and all the others I can't think of at the moment.

Oh yeah, and my horoscope says I have good things happening this week.  It must be true, after all they wouldn't publish lies in a newspaper, would they?

p.s. - and they said it wouldn't last!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Can You Judge A Book By Its Cover?

I recently broke one of my own rules.  I couldn’t help it – I was tricked into it.

Many years ago, after a couple of bad experiences, I decided I would never again buy self-published books - unless it was recommended to me by someone whose judgement I trust.  The last of those books I read actually had a page of editor's notes published in the middle of the novel – quite bizarre. But mostly the ones I’d read (I’d picked them up second-hand) were poorly written, unimaginative and, frankly, boring.  There’s a reason publishers apparently rejected those manuscripts.

Over the past few years I’ve read about some of these self-publishers, and how much it costs the writer to get his work published.  Very expensive, and lots of promises about how they’ll sell millions of them. Ultimately, they generally blame the writer for poor sales, charge even more money, then own the copyright for ridiculously long periods.  Every professional writer I’ve ever met has warned people away from self-publishing through these companies.

There have, of course, been exceptions. I believe Matthew Reilly self-published his first novel. But generally if your manuscript is good enough to sell, someone will pick it up.  Sure, you might have to persevere but publishers are in the business to make a profit. And money should always flow down to the writer, not from the writer up.

But I was tricked. The writer was friendly and confident, the cover was well designed and looked far superior to other self-publications I’d seen, it was on an imprint I didn’t recognise and the blurb read well. I figured it was a new small local press – and I’m always happy to support them. But then I opened the pages.  Blah! What a mistake! They guy can’t construct narrative or dialogue, it sorely needed an editor to lose all the commas that packed every sentence and the characters were unimaginative and cliched.

You have to be realistic about your own abilities.  Just because your Mum says it’s good, or you won a gold star for it in school, doesn’t make you Stephen King. If several publishers turns it down there’s probably a good reason beyond “they just don’t get me.”

As for me, that book is gone – and I’m now going to tackle one of the books I bought at Vampirefest.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fangs A Lot...

Yesterday I spent the day at Vampirefest 2010, the mini-convention run by the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. There were lots of friends and acquaintances, and plenty of vendors too (and yes, I bought a few bits and pieces). I also chatted with a few people I've seen at different conventions but never actually been introduced to before, and was fortunate enough to meet some new people as well.

I saw Trudi Canavan and Lucy Sussex, and met Edwina Harvey, Jason Nahrung and Kirstyn McDermott for the first time. All of them delightful, of course.  I'm sure they do exist, but I've yet to meet a writer in the speculative fiction genre that isn't friendly, encouraging, and happy to chat.

Jason and Kirstyn both made presentations, Star Wars and Star Trek clubs had to be kept apart by the Dr. Who fan club armed only with a blow-up Dalek.  The Browncoats set up at the back of the room, and a stormtrooper arrived and kept everyone in check. And we got to talk about Vampires!

A splendid time was held by all.  And I can't wait for Aussiecon in September.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Making Plans For...

I've been reading Slice of Life by Paul Haines. And I'm really digging it!

I originally bought this in the middle of last year, read the first story and then put the book back in the stack of 'to reads'. At the time I really enjoyed what I read - even though the suburbs in this horror story are all extremely familiar to me. No, it didn't stop me taking my local train.

Now I've finally picked it up and started through the rest of it and can't put it down.

I was fortunate enough to meet Paul a few months ago at Continuum 6 - sat in on a couple of his sessions, watched him win an award., introduced myself and spoke to him - he even remembered my name from when I'd ordered the book. And I really liked the guy.

But now that I'm halfway through this collection of short stories, I'm in awe.  What a fabulous selection of short stories. Do yourself a favour (sez Molly) and buy this book. (from here)

After all, I've never yet met an XTC fan I haven't liked. (I'm a little curious as to which is the obscure album he refers to...)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Want To Join Team Bella?

I spent the weekend down at Apollo Bay with the rest of my family.

My sister-in-law, Clare, passed away after a 7 year fight with cancer in November last year. She was 36. While she was still with us, a family friend, Peter Lister, decided he would run the Great Ocean Road Marathon and try to raise a few thousand dollars for cancer research. From this seed grew Team Bella - a consortium of family and friends who decided to support Peter's vision - some by running in various events, some by simply coming along and supporting, most by donating money.

It was quite emotional at times - watching my brother run through the finish line with his 'Clare' tattoo on his shoulder.  I'd never seen it before. I was extremely proud of my young nephew, who ran the 14k event in an excellent time. Clare's immediate family all ran, as well as most of mine. I was thrilled that so many other people were there to support this excellent cause and to show their love for Clare.

Even the commentators joined in, giving Team Bella a plug every time one of our runners finished. I was told we had 60 runners in the different events.

Apparently Brain Cancer research is the lowest funded cancer research in Australia. Well, thanks to the tiny seed Peter planted all those months ago, They are about to be $28,726 better off.

It's not enough, but it's a start.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trying To Hit A Home Run.

The winners of the Writers of the Future contest should be announced any day  now. Not that I'm in the mix.  My last submission was an outright reject

Occasionally I wonder whether it's simply a case of K.D.Wentworth not liking my writing style. (And please, let me be clear here.  I am not disparaging K.D. in ANY way.) As Co-ordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future competition, she's the one who decides who gets what and where each story goes.  Of course the contest is judged blind, and from all accounts (several people in the know have told me) Ms. Wentworth is simply delightful and completely professional. I'm certainly not casting any aspersions on her integrity.

I know I can write well. And I'm not just one of those writers who over-estimate their own abilities. I see that often enough with students at school where I teach Senior English. I've had amazing comments from several professional editors and writers (some are even names you would recognise) who have told me my stories are excellent. (And I know for a fact these people meant it - others around me were told very different things about their writing.) Unfortunately, the editors that have passed (and they gave me personal notes and said they reluctantly passed) did so on the grounds that my stories didn't fit their format.

But ultimately I don't have the runs on the board. I haven't sold anything yet - although I do currently have two stories on hold - one at a pro-magazine. And both of these stories were outright rejects at WOTF.

Not for a minute am I suggesting they should have won the contest - in fact I now realise that both stories had minor flaws when I submitted them. Other editors noticed some of these and with their feedback I was able to repair them with a change of around 15 words each. But I do wonder why they weren't even worth an Honorable Mention. Unfortunately there is absolutely no way of finding out where the judge decided they didn't succeed.

No judge can ever be truly objective - personal tastes will always come into play. And K.D. has recently pointed out some of the things she likes to see in stories (which is fair enough) although ultimately I would hope it's not about whether the winning stories are ones that match K.D's likes. They should simply good, well-told stories. I can certainly see where my stories didn't appeal to the judge. And having read all the WOTF volumes (1-25), I must point out the contest standard is high and has been improving each year.

I'm currently writing a story that is more tailored to the contest than ever before. It's still my voice, but the narrative seems to be one that better fits K.D's likes. Still, only time will tell.  Perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps I'm really not up to scratch - not even an HM. Ironically the only HM I received was for a story that others didn't like and even I felt wasn't up to standard.

Perhaps I should write something I hate.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wilco (the concert).

It must be difficult to follow in your father's footsteps and always face comparison with him. I followed my father into his line of work for a few years, and that was hard enough. But to be in the entertainment business and have the public spotlight on you all the time must surely be extremely difficult.

And what if you don't live up to that scrutiny - or expectation?

I didn't blog last Wednesday as I usually do, because I wasn't really at home for a few days.  I was at work, and then in the city for dinner, and then off to a Wilco concert, and home by 1 a.m. for a few hours sleep before I did the same thing all over again. And it was wonderful.

The support act was Liam Finn, and I was quite looking forward to him. Unfortunately I was very disappointed. I thought his songs were bland, lacking in melody, formulaic and filled with dull trite lyrics. I know a lot of people seem to like him, but he did nothing for me.  And then to make things worse he decided to bring out a "special guest" - sorry, Liam, but a friend of yours with the charisma of month old asparagus and the musical ability of the old deaf pet dog I had as a kid, does not really constitute a "special guest".

I later read up on this guy, and it seems like he has quite a following. Which I can't really understand.  Oh well, each their own - and we all have different tastes.....

And then Wilco exploded on stage - and tore the place apart. And from the first song to the last, over two and a half hours later, they gave all. Both nights were absolutely stunning. In hindsight, the first night seemed a little more sedate, as the audience and the band were a little flat - energy-wise. But on the second night they kicked it up a couple of gears and hit us with the knock-out punch.


I was standing in front of the stage at the first show, and then up behind and to the left of the mixing desk for the second. Right behind the VIP section. As usual, it was filled with lots of "VIPs" I didn't recognise. They also didn't seem all that interested in the concert. They certainly spent a lot of time talking to each other, hugging, texting, talking more, texting more, and trying to pick up. Later some of them decided to try and create a dance step for one of the songs.  They also made the heavy metal "wolf's head" symbol with their hands (at an Alt-Country concert), yelled out a lot, and texted still more. I've never seen so many i-Phones gathered in the one place. They were also the only ones that didn't sing along with the songs - probably because they've never heard them before.

I guess some of them might have been friends of the promoter, or whatever, but the others....

I must say I noticed an odd kind of yellow pus that welled from the pores of some of these VIPs. It  oozed down their bodies, then dripped from their noses, elbows and other extremities. I later tried to grab some of this stuff for analysis but it had gone - evaporated into the ether like ectoplasm.

It doesn't matter, though. I think I know what it was.  I suspect it was record company slime.

But you never know -  I might be wrong.