Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Deck The Halls. Again.

Due for international launch next Thursday, 6th December, the eMergent anthology Deck the Halls includes my story, Softly Sing The Stars.  (Edited by Jodi Cleghorn with fabulous art by Andrew McKiernan).

Some of you might recognise this from a previous post about six months ago, and claim the anthology has already been released. That's true - it was released in July but only in Australia. This time it's available beyond our Summer shores.

Each of the thirty-two writers riffed off a line from the carol, Deck The Halls. The second last line, Sing this joyous, all together, was the basis for my SF story. My good friend and fellow traveller David McDonald, wrote his story, Through Wind and Weather, from the final line, Heedless of the wind and weather.

Not only is this a fabulous collection of stories, but with its Christmas theme it's ideal as a gift. It's available here.

 Table of Contents:

Touched - Rowena Specht-Whyte
Drench the School - Benjamin Solah
Coming Home - Rebecca Dobbie
While You Were Out - Sam Adamson
Twenty-Five - Rebecca Emin
A Jolly Pair - Christopher Chartrand
Gays and Commies - Graham Storrs
A Better Fit - Jen Brubacher
Salvation - Nicole R Murphy
A Troll for Christmas - Jo Hart
Modraniht - Kate Sherrod
Bosch’s Book of Trolls - Susan May James
‘Til Death Do Us Part - Emma Kerry
High Holidays - Dale Challener Roe
The Headless Shadow - Jonathan Crossfield
End of a Tradition - Paul Servini
Weatherboy - Nik Perring
Not a Whisper - Lily Mulholland
Lords of the Dance - Janette Dalgliesh
Through Frosted Glass - Laura Meyer
Midsummer’s Eve - Stacey Larner
Yuletide Treasure - Rob Diaz II
Broken Angel - Jodi Cleghorn
A Golden Treasure - Chia Evers
Fast Away - Jim Bronyaur
Apprentices to Time - Icy Sedgwick
Unfolding - Alison Wells
Egg-Ceptional - PJ Kaiser
Hail the New - Trevor Belshaw
Perfect Light - Dan Powell
Softly Sing the Stars - Steve Cameron
Through Wind and Weather - David McDonald

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Writer. Archer. Animal Doctor.

I can clearly recall the first time I heard Thoraiya Dyer's name. I'd never met her, yet I was incredibly jealous and was filled with an instant and illogical dislike. I even wanted to throw rocks at her. Of course at that time I had no idea she was not only a superb writer, but an archer.

After I started reading some of her work, the jealousy became adoration and worship ('Damn, I wish I could write like her' levels) and the dislike for her subsided. But it was only at the launch of Anywhere But Earth launch I finally had a chance to meet her. As she passed I noticed her name tag, and mentioned I'd loved her novella, 'The Company Articles of Edward Teach', and wished I'd brought it with me for her to sign. She looked at my name tag and mentioned she read my blog. Sure, I thought, nice thing to say. And then she mentioned a post I'd made a couple of weeks prior.

A short time late Thoraiya became the first person ever to ask me to sign my work.

Over the past year or so, Thoraiya has been incredibly supportive. Emails with just the right words at the right time, advice, shared commiserations, praise and encouragement - even listening to my occasional grumble. More than that, though, she continues to be a writer I hold in awe. Her ability to shape words, create worlds and to carry me away into another time and place amazes me.

More than that, I continue to be grateful a multi-award winning author treats me, a relatively unknown writer, as a peer.

One day, I'll get the opportunity to spend a little more time with Thoraiya. Perhaps I'll even buy her a drink or two and tell her the story of that early dislike.

A collection of four new stories, Asymmetry, is slated for release (as part of the fabulous Twelve Planets series) through Twelfth Planet Press in early 2013. Go on. Check it out.

Maybe you'll be jealous too.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vale: Bryce Courtenay.

Yesterday morning, I heard Bryce Courtenay had passed.

Although born in South Africa, he was seen as primarily an Australian writer. (Australians are excellent at claiming successes as their own; Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson) Courtenay had doubts that his first novel, The Power of One, would even sell. Instead it became one of Australia's most successful books. It was also his only title to have been published in the U.S.

In September, Courtenay appeared on a television program announcing that he had only months to live as he was suffering gastric cancer. Courtenay was extremely philosophical and candid in the interviews I saw, and my respect for the man grew immensely.

He was 79 years old.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vale: Boris Strugatsky.

Roadside Picnic was probably the first Russian novel I ever read.

Written by brothers Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, it tells of the post-visitation of alien beings - aliens who stayed only a short time, were not seen, did not communicate with us, or showed any recognition of our existence. The sites of the visitation are littered with dangerous anomalies and artifacts - many of which hold amazing powers and are highly sought after.

These artifacts, while valuable to humans, are theorised as being no more than discarded rubbish left after a 'roadside picnic'.

Arkady passed away many years ago, but Boris (born 1933) has just died of heart problems and pneumonia. A computer scientist and astronomer until he became a fulltime writer in the 60s, he was a major writer, not only in Russia but worldwide.

R.I.P. Boris.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Think I'll Go And Eat Some Worms.

A weekend of disappointment.

My internet provider disconnected me for no apparent reason, and their customer support is only business hours, so I had no real internet access on the weekend. I received three story rejections, and at least one of those I thought was a really strong candidate for acceptance. I had another rejection on another matter, of which I thought I had a better chance than that.

On a positive note, two of the story rejections were personal and supporting. "Liked the writing style, well written, just not a fit" type of thing.  But I suppose you never really know, do you?

The non-fiction rejection was not overly surprising, and I was less disappointed than I thought I'd be. Always a good sign, I suspect.

As for my internet provider? They've made this mistake before. Time for them to lose a customer.

Chumbawamba anyone?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

No News Is No News.

No real news on the writing front this week, apart from the announcement of After Death's TOC.

I have quite a few other stories out in the wilderness - some of which I have high hopes for. Of course I love all my stories, and generally have hopes for them, but I have really good feelings about some of these stories with these particular markets.

At least I haven't heard anything back from them yet. Several of my stories are still with editors, while other stories (from other writers) which were submitted more recently have already been rejected, according to Duotrope.

This, of course, bodes well, doesn't it?  It means the stories are still being considered, and appear to have made it past some arbitrary first round. Or maybe they're not being read in order, and will be rejected any moment now.

There is always the danger of reading too much into Duotrope's figures. You can't read anything into silence. As an online friend of mine, Martin L. Shoemaker, is wont to say, No News Is No News.

Friday, November 9, 2012

After Death.

Eric J. Guignard has just announced the TOC for this anthology, After Death - a collection of tales exploring what happens after we die. 

Not being a horror writer (says the guy who has now sold five horror stories and had one of them included in The Year's Best Australian Horror & Fantasy Recommended Reading List: 2010) I must admit I didn't know any of the other writers on this TOC. A little google research, however, has impressed me greatly.

I'm thrilled to have my story I Was The Walrus included alongside such great writers in this collection. It's due for release in March. Keep an eye out for it.

Andrew S. Williams — Someone to Remember
David Tallerman — Prisoner of Peace

Steve Rasnic Tem — The Last Moments Before Bed
Lisa Morton — The Resurrection Policy
John M. Floyd — High Places
Kelda Crich — Circling the Stones at Fulcrum's Low
David Steffen — I Will Remain
Aaron J. French — Tree of Life
Sanford Allen & Josh Rountree — The Reckless Alternative
Brad C. Hodson — The Thousandth Hell
James S. Dorr — Mall Rats
Ray Cluley — Afterword
Jonathan Shipley — Like a Bat out of Hell
Edward M. Erdelac — Sea of Trees
Jacob Edwards — The Overlander
Bentley Little — My Father Knew Douglas MacArthur
Jamie Lackey — Robot Heaven
John Palisano — Forever
Robert B. Marcus, Jr. — Beyond the Veil
Alvaro Rodriguez — Boy, 7
William Meikle — Be Quiet At The Back
Christine Morgan — A Feast of Meat and Mead
Simon Clark — Hammerhead
Peter Giglio — Cages
Kelly Dunn — Marvel at the Face of Forever
Trevor Denyer — The Unfinished Lunch
Steve Cameron — I Was The Walrus
Larry Hodges — The Devil's Backbone
Benjamin Kane Ethridge — The Death of E. Coli
Emily C. Skaftun — Final Testament of a Weapons Engineer
Joe McKinney — Acclimation Package
Josh Strnad — Hellevator
Allan Izen — In and Out the Window
John Langan — With Max Barry in the Nearer Precincts

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Vale: Clive Dunn.

Growing up, one of my favourite sitcoms was Dad's Army. My Dad loved the show, and I fondly recall watching it with him. Unlike many other shows from that era, it has stood the test of time. It's still funny.

Clive Dunn, as Lance Corporal Jones has passed away, at the ripe old age of 92.

He not only served during WW2, but spent four years in P.O.W. and labour camps in Austria. Famed for his catchphrases of 'Don't Panic!' and 'They don't like it up em!', it appears as though he was a real gentleman who always had time for the fans.

Dunn passed in Portugal, where he lived after retiring.

R.I.P. Jonesy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Truth Is Out There?

I'm thrilled that there is still some mystery in our modern world.

A species of whale that was discovered in 1872 through bone fragments, the Spade-toothed Whale, has recently been seen for the first time ever. Two were washed up on a New Zealand Beach, and were originally thought to be another species altogether.

It intrigues me that a 5 metre whale can have eluded humans for so long. News reports claim it's the world's rarest whale. I would argue that it might be the world's rarest whale. The rarest whale is the one we haven't encountered yet.

And now there's new footage of Bigfoot. Filmed by a couple of American campers, we see a black shape through some trees, which then stands up. At that precise moment, the person taking the film decides to stand up, or move, or something, because we get no more of the creature.


And the tomb of an Egyptian princess has been discovered in Cairo. 4,500 years old and, it seems, in great condition.

All of these are fodder for the imagination and for my writing.

But there are more enduring mysteries.

Who sent me that hate mail back in 1985, or the valentine's card in 1982? And what about that postcard, completely blank apart from my name and address and the MOMA logo, from New York? It arrived at my home in Japan, and I still have no idea who sent it or why.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hyperbole And Hope.

No, they are not all awesome, amazing, incredible and unbelievable.

As someone who is fast becoming a grumpy old man, I'm getting rather tired of hearing every single thing a person says, does or writes being described with these adjectives. His organisation of that event was good, not awesome. She is an average teacher, not unbelievable. This short story was solid, not incredible. That YouTube clip was ok, not amazing.

It seems that there's a tendancy for everything to be greater than it really is. It seems that no longer can anyone be other than great. Average is out, apparently, and yet when I look around I see so much mediocrity. And almost all of it is dressed up in the guise of brilliance.

When everything is outstanding, what are we comparing it to?

And along with this over-the-top praise comes over-the top encouragement. You'll get there. You'll make it. Never give up. The only loser is the quitter. You can do anything you want.

Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

Encouragement is good - when it's appropriate and realistic. But it can be damaging when not warranted. In the writing world, for example, I see this all the time. Writers are encouraged to keep submitting because one day "you'll get there." The only thing stopping you is you.

Not always true. Some writers are awful, and will never get anywhere. And we shouldn't believe this false hope.

Should they quit? Not necessarily. But we should be avoid praise from people who don't know, and listen to the comments and advice from people who do. And become realistic about our own abilities and prospects.

When I was a kid I wanted to play soccer when I grew up. Nobody ever told me I was brilliant. Nobody told me "I'd make it if I just keep trying." And for good reason. I was hopeless. If I wanted to, I could have kept it up and been happy with playing locally. Teams are sometimes so short of players they'll take anyone. But the truth is I knew I was no good and was never going to make it.

We can all learn and improve our writing skills. No doubt about it. But not eveyone will improve to the point where they can sell professionally. But sometimes writers need to accept they're doing it for their own enjoyment and never going to sell their work.