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.