Saturday, December 24, 2011

Interplanetary Remix, Take 444.

But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need
(You Can't Always Get What You Want - Jagger/Richards)

We all need God above
We all need a little time
We all need money and love
But when we got all we need, it's never enough
(Rodeo Drive - Terry Scott Taylor)

Santa Claus is comin' and the kids are gettin' greedy
It's Christmas time
They know what's in the stores because they've seen it on the TV
It's Christmas time
(Christmastime - Larry Norman)

I need a new car. I need a new phone. I need a bigger house.

I'm an English teacher. And as such, I sometimes recognise we confuse the words need and want. How about those in the world who really need things. Like clean water, food, education, peace, freedom and so on.

A couple of years ago Arran and I came up with an idea. Rather than give each other Christmas cards and small presents (usually chocolate - which I really don't need more of) we have a communal card which we all sign for each other. And then we donate the money we've saved on cards and gifts to Oxfam. This year we raised closed to a thousand dollars, and 'purchased' 6 donkeys and 2 goats.

Personally, I know what I want, but what do I need? (And I won't list those things that I think I need - otherwise I'd sound trite and cliched.)

Since this is a writer's blog, I certainly want to publish more. And I do need my friends.

So, in no real order, writerly thanks to Arran and Peter (friends, colleagues and first-readers).

Thanks to David McDonald (new friend, comrade-in-arms, peer and crit-buddy).

Thanks to Gitte Christensen (comrade-in-arms, encourager and peer).

Thanks to Paul Haines (friend, mentor and music buddy).

Thanks to editors and publishers who have taken a chance with my work over the past 12 months (Keith Stevenson, Tehani Wessely & Jodi Cleghorn).

Thanks to writers, editors, fellow travellers and readers I was published alongside, people I met on forums, at cons, workshops, festivals, meetings, discussion groups and book launches. (Too many to mention)

Thanks to my family and my in-laws (encouragers, and ever-proud).

Thanks to my best friend, Fenna (encourager, motivator, dreamer, teacher and critic).

Mostly, thanks to my wife, Lindsey. (for absolutely everything).

Have a Merry Christmas. And I hope you get what you need.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Revisiting The Past.

I must admit to having been disappointed recently by some of the magazines I've read.

As a subscriber to both Analog and Asimov's, I'm fairly familiar with the types of writing they publish, although I must say I generally don't find Analog to be as science based as they try to make out. The past few issues of both magazines, however, have contained stories that I'm surprised they accepted. Not only were a couple of them twee and pointless, but several contained examples of the cliches, infodumps and poor writing that I would have presumed would have rendered them as rejects. I found a couple of the stories in the bumper double issues long, boring, and a real slog to finish.

It actually made me wonder why my last submission to Analog was a form reject.

On the other hand, it's been a joy to revisit old friends. I picked up a Christopher Priest novel, one I thought I hadn't read. As soon as I was a few pages in, it seemed strangely familiar, and I realised I must have read it many years ago.  But more than that, I fell in love with his writing all over again. And now I'm going to dig out some of his other novels that I haven't opened in twenty years or more and read them.

I also found a short story I've been looking for. I couldn't remember the title or the author, and I've scoured my book collection over the past few years without success. Turns out it was a book I must have overlooked, because it's another old favourite, Robert Sheckley. And then I read a JG Ballard novel. Another whose writing I love.

Next will be Bob Shaw, Michael G, Coney (another favourite) and Ian Watson.

It's great to keep up with the latest and greatest, but don't forget the masters.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Epilogue's Table Of Contents.

I'm thrilled to be part of Fablecroft's 'Epilogue' (working title: Apocalypse Hope). Edited by Tehani Wessely, this anthology collects stories set after an apocalypse, but each with an element of hope.

And check out this TOC:

“Time and tide” by Lyn Battersby
“Fireflies” by Steve Cameron
“Sleeping Beauty” by Thoraiya Dyer
“The Fletcher Test” by Dirk Flinthart
“Ghosts” by Stephanie Gunn
“Sleepers” by Kaia Landelius
“Solitary” by Dave Luckett
“Losses beyond the kill point” by Kathleen Martin
“Cold comfort” by David McDonald
“Mornington Ride” by Jason Nahrung
“The last good town” by Elizabeth Tan

Excited much?  Fablecroft is a publisher I've been hungry for, just to have Tehani choose to include my work.

Due June 2012.

How Will I Know?

Can I write?

This is a question that bugs me from time to time. And, after the rejection I mentioned last week, it's one that's been bugging me again.

Most people believe they can write. Most writers think they can write well. I often see writers who aren't selling discussing what they could have 'tweaked' in their story that would have lifted it to a sale. And there are those who never sell that think the world is against them, and that the slushreader just don't 'get' their writing. Sometimes these people count their rejections and proudly advertise the number as a measure of success.

OK, I haven't sold heaps of work yet, and like most people I'm probably blind to some of the flaws in my own writings, and I don't write anywhere near as much as I should, and why should I think that I can even write?

Some observations:

If a slushreader doesn't 'get' your work, what makes you think a reader will? Slushreaders are readers, and they see a far wider range of work than most casual readers. Yeah, OK, they make mistakes (and I KNOW they've recently made  mistakes a few times in rejecting MY work  - hehehe) but generally if your work is so good, it will sell elsewhere.

The tweaking thing. I've referred to this before. I call it the Feng Shui of writing. If I'd changed the character's name to Jeff, or chosen a better title (or hung a mirror over the sofa) then maybe it would have sold. I figure if the story is 'almost, but not quite', the editor will ask for a rewrite, or suggest changes and invite a re-sub. (And this actually happened to me a couple of weeks ago.)

Most people think they can write. I know this is true - as many people who never write tell me they plan to, and will one day soon, and then they'll sell lots and they'll be able to quit work and...  Any of you who do write knows how many times people tell you this. And you also know how not easy it is, what a slog it can be and how long the sub and sale process can take for so little financial reward. As a teacher and a writer, I read an awful lot of stuff from people who believe it's brilliant. Usually it's not. Some work never sells simply because it's crap. Be aware that your work maybe isn't of the standard you think it is.

Counting rejections. I keep track of my rejections, and I do count them. But they're certainly not in the hundreds. And I know of people who brag that they received X amount of rejections this year - as that was their target. OK, so that works for them. My goal wasn't to have a certain number of rejections, but to make three sales or more this year. (And I achieved that). Next year it's to make five or more. Anyone can receive a certain number of rejections, just submit your work to every market out there and start counting. In and of itself, it's not a measure of success or even progression. It's only a measure of submission and rejection.

Only three sales? Yes, but three sales I'm proud of, and to markets I'm thrilled to be in. I could have sold more if I'd been less fussy with my submissions, but early in my writing 'career' I decided against 'token' or 'for the love' markets, and aimed squarely at semi-pro. I worked out where my writing abilities lay and subbed to those markets with the intention of moving up. Quality over quantity. And while I know it works for some people, this is the very reason I don't do NaNoWriMo. (Plus November is when I get tied up with school stuff, reports and other deadlines) It's also the reason I choose not to self-publish the stuff that didn't sell.

So, why should I think I can write?

Some answers.

I have experience and training. I'm an English teacher in a High School. I teach writing, language analysis, contextual work and literature. I have an Arts degree in English and Drama, and an Education degree in teaching the same two subjects. I've also been a voracious reader since I was a child. I can recognise good writing, good dialogue and plot, and know why it's good. I also understand when it's not working.

I've been told I can write. Not just by my mum and friends, (and never listen exclusively to them!) but (over the past few years) by my critiquers, which has included literature teachers, other writers at my own level, and even professional writers. I've had a few editors and writers (people whose names you would recognise) tell me which aspects of my work they've liked. OK, so they didn't always take the story, but they spent time telling me why. (Might I point out I never asked - they offered comments in these cases.)

I'm developing. I can see where I'm improving. I listen to criticisms of my work and learn from them. I read LOTS of short fiction and learn from that too. I can see where older stories didn't work, and have either trunked or rewritten those. I know what my shortcomings are and am actively working to improving those areas.

I'm getting sales. Not lots, but some. And at the markets I was aiming for. I haven't yet sold to Analog or Asimov's, or even Ticonderoga. But those publishers are firmly in my sights and I have strategic plans to reach those goals. As they say in advertising, Watch this space.

So what does this mean for others?

Probably not a lot. You want to write? Then write. And submit, and prepare to receive rejections. Then don't give up. Take the time to think about why you are writing and what your goals are. With my senior students, I give them the following four points to consider in regards to their studies.
  • What is your goal?
  • What do you have to do to achieve that?
  • What are you prepared to do (or sacrifice) in order to get there?
  • Now do it.
Any monkey can get published. Write something, start a blogpage with a snappy title and post it. TaaDaa! Published.

Not that there's anything wrong with that if that's what you want. Or with any other publication and format. Just make sure it's something you want. Me? I want to be published in magazines and anthologies from publishers that I respect, and hunger for them to accept my work. But also be realistic about it. Are you really going to send everything you write to the big three? It will most certainly bring the rejection tally up. As mentioned above, I aim my work at the level I believe it is. If I'm not selling regularly at Semi-Pro, why would Pro markets buy it?

But I'm still developing and improving. And I do have a piece at a pro market that I have hopes for. And as I also said before, keep watching this space.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Mixed Bag.

After a week of waiting followed by a week of good news, this week's news has been mixed. Some good, some not so good.

I reported last week that one of my stories had been sold - which was great, and I'm still very excited about that. It was a market I'd long hoped to crack (more news when I can) and a story that I had high hopes for.

The following day, however, a different story at another market I've long hoped to crack (with a story that I was almost certain they would take) was rejected. And with it my self confidence plummeted for a day or so. It's funny how it affects you like that. Don't worry. It's already subbed out elsewhere, and I know it's a good story that will find a good home.

So I was surprised when yet another market that I've long hoped to crack (Yeah, I have a list of about 5 semi-pro markets I'm aiming to 'infiltrate') placed a hold on a story that I thought had absolutely no chance there.

Now all they have to do is love it enough to buy it.

By the middle of the week things had definitely taken a downward turn, when I read that Paul Haines, my mentor and friend, had announced that he had reached the end of his writing career. Paul's cancer seems to have stepped up its attack on his body. And like so many others, I send my love and positive vibes to Paul, Jules and Isla and wish him well.

By the weekend a feeling of dread overtook me, as I realised I had to finish writing my students' reports by Monday. Slightly ahead of marking, it's the one thing I hate about teaching. But everything in life is a compromise, and if I want to teach, then I have to assess and report. Sigh.

But yesterday my wife and I put up our Christmas tree, and spent a few hours making pickled onions. And last night, as I sat in the darkened living room watching a DVD with my wife and two dogs, glancing over occasionally at the twinkling lights in the corner, smelling strangely of onions and pine, I realised how little I have to unhappy about.

And despite the rejections from markets that I considered a 'sure thing', my writing and publishing is moving up.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An Excellent Week.

It's been raining pretty much all weekend so far.  And it's been great not to feel the need to write an assignment, or do some marking, or get out into the garden. Instead I've been relaxing with my wife and watching DVDs.

And just enjoying myself.

After the waiting, waiting, waiting of last week, this week has been completely different. (or, as I heard an idiot say recently, a complete 360 degree turn)

Not only have I thoroughly enjoyed the buzz of receiving a glowing review from Thoraiya Dyer (Yes, Gitte, still floating),  but I appear to have passed the first two units of my university course. I've also had some minor success at work which I might be able to talk about soon, and I received the latest issue of Dark Matter (#6 - containing four reviews I wrote).

Oh yeah, and I sold another story.

Yes, one of those stories I had hopes for has found a home - and an excellent home it is too. It's amazing what a sale and a good review will do for your spirits, not to mention self confidence.  Doubts, get thee behind me!

On top of all that, I was able to finally sort out the comments on my blog - so they're working again.

Feel free to use them to tell me how things are going for you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion.

Thoraiya Dyer, author of The Company Articles of Edward Teach (yes, I have it on my bookshelf) and winner of both Ditmar and Aurealis awards, had lovely things to say in her review of Anywhere But Earth.

Not only did she give the anthology five out of five stars, but she specified my story as one of the top five stories, the ones that "that made (her) huggle the book in sheer delight."

She went on to write about my story thus:

"As for Steve Cameron’s ‘So Sad, The Lighthouse Keeper,’ I was looking forward to it all the way through, and had to make an effort not to skip ahead. You know about my tragic lighthouse obsession, right? Anyway, this story was even better than I’d hoped. The characterisations were spot-on and I found the structure and symmetry of the story incredibly satisfying."

Wow! I was thrilled to have those things said about my piece.

The whole review can be found here.

The book (e-format and paperback) can be purchased here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

In A Holding Pattern.

While my friends are thrilled to be making some pretty impressive announcements this week (Congatulations, David McDonald and Gitte Christensen), I've got nothing new to report on the sales front.  Stories are out, a couple of them on hold, a couple more I'm quietly confident of selling, a couple I expect to be returned to me soon.

It's the same old waiting game. And as David points out, it's worse then the rejection.

Rejection is the short, sharp moment you rip the band-aid off. The waiting is the agony you feel for months building up to it as your hopes and dreads rise in tandem. It's like sitting in the dentist's office, the dull throb in your teeth, the anticipation of more pain and relief, and the stacks of old magazines that none of my friends ever actually buy or read.

And yet I keep writing and submitting, because when you do make a sale, and then later hear good things about your story, the pain is forgotten.

But editors, if you are reading this, get back to me soon, please. I'm tired of these old business magazines lying around here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


My brain is a gooey, melted, non-functioning mass. My final uni assignment for the semester is a week late (Yes, I have the required extension) and all those theories and thoughts have turned my mind to mush.

No writing, no listening to music, no fun, no life. And I'm still waiting to hear back from a bunch of markets. No news is good news, right? (yeah, right...)

Arrgghhh!  Things must be better next week.  Good or bad, the assignments will be done by tonight.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Three - Two - One - Liftoff!

I flew up to Sydney for the weekend in order to be present at the Anywhere But Earth launch. (check out Greenspace's photos of the event)

The launch was programmed during the NSW Speculative Fiction Festival, held at the Writers Centre. My wife decided to accompany me and so we signed up for the day's panels. And what a great day it was. The panels were fantastic, the people were nice and the centre and its grounds were amazing.

I met a bunch of new folk, caught up with a lot of others and had a splendid evening at The Three Weeds chatting, drinking ale and eating fish and chips.

The highlight for me, however, was the launch of Anywhere But Earth. Keith Stevenson did a great job (as he did with the book) with readings by Margo Lanagan, Alan Baxter and Richard Harland.

And if those names don't make you buy the book, don't forget I'm in there too.

We had a fantastic weekend in Sydney, as we always do.  Of course it's always lovely to come home.

On another note, I've had a few people mention to me that they have been having trouble commenting on my posts. I've sent an enquiry to blogger, but it might be you, not me.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I've posted before about how great it is to be part of the Aussie Spec Fic community. They are generally courteous, professional, supporting and encouraging.

They are also very talented.

It's no surprise that Australia is so successful in the Writers of the Future contest. In fact, Australians win more WOTF awards per entry than any other country. Sean Williams told me that.

And our small press is alive and healthy. Quietly producing quality anthologies and collections with hardly a blip on the radar.

And so congratulations must go to Alisa Krasnostein at Twelfth Planet Press on winning the World Fantasy Award (Non-professional).

I often hear of writers that sub to small press magazines and anthologies but don't buy any.

Support the writers, support the small press, subscribe to a magazine or buy a couple of books. Twelfth Planet is a great place to start.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Most Excellent Week.

Yes, I'm still grinning. Anywhere But Earth is beautiful, lovely to look at and hold. And now that I'm reading it, I find it even more delightful (and I haven't even reached my story yet!)

It seems to be doing well on Amazon, having climbed many thousands in their ranking system (although that could reflect only a handful of sales) and has broken into the top 100 of Amazon's SF Anthology list.

It's available in eBook and paperback here.

And, of course, I'm heading up to Sydney for the launch next Saturday. (info here) Hope to see you there.

But beyond that, I've received very positive feedback on a story (send positive vibes in that direction, please), rewritten and subbed two more, and subbed a third that was just waiting for the right market.

Which means I now have TEN stories out in the submission wildwoods.

And that is a personal record.

I am cautiously optimistic for at least three of those stories. And I expect to hear back from editors on a couple in the next week or so.

But then again, submission land is a strange and weird place that works in mysterious ways.

Speaking of which, two excellent posts on submission caught my attention this week. Tehani Wessely and Alisa Krasnostein are both lovely people and excellent editors, and I'm not just saying that because I'm hopeful of selling stories to their presses. I would point out I met them at Worldcon last year, and they certainly have their evil sides, as in when they held me down and forced me to purchase their books.

But they are currently producing high quality anthologies through their award winning and respected presses, FableCroft and Twelfth Planet

If you're interested in subbing, and doing it right, the advice in these posts is invaluable.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Anywhere But Earth.

I am pleased to announce that Anywhere But Earth is available now, in paperback and eBook. (here)

Publisher Coeur De Lion (Keith Stevenson) is well respected in small press. His last anthology, X6, won a number of awards around the world.

I'm thrilled to be part of this TOC, along with names such as Rob Hood, Margo Lanagan, Richard Harland, Kim Westwood, Cat Sparks, and - heck, there's too many. Here's the TOC.

Margo Lanagan ‘Yon Horned Moon’
Richard Harland ‘An Exhibition of the Plague’
Sean McMullen ‘Spacebook’
Lee Battersby ‘At The End There Was a Man’
Jason Nahrung ‘Messiah on the Rock’
Angela Ambroz ‘Pyaar Kiya’
Kim Westwood ‘By Any Other Name’
Brendan Duffy ‘ Space Girl Blues’
Steve de Beer ‘Psi World’
Robert Hood ‘Desert Madonna’
Cat Sparks ‘Beautiful’
Penny Love ‘Sibo’
Wendy Waring ‘Alien Tears’
Simon Petrie ‘Hatchway’
Jason Fischer ‘Eating Gnashdal’
Robert N Stephenson ‘Rains of la Strange’
Alan Baxter ‘Unexpected Launch’
Chris McMahon ‘Memories of Mars’
Mark Rossiter ‘The Caretaker’
Liz Argall ‘Maia Blue is Going Home’
Calie Voorhis ‘Murmer’
Damon Shaw ‘Continuity’
Donna Maree Hanson ‘Beneath the Floating City’
Patty Jansen ‘Poor Man’s Travel’
Tristan Davenport ‘Oak with the Left Hand’
Colum Paget ‘Pink Ice in the Jovian Rings’
Erin Stocks ‘Lisse’
William Wood ‘Deuteronomy’
Steve Cameron ‘So Sad, the Lighthouse Keeper’

An excellent anthology that is sure to win awards.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Critters And Varmints.

Critiquing is a weird kind of thing for me. My first experience with having someone critique my writing wasn't too good, and I'm afraid it put me off critting for a long time.

I was at a workshop, and although people generally liked my story, there were lots of comments made about how the story could be improved. The biggest problem was probably me - as a newbie I didn't have the experience to discern which comments I should pay attention to, and which I should ignore. And so I tried to change everything that had been suggested. I did it, and then I realised I'd torn the soul out of the story and I went back to my earlier draft and revised it according to what I thought.

But fortunately I've grown through that, and now have a few regular readers and critters.

Firstly, it's your story. Pay attention to the readers and critters, but ultimately the story needs to be in your voice and you have to decide which, if any, changes you make.

Secondly, you have to find people you trust. I've had critters tell me things that were just complete nonsense.

Thirdly, some of your critters need to be peers, or writers that are more advanced than you. You need people to pull you up, experienced writers that know where problems lie in your writing, and how they can be solved. I've got some readers who can tell me the story doesn't quite work for them, but can't explain why. Be aware that readers (who are not writers) may well reflect your final reading audience, and so if they can't understand something then perhaps it's confusing for others too.

Fourthly, be prepared to crit in return.  Now this is where I always have a problem until I get to know the other writer.  How harsh do they want me to be? How pedantic? Some people get offended by comments that could be perceived as negative. I even saw a request for critting recently that said they didn't want any negative comments as they've had enough of those already and just wanted people who would tell him which parts were good. Hmmm - can't see that being much help.

But mostly, at least consider the crits. Be open to them. There's a reason comments are being made.  I had someone crit a story for me last week, and told me I needed to lose the first three paragraphs. I resisted for a while, and then  finally relented and cut them. And damn that varmint's eyes, the story improved dramatically.

Keep an eye out for that story - it should be available soon. More information when I can confirm it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's Aurealis, Jim, But Not As We Know It.

I see that Aurealis magazine is about to become a monthly e-pub, adding two stories to the current AurealisXpress.

I must say I'm extremely disappointed at this move. And to these eyes, it looks as though the statement on the Aurealis website is more an attempt at rationalisation than a preferred business decision. I believe that print magazines are still vital and necessary. I am fully aware that there are quality e-mags out there (Intergalactic Medicine Show, for example) but I'm convinced that traditional publications offer quality control, checks and balances and a respect that are often missing from e-mags. After all, anyone can stick a story on the net and claim it's published. (And I'm not for a minute suggesting that Aurealis will lessen it's approach to selecting stories.) Maybe I'm lodged firmly in the 20th century, but even discounting the e-pub aspect (and I realise that there may be financial considerations at play) I don't think a monthly magazine of two stories is the way to go.

One of my goals has been to get published in Aurealis - a magazine I first picked off the newsstand with issue 2 back in 1990. I've subbed a few times since I commenced writing a couple of years ago, and made shortlists for issues before being rejected. I'll always regret not making the print issues of this mag.

(And I'm still missing Issue 37 to complete the set, if anyone can help me.)

Will I be re-subscribing now that it's changed?  I doubt it. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I suspect a lot of others will feel the same way I do.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What's Happening.

Conflux was great. I had a wonderful time up in Canberra and met and hung out with a lot of cool people, certainly way cooler than I am. Peter and I spent an extra day up there, visiting the War Museum and getting kicked out when they closed. We still hadn't seen everything. It's a must-see if you're ever in Canberra.

I arrived home, spent a day here recovering from Con-Lag before driving to Rye to spend a couple of days with my wife. We took our dogs, our bikes and even rode to Blairgowrie and back. Drove home this afternoon, and I'm currently getting ready to return to work tomorrow.

On the writing front, all is going well. I currently have seven stories out in sub-land, which is the most I've ever had at the one time, I've booked my flight to Sydney for the launch of Anywhere But Earth, and I'm all fired up about my writing and ready to write more.

Oh yeah, and I finally joined Facebook after a couple of people twisted my arm. They say it'll be good for me.

It's John's birthday. Raise a glass.....

Saturday, October 1, 2011

When I Was Up In Canberra.

Last week was insanely busy.

I finished the school term, and then had three days in which to write two assignments for university, and prepare three stories for submission.

I finished writing one story, rewrote both it and another, then tweaked a third - subbing them all before the deadline.  The assignments were also submitted just in time.  And then I was able to relax.

It rained the entire eight hour drive up to Conflux, but we had a great time - taking it in turns to choose CDs and talking crap. It was dark by the time we got here, and the map we had wasn't ideal. But we found our hotel and the room is fine, and pretty soon we were catching up with familiar faces in the lounge.

So far the con has been a lot of fun. I attended a writing workshop which just confirmed my current practices, and introduced me to a few new ideas as well.

I also picked up a copy of the Year's Best Australian Horror and Fantasy, in which I am listed on the Recommended Reading List, and name-checked on page 22. The paragraph describes Festive Fear as being a macho collection, which is something I can see and agree with. I would like to point out, however, that I don't believe my story, Ghost of the Heart, fits that label.

No major problems so far, apart from the lousy service in one restaurant. If you're ever there, make sure they have the ingredients before they take your order. Not only were they delivering the meals of people who placed their orders well after mine, but it took another twenty minutes before they told me I couldn't have what I wanted.

Still, if that's the biggest problem I have in my life, then I don't really have much to worry about.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lit Cred And Validation.

There seems to be a number of writers currently questioning the value of certain publications and e-zines. Over the past couple of weeks I've seen this subject rear its head a few times. And I think it's an important question for new writers. (And this is the category in which I firmly place myself.)

My views are no secret. I believe I could have a longer published bibliography, but I've been fussy about where I submit my work. And I believe that a few publications in quality markets are ultimately more valuable than many publications in any old market.

With the prevalence of the internet and the proliferation of POD, there has been an explosion in the number of publishers throwing together zines and anthologies. And as such, there has obviously been a dilution of the quality of published work. I'm 'old school', as you young folk with your zany rock 'n' roll music like to call it, and there's nothing like having a published 'paper' book in your hand. Not that there's anything wrong with online mags. But I do feel there's a certain quality control, checks and balances, when you've been paid a certain amount of money, and you have a professionally finished product that can be held.

I wrote something (as a comment) along these lines in response to a post by Alan Baxter a few weeks ago.  Then I discover that my crit buddy and friend, David McDonald, wrote something similar in response to the fabulous Jason Nahrung.

I suppose it all depends on what your goals are. I have a list of personal goals, a list of markets I'd like to crack, and I'm actively taking steps to achieve those.  Brad R. Torgersen, has listed an interesting set of goals on his website, and I must say I love those.

If you just want to say you've been published, then sub away, anywhere. It'll happen. If you want to achieve some kind of cred in this business, then make plans, take active steps to achieve them, and be prepared for a lot of rejections.

But when you do receive an acceptance, or receive some kind of recognition, it's amazing the confidence and drive that accompanies it.  Gitte Christensen, who has just been published in Ticonderoga's Year's Best Australian Horror and Fantasy, mentioned on her blog that I've been mentioned on page 22 of said book. Looks like a ploy by Ticonderoga to make me buy the book.

It worked. I'll be picking one up next week.

But when your friends and peers have some success, we rejoice together. I'm pleased for Gitte's deserved tastes of success, I'm pleased David McDonald has some new work coming out. And I'm absolutely thrilled that my long-time Tokyo-brother, Allan Tong, (he's the man who taught me to chase my dreams and grab opportunities, or to create your own) has just scored a huge success at the Toronto International Film Festival.  And I know these people are happy when it happens to me.

Speaking of which, keep an eye out for Anywhere But Earth in the coming months. It looks fantastic!

See you at Conflux.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


So you write some stories, polish them up until you're happy, then send them off alone into the wide world. Sometimes you hear back within a week or so that it's "not suited to our needs at the moment." Other times you hear nothing back for months.

My longest wait was 7 months for a rejection, not counting the one where the editor still hasn't gotten back to me after several polite enquiries. I suspect that 2 years and a week is now long enough to class it as a rejection. My longest wait for an acceptance has been four weeks, from the close of a reading period. But it did have a hold on it for about three months before that. There was another that had a rewrite request, but once again the request and then the acceptance were just on four weeks from submission.

But I still find waiting the hardest part. And yes, I listen to everyone's advice and go off and write more stuff in the meantime and send it out and so on. It's just that I'd love to find a home for some of these lost strays, but if they are out for 4 to 7 months at a time before being rejected, they can only be sent out maybe twice a year. And then it can be up to 18 months before they are published once they are accepted.


I guess it's all worthwhile when you finally get to hold the printed word in your hands. I might even admit to performing the odd little Snoopy happy dance, much like Alan Baxter does. I just don't know if I'll ever get used to the slow turning cogs of the publishing industry.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In No Particular Order.

Twenty-one great live albums that I love - and yes, I know there are plenty of others that could have been included in this list. Who knows? Like many of the other lists I make, this could all change by next week. Several had to be dropped from the list due to space, I only allowed one per band, and some simply didn't qualify as 'live' albums. For example, I desperately wanted to include Mountain's Flowers of Evil - but half the album is studio recordings.

On Tour (Delaney and Bonnie & Friends) - As a teenager I spent months trying to find this on vinyl, simply because L'Angelo Misterioso played guitar on it. Nobody local stocked this in 1978, so it took years for me to finally get to hear this band.  The friends, by the way, are Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, Leon Russell, Dave Mason, Bobby Keyes and Jim Price. Need I say more?

Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out (The Rolling Stones) - My introduction  to the Stones, along with Let It Bleed. Every track is incredible. Mick Taylor's guitar weeps during Love in Vain. The first guitar solo I ever tried to teach myself.  Sounded pretty good too. It was only much later I realised he'd been playing slide and I'd been emulating the whole things with bends.

Eighty Eight (The 77s) - This is the band that should have been. Signed to Island at the same time as U2, one of the bands became a household name and The 77s didn't. There are some live albums that transcend - a great recording on a special night - and this is one of those discs. Not a slack track on the album. Wish I'd been there. They're still playing, so I wish I could even just see them live!

Hendrix in the West (Jimi Hendrix) - The first Hendrix I ever owned. He seemed like someone I should listen to, and so I bought it over in Croydon. While the other kids were listening to Abba and the like, my mother was suffering through Voodoo ChileRedhouse and Little Wing are still two of my favourites from this disc. "A bit more volume on this one, Charlie. He's gonna need it."

Slade Alive! (Slade) - What do you do when you feel the technology won't record at a live venue as well as you'd like? You bring the audience to the studio and record there. (Couldn't they afford the Rolling Truck Stones Thing?) A wonderfully vibrant live recording with a great selection of mostly cover tunes. The band are relaxed and in fine form.

Recorded Live (Ten Years After) - I first heard this when I was 13 or so, and hated it. Within a couple of years, however, I came to recognise Alvin Lee for the gun that he was. Ranging from extended jams to 30 second ditties, this album has everything. I'm Going Home is superior to the version on Woodstock, and the whole of side four is worthy of multiple plays.

Under a Blood Red Sky (U2) - Ostensibly recorded at Red Rocks, a natural amphitheatre in Colorado, (but mostly recorded in Germany) this shows the band at their best in a period I consider to be their best. Moody and atmospheric (the video seems to be filmed at dusk on a rainy day - I believe the show was almost cancelled) the playing is tight, the selection of songs is great and the disc is far too short. I must get the newer upgraded version.

Live At The Apollo (James Brown) - The good Doctor introduced this disc to me, back when we were Tokyo brothers-in-musical-arms. And what can I say, except it's exceedingly short and leaves you wanting more. Brown is on fire here. It's 1962, in front of a Harlem crowd that's been waiting hours for the show. Listen to this. You won't be disappointed.

 Made in Japan (Deep Purple) - The classic Mark 2 lineup, touring on the back of the classic Machine Head album. This seminal live album loses nothing from being almost forty years old. And no, it's not over-rated. Even the drum solo is worth listening to. From Highway Star to Space Trucking, this album rocks. "Could we have everything louder than everything else?"

Alive, She Cried (The Doors) - Pretty much a mini-album, this is now out-of print. The tracks are available on other live discs, but this collection, in this order is the one that works for me. A fine selection of tracks played by a band in fine form. Texas Radio and the Big Beat, Love Me Two Times - even Little Red Rooster works well. "You can pick your teeth with a New York joint."

Modern Lover Live (Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers) - Not the Pablo Picasso era Modern Lovers, but the kitschy Modern Lovers of the late 70s. How could you not love Ice Cream Man, Little Dinosaur and I'm a Little Airplane. Recorded in London, it's a shame there hasn't been an expanded, remastered version of this released. I'd love to hear more from this show.

Rust Never Sleeps (Neil Young) - Recorded live, but released as though a studio album, for me this has always been superior to Live Rust. With one side acoustic and one side electric, opening and closing with variations of the same song, this is a complete cyclical album. It was, in fact, my first foray into Neil - apart from a teacher who used to play Harvest over and over again. (And no, I didn't 'get' that album when I was 13 years old)

If You Want Blood (AC/DC) - The only AC/DC album you MUST have. In Japan it's known as Guitar Murder, Guns 'N' Roses fans referenced it on their live mini-album, it has Bon Scott and Angus Young, as well as a killer rhythm section in complete control of what they're doing. I don't need to say anything else except, "Angus! Angus! Angus! Angus!"

Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads) - The album of the film. I had this for years before I finally saw the movie. The album builds beautifully, from lone Byrne playing Psycho Killer along to a recorded drum machine, to the full band and guests playing Al Green's Take Me To The River. Again, I bought this because Talking Heads was a band I'd heard of, but hadn't actually heard.

At The Hollywood Bowl (The Beatles) - Until recently, I hadn't played this for a long time, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good this album is. I thought I might be remembering it through rose-coloured teenage glasses. Actually taken from a couple of shows, it's the only official recording we have of a live Beatles show (not counting Star Club and the mish-mash of live tracks that made it onto Anthology.) Dear Apple Records, it's time to release this on CD, or another live Beatles show - please!

Briefcase Full of Blues (The Blues Brothers) - Yeah, they were a 'created' band, but Dan and John really loved the blues, and when you work on SNL and have a house band that is basically the MGs, you have to grab that opportunity. It was a tough call between this and Made in America, Both great recordings, this one just has the edge - it's a little less 'show' than the other.

Live in Concert (XTC) - Unfortunately this is the only live album we have from this under-rated band. Even though it's a great show and a much better recording, it's still not a patch on the Fab Foursome in Philly disc (Bootlegs will be left till another time). But don't let that put you off. Worthy of a spot in this list. Check out the double-barrelled powerhouse of Living Through Another Cuba and Majors and Generals.

Live Bootleg '82 (Daniel Amos) - Another band that should have been bigger than they are. It's frustrating that this is the only live recording they've released (from their post Horrendous Disc period). The recording is pretty much a raw soundboard recording, which is a shame, as a sonically crisp recording of this show would be amazing. Perhaps they'll record an album on their current tour. Check your archives, boys - release more live 80s DA. Fingers crossed.

Live at Last (Steeleye Span) - The band's first live release, and featuring new members John Kirkpatrick and Martin Carthy. They brought a new energy to the group, making this one of my favourite Steeleye discs. The accordion sits nicely amongst the other instruments and the band is in fine form. Check out Montrose, a 15 minute masterpiece.

Live 1966 (Bob Dylan) - The legendary "Royal Albert Hall" show, actually recorded in Manchester. "Judas!" yells an audience member, before Dylan calls him a liar and exhorts the band to "Play ***ing Loud!" The tension on the disc works in favour of the musicians. Another show that transcends. I had this in various bootleg forms until Zimmy decided to finally release it. A must have!

 Live (Johnny Winter And) - What an amazing album - featuring superb covers of Jumping Jack Flash, Johnny B. Goode and Great Balls of Fire. I first heard this when I was about 13, and I was completely blown away by the power of the guitars, the energy of the performance and the rawness of the music.  And the voice. Especially the voice. "I feel rock 'n' roll!"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pushy Salesmen Without Manners.

It was my wife's birthday a couple of days ago, and so we went out last weekend to buy her present. A new  notebook PC.

I'd done my research, and knew what I would buy if it were for me - but personal preference comes into play with items like this, and so the best thing was for her to be with me when I bought it.

I went into one store where the salesman was so rude he lost a sale for his company. In fact, I won't be returning there.

He approached me and asked if he could assist me.  The conversation was like this.
"Is there anything I can help you with?"
"No, thanks, I'm just looking."

"What are you looking for?"
"I don't need any help. I'm simply looking, thanks."

"And I asked you what you're looking for."
"And I said I didn't need any help."

"And I asked you what you're looking for."
"And I said I didn't need any help. I'm fine, thank you."

He'd been moving gradually forward with each question, and at this point he invaded my personal space.

"I'm just trying to be polite. What are you looking for?"
"You're not being polite. I don't need your help. Leave me alone."

"Some people," he muttered. "What is it you're interested in?"
I have spent a number of years working with IT, including a couple of years programming before this salesman was even born. so I knew what I was looking for, and did not need or want his so-called 'help'. At this point I considered saying something obscure, such as "I'm interested in a new table tennis table, which is why I'm looking at these PCs."  But I was good, and restrained myself. Instead I flipped the top of a laptop down to see if the finish was glossy or matte.  He then told me off for touching it. Other staff, seemingly senior, stood idly by and watched this almost surreal exchange.

And that was when I left, vowing never to return to that store in Nunawading. Not only did they not get a sale from me then, they've lost all future sales due to a pushy, teenage idiot with no manners. I have bought from there before and had planned on returning there shortly as I will soon be in the market for a few electronic goods.

Yes, I was polite the entire time (my wife was there with me) and I did not even raise my voice.

And despite their catchy Beach Boys' style jingles, I won't be going there again.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

You Never Know...

As a teacher, you have to be careful in what you say and do.  The kids are always watching, and they'll comment on your clothes, your shoes, your hair.  They'll mention that they saw you in shops, buying certain products, looking at particular items. They'll tell you that they noticed you with certain people, going into the movies, at restaurants.

One day, a couple of years ago, I had an idea. So I wrote a story around it - a kind of Beatles influenced, Christmas, 1969, romantic ghost story set in Australia where December can be 40 degrees celcius.

And then I needed a title.

I stole Ghost of the Heart from a song by Daniel Amos. And then the story sold, after a few rejections, and was published in Festive Fear, a limited edition anthology from a small press.

But someone must have seen it. I'm still thrilled to be included in the Recommended Reading list for 2010.

Since that happened, I've had emails and texts from people - some I never expected.

As I said, you never know who's watching.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Year’s Best Australian Fantasy And Horror: Recommended Reading List.

Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene have compiled a list of the year's recommended reading - and I'm included!

I'm over the moon, and honoured to be listed among these writers.

Gitte Christensen's story made it into the anthology - always great to see friends do well.

I must mention Steve Clark at Tasmaniac Publications who bought my story. Two of the stories from Festive Fear (Michael Radburn being the other) are included on the list. Congratulations to all these writers.

Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror: Recommended Reading List: 2010

Deborah Biancotti, “Home Turf” Baggage
Jenny Blackford, “Adam” Kaleidotrope #9
Simon Brown, “Sweep” Sprawl
Mary Elizabeth Burroughs, “The Flinchfield Dance” Black Static #17
Steve Cameron, “Ghost Of The Heart” Festive Fear
Stephanie Campisi, “Seven” Scenes From The Second Storey
Matthew Chrulew, “The Nullabor Wave” World’s Next Door
Bill Congreve, “The Traps of Tumut” Souls Along The Meridian
Rjurik Davidson, “The Cinema Of Coming Attractions” The Library of Forgotten Books
Stephen Dedman, “For Those In Peril On The Sea” Haunted Legends
Felicity Dowker, “From Little Things” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #43
Felicity Dowker, “The House On Juniper Road” Worlds Next Door
Felicity Dowker, “Bread And Circuses” Scary Kisses
Will Elliott, “Dhayban” Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears
Mark Farrugia, “A Bag Full Of Arrows” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #48
Jason Fischer, “The House Of Nameless” Writers of the Future Vol. xxvi
Bob Franklin, “Take The Free Tour” Under Stones
Christopher Green, “Jumbuck” Aurealis #44
Paul Haines, “Her Gallant Needs” Sprawl
Lisa L Hannett, “Singing Breath Into The Dead” Music For Another World
Lisa L Hannett, “Commonplace Sacrifices” On Spec
Lisa L Hannett, “Tiny Drops” Midnight Echo #4
Richard Harland, “Shakti” Tales of the Talisman
Richard Harland, “The Fear” Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears
Narrelle M Harris, “The Truth About Brains” Best New Zombie Tales: Volume 2
Robert Hood, “Wasting Matilda” The Mammoth Book Of The Zombie Apocalypse
George Ivanoff, “Trees” Short & Scary
Trent Jamieson, “The Driver’s Assistant” Ticon4
Pete Kempshall, “Dead Letter Drop” Close Encounters of the Urban Kind
Pete Kempshall, “Signature Walk” Sprawl
Martin Livings, “Lollo” Close Encounters of the Urban Kind
Penelope Love, “Border Crossing” Belong
Geoffrey Maloney & Andrew Bakery, “Sleeping Dogs” Midnight Echo #4
Tracie McBride, “Lest We Forget” (audio) Spectrum Collection
Kirstyn McDermott, “Monsters Among Us” Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears
Andrew J McKiernan, “All The Clowns In Clown Town” Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears
Simon Petrie, “Running Lizard” Rare Unsigned Copy: tales of Rocketry, Ineptitude, and Giant Mutant Vegetables
Michael Radburn, “They Own The Night” Festive Fear
Janeen Samuel, “My Brother Quentin” Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #44
Angela Slatter, “A Porcelain Soul” Sourdough and other stories
Angela Slatter, “Gallowberries” Sourdough and other stories
Angela Slatter, “The Dead Ones Don’t Hurt You” The Girl With No Hands and other tales
Cat Sparks, “All the Love in the World” Sprawl
Grant Stone, “Dead Air” (poem) Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #46
Lucy Sussex, “Albert & Victoria/Slow Dreams” Baggage
Anna Tambour, “Gnawer Of The Moon Seeks Summit Of Paradise” Sprawl
Kaaron Warren, “Sins Of The Ancestors” Dead Sea Fruit
Kaaron Warren, “The Coral Gatherer” Dead Sea Fruit
Kaaron Warren, “Hive Of Glass” Baggage
David Witteveen, “Perfect Skin” Cthulhu’s Dark Cults

And those in the Anthology:

RJ Astruc: “Johnny and Babushka”
Peter M Ball: “L’esprit de L’escalier”
Alan Baxter: “The King’s Accord”
Jenny Blackford: “Mirror”
Gitte Christensen: “A Sweet Story”
Matthew Chrulew: “Schubert By Candlelight”
Bill Congreve: “Ghia Likes Food”
Rjurik Davidson: “Lovers In Caeli-Amur”
Felicity Dowker: “After the Jump”
Dale Elvy: “Night Shift”
Jason Fischer: “The School Bus”
Dirk Flinthart: “Walker”
Bob Franklin: “Children’s Story”
Christopher Green: “Where We Go To Be Made Lighter”
Paul Haines: “High Tide At Hot Water Beach”
L.L. Hannett: “Soil From My Fingers”
Stephen Irwin: “Hive”
Gary Kemble: “Feast Or Famine”
Pete Kempshall: “Brave Face”
Tessa Kum: “Acception”
Martin Livings: “Home”
Maxine McArthur: “A Pearling Tale”
Kirstyn McDermott: “She Said”
Andrew McKiernan: “The Memory Of Water”
Ben Peek: “White Crocodile Jazz”
Simon Petrie: “Dark Rendezvous”
Lezli Robyn: “Anne-droid of Green Gables”
Angela Rega: “Slow Cookin’ ”
Angela Slatter: “The Bone Mother”
Angela Slatter & LL Hannett: “The February Dragon”
Grant Stone: “Wood”
Kaaron Warren: “That Girl”
Janeen Webb: “Manifest Destiny”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Taking Stock.

Four stories out in the wilderness, awaiting the right home. Three sitting here that I'm not sure are ready to go out again. Several that are trunked, ready to be stripped and re-written if I feel the premise is any good. Two stories that need finishing. And many ready to go.

I have high hopes for three of the four that are currently out there. I'd like to believe three of these are strong enough to be picked up at the market they are currently waiting at. The other one?  Well, I'm not holding my breath on that one. Despite my initial enthusiasm for it, and even though I still really like it, others don't seem to be so keen on it.

The three that need to go out again will get a look over, and a possible tweaking or rewrite.
The trunked stories can stay there for now.  They need too much work. The two stories I'm working on are shaping up well. I'm very happy with their progress. And the couple of stories I'm ready to start writing only need me to find time between marking and other school work as we head towards the end of term. One of these stories will require a reasonable amount of reading and research.

I received page proofs for my story from Keith Stevenson for the upcoming Anywhere But Earth. Boy, is it dangerous to go back and look at older stories. Already I've seen several sentences I'd like to rewrite, but I must resist.

Apart from that, the story looks great in print, and the whole collection should be fantastic.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Polite Self Promotion.

I've been thinking about heading up to Sydney for the launch of Coeur De Lion's anthology,  Anywhere But Earth. It looks like this will occur in November, but I'm waiting for confirmation.

I'm also planning on heading to Canberra for Conflux in October.

Conventions have served me well, over the past few years. I've met a range of interesting people with whom I have regular communication, I've met and become friendly with a number of publishers, editors and writers, I've attended workshops that have improved my knowledge and writing and, most importantly, I've made friends in areas (both writing and SF fandom) that often tend to be insular activities.

Never underestimate the value of networking.

The important thing to remember, though, is to be genuine, be polite and to give as much as you take.

I've seen a few people who seem to head straight for the 'important' people, and totally ignore us small people. I've also had famous writers whose work I own ask me if I'd like to share a meal with them.

I saw Lee Childs on The First Tuesday Book Club, and he said this.
Well, what I found is that every single thing sells books. Everything you do sells books. The question is, is it economically effective? I mean, I once met a fan who had all the books, wanted all the books signed, and sometimes I ask them, do you remember why you picked up this book? And she said, "I saw you at a conference and you opened a door for somebody and I thought, what a polite gentleman. I'll try his book." Every single thing works.
Manners and presentation are vital.

I know of a couple of writers whose work I haven't bought simply because I've seen them be rude, or present poorly at public events.

If you get along to the Anywhere But Earth launch, look for me.  I'll be the one who isn't saying anything, but standing looking like an idiot with mouth agape. After all, I'm still stunned  to be included in that book with writers I admire.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Empirical Strikes Back.

Over at the Writers of the Future forums, there seems to be quite a discussion on what kind of stories have had success in the competition. Not only do I mean the genre, such as hard SF vs. yet another vampire story, but the form of the writing, such as first person vs. third person, past tense vs present tense, how many words winning stories have had, titles and structure.

While it appears as though the judges do prefer particular styles of stories and formats, attempting to quantify and create a formula for your writing isn't the way to go.

Yes, some stories are going to suit WOTF more than others will (And don't forget that although it is treated as a competition, it is ultimately a market trying to fill an anthology) but the truth is they do reward well written, well told stories.

You should be writing your stories in the tense and POV that best serves the story. And use as many words as it takes.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Onwards And Upwards.

I know some people who wear their rejection slips like badges of honour. They brag about how many they received 'last year' and talk about how they're getting closer to 'making it'.

To an extent I think they are right. Being rejected lots and lots shows you're working, and subbing - and if you are starting to receive personalised ones over form ones, then it shows you're developing and getting that much closer.

But gathering piles of rejections doesn't necessarily mean much at all in and of itself.

There are a whole lot of writers who start by subbing straight to the top markets. They send everything they write to Asimov's and Analog, and therefore pile up mountains and mountains of slips. And so yes, they can claim to have gathered hundreds of rejections last year.

It doesn't mean they're about to start selling.

I'm not criticising them for doing that but it doesn't work for me. I know that I'm not at that level yet, and I have better things to do than have stories sitting at markets that won't yet buy my work, wasting both the editor's and my time.

If I'm not selling regularly at semi-pro markets, why would the pro markets grab my stuff over their regular contributors?

If I start playing football (and believe me, there are good and valid reasons why I write and don't kick footballs), I don't start by running down to Windy Hill and try to break into the Essendon team. What makes me think I'll get a spot alongside Jobe Watson, Paddy Ryder, David Hille and Angus Monfries?

No, like young Dyson Heppell, you play for the smaller country teams, working your way up until you're ready to speak to James Hird.

It seems to me that writing is one of the few places where lots of people try to start at the top. And I suppose it costs nothing to send your work there, and there is always the chance you'll sell something.  And by all means, if your writing is already at a professional standard then send it off to the big ones. I wish you well.

But if you're trunking pieces just because they didn't sell at the big markets (and I know of a few writers who do this), you may be depriving the world of some good, solid writing. I've found some of my favourite pieces in small press anthologies and magazines.

Me? I just know my abilities  and my level at the moment.  And that's firmly in the world of the small press. I'm not selling there as regularly as I'd like, but I am starting to make sales, and frequently getting personalised rejections.

But don't worry, the day I regularly send things off to Analog and Asimov's is approaching.